by Arun Sinha

While attractive design and clean coding make a website easier to use, it's the words on the site that sell. Words used wisely bring search engines to your site and make or break your connection with your human readers.

Here are some general tips on writing for the web, followed by suggestions on what to write on specific pages of your site.

Web Writing: General Tips

Be audience-focused. That is, write with your audience in mind. Remember there is a live person at the other end reading your website. Whatever you say needs to be of interest to them.

Write in a friendly and informative tone. Customers go to the web looking for information. Tell them details about your product and its benefits. Don't use marketing hype — simply inform them about your offerings.

Be interesting. Be relevant. Offer solutions.

Write economically. Web copy should be at least half as long as printed copy. Users don't read web text word by word, they scan the copy.

To make your copy scannable, write short words, short sentences, and short paragraphs. Use boldface, bullets, indents, and subheads.

Use keywords. Develop 2 or 3 keywords (or keyphrases) for each page of your site, and use them throughout your copy. Repeat the keywords as often as you can while still sounding natural to your readers.

Writing Specific Web Pages

Home Page. Your home page should hook your visitors and invite them to stick with your site.

Clearly state what you do and what you offer the visitor. Write a headline that conveys your selling proposition. Don't write a bland headline like "Welcome to XYZ Company." That's just a waste of good web page space.

Then expand on your headline in 2 or 3 short paragraphs. You don't need to write long home-page copy for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes. Tell just enough so the reader gains a good understanding of your business and how you help your customers. You can provide details on the inside pages of your site.

It is more important to satisfy the information needs of your customers than to follow dubious SEO formulas for copy length or keyword density.

About Us. Your visitors want to know whom they will be doing business with. On the About Us page, tell them about:

  • Your company history
  • Business philosophy
  • Why you started the business
  • Your management team
  • More details on what sets you apart

Products and Services. Describe your products and services in detail. Mention all the features. If you have tangible products, give their colors, dimensions, specifications and ordering quantities. If you're selling services, explain your process and how the customer uses the service.

State benefits along with features. Example: "The product ships in a corrugated box, not a padded envelope" is a feature. The benefit is that the product reaches the customer in pristine condition, ready for their enjoyment.

Contact Us. Let the customer know how to reach you. Provide as many of the following as apply to your business:

  • Company's legal name
  • Address
  • Directions and maps
  • Hours of operation
  • Names of key contacts
  • Phone numbers and email addresses

Content Pages. Apart from the above pages, add pages with informative, relevant and useful content that keep your visitors engaged. Publish articles, white papers, frequently asked questions (FAQs) and other information-rich material.

Well-written web copy is worth the effort. It adds value to your site, raises awareness of your company and turns prospects into customers.

Arun Sinha is president of Access Communications, a digital marketing, content creation and web development company in Stamford, Connecticut, USA. Visit http://www.accessc.com for more information on copy writing, websites, and Internet marketing.

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