Tips for writing good web copy

You don’t need to be Shakespeare to write compelling web copy that grabs your dream customers’ attention. Here are some basic tips on writing effective content for your website.

9 tips for writing good web copy

1. Use subheadings

Subheadings make your content easier to read because they structure your text by arranging it around topics that flow. They are also easier on the eye. Anything that is more visually appealing to the reader increases the chances of them reading your entire article (and sticking around a while on your website).

Think about a huge chunk of uninterrupted text on your screen. Dense, unappealing and uninviting. My eyes!

2. Incorporate keywords

Keywords are how people find you online. Think about how you search for something yourself. You go to your favourite search engine and type in a few words describing whatever it is you’re looking for. Those words are keywords, and every good webpage needs them. Think about the keywords your ideal customers would use to search for your business, then use them in the copy you write.

Think about niche and localised keywords that’ll being customers to your page. If you use keywords that are too popular or generic, chances are people looking for you won’t find you in the sea of websites returned in their search.

And don’t stuff your copy full of the same keywords. Readers and search engines alike don’t like that. Think of synonyms and other creative ways to use your keywords.

3. Write in the active voice

This sentence was written by me in the passive voice.

I wrote this sentence in the active voice.

One of these sentences is shorter, snappier and gets to the point. Of course there are exceptions, especially in creative writing, but in general the active voice is easier to read.

4. Vary sentence length

Short sentences are great. And in some cases, when you’re getting creative or really need to describe something in greater detail, so are longer sentences. What’s best is a mixture of short and long sentences.

But don’t use too many overly long sentences. They’re confusing to read, which could mean your point is lost on the reader.

5. Stick to short paragraphs

Shorter paragraphs are easier to read. As I mentioned before, readers can find massive chunks of text intimidating.

Restricting paragraphs to one topic, and spreading them out with lots of white space means they look nice and are easier to read. Visitors to your website will stick around longer, and hopefully even buy something.

6. Use outbound & inbound links

Search engines find webpages through links. Internal links connect your pages to each other and give the site structure. Search engines and humans love sites that are easy to navigate and nicely linked up.

And outbound links to other websites do the same on an external scale. If we can connect up the web in a structured and relevant way, it’s a far more pleasant surfing experience. And far more interesting websites will be found by search engines and humans alike.

But make sure you’re linking to content that’s relevant to the content on your webpage. People are going to be bemused if they’re on a site about chocolate and click through to an accountant’s website, for example.

7. Vary post lengths

Of course the content of your posts and articles are more important than their length, and length may vary depending on the topic and audience. But most people have short attention spans, so they often prefer to read shorter content that gets the point across succinctly.

However, long-form content ranks well on search engines. And sometimes people really want to deep-dive into a topic to learn as much about it as possible.

That’s why it’s good to have a mixture of both short and long articles on your site. But try to keep above 300 words per post to allow search engines enough text to analyse and rank.

8. Write for your target audience

Picture your dream clients. What do they want to hear? What do they want to read? Think about what information they want and what you need to say to persuade them that your products and services are awesome.

9. Your own style trumps everything

You’re unique. Your brand is unique. If you write in your own catchy, quirky, wonderful voice, your web copy is going to stand out a mile above all the rest.

And yes, while no-one is you, a good writer should be able to present enough of your voice and brand in their writing to get your message out there.

Need someone to help you with your writing? Book a free discovery call with me here.

Read more about content and copywriting here.

Arguments against the Oxford comma

Grammar, punctuation and the Oxford comma

Example of a book title with and without the Oxford comma

I’ll come right out and say it. I hate the Oxford comma. It’s yucky. I feel like a three-year-old having a tantrum but, my friends, the unsightly thing hurts my eyes.

Will I use an Oxford comma when I’m writing for you? Yes, if you want me to.

In Australia, Canada and South Africa, the Oxford comma tends not to be used in non-academic publications unless it’s really needed to clear up ambiguity. As an Australian, that’s the approach I take. Unless the people I’m writing for are diehard Oxford comma fans.

What is an Oxford comma?

Named thusly because it’s part of the Oxford University Press style guide, the Oxford comma is also known as the serial comma. Some Americans call it the Harvard comma, because, like the remake of international movies, they always have to have their own version…

It’s a comma inserted between the second-last term and the conjunction in a list of three of more items. What the?!? Maybe it’s better to give you an example.

With the Oxford comma: beer, wine, and gin
Without the Oxford comma: beer, wine and gin

Some of my favourite drinks, in case you’re buying. 😉

You’ve probably seen both versions used. Or you may not have even noticed. Most likely you don’t give a hoot. I do though. Writers care about such things.

That old ambiguity chestnut

Members of Team Oxford Comma argue that it resolves ambiguity. I concede that it does. Check out these examples.

This book is dedicated to my parents, Byron and Shelley.
This book is dedicated to my parents, Byron, and Shelley.

The second sentence clarifies that my parents are not Byron and Shelley. But you could just as easily reword the sentence.

This book is dedicated to Byron, Shelley and my parents.

You could also just use your common sense. Of course my parents aren’t Byron and Shelley. Both writers died long before I was born.

The Oxford comma can even add ambiguity.

I painted a picture of my father, a famous guitarist and Dali.
I painted a picture of my father, a famous guitarist, and Dali.

The additional comma makes it look like my father is a famous guitarist when this is actually a list of three separate people.

Reasons against the Oxford comma

  • It’s ugly, especially in a simple list of three words.
  • It takes up space. That’s why journalists tend not to use it, since article space is at a premium.
  • It adds unnecessary clutter for the reader’s eyes.
  • It adds as much ambiguity as it resolves.

Style guide recommendations

Let’s see what the style guides have to say about the Oxford comma. After all, they know far more about grammar and punctuation than me.

Style guideOriginOxford comma fan?
The Australian Government Publishing Service’s Style Manual for Authors, Editors and PrintersAustraliano
The Canadian Style: A Guide to Writing and EditingCanadano
The Cambridge Guide to English UsageUKno
The Economist Style GuideUKno
Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English UsageUKsometimes
The Guardian Style GuideUKno
MHRA Style GuideUKyes
New Hart’s RulesUKsometimes
The Oxford Style ManualUKyes
The Times style manualUKno
University of Oxford Public Affairs Directorate Writing and Style GuideUKno
AAMT Book of Style for Medical TranscriptionUSAyes
AIP Style Manual, American Institute of PhysicsUSAyes
The AP StylebookUSAno
American Medical Association Manual of StyleUSAyes
Chicago Manual of StyleUSAyes
CSE Manual for Authors, Editors, and PublishersUSAyes
The Elements of StyleUSAyes
Garner’s Modern English UsageUSAyes
MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly PublishingUSAyes
The New York Times StylebookUSAno
Plain English HandbookUSAyes
Publication Manual of the American Psychological AssociationUSAyes
United States Government Printing Office’s Style ManualUSAyes
Wilson Follett’s Modern American Usage: A GuideUSAyes

It looks like there’s no hard and fast rule. It’s simply a discretionary style preference. So unless I’m writing an academic piece, it’s needed to clear up ambiguity or my client prefers it, count the Oxford comma out of my writing.

Want to know more about my copywriting services? With or without the Oxford comma, the time I save you by doing your writing can be invested back into your business.

Benefits of being discoverable online

discovering a lightbulb

Why oh why did they say, “Build it and they will come”?

That’s only for the movies.

A better saying could be, “If a small business launches in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

Not if that business is not discoverable online. A business that is not discoverable online is missing out on countless benefits.

You may have a shopfront on a main street. Passers-by and word of mouth are enough to generate an income.

But that’s not everyone’s experience. Many businesses, whether on or offline, don’t have a physical shopfront. And even if you do, you’re missing out on so many more customers because they haven’t discovered you online. Imagine all the benefits more customers could bring.

And not every person in your neighbourhood walks past your shop. Or notices it if they do.

Search engines are focussing more and more on location. So if you want more people in your neighbourhood to find you, then you need to be discoverable online.

Even if people do randomly walk past your shop, do they really know you and your business? If they want to know something about you, guess where they’ll look? Yep, online.

These days people learn more about a business online than anywhere else. These are the people who’ll become your customers because they’ve done the research and made an informed choice.

Traditional marketing and lead generation is costly. If you’re a small business just getting started, can you afford this expense? And would you want to fork out for it if you knew you could achieve the same results with a good online presence and SEO?

Benefits come to a business who is discoverable online because its potential customers:

5 benefits of being discoverable online

Furthermore, a professional website will show that you’re a legitimate and authentic business. It’ll get the attention of the people who are looking for the goods/services you provide. Basically, an online presence will lead customers to you. And that’s always a good thing, right?

If you’re discoverable online, no matter what type of business you run, you’ll be able to attract the right customers who can engage with you in the right way. And help grow your business.

Good written copy on your website is a big part of having a good online presence. Customers and search engines love it. That’s where I can help you.

So if you’re not discoverable online, you know what’ll happen? Nothing!

But if you are discoverable online, you know what could happen? Everything!

Why go online?

compelling ecommerce stats about why your business should go online

Your business deals with face to face customers in the real world. You’re not internet savvy. Besides, you’re doing pretty good as it is. Who needs to go online?

Do you really need to bother with a website and all that rigmarole?

Yes.

Because that’s where your customers are.

That’s where your customers find you.

The global online shopping market size is predicted to hit $4 trillion this year.

eCommerce will rise to 22% of all global retail sales by 2023.

You may not be the US, but Australia isn’t a small-fry market. In 2019, we were one of the top 10 countries based on eCommerce market size. By 2021, our eCommerce market value will be $35.2 BILLION.

And the COVID-19 situation is only increasing these numbers. Many online retail categories saw an increase in sales in March 2020 by as much as 74%.

And that was back in March. How much have they gone up today? Especially if you’re in Melbourne…

You can’t afford to miss out on a piece of this massive pie.

Here we’ve discussed the benefits of selling online. In another article, I talk about the benefits of being discovered online – regardless of whether you sell online or not.

Contact me to find out how I can help.