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     Writing Effective Web Copy

On the Internet programmers and designers rule, not the writer. Yet WORDS drive targeted traffic to your site, carry content, make the sale, convey marketing messages, persuade people to buy and make the difference between your site’s success or failure. Here are 10 tips for writing effective web COPY:

In the online world, LESS is nearly always more. Write your copy for the impatient, online reader. Here are some guidelines for the length of your content:
  • headings -- 8 words or less
  • sentences -- 15 to 20 words
  • paragraphs -- 40 to 70 words
  • page word count -- 250+ words
Eliminate pompous words and fancy phrases. Effective online writing is not about impressing the reader with your extensive vocabulary. It’s about COMMUNICATING. Use short, simple words. Get to the point. And then stop.

The most powerful word in the English language is “YOU”. Write for your reader, in a conversational tone, not for your ego. Get to know your reader. Is there a common style or tone you need to use to reach her? Don't forget, she’s come to your Web site to do something—make a purchase, obtain information, sign up for a subscription. Make sure every word you write moves her toward a SOLUTION.

Content is about getting the reader’s ATTENTION and keeping it. Content is about selling. Make sure your content is driving your customer’s actions. Then put that content on your home page.

If you want your site to be found when people search the web, use words your TARGET readers use. Before you begin to write, sit down and think carefully about the KEYWORDS you’re going to use. Then carefully weave those words and phrases into your copy.

The heading is the most important piece of content you’ll write. That’s because:
  • Internet users SCAN read and the first thing they read is your heading. If it doesn’t grab their attention, they’ll leave.

  • An effective heading can used in title TAGS (more about this later).

  • The heading can be placed on your home page as a LINK to content.
When writing headings, keep them to eight words or less Include important keywords Avoid the use of adjectives and prepositions (and, a, the, of). Be clear and concise. Avoid wordy, wishy-washy phrases.

Title tags are a small piece of HTML code that appears in the top bar of your browser. For example: “Acme Company Home Page.” Title tags, along with meta keywords and meta descriptions, are one of several important factors in achieving high search engine RANKINGS. You can view a site’s title tag by clicking "view" then "source" on your browser’s tool bar. Because search engines use title tags to gather information about your Web site you need to think carefully about what words you put in the tag. Don’t be tempted to put your company name in the tag (unless you’re a well-known brand like Nike or Microsoft). Instead put specific keywords relating to your business. For example, if you’re a California real estate company, you would want your company to appear in search engine results for searches on keywords such as “California Real Estate” or “Realtors in California.” So, you would use the keywords “California Real Estate” or “California Realtors” in your title tags.

The web is about linking INFORMATION. Make sure your site links your reader to other information and other sites link to you. Never make your Web site a dead-end. Some search engines, including Google, are based, in part, on their ability to find you FROM links on other sites

An effective summary is who, what, when, where, how. It’s about getting the information across in 50 words or less. Keep your summaries short and FACTUAL. Make sure they encourage your reader keep READING. Remember, keep sentences to between 15-20 words. Paragraphs between 40-70 words. Make your first sentence grab your reader’s attention or they’ll move on.

If you want your Web site to sell your product or service you must write about benefits and not about features. A feature DESCRIBES a product or service. A benefit is what the user GAINS from using that product or service. Don't say, "Our duvets are warm and comfortable," say "You'll be warm and comfortable in one of our duvets." Tell your customers how your product or service will make them happier, sexier, healthier, wealthier. In other words focus on making sure every line of your copy is dedicated to what’s in it for them.

Mistakes in online copy are temporary and easily fixed, but by the time you’ve noticed your errors so have thousands of other people. Have two or three people PROOFREAD your text. Check it yourself for consistency in grammar, punctuation, capitalization, abbreviations etc. And finally, read it BACKWARDS -- you’ll be surprised how many errors you’ll spot.


Julia Hyde is an independent copywriter specializing in advertising and search engine marketing services. Visit her site at www.juliahyde.com.

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