Writing copy for web use can be a tricky thing. When we were taught how to write in school, we were writing for a very different audience than most web visitors. It's one thing to read a white paper or a book, but if someone is visiting a website, they're looking for specific things and want easily accessible information they can digest quickly. Here are some top tips to make your web copy shine.
Keep it Short
Longer isn't necessarily better, especially as our attention spans are waning. If you want to write compelling copy for the web, you should keep paragraphs to about four sentences long (if that) and use five and ten-dollar words sparingly. Most people who come to your website are looking for something in particular, and aren't reading for completion. Therefore, make it easy for them to skim and find what they want, or they'll leave for someone who does it better.
Simple Beats Complex
Don't try to be too impressive or creative. While there is a time and place to make your writing shine, copy for web needs to be easily accessed. You want to put the most important information first, so people can grab that easily, and then add supplementary information as needed. You don't want to go all out with fluff and frills -- this tends to drive readers away, rather than impress them.
Break it Up
Because you're mostly writing for scanners, you'll usually want to split your content into different sections with subheadings. This not only makes it easier for readers to grab information; it also makes it simpler for search engines to figure out what you're talking about. So using sections is a win-win in that aspect. Bulleted lists are also a great thing to try if you can. They jump off the page and give simple and short information to your reader.
Choose Familiar Keywords
It might be tempting to use keywords that are more obscure when writing copy for web, considering that you can achieve better search engine results this way. However, you want to use familiar words for the most part when you're writing. The reason is pretty simple: even if you end up further down the page, vastly more people search with simple words that are familiar to them, rather than more complex ones. For example, people don't really search for "cost effective plumber," but they are likely to search for "cheap plumber."
Use Active Voice
You're probably familiar with Calls-to-Action at this point, but you might not be aware that you should use active voice throughout all your web copy. When you use passive voice, it takes away some of your authority. By choosing active verbs instead, you're subconsciously signaling your readers that you know what you're talking about. That's not to say there isn't a time and a place for passive voice. But usually, if you're doing copy for web, that's not the time.
Write Killer Headlines
While this may seem more important for your content pages, using headlines that grab attention is important for all of your pages. Your headline is what shows up on your search engine results, and if it's lack-luster, readers are less likely to click through. There are a lot of great resources out there to help you create engaging titles, but one of my favorite methods is to go through and see what your competitors are doing. Then, see how you can improve.
It might be tempting sometimes to use negative language to describe something, but by using positive language instead, you can foster a better feeling between you and the reader. When people read things that are positive, they are more likely to feel active, something you definitely want to encourage. For instance, you wouldn't want to say "Don't Delay," and instead try something like, "Act Now!" It's a small tweak that can make a big difference.
There's a lot you need to keep in mind when you're writing copy for web, but once you've spent some time reading over how to do it, go ahead and write your first draft. Then, set it aside and look at it a bit later. You might be amazed to see how much you can improve. By incorporating these tips into your web copy, you'll find that you get better engagement rates and that your customers will get more out of your website.