Fact: copywriting for the web has changed.

At some point, it was universally decided that web copy must be written by robots, for robots. We’re putting our foot down and declaring that this must come to an end. Web copy is now expected to be short, to-the-point, and, surprise, conversational. Yep, that’s right, conversational. Because it’s for humans. And last I checked, humans aren’t robots. (To be fair, there was some logic behind this robotic language – and that was to gain higher rankings on search engine results but this is no longer necessary.)

There are many reasons to blame for this shift in copy style: social media, evolution of web design, changes in search engine algorithms, or the fast-paced lifestyle that has taken over American culture.

Note that there are differences between web, print, TV, and radio copy and that this article only addresses web copy because, you guessed it, we’re a web design company. This is our forte and we’re willing to share a few secrets with you.

Here are five general web copywriting guidelines that work:

AudienceMind1. Marketing 101: Keep your audience top of mind.

Yes, we’re all tired of hearing it, but we need this refresher from time to time. We find it mind-blowing how often we come across websites that seem to forget this golden rule. Your copy must appeal to the right audience, not everyone on the internet. As much as we want everyone on the internet to read our site (wouldn’t that be great?), the focus needs to be on quality over quantity. Know your audience and speak directly to them.

process2. It’s all about the process (and a little bit of patience).

Good copy does not come to life overnight. From an outsider’s perspective, web copy may seem as simple as throwing words together to form sentences, but that’s only because the very talented copywriter behind those sentences made it simple to read. Good web copy requires strategy, unbreakable concentration, and a whole lotta brainpower.

Shock3. Give them a little shock.

There are a million sites out there that follow the same copy template (whether they realize it or not). Here’s a prime example:

“(Company Name) is a (Type of Business) company located in (Location) specializing in (Service Offerings Go Here).”

This overused “template” does not promote engagement, nor does it get the reader thinking. In fact, they most likely scanned over it because their brains are so accustomed to reading this sentence (with the few changing variables) over and over again.

When I first started writing copy, it was easy to fall into this trap. It was comfortable and expected.

And that’s exactly it: your copy shouldn’t be expected. Our brains crave the sparks and stimulation that creative copy brings to the table. After reading through my first draft of this “comfortable” copy, my boss unknowingly critiqued me with advice that would open the doors to a writing style that was already inherent to me (as it is in most of us) – the art of conversation.

Her exact advice? “You need to shock the reader. Catch them off-guard with the words they are reading. Avoid the over-used, stuffy, traditional web talk. It should resemble a casual conversation, because, well, we are people, right? And we’re writing this for other people, not robots.”  Yes, indeed. 

Hurry4. Assume your reader is in a hurry.

People don’t read on the internet, they scan. Meaning, less is more, and every word counts. The goal of copy is to engage the reader from start to finish, while laying out a strong, concise message. We no longer have to drown our site with repetitive text to rank high in search engine results. Keyword density does not work anymore. Great copy does.

creative5. “If it doesn’t sell, it’s not creative.” – David Ogilvy

Bottom line, your copy needs to sell. Your job as a copywriter is to change a need to a want. The “creative” copy strategically delivers value and leads the reader to the call of action.

 

 

Let’s put an end to robot dialogue once and for all. Support the cause? Let us help you write out-of-this-world copy on your next site.

Erin Olson
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