What It Takes To Be A Great Web Writer

Christina Gillick here again for The Writer’s Life.

I hope you took my advice yesterday and started a blog so you can practice your web writing and build your web presence.

As I mentioned, you can start writing web copy now ― you don’t have to know everything ― then increase your knowledge a little each day.

In support of incremental improvement, I’d like to teach you a few basic web-writing concepts you’ll need to know. The more you practice these concepts, the better you’ll be.

If you spend some time developing web-writing skills that capture and convert online visitors, you’ll be miles ahead of everyone else.

(I’ve adapted these strategies from a module in the Wealthy Web Writer members’ area by Mindy McHorse.)

1. You must know your audience.

Writing for the Web is different than writing for print because online tracking software, like Google Analytics, allows you to see who’s coming to your website, where they’re coming from, and what they’re interested in.

So you can tailor your message to the reader, using copy that will interest them, appeal directly to them, and get them to buy.

With tracking software and instant payment processors, you can see if people are buying what you’re selling ― or not ― almost immediately. And, if not, you can make changes to your copy just as fast.

Direct mail, on the other hand, is slow and you have to wait weeks for results. Plus, the cost to make changes and mail again is high.

2. Write conversationally.

One of the most important skills of any copywriter, in any niche ― including web writing ― is the ability to write conversationally.

To do this, you should write like you’re talking to a friend. Don’t worry about big words and confusing sentences or writing like you were taught in English class. The more you sound ― and write ― like a regular person, the better you’ll do as a web writer.

Mindy says, “A good way to test your writing for conversation-ease is to read it aloud. If it’s stuffier than something you’d say in casual conversation, you need to trim it down and make it plain.”

3. Aim to write at an eighth-grade reading level.

This tip goes along with #2. It’s all about keeping it simple. Use simple words and short sentences. Write paragraphs that are only a few sentences long. Use subheads so your reader can easily skim your copy.

Your readers aren’t dumb, but they are busier than ever. If your copy isn’t easy to read, they’ll leave.

Keep your copy easy to read, and you’ll find more people will sign up for your offers and buy what you’re selling.

To find out the reading level of your copy, check out this article about the Flesch-Kincaid Grading Scale.

4. Be absolutely clear on the purpose of your copy.

Why are you writing what you’re writing?

To get the answer, look to your client. Most of the time, they will tell you the goals for your copy. These could include selling something, getting someone to click on a link, or to inform your reader of something. If your client doesn’t tell you the goals for your copy, ask them.

As Mindy points out, “Unless you know the purpose behind your copy, it’s nearly impossible to write effectively.”

And, almost all web writing ends in an action. Know what that action will be before you start writing …

Autoresponders ask the reader to click a link. For example, in this email there are several links to articles on AWAIonline.com where you can get more information.

Landing pages ask the reader to leave their email address in exchange for a PDF or other offer.

Website home pages try to get the reader to contact the company, buy something, or visit another page on the website.

Even blog posts ask the reader to leave a comment or share the article with their friends. For example, you can comment on this article below.

So before you start writing, know why you’re writing and what you want the reader to do.

These four tips will get you well on your way to writing great web copy, but I’d like to add one more:

Set up your own blog and practice your web writing daily.

I recommend Wealthy Web Writer to get all the information you need about web writing, and your blog will be a place to apply what you learn.

Then, when you’re ready to start converting your blog visitors to paying clients, you’ll need to add a few more pages to your website.

Check out this article where I outline the pages you should have to convince potential clients to hire you.

Here’s a word of caution, however … don’t get caught up in the technical side of your website. The first step is writing the best copy you can. You are, after all, a web writer. Not a web designer. When you have your copy written, there are tons of articles on Wealthy Web Writer that will show you how to turn your website into a blog and add the pages you need.

Or you can find someone on the Wealthy Web Writer forum, like me, that would be glad to give you some help to get your website in the condition it needs to be in.

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »

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Published: March 20, 2012

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