As copywriters, many of us are used to adapting our copy for different channels and formats – but when it comes to digital content, the list of copy considerations can seem overwhelming. From SEO to meta-tags, it can feel as though writing for digital is more of a science than an art – but by keeping these top tips in mind, you should be able to create copy that’s a beautiful blend of the two.
It’s likely that your audience is spending more time online right now than ever before, with internet hits surging by 50%-70% since the coronavirus pandemic hit, as people strive to stay connected and stay safe. This means there’s a great opportunity for your business to connect with its customers through digital marketing campaigns – but as many of your competitors rush to seize this opportunity too, you’ll only reach your audience if your copy is optimised for a digital audience.
Just how do you do that? Well, when you’re writing for digital, here are three things you need to know:
1. Your audience is skim-reading
A recent review of the differences between print and digital reading experiences found that when reading online, people tend to browse and scan, look for keywords (more on that later) and read in a less linear, more selective way. Multiple studies have found that reading from a screen makes us far more likely to skim the words we’re reading, and even when we’re skimming, we’re not reading linearly – instead our gaze tends to jump around the page, and we’re often distracted by elements like pull-out quotes or images.
This means that copywriters need to write ‘skimmable’ copy, to ensure that the key messages and calls to action are picked up by online readers that are just scanning the page rather than reading every single word. There are a range of ways you can do this, but perhaps the most important is to keep your copy concise. Every sentence you write online should be valuable and add something to what you’re saying – there’s no room for waffle, as it’s likely that your key messages will simply get lost with the ‘fluff’.
Breaking up your copy into smaller paragraphs and using subheaders to make the subject of each section of your copy clear can also help you to ensure your messages get across online, as this should enable readers to simply skip to the section they’re most interested in and get what they want out of your content.
2. It’s all about intent
Always remember that when you’re writing for digital, you should be writing for your audience first, and search engines second. SEO is important, but it’s vital that you focus on creating useful, relevant content above all else. If you write a blog that’s filled with keywords, but not much useful information, then you might get people to visit your page, but you’re unlikely to convert them to leads.
That being said, there are some simple ways to ensure that your content ranks highly on Google. Years ago, copywriters could ensure their content ranked highly simply by cramming it with keywords, but this is no longer the case. Google has started penalising overly keyword heavy copy, so now it’s all about keyword intent, or the searcher’s purpose when they’re using a certain keyword. Google rewards content that closely matches keyword intent (basically, gives the user what they were searching for) because Google is striving to provide high quality results.
There are three main types of keyword intent:
- Informational – searches performed to answer questions or learn something
- Navigational – searches performed to locate a specific website
- Transactional – searches performed to buy something
So think carefully about what users are looking for when they use certain keywords, then ensure that your content delivers that. If you’re writing a blog, for example, you should be thinking about informational keywords. On your website, you should use more navigational keywords, and on your product pages, you might want to include more transactional keywords.
3. You need to get personal
There is so much competition for your audience’s attention online that you need to pull out all of the stops to ensure your copy cuts through the noise. And just like in many other mediums, personalisation can make a real difference to whether a prospective customer engages with your content online.
Many digital channels also give you a greater opportunity to target your audience than ever before, which means there’s no excuse not to tailor your copy to the person who’s going to be reading it. Google Analytics can give you demographics on your website visitors, for example, and many email marketing platforms give you insight into the recipients of your emails. You need to use this insight to give your copy a more personal feel, which is much more likely to resonate with your audience than yet another one-size-fits-all message.
If you’re advertising through LinkedIn, for example, you’re not just limited to targeting your audience by their company or industry. You can refine your ad’s audience by job role, seniority and location and then customise your messages accordingly, to ensure that they speak to the person behind the business you want to work with. If you’re sending a direct mail straight to their inbox, you could go the extra mile by reviewing their profile to see if they’ve interacted with any content recently that you could refer to within your message, which could help you to build rapport with them.
So, next time your development team asks for some copy for a landing page, don’t panic – just keep it concise, add a personal touch and make sure it gives your audience what they’re looking for. These are tried-and-tested techniques that copywriters have been using successfully for years – and they’re just as applicable to that print brochure you’re writing as they are to your homepage.