Whether you write website or blog material, online articles, or have an online business, writing for an online audience is its own kind of animal. Many of the classic writing rules get tossed aside once you enter the world of the Internet.

Let’s talk about a few tips that will help make your online writing more effective:

1. Think bite-sized. You may have noticed that print magazines all seem to be going the way of the USA Today newspaper, with short paragraphs, text boxes, and bullets. In fact, I recently heard that USA Today is the country’s top newspaper–and I believe their format is the reason why.

People don’t want to spend a long time on any one article, and if there’s too much solid text, they’ll forgo reading it altogether. While you’re starting to see this more and more with print media, this has always been the case with electronic material, and if you want your writing to grab an online audience, you must follow suit.

In particular, keep your paragraphs very short–2-4 sentences tops. And skip a line space in between your paragraphs to increase the amount of visible white space in your article. This keeps your readers from feeling too overwhelmed when they first size up your article to determine if they want to dive in.

Break up your text even more by adding italics, bolding, and numbered or bulleted lists. And, if you have a lot to say, you may want to consider breaking your blog or article into several installments, if that’s possible.

If you’re writing website material, don’t overload each page with too much information. Try to keep each page focused on one aspect of your site. Have one page for your services or products, another for contact information, another that discusses your company’s history, and so forth.  I’ve been to some sites that are so cluttered you can’t find anything. I get very frustrated with such sites and typically leave without getting the information I need.

Also, for websites, make your site visually appealing by having ample white space, very short paragraphs, and lots of  quick snippets here and there that will keep your readers’ attention. No one wants to scroll through line after line of learning how you started your company in your garage and then went bankrupt five times before having the awesome company you have now. Less = more!

2. Pay attention to your key words and titles. Because search engines track down titles and headings more than what’s in the body of your text, be careful how you title your articles and what words you use in your headings. Coming up with clever titles for your work can be fun, but if it’s not drawing search engines to your site, those titles are useless. For online work,  be direct in your titling, and leave the cutesy titles for print media.

This strategy also holds true for any website or blog site. Make sure you’re using plenty of key words that will help promote your product or service on each page. Don’t bury your product descriptions and key words in the body of your text somewhere. Make sure the key words for your products are in your titles and headings as much as possible without looking ridiculous.

One more tip about titles: Studies have proven that articles on “How to _____” (anything) or “Ways to _______ ” (anything) are some of the most popular for online searches. So if you want to write about writing for children, your title should read, “How to Write for Children,” or some variation thereof. You can always conduct a search yourself for your own product or service and see what titles and keywords show up the most.

That’s it for now. Stop back later this week to learn more tips for writing for the online audience.