13 golden rules to writing effective web copy – Part 1

by Steve Manning

Writing website copy is a unique skill. It’s totally different to writing copy for brochures, newsletters and reports. Why? Because your web copy needs to attract, engage and persuade someone in a matter of seconds.

After all, if a potential customer doesn’t like what they see, they’re out of there with the simple click of a mouse button. And guess where they’re heading? That’s right – straight to your competitor’s site.

Therefore, there are some essential rules that you must adhere to when you write web copy.

 In this article, I’ll share with you my first 7 and then I’ll address the remaining 6 in my next article. Sound good? Good. Let’s get started.

Rule #1: Attention!

In an age where people are increasingly time-poor, you have about 3-5 seconds to get someone’s attention when they land on your website. 3-5 seconds! It’s not much time is it? So your main headline needs to spark their interest straight away i.e. “Looking for a plumber?” or “Like to save money on your electricity bill?” or “How secure is your home?”

Rule #2: Get to the point – don’t muck around.
Following on from rule #1, people don’t have the time or inclination to sit there while you slowly introduce your business. You need to quickly tell them who you are, what you do and how you can help them, otherwise they’ll click away and find someone who will. So get to the point! Don’t let your web copy dawdle.

Rule #3: Less is more.
People often fall into the trap of thinking that the more text they write, the more informative they’ll sound. But in most cases, long sentences can be chopped down so that they’re much easier to digest and quicker to read. AND, they probably say exactly the same thing as the long-winded version. Less is more. Get your message across with short and sharp copy.

Rule #4: Clear and concise.
Use plain English for your web copy, not words that require a dictionary to decipher. People won’t think you’re a genius if you use lots of fancy words – they’ll just glaze over and click away. After all, web copy is there to grab someone’s attention and persuade him or her to buy your product or use your service. So make your web copy clear and concise. Don’t waste people’s time with words that only an English Professor can understand.

Rule #5: Use sub-headings and bullet points.
People READ books but tend to SCAN web copy. Therefore, having lots of sub-headings and bullet points on your website enables them to quickly and easily grasp your key messages. If they’re able to scan the page and ascertain who you are and what you do in a few seconds, they’re more likely to stick around. So break up your web copy with sub-headings and bullet points and see the difference yourself. Easier to scan isn’t it?

Rule #6: Use key words and phrases.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is another article all together, but it’s a crucial element for your website to rank highly with search engines like Google and Yahoo. Therefore, your web copy needs to be “key word rich”, meaning that all the key words and phrases that are relevant to your business need to be included in your text. A Copywriter proficient in SEO can help you with this aspect, as it’s a unique skill to get the balance right.

Rule #7: Include a call to action and your contact details.
Your copy may be fantastic, but if someone can’t find your contact details easily, they’ll get frustrated and leave your site. That’s why a call to action on every web page is essential i.e. what do you want them to do – Call you? Email you? Visit your store? Fill in an online form? You need to make it easy for them to find your details.

So there you go; 7 golden rules to get you on the path to writing effective web copy.

In my next article, I’ll provide you with a further 6, so stay tuned!