In all the years I’ve been writing for the web, there are a few simple tips that routinely make even the most hyped up, long-winded pages much improved. Here are my top tips for anyone writing a page of web copy.
Write for an audience of one
Hopefully you have many prospects arriving at your web pages, but each and every one of them is reading that page on his or her own.
To every single prospect, they are the only person in the world that should matter.
So treat them that way and write your web copy in a friendly, personal way that speaks to one person at a time.
This means using a less formal way of writing than you might be used to. Imagine the person is sitting across the desk from you. What would you tell them about your product? How would you express the quality of your service?
You’d say it from the heart, in a way that convinces them of your sincerity.
For the web, the best way to write is to write what you’d say.
Design your writing
Many writers have little trouble generating words, but when it comes to making the writing look better for a reader, they tend to forget that our audience needs visual clues to deal with the perils of reading from a screen.
Here’s why those readers are missing what you’re saying:
- They are staring into a light source – unlike like our evolutionary ancestors who developed in a world of reflected light, our readers are actively looking into a screen of light. This is hard on the eyes.
- Blink rates go down – you blink less when you’re looking at a screen, down from the usual 12 times per minute to about 5 times. That’s why you get red eyes when you read from a screen for a long time.
- They are distracted – emails, text messages, Skype calls, and a myriad of other activities distract your web visitors while they are trying to absorb your message.
To overcome these challenges, you need to make sure your important points and messages are at the top, and stand out from the surrounding text. You can use a mix of these techniques to get attention:
- Use bullet points – If you have a few key messages you want to get across, use the inbuilt attention grabbing design of basic bullets. They stand out from surrounding text and attract the eye.
- Try varying font weight and size – Use bold text to highlight key terms and attributes, and make link anchor text slightly larger and underlined to call attention to it the link.
- Use the ‘inverted pyramid’ style of writing you find in news stories – tell the key piece of information first in the heading, then again in the intro with slightly more information included. Finish with the whole story that explains what you said first.
Remember to take them somewhere
If you don’t know where you want your reader to go next, they won’t know either.
Be a leader and set yourself a page goal from the start. Write with intent and craft the whole page towards that ultimate goal.
If that’s signing up for something, every bit of text on that page should support that goal. If the destination is learning something, then all the copy must support that learning goal.
Link to other pages for secondary goals and support information. But always write with purpose and a goal in mind for your audience of one. A well-written web page is one that makes the reader feel like they’re valued and that they haven’t been abandoned to ‘figure it out’ themselves.
Do you have any tips for new web writers? Leave them below.