These six simple techniques will help achieve our two core goals of delivering key information up front and keeping our potential customers reading.
1. Write Like a Journalist. In the newspaper business, they call it the inverted pyramid. It’s inverted because a newspaper story is top-heavy. Newspaper writers know that many readers only skim the first few paragraphs of a story, and that most never turn the page to see the end of the story that’s buried inside the section. The first paragraph contains all the key information-who, what, when, where? What’s considered “key information” may vary a bit depending on your goals for the page, but whatever it is that you want to be sure to communicate to your reader should hit him right between the eyes when the page opens.
2. Keep it concise. Many site owners make the mistake of thinking that complex sentences will make their writing look more professional, and that volume of text will make their sites look more substantial. In fact, one of the most crucial aspects of writing effective web copy is making it clear and easily readable. That means short, concise sentences that get to the point. Unnecessary introductory clauses, descriptions, side notes, and redundancies simply slow down the reader and distract from the key words and phrases that you want to be noticeable. They also make it difficult to create visually accessible text.
3. Make your text visually accessible. To an extent, this is the job of the web designer, but only to an extent. A designer isn’t going to chop up your paragraphs for you or turn something you have written in sentences into a bulleted list. Remember that you want the most important points to be readable at a glance. Don’t make your reader work to find important information: odds are that he’ll simply look elsewhere.
Consider the item below:
Plum Grove Acres offers horseback riding, riding lessons, stable rental, grooming services, campgrounds, picnic areas, and more.
Now look at the same information in a different format:
Plum Grove Acres offers:
* Horseback Riding
* Riding Lessons
* Stable Rental
* Grooming Services
* Picnic Areas
* Other amenities
The text is virtually identical, but in the second entry the key terms-those that will draw customers-are isolated in a way that makes them immediately noticeable
4. Break up the Text. Readers are going to skim, so help them find what they’re looking for. Keep paragraphs short and limit each paragraph to a single subject, so that a keyword scan will allow the reader to quickly locate the right piece of text. For longer copy, use headings and physical divisions within the text. Don’t bury the “bait” between things you’d like the reader to know. You can’t force your potential customers to read what they’re not interested in, and an inability to quickly locate the information they came looking for will most likely lead them straight to the dreaded “back” button.
5. Make the Language Accessible. Web users want and expect things to move quickly. They don’t want to get bogged down in formalistic language, complex sentences, long paragraphs, or anything else that will make them work for the information. Straightforward, user-friendly language is far more effective than “smart-sounding” language that reminds the reader that he’s reading and understanding. Good copy carries the reader forward almost unconsciously, and it is indisputably unlikely in most contexts that monosyllabic words, complex syntax, and multiple clauses will lend themselves well to unconscious and effortless reading on the part of your customers or potential customers.
6. Be meticulous. Although we’re throwing out a lot of the rules regarding paragraph formats and introduction, we aren’t throwing out the rules of grammar and spelling. Nothing says “amateur” like obvious misspellings and grammatical errors. The problem, of course, is that the errors you’ll make are never obvious to you. Even professional writers have difficulty spotting their own errors. When you know what the text is supposed to say, human nature is to see what you’re expecting rather than what’s actually written there. That’s why professionals have editors, and why you should, too. Always ask someone else to proofread your copy before it goes online.
Following these six simple steps will help any site owner achieve the two key goals of business web copywriting – providing the key information in the first few lines of text, and then making visitors to your site want to read further. Allowing the reader to find the information he wants, and then encouraging him to go forward and learn more about your company and its products and services, drastically increases your chances of achieving your ultimate goal: to turn that visitor to your website into a customer.