Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Write Better Web Content

By: Nancy Jackson

If you’re reading this article, chances are that you, like most professionals these days, understand the value of the Internet. It may be where you go to buy movie or concert tickets, browse restaurant menus, or plan your vacations. Most likely, you also turn to the Web to research business strategies, vendors and other companies.

But what about those surfers who are researching your company? When they visit your Web site, will they find what they’re looking for? Does your site provide the information they need in an interesting format that will keep them there long enough to convince them to do business with you?

While an attractive, professional-looking site is an important start, content is king. (What else would you expect from a copywriter?) But seriously, your site will never be truly effective without well-written content that answers visitors’ questions and creates enough interest to keep them coming back.

So how do you create effective content for the Web? It may be easier than you think. With all the bad writing out there on the Internet, even minimal effort can help set yours apart. Here’s a start: Good Web content can always be described by these four adjectives.

1. Consistent. There’s nothing like inconsistency to make your Web site appear amateurish. Some businesses spell their own company names two or three different ways right on the home page. If your company name is written in all lower-case letters or with unique spacing, be sure you write it the same way every time. But don’t stop there; strive for consistency in all your content — from the use of abbreviations, fonts and numerals to the tone, style and voice of your copy. Having one person write all the content helps keep it consistent, but when this isn’t possible, at least try to have one person serve as editor. If several people are contributing to your site, develop a style guide to inform them of your rules for consistent content.

2. Clear. As in all writing, the goal of Web content is to communicate with an audience, and clarity is essential. Try reading your copy aloud before posting; hearing it out loud can help you determine whether it all makes sense. If possible, have one or two others read copy before posting it to the Web — and if your subject matter is technical or complicated, consider using an outside editor to help eliminate techno-speak.

3. Casual. The nature of the Web is more informal than many other marketing venues, so make sure your copy fits the medium. Your Web content should probably be more conversational than your traditional brochure or company presentation, and because many readers scan Web copy rather than reading it word for word, subheadings and bullets are helpful. In most cases, Web content should also be brief, making your points quickly without losing readers’ attention. However, many effective sites contain brief copy on the front pages with more detailed information available through additional links, which works to keep the attention of the general readership while offering more for those who want it.

4. Correct. Don’t confuse “casual” with “sloppy,” however. Correctness is still important, even on the Web, and errors in spelling, grammar, or facts will give most readers a negative impression of your company. Don’t just use spell check; read and re-read your copy before posting it, and if possible, get second opinions from those who know what they’re doing. There’s nothing wrong with being a bad speller, but there’s no excuse for refusing to double-check your work.

Copyright 2004 Nancy Jackson

About The Author

Nancy Jackson, owner of The WriteShop, helps companies better market their products and services with powerful written communications including Web content, newsletters, brochures and publications. Subscribe to her free monthly newsletter at www.writeshoponline.com.

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