Web Copy Writing: A How-To Guide
You’re starting your own business and there is a lot to do and even more to learn. Your business’ online presence is an important part of its growth and success and so you embark on the epic journey of creating a website.
It’s easy to see why good design is important for an effective website but equally important, and often overlooked, is good web copy. Obviously, if you’re going to write copy for your own website you need to know what you’re doing. But even if you’re planning to hire a professional, you want to have a solid understanding of effective copy writing to evaluate the job that has been done for you. Good copy writing takes some finesse.
What exactly is Web Copy Writing?
Web copy is the scaffolding of your website. Not to be confused with web content (blogs and articles), web copy writing is the core text on the main pages of your website (home, about, contact) that guides people through your site and tells them what they need to know.
Web copy is what you are counting on to sell your site and hook your customer.
Why is it so Important?
Jakob Nielsen, a usability expert, likened the internet to a jungle and its users to hunters. Users are hunting for information like hungry tigers and want to acquire it as quickly as possible with minimum effort. They don’t have time for anything except what they are searching for and will scan and click on potential leads without much thought. If they can’t find what they are looking for very easily, they leave to seek it elsewhere.
This is probably the most important concept to grasp when copy writing for the web: you are not writing for a normal reader, you are writing for a scanner. Your customer does not read every word on the pages of your website; they scan the page for key words that will lead them down the path of least resistance to the information that they seek.
If your copy is difficult to understand or navigate, you are going to lose your customer to a competitor with better copy. So, how do you hook your customer with just a glance?
Copy Writing Basics:
Write your copy. Then edit out 30% of it. The fewer words the better. You want short words, short sentences and short paragraphs.
Make it Skimmable.
Break information into small chunks.
Use bold words to draw a scanning eye.
Use Bulleted Lists. They are always preferable over a paragraph.
Use the Language of your Customer.
If your customer calls your product a diaper, don’t call it a nappy to be cute. Creativity and humor usually have no place in copy writing. Save that talent for your blog.
Call to action.
Always provide your customer with the next natural step toward your goal conversion (the action you want your customer to take).
Watch Your Tone.
Use a conversational, upbeat and personal tone, addressing your customer as “you”.
Use an active tense. (“You are starting your own small business”, instead of “You have started your own small business”)
The Journalistic Model: Inverted Pyramid
For many professionals, the most writing experience they have is with academic essays. In fact, essays are structured exactly the opposite way good web copy should be.
Instead, we look to a journalistic model called an inverted pyramid; start with the most important information first and work down from there.
Like a newspaper page where you probably don’t start with the article at the top of the page and read every article thereafter in order through to the finish, so too must you treat every page of your website as a potential entry page.
In other words, don’t assume that every customer will arrive first at your home page. Treat every page as an entry page and give your customer a resistance-free experience by guiding them to the next logical page instead of relying on your navigation bar.
Go Forth and Copy. Or, Hire a Pro!
You’ve got a sense now of what it takes to write good web copy, give it a go.
Or, if you’re considering hiring a professional copy writer, you now have the tools to assess their work. And remember as you wade into the writing pool, not all writers are created equal; web content writers are not always proficient copy writers.