Written content, or ‘copy’ makes up the majority of all websites useful data, because it’s the easiest content to produce and optimise for search engine optimisation (SEO). Writing style is a big factor in a website’s effectiveness, but it often gets overlooked with aesthetics taking priority over content.
Just to be clear, no-one gets it right first time! And even when you think it’s perfect there will probably be improvements that you can make in the future. When just starting out, and diving into web copy, you’re bound to make simple mistakes in the writing process. Ironing out these mistakes will help streamline your workflow and increase the effectiveness of your message.
As always, the best resource for copy is at your fingertips. You can pick up ideas in your day to day internet browsing. If an article catches your eye, take a moment to think “Why did this article appeal to me?” You will find new methods and styles for generating interest from readers. ‘Clickbait’, that is prevalent on many websites, may be annoying but their titles are designed to grab your attention. It is worth studying these and utilising similar styles to help promote your website posts.
Written content is at the core of most websites. It is the primary factor in SEO and it is how you retain visitors to your website. Content is often a primary reason why people visit a site, or it’s at least used to guide people around a site.
E-commerce sites and ‘brochure style’ business websites require good written content. Content is a means to an end, i.e. to drive sales or enquires into products and services. The way you design your copy can have a big impact on consumption and user experience. Visitors don’t like wading through vast amounts of documentation to learn about your product. On your home page you should say what you offer or do in the shortest amount of time with the clearest copy possible. This is the foundation of most great landing pages. If your product or service is particularly specialised or technical leave the details for secondary pages, put your core functions and the gist of your brand on the home page with a [READ MORE] button that links to the detailed content. This way you optimise your site for SEO and provide the appropriate level of detail for website visitors.
Blogs drive readers to consume content. With blogs, the content actually is the end goal of delivering quality content that’s valuable to readers. Here the important factor is clear and easy to use navigation and search. Make sure your taxonomies (categories) and tags are clear and intelligible to all readers.
How your copy is displayed is also an important factor in gaining users attention and maintaining their interest. Use bold large fonts for your key messages, and if possible catchy ‘hooks’ or catchphrases. But make sure your core message is clear and intelligible at a glance. For example , if you design websites for businesses then make sure that you put “We Design Websites for Businesses” front and centre of your copy. And make sure it has a <h1> tag associated with it! Remember only use one <h1> tag per page so make sure it is used on your core message.
If your business or website has several products or services make sure you utilise subheadings and <h2> tags in your code. This will improve your SEO and help users quickly find the content that they are interested in. Your stand paragraphs, <p> tags, should focus upon your Unique Selling Points (USP’s). You can add tooltip callouts that can help add useful detail to your page without cluttering the design.
By analysing how you yourself browse the internet, you can learn how to structure and write effective content that gets attention without feeling gimmicky. There’s a lot to learn when you’re just getting started. Always think of your website copy as a “work in progress”. Don’t be afraid to make frequent revisions to improve it. Not only will this continually improve your website users experience of your site but will help boost your SEO.
YOUR WRITING STYLE
All of the copy for your website should follow a similar written ‘voice’. This is usually subtle but still noticeable. Lots of people write posts about personal writing tone and how to find your voice.
Some websites or blogs require a serious tone, and copy should be written in the third person, other sites are more personal and should be written in the first person. Some sites work best with humorous copy, or even a mix of all these things.
Generally speaking, it is best to write out all your copy in full and then start to pare it back, avoid verbose sentences and overly technical descriptions, particularly on your home page. Everything you write should further the purpose of your core function.
CONTENT AND WEBSITE STRUCTURE
Your copy and website navigation should have a structured hierarchy so that your text reads naturally and your website is easy to navigate. This is always a good idea for SEO and for page design. But clean text with distinct patterns can also be helpful to readers understand your content.
THE EFFECTIVENESS OF MICROCOPY
All copy on the page can be broken down into segments, like headers, <h1> to <h6>, and body content <p>. Website elements such as page links, Call To Action (CTA) buttons, input fields, or anything that exists for the user’s attention are referred to as ‘microcopy’. You will find microcopy on anything that users may interact with, or small snippets of text that provide relevant information to all users, like modal signup windows or little pop up information boxes. A lot of microcopy writing has to do with conversions and further content explanation. Therefore microcopy could also include non-interactive elements like image captions and information/alert messages. Microcopy can have a surprisingly large effect on the effectiveness of your website. Reliable studies have shown that changing one word in a link can improved clicks by 200%. That’s how significant microcopy is to the user experience.
Once again the best way to learn what works and what does not is to analyse your own browsing experiences. Which buttons did you click on? Analyse why. Which elements draw your attention? What was it about the format, copy and structure of this element made you look? Once you start to understand how microcopy can influence your browsing experience you will be able to implement effective strategies for your own website.
CONCLUSION – UTILISE COPY AS PART OF A HOLISTIC DESIGN
Page copy and microcopy should have a thematic relationship. The writing style and tone should be consistent across the entire website and be appropriate for your audience. This includes techniques for page structure, title capitalisation and sentence/paragraph length.
The first step is to identify the core aims of your website. Do you want to increase conversions for signups, sales, or page views? Try to bake this in to your copy. The most important part is to keep writing and re-writing and keep trying new things. Use Google analytics user flow data and bounce rate to test the effectiveness of your page copy and structure.
Ask people on design forums to give you honest feedback about your website design and copy. Consider how they might feel landing on each page of your site. Do the headings make sense? Is there a natural flow of content down the page? Do you instinctively want to keep reading? Does the navigation make sense? Are your CTA buttons clear and in the right place?
Once you understand how you use the internet and analyse what catches your attention you will be on the right track in developing effective copy and design.
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