Rules to writing copy for the web

April 09, 2010

Written content for your website needs to inspire your potential customers to contact you. Does yours? There is a technique to writing web copy that can help you overcome barriers to connecting with your potential customers. 

According to web usability expert Jakob Nielsen, users will only read about 20% of the words on a web page. So, how do you sell to people who may only spend a minute or so, if you’re lucky, reading your website?

Here are 5 rules to consider when writing for the web: 

Use small words and short paragraphs. Recognize that people are in a hurry and want information that is easy to read and understand. They don't want to be forced into thinking. People aren't impressed with big words--they get annoyed and move on. 
Use bulleted lists and highlighted key words. Peoples’ eyes are easily drawn to bulleted lists and highlighted words and they are quickly scannable. 
Start with the most important. Your most important message should come first. Your readers may loose interest and never finish reading the rest of the page and then you’ve lost them. 
Speak clearly. Write how you would say it. If you’re trying too hard to explain something, you may be trying too hard. Think simple and direct. To be honest, you should assume your audience is less intelligent ( I mean no offense) and speak to that level. You're not trying to win awards for literary fiction here, you're trying to sell. 
Be compelling. This is probably the most challenging. You need to spark the interest of your reader, and then keep them hooked. If what you’re writing isn’t interesting, then go back and find a way that is. The whole point of writing is to get your audience to keep reading and, in this case, to ultimately contact you. 

The message you convey on your website should be true to your personality and values. Your message should be clear and consistent throughout your site. It should also tell a story that will motivate your customers to contact you. If you believe that your product is special, then tell us why! Pretty pictures sure do help, but well thought words and a compelling story will sell too. 

You don’t have to be a “writer” to write your web copy. Understanding some techniques for writing web copy can help you overcome the challenge of writing for the web, and help you connect with your potential customers.

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