Friday, September 12, 2008

6 tips for writing sharpshootin' bullet points

Each day (hopefully), strangers ride over the cyber horizon and mozie on into the streets of your website.

As the copywriter in these here parts, it's your job to be mighty accommodating to the new folk.

You have to help them find what they need fast - because, as we know, web readers have real itchy trigger fingers.

To make your body text more appealing to those darting, squinting eyes, think about loading up your page with some bulletpoints. They're a clean, effective way to get the important bits across when time and space are short - the ideal choice of weapon for the fastest pen in the web.

When using bullet points, always remember that this is a business website and not the OK Corral. And if you start blasting holes all over the page it may well begin to resemble reBoot Hill.

Instead of making a fist full of dollars you'll spiral from good to bad to downright ugly as visitors jump back in their blazing saddles and gallop out of town on the mouse they rode in on.

So compadre, let's load up the six-shooter with some tips to help keep your bulletpoint copy on target:

1. Offer benefits and promises (or problems and issues).
Your impatient reader is scanning. Grab their attention with your bulletpoints, peak their curiosity with its message and give them a reason to dive in deeper.

2. Include keywords, and keyword related phrases.

3. Hyperlink keywords or action words in your bulletpoints. This makes the words and bulletpoints more alluring to search engines, while helping to move readers deeper into your site and encouraging them to take action. For example (not linked)

  • Check ACME conference dates in you city
  • Find out more about your ACME conference speakers
  • Register for the conference

4. Create parallel items in your list
Parallel form bullet point lists are a bit like a story in short, sharp steps. Using a strong action verb at the start of each point can be an effective way to give instructions some punch. For example:

To enrol at Widget university online:

  • Visit the university website enrolment page
  • Choose the course you want to study
  • Answer the ‘key questions’
  • Complete the student declaration
  • Accept the terms and conditions
  • Select your preferred payment method.

5. Make your layout simple.
Don’t mix subheadings, bullets and sub-bullets or the copy becomes difficult to follow so nothing stands out for your audience.

6. Keep your bullet groups themed.
An example of how simple, keyword-inclusive bulletpoints could be used to promote several benefits of a digital photography lesson website might be:

  • The truth about digital vs film cameras
  • Discover 6 easy point-n-click photo taking techniques
  • Learn the fast way to create high quality jpeg images

In summary, to grab the attention of impatient web readers, few online writing tools work better than sharpshootin' bulletpoints. Not only will strangers stick around longer, but there's a better chance they might come back now, ya hear?

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