When was the last time you went to a website and thought to yourself, “Wow, this copywriting is really fantastic! Look at all the bullet points!” Yeah, me neither. That’s because good copywriting is like the lighting guy at a concert: invisible, but essential for showcasing the main attraction (your information). Bad copywriting crashes the party by jumping in front of the information and hollering “Look at me! I’m making it harder for you to find what you want!” Writing effective online copy is all about identifying the party-crashers and escorting them from the premises so you can showcase the main attraction.
Party Crasher #1: Complicating the Message
In any given industry, you have jargon, technical terms, and insider idioms that you use when communicating with others in the business. If you bombard you website audience with these things, however, you’re making it harder for them to understand what you mean. So don’t make them get a realtor’s license in order to understand your real estate website. Simplify, simplify, simplify.
Party Crasher #2: Grammar By the Book
I’m a firm believer in good grammar and spelling. However, with online writing you get to break a few rules—discreetly. It’s okay, and even desirable, to use sentence fragments, begin sentences with “And” or “But,” use slang, and write in first person. The goal is to be conversational, talking with your readers rather than at them.
Party Crasher #3: Disguising Your Main Points
You’ve got fabulous information that your target audience needs to know. But if you disguise it as a long, boring paragraph, they’ll never get around to reading it. Show off your main points with bullets, numbered lists, and bolding.
Party Crasher #4: Becoming a Slave to Keywords
Keywords are an essential SEO tool, and every website needs them. But when your copywriting becomes a slave to your keywords, it can sound stilted and disjointed. Effective keyword density generally hovers between 1% and 5%. Keywords should appear in titles and headings and should sound natural when used in your copy.
Party Crasher #5: Robotic Style
Remember the computer from the original Star Trek series? For any non-trekkie people out there, it spoke in monotone, sounded robotic, and communicated only the essentials. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, however, the computer had acquired a personality. Now she was feminine, warm, and personable. That’s the difference you want to achieve in your writing style: the difference between “it” and “she.” Let your personality shine through in your writing.
When you simplify your message, write conversationally, highlight your main points, use keywords effectively, and develop personality in your writing, you effectively escort the party-crashers off-stage and allow your fabulous information to enjoy the limelight. It is, after all, what the audience came to see.