We had a great response to our article on 5 tips to awesome website copy. So, we decided to give you another five tips.
1. The characteristics of good copy
Writing good copy is hard. It takes practice and discipline. And editing, lots of editing.
It’s easy to tell when copy has been given some love because it appears effortless. Good copy is written in clear, concise, easy-to-understand language that gets your point or ideas across quickly. It is all of these things:
- clearly formatted
- devoid of fluff
And, if you can make it authoritative too, then you’ve ticked all the boxes.
2. S.U.R.F.A. – Riding the wave of good copy
No one likes wasting time. A frustrating online experience with poorly executed, badly formatted copy can have a negative impact on your brand or business because it’s a waste of time.
But if your customers can quickly understand that they are in the right place, it increases the chances of them engaging with you. And by doing this, it may lead to a sale, an enquiry, or a share on social.
The S.U.R.F.A. principle is a great way to question whether your copy is hitting the mark:
- Shareable: Will your audience want to share the content?
- Understandable: Can they understand the content?
- Readable: Is the content conversational and easy to read?
- Findable: Can they quickly and easily find what they’re looking for?
- Actionable: Will they want to take action?
If the content achieves the above, then it’s on its way to being awesome!
3. Why headlines are critical
A headline is critical because it’s usually the first – and perhaps only – impression you make on a prospective reader.
Without a compelling promise that turns a browser into a reader, the rest of your words may as well not even exist.
The aim of your headline is to get your customer to look at your product or service. If you find your headline is not working, then change it. That’s the beauty of the web. You can test different headlines to see what approach increases conversion.
There’s lots of different formulas, techniques and approaches you can take, and much has been written on how to write the perfect headline.
You should use the approach that works for your business, but here are four rules of thumb to keep in mind. Your headline should be:
You might not get all of them in the one go, but if you capture a couple, then your headline is sure to be compelling to readers.
4. Formatting your copy
In our previous list of top 5 tips, we talked about how people read online. The point we emphasised is they don’t read – they scan.
So, how do you format copy for the way people read online? Consider the following:
- Put each new idea on a single line.
- Write using short paragraphs. (And don’t be afraid of single-sentence paragraphs.)
- Embrace short sentences.
- Use subheads to introduce new ideas. This is a great way to break up dense copy, making your text scannable so readers can quickly find the content they want.
- Use lists: bullets or numbers.
- Introduce block quotes or pull quotes to emphasise text you want to stand out.
- Play around with bold or italics. Use for emphasis only; don’t bold / italicise entire sentences.
If you want to do something cool, consider an infographic. Better still, if you can say something with an image rather than text, then go for it. The saying, “a picture is worth a 1000 words”, is a cliché for a reason. It’s true.
5. Finessing copy
Every writer needs an editor. An editor or proofreader gives you a fresh pair of eyes. They capture the small stuff like spelling and typos. And the big stuff like whether your ‘voice’ is on brand or your copy is structurally sound.
But not everyone has access to a professional editor. Here are two ways to self-edit:
Write something, leave it for a few hours or overnight (if you have the time), and come back to it. You’ll be surprised at what you find when you step back and look critically at what you’ve written.
Read your copy out loud. Word. For. Word. This is a good way of picking up missing words. Another good way is printing the text and reading it out loud on hard copy.
Why does it matter? Poor spelling, grammar and half-finished sentences scream you don’t care, so why should your readers?
Similarly, spend a little bit of time at the end to review the formatting, finesse your copy and make it consistent. Check:
- Punctuation is consistent
- Bullets are capitalised (or not)
- Spaces between dashes are consistent
- American vs English spellings: make a call and use one or the other, but not both
- Jargon is stripped out
- Sentences have full stops
- Apostrophes are in the right place
It’s the little details that will set you apart and make your text sparkle.