Darn your readers! They’re bouncing off of your website just as quickly as fleas leave your dog’s back. Trouble is, their behavior is itching you, causing you much angst as you try to figure out why they’re just not staying put.
Your content may be excellent, but your delivery is simply dead on arrival.
Let me explain: you’re not writing for the web, rather your words are term paper complicated and offer very little visual appeal.
The remedy here is for you to take a dozen web copy steps to provide more interesting, easily readable and readily digestible content. This move includes carefully crafted words that catch the attention of your audience, making them want to read on.
1. Write up an outline first. You know what you want to say, but you are not certain how you will say it. So, do as you did in grammar school and write up an outline, one that includes your opening sentence, several key points you plan to make in your body and a conclusion.
2. Work on your headline. You could write your headline first, but the outline will help you craft a better headline. Write a snappy title and set it to the side. You’ll refine it just before you’re ready to publish.
3. Develop an interesting opening paragraph. Remember topic sentences? You’ll include one in your first paragraph. Write out three or four sentences that draw your readers in and compel them to read on. If your first paragraph is a bomb, you’ll lose your readers.
4. Insert subheads. Your subheads speak to each point that you will make, so develop each one with care. Use eye-catching keywords, but use these sparingly. If you can’t subhead in two or three words, then you’ll clutter your prose with nonsense.
5. Make use of pull quotes. Scan your article and look for words that jump out, typically an instructive or thought-provoking sentence. Magnify these words and use them in a pull quote.
6. Specify, avoiding the generic. If you want your readers to do something, then tell them. Use action verbs such as “read” or “review” to get them to respond. Action verbs are particularly helpful if you are writing a process or how-to article that offers detailed instructions for accomplishing a task.
7. Include precise details. If your readers are following your how-to instructions step by step, then mention the tools they will need before they start a project. For example, if you’re teaching them how to build a birdhouse, you’ll want to explain what tools are needed. That information should be presented first and can include a Philip’s screwdriver, a hammer, a power drill, a pencil, safety glasses and other items. You’ll mention these items again once you talk your readers through each step.
8. Invoke the element of surprise. Even the most mundane articles can captivate your readers, provided you season it with the unexpected. This can include a quote from a famous person, a picture that details what you’re doing or some other attention-getting step that keeps your readers locked in.
9. Use emotion when needed. Connect with your readers by showing emotion, an important point that helps them personalize your prose.
10. Speak to your readers. Technical writing is boring, although for left-brain people it can be readily understood. Assume that your audience is right-brain and have a conversation with them.
11. Explain as you go. Never assume that your reader understands what you are saying. In the case of the birdhouse project, you may need to instruct your readers to “attach the two halves of the roof, aligning the top edges at the peak.” Include an illustration or photograph to drive home your point.
12. Write with passion. If you are not passionate about your writing, why should your readers stay tuned in? People avoid dull prose, but are attracted to words that have deep meaning for the writer. You don’t have to wear your emotions on your sleeve, but you should write passionately and with authority.
When you’re done with your article, you’ll go through two or three rounds of edits. The first round hones in on the style itself, where you’ll clean up the structure and smooth out its flow. The second round cleans up grammatical and spelling mistakes, while the third round has you tweaking the headline, subheads, introductory and concluding paragraphs before you’re ready to publish. Polish your work close to perfection and you’ll have a winning article that wows your audience.
Matt Keegan is a copywriter, a freelance writer, an editor and a web publisher. He provides engaging copy for his clients through PRBeam.com, words that compel and sell.