U.S. Department of Energy - Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy

EERE Communication Standards & Guidelines

Page Elements

This section covers best practices for writing headers, subheaders, introductory text, and the body of content. Structuring your pages reasonably can make a page easier to read and understand.

Requirements

All Web sites must follow these requirements.

Introductory Text

Introductory text, or "intro text" is the first 1-2 sentences on a Web page. When you search for a page in the EERE search engine, the intro text is displayed in the search captions. In order to drive people to your page, it is important to have intro text that clearly describes the content of the page.

All Web pages must have intro text. This should be the first content on the page beneath the header.

Best Practices

Following these best practices will help you write more effective Web pages.

Introductory Text

All pages must have intro text. However, effective intro text should:

  • Contain keywords that:
    • Searchers use in searches
    • Help the page rank high in search results (determine with Marsha)
    • Are important to your users
  • Not contain acronyms or abbreviations that are not defined or used on the page.
  • Not include ampersands unless they are embedded in terms, e.g., R&D

Headers

Every page, except for your site's home page, should begin with a first-level header. This header also doubles as the name of the page. In order to distinguish Web pages from each other, all headers should be unique.

Headers should:

  • Be concise
  • Be unique
  • Describe page content
  • Contain keywords that:
    • Searchers use in searches
    • Help the page rank high in search results
    • Are important to your users
  • Not contain acronyms or abbreviations
  • Not include ampersands unless they are embedded in terms, e.g., R&D.

Subheaders

Subheaders are used to break up the content of a Web page into individual sections. Because it is difficult to read long blocks of text online, it is important to break up your content into short, separate chunks, divided by clear and concise subheaders.

Subheaders should:

  • Contain keywords that:
    • Searchers use in searches
    • Help the page rank high in search results
    • Are important to your users
  • Describe paragraph/section content
  • Not contain acronyms or abbreviations
  • Not include ampersands unless they are embedded in terms, e.g., R&D.
  • Be placed approximately every 2-3 paragraphs.

Body of Content

The body of content on a Web page is the core of the content on your site. Writing content for the Web is often subtly different than writing content for print materials. Content on the Web should be direct, clear, and concise.

Body text should contain keywords that:

  • Searchers use in searches
  • Help the page rank high in search results (determine with EERE Search Specialist)
  • Are important to your users

Body text should also be written so that it is easily "scannable" for your visitors. By keeping your content short and organized, you make it easier for readers to find the content they want. Use the following techniques to make your text more scannable:

  • Bullets
  • Typographical elements to pull out important phrases (larger type, bold face, italics—but NOT underlines, unless it is a hyperlink)
  • Short sentences (no more than 20 words)
  • Short paragraphs (no more than 3 sentences)
  • Short pages (no more than 3-4 paragraphs). For content that is more than 3-4 paragraphs, consider "chunking" your content.

Acronyms

Define all acronyms the first time they are used on a page. After the acronym has been defined, use that acronym from that point onwards.

Do not use acronyms in headers or subheaders, even if they have been defined elsewhere on the page.

Time-sensitive Words

Unless you are writing a news story, you should never use time-sensitive words (such as "last week," or "this year") in your content. Even if your content is still accurate, time-sensitive words make your content feel dated and old. Even words like "recent" can make your content feel dated. Use specific dates when possible. If you do not intend to update content regularly, make as few references to time as possible.