The following 99 web writing tips are geared to the content on your static web pages. These are for the pages that help you sell.
Customer-Centric Web Copy Tips
1. Follow the AIDA formula on every page (Attention + Interest + Desire + Action).
2. Outline your value proposition early on, maybe even in your home page headline. (A value proposition is a combination of what makes you desirable to customers and unique from competitors.)
3. Promise something. What will your customer get?
4. Filter out clients you don’t want to work with. Target ideal customers.
5. Show them the great work you do (for free). Give away a free ebook or whitepaper.
6. Generate excitement.
7. Create a buyer persona and write all web content as if you were talking to that person.
8. Include words your customers expect to see. If you sell French pastries, then the words “French pastries” and other related words must appear on the page fast.
9. Use words your customers use.
10. Answer questions your customers ask.
11. Talk less about yourself and more about the customer. Say “you” more than “we” in copy.
12. Put a tagline at the top of your site that explains exactly what you do. People need to figure you out in three seconds or less.
13. At the start of each page of web content, state the purpose of the page in the first paragraph. Don’t bury information.
14. Summarize or re-iterate key points. Bullet point lists and videos work great.
15. Never threaten or belittle. Instead of “everyone else versus you,” try “me and you together.” Invite the reader to join your tribe.
16. Get emotional, but not overly sentimental. Use words that speak directly to anger, passion, sadness, revenge, mistrust, hope, and power.
17. Identify the reader’s pain. Then tell them how you’ll make their lives better.
18. Ask questions your customer will say “yes” to.
19. Predict the future. What’s going to happen if the reader doesn’t work with you?
20. Make it easy for your visitors to read your web content from their phones.
General Writing Tips
21. Write in first person. Speak directly to the reader.
22. Pick a style guide (consider the Yahoo! Styleguide), and stick to it.
23. Never plagiarize.
24. Write short paragraphs.
25. Delete unnecessary words like “some,” “quite,” and “that.”
26. Write in active voice.
27. Use more verbs than adjectives to describe what you do and what your customer needs.
28. Get rid of adverbs.
30. Write so an 8th grader could understand you.
31. If you must use acronyms, spell out the words on the first reference on a page followed by the acronym in parenthesis. From that point forward on the page you can use the acronym only.
32. Write approachable, friendly copy.
33. Write like you talk, but with fewer modifiers and filler words.
34. Be relevant, interesting, entertaining, and timely.
35. Decide on a writing style (also called voice or tone) and stay consistent throughout the website copy.
36. Get to the point fast. Delete the fluff.
37. Short attention spans demand specificity.
38. Avoid clichés. If you must use one, give it a twist to surprise the reader.
39. Don’t get too clever. You will confuse some readers with complicated terms, ideas, and humor.
40. Edit content endlessly. Read it out loud. Ask someone else in the office to read it over. Hire a proofreader.
41. Use simple punctuation. Dashes and ellipses can be distracting. If you’re not sure about those commas, write short sentences.
42. Avoid negative words and concepts.
Web Design and Usability Tips
43. Do not create multiple pages on the exact same topic. Every page must have its own unique message. Redundancy confuses the visitor.
44. Put your contact info in the header and footer and have a contact page. Make it easy to get in touch.
45. Write every page so that it is easy to scan.
46. Break up text with bullet points, numbered lists, and sub-headings.
47. Emphasize important points with bold and italics, but use formatting sparingly.
48. Stick with web-friendly fonts, body copy type of around 11 or 12 point, and subdued colors.
49. Avoid the use of underlining in text. Underlined words can be confused for links.
50. Put the most important information first, and repeat it again at the end. Instead of the inverted pyramid it’s an hourglass.
51. Include important details in the “F.” Usability studies prove that web visitors follow an F-Shaped Reading Pattern.
52. Or you could ignore tip numbers 50 and 51 and instead do testing to see which placement gets you the most traction.
53. Include a picture of what you offer, who works at your business, and other images that help the visitor relate.
54. Write captions. Captions get read more often than body copy.
55. Forget about overused stock photography of generic looking faces. Please.
56. Savvy web visitors expect to see a home, about, services/products, and contact page. Don’t skimp on the content.
57. Get some user testing.
58. Include a sitemap.
Web Content Conversion Tips
59. Do a competitive web content analysis. Be better than your competitors.
60. Decide what you want a reader to do on every web page. Drive the reader toward that action.
61. Don’t forget. You have to tell them to take the next step. So…tell them with a call to action, which can be plain text or displayed in a button.
62. Copy should emphasize what the reader wants to do (not what they have to do).
63. Calls to action must be short and concise.
64. Include a benefit statement in the call to action. (e.g., Change everything about your life by clicking here!)
65. Then tell them why they should buy when you describe the benefits.
66. Don’t talk about a feature unless you can tie it directly to a benefit.
67. Identify the reasons why someone might not buy from you. Eliminate the risk in their minds.
68. Whenever you can give evidence with hard numbers that prove you get your customers what they want.
69. Create urgency. Explain that there are only a few spots left or that the introductory pricing will not last.
70. Build confidence/trust. (Publish videos, testimonials, work samples, membership logos, headshots of company leaders, etc.)
72. Give a guarantee.
73. If you run an e-commerce site, write unique sales-driven copy for every product you sell.
Search Engine Optimization and Keywords Tips
74. Write content for humans first and search engines second.
75. Assign a single keyword phrase to each page that corresponds with the main message of that page.
76. Incorporate SEO keywords in page titles, meta descriptions, image alt tags, headlines, and the first and last 50 words.
77. Never keyword stuff. Forget about keyword density.
78. Use a variety of keyword phrases that relate or are similar to your main keyword phrase on each page.
79. Make it easy to share content through social media.
80. Include links to reputable sources elsewhere on the web and elsewhere on your own site.
81. Some say that stop words in titles, links, and tags could impact search engine ranking, but that’s debatable.
82. Add new content regularly. A blog is a tried and true friend of SEO.
83. Write a page description/meta description for each web page that is 140 characters and encourages the reader to click and learn more.
84. Aim for 300 words of content on your most important web pages. Sometimes fewer words are perfectly fine. In other cases more words are perfectly fine.
Creative Web Copywriting Tips
85. Remove the word “welcome” from your site. Write active, desire-inducing headlines and copy.
86. Tell a story to captivate a reader’s attention.
87. Show don’t tell or tell and then show. However you do it, just show it.
88. Everything you say must be realistic. (Are you really the world’s best? Really?)
89. Talk about the people who make your business move. Show us pictures, give us interesting bios, and tell your company history.
90. Give concrete examples. Case studies will never go out of style.
91. Make your readers say “wow.” Share an unbelievable fact or a surprising story.
92. Publish a mix of content. Videos, rotating images, white papers, blog posts, and the list goes on.
Web Page Headline Writing Tips
93. Write headlines for all of your web pages. Avoid saying “About Us” only.
94. Headlines are typically between 5-8 words. Make sure you can say it in one breath.
95. Implement proven headline writing formulas.
96. Make your headline and sub-head capitalization consistent throughout your site. Grammarians disagree about which capitalization style is best, so check your style guide for that recommendation. The most common ways to capitalize headers include sentence case (only the first word and proper nouns are capitalized) and title case (capitalize first and last words plus all nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, and subordinating conjunctions).
97. Begin headlines with an active verb.
98. Give all subheads on a page a parallel construction.
99. Some say to write your headline first and others say to write your headline last. I say keep a running list of headline ideas as you go. Pick from a list of 10 or so ideas. Choose the one that you’d be most likely to click on in a Twitter stream.
What web content writing tips have I missed? What rules do you follow?