When someone lands on your website, you have about 10 seconds to engage them. What do you want them to see? And how will you get them to stay?
Writing for the web isn’t easy and the best websites are usually written by specialists. If you’re not ready to invest in professional copywriting, here’s a rough guide to help steer you in the right direction.
Know your audience
A well–written website is like a well–laid out supermarket. Good writing, like a thought–through shop floor, makes it easy for us to find what we need, and encourages us to explore.
But a badly–written website, like a poorly–designed supermarket, leaves us confused and looking for the door.
The best way to engage visitors is to put the spotlight on content relevant to their needs and interests.
To do this, you have to figure out who you’re writing for, and what they care about. How does your website make their lives better?
Start with what the visitor wants, not with what you want to say.
Less text, stronger headlines
Writing is visual. Chunky paragraphs of text are off–putting, making it difficult to find the information we need.
We tend to scan websites, skimming quickly, stopping at words or phrases that grab our attention. Most visitors probably won’t read your website word for word.
A study on web writing by Nielsen showed that usability improved 124% on websites with concise text and scannable structure.
To write scannable content –
- Use descriptive titles and sub–headers to break up content into manageable chunks.
- Break longer sentences into shorter ones. Try and keep to fewer than 30 words per sentence.
- Keep paragraphs short, and stick with one idea per paragraph.
- Put the most important message at the beginning – that may be the only line that people read.
Include clear calls to action to keep people on your site and encourage them to come back again. Point towards other interesting content, and have a simple sign–up form for updates.
Write in Plain English
An engaging website uses language that’s easy for most people to read and understand.
Clunky, complex language, jargon and acronyms will alienate people.
Think about how you form each sentence. If you write in the active voice, instead of the passive, your copy has purpose and rhythm, and is more persuasive.
To test whether your writing is clear, read it aloud. If you wouldn’t say it in conversation, change it.
Keep Google’s robots happy
A well–written website should move you up the rankings in Google search results.
When Google’s robots crawl your website, they’re judging whether your content is relevant enough to appear in search results for particular keywords and phrases.
Google Analytics is a great, free tool to explore phrases people are searching for related to your business.
When you write about what you do, relevant keywords should emerge organically. It’s best not to crowbar words in for the sake of SEO.
Take time to edit and rewrite
When it comes to writing your website, you probably won’t get it perfect first time round. One of the most crucial stages of the writing process is refining and rewriting.
Focus on completing your first draft before you start revising what you’ve already written. That way, you’ll work quickly.
Write well at work
Sparks has developed an engaging and interactive writing workshop that could help prepare you to write your website copy.
Write Well at Work combines a mix of teaching, discussion, exercises and reviewing good and bad writing samples.
The emphasis is on practical application – teaching principles, techniques and models that make a difference in daily business writing.
To find out more or to book a workshop, please email firstname.lastname@example.org