You have a web presence. You have a product or a service to sell. You need to create awesome web pages that will elicit a response… You need to know how to write for the internet.
It’s a devilishly difficult skill to master. I’ve been doing it for five years and still consider myself a novice. Here’s what I’ve learnt so far:
Grab the reader’s attention
Your readers are extremely time poor. You need to solve a problem of theirs quickly and effectively.
- The most important points should be made in the first few lines of paragraphs or directly under subheads.
- Headlines should be short, direct and eye-catching.
- The text itself should be scannable (with short paragraphs, loads of subheads, use of numbered and bulleted lists, bolded words, links, images, etc.)
Practice and test
The skill of internet writing comes with practice and testing.
- Use Google Analytics to see which of your web pages are the most popular and ask yourself why.
- Use Twitter and see which tweets are retweeted and/or answered the most.
- Use social bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon and Digg to see which headlines work best.
- Use Google Keyword Research to find out which phrases are being regularly searched for. This will tell you what people are interested in.
Hone your blog writing process
- Keep ideas books Have paper and pencils/pens in every room of the house, at work and on your person every minute of the day. Every time an idea comes into your head, quickly write it down.
- Don’t start writing in a browser Start writing on in a text editor like Word or TextEdit (Mac) or on paper. Don’t start to write in the WordPress text editor — that’s a real creativity killer.
- Copy the formatted text (with embolden and italicized words) and paste into the WordPress Visual editor (the formatting will be kept). Click “Save Draft” on the right-hand side of the WordPress editor. You’re not ready to “Publish” yet. Not by a long way!
- Work on tidying, editing and adding graphics to the text in WordPress. Check progress by clicking the “Preview” button which will open a version of your blog post before it is published.
- Repeat this process multiple times. Read and re-read the Preview version in one tab whilst making corrections in the WordPress editor in the other tab.
Every sentence that you read in this article I will have re-read back to myself at least ten times.
Don’t write crap
We all do it. It’s time we stopped. Here is a great guide to writing well where I took the following quote and advice:
“Never use a long word where a short one will do.” (George Orwell)
- Be as clear as you can
- Avoid the passive voice “He was seen by Joe” should be “Joe saw him.”
- Use orthodox spelling, punctuation, and capitalization
- Avoid qualifiers: a bit, a little, sort of, kind of, rather, quite, very, too, pretty much, in a sense.
- Avoid long words when short ones will do: Assistance = help; implement = do; referred to as = called.
- Avoid laborious phrases. Why use “at the present time” when you can use “now”?
Go to Copyblogger for further internet writing advice.
This is what I’ve learnt while writing online. But I’m sure there’s more out there. Have you got any tips for writing effective web copy?
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