How to structure good web copy

When you are start a new website, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with how to structure web copy. Even if you have a copywriter like me doing the bulk of the work for you, it’s often the case that you will want to post your own blogs or news items. All you have to do is remember how people read online, make sure that the most important material is at the top of the post, and make key words and sections are easy to find. Above all, keep it simple, personal, and friendly.

Reading online is different to reading print

It’s a truism that reading material online is different to reading material in print. If you spend much time online, think about how you read material yourself. I’ll wager that 90% of the time (or more) you scan pages looking for key words, key phrases, and headings to help you determine whether what you have found is what you want.

With this in mind, then, what you want to do is write an introductory paragraph, which is kind of like a conclusion. Odd, I know. But if you can summarise what you want to say in the first two or three sentences, then it helps your readers work out whether what you have to say is relevant to their needs. If you are using your blog for marketing purposes — as most businesses do — you have to make sure that you are going to draw people in.

Put the most important material at the top

This style of writing is often known as the ‘inverted pyramid’ style — and you will see it most frequently in news writing. Wikipedia has more information about this type of structure.

Essentially, what you have to do is put all of the most important material at the beginning of the post, and write the remainder in order of diminishing importance. It doesn’t mean that the structure has to be too simple, or that it will fail to make sense. It just means that your reader will get the best of what you have to say in the first thirty seconds. That time-frame is crucial because that’s when your readers will decide whether your site is valuable to them.

Make the key words and sections easy to find

Once you have your ‘teaser’ or ‘summary’ at the top, go nuts on what you have to say. You can always shuffle the text around! But make sure that the sections of your post are easy to find, so that people who scan the page can get the sense of what you have to say without having to read the whole thing. Let’s be honest, most people won’t read the entire post the first time.

Like I’ve done here, the key sections are in headings. It’s easy to navigate, it gives you an immediate sense of structure, and if you want detail about those parts then you can take the time to read it.

Keep it simple and friendly!

There is nothing worse than reading a long sentence on-screen. Shorter sentences work best. Avoiding jargon is vital. And if you can build rapport with your reader through warm and friendly copy, so much the better. Nobody wants to read anything that is too clinical, or stand-offish.

Personalising your online copy is the best way of making it friendly. If you want your copy to bring you business, you have to express your personality through your text. It sounds difficult, but once you get the hang of it, it’s just like writing a letter to someone that you like. And, like everything else, the more you do it, the better at it you get.