For quite some time now, quality of web content has been what has separated the great websites from the good. Above and beyond largely every other approach to marketing, content marketing is known to have near limitless and universal power and influence.
Nevertheless, there is one incredibly important factor when it comes to producing effective and efficient web content that so many writers continue to overlook – the reader. One of the most critical things to remember when it comes to web copy is the way in which it is approached, viewed and digested in an entirely different manner to print copy. Generally speaking, consumers read print copy they come across from top to bottom. By contrast, web copy either tends to be glanced over or scanned – rarely read comprehensively.
Which is precisely why it is of crucial importance to approach web copy in an entirely different manner than you would traditional print copy. You have an extremely short time in which to get across a convincing and persuasive argument, meaning that your approach must be uniquely strategic and mindful. Working with web developers who are good at SEO and content marketing can help, but if you want to add your own voice, you need to get involved personally.
So with this in mind, what follows is a brief overview of 10 essential tips on how to write effective and valuable content for the web:
1 – Embrace the Hunt
First of all, it can be extremely useful to begin looking at your target audience a little like a pack of predators. The reason being that those visiting your website are not just there randomly or for the sake of it, but are rather on the hunt for something they want or need. As far as they are concerned, they need to immediately get the impression that they are in the right place to find what they are looking for. Just as a predator isn’t inclined to waste time when looking to find its next meal, consumers have no interest in wasting their time on dead end websites. The long and short of it therefore being that if you cannot give the hunter the immediate impression that they are in the right place, they will simply take their hunt elsewhere.
2 – Get to the Point
One of the things effective web copy shares with traditional printed copy is the way in which it is important to put the most important information right at the top. Following an essay-like approach really isn’t going to get you anywhere – in this instance you effectively need your conclusions and most important points first, followed by the relevant explanation. Research has shown that you have literally no more than a few seconds to grab the attention of the reader and ensure that they do not make a beeline for your rivals. If there is something important to say, it must be said first of all and be obvious with nothing more than a quick glance – a solid example being set here by a local painting company in Washington, DC.
3 – Don’t Get Too Creative or Clever
Given the fact that the average web user will only ever give you a very limited amount of their time, they simply do not have time to hang around trying to figure out what it is you are talking about. Which is precisely why it is generally inadvisable to fall into the trap of trying to be too clever or creative with the content you produce. It could be that if they were to hang around long enough to read everything on your page, they would not only get the point, but would be impressed and convinced. The only problem being that as they probably won’t stick around long enough for this to happen, they will simply disappear without a trace. When it comes to web content targeting the modern consumer, it is better to stick to short and concise statements that immediately make sense to anyone.
4 – Use Conversational Language
Still on the subject of simplicity, it is also important not to fall into the trap of approaching things with too much formality. While there are various instances in business and life in general where extremely formal English is required, this certainly is not one of them. The reason being that when you come across a website that features nothing but overly formal and stuffy English, this is the exact impression you get of the company behind it – stuffy. Of course there are certain exceptions to the rule, but generally speaking it is a good idea to stick to conversational language. If you are not entirely sure how to go about this, think about how you would speak to a friend of a friend.
5 – Avoid The Jargon
One of the most common mistakes made by so many brands and businesses is that of using industry jargon and complicated language as a means by which to try and impress readers. The only problem being that not only does doing so run the risk of confusing and alienating many of your readers, but also coming across as pretentious to others. It’s not as if you necessarily have to dumb everything down to a remedial level and in doing so dilute your authority. Instead, it is simply a case of ensuring that every reader that comes your way can fully understand what it is you are saying, without having to run anything through a translator.
6 – Use Familiar Words
If you are trying to appeal to any given target audience, it is important that you write using words that are familiar to them. For example, if you are trying to sell your audience members cheap flights to Paris, you need to be as simple and matter of fact as possible when it comes to your choice of words. The reason being that when you think about the kinds of searches your audience members are carrying out, it is unlikely that they will use phrases like ‘cost-effective flights’ or ‘affordable flights’. Instead, the overwhelming majority will be looking for ‘cheap flights’ as that is exactly what they want. It’s one thing to get creative with words as a means by which to generate interest, but to make the mistake of moving away from familiar words could cost you dearly.
7 – Punchy Paragraphs
The point about keeping things brief and concise really cannot be emphasized highly enough. The same also goes for the way in which written content should be structured and presented. Just as the language you use should be kept simple and to the point, it should also be presented by way of short and punchy paragraphs. Research has shown that readers across the board respond infinitely more positively to written content that is presented in short paragraphs with regular breaks or mixed media. By contrast, the very sight of a web page crammed with nothing but unbroken text is usually enough to send visitors heading for the hills.
8 – Meaning and Value
One of the most important rules to follow when it comes to creating web copy is to make sure that absolutely every word has genuine meaning and value. If it doesn’t, it really has no place being on your page. Once again, it all comes down to the limited time each reader is willing to spend on any given web page. If they do not get the impression that what they are reading is of genuine meaning and value, chances are they won’t waste their time reading any further. Adding extra content to your website simply for the sake of bulking it out will only ever dilute its overall value and influence.
9 – Completeness of Information
There are certain instances when and where leaving people curious and slightly confused can be an effective marketing strategy. When it comes to web content on the other hand, it’s quite to the contrary. You have such an incredibly short amount of time to gain the attention and trust of your target audience members that you cannot then leave them with unanswered questions. If you do, it’s highly likely that they will not bother seeking the answers to said questions with you – they will instead head to one of your rivals. No matter what it is you have to say and how many important points you need to get across, you need to ensure that the information you provide is complete. Which is precisely where the previous point with regard to meaning and value once again comes into the equation – anything that does not add meaning and value to your content should be substituted for something that does.
10 – Site-Wide Arrivals
Last but not least, one of the biggest mistakes to avoid at all costs is that of assuming that every visitor to your website will arrive via your primary homepage. So many webmasters all over the world invest enormously in making their primary homepages nothing less than spectacular, while totally ignoring the quality of their other landing pages. Even if most of your traffic arrives in a predictable manner, you still have to think about those who gain their first impression of you via different pages. Every disappointed visitor that heads elsewhere represents not only a potentially missed conversion, but perhaps rather severe damage to your reputation.