Web Copy How Much Is Enough

Web Copy How Much Is Enough

These days, there’s widespread acceptance that a​ website is​ an​ integral part of​ the​ marketing plan of​ any business. Likewise, it’s commonly accepted that web copy is​ a​ vital component of​ any website. But how much web copy is​ enough?

The pure volume of​ information available on the​ Internet is​ daunting – often counterproductive. There are approximately 550 billion documents on the​ web, and​ every day another 7 million are added. According to​ an​ A.T. Kearney, Network Publishing study (April 2001), workers take so long trying to​ find information that it​ costs organizations $750 billion annually!

Yet people continue to​ use it. Information gathering is​ the​ most common use of​ the​ Internet (American Express survey, 2000). and​ it​ seems work-related searches are amongst the​ most common, with 48% of​ people using the​ Internet to​ find work-related information, as​ opposed to​ 7% who use magazines (Lyra Research, 2001).

Interestingly, however, the​ average person visits no more than 19 websites in​ the​ entire month in​ order to​ avoid information overload (Nielsen NetRatings in​ Jan 2001).

So how do you ensure your site is​ one of​ those 19? How do you make your content helpful without making it​ overwhelming? That’s what this article is​ about…

I’ve written several articles on WHAT to​ write on your website in​ order to​ make it​ helpful. (See http://www.divinewrite.com/benefits.htm, http://www.divinewrite.com/webbenefitwriting.htm, and​ http://www.divinewrite.com/webwriting.htm.) But that’s only half the​ battle… Businesses also need to​ know HOW MUCH to​ write. Here are 5 quick rules of​ thumb to​ help you decide how much is​ enough.

1) Know your audience (Reader or​ Search Engine?)

Think about whether you’re targeting human readers (potential customers) or​ search engines. This must always be one of​ your very first questions, as​ the​ answer will determine your approach to​ content.

In general, human readers think less is​ more. Search engines, on the​ other hand, think more is​ more (well, more or​ less…). in​ many ways, it​ comes down to​ a​ question of​ quality versus quantity. Human readers are interested in​ quality, whereas search engines are interested quantity. Human readers want you to​ answer their questions and​ make it​ clear how you can benefit them. and​ they don’t want to​ wade through volumes of​ text. Search engines want a​ high word count, full of​ relevant keywords, and​ short on diagrams. (See http://www.divinewrite.com/seocopy.htm for​ more information on writing for​ search engines. See http://www.divinewrite.com/SEOCEO.htm for​ an​ introductory article on search engine optimization.)

You need to​ think carefully about your audience. in​ most cases, it’ll be a​ trade-off. a​ high search engine ranking is​ important (or at​ least beneficial) to​ most businesses, so a​ happy medium is​ required. the​ following tips will go some way toward providing this balance.

2) Make it​ concise

Say everything you need to​ say, but always ask, “Can I say it​ with fewer words?” the​ literary world may be impressed by complex writing, but visitors aren’t. Keep it​ simple, and​ keep it​ brief. Your home page shouldn’t be more than 1 screen long. in​ other words, visitors shouldn’t have to​ scroll. Subsequent pages can be longer, but try to​ keep them to​ a​ maximum of​ about 300-400 words each (approximately 1 scroll). a​ lot of​ people will tell you that you also need 300-400 words or​ more on your home page for​ a​ good search engine ranking. You don’t. if​ you focus on the​ right keywords and​ generate a​ lot of​ links to​ your site, you can achieve a​ high ranking without losing your readers’ interest by padding

TIP: for​ most businesses, a​ good rule of​ thumb is​ to​ make it​ conversational. Old school writers and​ would-be writers oppose conversational copy; don’t listen to​ them. Unless you’re writing for​ an​ old-school audience, feel free to​ write as​ people talk.

3) One subject per page

On this, both readers and​ search engines agree. Don’t try and​ squeeze too much information onto a​ single page. for​ example, instead of​ trying to​ detail all of​ your products on a​ single Products page, use the​ page to​ introduce and​ summarize your product suite, then link to​ a​ separate page per product. This way, your content will be easier to​ write, your readers won’t be overwhelmed, and​ you’ll be able to​ focus on fewer keywords (so the​ search engines will get a​ clearer picture of​ what you do).

4) Make it​ scannable

According to​ a​ 1998 Sun Microsystems study, reading from a​ monitor is​ 25% slower than reading from paper. as​ a​ result, 79% of​ users scan read when online. So make sure you accommodate scanning. Use headings and​ sub-headings. Highlight important words and​ sections. Use bulleted lists and​ numbered lists. Use tables. Use statistics. Use meaningful indenting. Use short sentences. Most importantly, be consistent in​ your usage. Oh… and​ follow rules 2 and​ 3 above.

5) Use a​ simple menu structure

Try to​ keep your high-level menu (Home, About Us, Contacts, Products, Services, etc.) to​ a​ maximum of​ about 10 items (5-8 is​ ideal). if​ you have too many options, your site will seem unstructured and​ your visitors won’t know where to​ start. in​ order for​ a​ visitor to​ want to​ come back to​ your site, they need to​ feel comfortable when they’re there. They need to​ know what to​ expect. if​ they can’t identify any logic in​ your menu structure, they will always feel lost. What’s more, this lack of​ structure will reflect badly on your business.

The Internet can be an​ incredibly cost-effective form of​ promotion because the​ cost per word to​ publish is​ so low. Don’t be fooled into thinking more is​ more just because it​ costs less. Audiences – even search engines – don’t want everything; they just want enough.

Happy writing!

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