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3 ways that online and offline copywriting differs


People behave differently when they’re reading from a screen, compared to reading from a printed page. Those differences are so entrenched that copywriters must adopt different techniques to attract and engage readers online.

Here are 3 key things to consider when writing for digital readers.

1. Write headlines that make readers want to read more

The role of the headline is to attract your readers’ attention and make them want to read on. This might mean dramatising the news story you’ve written, or pushing the benefits offered on a landing page.

While the approach varies depending on context, there’s one concept you must remember when writing digital headlines: Be clear.

Ambiguity in headlines doesn’t work online, as readers don’t have time to make sense of confusing language. Puns and wordplay can work well in print, but not online.

2. Break up copy into short chunks

People don’t read copy word-for-word online, like they do in print. Instead, they’re far more likely to scan the words on a screen.

The scanning pattern will vary depending on the layout, structure and other factors. But one thing that makes copy difficult to scan is big blocks of text.

Stick to the following guidelines to make your copy more engaging and memorable:

  • Write an average of 15–20 words per sentence
  • Ensure no sentence is over 25 words
  • Stick to two sentences or fewer per paragraph
  • Use sub-headlines to break up content
  • Use bullet point lists and numbered lists where appropriate

3. Search Engine Optimisation

A common way that people find your web content is through a search engine referral, usually from Google. Much of your web content, perhaps most of it, will need to be optimised for relevant search terms.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) comprises many factors, including creative and technical elements of your web pages. Here are some things you can do as a copywriter to improve your contents’ performance in search engines:

  • Research relevant keywords for any page you’re optimising
  • Use the right keywords in important parts of the web page, including meta title, headlines, sub-headlines and body copy
  • Optimise image file names, alternate text and captions, to ensure they’re recognised by Google
  • Write a call to action that matches your readers’ goals

These are just some of the differences between print and digital content. At IDM we run accredited courses in digital copywriting that will help you develop better skills and techniques.

Contact us to discuss your development needs in more detail and we’ll be happy to help.

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