Hard, fast, and snappy, websites are the wild west of the copywriting world, and you need grit and tenacity to survive it. But, follow our tips and guidelines and you’ll be sure to not only rank well on search engines but also produce content that sells too.
A lot of competition
Did you know that 88% of people never click on the 2nd page of Google? With only 10 results per page on the world’s most successful search engine, the race to get on that front page reveals one ugly truth — that writing for websites is never an easy task.
There is nothing more lawless than the endless deluge of websites catering to every whim, and nothing more under the microscope than the secret laws of SEO that holds court over the digital world.
Your every word is computed, analysed, and ranked by somewhat secretive algorithms that determine whether you’re a front-page hit or consigned to the backwards pages of number 2 and beyond.
However, writing for the web isn’t all doom and gloom — it’s just different. And, like every new challenge, once you learn the rules, you’ll be competing with the top dogs for that ever-elusive and highly exclusive front-page result.
Read on to find out how you can boost your chances at success on the web.
How to write content that works
1. Know your audience
The first hurdle you’re going to face in getting your copy off the ground is knowing who you’re selling to.
If you’re selling B2B, a more chatty, conversational tone generally just isn’t cut it. Conversely, if you’re writing for the average reader, avoid adopting a too-formal tone, as superfluous vocabulary, industry-specific jargon, and longer run-on sentences (like this one) are deemed to be overtly detrimental to reaching out to the target audience.
Of course, there are exceptions, however, it’s important to know exactly who it is you’re targeting, and ensure you’re using the correct language and tone to match.
2. Have a goal in mind
Knowing what you want to achieve with your web copy is vital. Are you looking to build brand awareness? Convert views into sales? Provide information? Whatever your goals are, have a clear understanding of what your call to action will be.
An example of a call to action can be seen on this High Wycombe Martial Arts Classes website. On their website, the user reads the selling copy, looks for a call to action and then clicks the large button — which is made obvious through commanding words, large fonts and bright colours, saying that “this” is the next step.
Another example is if you’re building brand awareness, make sure to pepper your copy with internal links to keep people engaged on your site (not only the current content). Direct customers to special offers, or entice them to browse your shops or services with powerful command words.
Now, knowing your audience? Having a goal in mind? These aren’t specific to copy for the web, it’s copywriting 101. It’s the copywriter’s bread-and-butter, so why are we focusing so much on the basics? Well, there’s one very simple, defining reason for that, and that is…
3. You have 15-seconds
15-seconds …that’s it. That is the average time that a potential customer inbound from an external link will spend reading your copy.
When the cost of backing out is one click, and with hundreds of other hits to choose from, your target audience will not waste any time on your site. Therefore, you have to make those 15-seconds count, and that means your copy has got to get to the point, fast.
You’re not going to get to the point quickly unless you know exactly who your audience is, what they want to see, and how they want to get it.
Speaking of getting to the point fast…
4. Be concise
Writing for the internet means being economical with your words. Your copy might be good enough to get your audience past the 15-second mark and out of contributing towards the dreaded ‘bounce rate’, however, you can still lose your audience if you go on too much.
That’s not to say you can’t have a long, wordy article, however, you have to adjust the format slightly.
Shorter sentences and frequent paragraphs all make for a better copy.
With 59% of all web traffic coming from mobile as of 2022, and clearly increasing year-on-year, what might look like a manageable paragraph on a monitor will look like an unappealing wall of text on a mobile.
Therefore, make sure you make use of pictures and test the content responsively across devices too (i.e. does it look good on desktops, mobiles and tablets).
5. Optimise for SEO
There’s no getting around the elephant in the room when it comes to web copy, and that is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
SEO defines the digital world and determines whether your website succeeds or dies. Here are a few ways to increase your SEO standing:
Keywords: The mainstay of SEO, keywords are important to get your copy on the radar. Draft up a list of keywords related to your copy, and make sure to include them in your copy. Make sure to not go overboard with them. Too little, and your copy won’t be listed as relevant; too many and you get flagged for abusing the system.
Meta titles and meta descriptions: They’re not supposed to be seen by the viewer on the actual page, however, can be seen when clicking through via a search engine. Therefore, you need a balance of both systematic relevance and human relevance, in order to get the best of both worlds.
Include internal links. Link to other parts of your website wherever possible. ‘Bounce rate’, a measure of how many people ‘bounce’ from your website can quickly negatively impact your SEO, and its counterpart ‘dwell time’ increases it. Increasing the time people spend on your website tells search engines your site is worth spending time on.
Good copy is hard. Good web copy is even harder. But, follow these tips and you’ll drive up engagement, and get yourself on the top of the search engines quicker.