Online Copywriting: How to Keep Readers Reading

You’ve got around 15 seconds to capture someone’s attention on the internet.

After that, they’ll either stay and read more, or head to one of the millions of other websites competing for their attention.

Multiple factors influence their decision, and it’s not always down to how interesting – or even how dull – your content or copywriting is. With that in mind, just how do you hold the readers of the web in thrall?

Curtains up

First of all, headlines. According to Copyblogger, on average, eight out of 10 people will read your headline, but only two out of 10 will continue on to read the rest of the content. You might have a beautifully-written blog post you’re ready to share with the world, but if your headline’s boring, you’ve doomed it to fail from the start. There are dozens of ways to present your headlines. A few tried and tested approaches are:

  • List-based headlines – 20 things you should know about copywriting
  • Headlines that promise to answer a question for the reader – How to make vegan lasagne
  • Emotional headlines – This dog will make you cry with laughter
  • Urgent headlines – Sale ends tomorrow: save up to 50%
  • Headlines posed as a question – How often should you really wash your makeup brushes?

The most important thing to do is spend a decent amount of time on your headline; don’t treat it as something that’s not worthy of care and attention, or an afterthought. Remember the statistics: try to encourage as many of those 8 in 10 readers through to your article as possible.

Personally, I like to go into the copywriting process with an idea of what the headline is going to be, then change it at the end once I’ve developed a fully-formed piece of content. It’s like the icing on the cake rather than the foundation of the house.

Keep headlines fairly short, too, so they’ll show up complete in search results. Google only displays the first 50 to 60 characters.


If the headline is the door to your copy, the first sentence is the welcome mat. And you want to make your reader feel as though they don’t want to turn around and walk out as soon as they’re through the door.

Bearing in mind the 15-second statistic, you want to grab the reader’s attention ASAP.

Try beginning with an interesting quote, a surprising statistic, a question directed at the reader, or a personal anecdote. If the first sentence doesn’t ensnare your reader, you’ve got little hope of holding their attention span throughout the rest of the article.

Keep it concise

Reading on Phone

If you’re a train commuter, you’ll be more than familiar with this scene: a carriage crammed full of people, headphones on, noses pointed down to their phones, fingers scrolling and eyes skimming. That’s the device-diverted world we’re living in these days, and when you’re writing for the web, you need to bear that image in mind.

Long paragraphs can look overwhelming on mobile devices, and too much like hard work to read and scroll through. Short, direct sentences and paragraphs that stand out on an uncluttered background are easiest to read, and more attractive-looking on mobile devices.

You should also use simple language aimed at the average Joe, rather than over-descriptive sentences and industry jargon.

Bearing in mind the short attention span of website visitors, try to keep your writing as appealing as possible to skim-readers. They want to find the information they’re looking for as quickly as possible.

Attractive to the eyes

Your page structure can help appeal to skim-readers, too. To make it easy for people to scan your web page, avoid long chunks of text. Aside from using short paragraphs, this can be achieved by breaking up the content with sub headings, bullet points, images and captions.

Use bold and italics to drive home points within the copy. Not only does this make your writing seem more conversational, but it can make information stand out, and muddle up the monotony of word after word.

Bear SEO in mind

SEO Keyword Research

Each of your web pages and blogs should also be optimised for search engines.

Before the writing process starts, narrow down your keywords and do some research. You can read more on optimising your copywriting for SEO in my blog post on the topic.

It’s not just about keyword optimisation though. To stand a good chance of climbing up the ranks, online articles or blogs should ideally be over 2,000 words long, have some good backlinks, and have pictures tagged with keyword-optimised alt text.

Having your articles shared on social media is a great way to boost SEO, too. To give yourself the best chance of maximising your social engagement, make sure your headline is on point.

Write, write, write

Writing good web copy takes time, but it’s worth the effort. Regular posting of blogs can increase your organic website traffic, build up a relationship with your audience, and even increase your ROI.

With the internet becoming increasingly competitive and people spending more time than ever online, a well-written website is a smart investment to make.

Hire me as a freelance copywriter and I’ll make your website stand out from the rest, with writing that’s targeted to your online audience, and words that work for the web