I’ve been doing a lot of website writing lately. Writing for the web is a different discipline than other kinds of marketing writing, so I’ve been researching and thinking about guidelines for writing website copy.
Two caveats: I’m not going into page design, calls to action, and so on – just the copy. And, I’m focused on B2B technology marketing, which often has a great deal of technical information to convey in a short time. This makes writing website copy even more challenging.
1. Use your reader’s vocabulary, not yours.
No one landing on your website really cares that you’re pioneering a new industry term, or that you call this a widget and that a gadget. Use industry-standard terminology when you describe what you do. If they feel like they’re reading a foreign language or have to steep themselves in your stuff before they ‘get it,’ they’re likely to just click away.
2. No page is an island.
For any website page you’re writing, you have to ask yourself how the reader got to the page – and keep that in mind when writing.
– From an AdWords campaign? What were the search keywords and ad copy? You’ll need to reference those on the page.
– From organic SEO? What terms are people using to reach that page? (Hint: use Google Analytics)
– Linked from other pages? Don’t repeat things they just read – they clicked to this page for a reason so help them accomplish it.
3. Don’t include the kitchen sink.
This is the hard part in larger organizations, where everyone has something special they want to highlight. This might be a recent award the company won, or some new feature they have added, or a pet phrase. And this stuff probably belongs somewhere on the website, but not in the most important or most visited landing page. Keep those pages simple, easy to navigate, and clear. The more things you throw on it, the fewer things your reader is likely to actually read or remember.
4. Keep sentences short and syntax clear.
Reading on the web isn’t usually a leisurely experience. Make it simple for people to scan the text quickly. This means short sentences, short paragraphs, and clear syntax. If you are accustomed to writing for other formats, you may have to edit and revise a few times to simplify the text. I know I do.
5. Keep the end in mind on every page.
What does your reader want to do when they land on this web page? What do you want them to do? Keep those objectives in mind as you write the text. I wrote about this recently in a post What are the top tasks for your business website.
6. Be ruthless.
I live in a small house, so I’m ruthless about getting rid of stuff I don’t need. Writing for the website is similar – if something isn’t doing its job, it should go. And, you have to keep revisiting the site (with testing and analytics) to see what’s working and what’s not.
Do you have any favorite web writing tips to contribute? I’m always open to suggestions!