Readers have a lot of demands competing for their time. It’s a challenge to grab and keep their attention, which is why a professional copywriter — particularly one trained in writing for the web — is worth her weight in gold. But for many organizations, a tight budget means that copywriting must be done in-house by a generalist. Writing copy for webpages is different than writing for print, and there is some variation depending on the type of content you are writing. Here are some tips that will help you tell your story in an effective way for any type of content.
Make content scannable.
Hierarchy is the relative importance of items within your content. It’s necessary to help readers focus on what’s important.
Use headings or sub headings to bring the main points of each section to your readers’ attention. If they don’t read all the details, at least they’ll get the gist of your article as they scan the headings.
Incorporate bulleted lists where possible. These will jump off the page and be read before a paragraph of text.
Utilize bold to draw special attention, but use it sparingly. If you use it too often readers will ignore it.
Brevity is key.
After your rough draft is finished, take out your virtual machete and start hacking away at unnecessary words. Also be mindful of paragraph size, breaking content into small, digestible chunks. What might be one long paragraph in a newspaper article should be two to three shorter paragraphs on a webpage.
Segment your audience and write content that appeals to each group.
Visitors come to your site for different reasons, and at different stages of the buying cycle. Don’t try to cram everything onto one page. It will be too long, and you’ll reach fewer people if you’re trying to talk to everyone at once. In particular, if you have a variety of audiences that are culturally very different from each other, addressing them separately will help you present a message that resonates well with each.
Write for your audience, not for yourself.
Remember you are speaking to your prospects, not yourself. Put yourself in their shoes. Use verbiage and tone that will resonate with them. You may find it helpful to create personas of your ideal clients/customers. When you are preparing to write, pick the persona you’re trying to reach with that article and focus on what you think that person wants to learn.
Use a tone and style that is consistent with your brand.
Hopefully you have a healthy brand to protect, but if not — now’s the time to start improving it. Your brand is what your customers and potential customers think of you. Your brand is not your logo. Your brand is not your mission or vision. Your brand is built (or in some cases, destroyed) over time through interactions with your company, the various messages they’ve heard about you — either from you or from others, and ideally on an emotional connection that you have made. Use a tone and writing style that project the personality you hope to nurture for your brand, and that reinforce the emotional connection.
Remember: The ultimate intent of marketing web copy is to persuade.
While news or academic writing aims to inform, copywriting for marketing-focused websites is a carefully planned mixture of persuasive and informative content. You don’t want your writing to sound like an advertisement (which will quickly be ignored), but even on a page that seems strictly informational, there should be a call-to-action that urges readers to follow the conversion path you have in mind for them. Make their next step easy.