Writing for the Web involves learning how people search online

Writing for the Web is different from print and other mediums because, on the Web, people are actively searching for information – possible related to your products or services. And you have the opportunity to direct those people who fall within your target market to your site.

That’s why content is still king online — image-heavy and Flash sites do look great as an online brochure, but they won’t draw in extra traffic. So that’s why your website should include keyword-rich copy, i.e., copy containing keywords used by your target audience to search for information.

Finding the right keywords — and how best to use them on your site — is a very involved process I won’t go into here, but it’s very useful to get an insight into how people — Internet users — search for stuff on the Internet.

It’s easy to forget — especially if you’re pretty Internet savvy yourself — that a lot of people out there think Google (or Yahoo for that matter) IS the Internet. And the fact is, people search online in a large number of ways. Many people don’t use the address bar at all and instead type things like eBay.com or even Google into the search box. It’s quicker to do this and click on the top link than type the whole URL into the address bar! I do it myself.

There’s a great post on the Morget Designs blog — How Do People Use Search Engines — that talks about this, including a link to a video to a talk given by Google research scientist (now there’s a job title!) Dan Russell. There’s also some discussion on this over at the excellent new SEO blog, Searchland — Why do People Google Google?.

The fact is, not everyone searches for “[My widget’s name and model number]”. So you have to think creatively when compiling a list of keywords.

A great starting point is to do a little user-study of your own. If you want to sell a particular product, ask friends and family to search for information related to it and look at what words they use, in what order, and so on.

If you already have a site, you should also look at your website stats to see which keywords people use to find you. It gives you a clear insight into the thought process of your target market, and can even generate ideas for new products.