There are several factors that underpin every successful website, yet one of these elements is often overlooked. Amid the usual focus on slick design and eye-catching images, written content can sometimes be an afterthought. That’s particularly unfortunate, since web text should really be the central focus of any new site launch or redesign.
Of all the factors that determine a website’s search engine ranking, written content outweighs page loading times and even the web address. Of all those elements that determine whether people will stay on the site (and revisit it in future), written content is the primary driver. And of all the influences determining interaction metrics such as conversions or enquiries, written content plays the biggest role in persuading people to become customers.
Effective copywriting is the reason you’re reading the third paragraph of this article, and you’re already more likely to recognise good quality web copy in future. Well-written content persuades people to do something – put elements in an order, make an enquiry or form an opinion. Text should be professional and prominent rather than being relegated to sub-pages, or written by someone who can’t tell the difference between their and they’re.
Below, we consider five ways in which poor writing can undermine a website:
- Unprofessionalism. In such a congested online marketplace, it’s unforgivable to portray any sense of amateurishness. Spelling and grammatical mistakes can create an impression of sloppiness or indifference, as can rambling or dull content. How many potential customers will entrust an unprofessional-looking organisation with their credit card details, or regard them as experts in their chosen industry?
- Lost audiences. Attention spans are short nowadays, which is why this blog features a numbered list. It’s also why every sentence contains no more than 25 words, and a maximum of one comma. If online copy doesn’t grab people’s attention, their minds can wander within seconds. That can lead those hard-won site visitors onto a competitor website or back to their search results. It takes skill to condense key points into a minimal amount of space, but it’s crucial for keeping people engaged and on your website.
- Poor SEO results. As stated above, search engine algorithms are heavily influenced by each website’s style of writing. Individual keywords and popular search terms should be deployed in moderation – overuse is known as ‘keyword stuffing’, and can severely damage ranking results. Make sure every web page acknowledges the website’s primary role, and use analytics software to identify what people looking for your product/service/industry typically search for.
- Missed opportunities. A website is the public face of many modern businesses, acting as a virtual shop window and often the best hope of attracting new business. Every opportunity needs to be taken to maximise audience engagement, from captivating product descriptions to reassuring company/staff profiles. Consider the key things customers need to know and try to pre-emptively answer these queries, persuading them to get in touch or place an order.
- Complexity. Specialists in a particular field or industry often find it difficult to translate their expertise into a language everyone can easily understand. Overly complex content will baffle people and potentially scare them away, especially if it features unexplained abbreviations or industry jargon. Keep technical specifications for product description pages, and ensure other pages can be understood by someone with no prior knowledge of that industry. This can easily be tested by asking friends and relatives to proofread copy before it’s published.