Subscription Website Publishing

Seven rules about writing for a membership website

Brevity is the soul of wit, according to the Bard. And all the more so online. So, of course, someone created rules for you to follow when writing for the web. Okay, so maybe they are more like guidelines than hard and fast laws of cyber language. That said, here is what you want to strive for in most of your content.

Try to follow these seven guidelines when writing for the Web.

Be concise.
The overall length of an Internet article or column is about one-third to one-half the length of a print article. Cut every word that doesn’t contribute.

I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter. 

—Blaise Pascal

Keep paragraphs short.
Two to five sentences are a good goal. The longer the paragraph, the less likely it will be read in its entirety. Use paragraph breaks to refresh the eye.

Use simple sentence structure.
Keep sentence structure simple so ideas are easy to digest. Write subject-verb-object.

Use one idea per paragraph.
Follow the idea with a few sentences of explanation.

Use present or present perfect tense.
The Web is an active medium: use this writing technique to keep your text fresh. Avoid the passive voice.

Note, that when a sentence is made stronger, it usually becomes shorter. Thus brevity is a by-product of vigor. 

—William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White

Use short, familiar words.
“Record heat” is better than “unprecedented high temperatures.”

Use layering and links to simplify complex material.
Keeps article length to one or two screens. Break out more detail by linking to another layer, or page.


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State idea one, idea two, and idea three. Add “more” or descriptive links to pages containing further information.


A final caveat

As with all rules, there are exceptions.

One famous copywriter says, “It can never be too long; it can only be too boring!”

By Peter A. Schaible

Peter has worked with Mequoda's consulting clients to create keyword-rich, search-engine-optimized, rapid conversation landing pages, sales letter landing pages, and other written components of Mequoda System websites.

"If your website can't be found by Google, or isn't ranked highly in Google search results, it virtually doesn't exist," he says.

An experienced direct response advertising copywriter prior to the Internet, Peter was an early convert to the research pioneered by Don Nicholas and the discovery of the Mequoda System. Today, Peter is an enthusiastic evangelist for - and teacher of - the Mequoda System strategies, techniques, tips and tricks that work to increase product sales and profits for online publishers.

For more than 20 years he has been president of SunDance New Media, his own marketing communications consulting firm. Prior to its merger with Mequoda in June 2005, Peter was executive director of the Subscription Website Publishers Association and editor of its website, which published nearly 500 of his articles and interviews.

Read Peter’s posts here.

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