Are you stuck on how to write your web copy? It seems like an easy task. I mean you’re just writing about you, and your business, and the services you provide. Simple.
Yeah. Really simple. Right until you sit down to actually write it.
And then you get the blinking cursor of doom and the resolutely blank page staring back at you, taunting you. Or worse, you read it back and think to yourself, “That doesn’t even sound like me!”
In this post, I’m going to give you some helpful things to remember when you’re writing your web copy. You might use all of them, or only a few. Some of the points are practical, for example, they relate to the visual aspect of your web copy. Others are the “in-your-head” stuff, things to keep in mind as you’re scribbling away.
My number 1 piece of advice is always:
This applies here too. You need to remember that, although your products, services and story may be familiar to you, your website visitors are (probably) seeing it for the first time.
You are their guide.
You have the map to your website (quite literally.) They do not. If you want them to read your About page (tomorrow’s post takes you through this) and then go to your Services page (that’s Thursday’s post) – tell them, and take them. If your Services page is best followed up with your Case Studies (plus some all-important testimonials) – tell them, and take them.
Plan for surprise visitors
No, I’m not going to talk about cyber attacks (I couldn’t, even if I wanted to.) I’m going to talk about where visitors land on your site. As much as you’d like them to arrive on your carefully-crafted Home page, they probably won’t. Writing your web copy is not like writing a book, neither is it like reading one. Most people read books from the beginning – they start at Chapter 1 and go from there. Websites? Not so much.
If you want to know the pages visitors are (commonly) arriving on, it’s quite easy to find out:
- Log into your Google Analytics account (it’s www.google.com/analytics)
- Go to the Behaviour tab (it’s on the sidebar)
- Click on Site Content
- Then click on Landing Pages
In this tab you’ll see where people are arriving. Here’s a screenshot of how it might look:
Regardless of where people are landing (and don’t forget that this can change frequently – especially if you have a blog on your site), you need to make sure that every page on your site communicates the following things clearly:
Where they are
What your website (and business) is about
What they should do next
Again – guide them. Want them to visit a particular page next? Take them there – include a button or a link to the next page they should visit – whether that’s a page or a blog post.
Do this on every page.
I don’t really mean be boring, what I mean is, don’t try to surprise people. Don’t hold things back, revealing things as the (web) page unfolds.
Lead with your most important information first.
Again, your web copy is not a book. Twists and turns and plot developments just don’t work for you here….because if visitors aren’t grabbed by the first sentence or two….
In writing circles (I’m thinking journalism here), this technique is known as the inverted pyramid way of writing. You need to get the vital details out there, in the headline and the first sentences of the first paragraph, so that lazy web readers (ahem, that’s all of us) will get what they came for quickly. When it comes to your web copy, this means ensuring that every page makes these two things obvious:
- What you do
- What you can do for your clients
You’ll also want to avoid trying to be clever in your writing. Now, this one is tough for me. Not because I’m particularly clever, but because I love clever writing (wish I could do it myself!) I adore puns and word play and witticisms, but they really don’t have a place within your web copy (at least not on your static pages, there’s room for a bit more on your blog posts.) People won’t waste time trying to work out what your complicated metaphor means….
(Are you sensing a theme here?)
Use words that are familiar – nothing overly buzz word-y, scientific or jargon-loaded (unless your target market will be searching for those terms.) People won’t be searching for a “word whisperer”, they’ll type in “copywriter”. So make sure your web copy prominently features the words you want to be found for.
Above all, keep it short and remember my maxim:
Brevity is best.
- Short sentences
- Short paragraphs
- Don’t use fillers
- Don’t repeat words
- Don’t use the passive voice
In Part 5 of Copy Blitz this week (that’ll be Friday) we’ll go into more detail about how you can critically evaluate your own writing and perform a “self-edit”. But don’t worry. Following a checklist needn’t make your web copy lacking or uninspired – it just means you’ll communicate your value quickly, because in today’s superfast society, that’s what your readers want. If you’re a non-native speaker, it can be really helpful to have some “rules” to follow. It might mean you have to work harder, and think more carefully about who you’re writing for, but hey – isn’t that why we’re here?
Again, to fall back on the book analogy, web users don’t expect (or like) large blocks of uninterrupted text. Why? Because we rarely read web copy properly – we scan it. When we write the content for our websites, we also need to think about how it looks. I don’t mean the design of your site or your logo, I mean how the text on your page is arranged.
What does this mean for your web copy in practice?
Keeping it brief (like we talked about above) is a good first step. When you’re reviewing a page, think about how it can be broken down further and made more visually appealing. Ask yourself these questions:
- Can I split that paragraph up?
- Could I include an image or a graphic to emphasise that point?
- Could I split that headline into a heading and a sub-heading?
- Could I use bullet points or a numbered list instead of this paragraph?
- Could I highlight some important phrases within this section by separating them and using a different font size?
- Can I use bold or italics to stress central themes?
Tomorrow’s focus will be writing your About Me page, or, as I like to call it, your About Them page. A running theme through Copy Blitz is the idea that all of your web copy and content should be geared towards your ideal clients. Your About page will be no different. Let’s do this!