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Copywriting For An Internet Audience
By Simon Hillier

So what’s the big deal about copywriting for the Internet? Isn't it the same as any other form of promotional writing? In a word, yes. But in another, no.

Confused? Sick of all these questions? Perhaps I should explain.

All copywriting should have one prime objective - create a message that appeals to the audience it is intended to influence. In other words, write a personal message to YOUR target market. This golden rule applies to all things print from ads, brochures, sales letters, annual reports and scripts to the message you leave in Grandma’s little pink birthday card. It's the key to web writing too. 

However, there are additional environment and behavior factors that you need to consider when writing for the web. In other words, the biggest mistake any copywriter can do is copy and paste the most brilliant print brochure copy straight onto the business site. Let's look at why:

Reading online is no afternoon on the couch
Think about it for a minute. Do you read on the Internet the same way you read on paper? Not for long. First of all, there are comfort factors such as the monitor resolution, colours, glare, and a reading surface that doesn’t move. Secondly, sitting in front of a computer screen trying to absorb pages of business related text is a far cry from a lazy Sunday afternoon, feet up on the couch, flipping through the weekend paper travel section.

Web users scan your treasured words - if you are lucky
Web users are conditioned to read websites in a different way to reading from paper. Our eyes linger, loiter and glide over well rafted print copy. Online, we display no such patience  and good manners. Our eyes scan and dart over headlines, sub-headings, and paragraph while we click on hyperlinks and jump between pages.

Make an impression fast on your impatient audience
Online readers can be impatient, demanding and usually know what they want before they click through the door. This means the majority of people looking at your business website are there because they seek a service that they hope you will provide.  If your business doesn’t impress them straight away, it’s a quick tap on the keyboard to find someone who will. 

No such thing as a captive online audience
Readers of printed sales material don’t have the luxury of letting their mouse do the walking. It takes a lot of effort to call or visit your competitors business in the real world so they become somewhat of a captive audience.
On the web, even if you do provide the ideal product or service they need, it doesn’t take much effort to duck into your competitors store just to make sure they haven't missed something better. 

A brochure can also sit on a potential customers desk for months, staring at them with puppy dog eyes, day in day out, until one day they decide to make some enquiries. Unless someone has subscribed to your email newsletter for regular updates, it takes something very impressive to jog a a web surfers memory about a site they visited yesterday, let alone two months ago.

5 ways to make your webcopy irresistable to your target market
With the unique challenges above in mind, here are a few copywriting pointers to help make your website a lean, mean, highly effective, sales machine:

1. Snatch your readers attention from the first paragraph

Most readers spend less than a minute summing up a website before they decide whether to stay or go. Get to the point as fast as you can. If you don’t convey your key message in the first few lines, don’t expect many people to be around to read them further on.

2. Use short paragraphs to break up your copy

If you want people to read your website, forget the long descriptive, romantic prose about the salubrious ambience of your pulchritudinous offer. They will only think you are stercorous (take my word for it, you really don’t want to be). Short paragraphs, conveying one point each, are most effective on the web because they can be differentiated and skimmed at a glance. Visual layout is the key.

3. Make sure your webcopy flows

Reading online is straining enough. Flowing on from the point above, using jargon, formal language and/or trying to impress your audience with your knowledge of words containing more than ten letters will only make the reader irritated, frustrated and begin to think about places or sites they’d rather be.

4. KISS

Remember the old adage Keep It Simple Stupid? Write as though your audience is a bunch of twelve year olds. Don’t sound patronising, but assume they don't know anything about your business or what you do. They have arrived laden with burning questions, “What are you selling?" “Why should I choose you?" “Where are you?" “How can I get some of this?" “How much is it?". Let them know.

5. Appropriately tempt your online audience

A lot of hot and personal activity goes down on the web, but lets face it, the technology itself isn’t causing readers monitors to fog up. The content is what makes things exciting. The Internet itself is just part of an impersonal two-dimensional picture. Good copywriting might not always be intended to get the heart racing, however,t it must connect with your intended audience to break through this impersonal barrier. Maybe you need a little humor, sophistication, cold corporate speak, personal touch, or yes, even something racy.

Simon Hillier is a copywriting specialist based in Sydney, Australia. His company, Get There Writing Services can help turn your ideas into exciting web copy, print copy, e-newsletters, articles, ebooks and scripts that speak to your target audience and attract those fickle search engines. For more articles and further information visit his website http://www.getthere.com.au