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Web Copywriting – How To Write Copy For Your Website

Web copywriting is different to other forms of writing for your business. Why? There has been a quiet revolution in terms of writing for the web, which matches the changing way people use the internet.

The first web sites on the net are now called brochure sites, as all they really contained was information you would read in brochures about the business. The language was stilted and formal, and usually talked a lot about the company and very little about the customer.

Brochure sites were great ways to get your message out there, but they allowed only for one-way communication – where you told the person what you wanted them to know. If you still have a brochure website, you are wearing the online equivalent of a safari suit. They were great at the time, but a tad dated.

In the past 3 years, there has been a radical shift. People no longer stay on the boring web pages with “we try harder”. People expect more. They want to know more. They want to know what it will be like to work with you.

They also want to engage in discussion about the content in websites and to share their thoughts with other like-minded people. This has given rise to social media such as Facebook and Twitter and the demand for interactive websites.

The art of writing for the web is all about understanding these trends in communication and presenting information in a way that people now “get”. In as much the same way that we don’t use words from Shakespeare’s time in our modern communications, we need to change our communication to match the current ways people use information.

So what are some web copywriting tips?

1. Web Copywriting is Not One Style Of Writing

    The web is not just one thing. Different parts of the web have different styles of writing. Corporate websites still tend to be a bit more formal in choice of words. Blogs and forums allow you to be more informal and relaxed with how language is used.  Sites such as Twitter need a totally different style again – and are similar to SMS text messages in terms of language style. You need to match your style of language to the internet medium you are using.

    2. Break the Rules (Within Reason)

      Traditional writing was very formal. These days web copywriting is more like having a chat with your friend over a coffee. The art of web copywriting is to write as you speak. This includes starting sentences with “and”, splitting infinitives and breaking sentences across two lines. The only rules that are still strong are use of swear words and discriminatory language. For most businesses it is still better to leave these parts of your vocabulary at home.

      3. The Words You Choose Define Your Brand

        Writing for the web is the same as creating a brand in words – the words you choose will define who you are and how your company is positioning itself on the market just as surely as any logo or colour scheme. Are your words young and fresh, or traditional and professional?

        4. Insert Emotion

          People have moved away from ‘buying a brand” to “buying the person behind the brand” – they want personalities not faceless corporations. Emotion is a big part of what makes up personality. The old way to write was to wring all of the juice out of your words to make them dry, academic and clinical. Now you need to put the juice back in – you are not “happy to introduce a new product”, you are “jumping out of your skin excited to bring this brilliant new product to your customers”.

          5. Headlines & Sub-Headlines Are Important

            People scan your headlines and sub-headlines. Are they interesting? Do they make people want to stop and read the content beneath? Do they tell a coherent story if you just pull out the headlines and put them on a page by themselves?

            6. Camouflage Your Keywords

              When you are writing for the web, you have two audiences – your human readers and the search engines. Search engines look through websites and check the words that are used on the site as part of their algorithm in determining where to place a website in search engine results. The better the match, the higher the website appears in the results.

              If you write for just the human readers, it is likely you will not rank well in the search engines, and if you write just for the search engines in terms of maximising the number of keywords you cram into your pages, then it becomes unreadable for humans.

              I like to think of putting keywords in your copy in the same way that you hide vegetables from two year olds, by blending them in their food – you want them to definitely be there, but blended in. A great SEO copywriter can get the balance right for you by writing for both audiences, without being obvious.

              7. Short Copy Isn’t Always Better

                In a world of short attention spans, people think less words are better. Yet, more words can often outsell less words; as long as you use visual clues to help people who scan get the gist of the information first. This is called “long copy” and is the staple of many sales pages simply because it works like gangbusters.

                The bottom line is web copywriting is an art form that needs to be mastered. Not every person who writes great documents for work can become a great web copywriter, just like not every piano player becomes a concert pianist. If you need a virtuoso with your business words then a professional SEO copywriter can create brilliant music with your words.

                Ingrid Cliff is a SEO copywriter and the Chief Word Wizard of Heart Harmony – a Brisbane copywriting studio that puts your business into words.

                For a free copy of “7 Secrets of Compelling Copy & Powerful Words” visit www.heartharmony.com.au

                Dan Petrovic, the managing director of DEJAN, is Australia’s best-known name in the field of search engine optimisation. Dan is a web author, innovator and a highly regarded search industry event speaker.

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