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Guest Post by Vicki Thomas

You hired a hot young web designer to rebuild your website and give your company a whiz-bang Internet presence. The site has it all – links galore, a flashy logo, is search engine friendly, it even has a blog section. But nothing has changed – sales, leads, marketing numbers, etc. are still the same as before.

Hmm, perhaps its time to really look at your website and read between the lines. Really read your website content. What are you saying to your visitors? How are you saying it? I’m guessing your super duper web designer whipped up some new website content for you as well. Maybe this designer took all of your printed marketing collateral and literally dumped it into your website…

So now you have a cool looking website with an over abundance of heavy boring text. Text that reads really well on printed brochures but doesn’t work when your visitors are reading it through a computer screen. This is the cold hard reality that many business owners like you are facing.

Your new website looks good. But it just doesn’t read well. The words on the screen are the secret to a strong and effective website. When it is done well, copywriting for the web draws visitors in. It takes them to the information they’re looking for, helps them answer their questions, leads them to contact you, and in the end generates sales for you.

What is Good Copywriting?

But this is only done with GOOD website copywriting. Good website copywriting is not the same as good print copywriting. The medium is different and so too is the message. It is important to remember that people are coming to your site to learn about your product / service / experience and ultimately how you can help them. If the content doesn’t grab the reader or the reader can’t quickly find what he needs, the reader is gone. Before you know it, this reader has left your site disappointed and does a Google Search again and more than likely ending up at your competitor’s website.

Think about what you like when you visit a website:

  • Clear and clean design
  • Grammatically correct and spell-checked writing
  • Bold headlines and titles that capture your eyes and draw you into what you want
  • Links that make sense and take you to the next level of information

Sounds simple right? It is, but the type of writing that does this is very different from traditional marketing and sales content. When you hand a potential customer a brochure of data sheet, the person will most likely read it from top to bottom, left to right. There are no real distractions. We are trained from a young age on how to read in this traditional method. We are used to writing and reading long paragraphs and dense writing.

But with the Internet, this is not the case. Studies have shown that people reading websites aren’t so much reading as they are scanning. Their eyes fly all over the page – drawn to a link, then maybe a list, then to the a photo, etc. Our eyeballs are quickly scanning looking for answers and in mere seconds making a judgment on the usefulness of your website.

So what does this mean for you? To keep visitors at your new snazzy website, you need to give them clear, concise content and do it fast. A website with strong copywriting can generate more traffic, more visitors, and even more sales. That old mantra “don’t judge a book by its cover” doesn’t hold true in the Internet age. First impressions are all you’ve got when you’re competing with literally millions of websites.

To do this, you need a professional copywriter to give you text that is:

  • Straightforward
  • Facts-based
  • Concise and clear
  • Engaging

Why Copywriting Needs to be Different

Okay, go look at your website. Give it a read. A really good read. I’m guessing you’re thinking to yourself, “well, my content does this. I can find the information I need, it makes sense to me. I’m not really sure what the problem is.” So you’re still not convinced that it’s the content that is the problem. Well, think about these key differentiators between the Internet-based information delivery and traditional business delivery methods:

  • Reading from a piece of paper, allows light to bounce off the paper. When you read from a computer screen, the light is not redirected and is much harsher – making the reading more tiring and taxing. As a result when reading your website content, visitors need to work harder and tend to read more slowly than when reading your printed hard-copy brochures. Because of this, the content needs to be updated to allow readers to quickly read it and not fatigue.
  • When we’re reading a brochure, we’re holding it in our hands, we’re focused on it. We have it in front of us. Not the case with reading online – a lot of time is spent finding the website material we want to read. If we tracked our time, we’d be surprised to discover that we often spend more time looking for information than actually reading it. So by the time we find the material, we’re a bit frustrated and bored – so you need to quickly grab me and keep me on your website.
  • You may visit a website looking for a specific answer, you don’t stick around to read all the pages, click on all the links, etc. People don’t do this with printed material, they tend to sit down and read it from start to finish – so you can get away with burying the real nugget of information half-way down the page. Not so with your website – the key information needs to be at the top of the page and draw the user in.
  • You cannot control how a user ends up at your website. A visitor might arrive from an external link, a search engine results page (SERP), or even by mistake. Because you don’t know how a user ends up at your site, you can’t control where they land – so you can’t control that first message they receive. Hence, your entire website must have clear, concise, and focused content.

The Do’s of Copywriting

Phew, tired yet? I know it is a lot of information to digest, let alone read in one sitting. Imagine if you were reading this same content in a book – you’d be flying along, flipping the pages and getting through it quickly. But I’m guessing that at this point, you’re about ready to move on – you’re kind of bored, a little tired, and you have this strange need to check your email and Twitter feed… So I’ll wrap this up with a few key points to think about when writing your website copy:

  • Make it clear and concise
  • Use short sentences and paragraphs
  • Don’t assume the content is read from top-to-bottom
  • Use headings, titles, and lists to make your content easy to scan
  • Always focus on the needs of your visitors
  • Write for and to your reader

Convinced? Perfect – the next step is to take an honest look at your website copy and for each page, ask yourself it meets the above. If not, time to hire a professional copywriter who can get your website working for you.

Vicki Thomas is an experienced freelance copywriter, journalist and technical writer. Vicki combines her professional writing experience with a passion for all things web to give you the clear and precise copywriting that makes your business stand out. As a freelance journalist, Vicki writes for a number of cycling-related magazines. Additionally, Vicki writes for private corporate clients looking for well-crafted messages that will grab your attention. For a glimpse into Vicki’s cycling life, visit her blog. To contact Vicki, email her at [email protected] or visit her on LinkedIn.

Disclaimer: The contents of this Blog post, and associated opinions  are those of its Author, and do not necessarily represent the opinions of WebFuel, or its employees.