How to Optimize Your Content Writing for Online Readers

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Learning to write well is a multi-part process. In high school, teachers drill students with rigid rules for grammar and style. At the university level, professors loosen some of those rules while introducing new ones. However, for the select few who fully focus their studies on writing, learning to write well means learning how and when to break standard writing rules for maximum reader engagement.

While all of these writing techniques apply to any form of writing, if you want to master the art of writing for an online audience, you need to educate yourself on a new set of best practices. Excellent prose will only take you so far if you don’t tailor your writing specifically for the online reader.

Below, I’ve listed a few of the basics to get you started with optimizing your content for online readers. Each header links to a supporting lesson at Crowd Content University — a series lessons designed to help improve your online writing skills.

The Inverted Pyramid

Traditionally writers envision their work as a hill. The narrative of the piece builds up to a climax and then winds down to a conclusion. Pieces created for content marketing will often place that climax very close to the end of the piece and wind down much more quickly, but the layout of the piece is still relatively similar to traditional prose.

A common journalistic technique is to instead front load content with interesting and exciting information. The information in the content then becomes increasingly less important throughout the rest of the piece. This is an excellent technique for content that is designed to inform or engage, because your audience gets important information even if they don’t finish the piece. It is less valuable for content marketing that includes a call to action at the end, because this layout doesn’t encourage your reader to read to the end.

Choosing the Right Tone

When it comes to online writing, there are probably more tips for getting tone and voice correct than there are tips for any other aspect of online writing. The correct tone for a piece depends on the content being discussed, the target audience, the purpose of the content, and in many cases, content that has preceded and will follow.

There is no right answer. However, some argue that a more conversational tone is appropriate online. Feel free to experiment and break traditional writing rules. It will pay off more often than you expect. Even when it doesn’t, you gain valuable insight from the effort.

Keep It Short and Simple Online

You need to say a lot with just a few words when writing online.

Opening Lines

Every professional writer will tell you the same thing: if you don’t hook your audience in the opening paragraph, everything else you wrote doesn’t matter.

Even more than your average reader, online readers have a short attention span. You need to hook them quickly and powerfully. An average piece of content with a great hook is more likely to be read to conclusion than an excellent piece of content with a terrible hook. If you want to ensure your content is read to conclusion, once you have finished writing the piece, go back to the introduction and make it sizzle just a little bit more.

Make it Scannable

If your content has a comment section, there are two comments that you dread to see: “Wall of text” and “TL:DR”. Both of these comments mean the same thing to you as a writer. You have failed to make your content easily readable.

The easiest way to make content easy to read is to make it scannable. In layman’s terms, this means that the reader can easily understand the gist of the content without actually reading it. Furthermore, it also means that the reader can easily skip to sections of the content that they find most compelling.

Formatting tricks like lists, subheaders, italicsbolding and use of white space all help to make content scannable. Short sentences and short paragraphs also are important. One of the nice advantages of scannable content is that it also makes longer content more palpable by providing mental breaks for the reader.


Before your first paragraph ever gets a chance to hook your audience, your title needs to hook them first. This is no small challenge. Most forms of print media employ a person whose entire job is simply to create good titles. That is how challenging it is to create engaging titles.

Practice makes perfect when writing titles, but unlike with tone, you don’t have a lot of leeway to experiment. A poor title practically ensures your content never gets read. While you are learning to write great titles, and even once you have mastered the art, use online tools to double check the effectiveness of your title before publishing.

Let’s Hear Your Tips!

Do you have any hidden gems that can help writers improve their online writing style? Do you agree or disagree with what I’ve listed here? Let me know in the comments section below!


Article by

Mickey has degrees in linguistics and logic from a top 25 university. He has been writing online for the approximately five years, specializing in gaming, hobbies, and media. He has never missed a deadline. Quality and speed are equally important to Mickey and he'll never sacrifice one for the other.

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