Content is Currency

Developing Powerful Content
for Web and Mobile

by Jon Wuebben - Founder and CEO of Content Launch

SEO Copywriting and Site Usability

by Jon Wuebben

Much of what we have learned regarding website usability comes from researcher and writer Jakob Nielsen, Ph.D. He has been called “the best-known design and usability guru on the Internet” and the insight that we have gained through his studies have made a huge impact on how we improve the user experience. Almost all of the findings have a correlation to SEO copy writing, so it’s important that we take a look at some of the key take-aways.

Probably one of the most fascinating findings has to do with how people read on the web. In Nielsen’s groundbreaking eye tracking study from 2006, they recorded the reading behavior of 232 users 17. By having them view thousands of Web pages, it was found that their reading behavior was pretty consistent. It didn’t matter what the site or task was, there was a definite outcome. What did he find? That the dominant reading pattern looks somewhat like a large letter “F” on the page. His findings:

  • Users first read in a horizontal movement, usually across the upper part of the content area, which formed the F’s top bar.
  • Next, users move down the page a bit and then read across in a second horizontal movement that typically covers a shorter area than the previous movement, which forms the F’s lower bar.
  • Finally, users scan the content’s left side in a vertical movement. This last element forms the F’s stem.

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It should be noted that sometimes users read across a third part of the page content, making the pattern look more like an E than an F. Other times the reading pattern made it look like an inverted L. What are the implications for SEO copywriting? Place the most important copy in the areas where the eyes scan!

Writing in the Style of Inverted Pyramids

We know that people are scan reading your web pages. We also know that they are scanning it in interesting F and E patterns. So given these findings, how do we ensure that they get the information that you want to communicate? We do this by writing in the style of an inverted pyramid. What it means is put the most important information first, your major points. Follow this with supporting information and end with the least important details – background, maybe answer a couple of popular customer questions there, etc.

Easy Navigation – Make the Copy Simple to Follow

How many clicks does it take in average for your customers or prospects to find what they need on your site? Have you ever looked? Check out your website analytics program and see what the numbers are telling you. Follow their path from start to finish. This data is invaluable – and can help you re-design and/or rewrite if necessary. How many clicks should it take for them to get to what they are looking for? Probably less than five – but its less about the number of clicks and more about providing an intuitive, easy to follow path – no matter what they are trying to find.

Patterns, Alignment and Consistency

Take a look at each of your pages, individually and collectively. Do they have a consistent look and feel? Does the copy have the same tone and style? They absolutely need to. If you see major differences from page to page, this will not only look bad – it will throw your customers off and sometimes make them navigate to the next site. I know I have done it many times.

Good Contrast Between Text and Background

Although this seems like an obvious usability point, you’d be surprised how many people are still not doing this step right. If you can’t see the copy clearly or have to squint to see it – it’s not working. A tried and true format? White background and black text. That’s how most of the best sites are set up anyway.

Strong Sentence Structure

First is to keep your sentences simple. If they are running five lines and have multiple prepositions and conjunctions, cut them up into digestible pieces. Remember, many people out there (probably 30-40%) are slow readers with remedial comprehension. You need to communicate at a sixth grade level so all potential prospects clearly understand.

Next is the word “you”. Get used to using it! The copy on your website should be all about “you”. Use it in your copy – make it about them.

Keep your paragraphs short. This helps people digest the information easier. Long paragraphs scare people away. They don’t have the time or inclination to want to read the whole thing. And they never will. Think simple.

Usability is an important element in the overall goal of making your site more attractive to prospects and customers. The copy that you place on your site supports its overall usability. Ensure that you go through the above steps one by one with each page on your site so you can take good advantage and be one step ahead of your competitors!

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