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3 Top Tips for Writing Winning Web Pages

Updated on July 2, 2013
JohnMello profile image

JohnMello is a writer, composer, musician and the author of books for children and adults.

Is Web Copy Different?

The simple answer is YES. People might spend only seconds browsing a web page, so the text has to be focused and informative. It still has to be good, but written from a slightly different angle.

Writing web pages takes a certain skill and approach.

If you write web copy, then chances are your writing will be trying to sell something for somebody. Most websites exist as online marketplaces. Some websites offer information only, but these are rare. Even in those cases something is being sold, whether it's an idea or a philosophy - and you'll usually find ads somewhere on the page.

Buying and selling has taken a whole new twist with the explosion of Internet technology, though, and it's probably here to stay. Here are three tips that will help you write better web copy and, ultimately, help your copy sell.

Writing online is different, but not watered down
Writing online is different, but not watered down | Source

1. Write For The Customer

A great way to think of web copy is to imagine you're writing an ad for a business. Instead of putting it in the local newspaper, however, you're putting it online. You still need to appeal directly to the customer and make him or her feel special, just like a good newspaper ad would do.

One way to get the customer on your side is by focusing your attention directly at him or her. Rather than using the words "I' or "we" or "us" - aim to turn it round so it represents the customer's point of view. Try using the words "you" and "your" to instantly pull the reader into the picture.

Address the reader in the thrid person so "you" are the important part of the equation
Address the reader in the thrid person so "you" are the important part of the equation | Source
Source

An Example of Non-Focused Web Copy

Here’s an actual line from an estate agent’s web page, before they asked me to rewrite it:

  • "The secret of our success we feel is the personal touch."

You can see straight away that it's all about them. Where is the customer in the phrase? He or she seems to have been forgotten about completely. A more customer-focused way of saying the same thing might be:

  • "Get the property you want from the local agents with the personal touch."

Imagine if the sign in the park shown above took that approach...

  • "We want our park to stay clean and tidy."

It just doesn't work, does it? No impact on YOU whatsoever.

2. Make Your Text Move

You've probably heard it before, but it's even more crucial online where every second counts. Follow Ernest Hemingway's advice and write short sentences and short paragraphs in vigorous English. Take out all the fluff, all the adjectives and adverbs, to leave crisp, clear language that readers will grasp immediately. It won't make your work less exciting; in fact, it will improve your writing to the umpteenth degree.

Here's another example from the same site referenced earlier:

  • "We believe in sitting and listening to our customer’s needs."

There are a couple of things wrong here, the first being the word customer's, which implies they only have one of them. Aside from that, there are those words "our" and "we" again, with no mention of the reader at all. How much more appealing might it have been if it read as follows:

  • "Relax in comfortable surroundings and chat with friendly, experienced staff."

Notice the verbs ‘relax’ and ‘chat’. Not ‘We’d like you to relax’ or ‘why not pop by for a chat’. The language is direct using simple, short words that make the text jump off the page.

Is it Apis mellifera Linnaeus accumulating antigens from Papaver Somniferum - or is it a honey bee collecting pollen?
Is it Apis mellifera Linnaeus accumulating antigens from Papaver Somniferum - or is it a honey bee collecting pollen? | Source

Write the Heming-way!

  1. Use short sentences
  2. Use short first paragraphs
  3. Use vigorous English
  4. Be positive, not negative

Whenever possible try to write in a conversational manner and test it by reading it out loud. If anything seems clumsy or wordy, chop it down until it rolls off the tongue.

Also try to write sentences with different lengths. Although they might be grammatically correct and well structured, sentences that are all the same length begin to sound monotonous after a time. A few short, choppy sentences followed by one longer one will do the trick. For variety, you might like to start a sentence with a preposition. Or perhaps ask a question?

Source

3. Keep Your Language Simple

When you write web copy, imagine you’re chatting with someone you know - or sending them an e-mail. "Speak" directly to the customer as if he or she was a neighbour, a close friend, or a member of your family. Assume the reader knows nothing about the topic you're writing about and needs to be informed quickly but adequately.

Use colloquialisms if the product and company’s image allow it, and try to personalize your text with contractions and natural forms of speech:

  • "You won’t find a better deal anywhere."
  • "Don’t miss out on this money-saving bargain!"

Another approach is to ask the customer questions that appeal to his or her emotions:

  • "Are you ready to discover the secret to success?"
  • "Could you use an extra $500 a month?"

These tactics work by getting the reader involved, communicating in his or her language without pretending to be something it's not. The more involved the reader becomes, the more likely that he or she will read on, and the better the chance that he or she will make the purchase or take the necessary action.

Web Writing Poll

Which of the following do you find hardest to achieve?

See results

I hope these suggestions help you write copy that really performs. Remember that your goal when writing for the web is often to promote or sell something, whether that’s a business, a person or a product.

Focus on the person (or potential customer) stopping by to visit the page and write with him or her in mind. The more interesting and readable your writing is, the easier it will be to make that person take an action - to buy something, take a survey, fill in a form or download some software - and when that happens, everybody wins.

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    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 3 years ago from England

      Thanks cygnetbrown. Hope it helps!

    • cygnetbrown profile image

      Cygnet Brown 3 years ago from Springfield, Missouri

      You have a lot of useful advice that I really need to implement on my blog. Thanks!

    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 3 years ago from England

      Thanks FatBoyThin. Glad you enjoyed it!

    • FatBoyThin profile image

      Colin Garrow 3 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      Excellent advice and very informative. Great Hub.

    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 3 years ago from England

      Thanks Kristen!

    • Kristen Howe profile image

      Kristen Howe 3 years ago from Northeast Ohio

      Great hub, John. Lots of helpful and great tips on how to have a better online presence with your webpages. Voted up!

    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 3 years ago from England

      My pleasure ecogranny... hope it helps!

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      Thank you for this excellent, and exemplary, reminder. Just what I needed today!

    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 3 years ago from England

      You're welcome, BAMwer... glad you enjoyed it!

    • BAMwer profile image

      Beverly Werner 3 years ago from Catasauqua

      Great advice, thank you.

    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 3 years ago from England

      Thanks sallybea... glad you enjoyed the article!

    • sallybea profile image

      Sally Gulbrandsen 3 years ago from Norfolk

      Excellent advice, some great tips, especially the one about keeping sentences short and to the point. I really do hate the word we when it comes to online marketing, especially when I am aware that the we consists of only one person:)

    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 4 years ago from England

      Thanks again jill! I've got lots more as well... :)

    • jill of alltrades profile image

      jill of alltrades 4 years ago from Philippines

      Another wonderful hub! Very useful and informative!

    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 4 years ago from England

      Thanks Pamela-anne for reading and sharing!

    • Pamela-anne profile image

      Pamela-anne 4 years ago from Miller Lake

      Really enjoyed reading your tips in this hub John I appreciate you sharing them. Take care pam:)

    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 4 years ago from England

      Thanks sgbrown. I really appreciate your comments - and voting up!

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 4 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Your advice makes perfect sense. We need to keep our reader/customer in mind and give them what they want without a lot of fluff. I will do my best to keep all your advice in mind as I write. Voting this up, useful and interesting. :)

    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 4 years ago from England

      Thanks erorantes. Glad you liked it!

    • erorantes profile image

      Ana Maria Orantes 4 years ago from Miami Florida

      Mr. John Mello, I agree with you. I like your article. Thanks.

    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 4 years ago from England

      Thanks Parallels. That's the challenge... and half the fun.

    • Parallels profile image

      Parallels 4 years ago

      Great advice here. Now to absorb all of it and actually apply it...That's where it gets tough!

    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 4 years ago from England

      Thanks Iammattdoran! That's an excellent point, that we never stop learning.

    • Iammattdoran profile image

      Matt Doran 4 years ago from Manchester, UK

      I choose one answer in your poll, John but really I could have answered all of them. I started writing for fun as I enjoy it but as I learn more and more about writing online and how to do it properly my style is evolving all the time. Thanks for the useful hub. Matt

    • JohnMello profile image
      Author

      JohnMello 4 years ago from England

      Thanks Purpose Embraced. Glad you enjoyed it!

    • Purpose Embraced profile image

      Yvette Stupart PhD 4 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi John, I found your hub very helpful. I particularly liked Hemingway's advice and the video clip.

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