We’ve said before that good content is one of the key factors for online success, but it bears repeating: Writing good copy is essential. You don’t have to be an English major with an excessive vocabulary to write well for the web, but you do need to follow some basic tips to make your copy stand out (and be seen).
Guidelines for Writing Good Copy
1. Keep Your Paragraphs Short
Giant blocks of text tend to be daunting. A few sentences on a single idea are usually sufficient to inform without overwhelming the reader. While we’re at it, don’t let the sentences themselves run on and on without an end in sight… Keep them short without being too choppy.
2. Hook ‘em With Headlines.
Attention-grabbing headlines have been part of the media’s toolbox for decades. Think of what grabs your eye when you’re standing in line at the grocery store, scanning the tabloids. Try to be catchy and a little intriguing in your headlines, and imply that there’s so much more if the reader just continues to read.
3. Check Your Spelling
Seriously. A misspelling goes a long way toward ruining your credibility; after all, if you can’t be bothered to spell check, is your page really worth reading?
Misspellings also mess up the flow of your writing and tend to be jarring to the reader; after a misspelled word, some readers will start subconsciously spell-checking your sentences instead of simply reading them, which means they’re not soaking up your awesome message. They’re fixating on your screw-ups.
4. Write For Your Target Audience
How do they talk? What do they do for a living? How much money do they make? Think hard about the group to whom you’re marketing, and be sure to stay on their level.
Modern web customers respond best to content that essentially holds up a mirror; the more like them you are, the more likely they are to trust you (and buy from you).
5. Focus on Your Niche
Keeping the info relevant to your niche market, whatever it is. Don’t try to suck in anyone and everyone on the web as a potential customer; instead, keep to the keywords that define and highlight your niche.
Oh, and for the rah-rah part: people can generally tell when you’re spewing too much sales drivel. If you say “This is the best product EVER, in the history of the world, and you should BUY IT now now NOW!!!” then the average user will respond with a healthy dose of skepticism. Stay conversational and realistic while also being positive.
6. Remember How We as Humans Tend to Read things
For starters, most people read the first few words of a paragraph and then decide whether to stick around or move on to something more interesting. We follow our instincts on this, and our instincts tell us to bail out if we’re not engaged pretty quickly.
7. Don’t Make Stuff up
Don’t make false promises, fake testimonials, bogus endorsements, artificial claims or outright lies. Dishonesty will leave you with nothing but unsatisfied customers and a blackened reputation, not to mention potential lawsuits, bans and other unpleasantness.
No matter how badly you want to promise the world to your customers, stick to the truth. After all, the truth is pretty darned good, right? Writing good copy is not rocket science.
This is not a term paper for your college lit class; it’s a page of content that illustrates what you have to offer and invites potential customers to learn more (and, of course, spend some money on your offering).