As a journalist who has written for both print publications and online content, I’ve found the difference between print and web content is actually the reader.
You see a print reader is generally relaxed, sitting in a comfy chair with some spare time and less fatigued eyes. Whereas, online readers are usually attached to a work desk or utilising a small mobile device – they’re stressed, time poor and fatigued. Therefore, they don’t tend to read as much, instead they scan content and only take in ‘snack’ size pieces of information.
How to write for the online reader
Get to the point
Arrange your content with the most important information at the top, similar to how news articles and press releases are written, this is the best way to get to the point. The most important content is usually what your website page is about, for example, if it’s your home page it will have who, what, where and how your business/service/product operates.
Web copy needs to be:
- Concise – Think of it as half the word count of print publications. Keep your headings short (less than 10 words long) and discuss only one idea per paragraph. A paragraph of web copy is about 10 – 150 words long and you might have up to two paragraphs on one topic but only one idea per paragraph.
- Scannable – Use short sentences, bullet points, lists, highlight key words and underline hyperlinks.
- Credible – Your content needs to be accurate and trustworthy, so research your facts and figures. And triple check your spelling and grammar.
- Objective – Avoid obvious promotional writing or being too jargon heavy, ensure there is clear direction as to where the reader should go next to learn more, buy or contact you.
Keep it modern
How I can tell if a website is dated (aside from design) is it will read like a mission statement for the business! Your website copy is to tell the reader what’s in it for them – what solutions you can provide, what are the benefits of using your product and services and why should they choose you over your competitors.
Remember, it’s all about them. What you can do for them, how you can solve their problem. Ideally, only your ‘about us’ page should be about you and your mission statement.
TIP: Test your copy by reading content aloud and asking, ‘so what?’ Does this paragraph benefit a reader, client or customer?
Web copy is copywriting
I describe copywriting as ‘writing words that sell’. When writing to sell, try not to focus on the features, instead sell the benefits.
The features of accounting services might be – Tax planning with a qualified accountant
The benefits of accounting services could be – Freedom to concentrate on growing your business by letting us worry about your tax.
Turn your features into benefits for the reader and you’ll succeed two-fold, your content will be all about them and you’ll increase sales in your product or services. Regardless of your business or industry, or whether the purpose of your website is to persuade, sell, inform, enforce compliance or entertain, your website content should always be written with the reader in mind.