Do you know how to write the most successful content for your website? Read this article and learn what you need to know (and what mistakes you must avoid) when writing for the web. Don't miss any opportunities - make a great first impression and keep your visitors interested. Take advantage of this free advice from PR and marketing specialist, Jill Woolf.
Jill is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of PR and has had a wide-ranging career in PR, sales and marketing for over 30 years, founding Chimera Communications in 2003. She's an expert at helping many types of businesses and sectors overcome many different issues, and shares her professional tips for writing content for websites.
Everyone can write for the web. It’s easy.
Not everyone can. And it’s not easy.
I wish I had a pound for every time a client or potential client says to me, “I’ll just knock up some words for my website. I’m good at writing, I once wrote a poem at school. I’ll tell people everything I want them to know, all about me and my company, and it’ll be fine.”
This is usually followed by a sharp intake of breath from me and an explanation of what a website needs to be from a visitor’s perspective. After all, this is the person who will decide whether or not to buy from you depending on their first impression of your website.
Do I want to stay on this site?
Let’s start at the beginning. You only have a few seconds within which to capture the visitor’s attention. Your site needs not only to look appealing, it needs to feel appealing too. By this I’m talking about perception. First impressions count; we all know that. The site needs to be bright, uncluttered, up-to-date, and easy-to-understand, have obvious navigation and above all, it needs to imply straight away what your business is all about.
People should feel immediately that they want to learn more about the business, and want to be part of your brand and what you’re offering.
Of course, there are some businesses which need to be careful with the look and feel, for example funeral directors, debt collectors or MPs! Even so, these sites should be appropriate for those who will be visiting.
About a quarter of the page is read
Writing for the web is NOT the same as writing business leaflets, reports, poetry, books or anything else.
We know that once on the page, web users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; although 20% is more likely*. This means your home page particularly must have impact, both in text and with imagery. People tend to scan on-line rather that read large chunks of text, which are complete turn-offs resulting in people leaving your site to go to your competitor’s.
In terms of the language used, consider this carefully beforehand. It must be in line with the rest of your house-style, if you have one. Not only must your branding (your logo, colours etc) be consistent through everything you publish on-line and off, your tone of voice must be consistent too so people recognise your brand. Think of M&S. It’s not just a consistent brand, it’s an M&S consistent brand!
Who is Jo Bloggs?
You also need to think about just who is looking at your website. Who is your customer? What age are they? What demographic group/s do they belong to? Is your site just for customers or are there others who will be viewing?
There is a whole range of questions you need to ask and answer before you know your customer inside out, and this is incredibly important because if you don’t know who your customer is and what prompts him or her to buy, then how can you even start to write text for your website?
You need to use plain language so people find what they need, understand what they have found, and then use it to meet their needs. You need ‘Calls to Action’ (the action you want people to make, having found your site eg Click here, Buy now …) and your site needs to be easily found on the internet as well as shareable.
It’s all about sharing these days
Why ‘shareable’? Because nearly all people now look on-line at reviews and research before they decide to buy products or services, and offering a Share button means you’re making it easier for people to share your site with their contacts. In other words, you’re helping people buy more from you. It’s easy to do; just add a Share button to your banner.
You need to consider why someone is visiting your site and make it easy for them to accomplish what they set out to do, for example look at a review, find a price, whether an item is in stock, find out your opening hours or an easy way to contact you. If they don’t find what they need within a very short space of time, they’ll leave.
This is another reason to find out why people come to your site, who they are and what makes them buy. It will help you to form the basis of your text, such as:
- Impactful content for your home page
- Headings which will easily lead them from one interesting point to the next
- Easy navigation through the site
- Logical product or service information
- Contact details and how to find you (if you have an office/store to visit)
- Terms & Conditions and disclaimer for the site
Make it interesting
Forget all the stuff you thought was important to add in, like what makes you tick, what happens in your day and how you want your business to grow by getting more customers. It’s all about them, not you. What do your customers need? What makes their lives easier? Why should they use your products or services?
Use their language. If you’re targeting young people, for example, you need to talk in a language they understand and respond to. No good using patronising corporate speak here!
Use “we” rather than “the company” and “you” rather than “customers”. It’s more personal and friendly. Short sentences and paragraphs work best too, as do bullet point lists.
Use chunks of text. This makes your content more readable, easier on the eye so easier to scan.
Start with what’s most important to your visitors, then give more details.
Images and animation
Clear, impactful images work wonderfully well, as do videos, as images and animation are much more easily taken in than text. Videos are particularly important these days, as are vlogs (video blogs), podcasts (digital audio file, often in a series). Great for giving short bursts of information such as tips, techniques and bite size product details.
Use white space. People often feel they need to use every single inch of the screen but the reverse is true – white space is impactful and makes your information easier to read. Pages need to be designed to look balanced too.
Have a plan
Draw up an editorial calendar and a social media content calendar too, to promote your business. Update your site regularly as this will help with Google rankings. You can encourage visitors to return to your site by keeping your content fresh and up-to-date. Include keywords but not so many as to make your text incongruous and unreadable. To find out more about which keywords will work best for your site, use the free Google AdWord Keyword Planner or one of the alternatives like KeywordTool or WordStream.
Don’t forget to make your site responsive so it works effectively on mobile devices, as most people use these to go on-line.
I hope you’ve found this useful; if you have any comments or queries, just get in touch.