Posted: Thu 28th Mar 2013
The simple fact is people just don't read from screens, writes Derryck (left). They scan. But that doesn't mean the answer is to put bare bones information on your site. Here are four ways you can make your web copywriting more effective by encouraging readers to scan for what they're seeking:
You're in business. You have business objectives and targets you aim to meet. Likewise, every single piece of copy on your website needs to have a marketing purpose. Goals give your copy purpose and direction. Without them, you'll waffle on about benefits when you should be closing the sale. Or you'll try to persuade when the audience isn't ready to listen.
Set page goals - what is the single action you want the reader to take on the page? Hopefully it's the same goal that your reader has in mind, too. Craft all your copy to direct the reader toward that single goal. Speak about the advantages of your offer. Support it with reasons to believe.
Add secondary goals into the copy - if your reader doesn't choose your primary goal, what else could they do that would benefit you (and them)? In other words, what other marketing purpose could you weave in? Think about the difference between the 'buy now' and 'add to wishlist' that you see on ecommerce websites. As a secondary goal, it supports your business. They may not buy now, but they may buy later.
You know your reader is scanning, so help them do what comes naturally by breaking your copy into bite-sized chunks that are easy to spot and even easier to understand. Add subheadings that introduce each new thought to STOP a scanning eye and entice them to read the next part of the page. Use bold text to make ideas and keywords stand out. Much like we have done here in this post. Think about using chunks of varying size to help your reader spot structure or important points. And, just like speech, vary the length and construction of your writing.
Bullets make a natural chunk of copy that jumps out at a reader by way of its formatting and visual cues in the 'dots'.
There is nothing more disheartening than reading a page on a business website only to find that it doesn't lead anywhere (see goals above). Your readers shouldn't have to do the work of figuring out what comes next. Make it easy for them to take a next step - any step - with your content. Build a natural path into your copy that guides and prompts the reader to move on to the next piece. It doesn't need to be a logical 'next step'; hyperlinks are a great way to guide the reader, allowing them to naturally explore your content in a non-linear way.
Take Winston Churchill's advice: "Leave a picture in the listener's mind." In our case, this means 'reader's mind'. Have a look at the subheadings of this post. 'Add some spice' is much more interesting than 'use vivid language in your writing'. Write so your audience hears what you're saying. Paint them a picture. Shatter their expectations. Surprise them. Let them grasp your meaning. Tickle their senses. Let them dive in. The more you tune into their experience of the world (and your business), the better your copy will be. Derryck Strachan is a web copywriter and managing director of Big Star Copywriting, a leading UK copywriting agency. They provide copywriting services, content marketing and training to clients across the UK and internationally.
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