Writing For Robots

writing-for-robots

Designing An Online Higher Education Website

H1’s, H2’s and H3′ tags can be the key to getting readers to read and engage with your website, but there are definitely a few no-no’s when writing these headings. If you have beautiful collegiate phrases they might engage a few readers, but what will a robot think of it? If I just read, “Online learning with the flexibility to fit your life” would I know exactly what that section would be talking about? It is a great readable heading for a blog reader, but you may not want to use it for an information page of a website. A website’s headings should be clear enough for a person to glance at it and understand what they are about to read, but also be creative enough to catch attention. This is where a website’s information pages may differ from general product writing or blog writing.

Don’t use headings that seem too wordy to be headings.

First of all let me preface this, “You are likely a better writer than I am and I don’t really have the right to correct your writing. I really don’t have the grammatical skills to teach you here”, but if you are trying to learn how to engage a reader and write for robots like Google… Look at the sample headers below.

Writing for A Glancer Rather Than A Reader

Many people will glance at the headings and see if it catches their attention or they may glance and see if the heading is what they were looking for. If they don’t understand it instantly, they might skip over it.
Here are some samples. My word list below is what I chose from to create the headings. Generally I create a big word list of key words and phrases and then try to gently use them through the text. They don’t need to be over-used. You may think of more key words or phrases, but my initial list is below.

Sample Headers

Online learning with the flexibility to fit your life. Vs.

Online Flexible Schedules
Learning Online and On-Campus (Blended Learning)
Blended Learning is Flexible
Blended Instruction fits your schedule.
Special Note *It may also be best not to use words like “blended” in a heading until you have explained them.

A multi-dimensional approach to a community of learning. Vs.

Online learning with a community feel 
Learning in an online community
Flexible Learning, Flexible Community

You will for sure come up with better titles than for your programs but, I am hoping this will offer the guidance needed to make your online higher education website successful. When I first start my process I do some Google searches to get ideas of the keywords I am looking to infuse in my webpages.
Here are the core ideas I decided I wanted to get across:
Flexible Schedules
Flexible Learning Times
Blended Learning
Blended Instruction
Online Learning Community
Online Program Distinctions
Lutheran Learning Distinctions 

To break these down into an even more granular list I then look for words incorporating the list above. We want these words mixed into our headings, body text and META data with program words like Master’s, Graduate level, Associates, MBA, Liberal Arts and anything else that fits your future student body…. For me, the bold ones should be used the most.
 
On Campus
Flexible Schedules
Flexible Learning Times
Blended Learning
Blended Instruction
Distance Learning
Online Learning Community
Online Community
Online Program Distinctions
Accredited Online Programs/Degrees
Online vs. Traditional Degree Programs
Online College
Online University
Online Courses
Online Course Schedule
Online degree programs
Online Certificate Programs
Online bible seminary
Online Bachelor/Master/… Degree Programs
Cost of online degrees
National University
Lutheran Learning Distinctions
Christian
Bible School – For theology
Christian School
Christian College Degree
Lutheran University

Information Pages vs. Blog Writing

Finally, we need to consider the difference between writing information pages vs. blog or other personal pages on your higher education site. If we first realize that students and robots will be reading your website, it will likely help you understand how important it is to use clear headers to help visitors engage in your website. Higher education websites are full of Information pages, but if you were writing for a blog than these rules don’t apply. For instance, when you are writing a blog you use beautiful, flowery, descriptive text and that is great for a blog reader. The text there flows with personable writing and is very enjoyable to read. Now think about writing for an information page in contrast. You are likely writing for a reader that may be new to your content. This reader may need to be engaged from a different part of their brain. They may be a skeptic, they may be predisposed one way or another about your content. Your job is to influence them to read your content. This is where your headings will help. Simple readable headings will allow your reader to find the information they were searching for and when they read the content below your headings they will now learn to engage with your style of writing. Now you have them. They are interested and reading your content.
Congratulations. Step one is complete.