When it comes to writing for the Web, nuance shapes the craft. In my years as a Web designer, content writer and search engine optimizer, I’ve found many people to have several misconceptions of what effective Web writing is, such as:
- The more key word phrases, the better.
- Our brochure copy will work just fine for the Web.
- The fewer words the better, people don’t read the Web.
- The content in our business plan will also work for the Web.
- We need to sound hip to appeal to a younger audience.
- Words are less important than flash.
While I’ve found all of the above points to be true to certain point, experience tells me there needs to be a balance.
Here’s what I mean:
Key words. It is true that Web content should have targeted key words and phrases. However, key-word stuffed content actually gets penalized by the search engines. Newer updates of the search engine algorithms are also favoring quality, in-depth content that reads and flows naturally. Because an excessive use of key words hinders the reading experience, well-written Web content that follows more traditional writing standards is becoming more favorable and findable.
Using brochure copy. When we write for brochures, we’re employing a different mindset that reaches our target audience. The way we present information about our organization may be more or less content heavy than what is on the Web. But the key in Web writing is the calls to action. Brochure content requires a different strategy. That’s why when my clients ask me to write brochure content that they can repurpose for the Web, or vice versa, I tell them right away that is not the best approach.
Overly concise. When I entered the world of the Web, I loved the idea of writing in a way that was pithy and conversational. However, there is such a thing as being overly concise. While some statistics show that people “don’t read on the Web,” there is a way to organize and present beefed up content so your users get answers to their questions. This doesn’t mean we have to omit key content, especially if our offline marketing materials keep encouraging visitors to “learn more” on our websites.
Using business plan copy. When we first build a website, it’s tempting to want to take the easy way out by copying and pasting official language from our business plans into our websites. Unfortunately there is no bigger turn off than overly formal language that describes our business. However, I think it’s important that we use our business plans to help us strategize the information we want to share on our websites and the conversational way of presenting it.
We need to sound hip. When it comes to marketing, our first question to ourselves should always be, “Who is our audience?” Once we determine this, we get a better sense of how our audience prefers to receive information and as well as the tone. Whether this means sounding hip is another story. It all boils down to your audience demographics and what gets them engaged.
Word are less important than flash. If your website isn’t closing the sale and you’ve got a fun, flashy website, then obviously there’s something missing. At the end of the day, people communicate through language. Even in a graphic-design heavy environment, there needs to be obvious calls to action to guide users to the next step. Aesthetics are important, but in Web design, they don’t trump verbal communication.
Make it Work for You
As you write copy for your website, use your previous marketing materials and business plan as a tool to understand what makes your company unique. Put yourself in the mindset of your audience to determine the best tone, voice and lingo that will resonate with them. Write Web content that creates conversations and guides your users to where they need to be. Remember, they visit your website for a reason. Help them get what they need sooner than later and watch engagement improve!