If you ask a professional copywriter how to write for the web, many will say, “Conversationally.” But what does “conversational” actually look like? How do you have a conversation with someone you can’t see, hear or talk back to?
If staring at a blank Word doc makes you feel anxious, you’re not alone. Creating web content, a blog post, an email, an e-book or a press release can be intimidating even for professionals. But once you understand some of the basics, you’ll find your fingers flying across your keyboard in no time.
Start with these seven tips:
Write one-to-one. Even a magazine ad or a billboard that reaches millions of readers is seen by only one person at a time. People always read as individuals, not as a group. One of the most common mistakes is writing as though you’re addressing a room full of people. Instead, imagine a one-on-one conversation as you write—actually picture an individual in your mind. That will keep your messages personable.
Make your marketing copy others-focused. Unless you’re writing to your mother, your message should typically not be about you. Materials like emails, brochures and direct mail should be less about what “we offer” and more about what “you’ll get.” When you write, try changing most of the sentences that use the words “our” and “we” to include words like “you” and “your.”
Follow the rules of engagement. Engaging copy addresses the wants and needs of its target audience. But it’s not just what you say—it’s how you say it. The best copywriting is direct and to the point, uses an active voice and often creates mental images. Professional copywriters rarely use a long word when a shorter one will do.
Write for your audience. For example, if your audience is not into slang, don’t try to be too hip. They won’t relate or you’ll come across as fake, and you’ll turn people away instead of engaging them. It’s hard to write compelling conversational copy when you don’t know the demographics of your audience. Be sure you have a clear picture of your audience.
Be concise. On the web, brevity wins. Concise copy is good copy. When you ramble, people tune out. Some tips on how to stay concise:
Use more powerful verbs (active words) and fewer adjectives (describing words).
Keep your sentences short—aim for less than 16 words per sentence.
Eliminate industry jargon and clichés where possible. They usually don’t mean much to your audience.
Limit each paragraph to just one idea. People typically don’t read web content word for word—they scan it. Short, meaty paragraphs are easier to skim than long-winded ones.
Break up the page with subheads and bullets. A study from the Nielsen Norman Group found that 79% of readers skim, while only 16% read every word on a page. Breaking up your page with subheads and bullets will make it easier for people to digest the content and understand your message, which will ultimately lead to greater conversions on your website.
Get in touch with your inner storyteller. People are hardwired to respond to stories. Use storytelling in your messaging to describe how your nonprofit has changed lives or impacted your community. Tugging on heartstrings is an effective way to engage your audience and get them to take action, whether it’s volunteering, donating or signing up.
Bonus tip: Add humor where appropriate. It’s okay to be funny sometimes—people appreciate a quick wit, a humorous story or a clever one-liner. Of course, there are topics that don’t lend themselves to humor, but if you’re writing about something lighthearted, infusing a witty line or two is another great way to engage with your audience and make them feel good about your organization.