A gorgeous website can attract your web visitors to look you over, but you make deep personal connections through your writing for the web.
Easy-to-navigate design, attractive images and colors, and clear writing are an unbeatable combination to deliver your message and entire your visitors to become clients.
Does your website work for you? Does it —
- bring in prospects?
- convert them to clients?
- engage them to come back for more?
Carefully crafted, the writing on your website will attract new prospects, engage the visitors who want more, and connect with your ideal clients for lasting relationships.
Your website speaks for you 24/7. If it doesn’t deliver your message in a clear and engaging way, it will send your web visitors away.
The key to effective web writing is to understand that reading on the web differs greatly from reading in print. In writing for the web, you need to take that reading experience into account. I don’t know about you, but big blocks of unbroken text make my eyes water, make me lose my place on the page, and make me think, “I just can’t.”
Writing for the Web
If you’re a writer by habit, then what you know from print writing will be useful, but it takes some tweaking of the shape and texture of the text to communicate online.
Reader on a Hunt
Web usability studies have shown that readers give you 10 seconds or less to provide what they’re looking for — or a clear path to it, says web usability expert Jakob Nielsen in How Long Do Users Stay on Web Pages? SEO experts explain that people are following the “scent of information” (SEO And The Scent Of Information), like a dog on a hunt. They want to know:
- Where am I?
- Where can I go from here?
- Will this link help me reach my goal?
Effective web writing helps make that scent easy to follow on every page of your site. Remember, your readers don’t always — or even most of the time — come into your site through the home page. More likely it’s a blog post or a landing page, particularly if they’ve come through a search engine or online ad. Make sure your reader always knows what to do next.
What do we want? Information! When do we want it? 5 seconds ago!
The challenge of online writing is to persuade your readers to read the page. These elements that make a compelling argument to “read me.”
An Enticing Headline
The headline pulls your reader from somewhere else. It might be from a search engine results page, social media, or elsewhere on your site. Headlines attract by promising a specific benefit (that they follow through on), dished up with a side of curiosity.
Once on the page, readers skim. Jakob Nielsen found, “On the average Web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely.” Subheads give a point-by-point overview of the article so that readers can skim for the meaning.
Simple language doesn’t mean dumbing down the material. Instead, it makes your information easy to digest. Hoa Loranger wrote, “even highly educated readers crave succinct information that is easy to scan, just like everyone else.” Simple language penetrates a reader’s attention, often before they’re aware of reading it.
Plenty of White Space
Short paragraphs (4-6 lines at most) and manageable column widths (4-10 words wide) help the reader absorb the material and reduce eye strain.
Images break up the gray, giving readers’ eyes a rest, as well as illustrating the content. They can also set the mood. (For tips on using copyright-safe images on your site, see Stop! Check the Image Copyright before You Post.
Bold and Italics
If it’s not overused, putting important phrases in bold or italics can make them stand out and give the reader a quick idea of what’s important.
Numbered and bulleted lists are easy to digest. (See 7 Tips for Presenting Bulleted Lists in Digital Content for advice on using lists well.)
Your web visitors may not read every word of your post or page, but if they get what they’re looking for, they’ll remember that you delivered. And if what they do read provides enough value, they may go back and read the whole thing in depth.
The Right Writing for Your Website
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a few words can put a picture into context and explain how it improves the reader’s life.
Quality web writing completes the picture and connects you with your ideal client.
If you need help making your website connect with busy readers, let’s talk about how I can help.