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November 04. 2012 8:10PM

SCORE: Keep Web copy brief and to the point

Q. I recently launched a business doing onsite home computer repair. Things have started out pretty well, and now I want to expand my reach by putting together a website. I've engaged someone to do the technical part of it, but I prefer to write the copy myself. Are there any tricks to writing for a website?

A. Developing well written and concise messages should be included in your small business marketing strategy. A well constructed message that will connect with your customers is the key factor.

This is particularly true for websites. Although the Web is a visual-driven medium, with sites using flashy graphics, sounds and other fancy features, success still comes down to what you say and how you say it.

However, website copy differs significantly from that for, say, brochures or display ads. With only few seconds to capture and hold the reader's attention, Web copy must be brief and to the point, but engaging enough for them want to see more.

Focus first on establishing credibility. The content on your site must be crisp and intelligent. What you say should grab a visitor's attention, pique their interest and motivate them to action. But avoid sounding like a commercial.

"Don't make your website look like an ad" is rule number one of Web copywriting, says Maria Veloso, director of Web Copywriting University. "We are all bombarded by ad images daily," Veloso says. "The last thing we want to see on a site is another ad."

Yet many small business sites seem specifically designed to look like billboards. Avoid this trap. "People go online for information," Veloso says. "That's why they call it the information superhighway." Your site should provide help, not hype, with the feel of editorial, not advertising. Web visitors consider themselves active participants in a shared online experience, so the writing should speak to them in this way.

Even though you're writing for an infinite number of potential readers, your copy should read like a conversation. That's why many successful websites use common, everyday words, not platitudes and overused clichs that show off the writer's knowledge of the dictionary.

Using the second-person ("you") in addressing readers also helps create a personal bond with your website visitors and helps convey your sincere interest in helping them address their business needs.

They more they feel like they know you, the more interested they'll be in doing business with your company.

This column is brought to you by the Merrimack Valley Chapter of SCORE, with nearly 70 current and former business executives available to provide free, confidential, one-on-one business mentoring and training workshops for area businesses. Call 603-666-7561 or visit merrimackvalley.score.org for information on mentoring, upcoming workshops and volunteer opportunities. SCORE is a national, nonprofit organization and a resource partner of the U. S. Small Business Administration.

Have a question you'd like answered in this column? E-mail it to info@score-manchester.org, with "Ask SCORE" in the subject line.



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