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Website Usability and Web Copywriting (Outline):

Tutorial - Writing for Search Engine Positioning and Website Usability

Last time we talked about Search Engine Optimization and Positioning. As explained, Search Engine Optimization and Search Engine Positioning is all about making your website visible, reaching your target audience and ultimately increasing your traffic.

Now we go to the second part of the general discussion and an equally important subject matter. After getting good traffic into your website, the goal is to give your valuable audience satisfaction during their entire stay in your site, and keeping them. I will be sharing with you Guidelines for Website Usability and Copywriting.

Part II. Website Usability and Copywriting

Website Usability is simply defined as the ease with which your audience is able to use your website. Making your website user-friendly is a crucial element in its success. The traffic you rake into your site is only as valuable as the number that produces positive response. If users feel that your site doesn’t give them what they want, or is having a hard time getting what they want, they wouldn’t think twice of leaving your site. There are thousands of websites out there offering the same information and services as you are. And you can’t afford to lose these highly targeted potential customers because they almost never come back. That’s how important Website Usability is.

When we talk about Website Usability, especially since the discussion is focused on content, Website Usability and Copywriting are highly integrated. For commercial websites, effective Copywriting plays a major role. The copy or text shouldn’t bore the reader, rather capture him. Effective Copywriting, plus the design and structure, all play crucial roles in keeping the audience interested and getting a positive response, whether it be subscribing to a newsletter or acquiring a product or service.

Use the following simple but effective guidelines for Website Usability and Copywriting to your advantage.

1. Know Your Target Audience

This is definitely the best Website Usability and Copywriting pointer to start with. Your users are the ones that your website will cater to for its entire existence, so know them well. This information will be the basic foundation of your entire website and copy. You have to speak their language and talk the talk. You have to give what they want, the way they want it or understand it.

You have to match the preference and taste of your audience. A corporate look is appropriate if you’re targeting businesses and companies. A more playful look and content is suitable for kids who want to learn more about alphabets and building blocks. A flashy and avant-garde site would certainly catch the attention of someone who’s looking for web design services. And a content-rich site with archives is what a researcher is looking for. You get the picture.

Furthermore, you have to consider which language and what content your audience wants. Copywriting involves knowing the lingos if there are any, the words that they are familiar to and things that they’re most likely to respond to positively. If your website is catering to working women, then you provide them with fashion trends, horoscopes, articles about relationships, coping with stress and the coolest events and places around.

One important Copywriting rule: Know your audience, know your niche and stick to it.

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STRUCTURE

The website should be structured effectively for a more satisfying user experience.

2. Navigation

Your navigation links are what takes your audience to where they want to go in your website. If they can’t get to where they want to go and what they want to see, then you are in trouble. Internet users just won’t take it. They’ll click on the more visible “close the window” button, the X on the top right corner of the window, and move on.

If the user can’t see the contact info link, or if a link takes him to a wrong page, or if the image link doesn’t load and he can’t see where the link will take him, then he will just leave your website and move on. Don’t ever allow these to happen. Make sure that your navigation links are visible. Check your links to avoid broken links. For image links, remember to put ALT text so when they fail to load, the text can substitute for the image.

Remember, Website Usability is all about ease. Make sure your users can access everything you want them to access EASILY.

3. Sitemap

A lot of webmasters feel that having a sitemap page is redundant and not needed. They fail to realize that having a sitemap is helpful for the users. It helps the user to easily and quickly locate what and where he wants to go. This is very useful especially for large websites with over a hundred pages and multiple menus. With a well organized and categorized sitemap, this will make the search for a page easier. And anything that makes things easier for the user is what’s good for the website. Redundancy is a very small price to pay for Website Usability.

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COPYWRITE

Studies show that majority of internet users are skimmers and not readers. This has many implications on Copywriting for the web, especially for commercial websites.

4. NOT a College Essay

Writing for web is NOT like writing a college essay. Again, we go back to number one, knowing our audience. Whether your professor likes it or not, he is not your target audience, and he is not going to grade you for your content. There are no strict rules to follow. And for Keyword Density* purposes, you can choose not to use pronouns and repeat the same noun in the same sentence. In copywriting for the web, you are talking to your target audience, so make your content conversational. Which is exactly what this tutorial is, conversational.

* Keyword Density refers to the ratio of your keywords to the total number of words in your webpage which is one factor considered in Search Engine Optimization. The Part I of this discussion, Writing for Search Engine Optimization and Positioning, talks more about this.

5. Go Straight to the Point

Partly the reason why majority of internet users are skimmers is because they are busy people in a hurry. They want to find what they want immediately. That’s the purpose of Search Engines, give users what they are looking for as relevant as possible, immediately. Unless you have a specific purpose, it is best to go straight to the point when writing for the web. Users appreciate sparing them crap and giving them more of what they really want to find. Less warm ups save them time, and less unnecessary words result to a better keyword density.

Let’s say your page is about your company’s PHP programming services, you go ahead discussing PHP and how your company’s services can answer the needs of the client. You don’t have to discuss the history or a long backgrounder about PHP. Unless the user searched for PHP tutorials, which isn’t part of your services even, this would completely be a waste of both your time.

6. Use of Headings

Use headings for each subtopic in your content. Keep in mind that internet users are generally skimmers. So while keeping your content fluid for pleasant reading for the rest of the internet readers, place headers for subtopics for the skimmers. This way, they can choose which group of paragraphs is relevant to them and is worth reading. Also, write key phrases and important ideas within paragraphs in bold characters so they can be able to see and know that these are important ideas to consider. This is intelligent Web Copywriting and Usability technique.

7. Keep Paragraphs Short

In Copywriting for Web, avoid using long paragraphs. To do this is, keep different ideas in separate paragraphs. Notice how short the paragraphs are in this tutorial. 5-6 sentences should be enough for each. Remember, majority are skimmers, so you want each paragraph to be short and direct for easier scanning.

8. Outbound Links for Credibility

Web Usability Test Results, done by Web Usability Guru Jakob Nielson, show that credibility is important for internet users. Because they are not certain whether a page can be trusted, or where the subjective content are based on, they need to feel secure about what your website is offering them and whether what you have is dependable. Aside from excellent copywriting, having outbound links to other related content is an effective way to gain credibility. It shows that you are confident about your content, and have done your research about what you are talking about. As you can see at the right side column of this page, there are outbound links, as well as within the body of this article and the other articles.

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