Is writing for the web really any different to writing for print?

I guess the short answer to that question is yes and no.

Yes in that writing for the web forces you to take account of the search engines and making sure that what you’re writing reflects what people want to know. But a big, fat, enormous no in that to write truly powerful copy you simply *have* to write for your customers and not for yourself. Great copy attracts, engages and galvanises people into action.

Great copy answers questions that your readers have; shows them that you can solve their problem/ inspires them and entices them to put their trust and hard earned cash your way. It’s very simple really. And to be honest, writing for the web should be no different to writing for your readers.

Sure, you need to make sure that your website gets found. But if you understand *at the outset* what people are looking for in your niche; what people want to know about your product or service then it really isn’t rocket science. Now I’m telling you all this as a copywriter, not as an SEO expert (which I don’t profess to be). But just think about it for a moment. Truly bad copy (and we all see plenty of that about ;-) ) often starts out with a headline that bears no resemblence to what follows in the paragraph below. Writing for the web forces you to stay focused. If you want to get found for bespoke kitchens in Surrey; well then you need to make sure you use those words in what you’re writing. And so that it makes sense to the humans that are invariably going to read your website if your SEO ninja tricks pay off; then you need to make sure that the whole paragraph, or better still the whole page is around that theme too – just so that it makes sense…

I’m currently writing two pieces of copy for Stanbrook and Nicholson, a local joinery company based in the Surrey Hills. One is for their brochure, one is for their website. I’m pretty well placed to write this at the moment because we’re currently in the process of starting an extension, so I know exactly what their clients want to know.

I started by writing their brochure. Izzy and I planned out the structure a couple of weeks back, I interviewed the team and we’re now in the process of writing up. I still find it easier to write for people first – call me old fashioned but I have more love for them than robots. We’ve decided that the brochure is going to let the pictures do the talking so it was all about writing short, sharp, evocative paragraphs that told a story.

I then translated this to their web copy. Web doesn’t bring the space constraints with it that printed literature too – so we can allow ourselves the luxury of a few extra pages – more detail on the team and their environmental policy perhaps. It’s at this point that things start to get a bit more focused. With the help of my (now friend) Google and a few other tools I’m looking at various keywords – what people are searching for, what the competition is like, and how we can be different.

At the bottom of each page I’m specifying the keywords I think should be relevant to this page. That’s partly for my own sanity – to make sure each important one is covered off, and mostly to keep me focused. If I want to get found for bespoke kitchens surrey then I need to use those words – and there were places on relevant pages that I hadn’t.

So yes, writing for the web is slightly different to writing for print. But surely it’s just about a bit of discipline in giving the readers what they want? And let’s be honest, we could all use a bit of that!

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