How to write effective web copy

Your website must be well written, engaging and easy to find. Hiring a professional web copywriter to produce compelling text is, without doubt, a good investment — and one which will probably pay for itself with a single new piece of business.

But if you’re planning to write the web copy yourself, read on to find out what you need to consider (in a nutshell) and for five top tips. I wrote this with an SME audience in mind, but it applies to anybody who has to write text for a website.

Web copy — what to think about

My website looks great. Why is the text important?

Chances are that your main sales and communication tool is your website. And while it may look fantastic, it needs to be well written too – that’s how people will find you in search engines and what will, ultimately, convince them to take that next step in doing business with you.

Oh yes, I’ve heard of SEO. So you mean add key words?

Key words and phrases that your target audience might use to look for you are important to include. But writing effective web copy is much more than that.

You must think about who needs or wants what your website offers, how they will search for it, what they want to achieve by visiting your website and then either help them to complete their task or encourage them to take the next step.

What are the other considerations?

There are several things that you need to think about in addition to SEO.

So that as many people as possible can use and understand your website, you need to make it accessible (for both humans and different devices) and usable (visitors can easily do what they need to).

In terms of text, that means writing it in clear, easy-to-read language and formatting it in a ‘web-friendly’ way (from both a visual and a technical perspective).

This sounds like a big job. Where do I start?

If you decide to write your website copy yourself, it’s simpler than it seems. Begin by asking your current clients what they would find useful, what they like about the current web copy and what’s missing.

Then take a look around at your competitors’ sites – you’ll find some common pages and these will often indicate the type of information you should include. They might also help you to identify which writing styles you like or dislike.

Okay, I know what to include. How do I set about writing it?

Get to the point quickly – preferably in the first sentence or the first paragraph on the page (these may be the only words visitors will read). Use the following paragraphs to expand on the page’s theme but keep it as concise as possible. Less is more!

And avoid waffling or using marketing jargon – say what you have to say and no more.

How should I set it out?

Use a descriptive heading for each page, followed by body text that’s written in short sentences and short paragraphs. Break it up with plenty of sub headings so it’s easy for readers to scan the text and pick out what they want.

If you’re writing your copy in Word, it’s useful to set wide margins on the page – it helps to mimic the narrow width of the text area on websites.

You mentioned some technical considerations. What are these?

These are the code that’s used to tell devices and search engines what the words on the website represent and their hierarchy on that page. So there’s code for different headings, text contained in images, types of lists and so on.

If you’re using a popular self-publishing platform like WordPress, the information that you’re prompted to enter should cover most of these.

Five web writing tips

1. Write for your target audience, not for yourself. Think about what your website’s visitors want to do by coming to your website. What are they looking for from you? Consider what they need to find out, not just what you want to say about your company.

2. Identify what action you want readers to take. If you’d like visitors to contact you, make sure your contact details are easy to find and there’s a prominent ‘Contact us now’ on every page. This is a ‘call to action’ and basically encourages people to take the next step in the process.

3. Think about what you want readers to remember about you. Website visitors often spend only seconds on a page before deciding whether it’s got what they’re looking for. Think about the one thing (or ‘key message’) you want them to absorb in those seconds. Then make it jump out!

4. Write for your readers first, search engines second. Readers use the search engines. Write what you want to say and then tweak it to focus any key words or phrases. Web copy that’s stuffed full of key words, making it horrible to read and also look unprofessional, will put people off.

5. Make sure the text is easy to read and navigate. Avoid jargon (industry terms are fine for a niche target audience with knowledge of those phrases). Format the text in a ‘web friendly’ way: descriptive headings, short paragraphs and sentences, and ‘plain English’ wording.

This is just a succinct overview of what you need to think about. There are lots of resources available for free online to help you write copy for your website. But if you’d like someone to take the task off your hands (freeing you up to concentrate on running your business), get in touch with me for an informal chat.

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