Cutting through the noise and getting someone’s attention online can be a difficult thing to achieve, but from a writer’s point of view this is an essential skill you will need to master, and fundamental when writing effective and engaging website copy.
So, what’s the fuss with web copy? Well if you think about it, you’ve only got a short amount of time to capture your audience’s attention, connect with their emotions and then keep them engaged until they’ve digested and responded to your text.
This can be difficult to master, especially when it’s not guaranteed that your site visitors will even read the whole of your text, let alone your opening paragraphs. Take yourself as an example – think about when you read content online – do you scan through as quickly as you can to find something relevant to what you’re searching for? Is the answer yes? We thought so. You only then stop and read the content properly when you’ve seen something which piques your interest against your search query. This is why creating engaging website copy is so important, as scanning web copy is something we all do!
Creating great copy takes time and practice and experience certainly counts for a lot. Remember that with practice and the right insights, it’s certainly possible to create great copy that connects with your audience and conveys the right message.
It’s important to remember that copy is an art form. Personal preference is a huge factor, and not everyone will respond to your content how you want them to. If you keep your audience central to all your decisions, at the end of the day all you can do is your best to try and ensure those people resonate with your content (any extra readers you can grab along the way are a bonus!).
So, to help you aim to create effective and engaging website copy, let’s take a look at our 10 top tips…
As mentioned, you’ve only got a minimal amount of time to gain the attention of your readers. Therefore, get straight to the point. To keep the search engines happy too, make sure your copy is at least 300 words and get some keywords in there – after all a key factor is people actually finding your content in the first place.
You may be thinking that it seems rather contradictory to say ‘get to the point’ followed by pages of at least 300 words, and granted, it is a tricky balance. One way to get around this is to follow point 2 below…
The intro of your copy is hugely important. As it’s the first piece of text that your audience will view, it needs to instantly draw them in. Spend time on getting your introduction right, writing different versions and even coming back to it once the copy is complete to see if it needs to be amended for maximum effect. You may want to convey all the important parts of your content in this first section, so your readers aren’t left wondering whether your content is relevant or not – and importantly, whether they should keep reading.
Asking a question or creating a scenario relevant to the purpose of the copy are two examples of how to present an opening paragraph, and put yourself in the shoes of your target audience too – this will help you to visualise what they may react well to.
Speak to your audience directly and make your copy personal to them. After all, the intention of the words you use is to convince and persuade visitors to buy into your products or services, so address them directly. Using third person in your prose is less likely to connect with them. Instead, use ‘you’ as it’s more effective than any other alternative.
Creating copy that’s personal allows you to make it relevant to your reader’s situation and also convey your own personality too. Visitors want to see that your brand or business has a distinctive personality via your site pages, instead of having to discover this on your social profiles.
Where applicable, stay clear of using jargon and industry phrases. Remember, you want to keep your copy clear and to the point. Pages that are too heavy with jargon can cause your visitors to lose interest very quickly, as they will spend more time trying to deconstruct the phrases rather than the actual copy.
In addition, although you might have a clear understanding of what all of these terms mean, this doesn’t mean to say that your audience will. Therefore, keep it simple and write copy in a language that all new visitors will understand.
A great way to make your copy engaging is to present your reader with a problematic situation which they might encounter and then resolve this with a solution.
This will make them connect with the values of your business and make them aware of how you can help. By finding common ground with a scenario that they are likely to face, you are clearly stating why they should invest time and money in you because of the solutions that you can provide.
In 2013, a study by Nielsen Norman Group found that when website content helps users to focus on areas of interest, they stop scanning and begin reading. A similar study in 2006 which looked at site viewer behavior, found that users tend to read web pages in an F-shaped pattern.
To make sure that your audience can find what they are looking for, use subheadings to break up the text. This will make it easier for your readers to locate and identify the specific information they need without having to scan large amounts of text. If they are scanning information in an F shape, it’s also likely that they will pick up on the individual subheadings too and begin reading in more detail.
If your site pages are consistent in using subheadings and result in solid information architecture, this is much more likely to maintain audience engagement.
While your content should be optimised, it’s also important to use captivating headings. Your page headings can be just as important as the first couple of sentences of your copy and it’s likely to be the first piece of text that your audience read.
An optimised heading will be favourable for the search engines, but you need to think about your audience too. How can you really gain their attention and entice them to continue reading your copy? The role of any heading should be to summarise what each page is about and also incentivise readers to stay on your site pages.
Another way to make your copy easier on the eye and turn a scanning visitor into an active reader is to use bullet points and lists. Again, this won’t apply to every single page of copy that you produce, but where appropriate it can make a real difference.
Bullet points will also break up the flow of your copy and create more white space, making it easier for site visitors to digest the information in front of them.
Following the fact we’ve already identified in that users will scan information well before they commit to reading it – you want to make sure your important messaging is as upfront as possible. If you’re selling something, let the readers know, or if you offer a certain type of service, again, it’s important to let readers know as soon as possible – the last thing you want is for them to deem your website irrelevant and skip off to a competitor.
A prominent focus of web copy is to try and create a desired audience reaction. This is why your calls to action are fundamental. Regardless of whether you’re creating copy for your home, resources, about us or services page, you need to add these in where appropriate.
You may wish to add smaller and distinct actions along the way, such as ‘buy now’, but it’s worth including a stronger call to action at the end of each page of your copy.
Similar to your word count, don’t overdo it with the amount of calls to action you include. Too many will give the wrong impression and confuse your audience as they will be presented with a number of instructions.
Use active language to clearly tell your readers what you want them to do. Words such as ‘register’, ‘call’ and of course ‘buy’ are ideal in this situation. Also make your call to action simple to view on each page so that it can be easily identified.
Web copy can be extremely powerful, so remember the message that you are trying to convey to your audience at all times.
Write with your audience in mind and see if you can put yourself in their shoes and think about what you would expect to see from the site you are writing for. Remember, effective copy that draws an audience in and maintains engagement has a direct impact on customer relations and conversions.
Thanks for (hopefully) taking the time to read this post! If you’ve got any other ideas for making your website copy more effective and engaging, please add them in the comments section below.