Here’s something most marketers are too afraid to tell you: Your business doesn’t need to be the best to win more clients.
It just needs to be better.
Specifically, your company must be more effective than your competitors at capturing the attention of your target audience. And that means one thing: You need to write about your services in the right way.
There’s a catch, though. In that battle for attention, you’re not only up against your rivals, but an even greater force: The internet.
Every day, our screens are filled with words. The challenge is getting eyeballs on the words you’ve written about your services or expertise or business – but there’s good news…
If you only need to be a tiny bit better than your peers at grabbing attention, you only need slightly more writing know-how than them. And there’s a shortcut to getting it.
To learn how to communicate and market your business more successfully, don’t bother listening to opinions. You need ice-cold, rock-hard facts.
You’ll find four of them below.
#1: Writing for the web isn’t the same as writing for print
For most people, everything learned about writing comes from one source: Books.
We’re taught to read with books as a child and at school, then we write essays about them throughout our time in education. But follow those old lessons today when promoting your business online, and you’ll hit a very specific snag. The way people read books is totally different to the way they read websites.
The Nielsen Norman Group (NNG) are pioneers in understanding how people interact with technology and the internet. In 1997, they published their still-relevant findings on how users read on the web:
“They don’t. People rarely read web pages word by word; instead, they scan the page, picking out individual words and sentences.”
On average, say NNG, people read just 20% of a webpage’s total content. So, is writing for the web a wasted effort?
Clearly not. The solution is simply to make your writing digestible, and make the important bits stand out.
Keep reading to learn a handful of tricks you might never have noticed before that make writing easier to read onscreen.
#2: On the web, “headings are pick-up lines”
If marketing is the art of attracting attention for your business, marketing online is about seducing your target audience well enough that they choose you over anyone else.
And when it comes to seduction, whether you’re trying to win over a potential partner or woo a new client, there’s one solid gold rule.
You need to make a good first impression.
In web writing, the first thing people will read are page headings. So, according to NNG, you should think of headings as “pick-up lines”, and there are five quick tips for making them more impactful…
- Make sure the headline works out of context
People might reach your article or webpage or post through social media, a search engine, an email newsletter, or any number of other routes. Ask yourself if your heading will give readers enough of a clue about the content no matter where they see it.
- Tell readers something useful
When people browse the internet and land on a page or profile, their first thought is “What’s in it for me?” If your heading isn’t specific enough about the benefits your content offers, they’ll browse elsewhere.
- Don’t succumb to cute or faddish vocabulary
A heading with a pun, or some industry term, or a reference to the latest Netflix hit might make you chortle when you read it back. But can you be 1,000% sure every single one of your intended readers also “get it”?
- Omit nonessential words
There’s a reason the heading of this article isn’t “Memorise each of these five truths about web writing to understand how to edge out the competition your business faces”. Your heading shouldn’t be short for short’s sake, but don’t use more words than you need to get your point across.
- Front-load headings with strong keywords
The snappy, jargon-free, helpful, relevant heading you’ve crafted will count for nothing if your readers miss the main hook because it’s tacked on at the end. Moving the main term to the beginning will make it easier for readers to see and understand at a glance what your content is about.
#3: When readers try to wade through long sentences on the web, they get stuck
You want your web writing to be less like a dense jungle, and more like an open motorway. Why?
Your readers must never feel lost, or like they need to hack their way through challenging parts to arrive at the right point. They should be able to follow along with ease, and when it comes to web content, there’s an obvious way to help that happen: Make your sentences shorter.
Research suggests that when the average sentence length of a piece of writing is 14 words, people understand more than 90% of what they’re reading. At 43 words, comprehension drops to less than 10%, but you can avoid this by taking a new approach…
Aim to make most sentences 15-20 words long, and ideally no more than 25 words.
If you’re struggling to cut sentences down, say NNG, use bullet points instead. Bulleted lists can be scanned more quickly, getting your point across faster to those busy, distracted clients you’re trying to reach.
Don’t believe it? See which version of the following statements you find easier to absorb.
|Version 1||Version 2|
|Our spa getaway package includes two-night accommodation, two 50-minute spa treatments of your choice, an in-room breakfast for two, and gift basket upon arrival.
#4: You can write better hyperlink text than “Click here” or “Learn more”
Hyperlinks may be the most important of all the “important bits” of web writing.
If your reader has been suitably impressed by your wonderful content and wants more from you, a link could help them get it. A link can even be the thing that turns a reader into a client if it allows them to get in touch directly.
So, what’s wrong with “Click here” and “Learn more”?
Well, for one, “Click here” is outdated, because people reading your web writing on a mobile or tablet screen don’t click – they tap.
And while there’s nothing necessarily wrong with “Learn more”, it’s overused, and not very descriptive.
Hyperlink text jumps out on a webpage because it’s often underlined, displayed in a contrasting colour, or changes when you interact with it. That makes it even more crucial to write it well, and NNG have a relevant phrase that explains why:
The most effective links have a higher “information scent”, which means the link text itself helps readers sniff out what they’ll get when they follow it. When you compare the low and high information scent in the examples below, you’ll know to choose the right option the next time you write:
|Version 1||Version 2|
|Please click here for more information on our charities of the year.||Find out more about how we support our charities of the year.|
Get in touch
There’s one truth that hasn’t been mentioned so far, and it might be the biggest yet.
As a business owner, you’re pressed for time. And while memorising the tips in this article will make life easier when you do need to write, you could probably still use a little help.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0115 8965 300, and let’s discuss what we can do for you.