It’s a common mistake.
Even experienced web authors make it.
Who do you think of when you write your blog content?
Do you imagine the person who is reading it? And do you think about what makes them click?
Most web authors do.
They treat their web visitors like people who enjoy reading.
They treat their web visitors like readers of printed texts.
But this is wrong. Wrong. Because web texts are entirely different from printed versions.
The web copy is scanned. Not read.
Do you want to write better web content?
Your web visitors are looking for information or products. They make quick decisions without thinking.
So how can you get web visitors to act if they don’t read your text?
Let me explain…
In the following, you will find nine tips on how to write convincing texts for the web.
Are you ready?
1. Treat your web visitors like wild animals
The visitors of your website behave like wild animals (source: Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox).
They hunt for information or a product they can buy – just like a hungry panther hunts its prey.
When a panther gets ahold of a scent trail, it quickly decides: Does the scent trail lead to a good meal? And will it be an easy catch?
Your web visitors think about the same two things: Does your website offer what they are seeking? And can they find it easily?
A hungry panther does not like to waste time trying to catch a meal. And your web visitors don’t want to spend several minutes browsing your site to find the information they want or need. They want to locate it quickly.
Just as the panther makes a quick decision whether to follow a scent trail or not, your web visitor quickly decides whether your website is useful or not. So if your website looks complicated and offers many options to choose from, they click away to visit another site.
Web visitors will quickly look at your website before guessing whether they’re in the right place or not. They don’t have to be sure. They just want to be able to decide quickly.
If your web visitors only look at your website, how do you get your message across?
2. Put your most important information first
Writing for the Internet is something completely different than writing an essay or paper.
An essay could look like this: First, explain what you want to discuss. Then give an overview of the written content. Then discuss, and finally draw your conclusion. The most essential point you make is made in the conclusion – at the end of your essay!
On web pages, you have to do the opposite: Your most important points always come first.
For example, You are looking for a new blue four-seat sofa. When you arrive at a website, you want to see that it sells sofas. Next, you want a search box so you know that you can quickly find out what their blue four-seater sofas look like.
Or say you’re looking for a copywriter for your website. Maybe you’re looking for someone from the region, so you need to find a copywriter from nearby your hometown. Or maybe your copywriter needs to understand pharmacuetical terminology, so you’d like to see a headline like writing copy for the pharma industry.
Information that is most important to your web visitors is often a simple statement about your business. Once they understand what you do, they may want to know some crucial details. And then – maybe they want to see some background information.
Journalists call this kind of writing the inverted pyramid. In newspaper articles, the most important information is in the beginning, before details and background information. Even if you only read the first paragraph of a newspaper article, you still understand the big picture.
This also applies to your blog. Your customers want to get the big picture first. Basically: What do you do? and what can you do for them?
3. Do not try to be clever or creative.
On the web, a reader rarely sticks to every word you write. Se has no time. She’s in a hurry because she could be looking at several other “scent tracks” – websites similiar to yours – instead of wasting time trying to figure out what you’re doing.
Simple statements often work best.
When I look at a website, it should be self-evident. Obvious. Self-explanatory. ~ Steve Krug.
Overly clever formulations require people to think. Asking people to think doesn’t work on the web because web visitors are on the hunt – they don’t have time to think. Keep your web copy as simple as possible.
Write as if you were writing for a 12-year-old because then your text is easy to understand. And be careful with jokes unless you are sure your target audience will understand them.
4. Write for scanners
How many people read websites?
What most web visitors do is to look at each new page, scan part of the text, and click on the first link to catches their interest or that vaguely resembles the item they are looking for.
Research shows that only 16% of people read websites literally. Most people scan. (Source: Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox).
How can you write for scanners? A checklist:
- Does your headline convey what you are about?
- Does your caption convey a sales message?
- Do your subheadings summarize your most important points?
- Do bullet points that are easy to scan reduce the choice of words?
Your web visitor is looking for information or products. Make sure they can understand your most important information by just taking a look at your website.
5. Use familiar words
As web readers, we are once again hunter-gatherers – only this time, we don’t search the horizon for prey but search webpages for keywords. When we see these words, we click, we act.
Imagine you want to fly to Bangkok on holiday and are looking for a cheap flight. What will you be looking for: a cheap flight, a low-cost flight, or a cheap flight to Bangkok?
Nobody is looking for budget flights. As Google’s keyword tool shows, “cheap” is what people are looking for:
Keyword search results showing cheap flights are far more popular than budget and low-cost flights.
Most people search for cheap flights
Carewords are the words people are looking for. We often want to make ourselves sound better than we are. We try to embellish what we do. We try to sound scientific, fancy, or unique. But your web visitor is looking for carewords words because they are the scent trail that tells him he is in the right place.
6. Write for lazy people
Just like the lazy panther is looking for an easy catch for his dinner, your web visitor does not want to bother reading your text.
Make your copy easy to read:
- Use short paragraphs – four sentences maximum
- Use short sentences – twelve on average
- Skip unnecessary words
- Avoid jargon and gibberish
- Avoid passive voltage
- Avoid unnecessary repetition
- Address your web visitors directly – use the word “you.”
- Shorten your text
How short should your writing be? Steve Krug recommends that you get rid of half the words on each page and then half of the remaining words. This may be an ambitious goal but try it. Challenge yourself and make your text as short as possible.
7. Expect people to arrive everywhere on your site.
People usually read a book sequentially from chapter one, followed by chapter two, three, four, and so on.
Now imagine that people pick up a book and start reading somewhere quite randomly. Maybe at the beginning of the last chapter, perhaps in the middle of chapter three or on the final page of chapter one.
This is what the web looks like. Most web visitors will not start reading on your homepage. They can arrive at any of your web pages.
If you don’t know where visitors arrive on your website, go to Google Analytics >> Website Content >> Landing Pages.
You can see exactly how many web visitors come to each web page.
If every website can be a landing page, what does that mean?
Each page should be easy to scan.
Every page should make it clear to people where they are and what your website is about.
Each page should contain a CTA that tells people where to go next.
You need to tell them.
Is it to read another blog post? sign up for your email newsletter? view a detailed product description? or testimonial? Should they be requesting a quote, or adding a product to your shopping cart.
Don’t rely on your navigation bar to tell people what to do next. Include a button or link to take people to the next step on every page.
8. Make it easy for hunters to find you.
Potential customers are on the hunt for information or products.
How can you help them find you?
Attract potential customers to your website with useful information. This is how writing for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) works:
- Answer the questions that potential customers ask
- Discuss a key topic for each page
- Insert links to relevant pages on your website or other websites
- Use phrases and words that your potential customers are looking for
- Above all: Be helpful.
9. Make a strong visual impression
Web text and web design should work together.
You can’t write your words, and you can’t compose your sentences, you can create your bullet points without thinking about how your website will look like.
The visual appeal of your website influences the readability of your text and affects whether web visitors quickly understand what you are about.
How you can increase the visual appeal of your web text
- Replace text with photos or videos
- Think of different font sizes – remember that people scan large text first
- Highlight quotes from customers (or experts) to increase the credibility
- Play around with highlights, bold text, CAPS or italics
- Break a long heading into a heading with a subheading
- Change paragraphs to bullet points
The most important thing is to create order. Reduce noise and add white space. This not only makes your website easier to read but also increases your confidence (source: Social Triggers).
The truth about writing convincing web texts
I would like to tell you that it is easy to write compelling web texts.
But the truth is that it is hard to write simple, useful texts.
Don’t treat your web visitors like pettifoggng academics who enjoy reading demanding and complicated texts. Don’t treat your web visitors like lawyers who brood over the small print. Don’t be verbose. And don’t brag about your extensive vocabulary.
Instead, make your writing as simple as possible.
Do not try to be everything to everyone. Be yourself.
If your positioning is precise, it’s much easier to stand out on the Internet and be found. If your message is clear, it is much easier to create convincing web texts.