Front-loading is critical for effective online writing and SEO

Your website is probably taking too long to make the points that matter.

Writing for the web should feel as urgent as trying to defuse a bomb.

If you can’t get your point across quickly, the reader is going to explode. Or just stop reading.

People scan websites. Eyes flit across the page looking for something that meets their needs. People skim over the text.

They don’t kick back in their arm chairs, light a pipe and soak up your prose.

Eye-tracking research suggests that people typically scan in a vaguely F-shaped pattern (as depicted in my crude illustration below).

Skitch

 

When people are scanning down the left side of a screen or a page of text, they will be reading the first few words of each line, looking for clues that they’re in the right place.

When they see a word that is related to their query or task, they will scan along to the right, looking for additional signs that they’re in the right place.

If you hide the significant and distinctive words within long sentences, you reduce the chances of people seeing them, and increase the chances of your visitors clicking away to another source.

What does front-loading mean for copywriting?

Front-loading means putting the important details, special information and keywords at the front of sentences, headings, paragraphs, links, buttons, list items and calls-to-action.

Put your key details at the front and your readers are more likely to discover the key messages – and less likely to get bored.

Examples of front-loading in action

Let’s consider a few lines that are NOT front-loaded:

  • Enter our competition and win a new iPad
  • Learn how to train your dragon
  • Download documents to help you sell more cattle
  • Discover how to deal with difficult relationships

I’ve highlighted the key words in each line – these are the words that are likely to cause our reader to respond.

Clearly, it makes no sense to hide the trigger words at the end of a sentence, especially when most readers scan pages in an F-pattern.

Here are those same sentences front-loaded:

  • Win an iPad by entering our competition
  • Dragon training – we show you how
  • Sell cattle with our advice
  • Difficult relationships and how to deal with them

By moving the key words and most pertinent details to the front of a sentence, link or list item you can improve the odds of your reader seeing them.

By front-loading your copy you don’t just improve your chances of success, you improve the user’s experience by helping them save time.

Front-loading is critically important for web writing – and SEO

Shifting important details to the front of your headlines, titles, buttons and links is one of the most important factors in online writing.

The first words in your key text elements tell visitors what is important – and also send signals to search engines that these keywords are of significance.

 

Editor’s note: this is an updated version of an article we published in 2015. 

 

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