Best Practices

No room for small talk in web copy

28. 07. 2009

Writing content for a website is very different than writing for any other medium. There are many factors to keep in mind; most importantly that content is the primary reason for the website. This is why all other aspects of a website's design should be based around it. After all websites are browsed and visited expressly for their content.

Far too many people take the wrong approach by focusing first on the design and layout of their website, only to fill in the content afterwards. This is a misguided and ineffective approach. First you should decide what and how much you want to say and how it should be categorized, only then would you determine navigation and creative. Don't sacrifice good content for the creative. Another common inclination for website owners is to want to share all the information about their business at once. But the key to writing persuasive and compelling web content is selectiveness. Selling your benefits to website visitors is not the same as selling to them face-to-face or over the phone. On the web, being direct about your goods and services has a greater impact than being warm and endearing. You just can't afford to be long-winded with your online communication. Your business is competing with hundreds of similar organization just a click away. You have a very short time in which to grab the attention of your website visitors, convey your company message, offerings, differentiating factors, and compel them to act. Often website projects end up severely delayed as website owners struggle to narrow down the right words to most effectively express the benefits and the tone of their organization. Many helpful hints for writing website content can be found on the Internet and in print. We've determined that they all fall under the basic guidelines outlined below.  Note that these are general guidelines, which may be altered based on different objectives.

CONTENT: Catch attention.

  • use the AIDA approach; ideally each element should have its own paragraph :

- attract Attention - generate Interest - create Desire - call to Action

  • put most important content and keyphrases in headlines
  • convey strongest benefits first
  • answer visitors' unspoken questions immediately
  • use popular industry keywords or keyphrases according to your audience
  • tell the visitor what you want them to do next - make it easy for visitors to take the next step i.e., "Buy product", "Contact Us", etc. -  use verbs
  • limit one subject or area of focus per page
  • keep length to 200-300 characters per web page - expand on page that call for it eg. FAQs or Support documentation
  • provide more detailed information on secondary pages for visitors who wish to browser deeper into the website
  • repeat the main idea in the last paragraph using the same keyphrases

STRUCTURE: Write for scanning.

  • don't write walls of information
  • use headlines and subheadings where appropriate
  • break up large amounts of content with lists, bullets, tables, sections, captions & hyperlinks where appropriate
  • highlight keywords
  • keep sentences short and impactful
  • use short, common words
  • keep text lines no wider than 60-65 characters - otherwise they're unreadable
  • don't use italics if you can help it

Of course, an experienced copywriter will have the necessary skills to incorporate these prevailing tactics and fluently convey your organization's uniqueness. If you're overwhelmed or stuck with your writing, hiring a professional to help you communicate your message is a worthwhile investment. The overall objective that does not change no matter how you endeavour to reach your consumers, whether online or face-to-face, is to sell your benefits. You just need to be more clever with it online.

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