How To Write For The Web: A 5 Point Beginner’s Guide To Creating Successful Copy
We can all draft a punchy line, but writing copy for the web is a different beast. Web copy is free, plentiful and without the traditional credence that comes from being published in print – anyone can set up a blog and upload their own work.
Having paid no money to read your words, readers have a completely different investment in web copy and will spend an average of just 15 seconds reading your article.
Consequently, the demands on you as a writer of web copy are different to those placed on a print writer and the skills required to be a success are also different.
Below I list a five point beginner’s guide to creating successful copy for the web, which will turn your gift for an eloquent phrase into a finely drilled machine.
Know your audience
This seems obvious, but it is absolutely crucial.
The person reading your content is not a reader, but a client; they are not reading for pleasure, they are reading in order to advance their business and commercial interests.
As such, they are not investing their time simply to experience floral language.
Their objective is clear: they have questions that need to be answered and you need to provide the answers for them. You are reading this article in order to learn the basic skills required to write successful web copy, and we are providing these.
It is your job as a writer to know why your client is reading your web copy. Ask yourself: “why have they come to my website/blog?” and “how am I able to help them?”
If you are able to provide the answer to these questions and apply them to your writing, this will allow you to write web copy that serves your client.
Research, research, research
So you know who your audience is, why they have come to your website, and how you are able to help them. Good. Now you need to give your client the answers they need.
But not only this, you need to demonstrate to them that the answers you are giving them are accurate. This comes from researching your topic properly and making it plain in your copy that you have done so.
Include facts and the results of studies – for example, it has been shown in a study by Statistic Brain that the average reader will absorb only 28% of the content that they read in an online article.
Each time that you make reference to facts or the results of a study, make sure that you reference your source. This demonstrates your credibility to your client.
Write clearly, concisely and economically
In his 1946 essay, Politics and the English Language, George Orwell outlined six rules for writing clearly, concisely and economically. The key point to put into practice in order to produce successful web copy is: do not over elaborate.
We’ve already established that your client will take in just over a quarter of your copy, so make sure that each word counts and that you don’t dilute your message by using more words than you need to. You can also make it clearer for your client by using short paragraphs, emboldening key words and using bullet points where appropriate.
Read back what you have written and then consider if you are able to understand the message you are putting across.
If it requires additional thought, then you have failed to get your message across, and if you have not understood your own message then neither will your client.
Make Your Titles and Subheadings Count
It’s said that it takes seven seconds to make a first impression, and web copy is no stranger to this. When clients are searching for the answers to their questions, they will be drawn to the titles they see in their search results.
If the title you have selected for your copy does not relate to your client’s agenda, they won’t click through to it. If they don’t click through to your article, then they won’t read it, even if it has all the answers they are seeking.
This remains true even if you have won the first battle by getting your client to click through to your article.
With such a short time spent reading web copy, clients will often skim through the content. You can reassure them that your web copy will serve their needs by having punchy subheadings, ones that demonstrate each section provides the answers they are seeking.
Be Aware of SEO
Search Engine Optimisation, SEO. This acronym is one of the key differences between print and web copy: print copy is found on the shelf, while web copy is broadly found through search engines, such as Google.
If your copy scores poorly on SEO then it means fewer people are seeing it. If fewer people are seeing it, then it means your clients are getting the answers to their questions from your competitors. This means that you are writing unsuccessful web copy.
There are a number of sites that you can use to give you an outline of how to use SEO effectively, with Moz being an excellent source of guidance and further information.
The important thing is to ensure that you organically introduce SEO techniques into your writing, because crowbarring in keywords will be penalised by search engines and see you pushed further away from your competitors.
So, know what your clients are talking about and the language they are using by utilising sites such as Quora, and incorporate this into your copy.
Many people think they can write successful copy, some even know that they can write successful web copy. But the pool shrinks significantly when making the step from knowing how to write successful web copy, to applying this knowledge in practice.
Following the five features above will help you to put the building blocks in place. Now it’s your turn to make these blocks into an unbreakable edifice, which will house your successful web copy.