Why Your Web Copy Is Missing the Mark (and How You Can Fix It)

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by Tara Chila

Writing for a website is different from other kinds of writing. You have to make it short, sweet, and explanatory—and focus on communicating benefits, benefits, benefits. Oh, and also make sure you nail down relevant keywords and scatter them enough (but not too much) in the text.

Writers who are new to writing copy for the Web have to learn what works and what doesn’t, and they have to learn fast. To make all that a bit easier, I’m going to discuss a few cardinal rules of business writing and effective online copy.

Titles and search results snippets are king

You’re probably aware of how important a webpage title is, particularly since that’s what searchers will see in search engine results. But, do you fully comprehend how much a bad page title can hurt you? A poor title will not only skew your search engine results (keywords in page titles help search engine bots recognize and rank your page) but also fail to capture your visitors’ attention.

Make sure page titles are concise, yet explanatory and focus on the benefits of your services or products. For instance, one of our old page titles and search results snippet were as follows:

Reliable cross country shipping & moving takes experience—TSI has been a leader since 1989
You get low rates and expert handling for small moves and shipments nationwide. Call for a price quote or click to request a quote online now.

I changed them as follows:

Transit Systems’ cross country shipping will transport your goods safely, easily, and for less
Reliable cross country shipping for small moves takes experience—TSI has been an industry leader since 1989, providing efficient and dependable moving services. Our highly trained experts will handle your cross country shipment on time and on budget.

The second title/snippet is more informative. Visitors are immediately told the benefits of our moving service, making it easy for people to deduce, “OK, this company makes shipping my stuff easy and they are low-priced.”

Web users have little time or inclination to work hard to find information, so copywriters have to work hard to make that important information (benefits!) easy to find.

Keyword stuffing is bad; keyword placement is good

Recognizing what keywords are relevant to the content of your page is imperative if you are to take advantage of organic search traffic to your site.

Your ultimate goal should be to show up in the top 3 listings on the first page of search results. However, if you don’t have the budget or search engine optimization background to achieve that goal, here are a few steps on how to better optimize your content for organic search.

Make it easy for Google and Bing to recognize what your page is about. You can do so by including keywords in text of your Web page. But here are some things NOT to do:

  • If, for example, you’re talking about an endangered species of ape, don’t stuff in “banana” or “monkey” or “zoo” in the text. Those are likely poorly chosen keywords (depending on the focus of your text) that are nonspecific and do nothing to help you.
  • Instead be specific; if the endangered ape is in an orangutan, then make sure that term is used in the text.
  • At the other extreme, don’t use “orangutan” five times in every paragraph.

You need to find a balance between using important keywords judiciously and using them too much. On the webpage I discussed earlier, for example, I made sure to include keyword phrases such as “cross-country shipping” and “nationwide moves” throughout the page content, but without overdoing it.

Don’t junk up content by flooding it with target keyword phrases. Search engines really don’t like that. The more attentive you are to naturally weaving keywords into the content of your page, the better your search result rankings will be.

Tailor copy to your audience

If you make information easy to find, people will come back for more, and if you make copy easy to read, they will read more.

Copywriters who can effectively communicate the benefits of their services or products will find themselves generating more business. People want to know what your product does, but they are more interested in what it does for them—so give them what they want.

But to help them understand that they want whatever you’re selling, you need to get traffic to your site—and not just through organic search. You also need to take advantage of social media.

However, note that every social media platform calls for a different kind of copy. Don’t just copy and paste a Tweet into a Facebook status update or a LinkedIn update. Spend some time getting to know each social network. Follow other companies’ accounts and see what their posts look like.

Learn from other copywriters—it’s the cheapest and fastest way to understand the nuances of online copywriting.