Many Start Ups and Small Businesses don’t have the budget to hire a professional copywriter. We are usually bootstrapping it , and doing what we think is best based on what we know at the time.
When you first sit down to tackle creating content for your website, you will probably approach it like a school assignment and make the mistake of writing like it’s your 8th grade history report. Complete with worthless filler words inserted to meet your total word requirement, and impress the teacher.
However, your teacher was a captive audience. They were interested in you personally and in your progress as a student. Strangers on the web are not. Online everyone has an escape from poorly written content called the “back” button. And it gets hit more times than a pinata at a birthday party.
But fear not web explorers. If you follow a few basic principles they will help you avoid writing copy that bores people to death, and prevents them from finding out more about you.
Opinions here are varied. Some are old notions and “tricks” that gained attention years ago that a few still hold on to as fact, like an old episode of 60 Minutes from the ’80’s. And some are just common sense. I like the common sense one’s.
Much like Mel Brooks in the movie History of the World Part. 1, “I have taken the most relevant to give you these 10..(it’s actually 5) commandments” that any new company or organization should follow when writing or rewriting their website copy.
1. Skimming is the new reading
Get to the point. On every page. Save the soliloquy’s and personal philosophy for the “About” page. And even then keep it to a minimum. Make your introductory sentences descriptive and explanatory so that anyone who happens by in a rush, knows what the page is about immediately.
Give people clear directions and navigation options. Don’t use confusing terms, slang or cute phrases if there is any possibility that someone may not know what they mean. When it doubt stick to standard terms that everyone will understand.
2. Avoid music, auto-play videos and flash intros
And by avoid, I don’t mean to merely include a “skip intro” button (nightclubs, music and movie sites follow different rules). If you have a video, let the user be in control of whether they watch it or not. People hate stuff that automatically starts playing when they weren’t expecting it. And return visitors hate having to go through it again.
3. Don’t bore people with jargon, acronyms, buzz words
Don’t you hate reading someone’s bio and the first paragraph is nothing but buzz words that don’t get to the point of what they actually do? Well, people hate that even more on websites and they will leave immediately.
Related Article: Acronyms and Buzzwords are killing your sales
4. Be Honest
Be truthful about your company, what you do and how you do it. Bait and switch doesn’t work online.
5. Walk in the shoes of your readers
It’s easy to get caught up in your own BS and think that it’s all great. But you need to look at your website and it’s copy from the standpoint of a reader who doesn’t know you, because that is going to be your most likely visitor.
Step outside of your business, act like a potential customer and experience your website as if you are looking for products and services for the first time. Would you do business with you?
Bonus: Opinions of friends and family means squat
I’m not saying that you shouldn’t get their opinions. What I’m saying is friends and family aren’t your target audience. Strangers are. Your friends are family are likely to praise anything that you do. On the other hand, if they are at least casual internet users they can be the first string of reviews to help you fine tune and simplify things. If they “get it” without any prodding or explanation from you, then you may be on the right track.
These basic tips can help you avoid some of the boredom and wasted space that so many companies take up on the Internet.
People want to know who you are, what you do, how you do it, and how to contact you. You need to cover those bases first and foremost. The last thing you want is to have perspective clients and customers walk away saying “Nice website, but I have no idea what they do and I didn’t have time to look around to find out.”
You want people to think to themselves within the first 10 (5 really) seconds of landing on your page that you have what they are looking for, and give them clear direction to take action. If you accomplish that with every visitor (provided that you don’t suck at what you do), you’ll be on your way .
About the Author
Harold Mansfield is a Webmaster and Consultant at NHAB.IT, specializing in Small Business Web Services including WordPress Websites, Facebook Pages, Small Business Ecommerce, Mobile Marketing, Web Consulting and Support Services.