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9 (+1) Tips For Writing User-Friendly Content

user friendly content

total usability seriesThis is part of the Total Usability Series that was originally published in 2007. A decade later, usability is more important than ever, so we are revisiting this series and updating all of the articles. This post was updated 8/25/2017.

The content of your website is your #1 sales tool. Pictures, tools, and other fun stuff can be important in making your site visually and functionally appealing, but it’s the content that sells. Well-written and user-focused content allows your visitors to find out more about your products and services, as well as how your company will be able to meet their needs.

Content weighs heavily both in terms of how users interact with your website and how visitors (both human and search spiders) are able to determine what you offer and what each page of your website is about. While solidly optimized content is important for search engine rankings, considering the usability of your content is of paramount importance for attaining good conversion rates.

Tips for User-Friendly Content

  1. Voice: The content of your website should be written in a consistent voice from page to page. This voice needs to be one that is relatively standard in your industry and resonates with your target audience. There are many different types of voices you can employ. It’s up to you to find the one that is authentic to your company and to employ it consistently.Types of voices for your website
  2. Active words: Active words help the user engage with the content, making them a participant rather than just a passive reader. The site’s content should be full of active verbs that inspire visitors to take action.action verbs
  3. Typographical errors: Your website should be free of all typographical errors. Both spelling and grammatical errors can be an indicator that you lack professionalism. They must be eliminated to maintain overall trustability.
  4. Skimmable & scannable: Visitors skim through and scan content to find what interests them before they actually read each word. As much as possible, use short paragraphs, headings, and bullets. Be sure to stick to a basic reading level. Blue Apron’s blog, for example, makes use of vivid images and headings to make its content more scannable and easy to read.skimmable and scannable
  5. Customer focus: Present your content in a way that speaks to your visitors’ overall wants and needs. Focus on them, not on you or your company.
  6. Personality needs: Content should use language that speaks to individual personalities of your visitors. Providing information that certain personalities “need” helps speak to those visitors more directly and move them through the conversion process.
  7. Benefits vs. features: Present the benefits your visitors will receive. Don’t write exclusively in terms of what your product or service does, but what benefits your visitors will get from your product or service.features vs benefits
  8. Spammy text: Content should always read naturally and should never feel “stuffed” with keywords. Never hide content on the page, but use it effectively as a sales tool.
  9. Calls to action: Each page should contain a conclusion and one or more calls to action. Once you have effectively provided the necessary information, compel the visitor to take the desired action.CTA in content

Bonus Tip

Linking out: Whenever possible and only where relevant, link your text out to other areas of the website as they are mentioned within the body copy. Selectively link out to external sources that reinforce the information you are providing.

Text Sells

All too often, site owners want to sideline the content. They feel that pictures, tools, and products are the only things that visitors want. Yes, these are an important part of the sales process, but so is the text. Properly developed text informs and persuades. It entices and encourages. It draws and drives.

More than anything else, text sells.

Stoney G deGeyter

Stoney deGeyter is the author of The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!. He is the founder and CEO of Pole Position Marketing, a web presence optimization firm whose pit crew has been velocitizing websites since 1998. In his free time Stoney gets involved in community services and ministries with his “bride enjoy” and his children. Read Stoney’s full bio.

6 Responses to 9 (+1) Tips For Writing User-Friendly Content

  1. Stoney G deGeyter
    Stoney deGeyter says:

    Bill, Thanks for that. Both excellent points, though I don’t know if a full week is necessary, but a couple of days will do anybody good. While I don’t have all of my blog posts reviewed (I do the “big” ones) I do wait several days and then go back and edit before finally posting. I’m amazed by not just the spelling and grammatical errors I find but that I often find much better ways to word things too!

  2. An interesting one here is the issue of typos. You’re dead right that a site should be free of them. Problem is, it sounds like one of the easiest tasks (“yeah, I’ll just have a run through to make sure there are no typos..”)

    In fact, it can be a complate nightmare. Professional writers are often the worst people for finding mistakes. The biggest problem of all is finding mistakes in your own writing. It’s very difficult to properly read copy you’ve written immediately after you’ve written it – your eye tends to fall off the line and your brain just fills in the gaps from memory.

    So the two bits of follow-up advice I’d give, if you’ll permit me, are:

    (1) Ideally, get someone else to copyedit your writing.

    (2) If that’s not possible, leave at least a week between the writing and the editing.

    I bet – I just bet – there’s a typo in what I’ve written above. I’m not going to toothcomb it, just to make the point 🙂

  3. Stoney G deGeyter
    Stoney deGeyter says:

    I couldn’t agree more! Every now and I find myself going pack to stuff that is several years old… prepared to cringe at the “greenness” of it, only to be suprised. Sometimes I even think, “if only I could write that well now!”

  4. I think it’s surprising some of the benefits a time-lapse can bring beyond the operation of picking up typos. Sometimes, I’ll write something that comes really hard, feels terrible and makes me file in in disgust when I get to the end. Then I come back a week later, and it’s a lot better than I thought. Conversely, something that just flows off the keyboard and leaves you with a warm glow can seem empty and lame when you revisit it objectively.

    I guess it’s an illustration of what a subjective business writing is!

  5. Hi,

    Thank you for the great articles! I am a subscriber but must confess don’t always have the time to read all the articles. Wanted some information, searched Google and here I am! Guess I should read all the articles when they arrive!

    On the subject of typos, on the "Spammy Text" paragraph above it reads:
    "Never hide content on the page, but us it effectively as a sales tool."
    Shouldn’t it be "Never hide content on the page, but use it effectively as a sales tool."?

    See, I paid attention!

    Thanks again!