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A How-To Guide On Writing Great Web Copy

Tips To Get Those Spidey-Senses Tingling

 

Web copy is a completely different ball-game as compared to most other types of writing. As much as we love complex, flowery, imaginative sentences, it just doesn’t work as well in the digital sphere. For the most part, web copy is taken in at a glance. Here here are a couple things you should know about writing the best possible text for your website.

 

Love At First Glance

 

Like we’ve mentioned before, web copy is (majority of the time) taken in at a glance. It’s rare for any visitor to take the time to read everything on your site word-for-word.

 

They’re generally on the hunt for specific information and want to find it as fast as possible. Within the first few moments, someone should be able to figure out if your site has what they’re looking for.

 

So what’s the easiest (and quickest) way to snare a potential browser’s attention?

 

(All caps, for emphasis.)

 

PUT YOUR MOST IMPORTANT INFORMATION FIRST.

 

You don’t have to provide an entire thesis for your potential customer on the first page. A simple statement of what you do will suffice. Give ‘em a little taste and their curiosity will do the rest. Your first and most important goal should be to let the visitor know two things: who you are and what you’re about.

 

Journalists call this way of writing the ‘inverted pyramid’. In this style of writing, the most newsworthy information comes first. Then, once you’ve got the readers by the tenterhooks, the rest of the details start to emerge.

 

Customers want to get to know the bigger picture first. Most importantly, they want to know what you can do for them. Anything more than that is superfluous fluff.

 

Let It Speak For Itself

 

Firstly, web pages should be self-explanatory. Keep the copy as simple as possible. It’s never a good idea to be too clever. Wording with too much finesse can take longer to process than a reader has time for.

 

The best way to keep your copy as simple and accessible as possible is to write for the skim-readers. Some important things to keep in mind are:

 

  • Do you have clear headlines telling people what you’re about?

 

  • If you’ve got images, do their captions communicate a sales message?

 

  • Do you have subheadlines summarizing the key points of your site?

 

  • Have you used easy-to-scan bullet points (like these)?

 

Remember to use familiar words. ‘Care words’ are the specific search terms people use, and will be the words they scan for in your text. They’re like self-care, but for other people’s brains.

 

So put that thesaurus back on the shelf. Throw jargon out the window. Your visitor will be looking for familiar words that match what they searched for in the first place. Don’t confuse them by hiding the core information on your site under fancy vocabulary.

 

Easy To Read

 

You only have about seven seconds to make an impression (good or bad) on someone once they enter your site. The best way to give your potential visitors a positive first impression is to make your copy easy to read.

 

  • Keep your paragraphs short and to the point.

 

  • Break your sentences down into concise, easy-to-digest chunks.

 

  • Skip unnecessary words (like technical jargon and excess adjectives).

 

  • Avoid passive text. Inspire your visitors to take action, not aimlessly click through your site.

 

  • Avoid needless repetition.

 

  • Address your visitors directly – everyone likes acknowledgement.

 

Keep in mind that visitors can arrive anywhere on your site. Every page has the potential to be an entry page. As such, every part of your site should be easy to scan. Each page should tell a visitor where they are and what the site is about. They should also have a call to action, and tell people where to go next.

 

The tone of your copy should also invite visitors into your sphere. It should be warm and welcoming, and make them want to spend good quality time with your site. Whether you’re corporate, informal, or technical, be sure to keep it friendly.

 

Make It Appealing

 

People, by nature, tend to be a little selfish. When they land up on your site, the first thing they’re interested in is what you or your product can do for them.

 

Create a comprehensive list of features and benefits for the products you’re trying to sell. Translate each of these benefits into a practical situation for your customer.

 

Tell them exactly how your products will improve their lives in every-day scenarios. Let them consider how many problems it can help them avoid.

 

Another point to consider is including attractive value propositions. These value propositions function as conversation starters. And, depending on how tempting you’ve made them, they entice the reader to want to learn more about you.

 

A well-structured value proposition typically includes:

– a catchy headline (which should be clear, credible and concise)

– an optional subheading explaining a little bit more about the VP and/or your company

– about 3-5 bullet points going more in-depth about how much of an asset your VP would be to any potential customer

 

Make the consumer want your product. Make them want you.

 

Keyword Density

 

Keywords are the bread and butter for improving both your SEO and your site’s content visibility. Keyword density is the number of times a certain word appears in a piece of content on a webpage.

 

There are no set rules about keyword density. Some SEO’s recommend one keyword per every 200-word paragraph, but that’s up to you. But what you most certainly want to avoid is a little thing called keyword stuffing.

 

Keyword stuffing is a shoddy practice. This happens when as many keywords as possible get crammed onto a web page. This often makes the text feel forced and prevents it from reading naturally to a visitor. It makes your copy repetitive and hard to understand.

 

The number of keywords on a page used to correlate with how high a site would rank on search engine results pages. So, unscrupulous SEO’s would ‘stuff’ pages with dozens of similar search phrases. These were most often hidden in the form of lengthy footers.

 

Recently, Google’s current ranking signals now penalize sites that use keyword stuffing. This makes it much harder to get away with trying to cheat the system.

 

But, there are keyword techniques you can use without getting a slap on the wrist from Google. These are keyword variants and keyword clustering.

 

Keyword variants are slight differences on a keyword, like closely-related search terms. The difference between stuffing and variation lies in the intention. Keyword variants are implemented to make searching for specific content easier for users. People often know what they want (but not how to say it). Keyword variants are intuitive enough to know what a user is actually looking for.

 

For example:

 

A user decides that they need someone to help build them a new website for their business.  The first thing they do is use a search engine to look up available web designers in their area. For the purposes of this example, let’s say they use Google (because let’s be honest – what else would they be using?).

 

This user is not very good with typing. So they hop on Google,  and proceed to enter the search term “webs designed”, instead of “web designer”. By some miracle, Google still returns a SERP with relevant results. Why?

 

This is because of the successful use of keyword variation. ‘Webs’ and ‘designed’ are close enough to the intended search term ‘web designer’. Google can then insinuate what the user is looking for and return relevant results.

 

Screenshot 2019-04-01 at 15.11.56

 

Keyword clustering‘ works on a very similar principle. Google’s search algorithms are believed to ‘look for’ groups of semantically related keywords. These related keywords help give contextual clues about what the content is.

 

Google then ‘expects’ certain keywords to be present in relation to others. For instance, ‘pizza’ with ‘takeout’ and ‘solar panel installation’ with ‘loadshedding’. Clustering the right keywords together is a great way to increase a site’s visibility.

 

Where should I put my keywords?

 

Search engines are algorithms and, as such, you need to help them understand your site. The best way to do this is through SEO and keywords.

 

The best places to put your keywords where a search engine is most likely to see them include:

– in the permalink

– at the start of the article

– at the end of the article

– as anchor text on relevant images

 

The placement of keywords is significant. The most successful spot seems to be in the title or high in the body of the text. This is the first place your viewers will look – and so will Google.

 

What’s in a name?

 

A click-worthy title increases your chance of higher click-through rates. Higher click-through rates give positive signals to site crawlers. This bumps your page further up the SERP rankings.

 

All this is on top of good keyword usage. Google’s Panda and Hummingbird algorithm updates have changed this slightly. Don’t be fooled by their cute, cuddly names. They’ve altered the way search engines interact with keywords.

 

With these updates, body keywords have become less important than title keywords. This makes it even more important to have well-written, attention-grabbing titles.

 

On that same token, avoid click-bait titles.

Google doesn’t like it. Visitor’s don’t like it. No one likes it.

 

Social Proofing

 

Because of the internet, consumers are becoming more informed all the time. There’s a good chance they’ll know a fair amount about you before ever speaking to a salesperson.

 

Because of this, it’s a good idea to make sure that your social proofing is in good order. It might sound like a complicated technical term, but the truth is, it’s relatively simple.

 

‘Social proof’ is a psychological phenomenon where people mimic the actions of others. This is to try reflect the correct behaviour for a given situation. In other words, we perceive a particular behaviour as more correct based on how many people we see doing it.

 

Positive versus negative

 

The important thing to remember when it comes to social proofing is to stay away from the negatives. The most common mistake people make? Including statistics on how many people aren’t doing something.

 

For example, let’s look at a company that runs advanced driving courses. Their social proof reads: “40% of drivers have not invested in a defensive driving course”.

 

This would be an example of ineffective social proofing. Why?

It’s proving to prospective viewers that a large amount of people are not using this service. And, as such, is reinforces the view that this is okay because there are lots of others (not) doing it.

 

Here’s an example of more effective social proofing for this particular company.

 

“60% of our customers have drastically lowered their insurance premiums. How? With our advanced driving certificates.”

 

Positive social proofing is far more effective. This is thanks to the fact that group influence is pretty powerful. The more people we think are involved in something, the more likely we are to try it ourselves.

 

Brands capitalise on this in a few different ways.

 

Good reviews are the easiest place to start. We place more weight on the opinions of others who we deem to be most like us. If there is a detailed, relatable review left by someone with a specific (and very real) problem, we tend to trust it. And we tend to trust them when they say that a specific brand’s product/service helped them solve it.

 

More effective forms of social proof are influencers and industry professionals. These people already have established reputations in their industries. Anything they involve themselves in automatically seems better by association. This is why testimonials from influential people are so valuable.

 

The Halo Effect

 

The reason why influencers are such good social proofers has to do with the Halo Effect.

 

It’s common for a person to make judgements about someone or something based on very little fact. Instead, they assume characteristics based on a general impression. This is most often seen in how people perceive influencers on social media.

 

Influencers have cultivated massive followings based on their online personas. These personas are not always true reflections of who the influencer is as a person. But, they are convincing enough to present a relatable front to their follower base.

 

This phenomena is called the Halo Effect.

 

Influencers – and by extenstion, brands – use this to create strong social proof strategies.

 

Effectively Using Social Proofing

 

There’s more than one way to catch a fish – and more than one way to use social proofing. Let your imagination run wild.

 

But just incase it doesn’t want to, here are some ideas.

 

– Let industry experts or influencers take over your social media channels. For how long is up to you – it could be for an hour, a day, a week, or on a monthly basis.

 

– Show appreciation for mentions – whether from the press, from other brands, or on social media.

 

– Share your milestones. Share your gratitude for the people who have helped you achieve them.

 

– Invest in influencer marketing. This can include collaborations with ‘micro-influencers’ and brand ambassadors.

 

– Curate user-generated content. Give people motivation to want to interact with your brand. This can be through shout-outs or featuring customer images on your brand account.

 

– Display well-written and insightful testimonials on your website.

 

– Mention the size of your customer base.

 

– Be active and responsive on your social media accounts.

 


 

 

When all’s said and done, web copy is a different breed of writing entirely.

 

The most important things to keep in mind:

 

– Write for the skim-readers. The majority of your visitors don’t have the attention span for long sentences.

 

– Keep it simple. Keep it neat. Keep it informative.

 

– Make sure your signposting is up to scratch.

 

– Get a good grasp on using keywords to your advantage.

 

– Nail your social proofing.

 

Once you’ve worked your way through that check-list, you’re pretty much there. Lo and behold, your web copy is ready for the world to see.

 

Now go out there and get ’em, champ.

 

(Alternatively, if you’d like someone else to tackle your web copy for you, give us a call.)

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