Writing Effective Marketing Copy for Your Business Website - dummies

Writing Effective Marketing Copy for Your Business Website

By Jan Zimmerman

People don’t read online; they will scan your business website to save time. You need to adapt your writing style for the web due to limitations of time and screen space. That makes sense because it takes 25 percent longer to read the same material onscreen than it does to read it on paper. Try to follow these precepts:

  • Use the inverted pyramid. Use the journalistic convention of the inverted pyramid, with the most important information at the beginning of each page. Readers might never reach the end of the first paragraph, let alone the end of the page.

  • Grab readers with headlines. Good headlines grab readers by the lapels. Subheads help break up the text on a page, making it easier to read. If you use a different font size, style, or color for your headings and if your headlines or subheads include a search term, you might receive extra points in search engine rankings.

  • Write strong leads. The first sentence on the page is called the lede. Hook readers with benefits, telling them what they’ll find on your site, store, or page. It improves search engine ranking to include three to four search terms in the first paragraph.

  • Keep important information above the fold. Users spend about 80 percent of their time reading what’s above the fold — that is, on the part of a web page that’s viewable without scrolling.

  • Limit the use of PDF files. While designers like PDF files because PDFs preserve designs, this file format isn’t great for users.

  • Use active voice. Shun passive voice in favor of active voice. That is, the subject performs the action rather than receives it. Hints that you are using passive voice: forms of the verb to be, including the constructions there is, there are, or it is.

  • Emphasize second person. Use your or you explicitly as the subject, or implicitly with imperative verbs, such as buy, review, call, or sign up. Second person forces you to talk about benefits, not features, thus telling visitors what they’ll get from your site. Even the New York Times notes the growing use of you, yours, my, and ours as Madison Avenue follows the trend toward customization and personalization.

  • Use first and third person judiciously. You can slide in some first person (our or we, especially in sentences like “We offer a money-back guarantee”). Just don’t spend a lot of time talking about yourself and your business.

  • Stay informal. With a few exceptions, an informal, conversational tone works better than dissertation-style, proper English.

  • Use bullet lists. Sentence fragments are fine, especially in bulleted lists. Bullet points help readers scan text quickly.

  • Include text links. Link liberally to other parts of your site within the text. These contextual, internal links help users find in-depth information quickly and move people to multiple pages of your site.