5 Tips for Writing Effective Web Copy

Sometimes it’s good to get back to basics. We spend a lot of time looking at the latest tools for connecting with contacts and getting folks information, but a lot less time looking at what makes for compelling content. If you’re going to get people to connect and engage with you, you need to be able to speak to them clearly and concisely.

To do that, take a look at the copy on your website. What does it say about you? Does it draw people in? Or do casual readers suddenly find themselves bombarded with a 10,000 word chunk of text and spinning flash ads?

Here are some tips for creating effective web copy:

1)      Be clear. The web encourages rapid consumption of material. The typical reader will only spend a few seconds scanning a web page before deciding if it’s something they’re interested in. Try signing up for and using a service like Stumbleupon to see just how many seconds it takes you to click the “Stumble” button to find a new page. It only takes me about 3-5 seconds to decide whether or not a site holds any interest or value to me.

2)      Be simple. Increasingly, we’re accessing web sites from mobile devices with tiny screens, whether it’s a mobile phone, iPad or Netbook, you don’t have a lot of real estate to play with. Either design a mobile version of your website or keep your primary site design as simple as possible (a good rule of thumb even when your core audience generally has 19″-26″ monitors).

3)      Break it up. This goes hand-in-hand with “Be simple.” Unless you’re writing an instructional site, posts of 500 words or less are ideal. Use headlines, bullet points, bolding, and lists where necessary. Remember how quickly readers are skimming your information? Bullets and bolding make it clear what your page or post is about during a simple skim. If it looks good, we will pull away from the mouse button and take the time to dance with you.

4)      Be real. Even when you’re fictional. I’ve blogged in a number of other places and ghost-blogged for other companies, but oftentimes the most effective blogging I’ve done is as an identifiable person. Even if that “person” was someone I was ghost-blogging as. People want to connect with other people, not a faceless brand. When you have a faceless brand, try giving it a face, and you just might end up with The Old Spice Guy.

5)      Bust out. This could just as easily say “be different.” But “be different” is really too easy. What you want to do is surprise folks. And that’s going to require busting out. Sometimes you need to take risks. In a highly competitive industry, it’s especially important to stand out from the crowd. If your website still uses stock photos of happy business professionals in suits and the copy has words like “synergy,” “robust consumer solutions,” and “exceeding our customer’s expectations,” it may be time to take a step back and figure out who you want to be and how you want to bust out of that generic wash. Your voice on the web will go a long way toward defining that.  Find out what that voice is, and start talking.

Penny Ohlmann Neimann

The Ohlmann Group has a rich history that began in Dayton, Ohio in 1949, where the agency was founded as Penny and Penny by Bob Penny and his wife Jean. In 1964, Walter Ohlmann joined the firm. Ralph Neiman came on in 1969 and the firm became Penny/Ohlmann/Neiman. In 2011, P/O/N was renamed The Ohlmann Group to better reflect the agency's ongoing evolution and collaborative nature.

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