Best practices for writing web content

When you’re building a website, it’s easy to get so caught up in how it looks and functions that you overlook one of its most important aspects: the copy. How can you write effectively, and why is it worth spending the time and resources needed to get it right?

Why is good web copy important?

Web content is there to fulfil a specific purpose. This may be to sell a product, to showcase your credentials, to provide useful information and demonstrate your expertise, or any other goal. Visual features of the page – such as design, images, navigation buttons and so on – all contribute to making a webpage work effectively, but the crucial persuasive element is the copy. It’s in the copy that you can bring your organisation to life, communicate your personality, guide visitors to take the actions you want them to take, and create an outstanding impression of your business.

How much should I write?

Ultimately, your website visitors should be your number one consideration, so a general rule of thumb is to have enough content for the page to do its job – for example, to sell a product or encourage the reader to sign up to a newsletter.

From a search engine perspective, a page with very little copy may appear unhelpful, with less information to help search engines understand what the page is about – and it may therefore not rank so well. A recommended minimum word count is 300 words. There’s no maximum word count as such; an in-depth blog post might require 2,000 words, while a bit of background on your company or a product description might require just 300-400 words to do the job effectively. The key is to ensure that your copy does the job it’s meant to do – so take as long as you need to do that, without bombarding the reader with any unnecessary information.

Writing for web readers

People read web content differently to how they read books, especially if they’re viewing your site from a mobile phone or tablet. Your web content has to be easy to skim read, so that a reader could scan through the page and get the gist without having to read in detail. Here’s how to do it.

  • Subtitle – give your page a subtitle under the main title, providing a short introduction to what’s on the page.
  • Subheadings – these help break up the text.
  • Short paragraphs – nobody wants to read a wall of copy!
  • Bullet points – as we’re doing here, this is a neat and concise way to convey information.
  • Short sentences – because they’re easier to read.
  • Hyperlinks – include links to other pages on your site, or external resources, where this may be useful to readers.
  • Bold and italic – this can be used to draw the eye to important words and phrases.

How to use keywords

Keywords are the search terms people type into Google when they’re trying to find the information they’re looking for. Thinking in the language of a searcher and incorporating some of this phraseology into various elements of your content will help search engines understand what searches your content is relevant to. But don’t stuff keywords into your copy for the sake of it – this will harm your search engine rankings rather than helping you!

  • Try to use a keyword in the main header of the page if possible.
  • The same goes for secondary headers, which you would use as sub-headings.
  • Use keywords in your copy if it reads naturally to do so. This is even more important since Google has introduced its new search algorithm, ‘Hummingbird‘, which will be looking at the query as a whole rather than to the individual keywords that form the query, encouraging users to make more human, conversational style, long search queries.

Should I hire a copywriter?

You have the in-depth knowledge of your organisation, but there are various reasons you may want to hire a copywriter to do your content writing for you. A copywriter is trained to communicate clearly, concisely and persuasively, and has the skill with words needed to create the right tone of voice. Reasons you might want to hire one include:

  • You don’t have time to write content yourself
  • You don’t have the writing skills in-house
  • You’re too close to the project, and need a fresh pair of eyes to inject life into your copy

Conclusion

These tips should help you produce content for your website that’s both user friendly and search engine friendly. Most importantly, they’ll help you create a great impression of your organisation!

About Alberon

We have been designing and building bespoke software solutions and websites for organisations in Oxford for over 12 years, helping them to work more effectively and realise their full potential.

Our friendly, highly experienced team of web designers and software developers are dedicated to helping our clients achieve the outcomes they want. From web design and development, to complex software solutions, we apply our creative and technical know-how to deliver the perfect solution.


1 comment

  1. 23rd October 2013 Mike Northover said:

    This is all good advice. Good content must engage, inspire action and be SEO friendly – but while focusing on SEO will generate traffic, it won’t translate into sales / interest if it’s not well drafted.


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