When writing your web copy, who do you think of? Do you picture a potential customer reading your text? And do you think about what makes them click? That’s what the majority of web copywriters do. The issue here is treating web visitors like human beings who like to read as a hobby, or treating web users like they’re reading a printed text. It’s a very common mistake to make. Even the most experienced web copywriters make it.
This is wrong. Very very wrong. Text content on a website is consumed in a totally different way than traditional print text. Web copy is scanned or glanced at. Definitely not read. Studies have shown that only a measly 16% of people read web pages in their entirety, word-for-word, whereas most people scan. (Re: Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox).
People use the web for its efficiency and instant gratification for all their information needs, whether that be a product, service, event etc. Whatever it is, web users are making quick decisions without thinking. They want the most important and beneficial information relating to what they’re looking for, as quickly as possible. So how can you persuade a web visitor to buy your product or service if they’re not going to read the text on your website?
Here are our 5 tips to guide you towards writing some effective copy for your website:
1. Treat web visitors like wild animals
When a Cheetah is hunting, they sniff a scent trail and quickly decide: Will the scent trail lead to a good meal? And will it be an easy catch?
Web visitors, on the other hand, are hunting for information; and they want it fast. Whether its a product or service, web users are considering two things: Does this website offer what they’re looking for? And can they find it easily?
Just as a Cheetah decides quickly whether or not to follow a certain trail, people visiting your website decide quickly whether your site is useful or not. If the site looks complex with no clear direction and too many options to choose from, they’ll be quick to click away and check out another website.
All it takes is a quick glance at the site before guessing whether it’s what they’re looking for or not. They just want to make a quick decision, they don’t need to browse for a while to know for sure.
So if web users are only quickly glancing for relevant information, how can you get your message across?
2. Put your most important information first
Unlike essays and books, on webpages, you need to put your most important points first. For example, you’re looking for a new 8 person wooden table. When you land on the website you want to see it sells tables and secondly, you want to find out if they sell ones that sit 8 people that are wooden.
The information that your web visitors will find most important, is often a very simple sentence or two explaining what you do and what the page is about. Once they understand what you do, they might want to know some important details to ensure they are in the right place. Even then they may like to find out more about the background of the company, but essentially, burst out of the gate with what the page is regarding in its most simplest form.
3. Write for scanners
As we’ve previously established, hardly anyone is reading web pages in full when they search for products and services. (See the 3rd paragraph of this blog)
“[What most web visitors do] is glance at each new page, scan some of the text, and click on the first link that catches their interest or vaguely resembles the thing they’re looking for.” – Steve Krug
So how can you tailor your web content for scanners:
- Does your headline communicate what you’re about quickly and easily?
- Do your sub headlines summarise your key points?
- Are bullet points on the page easy to scan and do they reduce wordiness?
Your web visitor is hunting for information or products. Ensure he can understand your most important information by just glancing at your web page.
4. Write for lazy people
Just as the Cheetah looks for the easiest catch for their meal, your web visitors don’t make an effort to read your text. You need to make your copy easy to read, you can do this by using the following criteria:
- Short paragraphs – No more than four sentences.
- Short sentences.
- Skip unnecessary words and filler.
- Avoid jargon, unless your audience requires it
- Avoid the passive tense
- Avoid needless repetition
- Address your web users directly – E.g. using the word you.
How short should your text be? We recommend that you write what you think is suitable in full, then get rid of half the words on each page, and then get rid of half of what’s left. That maybe an overly demanding target, but give it a go. Set yourself a challenge and make your text as short as possible.
5. Make it easy for users to find you
Potential customers are hunting for information or products. How can you help them find you?
Lure potential customers to your website by providing useful information. That’s how writing for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) basically works:
- Answer the questions potential customers are asking and typing into search engines,
- Have one key topic of focus for each page.
- Include links to relevant pages on your own website or to other relevant websites.
- Use phrases and words your potential customers are looking for.
Above all: Be helpful and put yourself in the position of your audience to understand what information is of most value to them.