As a content strategist I often get asked what it is I actually do. Content strategists, copywriters, or content writers, are tasked with creating compelling and engaging written content that helps educate, inspire and inform readers. In short – we write nice things.
Content writing is often used to promote a product, service, or brand. It is done in a variety of mediums, including print, radio, television and web. Depending on the medium you’re writing for, the tone of your content will be very different. In this journal, we’re going to focus on writing for a website.
Follow our top tips to create effective, engaging and impactful website content.
Don’t bury the lead
In other words, put the most important information at the top. People judge websites much like they judge books. If they don’t see or read something they like on the first page they aren’t going to go much deeper. Your audience should understand who you are or what you do from the first few lines of text.
Basic isn’t boring
A good rule of thumb when writing for the web is to write as if your audience has an eighth grade reading level. This is not an insult to your audience – it simply means that using common language is the best way to explain complex ideas or themes. Avoid jargon, steer clear of technical terms, and don’t use abbreviations or acronyms unless you intend to explain their meaning.
Be more findable than Waldo
Web copywriting is unique in that it needs to cater to both humans and robots (aka. search engines). If the robots can’t find you, your audience doesn’t stand a chance. Using common, relevant keywords is a great way to ensure that Google can find you, and that your audience can too. Try using a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tool to find relevant keywords to your topic. Ensure you are using them throughout your content in a way that is organic, natural and easy to read.
Shorter is sweeter
When you’re writing an article or blog post, you get to be a bit more free with your word count. Writing for the web, however, requires copy to be concise and to-the-point. Choose short paragraphs over long blocks of text and make the most out of your words by using effective taglines and descriptive headings. Speaking of headings…
Headings are your road map
Headings allow readers to navigate and make sense of content. Headings can be fun and attention-grabbing, but ultimately they should describe the content that is to follow. The strongest headings are able to stand on their own and be understood out of context.
Your audience loves lists
Scrap the long paragraphs for lists or bullet points. Readers tend to scan pages, and keeping content in smaller bite-sized chunks allows for better digestion.
Links have a time and a place
Links are a great way to connect your reader to relevant information. When used moderately they improve the user experience. Try to keep people on your page, rather than sending them to Google for a quick search. With that said, don’t go overboard either. Links work best when used as part of a sentence, so avoid the dreaded “click here.”
A is for Active
Writing using active voice is far more effective than using passive voice. Active voice is strong and persuasive, and it keeps readers flowing through content. Use calls to action to guide your readers where you want them to go.
Your brand knows best
You know your brand better than anyone; it has its own personality and its own traits. To stand out, use your unique brand voice and tone in your copy. If your tone is playful and fun, don’t be afraid to drop a pun or use witty copy. If your tone is heartfelt, don’t shy away from tugging at the ol’ heartstrings. If your tone is serious, keep it polished and direct.
When in doubt, hire a content strategist
I’m probably a little biased because this is my job, but I cannot stress the importance of paying people fairly to own the roles they are good at. Yes, content writing can be outsourced. Yes, it can be done on the fly by another department. Yes, it can be done by an AI tool like ChatGPT. But I guarantee you that half-assing your content strategy will not get you the same results as if you were to invest in a designated content role. These experts work hard to understand their craft and move the needle to get results. Again, probably a little biased, but also right.