8 Tips for Better Web Writing
Simply getting started is often the biggest problem web writers face when presented with a new project.
Perhaps you’ve been in that situation … You feel overwhelmed by the task of writing great content that achieves all of your client’s goals, so you hesitate and delay.
Keep in mind that the goal of any good web writing is to generate content with a strong marketing message that doesn’t appear forced or awkward.
The best way to do this is by sticking to the basics — and by starting your project as soon as possible.
Below, you’ll find eight fundamental strategies to help you craft good web writing and ensure that your clients keep coming back to you.
Tip #1: Never lose sight of the “Big Three”
All good web writing consists of three core elements:
- Core emotions
- A solid understanding of your target market
You can’t do a good job with the first two unless you have the last one. This means every project should kick-off with research about your prospect. Uncover details like age, sex, income, geographical location, and family status to start. Figure out whether you’re dealing with repeat buyers or first-timers.
Then, dig deeper.
Once you know your audience, it becomes easier to understand why they buy things, beyond practical reasons. This is where you look for core emotions that will drive the sale. It’s also where you’ll recognize which benefits resonate the most with your target demographic.
Tip #2: Get emotional
Understanding the core emotions that drive your prospect to buy isn’t the same thing as writing to them. Good web writing should provoke those very emotions, but in a positive way.
For example, let’s say you’re writing about a walk-in bathtub, and your audience consists of older folks who are gradually losing their mobility.
Two major benefits to this product are its safety and ease of use. Paint a picture with your words of the independence and satisfaction your prospect will gain, rather than focusing on the problems he will avoid.
There is a time and place for fear-based statements and “Here’s what you’ll avoid” remarks. But, especially when it comes to product sales online, emphasize the positive. Choose words like always over never and tell inspiring stories. When possible, pepper in enthusiastic testimonials.
Tip #3: Have a conversation with one person
Always think of your web copy as a conversation with one other person. This means writing in second person and using the word “you” so your prospect knows you’re speaking directly to him or her.
This keeps your copy to the point and makes each of your visitors feel like the content was written specifically to them instead of to an all-encompassing group of online visitors.
Use the AWAI “bar stool” technique to make your online writing more conversational. The easiest way to do this is to read your copy aloud and edit it until it sounds like something you’d say in a face-to-face conversation, as if you were chatting with someone at a bar.
Tip #4: Make it snappy
Good web writing, like any good writing, is concise and to the point. Online readers don’t want to wade through long sentences with multiple adjectives. Even if you have a lengthy list of benefits and features you want to share, the average web reader doesn’t have time to wade through long pages of copy.
Keep your copy tight and to the point by using short sentences (16 words or less) and simple words. Aim for paragraphs that are only two or three sentences long. Every now and then, add a punchy, one-line sentence to give your writing rhythm.
One of the best ways to keep your copy short and snappy is to write at an eighth-grade level or lower. If you use Microsoft Word, you can measure this by going into the Options menu and selecting the “Proofing” tab. Then, check the “Show readability statistics” box.
After you run a spell-check, a box called “Readability Statistics” pops up. It includes the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level. Aim for an 8.0 or less.
Tip #5: Use lots of white space
It’s a daunting thing to click on a web link and see a hundred lines of text. Even the most fascinating subject can be a hard read if it’s too copy-heavy.
Instead, break up long blocks of text with page breaks, headings, bullets, and graphics. All of these serve as visual cues about the information you’re sharing. They help certain elements of your copy to stand out, guiding the reader to take note of specific content.
Tip #6: Demonstrate credibility
Even the best web writing can be brushed off as unimportant if it’s not presented credibly.
Make sure your copy includes multiple credibility-boosters. Glowing testimonials and easy-to-spot contact information go a long way in making page content appear trustworthy. It’s also a good idea to post reviews and awards.
Sometimes, even mentioning a flaw or downside to your product or service helps boost credibility. People appreciate honesty.
Tip #7: Study writers with strong voices
If you want to practice good web writing, it’s smart to spend time with successful online writers. Make it a point to read articles, blogs, and other content crafted by strong writers.
When possible, get to know them. If there’s no way you’ll ever connect in person, at least connect via social media. Twitter and Facebook are excellent for presenting a well-rounded picture of other professionals. You can find out what books they read, what conferences they attend, and what gurus they follow.
Tip #8: Review, review, review
Keep in mind that every second of attention you get from an online visitor is precious. Make an effort to write your content several days before you have to submit it. This gives you the chance to step back and take a break from it so you do the final review with fresh eyes.
By sticking to these basic strategies for good web writing, you’ll significantly boost your chances of writing content that works.
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