Guide to Writing Great Web Copy

Nov 23, 2011   //   by John Britsios   //   Copywriting, Press Releases, SEO Blog  //  9 Comments

Writing great web copy is no less a skill than an art form.  The main theme to keep in mind is “write with the reader in mind first.”  People online are looking for information, and they want it yesterday.

If your document is even just a little too complex, your readers have one more reason to visit another site.  Therefore, writing with the idea of keeping things simple is important as well.

Aside from those two general guidelines, there are a few more specific rules to closely follow.  Following these rules will maximize the appeal of your content to your readers:

1. Ensure your articles are easy to read.

Web readers have short attention spans and little patience.  If your article is too complex or dense, they’ll quickly move on to another site.  On the web, “easy to read” generally means the following:

  1. Headlines are 45-64 characters and contain one of your keywords;
  2. Your keywords seamlessly blend in with the surrounding text;
  3. Sentences are 60-70 characters each;
  4. Paragraphs are 135-210 characters (including spaces), but ideally are 180-210 characters;
  5. Paragraphs are a maximum of three sentences long.

Effective online writing is all about making your idea as simple to understand as is possible for your readers.  Also, be sure to always avoid fancy words and unnecessary adjectives and phrases.

2.  Use headlines with a logical flow to keep your reader’s attention.

The title of your article should be attention grabbing and unique.  “How To” and “Top Ten” type titles are currently popular, but don’t be afraid to experiment.

Additionally, most online readers do not read every word of an article.  The reader should be able to understand your entire article by only reading its’ sub-headings.

By answering the question, “What’s in it for me?” for your reader, you are making your article appealing to your audience.

3.  Ensure your content contains calls to action.

All online content is ultimately about selling.  The content may not be selling a product or service, but every site wants visitors to return.

In order to grow your traffic, place a call to action on every page.  Here are a few quick tips for effective calls to action:

  • Place them on the front and center of your page if possible;
  • If not, make them very noticeable;
  • Develop an emotional connection with your visitors;
  • Make sure to use urgent language;
  • Make them easy, requiring as few steps as is possible;
  • Add in a free offer;
  • Use statistics to increase your authority.

4.  Ensure your content is completely error-free.

If you’re not a great proofreader, find someone who is.  Readers may forgive one or two mistakes, but even these can distract attention from your primary message.

Google’s algorithm is also becoming increasingly sensitive to spelling and grammar errors.  This trend will probably only increase in the future.  Therefore, it’s important to start following this rule now.

5.  Always answer the visitor’s main question:  “What’s in it for me?”

If you don’t make the answer to this question obvious, your readers will leave in a hurry.  The first few words of your web copy must engage your readers.

A great way to scare away readers is by saying, “Hello and welcome to Company X!”  Does this introduction capture your attention?  Instead, try,“What if you could lose weight and eat any food you want?”

By answering, “What’s in it for me?” as quickly and simply as possible, you’ll catch your readers’ attention.  Once you’ve gained their attention, then you can start telling them information about your company.

By Following These Tips, You’re on Your way to Copywriting Success! 

The preceding tips were not all of the tips required to write great copy.  But, they are a great starting point.

By following these basic starting points, you’re well on your way to successfully writing copy that stands out on the web.

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John Britsios

John S. Britsios (aka Webnauts), founder and CEO of SEO Workers and Webnauts Net, is an Information Retrieval & Social Semantic Web Consultant, specializing in oblique search engine optimization, social media marketing, conversion rate optimization, web content accessibility and usability testing.Feel free to follow him on Twitter.

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  • satrap

    Fantastic guide John. I am not a native speaker/writer and I struggle a lot.

    “…Paragraphs are a maximum of three sentences long….” That’s one of the things I never paid attention to. I tend to write very long sentences and it never even crossed my minds that long sentences may be a disadvantage. Thanks for the tips John.

  • Steve says:

    I agree with you John. The web copy needs to be lively and creative content must be at the core of the content. But, I beg to differ when it comes to writing Press Releases and Informative article writing. The scope of using call to action highly reduces here.

  • Mac says:

    I think now a days hardly there is anyone who wants to spend sometime on the web to read lot of content. So, content must be short but very effective. It must leave an impact on the reader’s mind and persuade him to visit again. Short and impactful content is what I believe in.

  • John says:

    Hi John!

    Headline is very important when it comes to writing content. I always spend sometime thinking on an effective headline for my articles. I know I cannot use call to action in the headline but I try to make my headline to leave an impacting effect.

    Thanks for our tips,

  • Yoj says:

    Hey John,
    Since I am a web copy employee, they said that web copying is an easy task to be done cause we are simply just copying and paste some information from other authors. But they got it wrong, I am really been working copy writing for a year and it is not that simple task to be done. By the way, even though I am a little veteran in copy writing I had gained a bunch of guides from you. 😛

  • Jon Cooper

    Thought I’d add a quick tidbit on this subject – make sure your content is share-able. How many times I’ve come across a post I really wanted to share but couldn’t find any type of share button on the page, so I end up forgetting about it and moving on. Also, make sure the buttons are at the top & bottom of the page – it makes a MASSIVE difference.

  • @Mac I agree with mac. Nowadays, people who use the internet are not interested reading a small content. Maybe the other contents are not that interesting but contents have to be short and effective that the reader will get interested. Thank for posting this very important topic.

  • Ktechsol says:

    I agree with Jhon, Heading Tags very important for SEO point of view. H1 Tag palys very effective role in content.