Writing copy for your new website

So, you’ve finally nailed down the design, production is underway, your new website is coming together just the way you planned.

And now you start thinking about the copy? Here are some of our tips to help you write better copy for the web.

As web designers, we often find ourselves giving the same advice to our clients, so here is a list of our top tips for writing copy for the web.

Not all copy is created equal

Writing copy for the web requires a different approach from writing content for printed brochures, documents and publications. This is probably the most overlooked problem when writing for the web.

  • Over-the-top marketing usually found on printed brochures will drive traffic away from even the best designed website.
  • Printed material often sets out all the important facts and summarizes at the end, with a website it should be the opposite, summarize and then serve up the details.
  • People will often take the time to read printed material, whereas on the web visitors usually scan the site, deciding quickly if the content is relevant to them, which leads us to the next point…

Keep it short

Use less words.

Try to keep the copy on a page short and to the point. Your website is competing with other sites for a visitor’s attention. There is a very short period in which the reader decides if the content on the page is what they’re looking for and even if it is, it’s very likely that the visitor will scan the content, picking out the most relevant points.

  • Summarize what the page is about at the start of the page.
  • Organize the copy into short, easy to read paragraphs. No one likes to read long blocks of text.
  • Use lists to simplify key features and reinforce key points.
  • Breaking long pages of text up into several pages can sometimes make the page more readable, providing you’re not repeating the content (which could be detrimental for search engine optimization).
  • Understand that not everyone has the time or ability to read long passages of text.

Recognize your readers

Understand your industry and your target visitor. Are they young, old, working, retired, at school? Does the visitor have the education level required to understand what you are saying? Would your audience appreciate flowery, descriptive writing or a more straight-to-the-point approach?

  • Research your potential audience wherever possible.
  • Keep the information at a level where everyone can understand it.
  • Write factually, visitors can usually detect spin, and can easily click away.

Write for humans, optimize for search engines

Optimizing the copy for search engines is important, but it’s much more important to make the content interesting for your visitors. In fact the more interesting the content is to visitors, the more likely it is that people will link to it and the better your search engine results will be.

  • If you write for humans first while thinking about search engines in the background, you’ll end up with much more traffic.
  • Try to include a variety of keywords but avoid repeating keyword phrases more than three times throughout the page and keep it readable to humans.
  • On shorter, top-level pages, don’t repeat keyword phrases at all.

Content as a living organism

There are many times when the content of a website is static and there’s just no reason to update it. But try to think of the content as a living organism. It needs to grow and develop, just as your business grows and changes. Keeping your copy up-to-date will provide greater relevance to your visitors and will better allow your story to unfold.

  • The use of a Content Management System makes it easy to keep your content fresh.
  • Fresh copy will demonstrate greater relevance within your industry.
  • New content in a blog or forum is a great way to build community around your website.

Finally, hire a professional

If you’re spending money to design and build a beautiful website, and spending money to drive traffic to your website, then it makes sense to consider hiring a professional copy writer. A good writer will cost around $50 to $100 per hour, depending on experience and the type of writing that you need them to do.

In summary, keep it short, keep it simple and keep it interesting and engaging.