Compelling web content is one of the most powerful marketing tools a company has at its disposal. Get it right and you’ll raise brand awareness, increase the likelihood that your content gets shared, and establish trust and authority with your audience. Get it wrong and you’ll risk turning off potential customers, in addition to wasting time and resources.

Writing for the web is very different from writing for offline. Most website visitors read an average of just 20 to 28 percent of the words on a page, so you’ve got a small window of opportunity to make maximum impact. With that in mind, we’ve compiled some tips to help you write better web copy.

1. Create great headlines

To get people to read your content, you need to draw them in with a snappy headline that’s engaging and piques their interest. Your headlines also need to communicate exactly what you’re writing about. The headline we’ve used for this blog post is brief, to the point, and sets out a clear expectation of what you’ll learn by reading it. Avoid vague or wordy language; instead, try to be concise, specific, and even evocative.

2. Simplify with short sentences and paragraphs

Short sentences are a must. They are more effective at getting your point across. Ideally, you’d stick to no more than 20 words per sentence, but if you find yourself running on — a common offense — either split your sentence in two or break it up with em dashes (as we’ve done here).

Breaking up your text into neat paragraphs is another important trick. You shouldn’t have more than five sentences in a paragraph. It doesn’t matter if you’re not done expressing your idea. You’ll be able to find a good natural break, or pause, and pick things up in the next paragraph.

It’s also fine to start a sentence with the sort of words we were taught in school never to use. Starting sentences with coordinating conjunctions like “and,” “but,” and “or” is ok if it improves clarity and isn’t at odds with the tone you’re trying to project.

3. Break it up for the scanners

Many people tend to scan when they’re reading web copy. That means they’re not taking a huge amount in and are instead actively searching for the parts that are most relevant to them. Breaking your text up with subheadings and bulleted lists is a great way to ensure you’re helping scanners find the right information quickly.

4. Give readers visuals

The brain loves color, so use pictures, images, graphs, or diagrams to break up text and to illustrate your points. Visually engaging videos and images that reinforce the text can provide a welcome relief for readers and a chance to switch media for a while. The right graphics can also be a very useful way to help readers understand complex ideas you’ve conveyed with your text.

5. Keep your copy neat and clean
While this is good advice for most kinds of writing, it’s especially important when writing for the web. Always try to:

  •       Skip unnecessary words
  •       Avoid jargon and gobbledygook
  •       Use the active, not passive, voice
  •       Avoid needless repetition
  •       Address your web visitors directly by using “you”

In other words, you want clean, crisp copy that’s concise and engaging.

6. Optimize your content for search engines

One of the biggest considerations with web copy is making it findable. Sprinkling your copy with the keywords and phrases your potential customers are searching for will help ensure your content ranks well for those search terms. It will also help to bring customers and prospects to your site. Once there, you should have useful content that applies to those search terms, so you can keep them reading. Including links to more information — whether from your own site or external ones — creates a richer experience for the reader, while also making your content more attractive to search engines.

7. Don’t forget a call to action

Every piece of content you create needs to have a call to action. Are there other blogs on your site that are relevant to what the reader is looking for? If so, point them in that direction (like we’ve done below). Do you want readers to post a comment or look at your products? If so, prompt them to do so by providing a link. If nothing else, you want to get them to share your content with others. The best way to do that (apart from creating compelling content) is by having share buttons for all your social media channels.

Writing to stand out

There’s so much content on the web that you need to make sure that yours stands out from the crowd. You can have the most useful and interesting content around, but if it looks word-dense and is visually unappealing, your readers won’t stick around. Following these simple tips will help you reach the right people and keep them coming back for more.

To learn about writing web content that search engines value, check out “Get Found on Google: Are You Using the Right Keywords?”