Poorly written web writing misleads visitors and wastes millions of hours daily. For today's more than one billion Internet users, that translates to frustration. For your web design clients, it means missed opportunities. Gain insight into highly effective web writing tactics that will help promote positive online experiences with every website you design and develop. Visitors will reward your clients with more leads and sales, and make you look good along the way.
1. Website Architecture Matters
Internet users are constantly bombarded and overwhelmed with endless layers of disjointed information on the Web. Don't fuel the chaos. Instead, structure information and lay out task steps in an intuitive manner to help visitors find the information they need and complete tasks, so they can get on with their busy lives.
Arrange your client’s website navigation, information and links according to their target audience’s needs rather than their corporate structure. Your client’s website is not organizational chart, so don't let it mimic one.
Case in point: a U.S.-based merger and acquisitions firm that approached Webcopyplus for help had a page dedicated to each of its departments (legal, accounting, sales, etc.). Visitors had to jump blindly to different sections of the website, guessing where they might find answers.
The solution: overhaul the website architecture and content to cater to each visitor’s specific needs: Sell a business; Buy a business; Additional services. While the nature of a business might be complicated, getting visitors to information relevant to their needs doesn't have to be.
2. Make the Web Writing Scannable
Do your clients’ websites force visitors to dig through long-winded intros, self-absorbed messages or useless paragraphs?
Studies indicate Internet users generally scan web writing, so keep it lean and clean. As a general rule, web writing should be less than half the length of copy you would use in traditional print media, such as brochures.
Take a page from professional web writers and use:
- Relevant headlines
- Subheads (also known as kickers)
- Bullet points
- Short, one-topic paragraphs
- Descriptive links
Always strive to cut down your client’s web writing into digestible chunks. Kill unnecessary words, and keep those sentences and paragraphs tight!
3. Use Plain Talk
People are often surprised to learn web writers at Webcopyplus aim to deliver web content at a grade-eight level. Clients and students alike ask: "Won’t this offend your audience?"
Not at all. There’s a vast difference between communicating simply and communicating poorly. Simple website content promotes effective communication. It is easily processed, understood and connects with readers. Poor communication hinders the information gathering process.
Many people fail to realize that most reputable national newspapers are also written at this level. Even TIME magazine, which is by and large deemed sophisticated, is written at a grade-ten level.
Why use extra syllables when it’s not necessary? This is often the result of a web writer’s ego getting in the way. For instance, consider this snippet from a florist’s website: "Pinkly pulchritudinous and amazingly delightful, infinitely charming and sensationally fascinating."
The website is selling pink roses, and it’s probably safe to say words like "pulchritudinous" alienate most of the audience. Beautiful or lovely would work just fine.
Web writing riddled with fancy abstract language and clichés might inflate a web writer’s pride or score a design agency an award or two, but it’ll do little for your clients’ businesses.
4. Keep Your Web Writing Consistent
Businesses often have several people adding content to websites at different times, which leads to inconsistencies.
Your client’s web writing should be reviewed from start to finish with a keen eye on:
When targeting a specific market, our web writers frequently refer to style guides. For instance, when writing for the Canadian market, The Globe and Mail Style Book indicates you should use website. To address the US market, The New York Time Manual of Style and Usage suggests you use Web site.
At the end of the day, the key is to ensure your client’s web writing is consistent so it promotes a professional brand – one that builds trust and credibility.
5. Curb Your Enthusiasm
Enthusiasm is wonderful, if it’s sincere. Faking it – on or off the Web – comes across loud and clear.
In decades past, sales teams started off each week with pep meetings to stir up excitement. The overly-inspired salesman then jumped from door to door, entertaining his prospects as he pushed his goods.
Under the influence of artificial enthusiasm, he was a fast talker and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Prospects eventually resented the high-pressure pitches.
Today, those tactics aren’t tolerated for even a second. And that’s about how long it takes for an online visitor to click the back button.
"We’re the best business in Toronto!!!!!" reeks of rubbish. You’re stating: "We’ve got nothing to say, so we’re going to compensate our shortcoming with hype!"
Compelling quotes, and verified facts and figures will go a lot further to promote your client’s enthusiasm and cause. Leave the hype to the spammers.
About Rick Sloboda (the author of this post)
Rick Sloboda is a Senior Web Copywriter at Webcopyplus Professional Web Writing Services, which helps businesses boost online traffic and sales with optimized web copy. He speaks frequently at Web-related forums and seminars, and conducts web content studies with organizations in Europe and the U.S., including Yale University.