Writing for the Web (It’s Not What You Learned in English Class)One of my best friends is a dentist who is about to open her own private dental practice. I received a frantic call from her the other day: “I’m building my website, but I have no idea how to write anything for it. Help!”
Writing doesn’t come easy for many people, let alone writing for the Web. Sure, we’ve all plowed through English classes in school and can never forget the ubiquitous five-paragraph essay. Eventually, though, many go on and end up working in jobs and industries that don’t require a lot of writing, like my dentist friend.
But now that almost everyone’s first destination for information is the Web, content – and being able to produce it – is becoming more important, no matter what your industry. And if you’re a small business, having a website with informative, engaging content is crucial to marketing and growing your company.
If you’re in need of a little writing refresher, here are five website copywriting basics to know before you start typing. (Hint: They’re probably not what your English teacher taught you.)
1. Get to the point, stat.
No need for a formal intro paragraph here. If there’s one thing that the Web has conditioned all of us to do well, it’s skimming content for the interesting bits. If you’re trying to write your site’s “about” page, you don’t need to start off describing when and where you were born, unless it’s relevant to your business or why you started it.
One exception to this rule is using that valuable first sentence or paragraph as a creative, catchy “hook,” like a story or question. This can be a great tool to draw readers in, as long as it’s relevant to the rest of the content on the page.
2. Embrace short paragraphs.
In school, we were taught that a paragraph had to have a minimum number of sentences. (Anyone remember that magic number?) Not so in Web writing. A huge block of text is overwhelming for readers, especially on a website. Break it up into digestible paragraphs of around two to five sentences each.
3. A picture is worth a thousand words.
If something you’re trying to describe can be more easily understood with a photo, graphic or video, then use the latter instead. That’s why infographics are so popular these days – people understand visuals a lot quicker and easier than text.
I have another friend who owns a premium denim business called Railcar Fine Goods. Instead of writing about his special type of denim stitching, he posts tons of photos so readers can instantly see it instead of trying to envision it in their heads. (He also hates writing, so this was an easy and effective way to get around it.)
4. Show some personality.
People want to do business with people, so keep that in mind when you’re writing for the Web. Go ahead, use “I” or “we” – you won’t get into trouble. One of the first things I recommended to my dentist friend was to avoid writing clinically or using words only dentists would understand. Be professional and error-free, of course, but also have a little fun with your copywriting. A distinctive voice and perspective will help differentiate you from your competitors.
5. Consider SEO keywords.
This is unique to website copywriting. Sprinkling high-ranking terms and phrases in headlines and throughout your website helps boost your position on a search results page when someone is searching for that term or phrase. Check out our post “12 Steps to Becoming a Natural at SEO” to learn how to get the most SEO juice out of your content and copy.
Want more copywriting guidance? Check out all of our helpful copywriting/content marketing posts, and/or visit Copyblogger.com, one of our favorite writing resources here at VerticalResponse. It’s got loads of tips on writing for the Web, with new stuff posted every day. The best part? The writers practice what they preach, so their articles are super-easy to read. Happy writing!