Writing for the Web

When writing for the web, effective online content has two important characteristics: clarity and conciseness. Website visitors want straightforward copy with an intuitive structure to help them reach an end goal or accomplish a task, like learning about a degree program, or making a gift.

Best Practices for Web Writing

In theory, it should be uncomplicated to produce scannable, simple, easy-to-read web copy. The reality: writing web content is rarely a simple task. Web content needs to be accessible to anyone who happens to land on your webpage. On the other hand, it is crucial to understand and speak to your key audiences, for example:

  • prospective and current students
  • prospective and current faculty and staff
  • parents and influencers
  • donors and industry partners
  • news subscribers and media

Web writing is complicated by two factors: your audience's time constraints and the ubiquitous competition your website faces. You must capture your readers' attention within 3–5 seconds or risk losing them forever in a single click or tap. As a web-content writer, you must have a grasp on how people read webpages.

Top Tips for Web Writing

In short, there are high expectations for web content. Online content should be:

  • brief
  • clear
  • nonthreatening
  • conversational
  • engaging
  • easily understood by a variety of audiences


Content can make or break a website. Make sure you're putting your best foot forward by keeping these content guidelines in mind as you write for the web.


Even with great content, poor formatting can still undermine a page's success. Enhance your page's content with these formatting tips.

Search-Engine Optimization—Best Practices

Writing search-engine optimized (SEO) content isn't hard. When you stick to the writing tips outlined above, you should see your webpages' search-engine rankings soar. And that's important. Having SEO content increases your odds of showing up within the first few results on a search, which is crucial considering 75 percent of users never click past the first page of results.

Your optimized content will rank high in search results—meaning you have a greater chance of reaching your intended web readers. For more information about writing SEO content, read our Top Five Ways to Improve SEO Rankings.

Files and Folders

It is also important to prepare and name your pages and files appropriately. This is especially important when considering web folders and downloadable files. The general rule of thumb is to only use lower case letters and hyphens (-). Do not use spaces or other symbols. For more details, read about characters to avoid in directories and filenames.

How We Can Assist You

The good news: the web and writing teams from UMC are here to help you make your website users happy and keep them coming back again and again. As we assist in launching new external reputation and recruitment sites, we keep the following tips in mind during content development. As you create your own websites or continue to maintain your existing content—or create new content—we hope the same tips can help you, too.