Write effective website copy

Writing for websitesYour website content should do more than just present information. It needs to engage the reader, boost your search engine rankings and reinforce your brand. According to Tina Judic, managing director of Found, there is one golden rule: keep it simple!

Firstly, the web is an active medium - we use it to achieve things. If your site doesn't grab and hold attention, visitors need only click their mouse to go elsewhere. Patience is not a virtue often found online.

Secondly, the amount of choice available means people behave differently online. They rarely read site pages word for word. Instead, site visitors will often scan the page, picking out individual words and sentences.

One chance to impress

Once the visitor has arrived, you will only have a couple of lines (or even words) to ignite their interest. It is often tempting to employ clever headings to do this. You should, however, remember that web users rely on scanning, and clever phrases can often cause confusion.

In the same vein, convoluted writing and complex words are even harder to understand online. It's best to ignore jargon and boastful subjective claims ("best ever"). Web users are busy. They want to get the facts, fast.

This does not mean your copy should be boring; far from it. In fact, the shorter and more simple the language, the greater its impact can be. For example:

"We understand the entire web journey from start to finish, and design our websites with both SEO and user conversion in mind"

is not as engaging as:

"Our websites convert searchers into visitors, and visitors into customers."

Yet both essentially say the same thing.

What about search engine optimisation (SEO)?

You will need to identify and include keywords, alt tags and titles to make sure your content is found. Constantly repeating keywords can, however, not only attract the attention of search engine "duplicate content filters", but also means your readers, who are largely scanning content, may miss critical facts and figures.

It is important not to put all your eggs into one basket. Ranking number one on Google won't do much good if your site is confusing. So ensure you strike a balance between SEO and content clarity.

Form and function

Website readers will not sit and read through long paragraphs. Start with a headline followed by a short overview highlighting how your product or service will benefit the customer, rather than simply how it works. After that, it's important to vary the layout with:

  • subheadings
  • summaries
  • quotes
  • bulleted lists

It is also important to remember that web content is a conversation. People buy from people. Your content should appear as a direct dialogue between you and the reader. In an actual conversation, addressing the customer by name is best. When this is impossible (as in web copy) - "you" is the next best thing, so use it lots.

Bringing it all together

Above all, make sure your web copy is scannable, objective and concise. Use simple, convenient layouts to hold attention. Help them trust in you by avoiding overblown or clichéd statements, and make sure they can understand what you're telling them quickly, using straightforward language.

Ensuring your web copy gets to the point not only helps sell your products and services, it reflects positively on your brand and can even lift your SEO rankings by avoiding repetition.

Keep it simple...

Written by Tina Judic of Found.

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