Creating Customer “Stickiness” with
When it comes to writing and editing for websites, using
language that really “sticks” with your website visitors is of
Research has indicated that the wide majority of internet
users, when initially confronted with a website, do not read it
Instead, they rapidly scan the pages and focus on individual
words, phrases, and sentences.
They are usually in a hurry, so scanning provides a quick
way to determine if they have landed on the right site.
Internet users are also generally very task-oriented, which
means they are on your site to accomplish something specific.
So, it is your job to be sure your language causes them
to stick with you.
In the marketing business, this is referred to as “stickiness.”
To begin with, stickiness is created in large part by reducing
your visitor’s mental workload.
You want to help them devote most of their attention to
accomplishing their intended task, instead of being forced to
deal with how your information is presented.
You need to make interacting with your site as smooth as
silk—and as appetizing as a milkshake.
So, by editing judiciously and “getting out of their way”
language-wise, you facilitate a faster, more effective, more
efficient—and more satisfying interaction with your site.
As a result, you’ll greatly increase your reader’s
experience—which will ultimately result in higher sales of your
products or services.
There are two primary areas of writing and editing to utilize
when going after the goal of visitor stickiness.
They are editing format and writing structure.
I’ll discuss both of them.
Since it has been established by much research that people don't
really read web content—they scan it—the style and format of
your writing and editing should support this fact.
Use the following guidelines to ensure that you develop
1) Headings for pages and important subheadings should have clear,
When writing numbers, it’s generally best to use digits instead
of words; i.e., "50"
instead of "fifty."
3) If you need to highlight text, do so only on words that convey
Also, instead of highlighting entire sentences, highlight
only a few words at a time.
4) Write in short sentences or fragments, and don't worry about
“absolute” grammatical correctness as long as you make yourself
5) Use “action” verbs.
For instance, the word “use” in the previous sentence fragment
is an “action” verb.
6) Avoid using acronyms and industry jargon that may not be
universally understood by everybody.
Either spell out that acronym or avoid using it
7) Instead of always using paragraphs, substitute bullet lists to
break apart and add variety to your content.
8) Bullet lists must be shorter than numbered lists, so limit bullets to 3-7 items. Any more than that is difficult for your reader to absorb.
What I am talking about here with the shortness of bullet lists
is ensuring the “stickiness” necessary to hold your visitor’s
attention long enough to make them want to go further and read
your longer content.
Another good rule of thumb is to use numbered sequences for
longer lists or any lists that will run over into another page.
Keep what’s called “chunking” in mind.
This refers to presenting information in short chunks,
which facilitates memory.
To convey supplemental information and cross-referenced ("see
also” type) information, always use supporting links.
What’s called the “inverted pyramid” is the preferred structure
for most website writing.
It is based on the principle of placing what’s most
important first, rather than building up to it with a story or
To some degree, it’s a counter-intuitive way of writing, but for
the web, it’s been shown to be the superior method of delivering
content because it’s designed specifically to get around the
issue of short attention spans.
With this style of writing, your key points and conclusions are
always given first, with your less important and supporting
information placed last.
Again, this inverted pyramid structure is critical since
most readers choose not to read very far.
This is a copywriting technique as old as the hills.
This concept is probably not a profound insight to
newspaper writers and editors.
They have a similar audience makeup,
i.e., casual readers
who scan for information through text that competes for their
As a result, newspapers have employed the model of inverted
pyramid writing for decades—and we are all completely accustomed
to it. The
importance of articles is determined by headline size and
The first paragraph summarizes the entire story—the old
newspaper adage of “who, what, when, why, and where” in those
first few lines—and then supporting information is either placed
farther down or (for online editions) a link leads off to other
So How Does this
Apply to “Stickiness”?
Should I always employ these writing and editing techniques when
constructing my content?
That would be a resounding “Yes!”
When writing your own site’s content, you need to follow
the same inverted pyramid structure, getting straight to the
point, and letting your reader decide if your content is
compelling enough—and relevant enough—to read further.
This approach involves very tight editing—and proofreading to
perfection—but the real beauty of this writing style is that it
maximizes the chances that your visitors will leave with the
information that you consider to be the most valuable.
And that they leave your site only after having made a
Denver Business Editor | Boulder Business Editor