How long should your paragraphs be?

Readers skip long paragraphs!!

Readers make decisions about your copy based on how it looks. One of the most important visual cues that we give our readers is paragraph length.

If your paragraph is too long, then you might as well stamp it with red ink: “Don’t bother reading this.”  Long paragraphs repel readers.  People read more of a Web page when the paragraphs are short.

Sentences should be no more that 25 words with no more that 2-3 sentences per paragraph.  Here are three ways to condense you web copy:

  1. Use the return key more often. This may be the easiest thing you can do to make your copy more readable.
  2. Tweak it. Look for ways to shorten your paragraphs by cutting sentences, phrases and words.  Don't use unnecessary words.  Be concise.
  3. Use bullets to break up paragraphs and eliminate transitions.

Brief paragraphs encourage readership. Believe me: It works.

Six steps to writing great copy

1. Describe your ideal reader

Describing (and visualizing) your ideal reader makes your web copy much more vivid and personal.

This doesn’t mean that you will sell your product or service only to that person. It means that whoever closely matches your ideal reader should feel that your content is written for him.

Your ideal reader should become like an imaginary friend. You should know your ideal reader so well that you can start a conversation with her at any time. You know when she shakes her head because you say something she doesn’t agree with. You know what makes her smile or laugh. You know the questions she asks. You know how to charm and flatter her.

When describing your ideal reader, don’t just think about demographics like age, gender, income, education, and family circumstances. Do you know what he dreams of achieving? And what keeps her awake at 3am?

Whenever you’re writing web copy, imagine that you’re writing for your ideal reader. Your writing will become more charming, more interesting, and more persuasive.

2. Create a comprehensive list of features, benefits, and objections

You love to talk about your company. Your products. Your services.

Maybe you’re excited about the recent improvements you’ve made to your service, or about the new skills you’ve learned. Or, maybe you’ve spent many months developing new features for your products.

You’re selling your product or service, so that’s what you need to write about, right?

WRONG!

The hard truth is that nobody is interested in you, your company, or your products, because people are only interested in themselves.

To sell your products, you need to focus on the benefits to your readers.

Before you start writing your web copy, finalize your research:

  • Create a full list of features and specifications
  • Translate each feature into a benefit for your ideal reader
  • Consider the problems you help avoid
  • Write down the objections to buying from you and decide how you can address them

Doing research and planning your web copy will help you create more seductive web copy.

3. Develop an enticing value proposition

Your value proposition isn’t a magic pick-up line. It’s your conversation starter. It entices your ideal reader to learn more about you.

A value proposition usually consists of a headline, possibly a subheading, and three to five bullet points. Your headline can simply state what you do or mention the key benefit of working with you.

Web visitors are in a hurry; they make lightning decisions as to whether a website is right for them or not. Your headline should be clear, credible, and concise. Don’t use clever wordplay.

4. Write a first draft

Let’s say a new reader has arrived at your site …

Your headline and bullet points encourage her to find out more about you. You’ve started a conversation; and now you need to charm her with your product or service — you need to describe your offer and persuade your web visitor to take action.

You might want a web visitor to buy directly from you, to set up a free initial consultation, or to sign up for your e-newsletter. But you need to persuade her to take action and address her objections to doing so.

If you have your list of features, benefits, and objections, it’s easy to decide which content to use on which page. Make your copy comprehensive and persuasive by mentioning all benefits of working with you, and by addressing all objections your visitor may have.

Writing web copy that works simply means persuading your ideal reader to take the next step in the selling process. Make sure your prospect knows what next step to take.

Feel free to be bossy and tell him exactly what to do NOW 😉

5. Edit your copy

Editing isn’t just about correcting grammar goofs and spelling mistakes. You need to make your copy more engaging, credible and persuasive.

Consider the following steps when editing your copy:

  • Check your list of features, benefits, and objections to ensure you don’t miss any important sales messages
  • Edit your web copy for scanners; create enticing subheadings and fascinating bullet points; and follow the inverted pyramid
  • Make your copy more credible and persuasive by using copywriting techniques
  • Boost your web copy’s readability by tightening and simplifying your text
  • Proofread to correct typos

Read your web copy aloud and imagine you’re talking to your ideal reader. Does he understand it? Does he like it? Does it persuade him to take action?

6. Optimize your copy

Do you want to seduce Google, too?

And tempt the almighty search engine to send you some extra traffic?

Usually when you write for your ideal reader, your web pages are SEO-friendly, too. Use the same words your ideal reader uses and you have a better chance of being found in Google.

Writing frequently about your area of expertise is good for your readers. It’s also good for search engine optimization.

Using the language of your customer is good for your readers. It’s also good for search engine optimization.

Developing a broad network of experts and web publishers in your topic, and referencing their ideas (including with links) in your content, is good for your readers. It’s also good for search engine optimization.

Always write your copy for your ideal reader first, and optimize for search engines later.

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