So, you have made the decision to start a new business and need a website built – your first ever presence online, but have no text content to go onto the website.
You need to get a new website built for your business to replace an old one but you don’t want to use the existing text content because it is out-of-date and basically doesn’t read how you want it to, or doesn’t send the right key messages to your customers.
Whichever scenario you find yourself in, the one important fact remains – you need good text content for your website and the way it is written should be quite unique.
In most cases when we build a website – especially if it’s a brand-new website, by far the biggest stumbling block we encounter with our clients is the task of writing the text content for the website.
In some instances, we are asked to create the text which is fine, but most of the time we really encourage you to write the text – after all you know your business best and what you do best, so it seems only right that you should write your website text.
Writing content … where do I start?
What do you need to think about when writing the content for your website? Do you picture your target audience reading your text and do you think about what might make your website visitors tick?
Most importantly, do you think about what you might want to read if you were a customer visiting your website looking for your products or services?
This might sound obvious, but people get this aspect wrong frequently when writing text for their website, but you need to treat your website visitors like actual human beings with feelings and emotion who want to read about your products and/or services, that want to take an interest in what you offer with an intent of purchasing or making an enquiry.
All too often when people have a go at writing content, they seem to lose sight of the fact that it is actual human beings visiting their website and end up writing content that sounds ridged, robotic and doesn’t make any real sense.
Remember one golden rule – website text is scan-read or glanced at – not read.
A website is a platform to provide key information on your products or services. Your customers are hunting for information and they want to find that information quickly and easily. Your customers make quick decisions to purchase something or enquire without thinking too much about it.
So how can you persuade your website visitors to act and how can you convert a visitor into a customer through the power of great text content? Our top tips below will help you achieve this!
Make it easy
The attention span of website visitors is short – very short in fact. Take into consideration that the task of browsing for a product or service online can be a stressful affair, so, don’t make it unnecessarily difficult for your website visitors to find what they are looking for by burying it in-amongst loads and loads of text.
Your website visitors will consider two things fast:
- Does your website offer what I am looking for?
- Can I find what I am looking for easily on your website?
A website visitor on a mission to find what they are looking for quickly and easily won’t hang around for long if they have to spend more time than is absolutely necessary to find what they want.
Your customers won’t click around your website for several long minutes through pages and pages of text looking for something. They will go to another website that can provide what they need quickly.
Website visitors ‘glance’ at the web page before deciding whether they are in the right place or not – they don’t need to read the content word-for-word to know for sure, they just want to make a quick/snap decision.
With that said, if your website visitors only have a quick glance at your website, how do you get your message across?
Put your most important information first
You might have heard of ‘call-to-action’ sections on websites – these sections encourage your website visitor to act quickly and decide. Call-to-action sections can include buttons with key wording to entice your customer to buy or enquire, unique selling points to encourage a sale, special pricing information and more.
Be snappy and to the point with your call-to-action areas – this is not an essay with a conclusion at the end, this is here and now – this is ‘of the moment’ content and are key areas on your website, so include these and use call-to-action sections well.
Other important points to consider is the placement of content; for example, if you are looking to buy a 2-seater sofa in black, when you arrive at a website you want to see it sells sofas using key headline text.
Secondly, you want a decent search box / search section prominently displayed at the top of the website accompanying or near to the headline text so you know you can also quickly find out what black 2-seater sofas the website sells.
Structuring text content in this way is referred to as ‘the inverted pyramid’ by journalists. This is a style of writing newspaper articles and the most newsworthy information comes first before all the details and background information. This means that if you read only the heading and first few lines of a newspaper story you will understand the bigger picture.
It’s the same with your website – using the principle of the inverted pyramid style of writing, you present the most important information first and give your customers the bigger picture, basically: What do you do, or what can you do for them are the two most important points to get across to your website readers right from the start.
Don’t try to be clever or creative
In the online world, it’s rare that anyone reading your text will hang on every word you write – they just don’t have the time. Your website visitors are mostly in a state of rush or hurry because they could be looking at several other websites that offer what you do, but these other websites get to the point quicker than yours does.
Using clever phrases or overly fanciful words requires people to think, and asking people to think when they are browsing online to find what they are looking for doesn’t work, so keep your website text as simple and easy to understand as possible – your website visitors will thank you for it.
Be careful with adding jokes into your text content too, unless you are certain your target audience will quickly understand and get the joke.
Write for scanners
To elaborate on a point I have made further up, a web page needs to be readable at a glance. Unless you are Wikipedia, it is highly unlikely that your website visitors will read your text content word-for-word.
So, how exactly do you write for scanners? Here’s how:
- Does your main headline communicate what you are about?
- Does the main image (or caption) communicate a key sales message?
- Do your sub-headings effectively summarise the key points?
- Would substituting text for easy-to-read bullet points reduce wordiness?
- Do you allow enough blank space (also known as white space) around the text content and throughout your website? If you are text-heavy leave blank space to allow your readers to naturally rest and relax their eyes around your content.
In all this remember your website visitors are in a hurry – give them the gist of the most important information contained within the page they are viewing quickly.
Use familiar words
Let’s set the scene, you want to fly to America for a holiday and you are looking for a cheap flight. What would you search for: “cost effective flight prices”, or “cheap flights to America”?
Nobody would really search using such wordy search terms [such as “cost effective flights”], so let’s keep things simple and predictable here – far more likely would be “cheap flights to America”.
People instinctively tend to look for relatable words – words that mean something, yet all too often people selling a product or service like to make themselves sound better than they are. Why try to overstate what you do by trying to sound fancy, technical or special?
Your website visitor is looking for relatable words – familiar words that they understand quickly. Simply put, if they see words they can connect with – you will get the sale (or enquiry), but if you use too many pretentious words then they will be gone and over into the welcoming, less-wordy arms of your competitor’s website in a flash.
Write for lazy people
Your website visitor doesn’t really want to have to put too much effort into reading your content. Remember that people will visit your website at all times of the day (and night) using all manner of devices to view your website on, so making your content too intensive with long paragraphs, unnecessary words, repetition and anything else equally as annoying will put them off.
Here’s how to make your copy easy to read:
- Short paragraphs – 4 sentences on average.
- Short sentences -use 10-12 words on average.
- Skip any unnecessary words / long words.
- Try to avoid using jargon / technical talk / gobbledygook – no one likes that.
- Don’t repeat yourself.
- Address your website visitors directly – use words such as “you” and “you’re”
- Keep your text short, snappy and engaging.
- Get to the point quickly (also relates to skipping any unnecessary words / or using overly long paragraphs).
People will enter your website on any of the pages it contains
When reading a book people usually read from page 1 (chapter 1) then onto chapter 2, then chapter 3 and so on – basically reading a book in order – the way it is intended to be read.
Now imagine if you picked up a book and read chapter 3 first, then jumped to chapter 10, then back to chapter 1 and then read other random pages thereafter in no particular order – this is what the web is like. People are not likely to “always” start reading your website from the homepage but highly likely to enter your website from any one of the pages it contains.
So, if any page can potentially be an “entry page” (entry page is the first page that a website visitor arrives at on your website) then what should you consider?
- Each page of your website must be easy to scan-read.
- On each page of your website you should make it clear what content it contains right from the start by establishing the key points towards the top (put your most important information first), what your website is about and clearly sign-post where the website visitor is on your website.
- You need to consider including call-to-action sections on each page, whether that is to read another blog post, enquire about your services, purchase a product or request a quote, or any other call-to-action that you can think of that will encourage your customers to act.
Make it easy for your customers to find your website
The internet is the biggest generator for new business, so you need to make it easy for your customers to find you – help them to find your website.
Write your website content to be well optimised for SEO, make it great for your customers and equally as appealing to Google. Content is, always has been and always will be king.
Some things to think about when writing content for SEO:
- Answer the questions that your potential customers may ask – be informative.
- Case Studies – give your customers food for thought and describe your previous achievements with other clients.
- Keep the content clear – discuss one key topic per page.
- Include links to relevant pages or resources within your own website or other websites.
- Use phrases and words your potential customers are looking for (use familiar words).
- Use descriptive sub-headings (write for scanners)
- Use shorter sentences and paragraphs (write for lazy people)
- Don’t stuff your content with keywords – Google doesn’t like this.
- Most of all – be helpful!
Make a visual impression
With any website, text content and design should work together.
You can’t create loads of great content without considering how well this will look on the finished page when considering all other design elements.
The visual appeal of your website will ultimately impact the readability of your text and will influence whether web visitors can quickly and easily get what you’re all about – or not.
There are some ways to increase the visual appeal and impact of your text content:
- Add images to text to help convey a point.
- Consider using different font sizes – remember people will scan large text first (write for scanners).
- Add emphasis to quotes and key information, such as customer testimonials, expert comments, or unique selling points to add credibility and focus.
- Include bold sections, italic text and uppercase sections to break up the text content.
- If you have a long heading, consider breaking this down into a shorter heading and sub-heading beneath.
- Think about changing blocky paragraphs into bullet points to add focus.
Final thoughts and summary
Although this article covers the main points to think about when writing good quality, persuasive web text, it’s always important to keep in mind who exactly you are writing your website content for.
Try not to treat your website visitors like academics who love reading challenging, complex and complicated text. Try not to be overly wordy and don’t use over-the-top vocabulary or unnecessarily long words.
Keep your text simple, to the point and easy to understand. You can’t be everything to everybody – know who you are, what you do and how you do it better than the rest.
If your positioning is clear with your product or service, then it is much easier to stand out on the web and be found. If your message is clear, then it will be much easier to write enticing web copy. Be clear, be specific and be bold.