INSIGHTS

Top Nine Web Writing Principles

The best writing advice I ever heard came in college. A beloved journalism professor was teaching us how not to bore readers to death and he pulled out a review for a play. The opening line read, “Glenda Jackson is a buzzsaw of an actress and Rose is a toothpick of a play.” If the reviewer had followed SOP for web writing today he would’ve written something like, “Rose is a mediocre play, but Glenda Jackson does a good job of acting.”

I just bring up this example to say that writing about software or financial services or surgical drapes doesn’t have to be boring. Use the right language and you can say more with less and pull readers into just about any topic. Also, thinking about a sentence for a few minutes before you write it might end up being what separates you from AI.

Beyond that, here are some tips we like to share with our writers:

Avoid being a conversational narcissist

The reason a website exists is to solve a visitor’s problem, help them make a buying decision, etc. The copy on the site needs to speak in terms of what they are trying to achieve and acknowledge what they want. So, starting sentences with “we” and “our” statements are immediate attention killers. Keep the focus on the visitors’ needs.

HAVE A HOOK, DRIVE TO A CLEAR ACTION

A lot of web copy out there sounds the same. That’s because there’s no hook—a provocative statement or unique perspective on a key topic. That will make your web copy stand out. Also, make sure there are clear calls-to-action (CTAs) throughout the pages: downloads, contact us, etc.

Avoid typical b2b droning

Using typical B2B language make you sound like a parrot. Write conversationally about the problems your visitors are looking to solve and write convincingly about how the solution solves their problem.

ACKNOWLEDGE THAT PEOPLE SCAN WEBSITES, THEY DON'T READ THEM LIKE A BOOK

Brevity in website copywriting is critical. Get key messages in headlines and subheads, make headlines tell a story when read consecutively and avoid long copy blocks.

ECONOMY OF LANGUAGE

To quote Ernest Hemingway, “the first draft of everything is sh*t.” After you complete a draft, go back and remove about 50% of the words. If the original writer can’t do it (loves the words too much), have another editor do it.

NO HYPERBOLE OR VAPID CLAIMS

Readers dislike claims like “world’s leading,” “best-in-class,” “seamlessly” or “instant ROI.” Rethink any sentence that makes the company the hero—your mission is to enable the visitor.

avoid exhaustive explanations

Visitors just want to know that you have addressed their issues. There’s no need to fully explain. Plus, if you offer full explanations, visitors will have less reason to engage with you or your sellers.

ACTIVE VOICE, VARIED SENTENCE LENGTHS

Eliminate passive verbs (is, are, were, was, has…) and use mostly short and medium length sentences to maintain reader interest—mix in a longer one occasionally.

USE KEYWORDS STRATEGICALLY

Don’t become a slave to your keywords. Google is starting to rank content/pages more by how well you address an issue than how many times you repeat a keyword or phrase. An interesting explanation or unique perspective that is written according to the guidelines above will ultimately perform best.

A study I tend to believe says that 71% of decision makers find less than half of the B2B content they read valuable. Only 15% tend to find content they consider excellent or very good. Following these tips is one way to have more of your web content achieve that rarer consideration.

Want to talk web writing? We’re available