Category Archives: Writing for the web

Copywriting Tips

 

typewriter, coffee, glasses and piles of paper

I have learned so much over the years about how to write well. From inspirational school teachers, from fantastic business writing coaches during my corporate years, and, in more recent times, from specialist online copywriters.  Here is an amalgam of what I’ve learned from all three:

Clear Structure

Before you start, set out a clear structure for your piece. This will help you in all sorts of ways, keeping your thought processes clear and your writing on track. A good rule is to divide your topic into 3 sections. Then add an introduction and a conclusion.  Here’s the old schoolteacher’s guide to writing a great essay:

  • Tell them what you’re going to tell them.
  • Tell them  (your content divided into 3 sections)
  • Tell them what you’ve told them
It still works!  Use headings and sub-headings to give your reader a clear pathway through your text. This is important for all writing but it’s really important for online writing. For smartphones especially!
It also helps your search engine optimisation, for keyword pickup obviously, but also because Google likes text that is clear and easy to read.

Simple Language 

Don’t use complicated words unless you really need to. It doesn’t make you sound clever as people often think. It just makes your text harder to read and switches people off. Find a simple way of saying what needs to be said, using short words whenever possible. So, no over-complicated words, jargon or industry-speak.  And never use an acronym without explaining what it stands for first.

Short sentences and paragraphs 

Long sentences are hard to wade through. Most long sentences can be broken up into 2 or 3 short ones.  Starting a sentence with a conjunctive, like ‘And’ or ‘But’ was a No No when I was at school, but it works really well in online copy, giving it a more conversational feel.  I do it all the time. (Sorry Miss Roberts.)

Long paragraphs – huge chunks of text without a break – are offputting on paper. Even worse on a screen. Break long paragraphs into smaller blocks of text. White space on a page or screen gives your readers a welcome breather.

Check, check, check!

Always check your spelling and grammar.  Few things damage your professional credibility more quickly than a spelling mistake on your website or in a social media post. Word’s ‘Spelling and Grammar Check’ is pretty good. There is also the online grammar tool ‘Grammarly.’ Try and get a friend or colleague to check it too. Online tools can sometimes misinterpret words.

It is also possible to check how easy your text is to read, using a little-known Word function, ‘Readability’.  Easy-to-read text makes a huge difference, for online readers especially.

Hidden in Word’s spelling and grammar function there is a ‘Readability’ option. Click on Options in ‘Spelling and Grammar Check’ and tick the Readability box. Every time you spellcheck a document some readability stats will appear after the spelling corrections – Reading Ease and Reading Grade.

Ideally, for the average reader, the Reading Ease level should be between 60 and 70, and the Reading Grade level less than 10. This grade level equates to US school grades.  It’s a slightly complicated system but worth getting your head around. Find out more about the Readability Test.

And finally……Calls to Action 

Web pages and social media posts should should always feature a Call to Action. Keep these short and simple. Call me, Contact me, Buy!

I hope this has given you some ideas for when you are writing your next web page/blog/social media post. Your confidence will build the more you write, so don’t be scared! Give it a go, (making use of the checks I’ve mentioned!)  Keep writing, keep learning, keep improving!

Do let me know if this article has helped you.  Next month I’ll be sharing some tips on writing persuasive copy.

Seven Power Words to Grab Your Readers’ Attention!

Words Have Power written on post-its on cork boardThere are some special words that can make a real difference to the way your readers react to your written content. Words that will encourage them to move from passive reading to action! You can use these words in your emails, web pages, blogs and social media posts. Wherever you want your readers to engage.

Here’s the list of simple, highly effective, ‘Power Words’:

  1. Now – this creates urgency. “Don’t put it off” it says. Be sure to make it very clear exactly what action you want your readers to take.
  2. You / Your – makes it personal. Helps your reader visualise the impact your offer will have on their lives or business
  3. Thanks – this adds a human quality to your content. Thank them for reading, for buying, for subscribing. It builds customer loyalty and helps to create trust. Everyone likes to be appreciated!
  4. New – implies fresh, up-to-date. It’s human nature to want the latest, shiny thing.
  5. Easy – human beings are naturally lazy! They will always look for the easy way to do something. Also, perhaps they are a little scared about making the first move and actually contacting you. Reassure them that you are there to make things easy and pain-free for them.
  6. And – maybe your reader is teetering on the edge of buying. You can give them an additional push in the right direction by adding an extra related item to the deal you are offering. “And you will also get…..” TV shopping channels do this brilliantly.
  7. Free – everybody loves free stuff! Add a freebie to your offer to encourage a purchase. Or offer a free product or service to encourage your readers to sign up to your email list.

Think about how you could include these power words in your written content to help you attract more clients. Let me know how you get on!

A Major WordPress Update is Imminent!

If you have a WordPress website you need to be aware of an imminent, and quite major change to its editor.

The next WordPress update will include a brand new editor, called Gutenberg, replacing the current one with a ‘drag and drop’ style editor. In the long term this will make editing your WordPress website easier and more flexible. In the short term however, it may cause some problems.

  • The look of your site may change, probably for the worse
  • Plugins – pieces of code specifically written to provide added functionality on WordPress websites, may not work as expected.

Most websites are updated automatically by the hosting company. Regular upgrades are necessary, mainly for security reasons. It is not clear when the upgrade will take place. It could be any day from now on.

How to Avoid Problems

Speak to your web developer and check they have made the necessary adjustments for your website to be “Gutenberg ready”

OR

You can install a plugin called the Classic Editor. Activate this and your website will revert to the old editor that you are used to. Instructions below.

Websites built using standard WordPress themes and widely-used themes, for example Divi, should not suffer too many Gutenberg-related problems. Websites that have bespoke WordPress themes may not fare so well.

Instructions for installing the Classic Editor plugin and updating other plugins

If you are confident about installing plugins and have Admin access to your website go to your WordPress Dashboard and select Plugins. Search for the Classic Editor plugin, install and activate it.

If a plugin no longer works correctly check in the Plugins section of your Dashboard (as above) that you have the most recent version and, if not, update it. It may have been updated for Gutenberg. If it still doesn’t work you will need to find another plugin with the same functionality. Not great.

If you do not have Admin access, or if you are not confident about making these changes, contact your web developer.

There is a full explanation of the Gutenberg upgrade on the WordPress.org website. https://wordpress.org/gutenberg/

I hope your WordPress upgrade goes smoothly. Fingers crossed!

Why You Need a ‘Feel Good’ Website!

Neuroscience is becoming a key part of marketing theory. Research demonstrates that we tend to make decisions based on subconscious choices, rather than on a rational basis.

This means that your potential customers are making their buying decisions based on the way they feel about your service or product rather than on a reasoned analysis of its features and benefits.

The hugely successful online mattress brand, Eve Sleep, provide a good example of this. In their marketing copy they focus on how you feel in the morning after a good night’s sleep. More alive, more productive, more fulfilled. They don’t mention springs and mattress fillings!

It’s all about being part of the Eve “Morning Person’ Club and living a balanced, healthy lifestyle based on a good night’s sleep. This is how you will feel if you have an Eve Sleep mattress!

What does this mean for your business and your marketing, including your web copy?

Think about the positive effects your service or product delivers. How do people feel after they’ve bought from you?

  • Bookkeeper – Relieved that this is delegated to someone they trust
  • Life coach – Less stressed, happier
  • Chiropractor – Free from pain

This is what should be on your home page. Less about the details of what you do. (That can go on other pages which you can link to from the home page.) More about making people feel better.

Back this up with glowing customer testimonials and case studies. And you’ve got a winning formula

Using Links Successfully…for SEO and a Better User Experience

When you write your own web content it is easy to forget about links. But links are really important for two reasons:

  1. Website visitors love them

Clicking on a link that takes you to a specific page gives your reader a sense of purpose. They know what they want to look at and they are taking action to get there. They arein control and they are excited to find out more about the topic they are interested in.

  1. Links boost your Search Engine Ranking

Use your keywords as the text in your clickable link then those keywords get added Google juice. So don’t say “Click here for more info.” That will do nothing for your SEO. Instead say “Cupcakes – more info” (if Cupcakes is your keyword!)

How to Insert a Link

– To insert a clickable link in WordPress. select the text you want to be highlighted as a link and then click on the link symbol in your toolbar. (It looks like a link in a chain.) You will be guided through how to add the url for the relevant page –

So use internal links generously to help your website visitors find their way around your website and give them a feeling of being “in control.”

External links (links to other websites) are great for SEO too, but that needs to be weighed against the fact that you are giving your hard-won website visitors an easy way to leave your website. And once they’re gone will they ever come back?

So definitely include lots of internal links in your web copy but use external links with caution.

Keep ’em Reading Your Website!

You want people to spend time reading your website don’t you? So that they find out all about you and the great service you offer.

Ideally, they move on from reading your website to making contact with you, and then to buying from you.

How do you move people along this path?

Here are three golden rules for moving your website visitors from reading your website to buying from you.

  1. Show that you understand the problem that they want solved

In the first few lines of your web copy explain the problem that you know you can solve. Spell out exactly how annoying it is and show that you understand their pain.

This then blends into the second golden rule…

  1. Let them know they’re not the only one struggling with this

And that they’re not an idiot to still be looking for a solution! Tell them about others who’ve experienced the same problem. Use “we” and “us” – it’s not their problem, it’s our problem. Make them feel comfortable as they read.

  1. Finally, you need to show them that you can fix their pain. And why they should choose you

Use case studies and client feedback to show you have the expertise they need. And, just as importantly, that you can be trusted.

Explain, empathise, convert

The path from reading your website to becoming a client.

 

Improve Your Website 124%!

So you’ve done the hard bit of getting a visitor to your website. Maybe you’ve spent a fortune on search engine optimisation, or spent hours crafting tempting messages on social media. Don’t waste all that money and effort by taking them to a website that no-one wants to read!
“People rarely read web pages word by word; instead they scan the page, picking out individual words and sentences.” Jakob Nielsen
Websites with large chunks of text, no headings and a lack of white space overwhelm their visitors, and send them scurrying off to the next website on their search results list.
But you can improve your website’s readability and usabiity by 124% if you follow these guidelines:
  1. Be concise cut the waffle! Give your visitors the facts they want to know. Be ruthless. Less is more!
  2. Make your text scannable – use headings and bulleted lists to break up your text and make it easy to scan, so people can easily find what they are looking for. Keep your sentences short too, so there is lots of white space to make your website easy on the eye.
  3. Use objective language website visitors want facts, not marketing fluff and hyperbole. Include statistics and reference authoritative sources to give your website credibiity.
These guidelines have become even more important in recent years with more than 50% of website visits now on smartphones.

Is Anybody Reading Your Website?

 

Nobody reads your website! Why not?

Yes, the harsh truth is that most of your website visitors will not read any of your carefully-crafted prose.

Why is that? It’s simple. People don’t read websites. They scan them.

Most website visitors are there because they are looking for something. They typed it into Google and your website popped up. They then scan your page looking for it. If they don’t find what they are looking for, they will quickly move on to another site.

They are really not interested in reading all about you and your business. They want their problem solved or question answered. Fast.

Make your text scannable 

To make sure that your website visitors can find what they are looking for, quickly and easily, make your web text scannable. This means:

* Headings and sub-headings

* Bulleted lists

* Short paragraphs – just a couple of sentences

* Short sentences

* Use of bold (sparingly) for key points

Keep your language clear and simple

Write in clear and simple English. No marketing fluff or technical jargon. Get your main point across in the first couple of paragraphs.

Setting out your web pages in this way means that visitors will find what they are looking for. Then they will feel comfortable with your site and start to engage with it and find out more about what you offer.

It’s not about dumbing down your content but about helping your busy, flustered website visitors realise that you can help them!​​

Is Your Website Friendly?

By Marie Allen

The style and tone of your web copy is so important in getting across your business brand and values. For most small business websites that means writing in a professional way, but in a friendly, conversational tone, avoiding “corporate-speak.”

Writing in a conversational way means writing as if you were talking to a friend. When this is done correctly it is much more effective than formal writing, because it is more accessible and easy to follow.

And it puts across an impression of YOU, the real-life business person, not some faceless corporation. If you are running a small business this is crucial – people buy people.
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Don’t Make Me Think!

GET YOUR WEBSITE ORGANISED IN A WAY THAT MAKES SENSE TO YOUR POTENTIAL CLIENTS (SO THEY DON’T HAVE TO THINK!)

By Marie Allen

“Don’t Make Me Think” is the title of one of the classic books on web design, written by Steve Krug in 2006. Its premise is that website visitors are in a hurry and don’t want to have to spend time making choices and decisions.

Human beings are inherently lazy and if something seems difficult we are more than likely to ditch it and move on. Website visitors want to be taken by the hand and guided through a website to reach their desired outcome. They don’t want to be left stranded, unable to figure out what they should do next.

How do you feel when you hit upon a website that’s a bit of a muddle, where you can’t work out where to go for the information you are looking for? Where you get stuck in a dead-end and can’t find a way back to where you started? Annoyed? Frustrated? Websites like this are one reason why the Back key is the most used key on the keyboard!
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