You have probably heard by now that most site visitors (or users) don’t read web copy, they scan it. Although that means they probably won’t hang on every word you put out there, does that mean you should write less? Not necessarily.
Studies have shown that simply improving your writing makes a big difference in the value of the copy to the reader and its overall readability. In other words, learning how to write for the web will help customers understand it quicker, keep it in their heads longer and remember it afterwards. Good stuff.
Specifically, you can do 3 things right now to improve your website copywriting to make it more memorable and enjoyed by your scanning website visitor:
- Make it more concise – that doesn’t mean short for the sake of it. Too often, when asked to make writing concise, we strip out the good stuff. Concise can be comprehensive too.
- Lay out your copy so it is scannable – this is a visual thing. Break up your copy so that a scanning eye picks up your main points and zeroes in on the relevant topics.
- Use objective (neutral) language – sorry advertisers, people respond better to facts and reasons, not superlatives and empty jargon. If you say you’re the best, you had better prove it to me.
Let’s look at these in turn.
This is just good writing technique. When you learn how to write for the web specifically, it helps to think about what every single word is doing. Is it working to persuade the reader, or provide information? If not, cut it or construct your thought in a way that reduces the number of words. Your writing should be sharp, not wandering.
The best way to write concise copy is to write in the active voice and use simple sentences.
Notice how every time I introduce a new idea into this article, I introduce it with a subheading? That technique is a good way to break up your content so that someone scanning your copy can pick up on your main points. Other choices you have to highlight your key words and phrases (topics) are:
- Bullets or numbered lists – these naturally create a block of important points
- Vary the length of elements like paragraphs and sentences to keep attention.
- Use links and text emphasis – links naturally highlight in a different colour and should be underlined so that readers know they link. Try emphasising important information with bold to draw the eye.
- Give readers the main point first – called the inverted pyramid style by some, this is journalist style. Lead with the conclusion first so scanning readers know what you’re getting at. For good examples, look at your favourite newspaper.
- Focus on one idea only in each paragraph or block of content – any writing book will tell that this is just good writing technique.
It’s about being credible. Words like ‘best’, ‘most’, ‘top’, ‘stunning’ are subjective. If you make a claim like that you better back it up with proof. Don’t believe me? Think about how much online reviews sway your propensity to purchase. If the manufacturer said “we are the best brand of pixels” you probably wouldn’t believe them. But if they said “rated 2010 best brand of pixels by Pixel Magazine”, you are very likely to believe it. Even better would be to include customer’s product reviews on your site.
There are many more considerations that go into web copywriting, but these 3 techniques are a great place to start and your website visitors will thank you.