Screenshot of Evening Leader website
Writing for the web is a skill every journalist should have if they are considering uploading any content to a news website.
 
If you want to make the most out of your article in an online environment it’s no use simply copying and pasting it from the newspaper to your website.

Fortunately it doesn't take much to maximise the chance of your story getting found and read by an online audience.
 
Of course, as with just about anything to do with the internet, it's easy to get bogged down with technical jargon, talk of codes and scripts, and the inevitable mention of search engine optimisation (SEO).

As a journalist this can all be pretty irrelevant as you will usually be working within the constraints of your site's existing content management system (CMS).

The actual words and how they are presented are all you have in order to make sure your online article works.
 
What makes a good online article?
 
People need to be able to find your story.
It would be great to think that people log on to your newspaper's website and spend half an hour following links to different sections and reading articles that take their fancy.

But they don't. In fact, a study earlier this year into internet habits by usability guru Dr Jakob Nielsen found that only 25 per cent of people get to the content they are interested in through a homepage. The rest use search engines to get what they want.

This means that if you've written a piece about an event in your patch, most people will find it when they are doing a search for 'what's on in Chester' and less so by following the link to the story or going to the 'what's on' section from your homepage.
 
People actually read your article once they've found it.
It's no good putting people off your article once they find it by presenting them with a solid block of text.

Online audiences skim read in a different way from that of print readers and you need to make sure you take advantage of this.
 
Engage with your readers and give them something they can't get in print.
Whether this is a reader debate, video, Google map or slideshow, make sure you offer online readers something that you can't reproduce in a newspaper.

Encouraging your readers to comment on suitable stories can help build up a loyal base of readers and make people feel more involved with your website.
 
What are keywords and how should you use them?
If you want more readers to find your stories you're going to have to make sure Google and other search engines can find them.

One of the ways you can ensure they do this is to use relevant 'keywords' in your copy.
 
Keywords, are the names of places, people, products, companies, events etc. and phrases (such as protest, murder or robbery), that your article is about.
 
Some online writers use globally popular keywords not specifically related to their story: Britney Spears, Angelina Jolie or naked, for instance. If used correctly these can help drive some traffic to your site, but the majority of these visitors will leave very quickly and never return.
 
You should also include as many similar or related phrases and synonyms of your keywords as possible. This makes sure Google really understands what your article is about and will be able to rank it so it's easier to find.
 
Matt Cutts, a search engine guru and one of Google's top engineers, explains how to use keywords correctly: "Think about what people are going to type into a search to find your site – and include these words."
 
But beware of spamglish
Don't start cramming the same keyword into your article over and over again thinking that will help your Google ranking.

This is called 'spamglish': it will turn readers off and search engines will take a very dim view of it if they find out.

To avoid this use your related phrases and synonyms.

Use this link to read 'How to: write for the web (part 2)'.

Christian Dunn is the digital editor for NWN Media Ltd, publishers of the Evening Leader. Contact Christian through his blog.

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