Writing online copy – 5 tips for marketers
Does digital copy and content produced by marketers really need to be any different to the copy produced for traditional offline media? While there are some truths about writing copy that will never change the evolution of digital media brings some new challenges we can’t ignore. Here are just a few tips for anyone producing online content…
Less is more
Consider how you read copy online, whether that’s on a PC, mobile or tablet. People don’t read the internet in the traditional sense. They skim read. No matter how much pride you have in your website and it’s content remember that people are visiting it with a clear objective. They may want to ask a question, compare a product or maybe even buy something but they want to do this quickly. If they have to trawl through paragraphs of marketing speak they are far more likely to visit your competitors site instead. Use fewer words to communicate your message clearly.
Use customer speak
One of the biggest sins of any marketing copywriter is to write for an audience based on assumptions. A previous boss once told me that when writing copy I should remember that ‘men are analytical and women are emotional’. That is an assumption and a very broad one! There is no better way to understand the language of your customers that to listen to them. Listen to calls in your call centre, visit your shop floor, read customer complaints and testimonials. Marketing teams always have their own jargon and way of talking about their products but how well do you and your colleagues represent your audience?
This is a way to bring your web users ‘alive’. You create a number of virtual people who each represent a segment of your customer base. You give them a name, socio-demographic profile and picture. How web savvy are they? What are their ‘information goals’ i.e. why are they likely to visit your website? How much time to they have – are they busy parents or retired people with more free time? Eventually you build up a detailed picture of your customers and prospects and have a much better chance of engaging them as loyal customers. Remember, the personas are not just imaginary friends but virtual people based on your real customers.
A picture speaks a thousand words
This has never been more true than online. The internet is a very visual medium and if you can bring copy alive with relevant images you have a far better chance of keeping visitors to your site interested. If you are trying to communicate lots of information quickly consider using an infographic. Try using images of real people, better still actual customers, instead of glossy images of models. Who are customers most likely to trust? Make sure that brand based images are relevant and meaningful and ensure that you feature product images wherever possible. Make things tangible and remember images are as important as words.
Navigation, navigation, navigation…
The web is awash with websites that are difficult to navigate. Sites with search functions that never return what you are looking for. A well structured homepage with clear navigation to all main areas of the site and clearly structured links and back-link throughout the site is essential. Not only does it improve your SEO but it greatly reduces the chances of your customers going elsewhere to achieve their objective. Sites with high bounce rates are usually poorly structured or contain badly written copy. You may have literally seconds to convince visitors to your site that they are going to find what they are looking for.
In the accelerated world we live in people have short attention spans. They expect the internet to deliver what they are looking for immediately. Imagine telling someone 20 years ago that you would be able to find the answer to virtually any question in seconds on their computer. As marketers we have less time to engage our customers and far more easily accessible competition. In the digital world we need to upgrade to copywriting 2.0.