Writing for sustainability
For eco-conscious businesses, minimising the carbon impact of your website can feel like a must-do rather than a nice-to-do. And writing for sustainability is a good place to start. Optimising your copy is not only good for visitors and good for business, it’s better for the planet. Here are our top tips for optimising your pages for greater eco-friendliness…
When you’re an eco-conscious business, having an online presence can feel a bit… icky. Like you’re compromising on your values somehow.
You want to minimise the impact your business has on the environment, but you know just how damaging our digital activities are in terms of emissions.
You also know you need an online presence – a website, social media channels, the whole shebang – to get the word out about all the wonderful things you’re doing; to educate others about sustainability, and to help them to choose products and services that are more eco-conscious.
As eco-conscious business owners, it’s difficult to know how we can be online in a way that’s ethical and responsible… [but] there’s a new wave of conscious web designers that are trying to make it easier for business owners like us to be visible online while minimising our carbon impact
The thing is, the internet is an energy-guzzler. Every website you visit pumps CO2 into the atmosphere. Every video you watch online adds to your carbon footprint. And every song you stream contributes to a climate crisis that’s getting worse by the day.
Digital technologies are currently responsible for 4% of all global greenhouse gases, and that’s a figure that’s growing every year, with no signs of slowing down.
As eco-conscious business owners, it’s difficult to know how we can be online in a way that’s ethical and responsible. Happily, there’s a new wave of conscious web designers that are trying to make it easier for business owners like us to be visible online while minimising our carbon impact. Web designers like Root Web Design Studio are building beautiful, low-carbon websites that prioritise good ethics and sustainability while helping eco-conscious businesses share their messages with the world.
They use thoughtful design principles and sustainable development techniques to build fast-loading websites that attract visitors and generate leads while keeping emissions to a minimum.
And one of the key tenets of this approach to ‘eco-friendly’ web design is ensuring copy is concise and purposeful.
How does concise and purposeful copy help boost a website’s eco credentials? Well, if you consider the fact that the most eco-friendly website is one that doesn’t load at all, the next best thing is to have one that’s opened for the shortest time possible. That means it needs to load fast, help the visitor quickly find what they were looking for, and then let them leave again, quickly.
It’s the middle bit of this process where copy comes in. When we’re writing for sustainable websites, we need to make sure our visitors can:
- Quickly find the information they are looking for
- Easily identify (and then take) the action they want to take
- And not have to go hunting for anything else
Search engine optimisation is a well-known strategy for helping businesses get found online. But making your content easily findable means you’re writing for sustainability too. When you optimise your copy, fewer irrelevant websites are opened, fewer photos and videos are loaded, and fewer server requests are being made – all of which decreases the amount of electricity being used. What’s more, if a visitor can quickly find the information they’re looking for in your content, they’ll spend less time on their phone or laptop and use even less electricity. These are all small energy savings that, when added up over the entire internet and its billions of global users, could have a massive impact.
When you optimise your copy, fewer irrelevant websites are opened, fewer photos and videos are loaded, and fewer server requests are being made – all of which decreases the amount of electricity being used
Keyword optimisation is an effective SEO technique for websites as a whole, but it works particularly well at the page level. It helps a chosen page get found online by the people it is most relevant to, and signposts an outcome for anyone who visits it. This page, for example, has been optimised so that anyone who wants to know how to write for sustainability can be confident they’re going to get some tips for doing just that.
And with that, let’s crack on with it…
Where to put keywords to make content findable
When you’re writing for sustainability, you want to make sure you’re not asking visitors to trawl through your website looking for the thing they performed a search for. You want them to land on the right page the first time, and that means optimising each page of your website for a different keyword (except maybe your homepage: that might need a few keywords, to give a broader overview of your products or services).
When you’ve chosen your keyword for a page, you’ll need to include it in a few places…
The title tag
This is the title of the page as it shows up in a search engine. The following title tag, for example, has been optimised for ‘eco fonts and ink-saving tips’. (And you can read that blog here.)
Whatever keyword you want to optimise for, your title tag should always:
- Be original – don’t use the same title tag on any other pages of your website
- Be less than 70 characters in length
- Include your business name
- Be consistent in its use of punctuation, spelling variations and capitalisation
- Be written for humans, using the same words people will type into the search engine
The description tag
This is the short description that shows up under the title or outputs to social media when the page is shared. When writing to make your website more eco-friendly, try and write the description tag to make the content sound compelling, and include your keyword at least once. Try and keep these descriptions to less than 150 characters, because anything over that will be cut off in the search engine results page.
In your page content
This is where your readers will find what they’ve come looking for, whether that’s a product to buy, an answer to a question, or details about your business’s services. Include your focus keyword two or three times in the page content, including in the first paragraph – this will let the visitor know immediately that they’ve come to the right place. This also helps search engines to send the right visitors your way, because the algorithms will generally only ‘read’ the first bit of your page. For SEO purposes, each page should have at least 300 words of copy.
In a heading on the page
Headings are the online equivalent of headlines and sub-headings – those demi-titles that help break up text into more manageable and targeted chunks. In content management systems like WordPress, SquareSpace or Wix, headings are often labelled H1, H2, H3, etc. At least one of these on each page should include your focus keyword, and all of them should be written to give a brief description of the information that follows.
In the page’s URL
This is the web address of the page itself. The bit that comes after www. It might not always be possible to include the keyword in the URL of every page of your website (you’ll need a different URL for each page), but that’s not a deal-breaker. Always make your URLs short and descriptive, and include your keyword if possible. Make your URLs easier to read by separating each word with a hyphen, too.
In image alt-text descriptions
Alt-text is a critical component of web accessibility (read more about that here), and it’s important for SEO purposes too. Always write these for human beings, but try and include your focus keyword to make the content more findable by screen readers and other assistive technology. Similarly, if you’re using embedded videos on your page, make sure they are labelled with the appropriate meta information (and ideally a transcript) that includes the focus keyword.
Read more: All about alt-text
Always write [alt-text descriptions] for human beings, but try and include your focus keyword to make the content more findable by screen readers and other assistive technology
While eco-conscious businesses are working to do good things in the world, it’s more than possible for their websites to be working to reduce their impact on the environment. Writing with sustainability in mind is one way of helping lower the carbon impact of your business website that’s not only good for the planet, but better for visitors and good for business too.
Need help writing or optimising your content for a more eco-friendly website? Just drop us an email.