When you are writing copy for the web, all the usual copywriting rules apply plus a few more. Here they are.
Rule 1: make it easy to read
It’s much harder to read something on a screen than it is on paper. This means you have to adapt your writing style to cater for this. So:
- Use short sentences and short paragraphs.
- Break up your content with headings.
- Use bulleted lists rather than listing things out in sentence form.
If you want to see how much difference reading on a screen makes to reading on paper, try this. Read this page on the BBC News website. Now print it out and read it again. Can you see how different it feels? What seemed crisp and clear on the screen looks abrupt and jerky on the page. That’s how different the experience is.
Rule 2: remember what makes the web different
When you write a leaflet, an article or a letter, you expect your readers to read in a linear way. That is, they’ll start at the beginning and read through to the end. It means you need to introduce ideas and information in a logical way otherwise your readers will get confused.
On the web, all bets are off. Readers might arrive at your homepage. Or they might not. This has advantages and disadvantages.
It means each page of your website needs to make sense as a standalone piece of text as well as a bigger whole, which can be a tricky thing to do. And you need to make sure the bigger whole is structured logically so people will be able to see easily where to go if they want to find something out.
But you can use the format to your advantage too. It means you can (and should) include links to other pages on your website whenever you can. This will encourage people to explore your website and engage with it for longer.
Rule 3: the call to action is as important as ever
The aim of your website is to get people to get in touch with you. Once they’ve made contact you’ve got a valuable lead you can build a relationship with and turn into a client. Until they make contact with you, they’re just a statistic.
Make sure you are encouraging your visitors to engage with you on every page by including a call to action. This might be as simple as just adding a link to your contact page or suggesting they get in touch to discuss their requirements. It might be to get them to sign up to your newsletter, download a useful document (in exchange for their email address) or start to follow your blog. Or if you’ve got an online shop, it might be to get them to buy something.
If you’d like to find out more about the art of writing for the web, you might like my e-course, How to write good web copy.
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