So, you want to be a copywriter. But just what is web copywriting? It’s crucial you find out because writing for websites and other online products is going to be a huge part of what you do.
Small businesses with blogs get 126% more lead growth than small businesses without, half of 18 to 49 year olds get their news and information from the web, and people now see double the number of ads a day that they saw in 1984. It’s a solid industry.
Broadly speaking you can split copywriters into two groups of people. There are copywriters who specialise in writing to get people to take an action. These people often focus on retail content. Then there are content writers, who write to inform. These people are often great at background and blog materials. Lots of copywriters have skills in both and switch and change between the two.
What type of content do copywriters produce?
Web copywriters specialise in writing high-quality text and materials that sell an idea or product. This is often placed on website pages or blogs but there’s a host of other skills that will make you hireable. You might be great at the text you see in sponsored posts or in Facebook ads. You might be great at email newsletters. Basically, anything that’s put online to promote or sell products and ideas counts as web copy.
You’re likely to get the bulk of your work, at least initially, from writing simple texts for websites. These pages are the nuts and bolts of a company or personal website and include about us, services and other information pages. This type of work is about guiding people through a website and telling them what they need to know. You might also find early success in writing promotional materials. That could be press releases, backgrounders, blogs or reviews.
How to write for online
The first thing you need to know about great online writing is that you have more than one customer. The humans that visit your site need to be wooed and convinced of the quality of your product. Make it useful to them and better than what they could find via Google.
But so do the search engine ranking spiders that regularly scan web content to judge if it’s relevant and useful. Writing your content in a way that these spiders appreciate is called search engine optimisation (or SEO) and is a specialised art and professional writing skill.wha
Content that’s optimised for SEO will contain key phrases. These are the type of words the people you want to target are likely to put into a search engine to find information. For example, the keywords for this piece are “what is web copywriting.” See how that phrase appears high at the beginning of the article? This helps push your content further up search engine rankings and get more visitors. It’s important to understand how SEO works. There are more tips from SEO.com and our blog post on how to write website content for SEO.
The skills you need to develop will be making SEO copywriting quality writing. Sometimes you’ll need to work with unusual key phrases, but you’ll need to integrate them in a way that feels normal and natural. Your primary consumer is always humans. Write for them.
Goals for online writing
When you’re working as an online copywriter it’s important to remember the goal of your pieces. Great content for websites is the sort of thing that drives up online rankings and is clear and concise. It needs to share all the relevant information. But when you’re writing for blogs then the goal is to encourage people to share across their networks. Did you ever see a website page go viral? The goals and structure are quite different.
Blog posts have two functions for your customers. Fresh and regular content updates which use popular key phrases help Google recognise active and useful websites. This helps increase search rankings.
Blogs are also a great space to build a relationship with potential consumers. These should also be informative and targeted, but also user-friendly. It’s also important to integrate your content into the sea of other online material. Link back to authoritative sources to help the spiders understand the quality of your material. There’s more on quality blogging including how to begin a blog post on our site.
Top tips for online copywriting
1. Write actively
If you’re not up on your grammar then it’s worth spending some time researching before you start. Great web copy uses active voice. That’s where the subject of the sentence does the action – it’s not acted on. Sentences that follow this structure are powerful and easy understand. Active voice sentences can also begin with a verb, as in a command and this can be useful for copy where you’re trying to get people to do something. For example, ‘learn more about the new catalogue here’.
2. Get the details right
People use the internet to get good information quickly. You’ll need to ensure your content hits the who, what, when, where, why, and how of your personal or company story. Get all the details in and your material is automatically more trustworthy. Read these great tips for writing better web copy.
3. Write great headlines
Writing for online means a struggle between your words and those of the millions of others producing web content. You need to make yours stand out. Great headlines entice visitors to click-through and take action.
4. Get the sense across quickly
Once you have a visitor on your page you need to give them the information they need quickly. Online readers don’t read everything – they look for guides and markers that take them to the parts of the content they need. This means you need to make your content easy to skim. Some of the best ways to do this are:
- Using headings and subheadings, particularly if you can fit your key phrases into these
- Create lists for the key points (just like this one)
- Follow long sentences with lots of information with shorter ones. This makes your material easy and interesting to read. Just like this.
So what are the takeaways from this little foray into the world of writing for the web?
- Keywords are king, but make them work for you – not run the show
- Remember who you’re writing for and exactly what they need
- Write in a way that’s easy to digest and simple to scan
The breadth and scope of writing for the web make it actually a lot of fun. You’re never quite sure what will come along next, or how to fit that next phrase or link into an engaging and useful discussion. It’s a challenge, but if you’re up for it it can be highly rewarding. Have fun!