Everyone is a writer these days, or so the saying goes. But if that’s true how come so many domains are filled with the kind of words that make you weep for the English language? Let’s consider what it takes to actually get your copy read.
It doesn’t take long to figure out whether you are reading something from a digital PR agency scribe that knows how to pen text, a journalist that understands what it means to make words work, or someone who just wants to be heard, and ranked on Google.
We’ve discussed before, at great length, the fact that, whilst creating new web pages with words on them will help force Google’s spiders to reassess the website and potentially increase its visibility, the copy also needs to be well written.
More so, it has to be on subject, and genuinely unique in order for that to work. So will the last plagiarising hands please turn the lights off when you leave? Thanks.
All this is relatively common knowledge now, but getting the basics right is still only half the battle. Keeping people on the page is what it’s all about, not to mention promoting those same people to look beyond the page they arrived at, and investigate the overall website further.
With this in mind we thought it might be useful to run a refresher session in web copywriting, right here, right now, and share a few tricks of this in-demand, but often poorly-executed, trade.
1. Concise, succinct, to the point
Beating around the bush never did anyone any favours, especially when it comes to the written word. Good copy should not be fatty, granular, or loose. It should be tight, accurate, and void of unnecessary waffle, unless you’re writing a 1,000 word think piece on a heavily conceptual topic.
And even then you’d be stupid not to try and hone those sentences down. Forget about this, and you can forget about people making it beyond the first paragraph. It’s also worth considering the length of your sentences. And the length of your paragraphs- both should be far shorter than, say, a magazine feature would allow.
2. Use subheadings, like this one
A tactic that benefits you twice, which is always nice, subheadings serve two purposes. Firstly, they break the page up and make it easier for people to scan and skim read- which is more than likely what they will be doing for online writing- and absorb.
Secondly, Google really likes to see subheadings, providing they have been correctly placed- so adjust the font type to Heading 2, 3, or 4 if using WordPress.
3. Consider keywords but don’t rely on them
Old school SEO was about cramming as many keywords and phrases into copy as possible. And although that still seems to be the mantra for web copy that’s literally only there to improve Google rankings- and not really be read by people- it’s an unsightly way of approaching the job.
Using keywords and phrases naturally within a sentence will still please Google- it wants to know what the page is about, and it wants to recommend your page to people searching for particular keywords, so having them in the copy is a good idea. But by ensuring this doesn’t appear forced, people visiting the page won’t be put off from reading.
4. Write like an Ancient Egyptian standing upside down
This isn’t just for web copy, but all copy. Read any newspaper or news site and there’s a specific style and structure to the way stories are written. Traditionally, it’s referred to as the inverted pyramid, which doesn’t mean you have longer paragraphs at the top of the page, but rather the very top of the page is where all the key details and information is.
People often don’t get beyond the first paragraph online, and whilst print fares better you can guarantee there are plenty of articles that are left half-read. So don’t hide the message or the raison d’être deep in the copy, or most people will never know what you are writing about.
5. Find your personality
Let’s face it, if so many companies, agencies, fans, followers, enthusiasts, and living-breathing people are putting words on web pages, you need to consider what will make your words on web pages stand out from that crowd. Personality has always been the key to good writing, formal news stories aside.
Think of the best feature writers in magazine and newspaper land, the greatest novelists, and the best prose professionals. None of these people are worried about putting themselves into their work, and you shouldn’t be either.