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Website Design Articles :: Writing Good Copy

How do I write search engine friendly copy?

© Herman Drost
Search engines index pages according to the words and phrases that they find when they 'crawl' your website. Writing effective web copy means understanding what the goals of your web site are. Are you trying to get your visitors to purchase something or have them sign up for your newsletter? Remember you are trying to get someone you can't see and have never met take a step towards building a relationship with you or your company.

1. Create a customer profile - try to find out what are the needs and desires of your visitors. Here are some examples of questions you could ask: Are they young, middle aged or senior? Are they primarily male or female? Are they financially secure or budget-minded? What gets him or her excited? What are his or her most pressing concerns? Try to brainstorm a list of topics that might interest your target audience.

2. Create a Unique Selling Position (USP) - This is a statement of 2-3 sentences that explains why you are different from everybody else. This is the unique factor that sets you apart from your competition. Make this the first thing your visitor sees when they arrive on your home page.

3. Focus on benefits - most web users want to find the information about the product or service they need as fast as possible. If they land on your site, they want to know how they will benefit from buying your product or subscribing to your ezine. You will need to answer that question as clearly and concisely as possible or you will lose that visitor.

4. Use the inverted pyramid style - provide a summary of your information by clearly communicating the direction of your discussion. Use informative headings and subheadings with a paragraph of 4 to 5 lines that supports them. You only have a few seconds to grab your visitors attention. Most will simply scan for the information they are seeking. Use bulleted or numbered lists, boldface or coloured font to emphasize the points you wish to make. Include links at the end of your paragraph (or within the text) to direct visitors to other pages of your site for more in-depth information.

5. Write in an informal or personal style - write in a unique way that differentiates you from other small businesses in a similar business or niche. It doesn't have to be elaborate or super-creative. You simply provide a style that gets the attention of your visitors.

6. Keep your sentences simple - you are not writing to impress. You are writing to communicate. You want to pre-sell your product or service, therefore write as if you are talking to a 13 year old. Don't use large words but opt for strong verbs over weak ones. Use the active voice instead of a passive one. i.e. Instead of "a good score was achieved by the team" say "the team scored a season high". Speak "to" but not "at" your visitor. Keep your sentences short and snappy.

7. Include searchable keywords - use targeted keywords in your web copy that will allow the search engines to find your site. Include these keywords in your meta tags, links and file names also.

8. Eliminate the fluff - don't waffle on in your writing. You will only bore your visitors and they will click elsewhere. Try to remove filler sentences that contain phrases like "for those of you" and "all of you".

9. Proof read your web copy - errors in your web copy give the impression of being unprofessional or sloppy. Read the copy aloud to yourself or get someone else to proof read it. Often they will find more errors because they are more objective. Use the spell checker but don't rely on it. Often it doesn't pick up all incorrectly spelt words. Print a copy of your content. It's easier to find grammatical or spelling errors on a hard copy.

10. Take a break - revise your web copy after taking a break from it for several hours or a few days. This allows you to see it from a different viewpoint. You may find a better way to say something to further improve your copy.

11. Use images sparingly - images should only be used if they relate and support your web content. If not, they will only distract the visitor from reading your web copy. Too many images will slow down the time it takes for your visitor to load your site in their browser.

12. Use effective navigation - your navigation bar should help visitors easily find the main sections of your site.

Writing effective web copy is the key to converting visitors into buyers. Getting 1000s of visitors to your web site doesn't guarantee sales. Reading your web copy should pre-sell your product with the words you use. Once you achieve this, your web site will become very profitable.

Herman Drost is the Certified Internet Webmaster (CIW) owner and author of Affordable Web Site Design and Web Hosting. Subscribe to his "Marketing Tips" newsletter for more original articles at: subscribe@isitebuild.com. Read more of his in-depth articles at: www.isitebuild.com/articles

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