How to Write Your Ad Agency’s Blog

My experience working with ad agencies, those who write a lot for print have the most difficult time adjusting to writing online.  In order to write effectively you must understand how people read on the web.

And how do users read on the web? The answer is, they don’t ... they scan.

Nielsen Norman Group ‘s research found that 79 percent of their test users always scanned any new page they came across; only 16 percent read word-by-word

For your agency’s blog to be effective, your text must be scannable. Jacob Nielsen offers this advice:

  • highlighted keywords (hypertext links serve as one form of highlighting; typeface variations and color are others)
  • meaningful sub-headings (not “clever” ones)
  • bulleted lists
  •  one idea per paragraph (users will skip over any additional ideas if they are not caught by the first few words in the paragraph)
  • the inverted pyramid style, starting with the conclusion
  • half the word count (or less) than conventional writin

Nielsen’s research also found that users detested “marketese”; the promotional writing style with boastful claims. I’ve often said that the moment you start to sell on your agency’s blog is when you will lose your audience. 

You need to understand how people read on the web and learn to write for them effectively. Go to Jakob Nielsen’s web site and read this paper. If you look at the top blogs, you’ll find they follow Nielsen’s style guidelines remarkably well.  How Users Read on the Web



About Michael Gass

Consultant | Trainer | Author | Speaker

Since 2007, he has been pioneering the use of social media, inbound and content marketing strategies specifically for agency new business.

He is the founder of Fuel Lines Business Development, LLC, a firm which provides business development training and consulting services to advertising, digital, media and PR agencies.


  1. As usual, a concise summary of what it takes to successfully blog. Thanks for this. I especially agree with the comment on pushing “marketese” on your readers. Too often, the viewer isn’t given the credit they deserve. People may seem disconnected, but that doesn’t make them stupid.

  2. Mike, thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m glad you found the post helpful.

  3. Rian ONeill says:

    Isn’t the tone and organization of content on a blog really dependent on your audience? And for ad agencies, your audience is more than likely other people in the industry. So you don’t have to coax them into reading further down the page with subheads and bullets and other “web best practices” meant more for pages that selling products. I couldn’t agree more with your bit about keeping the voice natural. But tying Nielsen’s bit to agency blogs seems like a bit of a stretch.

  4. Rian,

    First, thanks for taking the time to comment. Whether it is my audience, small-to midsize ad agencies, or the agency’s target audience, there is a big difference in the way someone reads print and they way they read online. That’s been not only my experience but research that backs it up. Those that do tend to read every word are in a much smaller minority.

  5. These are great tips! Something to keep in mind as we write our own posts. Very useful!

  6. Thank you!

  7. Michael,
    I save your Fuel Lines for catch-up reading. (Like today.) This particular topic coincided with a client who encouraged me to join the “blog side.” I’d resisted thinking it was an ego trip. I appreciate these tips as they represent how I read on the web. Have to make sure I write to that. All the best.

  8. Jamie,
    Thanks Jamie. I’m glad to know that FUEL LINES has been a help to you. That encourages me. Let me know when you get your blog going.

  9. This makes me want to start a blog of my own right now. Great tips.

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