People love shiny things. The right image will capture your visitor’s gaze and will create a striking first impression. But then what? Words — that’s what. Your site is full of words, and you have to pick them carefully. Let’s review a few quick tips about writing for the Web.
Who Are You Writing For?
Writing is communicating. Just like you don’t talk to thin air (not often, at least, I hope), you’re not writing for “the Web.” You’re writing not even writing for “people” — you’re writing for a specific person.
How deep is this person into the subject you’re writing about? Is this a casual reader, or someone who knows their stuff? Build out a persona of the person you’re writing for – talk to them.
But They’re Not Going To Read It
I know you’re not going to read this post. Maybe you’ll skim through it, maybe you’ll look at the pictures, maybe you’ll even read three paragraphs. But if you’re like most people, you’re not going to read it top to bottom.
So if you have something important to tell your readers, you can say it more than once. You can make it BIG and bold, too — which is our next point.
Keep it Scannable (And Magical)
Mmmm, chocolate. If you’re reading this post in context, this sounds random. But chances are this is the first thing you noticed on the post — it popped right at you. That’s what scannable means: You can quickly look at the page and figure out where’s the stuff you’re looking for. So:
- Use bold text to highlight your keywords.
- Use bullets because they’re easy to read.
- Break up your text using headers.
Eye-tracking studies show how users look at your page — they start from the top-left, which is something to take into account when designing the page so it’s scannable. Don’t put the important stuff on the right!
Now let’s talk about magic again. There are some words which have an almost mystical effect on people. Take free for example — that sweet, sweet word. Also discount, and more. Use those terms carefully, but do use them. You can actually look into your Spam folder to get some ideas: I’m not saying you should spam people, but spam is built to attract attention and some of it is quite well-crafted.
Speaking of magic — humor is another kind of magic you can use. Don’t take yourself to seriously. Your text should have some sass — be playful! Don’t bore your readers to death.
Testing and Iterating
What’s cool about the Web is that it’s a two-way street. While your visitors are looking at your site, you’re looking right back at them, using Analytics. How long do they spend on the page? Where do they click? Where do they go once they’re done reading?
By gradually changing your text and wording, you can improve conversion rates and make people engage more with your page and your site. Don’t be afraid to try things out — go wild, experiment, see what works. You may be surprised.
The Most Important Part Is The Most Boring One, Too
Few things are more embarrassing than a typo on a crisp, professional-looking page. Proofread your text. Note that I didn’t write “spell-check” — read it yourself, maybe even read it out loud to see how it flows. There are things a spell checker won’t catch (many things, in fact).
So yes, you know what it says because you wrote it. Still — read it. Every word.
I saved the most important thing for the end. The unavoidable truth is that to write, you have to write. Your text may not be perfect; there may be typos despite your best intentions; perhaps you’ll have too many semicolons, even. But still, it will be your text, and you’ll say what you have to say.
Write first, edit later. And if you find editing too difficult at first, then simply write. You have to start somewhere — don’t let the rules and tips scare you away from communicating.
Good luck, and have fun!