When It Comes to Online Copy, It Pays to Write It Right

When It Comes to Online Copy, It Pays to Write It RightThe Internet offers any number of ways for small business owners to connect with current and potential customers…websites, blogs, e-newsletters, social media…the list goes on and on.

However, none of these tools will be effective without thoughtful, well-written copy. Choosing the right messages about your products or services, and the right words to convey them, can make the difference between having visitors simply surf by your site, and wanting to learn more.

Don’t worry if you don’t consider yourself a “writer.” Though there are professionals who can provide communication skills you may lack, anyone can prepare good, compelling online copy.

The first consideration is determining your audience, and the kind of information they’re looking for. Your business plan research will give you a good start. Are they “John and Jane Q. Public,” or people with a specific level of expertise? Are they local or regional, or do you want to communicate on a national or even global scale?

Once you’ve defined your audience, write your copy as if you were having a conversation with members of that specific group. For example, industry terms or acronyms may be OK if your audience is largely specialized. But jargon-laden copy will likely confuse and turn away more general readers. It may be worthwhile to incorporate a glossary of technical terms, or incorporate links to recognized sources such as Wikipedia that offer concise explanations. And if are going global, avoid words and terms that may be unfamiliar or inappropriate to other cultures.

Good website copy has to be compelling in order to capture and hold a reader’s attention. Place your most important and interesting content prominently near the top of the page. Lead with eye-catching headlines, keep sentences and paragraphs short, and use subheads for longer articles. Few readers will bother scrolling through long blocks of text to find what they’re looking for.

Because we read with our ears as well as our eyes, recite your copy aloud to make sure it flows smoothly. Often, what looked great yesterday may be dull and trite tomorrow. Always start re-reading from the beginning as if you’re a first-time visitor to make sure you’ve covered everything, and that there are no disjointed thoughts.

Finally, proofread your copy for proper grammar and spelling. Don’t rely solely on spellcheckers. You’re also more likely to catch mistakes when proofing a printed version, rather than trying to do it on-screen. Asking someone else to proof your copy will also provide a valuable fresh set of eyes to not only spot mistakes, but also ensure your words fulfill their goal of attracting and engaging readers.

For more advice on marketing your small business, contact Raleigh SCORE. We provide free, confidential business mentoring and training workshops to small business owners. To schedule a free appointment with our experienced counselors, go to http://raleigh.score.org, or call us at 919-856-4739.

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