There is business writing and there is writing for the web.
Writing for the web is an intentional process for eliciting a response, and often a series of responses. This is why it is sometimes referred to as direct response copywriting.
Your web copy should be designed to attract attention, develop a relationship with an audience, and then convert that interest into some form of action. These actions could range from gradually building your community to taking advantage of an offer to buy products and services.
For your copy to get read, it first has to be discovered. In other words, web copywriting is also SEO copywriting.
Following these 9 practices will give your web copy the essential qualities necessary for earning both the attention of your audience – and the search engines.
9 Essential Practices for Writing Responsive Web Copy
#1 – A headline that signals the nature of the content – There are headlines that inform and those that build curiosity. If you can accomplish both, you have a winner. Think of your headline like the title of a great book or film – one that will get people to show up and listen to your story.
2. A meta-description that delivers on that headline – If the headline is the title of the film, the meta-description is the opening scene. It has to honor the promise of the headline to instantly engage the audience. For articles and blog posts, this is usually the first couple of lines.
3. Economy of words that respect the attention of the audience – Short sentences that make a point always work best. There is no need for long build-ups. Think of your content as a meal that is about to be consumed. Your audience is hungry, so serve it up!
4. Distinct sections and short paragraphs that flow from one to the next – Organized sections, short paragraphs, and bolded highlights help your audience quickly get to the good stuff. Keep paragraphs to no more than three sentences (as I have done in this article). It feels awkward at first; then it becomes a habit.
5. Internal and external links to related content – Internal links to your related content help your SEO. External links to influential sources add to your credibility, just like a footnote or bibliography show you’ve done your homework.
6. Images and other multi-media that enhance the writing – Visuals of any kind add to the experience. They engage and help to anchor your story in the minds of the audience. Remember that the best marketing is memorable.
7. Use of relevant keyword phrases – Keywords are the language of the web. They are relatable to your audience and the search engines. They are a signal that you know your audience and the material you are presenting, and therefore, serve to get your copy read and ranked highly for search.
8. An appropriate call-to-action – Your writing should move your audience to action. It should educate, entertain, and inspire. Once that is accomplished, you want to engage them further by having them subscribe for more – or purchase what you have that will give them additional value.
9. Author attribution – Google is making an effort to reward authors for their original content. This is accomplished by referencing your email address or link to your Google+ profile in your content. This enhances your authority as an expert in your area of expertise, which thereby enhances the authority of all of your copy.
Writing for the web is a very focused and tight form of writing that acknowledges the objectives of search engines, and therefore people searching the web, as well as the core audience that has already subscribed to your content.
This makes it a more interesting form of writing. Think of writing for the web as a challenging game; one that you can master with practice.
Are you ready to get started?
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Why We Write is a book that inspired my writing. I read it twice. Acclaimed novelists such as David Baldacci, Jodi Picoult, and Isabel Allende share their writing habits and secrets. This will help you to find your own personal writing style.
Why I Write is an article of my own whose title was inspired by the aforementioned book. I hope it inspires you.
Writing to Remember is an article that answers the question I am often asked: How long did it take to write your book? You and I have enough ideas to fill dozens of books. You just need to get started.
5 Ways to Make Your Blog Posts Outstanding is an earlier article that goes into a number of these topics in depth.
Jeff is also the author of Built-In Social: Essential Social Marketing Practices for Every Small Business – (Wiley 2013)