You need to write the content for your website but don’t know where to start. This primer will give you a few tips to get you moving.
When writing web copy your first goal is to get your visitors to stay on your website to read your text so that they will buy your products and or services. This can only happen when you are able to help solve your customers’ problems, answer their questions, and develop a relationship of trust. So what is the first step?
The first step to writing text for your homepage is to put yourself in your customers’ shoes.
Get to know your target market. It is imperative that your website does what your clients want it to. So who are they? Do you know their age, income bracket, habits, hobbies and interests? What are their frustrations? What attracts them? And most importantly : What do your customers come to your website to do and in what sequence? Once you can picture your audience, the words for your copy will begin to flow.
Speaking to your audience
1. What should I write about?
Talk to people about your business. By finding out what your customers think of your products/services, you will know what you need to write about in your copy. Here are some questions to get you started:
- What do they find appealing about your products/services?
- How do your products/services provide solutions for your customers?
- How do your products/services make life better for your customers?
Once you have the answer to the above questions, present your information with a goal to be helpful, engaging and relevant.
2. How should I speak to my audience?
Use the language of your customers. Use the key words and phrases that customers use. This helps them to understand your message without having to interpret your text. Most importantly, it allows them to feel that you understand their needs and desires.
Use reader friendly language. If you use technical jargon, make sure you pad it with lots of everyday language so that it is easy to read and understand. For example, ‘The composition of Dorrough’s Paste is constituted of a mixture of calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate, rendering it a mineral rich composition.’ sounds like a sentence from a textbook manual. The reader is more likely to relax and absorb the information if the same idea was worded as ‘ Dorrough’s Paste is rich in minerals because it is made from calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate.’ Make it easy for your reader to get information, don’t slow them down.
Speak in an informative manner. If you are a relatively new business, people like to know why they should trust you and buy your products/services. So make sure you tell them up front on the home page. Don’t be shy about it, but don’t use hard sell marketing language either. Just write as if you are speaking to a friendly audience. Use an informative approach to tell about your products / services.
3. How should I present my products / services?
Anchor your reader. Once a visitor lands on your home page, you have a few precious seconds to give them a reason to stay or they will be gone in a click. The first 2 or 3 sentences that they read should set your business apart from your competitors. What can you tell them about your business that will hook them in so that they will stay to find out more?
Describe your products /services and be helpful with information. When describing your products / services, you may want to give your opinion using words like ‘best’, ‘fastest’, ‘amazing’. Your customers will naturally ask ‘How do I know this to be true?’ It is important that you provide information to support your claims. Fact and opinion need to go hand in hand to give your customers trust.
For example, you can support your opinion that ‘ Aqua Springwater is the preferred brand for the discerning consumer. It is bottled using the latest technology.’ with the information that ‘Aqua Springwater is collected from the alpine regions of the Snowy River and bottled using ultra violet ray technology, ensuring 100% purity’. Now your customers feel your claims about Aqua Springwater are justifiable because you have stated the hard facts about its source and method of production.
Function (what your product can do) and advantages (why it is better than others). Remember to tell your customers what you can do for them as well as the advantages of using your business. The two should go hand in hand to send a positive message.
4. How do I write copy that is easy to read?
Be Short, Succinct and specific. Web text is a genre of its own. It is not like a magazine text or newspaper text. Readers tend to skim and scan a lot more when reading web pages. If you can’t capture your audience in the first few seconds of their landing on your page, you will lose them. So the goal is to provide information in small blocks that can be quickly digested. Here’s what to do when writing web text:
- Short – keep your sentences and your paragraphs short. 3 to 4 sentences per paragraph is all you need. Readers tend to lose interest if you elaborate any longer than that. If you need to elaborate further, start a new paragraph.
- Succinct – Get to the point quickly, then address the details. Each paragraph should have a topic sentence with key words to tell the reader what the paragraph is about. This allows your reader to skip to the next paragraph or read on for detail.
- Specific – Use key words and phrases as headings in larger font or bold to capture attention. This will allow your readers to scan the page to get to the section that answers their question. Use keywords and key phrases, bullet points, indents, subheadings and boldface to organise your copy so your readers can scan the copy for information.
What should I write for each web page?
Each web page serves a different function. If you bear this in mind when writing, each page will have its distinct set of information.
This is usually the first page visitors land on and need to have an introductory feel as well as a hook to keep visitors on your website.
Write head lines that state your strengths – what your products or services has to offer as well as the advantages of using them. Then explain what you offer in a powerful but succinct form in 2 or 3 sentences. You will be able to address the details later in your Products and Services page.
The home page should give a snapshot of the best your business has to offer. It should speak of your belief and passion for your products/services.
On this page, you tell your visitors things you would say in the first 10 minutes if you were telling someone at a dinner party about your business.
Write about the following:
- How your business began and developed to this point?
- Why you believe in your services/products?
- How you run your business
- What your business does best
- What makes your business different from the competition
Products and Services
Present your products and or services as a detailed inventory with descriptions, specifications and pictures. You might also choose to have added information here such as “people who bought this product also bought these other products…” or you may advertise specials on this page.
Give your customers as much contact detail as possible. This eliminates frustration as different people prefer different methods of contact:
- Company name
- Hours of operation and trading days
- Names of key personnel
- Phone and fax numbers and email addresses
- Directions and maps
Writing text that reads professionally (writing mechanics)
- Do consider word choices carefully for positive effect.
- Do check grammar and punctuation.
- Do consider sentence expression. If it doesn’t read fluently try rewriting the sentence in another way.
- Do use spell check and if unsure check the dictionary.
- Do write in short sentences and paragraphs to make text easy to read.
- Do use key words as headings to help readers scan the text.
- Do format your text for easy reading by using bullet points, indentations, spaces between paragraphs, headings and subheadings.
- Don’t capitalise key words. Capital letters should only be used for the beginning of sentences and names.
- Don’t use blocks of texts in capitals unless you are shouting. You should never shout at your customers.
- Don’t use exclamation marks unless you are excitedly speaking to someone on a personal basis. This is not appropriate when addressing your customers en masse.
- Don’t use sentences that are too long. Find a way to reword it so that the ideas are broken up into 2 sentences.
A well written website with a logical sequence of information reduces user frustration and increases client trust. Take the time to write your text, a well worded website gains trust. A badly worded website makes your products / services look shabby. A good looking website without well written copy is like a beautifully dressed person without coherent conversation.
If you feel that you need a guiding hand, ask your web designer to allocate a few of hours to go through your text for you. If you feel you need more help than surface guidance, ask for copy writing support.