How to Write Effective
Web Copy - 7 Tips
By Joe Pelissier
Writing copy for a website is different from direct mail. You have even less time to attract the attention of the reader. This means you have to be astute about what your reader is looking for and how you're going to satisfy their need.
Here are 7 web copy tips:
- Don't Forget The 1% and 8 Second Rule
Only 1% of visitors to your page will take some form of action. This means that one average only 99 out of 100 will make a purchase, sign-up to receive something or telephone your office.
And you have only 8 seconds to convince your reader that they have arrived at the right place, after that 50% of them will go in search of something better.
- Remember That Readers Scan The Page
Your visitor is selfish and on a quest to find exactly what he's looking for. At lightning speed he scans the page looking for relevant pieces of information. And he does this in an 'F' pattern, going across the top from left to right, then down the left-hand margin making lightning forays across the page.
To see this in action go to:
Your job is to have a web-page that stops him in his tracks so that he doesn't feel the need to keep on relentlessly searching. Think of your own behaviour when you were last on Google.
- Write Relevant Headlines
As with printed copy, your headline will determine whether what you write is read. On average, five times as many people will read the headline as read the body copy
Headlines can be an art form. They need to be eye-catching, memorable and relevant. There are no rules - some may be short and others long. Some might be funny whilst other may arouse mystery and curiosity. But the good thing with the web is that you can test your headlines. Try to come up with a variety and see which one performs the best.
- Make Body Copy Easy To Read
Your copy will change depending on whether you are writing informational or sales copy. But because your reader is scanning, it helps if you can:
- Limit each paragraph to just one idea and use short, simple sentences.
- Use subheadings to break up the page.
- Use numbered or bulleted lists as they help to highlight and convey meaning quickly.
- Bolden key words without littering the page with them
- Avoid acronyms as you will only confuse those not familiar with them
- Use Hyperlinks Carefully
Hyperlinks are often abused. You don't help your reader by sending them to places that aren't relevant. Be controlled in how you use them and make sure that the wording of the link is meaningful. And standardise across your website how way they appear. For example, blue and underlined for links to visit and red/purple for those already visited.
Try to avoid image hyperlinks. These occur when a designer thinks it's cool to embed a link into a picture. All this does is confuse the reader. hey don't know it's 'live' and once it's been visited there's nothing to indicate whether it's been visited or not.
- Visuals Capture Attention
Pictures of people always attract attention. We are naturally drawn to a smiling face. However, research show that we've trained ourselves to scan over library pictures that don't appear genuine.
Don't fall victim to the belief that it's strong visual imagery that attracts your reader's attention rather than useful, relevant copy. Copy should win every time and dictate the imagery not the other way around.
- Use bold imagery only if it's central to the story. Online newspapers are good at this.
- Always ensure that images are used in the context of the copy. Avoid gratuitous imagery
- If you want to break-up your copy, use small thumbnail images. These can help with the layout without detracting from the copy.
You think in pictures not in words and phrases, so remember to use your writing skills to generate positive imagery about a product, situation or event.
- Don't Ignore Layout & Typography
In terms of layout, your page needs to be easy on the eye to allow the reader to pick-up relevant pieces of information quickly. If it's bunched and inconsistent it will deter the reader. Readers look sequentially at the headline, the visual, the caption and finally the copy; so put the elements in that order.
Typography is about font, font size and line length. All online copy needs to be in a Sans Serif font such as Arial or Verdana. It needs to be of a size that is easy to read otherwise you'll just frustrate your reader. (Designers favour small fonts, marketers larger ones...)
The type of content you publish will influence line length. Sales and marketing copy benefits from a shorter line length, whilst more intellectual copy tends to get away with up to 95 characters per line (cpc).
Joe Pélissier is a web marketing and communications expert with 23 years in media and communications. He is based in London and works internationally at both ends of the business spectrum - with large corporates as well as entrepreneurial small business owners. Visit http://www.joepelissier.co.uk to claim a FREE Marketing Course Mp3 and read more of his specialist articles.
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