Your website is your storefront, the repository of your company info, the hub around which your social media revolves and—most importantly—a vital lead generation tool. And your web content is the axis on which it all turns. As a writer, you simply can’t afford to get it wrong, especially on your own site. By paying attention to just a few basics, you can get your website copy to the point where it’s not only pretty good, but achieves the goals you want it to.
Here are my top 5 back-to-basics tips for writing better web content:
Tip 1: Stay Out of the Spotlight
The number one mistake inexperienced writers tend to make is to focus on what they can offer, rather than the benefit of the offering to the client. Instead of writing web content that speaks all about you, focus on your reader and what they will get from using your services. Replace most instances of “we” or “I” with “you.” If it doesn’t make sense, you need to rewrite it so it does.
Example: Replace “our writers are qualified, professional native English speakers who craft perfect copy” with “use qualified, professional native English speakers to provide you with perfectly-crafted copy.”
Tip 2: Use “Doing” Words
The old way of writing business copy that’s impersonal is done. Over. Kaput. Passive voice, indirect speech are big no-nos. Speak directly to your reader through your web content using active, direct voice and “doing” words. This makes your copy actionable and motivates your client to get moving.
Example: Instead of “We provide simple, affordable solutions that scale to your needs” use “Get simple, affordable solutions that scale to your needs.”
Here’s another, very easy change: Replace “Generates copy that sells your products and services effectively” to “Generate copy that sells your products and services effectively.”
See the difference? In the first, you’re saying what YOU do for THEM. In the second, you’re encouraging them to do it. With your help, of course. The difference is one letter!
Tip 3: Keep the Format User-Friendly
People don’t read on the web, they scan, according to long-established research from the Nielsen Norman Group. So those big blocks of long-winded text you’re so proud of just ain’t gonna cut it!
Make it scannable with easy-on-the eye formatting, such as:
- bulleted and numbered lists
- use of meaningful, captivating subheads,
- LOTS of line breaks.
Example: See above! Use short chunks of content, broken up every couple of lines and interspersed with images, headings, paragraphs and lists.
Tip 4: Speak Human
Your readers aren’t all going to have college degrees. No sir! So writing web content that sounds like academic textbook copy is a sure-fire way to lose their attention. Keep it simple, use layman’s language and write as if you’re speaking directly to a real person.
Example: “Research indicates that the informative material produced for the masses delivers excellent ROI. “ Seriously? Couldn’t you just say “Research shows that the useful info you write for users gives you great results.”
Tip 5: Mince Your Words
We’ve all fallen victim to the foibles of search engine optimization over the years. Yesterday, it was keyword stuffing; today, it’s web content that needs to be between 600 and 800 words for Google to “find” it. Sure, you need a fair amount of content on your website if you’re going to be able to thoroughly describe your service offering, but “rattling on” aimlessly is a cardinal sin in the Internet world.
Keep your copy brief, get to the point and state what each page hopes to achieve right upfront in the intro paragraph.
Example: We aren’t all Ernest Hemingway, unfortunately, but in my opinion his “Story in Six Words” is still the best example of concise copy the world has ever seen: For sale: baby shoes, never worn.
Imagine the story that these six words tell, and how long it could have been. And yet, it isn’t.
None of these tips are rocket science. They’re all fundamental principles of good copywriting, adapted for and applied to web content. Write your copy, then go through it applying each of these ideas, one at a time. You’ll be surprised at how different—and better—your finished piece turns out to be.