Five Simple Ways to Improve Your Web Copy
By Rick Sloboda | April 30, 2009
It's the Web, right? So it's supposed to be sticky. Fortunately, there are simple ways to ensure visitors "stick around" your website.
Even avoiding pricey add-ons such as corporate videos, your web copy alone - if done right - can make your website more attractive to users. Here's how:
1. Inject Some Personality, but Watch the Humour
Speak directly to your visitors in a personal, authentic voice. Most web users don't want to be entertained; instead, they're looking for specific information. Your web copy should direct them with a few choice, friendly words.
Humour can be part of this approach but needs to be used with caution. After all, considering the global reach of the Web, humour can miss the mark or even offend people in different markets, regions or cultures.
And face it, not everyone is a sit-down comic. Humour can easily become forced or overdone. Consider the following example from an ad agency's contact page:
We'd really like to hear from you.Well, unless you're planning to send us spam about Viagra or "Rolex watches for $5."
Cute the first time, maybe, but such copy can start to sound stale after a while, especially when all a visitor really wants is the agency's phone number.
The main takeaway? Present your business as you would like to be perceived. Instill personality, but remember that your sense of humour may not be to everyone's taste.
2. Make Your Content Useful
From FAQs to lists of links, from posted reports to product spec sheets, all types of content can be useful to your visitors. As always, consider their needs before your own.
Ask yourself: what would your customers (1) need to know; (2) possibly want to know; and (3) be surprised to know? Provide content that makes sense in light of your answers.
Avoid generic content already available on reference sites such as Wikipedia. Instead, provide specialized content that demonstrates industry or sector expertise.
At the same time, make sure this information is written at the appropriate level. Readers shouldn't need to consult a jargon dictionary just to understand your web copy. Using simple and effective language is the best way to communicate online.
3. Make the Essentials Easy to Find
Like most users, you've likely had this experience. You find a website that looks legit. It's brimming with interesting content but you're after just one small piece of key information.
Perhaps you're looking for the name of the company president, the date the company was established or a toll-free number to call. Whatever it is, you spend far too long looking for it - or perhaps never find it at all.
Part of establishing credibility on the Web is providing content that describes, succinctly and professionally, the nature of your company and your services (who? what? where?). Buck the trend on this one and you risk appearing like a fly-by-night.
4. Don't Hesitate to Repeat Words
You learned as a writer that repetition was a bad thing. To avoid it, you made lists of words, memorized synonyms, even subscribed to the Visual Thesaurus. But now you're writing for the Web - a whole different animal.
Online, repetition is quite okay. In fact, it's almost mandatory. Repeating words and phrases makes copy more clear. It's one of the principles of plain language.
Repeating the right keywords also improves your site's search engine optimization. For example, this story repeats the term "web copy" eight- now nine - times.
Introducing main points in short subheads makes web copy easier to scan. This allows visitors to find their way around more easily and complete their tasks more quickly. Repetition can be an asset in this context.
5. Provide Less Content Rather than More
To say "less is always more online" sounds somewhat counterintuitive when you're trying to make your website "sticky." But the truth is that less content makes your website easier to navigate.
When writing for the online user, you need to understand how they scan - rather than read - web copy. Think shorter words, shorter sentences, shorter paragraphs, shorter subheads.
Think intuitive organization that does not require long "explanations" such as the following:
We've organized the contacts below based on subject matter for your convenience (just imagine these skills at work for your business!). For enquiries that don't fit neatly into these categories, send us an email through our feedback form.
Too much already! A contact page generally needs no introduction - even when you're trying to be clever. Headings such as "Physical Offices" and "Telecommunications" are unnecessary, whereas specific department names or a link to a media contact make more sense.
Above all, keep testing, tweaking and polishing your web copy. Remember the vigilant spider, waiting and watching (with all those eyes), and always working to repair her web. By following these simple tips, you too can make your web copy more catchy.