Writing effective digital content

Writing effective digital content

Best practices for writing effective digital content

Only 20% of a web page’s content is read, on average. Best practices to help deal with this include: page summaries, stand-out content, front-loading, simple vocabulary and concision. 

Writers face a massive challenge in ensuring that their key messages are part of the 20% of their digital content that is likely to be read.

The good news is that the location of that 20% is reasonably easy to predict and that the user’s attention can be influenced by the copywriter. This makes it essential that digital copywriters understand the available research and are aware of the associated best practices.

In our upcoming Practical Insights webinar (for CIM members only), ‘The dos and don’ts of digital content writing’, we will cover all the key best practices that will support you in improving your digital content. But first, some details on that 20%...


When people visit a web page, they rarely read it properly. Most of the time, they will ‘scan’ it – that is to say that they will pass their eyes quickly over the content to see if there’s anything relevant to their goals. 

These heatmaps (see below) tracked users’ eye movements and demonstrate that in western cultures, people usually focus on the top of the page rather than the bottom and on the left-hand margin rather than the right. This pattern has been called the F-Shaped Pattern and the Golden Triangle (because the digital community loves itself some jargon).

undefinedSource: http://www.nngroup.com/articles/f-shaped-pattern-reading-web-content/

In cultures with a different reading behaviours (right-to-left, for example), we would expect the heatmaps to reflect this difference.

The two main audiences which tend not to exhibit this scanning behaviour are those with lower literacy (such as non-native speakers) and the more elderly. These audiences tend to be much more careful in consuming online content and are more likely to read every word of each line. 

Best practices

In the webinar, we’ll cover some of the main guidelines that digital copywriters should be familiar with. But here is a sneak preview:

1. Top-of-page
Communicate all of your main messages at the top of the page. You cannot assume that your audience will scroll down and notice them.  Including a ‘table of contents’ or ‘page summary’ is vital for pages of any significant length.

2. Stand-out content
All your main messages need to stand out visually on the page.  Nothing important should ever be buried in a paragraph of text. Use sub-headings, bullets and bold font to attract your audiences’ attention.

3. Front-load
The first two words ofany element are critical. They should convey as much of your message as possible.

4. Vocabulary
We know that people are likely to quickly scan your digital content, so use clear and simple words to articulate your message.

5. Concision
Provide access to the level of detail your audience want, but try to be as concise as possible.


Digital copywriting is very challenging and deserves to be treated as a distinct skill. And, as with any skill, formal training can be a great help in achieving the best results.

Tim Fidgeon CIM Course Director
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