Writing for the web
Good copy writing is an integral component of creating a great website. Your text is what Google uses to rank your website so it is important that your copy is targeted to search engines and your intended audience. Writing for web is also different from writing for print, as people searching on the web are typically very task-focused and want to get the information they require as quickly and pain-free as possible. A user will very rarely read a whole page (the ACM Transactions on the Web study stated that “on the average web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit, with statistics showing that 20% is more likely”).
USP -Unique Selling Proposition
Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is what makes you unique and more suited to meeting the needs of your customers. What special niche does your business hold in your customers mind? Your USP should be placed in a prominent position on your webpage and should contain key words pertaining to your product or services. It should be short and succinct and should allow the users to understand exactly what you do and what your business is about. Your Home page text / USP is also one of the components that Google uses to rank your website, making it important to include key words that your customers would use to search for your services. For example, Federal Express emerged as a market leader after it identified that assured overnight delivery was its customer’s biggest requirement when using a courier service. It’s USP of “Federal Express: When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” has been incredibly successful and enduring.
The most important final note about your USP is that you must ensure operationally that you consistently deliver on the promise and make sure it is incorporated into all aspects of your business at all times. Your promise must marry with your ‘ideal customer’ – your content must appeal to them, ideally within 1-3 seconds of them hitting your web page. If you have more than one ideal customer, you need to go through this process for each one.
Writing your USP Writing your words the WHY – WHAT – WHERE – HOW method Why? This is your USP. Why should the customer patronize your business? What? What do you do? Where? Where your business is located and/or where products are available? How? How do your ideal customers contact you? This can/could be your call to action. Restate the benefits in your USP here to strengthen your call to action.
Writing Your USP
Writing your words the WHY – WHAT – WHERE – HOW method
Why? This is your USP. Why should the customer patronise your business? What? What do you do? Where? Where your business is located and/or where products are available? How? How do your ideal customers contact you? This can/could be your call to action. Restate the benefits in your USP here to strengthen your call to action.
Support your words with Trust Indicators that supports your USP. Users need to feel confident that your business is a legitimate business with a stable foundation and a history for delivery quality. This is particularly important if you are selling products online. It is very important to instil confidence in your customers and convince them to pick you over another company. Some good tips are to make sure you provide a physical address for your business and a landline. People will be wary of businesses with just a Post Office Box or mobile number, or worse still no contact details.
Examples of Trust Indicators are guarantee seals, security certification (e.g. Better Business Bureau, VeriSign Accredited Tourism Tick etc.), testimonials or accreditation to Industry bodies.
For example, on our website we have a small line in our website’s footer stating:
Selected for the ICT agreement to supply web services to all of Government. Members of the WA Web Industry Association and the Australian Graphic Design Association.
Our website’s header states:”Celebrating 15 years in Business”
See www.mediaonmars.com.au to view these examples.
Write for Maximum Impact
You’re now ready to start writing your web content. From your USP discussion you will have identified key words around your product features, benefits, service offers, guarantees and anything else you identified as important to your customers. Use these to start crafting your content pages.
The idea is to keep your message as direct and simple as possible. Using the Inverted Pyramid Writing tool (below) to make sure your text is structured so that readers can get the information they need in a quick glance with additional information towards the end.
Direct, succinct communication is the key to getting the desired result, so when writing, think like a news reporter: start with the main point and then follow with the details (but not too many). Remember less is more when it comes to writing content for websites.
Structuring Your Content
An important tip when it comes to content is that all pages of your site need to be considered potential landing pages.
For example, if someone searches for “contact Media on Mars” the landing page will be the contacts page, not the home page. You must then consider that all your pages could be a ‘home page’ for your company, so all should be clearly branded, have a clear headline with content that includes relevant keywords.
To keep you focused make sure each page clearly defines:
- What you are offering
- Who will it appeal to and why are they interested
- What do they need to do?
If you are selling products online, then from the landing page to the sale must be no more than three clicks and the call to action must be clearly defined at the top of the page. This enables people familiar with your site to get what they are looking for quickly.
- Use bullet points and short sentences – people are scanning, not reading your content so make it easy to read
- Ask questions that relate to their needs, for example “do you need help writing great web copy?”
- Structure content as you would a normal document with a clear path and message
- Use key words (i.e. words that people would search for) throughout your content
- The first sentence of each paragraph should outline what the paragraph is about
- Give something for nothing – a subscription to a newsletter, free report or bonus offer for buying online works well and helps you also build your customer database
- Use Testimonials and Trust Indicators to increase the trust and credibility of your site
- Use lots of white space and do not write too much content – again LESS IS MORE!
- PROOF READ. Your website must use impeccable grammar. One of the fastest ways to lose the trust of your customers is to have spelling errors and/or sloppy grammar.
Keywords are words that people type into Google when they are searching. i.e. Fremantle Hairdresser. Search engines look to see if your website content includes the keywords that people are searching for and if it does then you have the potential to rank higher. Adding keywords to the content of your website can improve its ranking, but overusing them can cause your site to be banned for spamming. Google rewards people who have well written relevant content over lists of keywords.
When identifying keywords, select words and phrases in the content of your website that someone is most likely to use when searching for your online business or website.
There are some excellent tools available, such as Google blog, which can take a lot of the guesswork out of writing content to achieve SEO (search engine optimisation) and enable you to create killer content that delivers your message.
Google blog lets you analyse web search trends and as a result measure people’s interest. The results show the percentages by which a search term’s popularity has increased in Google. This means you can see what search terms might benefit you and your business.
The example below shows Gino’s Pizza Restaurant, who are looking at the best way to grow their delivery business. They used keywords such as ‘fast delivery’, ‘cheap’, ‘gourmet’ and ‘coupons’ to get an idea of what searches are tracking well. It also shows how popular each search is by region. For example, demand for gourmet pizzas are only growing in New South Wales and Victoria, so if I am outside these areas I might reconsider a gourmet pizza promotion and instead focus on discounts and coupon promotions.
This site provides the Top 10 search terms that you can work into your web content, as well as terms that are ‘rising’ in preference. It also shows what competitors are promoting in this area and who the dominant players are.
You can also test different locations and different times of the year as to when people might be looking for your products or services. For example a ski resort might determine that March is when people start to enquire about winter bookings, so it will tailor their messages and advertising schedule to suit.
The only caution is to remember that this tool is giving you a rear-view of what is working well, your breakthrough idea might not even register yet because people don’t know about it.
Use A Professional
If you feel you require help with writing your web copy please ask us for the details of a professional web copywriter. Web Copy Writers are experts in writing for the web and structuring content so that it is reader and search engine friendly. Copy writers can also edit text you have written to ensure it is key word rich and structured correctly.
(image source: Pennsylvania State University, Available: , January 2011)