Use mostly short sentences, with 10 words or less. If you must use a medium-length
sentence, try to incorporate it with shorter sentences around it. Users don’t have a lot of
patience for long, rambling sentences in print publications and even less patience for
them on the Web. (But there is value to varying a succession of short sentences with one
a little longer — it keeps your writing from sounding like a kindergarten primer.)
Use short paragraphs with lots of white space in between. In the print world, white space
is your enemy. Too much white space means wasted space. But on the Internet, where real
estate isn’t quite as expensive, white space is essential to the flow of the content. Reading on
the screen is much more difficult for most people, so the extra white space helps them to
keep up with their place in the content. A good rule of thumb is to keep your paragraphs to
no more than four or five short sentences.
Use bulleted and numbered lists as often as possible without interrupting the flow of the
article or the other content on your site. Such lists are easy to read. They provide the at-a-
glance content that readers love. It’s easy for them to find quickly the information they need.
Break up your content with interesting titles, headings, and subheadings. Again, this is
one of those elements of web-site content that make it more at-a-glance in nature. The
variety helps your readers quickly skim through to find the exact information they need.
Titles, headings, and subheadings are much more important on the Web than they ever
were in print.
Use keywords where possible, but don’t overdo it. You’ve heard this so many times by
now that is should be branded into your brain. Use keywords only where they make
Use a call to action. Users will not take action if you don’t invite them to. So invite them.
When you need a form filled out, when you want them to join a mailing list, or when you
want them to make a purchase, ask them. The old adage “ask and ye shall receive” is just
as valuable online as it is in real life.
To Use or Not? Duplicate Content
Duplicate content is a hotly debated issue when it comes to how it affects your web-site ranking. And
it’s become an even bigger issue over time as spammers and other malicious Internet users have
taken to the practice of content scraping, or scraping the content from a web site to use on their
own with only minor changes to the appearance, not to the content itself.
Content scraping has become such a problem that search engines now look for duplicate copy,
even when it’s hidden behind a link like the
that Google uses for related content (see
Figure 12-1). If they find it, your site may be lowered in the rankings or even delisted completely.
Still, the duplicate-copy issue isn’t as simple as it may seem. Some people think there’s too much
worry about it, whereas others insist the problem needs to be addressed. And both are right to
some degree. Let me explain.
The Content Piece of the Puzzle
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