Here’s a list of essentials you need to cover when writing web copy – in particular, sales copy:
1. Always understand what you’re trying to achieve
Why is the piece of content you’re planning to write deserving of a place on your site and of the time it takes to generate it?
Involve your colleagues, or all the relevant people at your client. What do they want from the piece.
2. Know who you’re writing for
…and address them as an individual.
3. Understand the benefits
Start with a list of features.
Turn the features into benefits – ask ‘What’s in it for me?’.
4. Say one thing and say it loud
Ask yourself what is the most important thing you want to communicate. Focus on that and don’t get sidetracked.
One big idea is more exciting and easier to digest than a load of disjointed ideas, so get it over concisely in your headline.
5. Reduce your worries
Don’t start writing until you have all your questions answered. Your uncertainties will shine through to most readers, and you’ll probably lose their attention within a few sentences.
Do all you can to feel confident, engaged with and enthusiastic – but don’t use feeling unsure as an excuse not to start, or start looking for the ‘writer’s block‘ excuse.
6. Make it easy for your readers
Most people find a page full of solid words a little uninviting. So it’s your job as a writer to make your copy into a tasty array of amuse bouches.
Drop in some subheads to make the piece easily scannable. Use shorter sentences and paragraphs.
And remember, writing web copy isn’t the same as writing school essays, so feel confident in using its own grammatical rules. Ignore your school teacher’s concerns about starting sentences and paragraphs with ‘And’ or ‘But’, not to mention split infinitives (if you don’t know what they are, I recommend you continue in your ignorance. Your life will be all the better for it!).
7. Don’t forget the search engines
So many people advise you to write for people first and not prioritise search engines.
That’s a huge mistake, in my opinion. Writing for search engines isn’t about keyword stuffing, and writing dodgy copy that ruins the quality of your communication. Writing for search engines is really writing for people, because the audience for search engines is people.
If you can rank well, you’ll be servicing your audience more effectively and making your content available to more people.
8. Tell a story
Relating a story is a tried-and-tested way to draw your readers in. People seem almost hard-wired to engage with and enjoy stories.
9. Even better. Get someone else to do it for you!
Testimonials are incredibly powerful because people believe (rightly) that something said by a neutral third-party is more valuable than a claim made by someone trying to sell them something.
10. Don’t forget the call to action
I’ve said a fair amount here about calls to action and the best way to write them. Suffice to say that you should always have one.
Ask me for an opinion about your web copy or about writing your web copy.
Thank you to Keith Hall for allowing me to use his image.