How to write for an online audience

Most business owners appreciate that online marketing is increasingly important for sales and growth, but drafting effective web copy can be an intimidating prospect.

The good news is you don’t need a background in marketing to master the basics of effective web writing. You just need to know a few guidelines that can make your copy more engaging to an online audience.

Here’s how.

1.Think like your customer

Knowing your target audience is the key to effective marketing. Do you understand your customer’s pain points? If you don’t, it will be very difficult to craft a message in a way that speaks directly to a buyer’s needs.

Start with some research to get to know your ideal online customer – and resist the urge to jump right in with a sales pitch. People use the web to find information on the right solution for their problem. Web copy that comes off as too salesy is an immediate turn off.

Here’s what lies at the heart of your biggest challenge: trust.

It takes time to build a relationship with your web audience, so make online marketing a long-term commitment. Let your potential customers get to know you through the useful information posted on your blog, a responsive social media presence, and through a consistent tone that is friendly and approachable, yet credible.

2. On the web, less is more

It’s estimated that visitors to your website decide within fifteen seconds whether to click away. Research done by the Nielsen Norman group also showed that, on average, less than 20% of text gets read online.

To ensure your readers digest your message, get to the point quickly:

  • Use sub-headings to make it easier to scan through text
  • Format content into short 2-3 sentence paragraphs
  • Keep sentences short –no longer than 15-20 words
  • Use bullets to break information into lists

3. Master the art of the catchy headline

Nothing beats a well-crafted headline for instantly capturing an audience’s attention. The trick is to aim for short and punchy, with a proposition your readers will find irresistible.

Remember: your reader is in a hurry, so keep your headlines less than 7 to 10 words. This helpful blog post offers some excellent tips to help you write more effective headlines.

A final note

The two bookends of effective web marketing are SEO and the Call to Action (CTA).

Your web content can be brilliant, but without search engine optimization, your audience won’t be able to find you. Be aware of the keywords people are using to find the kind of solution your business offers. And don’t forget to optimize your website with local keywords in your titles, categories and tags.

Finally, every web page needs to conclude with a clear call to action that tells your readers what to do next. It might be picking up the phone to call you for more information, signing up for a newsletter, or completing an online form.

Without a CTA, all your hard work to hook your reader won’t lead to your ultimate goal: connecting with them to make a sale.