By John Arnold, Michael Becker, Marty Dickinson, Ian Lurie, Elizabeth Marsten

In web marketing, knowing how to write online copy is absolutely essential! You have a wealth of knowledge and information your customers have never seen or have forgotten. If you can clearly communicate that to them, you’ll attract loyal customers, demonstrate relevance and move up in the search rankings.

Try these five tips:

  • Think about what your customers most often ask and write detailed answers to each of those questions. One well-written page can reduce calls and questions and make your customers happier. Chances are they’re typing it into the search engines, too.

  • Write down the most ridiculous claim your competitors make. Then answer it, professionally and succinctly, but allow just a little of your passion to creep in.

  • Go to your favorite search engine. Search for the latest news about your industry or product. If something in there gets you riled up, seems really clever, or otherwise grabs your interest, write down your thoughts.

  • Look at every product or service you offer. If you can break them up into smaller subproducts or services, do it, and write about each of those. For example, bicycle repair can be broken up into tune-ups, wheel truing, frame repair, and painting.

  • Don’t worry about writing for the web the right way. Get your thoughts written down first. Then tweak the copy for best impact.

Keep your web marketing copy simple

Online, more than anywhere else, simple writing is best. Most Internet users tend to scan for answers and keywords before they read.

Here are a few tips and examples to shorten what you’ve written:

  • Pare down the number of words whenever possible. “Then things went from bad to worse” can just as easily be “Things got a lot worse.”

  • Avoid slang and colloquialisms. “They couldn’t see the forest for the trees” might also be “They were stuck on the details.”

  • More syllables won’t make you sound smarter — folks will just skip the sentence altogether. “Our expertise is unrivaled in our industry” could read “We’re the best.”

Use active voice in your online copy

Many of us were taught to write in the passive voice.

Here is an example:

  • Okay: “Bicycles are repaired by our mechanics” is fine, but it’s slow, wordy, and doesn’t include bicycle repair, which is the real target phrase.

  • Better: Instead, try “Our mechanics perform top-notch bicycle repair.” It’s not actually a shorter sentence, but it reads better and it includes your target phrase.

Get to the point

Standard college and primary school writing style tells you to write according to an outline.

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However, search engines lend more weight to text at the top of the page, not at the bottom. If your point is all the way at the bottom of the page, two things happen:

  • Search engines accord it less relevance. If your point includes your target phrase, you want to move it up.

  • Readers are likely to give up before they get all the way down the page. Your point is often your value proposition. You want to say that first.

So, make your point and state your value proposition at the very top of the page, not at the bottom. Compare these two brief product descriptions:

Our bicycle tires are made by hand. They also feature a Kevlar belt. They use our patented long-wear formula. And they are rigorously tested by our laboratory. So they’ll remain flat-proof for years.

Try this instead:

Our flat-proof bicycle tires feature a Kevlar belt. They’re handmade and rigorously tested by our manufacturing team. With our patented long-wear formula, they’ll remain flat-proof for years!

Much better. Not only does this version tell readers that these are flat-proof bicycle tires, but it also worked the value proposition right into the first sentence, so search engines will give this page high relevance for the phrase flat-proof bicycle tires.