When it comes to websites, there's a lot of emphasis these days on user experience, video, graphic design, and other slick new web development features.
Adding modern bells and whistles to your website is great, and it can help attract your audience and extend the time they spend on your page.
But you should never forget about the fundamental building blocks that make your website what it is: Words.
The copy on your page speaks volumes about you or your client's business and its priorities. If a website doesn't have clear, concise messaging, nothing else will work.
Here are four of the most common mistakes made in web copy and how you can avoid them:
1. Not being specific enough
You've probably heard a corporate mission or brand statement that goes something like this:
ABC Inc. aims to bring massive efficiencies to the technology industry through groundbreaking innovations in hardware management that will push society forward and make the world a better place.
Sounds great, right? But what does all that actually mean?
Your guess is as good as mine. Too many writers think fancy words and sophisticated phrases make good writing.
That idea couldn't be further from the truth.
No matter what you are writing, it's always best to include real examples. In the case of ABC Inc., the writer could have talked about what kind of technology they work with, how they are changing it, and what specific impact that work will have on society.
Always think about whether or not a reader with no previous experience with the business you are writing about would understand the copy you've written. If not, make it more specific.
2. Writing excessively long paragraphs with lots of copy on every page
Words on a website might be important, but that doesn't mean site visitors want to spend their time sifting through walls of text that go on and on about a company's history, expertise, etc.
Concise writing is good writing, especially when it comes to copywriting for websites and social media. During the writing process, remember to go through and edit your work a few times to cut down on needless words. The extra time you invest will pay off by making your words tighter and easier to read.
As the French philosopher Blaise Pascal once said, "I would have written a shorter letter but I did not have the time."
3. Using run-on sentences
Following along with a run-on sentence is like trying to catch a frightened chicken running around the coop: tiring, difficult, and probably not worth the effort anyway. Don't force page visitors to go back and re-read lengthy sentences that are hard to keep up with. A good rule of thumb is if a sentence is longer than 2 lines, it probably needs to be broken up.
4. Not providing supporting links
Every company wants to position themselves as expert authorities in their chosen field. But most people today are naturally skeptical of things they read, especially when it comes from a business. If you can support the statements you make in your writing with statistics, research studies, or quotes from other experts, it adds weight to the claims made in your writing and helps convince the reader to believe what you are saying.
5. Not thinking like your reader
The biggest mistake made by most novice writers, regardless of field or project type, is not considering the views, beliefs, and desires of the people reading their copy. There are plenty of things you might instinctively know about your subject that readers don't understand at all, especially if you are writing in a field you have a lot of experience with.
As you are writing and revising, remember to stop and think about how something might sound to your reader. Consciously ask yourself if they would understand what you are saying - too much jargon or advanced concepts will cause people to lose interest and go somewhere else. It might help to have someone with less experience review your writing, to make sure it's comprehendible.
You don't need to be the next Shakespeare or Hemingway to write solid web copy. All it takes is a strong focus on your goal, the ability to relate to your reader, and the avoidance of common mistakes like the ones above. If you keep these principles in mind and give yourself plenty of practice, you'll be writing great website copy in no time.