Belinda Weaver is a marketing and SEO copywriter and runs Copywrite Matters. For a wealth of copywriting resources and free advice, including about writing for the web, check out her website and blog at www.copywritematters.com.au.
Q1. Is writing for the web any different from writing for print?
Writing for the web does have some significant differences from writing for print. The foundations of marketing haven’t changed but the way you deliver your key marketing messages differs between online and offline marketing channels and it’s all down to attention spans.
We can access more information than ever and we feel more pressure to stay connected. At the same time, anyone can write for the web and become a publisher. So we’re creating and consuming more content that ever before, and to fit that into our lives we make super-fast decisions about whether a website, blog post, email, social media page or ad is going to solve our problem before we move on.
Writing for the web needs to cater for that shift. Headlines and subject lines need to be attention grabbing and meaningful and the content itself needs to deliver a lot of value – in fewer characters.
Q2. Writing for the homepage is obviously particularly important: what specific tips do you have for what written content is best suited to it?
I think of the homepage like an excellent concierge. It’s there to let people know they’re at the right place, set the tone and guide people to where they want to go.
Essentially, the homepage is the elevator pitch and it needs to clearly communicate:
• what you do
• how customers will benefit
• how you’re unique
• the personality of your brand.
It’s also usually one of the shortest pages on a website.
One of the tests I use is to ask: if a visitor doesn’t go to any other page, could they get a sense of what they will get from your business and what you’re like to deal with?
Q3. How should a small business choose topics to write about for their blogs?
I believe that every business can write an interesting business blog. Once of the easiest ways to be interesting is to be helpful when writing for the web. Educational content is also one of the fastest ways to build trust, so it’s a great place to start.
Before you start brainstorming topics to write about, consider what the voice of your brand will ‘sound’ like on your blog and what you want your blog to achieve. Are you building a tribe of brand loyals? Showing off your expertise to attract new leads? Giving your website some SEO love? All of the above?
Different objectives need different types of posts. For example, tribe building posts tend to more emotive, while knowledge-sharing posts will help you attract leads.
Each stage of your customers’ buying cycle will also need different types of content, so consider what people need to know at each stage and write about that. For instance, what do people need to know when they’re first investigating a general issue as opposed to what they need to know just before they take action? This often comes down to the level of detail.
When it comes to the topics themselves, I like to start with a business’s products/services and their service delivery and then map out the problems and frustrations people are experiencing around each one.
Businesses can mine their FAQs, ask their staff, check out what’s being talked about in industry forums and see what other people are writing about. Then, of course, you can talk about industry news, feature case studies and do interviews like this one!
Q4. What are your top three tips for writing effective blog posts?
1. Understand your audience/s and what challenges they are trying to overcome. If you’re not sure, ask them! Using surveys and reading the comments people leave is a great way to get in touch with your audience and what they want to read about. That, in turn, should drive what you write about.
2. Spend a few moments planning your post before you write it. Jot down the theme of the post, the key take away, a handful of points you are going to make and what you’d like people to do or feel at the end. Even if your blog post takes a different turn as you write, spending those moments will help keep you focused.
3. Write in a conversational tone. A blog should be the start of a discussion, so when writing for the web, write how you would speak (with better editing). It is the best way to invite people to converse with you. Conversational copy is also a lot easier to read.
Q5. Have you any suggestions for how best to promote a blog post?
Social media is perfect for sharing your content, although as with all your marketing you have to understand the rules and audience of each platform and adjust your messages accordingly. People are also checking in and out of social media all the time, so you can’t just publish your blog post once and expect magic to happen.
I publish my latest blog post every other day across multiple platforms, but to ensure I’m not turning people off with the same post over and over again, I share different insights and tips from the post and then include a link. I also adapt how the insights and tips look for each platform to make sure I’m making the best use of the space and formatting, and speaking the language of the audience. It doesn’t take very long. I’ve done all the hard work writing the blog.
You can also repurpose your blog posts to share the content to other audiences. Like turning them into videos, podcasts, slide presentations, ebooks and email auto-responders to name just a few. So publishing a blog post is the beginning!
What about you – have you got any comments or other tips for ‘writing for the web’? We would love to hear them below.