Don’t re-write Content for the Web, Present It.

Don’t re-write Content for the Web, Present It.

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending MAGS University*, the Magazine & Internet Publishing Conference and speaking on the panel Top Rank: Search and Analytic Essentials for Online Success* with Don Lange of Cornerstone Group‘s search marketing practice and Scott Karp, editor and publisher of Publishing 2.0.

One of the benefits of attending vertical industry conferences such as these is learning new and more effective ways of positioning old ideas (ones that people seem to be tired of hearing repeated and are blocking out). And I have to say that Webify Your Content* by Susan West, of WestGold Editorial was very useful in this regard.

That you have to “webify your content” is not new news. However, we do often refer to “webifying” as “re-writing”. Such a use of phrasing may be inadvertently locking content producers in the print world, blocking them from effectively serving the needs of Web visitors.

Because the Web uncovers information for the Web visitor in layers, we should not “re-write” content. We should present content. “Think in layers (or modules), not linearly”, advises Susan.

To effectively accomplish this, one has to consciously “lose the affectations of print”. Be highly sensitive to the layers. Everything cannot be seen in context at once, which it can be in print. And if you don’t present in layers, you risk losing your Web visitors, who are task driven and “cranky, lazy, selfish, ruthless”.

Susan gave many examples of how writing for print standards can drive away cranky Web visitors (and they’re cranky on the Web even though they might be your most loyal print subscribers). One of these practices is the use of narrative leads. Susan advises, “narrative leads frustrate the user’s desire to take action and get information.”

Another common problem is that clever, attention-getting headlines work in print but do not work on the Web because here they’re completely out of context.

One audience member said this is indeed a problem, and they were working around the problem by putting the clever headline first followed by colon, then informative headline. This makes for a long headline, and potentially unreadable, but it’s an evolution and a compromise.

You can imagine that such re-presentation of content that originated in print can cause significant friction.

Rather than remain at a stalemate and constant state of friction, I suggest online editors run split tests and get some analytics data to smooth the content creation process. The purpose of the test would be to evaluate which headline delivers the highest content consumption rate: (1) clever headline, (2) long, compromise headline and (3) informative headline?

If you use Google Analytics as your web analytics tool, read these tips on running split tests using Google Website Optimizer.

If you’re an online editor, and your content site’s purpose is ad revenue, can you afford not to resolve which headline leads to higher content consumption?

More great tips are available from Susan West and Michael Gold from their newsletter. You can sign up at the West Gold Editorial website. I have.


June Li


*Destination page no longer exists

By |2018-07-25T09:17:48-04:00June 9th, 2008|2 Comments


  1. Kathryn Lagden June 11, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    Hi June – I didn’t realize you were attending the Mags Conference. I would have liked to attend but our new site ( launched June 2nd so timing didn’t work out.

    Interesting comments about the difference between web and print. Another aspect I’ve been thinking about lately is writing effectively for both visitors and the search engines. It can be tricky to meet both needs on one page of content.

  2. June Li June 11, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    Hi Kathryn – Mags was very interesting. Different and the same, all at once.

    Congratulations on the launch of! Varied & timely resources for diverse audiences.

    About writing for search engines and people, chunking down the content certainly works to serve both at once (some “serve both” tips here).

    And if for some reason the needs are at odds, I always serve people first.

    I guess with, you have content that can serve more than hugely diverse personas (hence different search keyword phrases) AND you also need to tradeoff against SEO. You make it a practice to link related content, which should greatly help get people to the right content regardless of where they land.

    Thanks for commenting,

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