Copywriting for the Web

Here at KEEN we work on a lot of websites. It’s a long process and for everything to run smoothly the client counts on us to understand their goal, communicate it effectively and get the job done in a timely manner. Not only does the client count on us, but we also count on the client. It is important that the client has a clear understanding of what they want their new website to achieve, and also has the content to populate said website.

Ah, content. A roadblock we come across all too often when developing websites. Many times a client is working with outdated copy from their old website, doesn’t have enough copy, or has no copy at all! When a client needs copy for their website they either source it themselves, or we help with the process here at KEEN. It always seems to be a struggle, but in reality it is such a simple style of writing it shouldn’t be a stress at all!

Here are some tips and tricks I keep in mind when writing for the web.

Writing Style:
  • Inverted Pyramid:
    • Users read the first part of the paragraph and then skim the rest, thus forming the inverted pyramid shape.
    • Write your paragraphs in the order of most important to least important.
  • Short Text:
    • What is the key message?
    • Be clear, concise, and specific. You only have seconds to catch the user’s attention, so use plain language and keep things brief.
    • Use 2-3 sentences per paragraph, not 5. Keep paragraphs short and sweet. Your website isn’t the place for “fluffy” copy. No one wants to open a web page and be faced with a novel.
    • The only place where the above rule doesn’t apply is your blog. Your blog is where you can express opinions and stories, so get creative here!
    • Write in a way that makes the content sound current. Don’t use words such as “today, this month, or this year,” and avoid using specific dates (unless it applies).
    • Write no more than 50% of what you write in print. Downloadable PDFs are a great way to provide further information to the reader as they are accessing this information for offline reading.
  • Action Words:
    • Use verbs.
    • Use “I’ on FAQ pages.
    • Use “you” or “I” to speak directly to your user/customer.
  • SEO:
    • SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization.” SEO is an ever-changing beast, but in a nutshell, SEO is a strategy that is based on using targeted key phrases in your content so that your site gets a high-rankings placement on the search results page of a search engine such as Google.  This ensures that your company is highly visible on the web, which increases the amount of visitors to your website. Have more questions about SEO? We’d be happy to help!
The User/Your Audience:
  • Consider the user’s expectations. Why are they coming to the site? What information do they need to access quickly? What is the primary goal? Stay on topic!
  • Consider personas. For example, someone using the Edmonton Transit System website could be an 18 year-old university student living at home. Write from their viewpoint, not yours.
Website Structure:
  • The Homepage: 
    • Keep the content generic here. This is where you talk generally about your company and communicate your website’s purpose.
    • Focus priority at the top of the page.
    • Limit your paragraphs.
  • Level of Importance:
    • Give the user some order and organization.
    • Any key information should require one click.
    • User sliders to bring key information to the forefront. This is a good place to share important updates or upcoming events.
  • Display Density:
    • Utilize large headers. Hierarchy is key!
    • Avoid overcrowding content. Pages that are too dense are difficult to scan. Ever heard of the “F” pattern? This is how users typically scan a website. Keep this in mind when you organize your content.
    • Consider if a paragraph requires a heading to make it more scannable, and make your headings specific. For example, “Additional Information” communicates no specific details about the content that follows it.
    • Remember, it is possible to have too little content as well. This makes for a sparse looking site and requires too much clicking.
  • Limit Scrolling:
    • In today’s mobile focused web world, users have become more accepting of scrolling through sites, however too much scrolling and you will lose your user’s interest – so keep that information tight and purposeful!
    • Consider limiting scrolling to 4 screenfulls per page.
    • Think about your audience as well. Older users scroll less and slower. Writing for a young and hip surf shop? A young 20-something user isn’t going to mind a few screenfulls.
  • Naming Links:
    • If you are including links in your copy to pages within your site or external sites, remember to keep things specific. Rather than saying “More Info,” write the page the user will be taken to, for example “Contact” or “Product Dimensions.”

Editing:

  • Most importantly, ask someone to read your copy before publishing it. Having a fresh set of eyes to proof read your content ensures that you aren’t publishing a typo or any unclear sentences.
  • Having someone edit your work is also helpful if you need to pare down some copy. They will have a fresh take on what is truly important and aren’t as married to the work as you are.

Good luck copywriting!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *