How to entice your readers to stay on the page after they land.
How to make your copy easy for people to skim read it.
Check out this double tutorial on writing for the web! And find out now how you can trick your readers to staying on, and then lure them to read down.
If you are in need of a few pointers about writing copy or you’d like me to come and present to your team on how to adjust their writing style for the online environment, why not get in touch? I was one of the earliest adopters of writing for the web back in 1999, and I’ve been providing training in this area since 2001! Online copywriting is still one of my favourite areas and I”ll have you writing snappy in no time!
We’ll always get back to you within one business day.
The way you hook them into reading the copy and making sure that they actually
take the call to action is to use the skimmibility tools, what I’m going to
talk about right now. So we know from people like Jacob Nielsen and his
research that when people read text from screen they, their brains compute
twenty-five percent less of what they would read on a page
So when you’re writing for the online environment the rule is to write fifty
Keep your sentences short my tip for exporting long sentences that
need culling is to look for commas or you can always try reading the sentence
out loud and if you find you have to take a breath in the middle then you
know you’ve got to put in a few fullstops and make one long sentence into
two or three shorter ones. An old copy writing tip is to have one idea per paragraph
and while your at it, put your best sentence at the start and your
second-best sentence at the end and putyour credit sentences in the middle, one
of my journalist friend told me that one,
And use active verbs and again you need
to become familiar with the active verbs that will work for your industry. For me
I use words like download, learn, discover, find out, these are words that are
compelling. They have a sense of activity about them and people are more likely to
click on them.
Now the simple present tense is the way you need to be writing
your English. If anyone has learned a language they will know all about the
difference between the different types of tense and if anyone has had an
expensive university education or otherwise you will have learned to use
many many other tenses that are not going to be of any use to you when
you’re writing for the online world. So the first thing you gotta do is on learn
your learning and go back to using really simple present English simple
No to the the passive voice. What I mean by that is the passive voice is the wording
of, the formation of the European Union. It’s when you have an ION of the
or it might be like a third person speaking. That kind of language doesn’t
really work, it doesn’t really relate to people when they’re reading of your
screen, so go back and look at your copy and see if you can remove the passive
No multisyllabic words by that I mean words for there are multiple
syllables for you can always use a shorter word it’s place. For example
however, consequently, heretofore, any of my legal learned colleagues would be
very familiar with these words, and I’m going to tell you now you got to stop using
them. So, but and, all are very, very good alternatives
By the way it’s perfectly acceptable to start a sentence with a preposition when
you’re writing the 21st century and finally my particular bugbear when
writing dates it’s ok to write just the number and the month. You don’t have to add in of the
because that is actually how we speak and not how we write for making someone
understand when they’re reading it off the screen.
So I hope so far that these scannability and skimmibility tips help you to go back and have a little
look what you’ve written lately for reading on-screen, and apply them and see
if they make a difference. Why don’t you pause this video now, go to
your website or your blog and copy some text from that and apply the
scannability and skimmibility tips and then come back to me for more.
This short video shows you the tips that you need in order to make your content
skimmable. By this I mean when people have decided to engage with your content
and stay on the page when they skim read the content, how are you going to make
the words leap out so that they understand your messaging and decide to
So what you need to understand is how do people read online. Nielsen says that
users are all extremely selfish, lazy and ruthless as they scan for
information. So we all know we scan for information and not only that, we
want to be entertained in the process. So what you can do is you can understand
that the way a page is laid out or the way people read online is that they read
in the shape of the letter F. Ok, well they don’t actually read but we scan an
F. So we come into the top of the page we move down the page we look to the right
and we look to the right again. Here is my favorite example of a letter F. This
is the heat tracking software which is done during iris testing, so this is
where the users eyes fixated more and you can so see the shape of the letter F
in this can’t you? Have a look at this example from facebook, so obviously
you’ve got the profile picture in the top left-hand corner but you can still
see the letter F and that’s how we read
So there are a couple of tricks that you can use to make people want to stay with
you and scan down through your copy. I call these tricks scannability tricks.
There are a number of them one is looking at your heading. Two is making
sure if you have a longer piece of copy that you have a summary. Use subheaders.
Color, bolding keywords and finally using bullets so let’s look at each one
of these in turn. This is an example of some copy that I just took from a website.
And this next example is where I have applied the principles I’m going to talk
about in scannability, and you can see instantly it’s a lot easier to read and
you’re much more likely to engage with the copy than before.
The first one in scannability is headings. Headings are the most important
thing to get right out of everything. The reason for that is because
eight out of ten people would read a headline, two out of ten people who read
the rest of the text that goes with it. And in some very interesting research
from the Washington Post 2015, 6 out of 10 people will share a piece online without
even reading it just based on your headline, so you know you’ve got to get
that headline really really good.
Upworthy has shared their editorial process for writing headlines and I
think it’s very interesting because I tried it myself and it works. Instead of
writing one headline or maybe two or writing one and tweaking it, and
sending that one out, they say you should write 25 headlines for every piece of
content that you’re producing. That might sound like an awful lot but I’ve
found myself when I’ve done this round about nine ten eleven you’ll start getting good,
or you might think outside the box so by the time you get to number 25 you
have a lot of cruddy headlines but you’re going to have one that’s gold.
When you’re writing a headline there are some some things that are tried and
tested that you can just use in your headlines.
One is to use numbers, five reasons why you don’t want to get out of bed on
Monday, three things to do when preparing for a Facebook campaign of Christmas so
numbers work really well. Keep your headlines short and if you have keywords
that you’re trying to use make sure they’re up at the start of the headline. Be
predictable. Make sure the headline is understandable out of context so what I
I think about this is if you think you’re writing for a broadsheet
newspaper they will always have understandable out of context headlines,
whereas the tabloids would be more likely to have “Cor, what a shocker!!” that could
apply to anything so make sure you are accurately describing what comes next
Get used to using interesting adjectives for your industry, so effortless, free, fun,
essential those are the kind of words that I would use. Those words may not
work in your industry but it’s it’s up to you to find the words that do. Brand
name, celebrities and sex sell. For most businesses you can’t really use sex
often but you can definitely use celebrities and brand names wherever
possible. Write to 65 characters and then it allows for your headline to be retweeted
and questions and how to’s work extremely well. This is an example of a lot of
those headline tips put into place on one of the many Buzzfeed sites that are
So when in doubt with headlines I suggest you go and have a look at Upworthy
or Buzzfeed because they are the masters of the headline. So the next thing in your
scannability arsenal is to write a summary. If you have a fairly long piece
of copy, and let’s face it, if you’re writing to be ranked on Google these
days you need to be writing 1200 words so you’re likely to have a long piece of
copy. So what you need to do is write your article and then write a cell of
your article to yourself some of your idea and in about 30 or 50 words and put
that up at the very top of the page so it really sort of answers the question
of who what where when how why this this article is about, and it allows your reader to
come in and decide is this something that they are actually interested in.
Subheaders work really well where you have a number of paragraphs. So if you have
three paragraphs and you don’t have any bullets coming up
use the sub header because that small little piece of copy and perhaps color
if you’re using styling will actually send the psychological signal to your
reader that it’s okay. It isn’t that hard, you just have to get down as far as the
subheading, then the brain will take a little break and then they’ll continue
to read on.
Other tools you can use to make it easy for them to scan would be
keywords and bullets so bold the keywords that you think are important to
make them stand out. And did you know there is actually a rule about bullets.
Five bullets is the maximum that our little brains are able to process from a
screen without getting muddled or tired or clicking away or worse. Sometimes you can
get away with seven but the rule of thumb is to work for 5. So if you find
you have about 10 in a list you need to either condense them into five or make two
separate list of bullets. Numbered bullets are used where order is important,
for example, baking a cake it is important to beat the eggs and then add
the sugar and then use the technical term of
blobby bullets when the order isn’t important.
So these are the tools that I’ve been using for many, many years to
ensure my text is scannable when you put all of these in place a person can come
along to your copy, scan it, and decide if this is something for them.