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Hit and run web surfing: 4 content tricks to keep readers on your site

By: Jennifer Perez

We know you've seen this website: Huge blocks of text. Shoe-horned keyphrases. A tinny-sounding Star Wars midi playing in the background (with no way to turn it off). Amusing? Yes. Ugly? Beyond all belief. Most of us evolved from the Geocities age, when a single page, Papyrus font, and a phone number were the sum-all of a company web presence. However, now that readers land on pages, skim them, and skip on to somewhere else, here are ways to keep them on your pages:

1. Remove all passive voice

I've been writing for more than 20 years, and guess what? I still struggle with passive language. What is passive language? According to the Princeton Website, passive language is this: The voice used to indicate that the grammatical subject of the verb is the recipient (not the source) of the action denoted by the verb; “The ball was thrown by the boy” uses passive voice. “The ball was thrown” is an an abbreviated passive. Here's a more simple explanation: Extra language that a) slows down momentum and b) sounds like copy in an old British novel. Reread all the web copy you've written. Can you flip-flop or rearrange sentences to make them active? If so, go for it.

2. Cull any corporate-style language

The following businesses are the corporate language plague's frequent victims: IT, customer relationship management, logistics, and human resources and staffing. Does the list stop there? No, but it's a start. Corporate language, which caught on like wild fire in the 1990s, was supposed to make companies seems smarter and more professional. Unfortunately, they only turn the reader off. If you've stuffed your page with words like “in order to facilitate” or “fostering synergy between”, it's time for a rewrite. If your company hires the best IT talent, for instance, the simple explanation “We hire the best IT talent” is best.

3. Learn to love bullet points

You have lots to say, your business is complicated, and the short explanation simply wont' do. What's your solution? Bullet points. Write a list of what your company does. Who your audience is. Why your business is head and shoulders above the rest. Split everything into sentences or phrases. Write a short intro paragraph and make your list. Remember: Most people spend less than 10 seconds on a website that they find via search engine. You want to hook that person right away - and keep them there.

4. Break paragraphs into one or two sentences

On your “about us”, mission statement or any other page where you must tell a story, there's no way around it: You need paragraphs. Do they have to be long-winded, turning your readers away the first time they land on your page? No. Break each paragraph into one or two sentences, with three being the absolute maximum. You can split most paragraphs up naturally without losing meaning or making your copy sound awkward. Widespread Internet use has not just changed the way we read, but the way we process information. If you've made it to this paragraph and read this entire blog post, it's evidence in itself that the four tips above will work for your own web pages.

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    Jennifer Perez