In today’s Internet-saturated world, there’s no denying the power of the Web. We use the Internet to find and share information, create and build connections, expand influence, launch products, learn, search, grow—and just as we see the value of the Web in our daily lives, so your business recognizes its power on your operations. Ever wonder what the key is to harnessing the Internet’s power to market services, generate new business, enhance operations and more?
Simply put: it’s your content.
Because of the nature of the Web, online success is writing-based—it relies on effective, persuasive, strategic copywriting to communicate a clear message that converts visitors and calls them to action.
Here are Straight North’s top eight tips for crafting website content that stands out from the crowd:
1. Keep the Reader First.
First things first: You need to know your content isn’t about you—it’s about your readers. The single most important question your content has to answer for a reader is this: What’s in it for me? You can accomplish this, as Brian Clark of Copyblogger says, by making “an important promise early on (with your headline and opening paragraphs) that tells the reader what’s in it for her.” Then make good on that promise with your new information or helpful tips or answers to specific questions. Not only will reader-focused content get you noticed, but also it will make you memorable—making you the place readers turn when they need your services and the resource they share when other friends do.
2. Write with a Purpose.
Web content that stands out from the crowd is web content that does something—provides relevant information, answers questions, calls readers to action—all to work towards specific goals you’ve set for your site. Unlike fluff or filler language, stellar content does more than fill a page; it achieves a purpose. And lest you think only experts can handle this kind of strategic writing, Erin Kissane of A List Apart says, “[A]nyone who touches copy can make a difference by insisting that every chunk of text on the site is doing something concrete. And alas, ‘selling product!’ doesn’t count: ‘selling’ is a muzzy, undefined process, so you can’t tell if you’re doing it properly just by looking. Copy needs specific goals to accomplish.”
Evaluate the goals of your site and determine what each page needs to do: Tell about a product? Explain how a service works? Enhance your brand? Once you know your goals, you’re better prepared to address them with purpose-driven, meaningful content.
3. Get to the Point.
In the world of web content, more isn’t always better. Write your copy clearly and concisely, and you have a much greater chance of retaining visitors. “If you can’t say it simply in just a few words, then you’ve lost readers. Write short, write lean, and write clearly, so you don’t have to waste words explaining what you’ve just written,” says James Chartrand of Copyblogger. “Interestingly, people actually read longer lines faster,” he adds. “But fast reading isn’t necessarily what you want them to be doing. You want readers to be absorbing what you wrote, understanding your message, and reading comfortably as well. So go for short.”
4. Use Effective Headlines.
One of the best ways to stand out amongst a sea of web content is through attention-grabbing, interest-boosting headlines that promise some benefit to a reader for giving their time to read more. As David Ogilvy writes in Ogilvy on Advertising, “On average, five times as many people read the headlines as read the body copy. It follows that unless your headline sells your product, you have wasted 90 percent of your money.”
Yet truly effective headlines will do even more than draw the attention of readers—they’ll appeal to search engines as well. Search engines pay particular attention to headlines, so writing page headlines to appeal to them can boost your search rankings and set your content apart.
5. Make Text Scannable.
It’s as true with websites as it is with newspapers: text is most readable when it’s easily scanned. In fact, a study involving five different website styles showed scannable text made content almost 50% more understandable than it otherwise would have been. Because Web users generally skim content rather than read it all line by line, crafting writing to appeal to quick glances improves the chance of getting it across to readers. Scannable text is organized into headings and subheadings, may include bulleted lists, is concise, keeps paragraphs short and uses familiar language.
6. Use Lists.
While we’re on the topic of making content scannable, here’s one sure-fire way to do it: use lists. Lists grab attention and communicate key information quickly and easily. As Brian Clark, founder of CopyBlogger, writes, “Any headline that lists a number of reasons, secrets, types, or ways will work because, once again, it makes a very specific promise of what’s in store for the reader.” He adds, “A nice quantifiable return on attention invested goes a long way toward prompting action, and as long as you deliver with quality content, you’ll have a satisfied reader.”
7. Be Credible.
With so much information on the Internet that isn’t trustworthy, readers today are skeptical—and for good reason. Make your content stand out by incorporating statistics, expert opinions, documented studies and clear reasons for the specific assertions you make as often as you can—this makes your content stronger even as it gives readers assurance they can trust you and your brand. Stanford Web Credibility Research suggests you build web credibility by also “providing third-party support (citations, references, source material) for information you present, especially if you link to this evidence.”
8. Provide Call to Action.
Even the most compelling content is worthless without a clear call to action (CTA). A call to action is, simply put, what makes your copy strategic. It’s a way to ask the reader to do exactly what you want them to do, whether that means calling your company, subscribing to your newsletter or continuing onto another page.
(Image Credit: ©Lambros Kazan - Fotolia.com)