1. SEJ
  2.  ⋅ 
  3. SEO

Why writing for the Web is different than in print

As you sit down and start thinking how you are going to write the content for your new website, or if you are contemplating a complete redesign of your existing site, there are a number of important things you need to know, before you even start writing.

If you have never written for the Web before but if you have plenty of experience writing for print, there are in fact a number of things here that may even shock you. To be really successful on the Web, you may even have to ‘relearn’ a few things.

The exact way you do this will have a direct and long-term impact on the overall ranking features of your website in the major search engines. So if you want to succeed at this task, and if you want to significantly increase your site’s ROI from the search engine’s generic (organic) results pages, listen up.

First, what do search engines need to index a page?

To begin with, the only thing search engines are interested in is text, and lots of it. The more text you can place on your pages, the better. To be properly indexed, any Web page needs a minimum of 500 to 750 words on it. Make it less than that and you are seriously compromising your chances at good rankings.

I often have to work with writers that have lots of experience in print advertising, but know very little about the correct way to write for the Web. In fact, there are still many that tell me our finished copy has more than one word repeated a few times on the same page! I smile every time I hear that of course, since it is an important part of the SEO process in itself!

Don’t get me wrong here: if a Web page ‘sounds’ like you are repeating your keywords or key phrases over and over, you should review it carefully, since this is not the intent of SEO. To be real effective, a properly optimized page needs to read well and ‘sound natural’ to your visitors, and it must convey a message that your content is professionally written.

At the same time, you also need to get the right keyword density and keyword frequency that is all so important, as far as the search engines are concerned. Neglect either one of them and you won’t end up with the results you had hoped for.

Just how much is enough?

So some of you may ask: when do we know how much is enough, without repeating our keywords too many times? I have been optimizing pages and websites for the past seven years, and I can honestly tell you that, for a typical page with about 700 to 750 words on it, your keywords or key phrase for that page needs to be written at least three to four times, in order to yield their maximum ranking effects in the search engines. Less than that would not be enough, and more than five times would be too much.

Avoid the error of ‘going off on the deep end’ by repeating your keywords 10 times or more, like I have seen on some sites we had to redo, since they were hit with the Google OOP (Over Optimization Penalty), either in November of 2003, or two months later, when Google did their ‘Austin’ monthly update in January. These sites were ‘over-optimized’ by either ambitious SEO’s or by people that lacked the experience or the knowledge to “know when to stop”. Too much of a good thing is never good.

What else is there to know?

While utilizing the right techniques in writing for the search engines is extremely important and can vary a lot than writing for print, there are other important considerations to evaluate and implement. Such considerations as the correct way to write your title tags and your meta description tags are equally as critical.

Also, depending whether your site caters to your local market or to an international audience, the proper linking strategy of your site can have a dramatic influence in the overall rankings features of your site in the search engines.

Additionally, before you even start writing your text, you need to carefully research your real keywords that people type in the search boxes of the search engines. Depending on the exact products or services they are looking for, the keywords that you might think they are using are often not the same keywords at all they are typing, in order to find your site.

I see this over and over. Even if you have been in business for 20 or 30 years, the words people type in search engines to find businesses like yours will surprise you more than once! The only way to effectively determine and accurately identify these correct keywords or key phrases is to use the facilities of Wordtracker.

Optimize a site for the wrong keywords, and you will end up with enquiries or questions for products or services your company may not even sell! Not only that, but you will seriously undermine the ranking characteristics of your site at the same time.


Writing for the Web is significantly different than writing for the print media. To be real effective, a site needs to be written for its human users: the real people that will visit your site. At the same time, consideration must also be given to the search robots that will crawl your site at regular intervals.

Search engine optimization (SEO) need not be boring, nor should it ever be systematic. Write in a compelling fashion that will truly add credibility to your site’s image. Important words such as your main features and benefits, the many reasons why a person should do business with your company, your store hours, etc. can go a long way in fully realizing the true potential of any website, large or small.

With all else being equal, generic or ‘organic’ search results pages usually carry a significantly higher value. Additionally, unless there are serious problems in the overall structure of your site’s design, they will also deliver a better conversion rate, while at the same time offer a higher ROI, provided the optimization was done correctly.


Article written by Serge Thibodeau,
Rank for $ales

For the most up-to-date news in the field of search engines, visit

Copyright (c) 2004 Serge Thibodeau

Reproduction of this article, in whole or in part is prohibited without
the author’s written permission. Contact
for possible arrangements that can be agreed on if certain conditions
are met.

Category SEO
SEJ STAFF Loren Baker Founder at Foundation Digital

Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing ...

Why writing for the Web is different than in print

Subscribe To Our Newsletter.

Conquer your day with daily search marketing news.