You are the most important person in the world. Wow, I got you to read the second sentence. Your interest is now piqued and you want to read more. If you do read this article, you will learn exactly how important it is to create compelling web copy. Between you and me, most readers just scan, but if you find a way to hook them in the first sentence and reel them in on the second sentence, you have a good chance that they will read the third. They may even read the entire article.
Don’t listen to those naysayers who tell you that website visitors only scan headlines and look at cute pictures. It’s a fact that visitors are more interested in what you write than every other aspect on the page. The problem is that most web writing is dreadfully boring, and oddly self-gratifying. Under the premise of helping you, the visitor, the writing is geared more towards establishing the writer as some sort of authority. Most web writing is very didactic, or teacher-student. I’m the first to admit I’m guilty of it, but not anymore. Here are some useful tips in creating words that people will want to read:
1. Be Personal
Stodgy paragraphs written in third person are no longer in fashion. The internet is extremely personal, and getting more personal by the moment. People come to the internet to explore in a relaxed nature, not to feel like they are reading from an encyclopedia. I admit, sometimes Wikipedia is too difficult for me to understand, and that’s okay because I can always find another website that can explain it in simpler terms. You want to have that website where visitors can go to explore without pressure.
Being personal also means revealing your personal side to the visitor. Besides placing your photo on the “About Me” page, your web copy needs to convey your personality. I don’t want to go to your blog or your Twitter page to get a sense of who you are, I’d like to read it directly on your site. Reach users by speaking directly to them. Do you notice how much more invested you are in this article than if I had gone into a third-person point of view?
2. Use Language Yo Mama Would Understand.
Oh, I went there. There’s nothing worst than visiting an authority website as a newbie and not understanding all the different terminology. Accommodate all visitors to your site, and try not to get so academic that you lose potential subscribers.
3. Draw on Common Metaphors or Experiences.
One way that people relate to each other is through shared experiences. For example, when I said earlier that I felt inferior to Wikipedia, I’m sure some of you agree. The point is that by me sharing a painful realization, it creates bonding. Find a way to connect with your readers so that they understand that you are them. You are engaging in a dialogue between friends, and not a lecture.
4. Use Pictures That Compliment Your Composition.
Reiterating what I said earlier, your words are the most important part of your article or blog post, but that’s not to say that pictures are unnecessary. To the contrary, pictures make a big difference in how people will connect to what you write. Think of pictures as a way of conveying a tone to your words. Because words are flat, pictures add an emotional component that’s much needed, and helps move the story along.
5. Read It Out Loud.
This can’t be stressed enough. Reading your words out loud helps you become more personal in your writing. If your writing does not sound like your natural speech, it is way too stodgy for web writing. Even if you prefer a more professional type of writing, your words should always match the rhythm of speech.
6. Don’t Edit Until The End.
A common mistake many writers make is to edit as they go along. Editing before finishing is like cutting hair without looking at the entire head. Only until you see the whole picture should you start removing undesired elements from it. Cut from the whole. By stopping to edit, you potentially sever your tie to creativity.
7. Remember That Sarcasm is Hard to Pull Off.
I know you’re funny, but it’s hard to read sarcasm or humor into web copy. At best, people will think that you’re not funny (which is probably what you’re thinking about me). At worst, people will think that English is not your first language. Only infuse humor when it’s unmistakable. You can still be personal without it.
8. Tidy Up Your Speech.
I know that the internet is free of all sorts of traditional boundaries, and that tip #1 told you to be personal, but there is such a thing as “getting carried away.” Getting too colloquial, or using foul language, only hurts your brand. There is a portion of your visitors who will, without a doubt, be offended at your use of distasteful words.
9. SEO is King.
Keywords are a stupid little brother, but they are a necessary evil. If you want to draw a crowd, you need to enrich your writing with keywords that will draw the right web surfers to your site. Keywords are not difficult. It goes back to being personal. If you were trying to find your site or an article on your site, what words would you use to search online? Perfect, those are the words you need to cram into your article.
10. Be Scannable.
Humans love headings in bold black. We love short bursts of text and a balance of white space. Your web copy should be all of these things so that if a reader is in a pinch, they can scan your information easily. Hopefully, they will encounter a headline that makes them stop and read and maybe double back. To add to the scannability of your text, be sure to bold important points in your article. It is another “stop sign” and compels users to read it.
What do you think of this list? Do you have any other tips to include?