Writing content with the “F” factor

Monday, 2 February 2015  |  Posted in: Articles  |  5min read

Writing web content with the “F” factor

Most of us at one time or another have arrived on a website, only to be presented with a wall of copy that feels too overwhelming to read. While content writers try their best to lovingly craft their words in order to capture their readers interest, studies reveal that when it comes to website content, readers engage best when “F” Factor principles are adopted.


What are “F” Factor principles?

To write effectively for the web, content authors should take into account that the majority of people who arrive on their website, may not read beyond the opening title and paragraph. To accommodate these visitor trends it is best to have an understanding of how people “F-read” on the internet and how writing with the “F” Factor will help to make your content more engaging and improve SEO efforts.

The F-reading phenomenon was first discovered by the Neilson Norman Group in a heat mapping study (Nielsen, 2006) that examined how people read internet pages. The study revealed that on English language websites, users consistently read in a pattern that looks like the letter “F”.

  • First users read across the upper part of the content forming the top horizontal bar of the “F”.
  • Next, users eyes travel down a bit and then across the content for a second time, forming the lower horizontal bar.
  • Finally, users scan down the left hand side forming the stem.


How to adopt F-writing best practice

Armed with an understanding of how users F-read, content authors can adopt these principles and start F-writing. Your headline and opening paragraph may well be the only things a visitor to your website read so they should concisely summarise the content to follow. The first rule of F-writing is write powerful headlines.

  • Your page should contain only one headline.
  • An ideal length for a headline is 5-10 words.
  • Headlines are most effective when left-aligned, rather than centred.
  • Your headline should be loaded with keywords, and keywords should be placed in the first half of the headline.

The opening paragraph, along with the headline, forms the top bar of the “F”. Visitors are almost always skim reading when they first arrive on a site, and they know that just a click away a hundred other sites might hold the information they seek. Therefore your opening paragraph should be a concise and captivating summary of the content to follow.

  • Ideal length of an opening paragraph is 10-25 words which summarise the webpage to follow.
  • It should contain the essential information / scope / message of the page
  • Include keywords that your visitors use to find your page, especially at the start of the opening paragraph. Not only will this convince your users that the page contains the information that they seek, it will also improve your SEO.
  • Don’t assume that your users have come to your page via the home-page, your opening paragraph should ensure that each page is self-explanatory and can stand alone.


Be concise, write in plain language

Once a content author has invested time into the creation of quality headlines and opening summaries, the page content can be created. Your content should be concise, written in plain language and contain only the relevant information and calls to action. Too much useless information and you will overwhelm your visitors and entice them to leave. When writing for the web, less is more. Your users will also F-read the remaining parts of the page so it should be structured placing the most important information at the top and descending to the least important. Each section of information should have its own sub-heading.


Incorporate relative links

F-readers also notice links, as do search engines, so it is important that your content uses them effectively.

  • Consider the placement of your links. Knowing that F-readers rarely make it to the bottom of your content, place them higher up in the cross bar of the “F”.
  • Like headlines, links are most effective when left-aligned on the stem of the “F”. Don’t bury them in your content as you can’t control their placement.
  • Think about what links will be genuinely useful for your user.
  • Consider the wording of your links – click here for more information doesn’t actually tell your user anything, nor does it contain keywords.


Writing for the internet is different

F-reading acknowledges that writing for the internet is different to writing on paper. F-writing ensures that you are giving your readers what they want, without wasting their time and inadvertently encouraging them to leave. Adhering to the principles of F-writing will be beneficial for your search engine optimisation as it encourages the inclusion of keywords in headings, opening statements and links.

So when you next write content for your website make it more engaging and see better SEO results with the “F” Factor.

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