Much of the available advice on how to write effectively online urges you to engage your readers and suggests how this might be done: build a relationship; make them feel comfortable; demonstrate your understanding; show your skills; invite them to subscribe; use their language; know their pain points; highlight your experience; appeal to their emotions and so on.
But in terms of the actual writing, what does all this really mean?
This post offers 4 concrete ways to increase reader engagement in your online copy, with ‘before editing’ and ‘after editing’ examples that show you how it’s done.
After reading, I hope you can review and edit your own online copy to make it more engaging.
TIP #1: keep it simple
Creative entrepreneurs are usually overflowing with ideas and enthusiasm about their offerings. The problem is, this doesn’t necessarily translate into engaging online copy.
Engaging online copy is clear and concise. The clearest sentences are often short and convey a single idea, although longer sentences can work if carefully phrased (and see below Tip # 3: rule of three). Dot points can be helpful in focussing readers’ attention.
I’m grateful to Katie Bennett, talented photographer at www.embellysh.com.au, for allowing me to share from our writing collaboration.
One of Katie’s signature offerings is Y Session photography, designed for entrepreneurs who want out-of-the-box creative images to help build a strong online presence.
Before editing – Katie’s rough notes
Reading Katie’s rough notes, you can feel her creativity, passion and energy. We agreed, however, that the message needed to be simplified in order to be more effective as online copy.
After editing – simplified copy
Note: the last sentence in is relatively long, but I think we get away with it thanks to the ‘rule of three’. See TIP #4 below.
TIP #2: use verbs
You’ll remember from school that verbs are ‘doing words’.
If most readers of your business website are potential clients, remember that clients need things to be done. Engage them instantly by using verbs to show them that your products and/or services do something for them.
I worked with the owner of Tiny Chefs, an innovative online business that assists Early Years teachers to include lessons and activities in gardening and health for 3-8 year olds.
The website copy below engages readers through the use of carefully selected verbs.
The verbs offers, saves, provides, includes, facilitates and ensures come from the discourse of education, and therefore speak directly to the Tiny Chefs’ potential clients: teachers. These dot points clearly show that the business provides products and services that represent comprehensive support. This is exactly what teachers need and therefore engages them as they read.
TIP #3: use questions
The use of questions in online copy can engage readers by showing that you understand the problems they are facing – and can solve them. In mirroring readers’ own thoughts, the use of questions makes copy effective through being personal.
Here’s another extract from Tiny Chefs.
You can ‘reverse engineer’ a draft list of questions for your copy by brainstorming the products and services your business offers, then creating a question for each one.
TIP #4: follow the ‘rule of three’
According to Wikipedia,
‘The Rule of Three is a writing principle that suggests that things that come in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things …
The reader … is also more likely to consume information if it is written in groups of threes …
A series of three often creates a progression in which the tension is created, built up, and finally released. Similarly, adjectives are often grouped in threes to emphasize [sic] an idea.’
Here you can see the ‘rule of three’ at work:
- in a phrase
- in a sentence
- twice in one sentence
- in a paragraph
- in a tagline
Which of these 4 tips strikes you as the most effective? What other methods do you use in order to engage your readers online? Feel free to share this post in your online business networks.
At Edit Proofread Write, I help small business owners, professionals and academics use the right language to achieve your goals.