Any good web writer knows that you can’t expect visitors to your website to read your copy like they would printed material. Web copy is only glanced at – scanned through at best. Readers are looking for specific products or information, and will take the quickest route to find it. You may already know the basics of writing good web copy, but it never hurts to be reminded. Whether you’re writing product pages, blog posts, or a social media advertising campaign, use the following advice to maximise the impact of your writing and take it to the next level.
Start with the most important information
Unlike writing an essay, where your key point likely ends up in the conclusion, when you’re writing for the web, you need to state your most important points first. For the most part, if you’re writing your own (or somebody else’s) website, this will be a simple sentence explaining what you do in clear, unambiguous terms. You can then follow this with whatever background information is necessary.
Known by journalistic writers as the ‘inverted pyramid’, this style of writing is similar to that of news articles, in which the most newsworthy facts are displayed front and centre to hook the reader. As with a news article, someone reading your website should be able to get the jist of you’re saying from the first paragraph. They will want to know a) what you do, and b) how you can help them. An enticing headline is just one way to increase your conversion rate.
Add links to your content
Including internal links (links to other pages on your websites) is a useful way to help visitors navigate your website, and what’s more, it improves Google’s ability to do so as well. Ensure that your internal links are relevant, perhaps linking back to a previous related article or service page. No blog post should exist purely in isolation.
Adding hyperlinks, whether internal or external, allows you to simplify your content by linking out to further reading. If you mention an unfamiliar term, there’s no need to go in-depth for several paragraphs explaining what it means – you can simply link to another article that does that for you. Of course, it also goes without saying that if you reference information from another website, you should include a link back to that source. Good manners should exist online, as well as in the real world.
If you’re concerned about sending all of your visitors off to another website, you can simply choose to have the link open in a new window. Linking to other websites may even help your own backlink profile in the long run.
Optimise for SEO
All effective web copy starts with SEO keyword research. It’s especially important if you want your posts to rank well – and why wouldn’t you? However, you should avoid keyword stuffing, as not only will it make your copy less natural to read, but you could also incur a Google penalty and find your ranking goes down, instead of up.
Bear in mind that in your keyword research, certain terms may be misspelled. That doesn’t mean you should use them anyway. Ultimately, the sites that Google wants to reward and rank are those with genuinely good, useful, well-written material. It is as much about quality as it is about strategic word choices. My advice: structure the piece around your keyword research, go ahead and write the piece as naturally as you can, and tweak later for optimal keyword placement.
Many of us have a tendency to write in the passive voice, rather than the active voice. According to yourdictionary.com, “active voice describes a sentence where the subject performs the action stated by the verb. In passive voice sentences, the subject is acted upon by the verb”. Generally, sentences written in the active voice are more compelling and likely to induce a response from your reader.
Here are two examples, one written in the active voice, the other in the passive voice:
Active voice: The chicken lays an egg.
Passive voice: The egg is laid by the chicken.
Where you can, try to ensure that you write your web copy using an active voice, rather than a passive one. You can also try mixing up your use of verbs to keep things interesting – though try to avoid making the classic copywriting mistake of using too many adjectives.
Make the copy look good
Of course, it isn’t all about what you write. It’s also about how that writing looks on the page. Is it inviting? Or are the large blocks of copy in small, cursive font actually repellent to the average page-scanning web visitor?
Online, you’re already working to keep your readers’ attention. So don’t make it harder for yourself by giving them a tough time reading your words. The aesthetics of your copy on the page are very important if you want your writing to be shared and understood. Here are some tips:
- Use bulleted or numbered lists (like this one)
- Have clear headings and subheadings that break up the content
- Include visual cues where appropriate
- Choose a legible typeface in a large-enough size
- Keep each paragraph fairly short
- Add variety using bold and italics
Everyone has their own preferred method of writing web copy. My preference is to start by getting everything down on (virtual) paper, and then ruthlessly editing to ensure it’s as concise as possible. I also like to start with the headline, so I can return to it should my argument start to wander. Another strategy that you may wish to try with your web copy is A/B testing to see what content drives the highest conversions. My final advice: keep it simple, focus on your audience, and if in doubt, leave it out.
I’d like to say a big thank you to Victoria for sharing the above guest post “How to Write Better Web Copy: Tips for Improvers”.
Victoria Greene writes her own blog at victoriaecommerce.
She is an ecommerce consultant and freelance writer who loves
to share her career tips with other writers and business owners.