You know who writes perfect, search-engine-ready web copy? Yeah, me neither.
However, I do know good writers who are successful getting eyeballs on their content, delivering a message well, and generating the desired engagement.
Their “secrets” are as plain as day. Write short. Get to the point quickly. Know your audience. Take your subject seriously, but not yourself. Pepper your copy with key words, not jargon.
There, now you can write web copy.
Yes, it is that simple.
Stop reading now and go write something. Seriously, write more. Now.
OK, there’s certainly a little more to writing for the web than that, but it ain’t rocket surgery. Anyone who tells you otherwise is undeservedly pretentious.
Here’s a trick I used to use with reporters who worked for me when I was a news editor for more than 20 years, and a practice used while writing headlines for BostonGlobe.com: Start with writing a headline that serves almost like a thesis. Include all of the words the story cannot live without.
Turn that into a sentence, and it’s your meta description or tease (similar to a nut graph in journalism) -- not a headline, not a lead sentence.
For the headline, cut out all of the words you can live without. Look for shorter words. Google the very thing you are writing about. Scroll down to the bottom of the first page of search results. Look at the searches related to what you were looking for.
Consider what people search for, but only steal good ideas (oh, you’ll know). You want to stand out, not blend in. The worst part of writing for the web is all the copycat garbage. Ever photocopy a photocopy? Yeah, it’s like that.
Now, think of how you would describe your story to your best and smartest friend not in your industry. Write the entire story without one buzzword, made-up phrase, or “that’s just how we do it here” rationalization. I dare you.
Also consider that clickbaiters get punished nowadays. Listicles, like the modern day classics “you’ll never guess what happened next ...,” and “10 xxx hacks” are lazy and put you in company with, well, actual hacks. You can get clicks, but they’ll click out as soon as they see your content stinks.
Which brings me to the mother of all clichés: Content is STILL king. Death, taxes, and content is king.
Research your topic. Use examples. Use bullet points and headings. Quote experts, but get them to speak in plain English by simply asking, “How would you say that to a regular person?”
Even if you are writing for experts, don’t waste their time with nonsense. They’ll thank you for it. And they will return – even better.
Practice what you preach. If your product or service simplifies someone’s job or life, be as blunt as possible about how. It’s an ad, not a manual.
Teases, SEO, keywords, headlines, and the body of what you are writing are incredibly easy to master with these questions.
- What are people searching for?
- What is it I want them to find from me?
- What is it I can’t live without them knowing?
And always use three examples when you make a list. It really is the magic number.