The Five Rules Of Influential Web Writing

by : Robert Warren

Building a professional reputation requires a campaign founded on your words: the positions you endorse, the motions you advocate, the accuracy of your vision. Writing for the Web can either establish your expert credibility or destroy it.

When your business requires powerful words online, follow these five rules for promoting the message that will serve you well in the digital world:

Stay on message. To write is to influence: always remember that the goal of good writing is to encourage thought and action. Look beyond the facts and statements, and focus on themes and positions. Decide on what you believe and then promote it with the facts; find your message and stick to it.

Make your points quickly but securely. The average visitor to your website will stay no longer than a few minutes, clicking through no more than three links before moving on. You must either make your point quickly or not at all. Be direct, confident and brief: use simple language and don't use any more words than necessary.

Write to the future reader, not the present one. The malleable nature of the Web creates the illusion that web writing has a short shelf life. The opposite is actually true: with mass data archiving and storage, putting information into the Internet is far easier than taking it out. Relevant points today have a way of becoming embarrassing cliches tomorrow.

The most influential web content is timeless. Write for the long term: avoid posting information online that won't still be valid and useful in twenty years. When you write about a controversy, assume that the reader knows how it was resolved. When you write about a product or service, assume that the reader knows whether it was a success or failure. Assume that your deepest secrets are now public knowledge. Write for a reader who knows more about your future than you do.

Bring it home. If you want to use your articles to promote your reputation, your readers must know how to find you. Plan your contact information for the long term: if you don't have your own domain, get one. Plan to keep it for at least the next five to ten years. Don't use an email address that may no longer exist when your article is being read.

Keep your personal life out of it. Nothing outdates - and bores - faster than personal information. Don't engage in public self-reflection; don't mention your personal relationships, neuroses, or the day-to-day trials of your home life. Your writing will be available somewhere online for many years after your situation has changed, which can prove embarrassing (or even dangerous) at a later date.

What works in the print world often doesn't work in the digital one. If you want your words to serve you long after they are published online, write the web content that ages well and reflects the power of your expert vision.

Your future clients will thank you for it.