How to get people reading your website copy and KEEP them reading

Your website copy has 10 seconds to make an impression

Your website copy has just 10 seconds to grab attention

If you’re looking for ways to make your website copy more engaging, I’ve put together some simple hints and tips about writing for the web.

Website copy has three main functions:

  • It needs to grab attention
  • Entice people to stay on your site
  • Make readers want to buy from you

Writing for the web certainly presents some challenges. Figures suggest that 79% of people scan website copy with only 16% reading it word-for-word. If a visitor comes to your website via a search engine, then chances are you have just ten seconds to grab their attention or they’ll hit the back button and look elsewhere.

So, how can you make sure your copy gets read when you’re writing for an online audience?


Spend time getting your headline right

Because so many of us scan website copy instead of reading every word, the main points have to jump off the web page.

Eye tracking studies show that people look at the top left-hand side of a web page first. Next, they read the headline and, if this grabs their attention, they’ll move on to the first paragraph. Knowing this, the headline and first paragraph are crucial.

With just seconds to make that great first impression, your headline should be clear and compelling. Now isn’t the time to be too clever. It needs to show people what reading the article or web page will deliver. Create a promise with your headline and then keep that promise with the article.

Many websites use the inverted pyramid to structure their content. This means starting with your key message or selling point – the conclusion, in other words – and then moving on to more detail further down the article.


Make your copy scannable

You can make your website copy more scannable by using:

  • Bullet points – they’re easy to scan and stop the eyes
  • Bold and colours – to pull out key points and make them stand out
  • Lots of headings and subheadings
  • Vary sentence and paragraphs lengths to keep the reader’s attention

By making your copy as scannable as possible, you know that visitors to your website can pull out the key points on the page at a glance. This means that you capitalise on the ten seconds you have to capture their interest.


Make life easy for the reader

Make your website easy to read

Make your website easy to read

It’s also recommended that you use black text on a white background for maximum contrast and opt for a font size of at least 10pt (preferably bigger) – what may look clear on a large HD plasma monitor may be tougher to read on an 11-inch MacBook. We don’t all have 20/20 vision (I was five when my eyesight started to go!), so be kind to your reader. Small fonts may look neat in print but make your website hard to read and you’ll soon lose traffic.

You can vary your font sizes though. Using larger fonts for your headings and subheadings is another way of drawing the eye to them and signposting what each section of your web page is about for your reader.


Inject some colour with pictures

Add a splash of colour to your website copy

Pictures can add a splash of colour to your web page

Pictures and infographics are a great way of injecting colour into your website. If you use strong images that complement your written content, you can bring out key points at a glance, telling a visual story as well as a written one.


Use links wisely

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles – see The three pillars of SEO and Nine common website mistakes -, links can be a powerful way to improve a reader’s experience of navigating through your website.

Internal links can help you bring together information about the same topics, so that customers don’t have to hunt through your blog or product pages to find what they need.

It’s important to use descriptive links where possible. Instead of simply saying ‘Click here’ or ‘Read more’, which mean nothing when taken out of context, use the link to create expectations of what a visitor will see when they click it, i.e. Find about more about good SEO in 2013 in my recent blog post.

Apparently, when we scan a web page our eyes go to the first two words of a link, so make those words the most relevant whenever you can.

If a link will take your readers to an external website, make this clear by naming the site. Also, make sure that the link opens in a separate window so you don’t give visitors a reason to inadvertently navigate away from your site.


Always remember your call to action

By designing a strong call to action that stands out on your web page, you can make visitors to your website want to buy from you.

In a recent blog post, in-bound marketing specialists, Hubspot, rounded up some of the most powerful calls-to-action on the web. As this article shows, calls to action can use a mixture of text and graphics, humour, social proof and bold statements to spur visitors to action. The most important thing is to make your call to action clear. What do your readers need to do now and what will they get in return?

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