If you’re a small business owner, knowing how to write persuasive web copy, or hiring people who do, is an essential skill in today’s highly interconnected and virtual marketplace.
I know when I’m writing my own copy, I always have one ultimate goal in mind: to connect with the reader and change them in some small way. Sometimes I am trying to get them to undertake a specific course of action. Other times I’m just trying to further educate them on a topic. Either way, the goal of connecting with a reader doesn’t change, no matter the client or the intended purpose of the content.
With that being said, here are a couple of time-tested tricks I have found work well when it comes to creating effective copy.
Always Open With Your Lead
In the old days of the newspaper business (which now, itself, just feels like an old business period), editors would often chide younger reporters by telling them to not “bury the lead” after reading one of their stories. And though the saying may be old, the advice is still excellent and as timely as ever.
Basically, not burying the lead means opening with your most important information at the beginning of the piece. If I am writing an article about how self-driving cars will save millions of lives in the future, I’m not going to hold my estimate of just how many people won’t die until the end. I’m going to put it up front, in the first paragraph (along with keywords for SEO writers). Don’t worry about giving away the “punchline.” Give your reader a reason to keep reading, and they will continue to do just that.
Don’t Overestimate People’s Patience
Writers, by nature, like to show how clever they are, especially when the cleverness has something to do with the written or spoken word. While you can get away with this in prose or even in a play, content writing is not the appropriate place to show off.
Why? Simple. Your reader doesn’t have the time for it. When someone is online looking for goods or services or even information, they are there with one specific goal in mind. They don’t have time to read every precious word you wrote and then pat you on the back for your gifted writing.
Remember, a digital copywriter’s audience is never a captive one. Your reader can close that browser window with your work in it in an instant, never to be read again.
Keep it Simple, Stupid
More popular advice for writers that stands the test of time is K.I.S.S., which is the acronym for Keep It Simple, Stupid. This means keeping it organized, efficient, and easy-to-read, along with avoiding overly clever or precious prose. The K.I.S.S. approach includes:
- Using short paragraphs. Your reader has no interest in reading “Moby Dick” if they’re just trying to find the best mattress store in Houston, so don’t put them through those paces for no reason.
- Use shorter sentences whenever possible. Ernest Hemingway was a master of this, and it was no accident. He started off as a newspaper reporter, and that punchy style is prominent in his later fiction, as well.
- Skip unnecessary words. If you can find a way to say it in 20 words, then cut it down to 10, and then cut it down to 6. That’s how you’ll know you’ve reached the most effective version of a sentence.
- Avoid jargon, especially if it’s specific to a profession and not commonly known. No one is going to want to need a dictionary or a decoder ring to figure out what you’re saying, so again, keep it very simple.
- Avoid the passive tense. You want your readers to undertake a course of action a lot of the time, which means motivating them to do something. How are they going to be motivated to do anything if you don’t sound motivated yourself?
- Avoid needless repetition and using the same word twice in one sentence. It bores the reader and makes it sound like the writer was too lazy to communicate their point effectively.
- Address your reader directly. See how I’ve spent this entire piece talking to you, my unknown reader, as if I were in the room with you? Do this whenever possible, as it engenders a personal connection between writer and reader.
- Be comfortable with white space. Leave space in between your text. A crowded, gray-looking piece of copy is unpleasant for a reader to plow through.
- Use bullet pointed or numbered lists whenever possible. Lists make it easier for the reader to keep track. (See what I did here?)
Every Piece of Copy Has to Make Sense, Even Out of Order
A book or movie usually begins at the beginning, correct? That’s because the story doesn’t make sense otherwise, (well, except for movies like Pulp Fiction.)
Web content doesn’t follow the general book/script format. A potential target audience could initially land on any page on your website. Because of this fact, every web page needs to clearly communicate exactly who you are and what it is you do from the beginning.
While there are a ton of writing tricks and tips about the world wide web of copy, I’ve boiled it down to the top four. If you have questions about anything you’ve read, I encourage you to ask the wonderful content writing experts at iwebcontent. Better yet, hire us to handle all of your digital marketing for you!