10 Essential Elements of Online Copy: Part 1
The Internet has become so integral to marketing that these days, nearly every copywriter you meet is an online copywriter. And if you’re just entering the field, understanding how to write online will be essential to your success.
Achieving this is made more complicated by the fact that the world of online marketing changes rapidly. But even with the fast pace of new developments, you’ll find there are several things about online writing that remain the same. In this two-part series, I’ll share 10 essential elements you should always consider no matter what kind of online piece you’re writing. So, let’s get started with the first five …
1. Provide Your Visitors Immediate Focus.
According to the Nielson Norman Group, the average web page visit lasts less than a minute. Most visitors leave within 10 to 20 seconds. But those who stay, stay for much longer because you’ve caught their interest. The trick to a successful web page is to be clear from the start what the page is about.
Your visitors don’t want to spend time figuring out if you have the information they’re looking for … they’ll do a quick scan of the page’s headline and lead. If it isn’t clear what the page is about from that, most visitors will leave.
For example, if you were into stargazing and wanted to find out what you should be watching for in the night skies, this headline over at Space.com would probably hold your interest:
“Look Up! 13 Must-See Stargazing Events in 2013”
If the headline had gone for a more clever angle like …
“Skylights You Don’t Want to Miss”
… you may very well have left before figuring out if the article was for you.
When you’re clear about the point of a page, you’ll still have many visitors that leave quickly, but that’s okay. They’re leaving because they recognize they’re in the wrong place. The important thing is you’ll have more visitors from your target audience decide to stay and explore your site.
2. Cut Ruthlessly.
The world of online marketing moves fast. And that means the pacing of your writing is more important than ever.
When I finish this article, I’ll read back through it and cut anything I can that won’t affect the points I'm making and that won’t diminish your experience reading it. I’ll look for ways to shorten sentences and trim paragraphs. I’ll look for list sequences I can turn into bullet points. I’ll look for ways to break longer paragraphs into parts.
When you edit your writing, do everything you can to make it effortless to read. That starts with cutting.
3. Always Include a Call-to-Action.
Nick Usborne refers to the Web as the ultimate direct-response medium. Every page should have a goal and it should be clear what that goal is.
- If you want your reader to click an order button, everything you write should guide her to that end.
- If you want him to sign up for an e-newsletter, then your focus becomes how to best get him to do that.
- If you want her to vote in a contest, make that the aim.
Remember to ask your reader to take action. Many people will, but only if prompted.
4. Give SEO Its Due.
The world of online marketing has reached the point where every bit of copy you write for the Web needs an SEO component. If search engines can’t find your page or figure out what it’s about, then your ideal visitors will also have a hard time finding it.
Do thorough keyword research to guide your content creation. Use a focus keyword in the headline, title, and Meta description for your page. Use your keywords in the lead, image descriptions, and subheads. But … and this is a big “but” … make sure your keywords integrate seamlessly into your content or you will lose visitors.
5. Capture a Unique Voice.
You may have heard me say this before. As a web writer, your best Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is “I am me.” No one else has your specific blend of experiences, insights, and voice. The Internet is crowded with voices. If you aren’t willing to be yourself — or to work to capture your client’s unique voice and tone — what you’re saying is more easily ignored or lost in the noise.
Establishing your voice is critical to building relationships online. The Internet is a very personal medium — you have the opportunity to interact and connect one-on-one with members of your audience and others have the chance to witness those interactions. If you seem false or contrived, you won’t hold readers for long.
Writing online shares similarities with other types of marketing writing, but if you don’t pay attention to the differences, your writing will fall flat. You’ll lose visitors and that will hurt your results. Tune in next week, and I’ll share five more essentials to set your online writing apart.
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 »