Monday, July 14, 2008

Six Tips for Improving Your Website Copy

Writing website copy is one thing. Getting people to actually read that copy? Well, that's an entirely different challenge altogether. It's not an impossible task, however. Here are a few easy-to-implement tips that we use to make sure people actually read the web content on our clients' websites:

Define the Purpose

All too often, web pages are created as "content dumps" -- that is, a page that contains material simply for the fact that "it should be up on the site".

Before writing the content for each page, you need to ask yourself: "why should it be up on the site?" Every web page needs to have a primary purpose. What do you want your page to achieve?

Understand Your Audience

Part of determining a web page's purpose stems from understanding the target audience of your site. Just who exactly will be coming to this page? Where do they live? How much money do they have?

Knowing who is coming to your site will play a huge role in determining the writing style and type of content that should be featured on your web pages.

What Are Your Visitors' Expectations?

It's not enough to just know who is coming to your site. You need to to why they are coming to your site. What do they want from your site? What are they hoping for? What are their expectations?

You will always maximize the effectiveness of a web page by getting as close as you can to matching the visitor's expectations. This means your page's headline and opening text has to be a direct and immediate match with what that person is hoping to find.

Get to the "Meat" Faster

A website is not the place to write long, flowery, clever introductory text. It's important to determine your reader's expectations and then get to the "meat" of your message immediately. Remember, your visitor came to your website for a specific reason -- so get out of the way and let them do it.

Write Only as Much as You Need To

On the surface, there are no restrictions on how much copy a web page can hold. There is no word count or page limit that has to be adhered to like traditional print collateral. A web page can have two lines of text or a thousand lines of text.

Unfortunately, without any restrictions, the tendency is to write more than is actually necessary. When writing your web page, it's important that you write only enough to enable your visitors to meet their goal. Write enough to get the job done, but not a word more.

Tell People What To Do Next

It doesn't matter how great your web copy is if the user takes absolutely no action after reading it. Remember the purpose of your website -- you need the user to do something.

For example, before arriving at your page, the user might have been thinking, "I need an insurance quote for my new home." Therefore, the best outcome for you is to have them click on the link on your page that says, "Get an insurance quote for your home."

However, sometimes it's not as cut and dry as that example. Users are often at different stages of the buying process and need to be guided into different actions. To do this, you must provide them with options. Be aware of all of the options your readers might find attractive and offer them up quickly and easily.