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If Your Site Could Talk

By Barry Harrison
Posted Wednesday, September 8, 2004

If your website could talk it might say more about your company than you realize. The words you use help to establish-- or undermine your credibility. And they can persuade visitors to take some action other than clicking to your competition.


Writing for the Web, where your readers are also visitors, is a challenge. Web copy needs to attract traffic from Search Engines, provide useful information that helps visitors accomplish their goals, and persuade browsers to become buyers. How can it do all that?


You may not consider navigation to be copywriting, but choosing the right words to help visitors move through your site is essential. Navigation tells us how to use your site and reveals its content. Don’t make us guess what we might find when we click on a link. Use words that are understandable and unambiguous. What you click is what you get.

Within your text, too many links disrupt the continuity and may confuse your visitors. Ideally they’re placed at the end of a sentence or paragraph. You can improve your Search Engine rankings and emphasize links by using keywords. Try to avoid “click here” links. Rather than “Click here for our usability test results” use “See a summary of our usability test results.”


Write for your visitors. Use language we understand. Delete the jargon, marketing fluff and happy talk. Keep instructions brief. Everyone’s busy, so tell us what we need to know and what to do next.


It’s not just the words you use, but their layout and visual impact that influences how visitors perceive your business and respond to your site. Clear and obvious page titles, summaries, headlines and sub-headers make text easy to scan. Short paragraphs, tables and lists help us find what we’re looking for.

Text color, font and size direct our scanning and may reinforce or detract from your message. Black text on a white background is easiest to read, but you can use colors as long as there’s adequate contrast. Small text is easier to read in sans-serif fonts such as Verdana. Italics may appear jagged or fuzzy on the Web, so use them sparingly.


Me, the visitor that is. Ask not what your business wants to say, ask what your visitor wants to know. Focus your words on MY needs. I’ve come to your site for a reason. Help me achieve my goals and I’ll feel good about myself-- and your company.

Keywords: writing for the web, web copywriting, persuasive writing, copywriting guidelines

About the Author
Barry Harrison,
Barry Harrison and Jim Grady are the co-authors of REDiTIPS. REDiTIPS is a free monthly newsletter that offers simple techniques to market your Web site and grow your business. We provide practical, low-cost ideas to help you promote your small business and reach new potential customers.


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