7 tips for writing for the web

There tends to be some mystique about writing for the web, almost as if people reading your website are somehow not everyday people, like you, me and your best mate, Stu. But really it’s quite straightforward. As long as you follow a few simple rules…

#1. Know your audience…

And I don’t mean,‘they’re single women aged between 25 and 40’. I mean really spend some time getting down to the nitty-gritty of the people you’re targeting.

The best way to do this is to create some personas for your audience, but even spending half an hour noting down their traits and needs will go a long way.

Most of all, think about what might keep them awake at night. Understanding this, and I can’t over emphasise it, is critical.

Knowing these ‘pain points’ (marketing jargon, sorry) and then tailoring how and what you write, as a result, is key to creating compelling and effective copy.

What if you’re not really sure what those pain points are? Well, it’s simple, ask them!

A quick survey, (Typeform is easy to use free survey tool, or you can also try Google Forms), and will give you some invaluable information. It doesn’t need to be long, it might literally be the one question; ‘what keeps you awake at night?’ But it will allow you to validate your preconceptions about your target audience. And now and then you also get some information you weren’t expecting, which will help you in some other way. 

Don’t forget to add an incentive as a thank you for completing it; a free PT session, yoga class or consultation maybe.

Then tell people about it – add the survey link to your website and email signature, and of course promote on social media.

#2 Cut the jargon…

No inexplicable acronyms or overly technical language, please. Your audience will appreciate simple, plain English, as will search engines.

Your potential customers are busy, and scanning your website for the relevant information they want. If you’re lucky you have around 20 seconds, probably less, to give it to them. Therefore, the simpler and clearer your language the better.

Remember there’s an exception to every rule? Yep, here’s one; if you are talking to a specialist audience, such as geophysicists, or rocket scientists, then yes some jargon can creep in. This ensures you have credibility amongst your audience and shows you can talk their language. But use with caution, and if ever in doubt, cut it out!

#3 Style is key

Plan out the structure of your page BEFORE you start writing.

Consider the ratio of text to images/designed elements. Think about the tone of voice you need to use; business-like and professional, or light-hearted and amusing for instance.

Use short sentences, no more than 20 words per sentence, which is tough to do sometimes. (I spend A LOT of time cutting out unnecessary words at the editing stage).

To help, make good use of bulleted lists, or sections of text highlighted in boxes or accordion style layouts.

Being concise and clear is much easier if you write the first draft, ask someone to look at it for the first time and get their honest feedback. Ask them what they take from it, what’s the main message? What would they do next after reading it?

If they can’t give you clear and specific answers, or the answers you’re hoping for, you need to starting refining and editing.

#4 It’s got to be benefit-led…

What does that even mean?!

Well, studies have proven that the most effective copy is focused on benefits and not just features. In essence, when the positive outcome of buying your product or service is communicated.

Many websites talk about ‘we’ or ‘I’ – what services or products we have that you can buy. Great, so you have a bunch of products, but so do your competitors. It’s not very compelling, or interesting, is it?

Tell me WHY I should buy them from you. How will they improve my life or solve my problem? Powerful web copy is created when it is not about you, but about your client or customer.

#5 Write it and walk away…

Write your first draft and then ignore it. For at least half a day, or preferably sleep on it.
Once you read it again with fresh eyes, I guarantee you’ll spot typos, issues with how it flows and also words that you just don’t need. Remember, simplicity and plain English wins the day.

It’s also useful to ask someone else to read it at this point. Then start editing!

#6 Apply the ‘So What?’ rule

Ask yourself “So what?” after reading your draft. (Or get someone else to do it for you).

What does the text tell you? Do you immediately understand the benefits being communicated? Does the copy make it clear what you should do next?

Remember, focus on the benefit to your client, rather than the process of delivering it.

#7 Don’t forget the Call to Action…

The what? The thing you want them to do next. It sounds obvious, but it’s really easy to get so caught up in the actual copywriting that you forget to finish it with what you want them to do next! Your website platform helps you to create a simple visual and coloured button containing your chosen text.

Here’s an example you’ll find on the Motivate Wellness website:

Example call to action

An effective call to action is simple and action orientated. Usually, it is made up of a phrase; the thing you want to highlight, and a button with text. Commonly used button text includes ‘Find out more’, ‘Learn more’, or even just ‘Go’. And if you add a sense of urgency, so much the better. So ‘Get started now’ is better than ‘Get started’ for instance.

There’s so many ideas and theories around what creates a strong call to action, I could dedicate an entire blog post to it. So watch this space for more ideas and guidance; the colours, shapes and phraseology you use can all affect the success of that tiny amount of text!

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