No one is really going to start reading your copy—or they’ll never keep reading it if they start.
Well, they might if you’re writing with them in mind. For example, I know that if you’re reading this, you might be insecure about the allure of your web copy. I know this, and I played into that insecurity right away to keep you reading. While that doesn’t sound very nice, it was extremely thoughtful of me. Most web copy is generic and written by someone rather than for someone.
Coming from a background in literature, I feel playing to an audience is an art severely lacking in online copy. People read books because they feel a connection to them. Authors identify who is going to read their books and, subsequently, how to appeal to that audience. This philosophy can easily be applied to all text that you write that you intend for someone to read. This process is simple and just takes a little thought and three easy steps.
1) Identify who your audience is.
If they’re visiting your website, you probably have grounds to make assumptions about your visitors as a group. Judge away. Are they there because they share a common interest? Are they likely of a similar age range? Are they in the same industry? Get to know the people you’re writing for. If they spend their time to visit your site and read what you have to say, you owe them that courtesy
2) Define what appeals to that audience.
You can do this by browsing through other websites that appeal to your now clearly defined audience. Find an organization or company who share your audience and who has an impressive and/or successful web presence. Analyze the information, the kinds of words used, and the tone. Is there a lot of jargon? Is it straight and simple or very detailed? Is the tone conversational or more formal? These questions will get you thinking about how to best address the people you want to read your copy. Again, if you have the most eloquent, grammatically impeccable copy on the web, it’s not going to get you anywhere if your audience is looking for something light and entertaining or vice versa.
3) Mold your copy to their standards.
Now that you know who they are and what they want, alter your copy. This might mean using more descriptive, attractive language. Or maybe you’re writing for no-nonsense business oriented minds that just want the fact without the fluff. Continuity is big in this department too; you can draw them in with a masterful insight into their wants and needs, but if it only extends as far as your homepage, you’re going to lose them.
Even if you have a wide audience, just look for commonalities and try to keep the reader in mind. They will appreciate it, and you won’t waste your time writing copy that will never be read.