Writing for the web: A guide to get you started (2021)

Copywriting can be challenging for someone who hasn't done it before, but it is definitely not impossible. Even if your organization can hire a copywriter, you need to know the basics to be able to evaluate her work.

Here are 10 tips to guide you so you can develop content for your website like a pro.

1. Speak to your audience

Imagine their day-to-day life, put yourself in their shoes: where, how and why are they reading you? What can you say to them that will be valuable?

 

2. Write for scannability

Readers leave a website in 10-20 seconds if they don’t find what they are looking for. Make content scannable so they can jump to the section they need, or to fragments that grabs their attention.

 

An illustration of two very different women

3. Be concise

Brevity is a superpower. If you can deliver a message in fewer words and get to the point, you will have the user's attention. This is one of the 4 U’s Brian Dean from Backlinko recommends as well for headlines.

If you’re the reading type, I recommend the book Several Short Sentences About Writing by Verlyn Klinkenborg.

 

4. Be yourself

Speak like you were speaking to a friend. If you try too hard to copy or create a style the text will feel stiff and fake. This is not appealing to any audience.

Jacob McMillen recommends letting the text rest and asking someone the next day to read it back to you to evaluate your copywriting.

 

 

5. Use active voice

When you use an active voice, the content comes to life and guides the reader fluently.

Instead of writing Donations were made to us for 3.4 million in your annual report, write: We raised 3.4 million in donations.

Dynamic content is a magnet for users. Passive voice usually comes out as boring.

 

6. Make it accessible

There are many good practices you can follow to make your content accessible, and they are not hard to follow. They are not exotic. This is not a nice-to-have but a must for your website. Making your copy accessible is not only for people, but will help with SEO as well. Start with these tips provided by the W3C and keep learning.

This is an infographic of the example described.
On the Injusta Justicia website we developed, each infographic such as this one, includes a thorough accessible description in Google Docs format. 

 

7. Invite action

When you set out to create a website, you thought of the goals you were trying to accomplish with it –I hope so! If not, read our blog post about it–. Review your content with those goals in mind and think of the actions the reader can take and include them in your copy. I just did it above as an example. Another good example for non-profits aiming to increase donations on their website would be to have as many references and paths to the donation page as possible.

 

8. Proofread

If the user finds a spelling or grammar error, your credibility suffers and you may loose them. The software used for writing provides spell-checkers (Google Docs, Microsoft Word, Pages, you name it), keep it activated and pay attention to the suggestions.

 

9. Keep SEO in mind

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is not a trend anymore, it is a must in this over-flooded world of information we live in. Including the right keywords on your text will increase the chances of being found by your audiences. 

This will be hard to do in the first intention. But you can proofread your text and drop a keyword or two at the correct point or sentence. While doing this, assume the audience doesn’t know you.

10. Create a content inventory

A comprehensive list of what you have published on your website, on what topics and when, is a powerful tool. It will help you update your content, repurpose it or reframe it; on the same website or for other communication channels, like social media. The inventory will also inspire you to create complementary pieces of content, make interesting connections that can guide your users throughout your website or craft thematic collections.