Feb 4, 2009 by Marissa Berger
Writing for the web is very different from writing for print. At MB/I we include at least a “content polish” by our professional writer on every proposal. We take the client’s draft and work on making the following adjustments.
It’s important that all pages of a website read like they are coming from the same voice. On large websites, different sections and pages are typically assigned to different writers. If an effort to keep the content consistent is not made, the site can end up feeling disjointed to the end user. If the site is too large to have one person review all copy, we suggest creating a style guide.
For all of us non-professional writers, it’s much easier to write in terms of features. We can talk about what we do, how we do it, and why we are different from our competitors. The problem is that the end-user is looking for benefits. They are looking for what we can do for them, for their specific issues. We need to talk about what specific problems we can solve for them. The challenge is that more than one type of end user visits our sites.
People actually don’t read on the web, they scan. They look for words that catch their eye and then they start paying attention. That’s why page titles and subtitles are king on the web. The rest of the page needs to be short (300-600 words per page), needs to have bullet points or lists, and needs to have words in bold or in a different color.
Call to action
Every page on a website should have an appropriate call to action. The “contact us” button on the main navigation does not count. When writing content for a page, the question “what do I want the user to do here” needs to be answered. A call to action can be a phone number to call, and email address, a signup form, and add to cart button, a link to another page or site, etc.
There is even another dimension to consider when writing for the web. That’s writing for search engines.