The dos and don’ts of web writing
We all know having a website is an essential part of promoting your business online. But an effective website that ranks well on Google is more than just beautiful design. It’s about getting your message across through simple, straightforward web writing that guides users to take a particular action.
It should be easy to read and look easy to write (which always means the writer spent time and effort on it).
But there’s more to good website copywriting than just words on the screen. It’s a concise style of writing specifically created for the web and includes search terms relevant to your potential customers.
Done well, web writings helps give your business a unique voice and personality, while engaging the reader and prompting them to click.
In other words, your website copy needs to work hard for the money. As always, though, there are a few guidelines to remember.
1. Identify your objective
Web writing is all about guiding the user towards taking action. Your primary goal is to get people to do something.
There’s no point in getting people interested in your product or service and then letting them just wander off.
You must ask yourself what is the number one action you want them to take on this web page? This could be:
- Sign up to your email newsletter list
- Book an appointment
- Make a purchase
- Ask for a work estimate
It’s important to get super clear on what you’re trying to achieve from the get-go.
2. Know your audience
Knowing your audience and who you’re writing for is key. After all, not everyone will be interested in what you provide. It’s far more effective to focus on the person who is most likely to buy your product or service.
It’s important to know who they are, what they want and what problem they’re trying to solve. Your customers’ needs, desires and challenges are the most important thing.
It pays to do your homework here, so take the time to research your target market and take a peek at what your competitors are doing.
- Look at your social media communities and what interests your followers
- Take a look at who’s visiting your website already with tools like Google Analytics
- Survey your own existing customers
- Browse forums related to your product or service
- Follow similar brands on social media for insights and inspiration
- Read testimonials on your competitors’ websites
This will also help you to define your point of difference and stand out from the others who offer similar products or services.
3. Write as your customers speak
Once you know who you’re talking to, try to write like you’re having a conversation with a friend.
The best way to grab someone’s attention is to use the language they use in their head.
Avoid corporate buzzwords and overly descriptive writing.
Instead, you should aim for simple, plain English that’s easy to understand. This will get your message across more effectively.
If you wouldn’t use a particular word in conversation with a customer, then avoid using it in your web writing.
4. Target a primary keyword for each page on your website
A key element of web writing is search engine optimisation (SEO). Your website is one of millions in a crowded marketplace. Ensure your customers find you by optimising the content on your website. You want your website copywriting to match the search intent of users (aka your potential customers).
The general rule of thumb is to target one primary keyword, or keyword phrase, per web page. That primary keyword serves as the main topic of each page. It should ideally appear in the main headline, page title and body text.
You can also use one or two secondary keywords, or synonyms of your primary keyword, as sub headers. Get step-by-step instructions on how to do this yourself in this terrific post.
5. Emphasise benefits over features
Your product or service might have all the bells and whistles. But if your customers can’t see how it can help them, they simply won’t buy it. Instead of rattling off a long list of features, try focusing on:
- The benefits for your customers
- What your product can do and why it’s unique
- The problems it can solve
- How it can make their life better
By painting a picture of their ideal outcome (more free time, fewer headaches, greater security, etc), your customers can connect with your product and visualise themselves using it in their lives. Job done.
6. Write for readers who scan
One of the biggest differences in web writing is the way people read information on screen. Web users rarely read every word. Instead, they tend to scan the page — skimming each line and picking out words and sentences.
Rather than write a long sentence, turn lists with lots of commas into bulleted lists (as in this post).
By breaking up your text into sections, you’re more likely to catch and hold their attention for longer. A few ways to do this is by using sub headers, bolding certain keywords and embedding videos if you have them.
7. Make it easy for your customers to buy
Most importantly, make sure you provide opportunities for your customers to jump straight to the purchase page. This means having one call to action (CTA) on each page of your website.
Depending on the objective you’ve identified for the page in point one, this might be a nudge to book an appointment, join your mailing list or add the item they’re looking at to their cart.
Whatever it is, don’t make your customers search for ways to buy from you. Give them opportunities and reminders at strategic points.
The don’ts of business web writing
Now that we’ve covered the must-dos, there are a few common pitfalls to try and avoid when website copywriting.
1. Don’t make your website all about you
This applies to your About Page as well as the rest of your site. Customers are not so much interested in you as they are in what your product or service can do for them.
Sure, it’s always good to provide some context and background info about your business and what you bring to the table, but approach it through the guise of showing your value and how you can make a difference in their lives.
2. Don’t plagiarise
This might seem like an obvious one, but it’s a worthy reminder — especially when you’re out there researching and looking at competitor websites.
Not only is it an ethical issue, but Google can and will penalise sites with duplicate content by dropping them down in search listings.
On the flip side, well-crafted web writing and 100% original content will help establish your brand as a trustworthy industry go-to (and boost your search rankings).
3. Don’t jam your web pages with keywords
Gone are the days where keyword stuffing was an effective SEO strategy. Now, you can be penalised by Google and lower your website’s search engine rankings. Always write for your customers first (with a primary keyword in mind) and optimise for Google afterwards.
4. Don’t oversell
Your customers are savvy creatures and will spot exaggerated ‘salesy’ copy a mile off. Instead, focus on being helpful and solving a problem. This will clearly demonstrate the value of what you’re offering.
If you’re new to web writing, there are loads of free online tools to help you along the way.
For grammar checking and editing, Grammarly and Hemingway Editor are useful for spotting mistakes and cleaning up your paragraphs. If you need more help with idea-generating and keyword research, try Answer the Public and Ubersuggest.
An online thesaurus like Word Hippo can help you find similar words and phrases, while Tomato Timer is great for getting you focused on the task of writing in timed 25-minute bursts.
Website copywriting with a purpose
Web writing is a key part of promoting any business, no matter how small. It can help you get more leads, subscribers and sales — as well as boost your website rankings for your chosen keywords.
Additionally, it’s an easy skill you can learn — especially if you apply the web writing fundamentals outlined here. Remember to keep your customer’s needs, desires and problems front of mind. This will help you create engaging, persuasive content that helps you get found online. It also compels your ideal customers to take action by buying your products or services.