The way people consume information online is different from the way they consume information in print. And more importantly, the way people get to your information online is very different than in print.

Below is a preview of what I will be talking about at Drake University Saturday for a session titled Writing for the Web. I’ll also be giving an introduction to search engine optimization. Here’s more info on the session Writing for the Web and Intro to SEO.

1. How people read online

  • They don’t read every word
  • They scan (quickly), looking for information they want
  • If they don’t find it fast, they click on something else
  • They jump from site to site (meaning they expect you to link to great content on other sites)
  • They avoid ads (and anything that looks like an ad)
  • They read across the top, then down, then across, then down, like an F…
  • They don’t scroll

2. What gets read online

  • Short paragraphs
  • Bulleted lists
  • Occasional use of bold to prevent skimming
  • Short sentence fragments
  • Explanatory subheads
  • Literal headlines

3. The web is very literal. Be straightforward. Those pun headlines that work great in print won’t work online – especially when we consider how much of our traffic is coming from search engines (searches are straightforward … Iowa football, Des Moines newspaper, Britney Spears naked).

4. Use links. They’re the currency of the web. They’re a great way to add context to what you are writing for readers who want more information.

5. Explore alternative story forms. Not everything should be a 15-inch story. In fact, not everything should be a “story.” We have a wealth of tools online to use to present information to readers.

  • Lists
  • Photos
  • Videos
  • Thought posts
  • Interviews
  • Live chats
  • Live videos
  • Slideshows
  • Best of posts

6. Link to your related content. Don’t assume today’s readers have been with you from the start. Help them easily find your previous content.

7. Comment back to people. The story doesn’t end when you hit “publish.” The web is social. When someone leaves a comment on your site, comment back and keep the conversation going.

8. Make it easy to share your content and easy to subscribe to your content. In addition to offering an RSS feed, use Feedburner to let people subscribe to your new posts via e-mail.

9. Comment on other people’s blogs. Do you really expect others to comment on your posts when you’re not commenting on other blogs yourself?

10. Know your metrics. Use Google Analytics to see which of your content is most popular and which isn’t getting read at all. Do more of the popular stuff and less of the unpopular stuff.

Photo by dbdbrobot via Flickr