Four Tips For Better Copy On Your Website

CopyWriting
7/25/2013

If you're writing content for business websites, you can find plenty of writing advice in blogs focusing on sentence structure. Mostly the advice is to keep the sentences short. Very short.

Going beyond that oversimplified advice, however, you really need to concentrate on what it is you're trying to say and the audience who is going to read it. Too many home pages for businesses start with essentially a mission statement, comprised of generalizations about customer service and striving to be best in the market place. Yet they never get around to telling what it is these businesses make or services they sell.

Tip 1: If the opening sentence on a business home page can be written about any type of business, rewrite the sentence.

Be concise. The first thing a new viewer to a business website wants to know is "What does this company do?" If you don't tell him up front, he quickly moves on to the next search engine hit.

If you're writing content for a restaurant, the graphics make it obvious what the business is. The writer's job on the home page, then, is to identify the style and specialty of the restaurant. This allows the viewer to decide if this might be the place where she wants dinner Saturday night and so digs further into the website.

If the site is for an industry parts supplier, the graphics may be eye-catching but not necessarily clear on what parts the company supplies. It's up to the writer to give a quick general description of what the company does. Give enough so the viewer knows he's in the right ball park.

Tip 2: Tell viewers what the business can do for them.

Viewers are looking to solve a problem, grab an opportunity or fill some other need they're facing. So tell them up front what needs you fill or problems you solve. Maybe it's a part that improves gas mileage in a used car. Perhaps it's an accountant in town that lets the owner of a small business concentrate on expanding his company instead of keeping the books. Whatever area of expertise the company has, make it clear on the home page. Telling viewers to a business website what the company does and what it can do for them will convince those viewers to look further into the site for details.

Tip 3: Write for the audience.

I ran across a blog recently that advised content writers to write to a third grade level. If you use the Flesch Kincaid Grade Level test in Word, that's way too low. This blog probably jumped up a grade level just by citing that test. If you don't use that test, don't worry about it. Write naturally, but think of the level of knowledge the readers to a particular website has. For a business site read by general consumers, assume the knowledge level of the site's topics is low. For a business-to-business site, the knowledge level is greater. The content should sound informed and not oversimplified.

4. Jargon is code. Sometimes that's not all bad.

You constantly see advice to writers to avoid jargon. It's bad.

Well, jargon is not bad. It's shorthand.

If you're writing content to be read by consumers, the common advice holds. You have to keep the content simple and explain any technical terms you have to use.

In a B2B site, which itself is jargon for business-to-business, jargon can save time. An industrial engineer reading a parts supplier's website will know the terms commonly used in that supply chain. Be judicious on the terms you use, but there's no need to write a paragraph to explain jargon that's commonly understood by a specific audience.

When it comes to acronyms, spell out the words on first reference. Your aim should be not to write to the level of a top engineer, but rather to the level of the company's new intern - which should be better than third grade.

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