Use headlines that summarise the key benefit of the product or purpose of the page to show readers that they are in the right place.
Cover most important points first by writing in the ‘inverted pyramid style’ – start with the conclusion, followed by the supporting information and ending with the more detailed background information so that readers can stop at any time and still get the most important points.
A lot of readers quickly scan online looking for key points. So it can be very effective to use short, succinct and punchy text with lots of bullet points, bolding of key points, tables and sub-headings making easy to absorb at a glance.
Generally aim to use relevant, meaningful headings and subheadings including key phrases that people are looking for, rather than obscure ‘clever’ headlines that make people work to understand the meaning. This is also helpful for search engines.
Unless detailed business or technical content needs to be explained, or there is a specific need for long copy, boil the information to the essential. Long pages have their place, but you can always link off to more detailed information or downloads and more detail for eager readers.
Use simple sentence structures. If you’re struggling with punctuation it’s probably too complex. Use plain English and avoid the use of jargon or industry insider terms.
Include one idea per paragraph, as readers will often skip over any additional ideas if they are not included in the first few words in the paragraph.
Establish credibility by avoiding exaggerated or unsupported claims, and where possible include testimonials, research or examples to back up your claims. Links to third party sites with supporting information or quotes also help.
Use the active rather than the passive voice (e.g.: ‘Request more information’ not ‘More information can be obtained by clicking here’).
Typos or bad grammar can detract significantly from the brand impression. It’s worth getting someone to proof read your text.
Not everyone will enter your site from the home page, so each page must include enough information to make sense to someone who came to the page directly through a search engine. A clear call to action should be included on pages to direct the user as to where they should go next in the sales process.
If people actively seek out your website, it’s likely that the vast majority of your visitors will likely be looking for the same three or four main things – for example your core product, your location, your contact details, your prices… So give some thought as to what your core visitors are after and make sure it is simple for these things to be found easily in the navigation and design.
A good way to test the clarity and tone of your website content is to read it aloud as if you were explaining to a friend. It should sound natural. If you are you cringing or you and your friend are wondering where the ‘real’ you went, there’s work to do.
Not all these ideas will apply all the time and no doubt there are countless more tips. But it’s always worth checking to make sure you’re covering the basics.
Peter Crocker is a director of Flying Solo, Australia’s micro business community, where he helps look after marketing and advertising. As a business copywriter he partners with digital agencies and corporate clients on websites and digital content. He’s the co-author of the book Flying Solo Revisited: How to go it alone in business.