Great Structure, Great Articles: Five elements of reader-friendly copy - Affiliate Programs - Jeff GreerIf you’ve read about writing for the web before, you’ve likely heard about how important it is to write your content with readers in mind.

Of course, when you’re writing for the web, you’re going to want to write for a high search engine ranking. But if you don’t write for readers first, when you get people to click on your page from the search engines, it’s likely they won’t stay on your site long. And if they don’t stay on your site, you’re not going to get them to buy your affiliate products.

So as a writer, how can you create a consistent stream of content on your site that’s easy to read, informative and engaging? One of the best ways to be a better writer is to use a structure for your articles. Here are five elements that will help you organize your thoughts and write better articles for your site.

1) Short paragraphs

While many affiliate website writers say not to include more than three to five sentences in each paragraph, I’m going to take a different approach. Keep your paragraphs focused and simple, with a single idea in each paragraph.

This Copyblogger post has some great ideas for keeping your paragraphs focused and readable.

2) Bulleted lists

If you can chunk the information in your article into bullets and lists, use them whenever possible. Information in a list is much more readable than when it’s crammed into a body paragraph.

3) Subheadings

Using subheadings allows you do two things:

  • You’ll organize your thoughts more effectively. For example, if your article contains three basic ideas that explain your main topic, you can reinforce these ideas in the subheading.
  • They make it easier for readers to scan your content. One of the basic tenets of web writing is that readers (or surfers) tend to scan first and (possibly) read later. Having good subheadings allow your visitors to see and digest your content more easily.

4) Short sentences

This also has to do with visitors scanning rather than reading. A long, run-on sentence will turn off readers. If you must use a long sentence, follow it up with a shorter one. Right away.

5) Use the right word count

While there’s no scientific answer to exactly how long your articles should be, most SEO experts recommend publishing articles between 400-600 words. While fewer than 400 words may be appropriate in some circumstances, a lower word count might cause your article to be undervalued by the search engines. Write articles longer than 600 words and you run the risk of losing your reader’s attention.

In short, word count revolves around the “scan rather than read” issue. The average web visitor’s attention span is short. Visitors usually come to a website with little time, or attention, to waste. They want to get to the point right away.

If doing so proves too slow or too difficult, they’ll simply leave the page.

Remember to focus on your readers

So when you’re writing content for your affiliate website, you should stay focused on your readers. When you make the structure of your copy work for them, they’ll be more likely to read more of your articles, stay on your site longer, and recommend your site to others.