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Wednesday, September 01, 2004

What is the difference between online and offline writing?
What is the difference between writing for the web and writing for a newspaper?
Or put simply, How is web authoring different from newspaper reporting?
Plus, points on search engine optimization.

Content writing, web usability & design, online marketing and search engine optimization are inter-related and one cannot have a topic without writing about the other.

Timespan is a very essential factor that differentiates Online and offline writing. The magic of the internet is such that each word, each dot can be a link that can take you somewhere else.

Writing for the web has to be simple, fluent, easy to understand, precise and flowing.

Short sentences, simple words, small paragraphs with links from words, where necessary.

Let me show this with an example.
Explain the concept of a Public and Private Key in Cryptography.

A Public key is your information available to your contacts.
A Private key, as the name suggests, is personal and, is used to decode (decrypt) the messages sent by your contacts.
Your contacts use your Public key to encode and send you messages.
You use your Private key to decode them.

Writing online is aided by images, links and graphics.
A black font on a white background is the easiest and most acceptable way of writing.
A sentence, or a group of sentences should have links where necessary pointing to internal/external links or the page should have an interactive image, a graphic or a .jpeg file that explains what is written (this would be from an e-learning point).

Online writing should catch the attention of the user.
The difference between reading your web site and going to another one is only a mouseclick.

Usability concepts play a major role in web authoring.
When a user reaches the end of the page, always give the user something to, don't let the user search for information, provide it!
For example, you've reached the end of the page, after reading the product manual, now, offer links, 'Homepage', 'Search', 'What's New', 'Product Reviews', 'Feedback' and so on. So that the user is not at a loss about what to do after reading that page.

These are basic concepts which are important. Giving links back to the homepage from each page of your web site also helps in Search Engine Optimization as each link back to your index page is a link (vote in PageRank Google Terminology) for your homepage. Link popularity is a major factor in search engine rankings and the more the number of 'contextual' links to your homepage, the higher up will it be in the search rankings, for a particular keyword.

What is meant by Contextual links?
An example would explain this.
There is an industrial manufacturers site that has 25 links back to the homepage.
There is another industrial manufacturers site that has 40 links back to the homepage.
(The number of links can be found by the search string link:www.sitename.com).

The site with 25 backlinks (links back to the homepage) is first and the site with 40 links is below that. hy is it so, if links is a criteria?

Here, context of the links has to be seen.
The site with 40 links has links from sites that are not connected with the content of the homepage. For example, an industrial manufacturer has links from greeting cars, music, entertainment and other sites, which is context relevant.
Now the site with 25 links has links from sites related to industries, business, manufacturing, industrial goods, automobile parts etc. So these are links from context matching sites, hence that is given more prominence and the site with 25 backlinks comes above the site with 40 backlinks.

This is what I have understood and observed.
Google is amazing, interesting, good, great and worth a lot many more magnificent adjectives.

Each word can be a link in an online medium.
The challenge is in providing links which don't divert the attention of the user, enhance the reading process and provide more information that encourages the user to explore and understand.

A repeat value is generated in providing information that a layperson can use.

How to convert a first time web site visitor to a potential business client?
The best way is to provide content that the user is looking for.
If a person reaches your site searching for Business Intelligence solutions and he does find them on your homepage but doesn't know where to proceed from there because flash demos are taking a lot of time, then it would be prudent to give a link to the enquiry form and contact us details rather than an attractive flash demo. This information, about web site usage, can be found from web site tracking softwares, which provide page-wise statistics.

You may have different newspapers, you can read only one at a time.
You can surf multiple web sites at a time, doing multiple activities - reading, chatting, surfing, listening to music, downloading files and watching movies. Hence, timespan is the most important difference between web authoring and newspaper writing.

If you don't like a thing on the net, don't read, close the window or click on a link to another web site.

Content is the bridge that allows for a smooth passage between technology and the end-user.

So write well to sell your site, your products, solutions, services - your business. Use any technology, make your site readable (a light background, preferably and a dark font), use white space to your advantage, give an open feel to your website, provide directions and write for others to read, understand, explore, navigate and take action.

More later...