The Give and Take of Web Writing
You’ve heard that your writing needs to be conversational. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing sales copy or a blog post or even a B2B brochure. If you write like you’re talking to an actual person, your words will have more impact.
Web writing takes the idea of conversational copy one step further.
You’re not just writing conversationally … you’re actually in a conversation.
And that means listening as much — or more — than you speak.
A good content marketing plan or online sales funnel is built around listening to the audience, writing copy that addresses the audience in a way that resonates, and then listening some more.
Once you master the art of the online conversation, your writing will be more on target and your results will keep getting better and better.
Listen First …
A lot of businesses miss the mark online because they talk at their readers instead of talking with them.
These businesses are left scratching their heads, wondering why, when they thought they said all the right things, their results are less than stellar.
People want to do business with companies that are authentic, transparent, consistent, and that nurture a sense of community among their audience. You can’t do that from a soapbox.
To succeed online, you have to deliver what your readers expect. And that means approaching your writing — whether it’s a sales letter or a blog post — like it’s part of a larger conversation.
Fortunately, the Internet has made listening to your audience easier than ever. Three of my favorite places to listen online are …
Social Media: Facebook and Twitter give you a direct line to your audience. You can find out what questions your audience is asking, what complaints they have, what they are worried about, and what they think about your topic, industry, or product.
Amazon Reviews: Amazon has a version of almost every product imaginable. Which means you can have a look at what people are saying about products or topics that are similar to the one you’re planning to write about.
Industry Blogs: Visit industry blogs and read through the comments to learn more about your target audience and what they think.
When observing your audience, listen for …
- Their tone when talking about specific products and services
- Questions they’re asking
- Problems they have
- The language they use
You’ll be able to use what you learn to come up with ideas for your writing and to talk to your reader in a way that resonates.
… Then Write …
Once you know what your audience needs — what problems they are facing, what solutions they are looking for, what topics they are eager to learn about — you’re ready to craft an answer.
This could be as simple as a tweet or as in-depth as a 16-page promotion. Whatever you write, write it like you’re talking to a single person. Remember, you’re having a one-on-one conversation with a friend that you can — and want — to help.
Two things go into being a good online conversationalist: Clarity and ease of reading.
To enhance the clarity of what you write, set a clear goal in terms of reader response. Do this before you start to write. Then, when you are done writing, make sure everything in your piece supports that goal. A few special considerations …
- Write a headline that lets your reader know you’re talking directly to him.
- Use your subheads to tell a brief version of your larger story.
- Use visuals that will add clarity. In many cases, a graph or chart can make a point better than words can. Watch for those opportunities.
To make your copy easier to read, there are dozens of tricks you can call on. My favorites include:
- Using bulleted or numbered lists whenever they make sense.
- Dumping tired clichés for fresher images.
- Keeping most sentences and paragraphs short, but making sure the length is varied from one to the next.
- Incorporating personal stories that illustrate my points.
- Using formatting that conveys my inflection.
- Reading the piece out loud as part of the editing process.
Just applying these six tricks alone will make your writing much stronger by making it effortless to read.
… And Listen Again …
When you write online, you don’t just shoot your writing out into space and call it a day. Like any kind of writing, there are ways you can measure response. The difference with being an online writer is that you can get a lot more feedback from your readers. You can track things like how your readers found you, how long they stayed on the page, and whether or not they clicked the links you wanted them to.
Depending on what you’re writing, you may also receive comments, which you should reply to. Or you may get email responses from your audience.
All this information will point you in the direction of what you should write next … and how you can improve what you’ve already written.
When you listen, write, and then listen some more, you’ll find yourself overflowing with ideas for new projects and to improve existing projects. You’ll deliver better results to your client … and earn a lot more fees for yourself.
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 »