You may be selling products, or writing a blog post. Regardless of the intent, there are some basic rules that you can follow when writing for the web. Below are few tricks, that I have learnt from professional copywriters.
What is copy?
At WordCamp Melbourne (Feb 2011) Amanda Gonzalez of Untangle the Web (Twitter: @untangle) gave a great presentation about copy. I was slightly bemused when her opening slide was “What is Copy?”. I thought “She’s talking to a room full of web developers. Surely they all know what copy is?”. Apparently not…
1. Understand that copy is…
…Everything on your website. And it all needs to be chosen and crafted to the single purpose that your site aims to fulfill. For many of us this means that our website needs to present our business in the best and most persuasive light. Business websites need to sell, or attract prospective clients. So everything on it must be tasked for this purpose. This means that images, color schemes, text, fonts. Everything needs to be carefully considered. The end result must be engaging, with a strong call to action.
2. People don’t read, they scan
This is why headings are so important. Your headings need to be engaging and be made up of your keywords. (As mentioned in the post SEO: snakeoil or saviour). Keywords and proper markup of headings are also important to ranking high in search results.
As people load your page, they begin scanning the headings, if each one doesn’t outline the shape of your story and key message, then they’ll click off somewhere else, rather than bother reading the text.
3. Your headline is your story
Visitors to your site will scan you post titles. If nothing grabs their attention they will click away somewhere else. So spend some time and craft catchy headings. And use WordPress’ post excerpts to create hand crafted summaries of your content.
4. People read left to right
So it makes sense to put the important messages on the left hand side of the page.
5. You matter
Yes, you really do! People are more engaged when they read the word “you”, and “your”. Engaging copy draws the reader in and addresses itself directly to their needs, wants and desires. Make your writing personal. Think of how the reader feels, and what they want from your website.
6. Write for an 8th grader
The best level to pitch your text is at the reading level of an 8th grader. While you may think this to be overly simplistic, it really is better to leave the words with
multiple lots of syllables out. Write in plain English, and use short words and sentences.
7. Check spelling and grammar
Spelling and grammatical mistakes lower the quality of your post, and can be responsible for lost sales. I remember all those emails I got from people like Dr. Mboto of Namibia (before I moved to Gmail). The ones with the millions of unclaimed $US. What was the spelling like in them? Atrocious. As a consequence whenever I read a web page and it’s got glaring errors on it, I go somewhere else. I’m not a fan of Dr Mboto and his grammatically incorrect scammers. Charles Duncombe recently estimated that spelling and grammatical errors cost businesses millions of lost sales every year.
8. Use images
Engaging images draw readers into your content. They should be relevant and highlight the message of your text. My favourite place to find images is Flickr. And my favourite license to use for images is the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License. When searching for images to use on Flickr use the Advanced search, scroll down the page and tick the “ ”Find content to modify, adapt, or build upon”
As a condition of the License you must always attribute the creator of the work. This is as easy as linking back to their page on Flick, (See my attributions for the two images in this page at the botom).
9. Less is more
Use the KISS principal: Keep It Simple Stupid. Why use 10 words when five will do? Remember that people scan, they don’t read. They are unlikely to scroll down the page if you haven’t already engaged them. People read the web differently than books. And are less likely to read lots of text. Short, sharp and snappy, with a strong call to action. That is the order of the day.
10. Call to action
If you are writing to sell a product, or prompt the reader to take action, then you need a powerful call to action at the tail end of your text. To be honest, it also helps to have it at the start, too. Something like this, perhaps?
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Is this article good copy?
Let me know in the comments.
Copyblogger 20 part email course
We here at Brellabee also highly recommend Copyblogger’s 20 part email course on writing good copy. Short, sharp and insightful, it will help you generate more traffic to your site, by helping you write better copy. Sign up on their front page.
Follow Amanda Gonzalez on Twitter @untangle for great copy advice
Untangle the Web(site)
Thumbs up image by Meanest Indian
Iris image by Sarah Cartwright
Images used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License