How to write copy for the web

The words are often the most important part of any piece of web-based marketing. This article looks at how you can get them right.

Web copy needs to work.

So your website is beautifully designed so that bots and search engines find it irresistible.

The thing is, what do people think about it?

People visit your website to find out about your business; what products do you sell, what services do you offer, what are you like?

Images are attractive and undeniably powerful but they don’t provide the answers to these questions. Words do.

The copy is arguably the most important part of your website. Yes; it helps with search engine optimisation but more importantly, great copy persuades and sells.

Like all copy, it should be written from the customer’s point of view. You need to be telling people how you can solve their problems and realise their dreams, not simply telling them how great your business is.

Where do you start?

If you are planning a website then it’s quite common to start with a list of pages. A Home page, one for products, one for services, a page entitled ‘About Us.

That is the sort of thing you usually see and that’s fine. But it won’t make your site stand out and it isn’t the only way of going about things.

If you start from the customers’ point of view, perhaps you should write down all the questions that people might have about your business.

Once you’ve got that list, write down all the answers in a clear, simple and straightforward manner.

What have you done now? You have anticipated your customers’ questions and answered them already without appearing to have needed to be asked. That is going to make you look pretty good.

When you are writing the copy, avoid jargon. It doesn’t make you look knowledgeable; it just leaves the reader in the dark.

If you are describing products, then write your own description rather than cutting and pasting from the manufacturers blurb. People can tell, and if you use your own words you take ownership of those products and give your website an authority and character all of its own.

Now you can organise that information.

If you look at the copy you have written, then perhaps it does fall into the categories of the typical pages we mentioned above. If it does, then that’s great but if it suggests being grouped together in a different way then you are already a big step along the road to having a distinctive and effective website.

When it comes to structuring your copy, remember that people read words on-screen in a slightly different manner.

They tend to scan.

So use short sentences and short paragraphs.

They are easier to read and if, when someone is scanning web-based copy, they come across a long and unnecessarily complex sentence for some reason they are more likely just to skip it. Long chunks of copy, where there are many sentences making up the paragraph, are more likely to be skip-read as well. This can lead to vital information that might be of use to the reader being left unread.

Headings and subheadings can be a useful way of breaking the copy up into manageable chunks as well.

When you are putting the pages together, repeat key information on each page. People visiting your site can land on any page and so try and make sure that each page can stand alone.

Other hints and tips.

When you are writing, say the words out loud. If it sounds wrong or cumbersome, it probably is.

Check your copy. Then check it again. Then get someone else to check it, twice.

Don’t trust ‘spellchecker’. It will miss a word that is spilt wrong as long as it is spilt like a real word.

Know the rules of grammar – so that you know what you are doing when you choose to break them.