Writing copy for websites requires establishing a bond with your reader. It requires connecting on a deep, emotional level that leaves the reader enthusiastic to take action.
There is an art form and psychology to doing this successfully. You have to be able step out of your shoes and consider your audience. Below are some methods for making the necessary connection for a successful website.
The Rules for Writing Copy for Websites
Write a stellar headline – When your page comes up in a search result or on social media, your potential customer will spend fractions of a second determining whether they want to continue. The Internet is a crowded place. You have to make people curious, or let them in a benefit. Make them want to read on. Your headline is the first thing they see.
Be a problem solver – When someone clicks on your page, it’s because they think you’re the solution to what’s been bugging them. Make sure you understand your customers’ pain point, and how you can present yourself as the solution.
Keep it punchy – It’s pretty hard to bore people into becoming a customer. Keep your sentences punchy. Use short sentences and active verbs to enhance the quality of your marketing message.
Keep it conversational – The days of being able to clobber a reader with your advertising message are over. Your reader can respond by closing the browser window or moving on to a competitive page. Instead of aggressive and spammy, go for conversational. Picture yourself out for coffee with your prospect. Write like you’re talking to them.
Be Yourself – While the competition might be tight in your industry, one thing that’s missing is your personal voice. Go ahead and throw in some personal anecdotes here and there. Write how you talk (but keep it professional).
Research – The more details you can include in your website copy, the better. In order to make your website the go-to resource for your industry, you’ll have to do some research and pull together ideas from around the web.
Write to your ideal reader – Make sure you have a firm understanding of who is buying your product or services, and how they are being used. This information makes it easier to target your marketing in ways that make sense.
Highlight benefits – A V8 engine is a product feature. How fast your car goes from 0-60 is a benefit. Your reader cares far more about the benefits of your product or service, because they are what create an emotional pull. Another way to consider this, is to write about how your business will help them.
Remember, you’re selling the experience – What does it take to turn your business into a lifestyle brand? A landscaping company isn’t selling an outdoor kitchen installation, they’re selling another way to entertain during the summer. What’s the ultimate desired impact to your customer? Sell that.
Understand the knowledge gap – It’s important to remember that you are an expert in your industry. You understand the intricacies of how to make or do what you sell. Your customer may simply know they need it. They may not know the ins-and outs. Make sure you speak their language, and don’t overload them with verbiage they won’t understand.
Know your keywords – You want your business to show up in your customers’ search results. Make sure you are incorporating the phrases you want to rank for within the copy. If you know how to use it, Google Keyword Planner is an excellent way to find the phrases people are already searching for.
Don’t keyword stuff – As you incorporate these keywords, a word of caution is in order. When you overuse keywords, you can make your reader want to bang their head against the wall. That’s not good for your conversion prospects. A good way to monitor your search efforts is through the Yoast SEO plugin on WordPress.
Link to other pages and posts – When a reader makes it to your website, it’s good to keep them there. Some people may need a little more nudging before they take action. Placing internal links to other pages and blog posts on your website can keep people invested in your website. It can also help create value with the search engines as well. As you are writing copy for websites, view it as an ecosystem.
Create a convincing call to action – Show people how life can be better with whatever you have to offer them. Show them what they’ll miss out on. Make sure it’s crystal clear how you can improve their life, and how they will become increasingly frustrated or financially strapped without you.
You’re making first impressions – Keep in mind that for many readers, clicking on your website may be the first that someone’s heard of you. Sloppy writing, misspelled words, or an unclear message can detract from what you are trying to accomplish.
Get personal – There are likely many options for people who are in the market for what you sell. People need to like you. You can use your about page to divulge a little about your personal life, and it can serve as a great icebreaker before you do business. For instance, my lifelong obsession with Cubs baseball finally paid off. I used to have the Wrigley marquee sign as my Twitter banner, and perspective clients brought it up all the time. This is definitely an underused technique when it comes to writing copy for websites.
Use lists and subheads – These are great ways to break up your content into more manageable chunks. If your reader feels the overwhelm from a long page right away they’re less likely to take action. But one short section after another feels more manageable.
Write in short paragraphs – Shorter paragraphs allow your reader to more easily stick with your content, and understand the message. A large block of text on a computer screen can be overwhelming. Paragraphs of 2-3 sentences make scrolling a lot easier.
Eliminate stopping points – Again, it’s important to make it as easy as possible for people to make it all the way through your website content. Large words, grammar and spelling mistakes, or an unclear message can all cause people to move on to the next search result. One quick tip for evaluating your own writing is to read it out loud.
Find a compelling photo – Your reader is making the decision to read or take action within fractions of seconds. If they see the same stale, trite photos on your site they’ve seen all over the Internet, you’ve missed an opportunity to differentiate your business – and given them a reason to click away. The visual aspect of your marketing is crucial for keeping people engaged in your marketing.
Edit before you publish – It used to be that your writing needed to be good enough for someone else to publish. Now, the publish button looms on the side of the page as we create the material. Still it’s important to edit and scrutinize our own work before we publish.
Consider a mobile reader – What may seem like a reasonable amount of scrolling on a desktop can seem insurmountable on a smart phone. Keep your content straightforward and simple, with links in easily accessible places. More people are looking through your marketing materials on a cell phone than you think.
Use a photo of yourself – This can be a tough one for some to get over online. Your audience is much more likely to buy from you if they feel some sort of personal connection. Including a picture helps you differentiate your business, and establish trust and likeability.
Make it easy to take action – This is so much more than the call to action. It’s also making sure your contact information is readily available in multiple locations on your website. It is also making sure the path to buying your product is clear. Making it easy for your reader to take action is crucial to writing copy for websites.
Write first, edit later – When it comes to writing copy for websites, or any other type of marketing copy, it’s easy to become your own worst enemy. If you find yourself frequently stuck, it’s important to write first and edit later. Make sure your thought or idea hits the screen. It can be improved later.
Know when a second set of eyes will help – Sometimes your marketing materials could benefit from a little feedback before they are sent out into the world. This may mean showing a trusted friend or colleague. It could also mean hiring a copy editor.
Promote your posts – After you finish writing copy for websites, there is more that needs to be done. Make sure you are doing everything you can to promote your blog posts, and additional marketing efforts. This means putting your work in the place your audience gathers on social media. But it also means promoting your work in other ways as well, such as email signatures, networking groups and your email list.
Start an email list – An email list is a great way to establish likeability and trust, and increase your customers’ loyalty. You can send out blog posts, monthly newsletters, and special sales offers. It’s generally a good idea to give people something of value in exchange for access to their inbox.
When you start providing the type of content your audience is looking for, you’ll notice your website become a whole lot more productive. There is some strategy behind writing copy for websites that can take time to develop. What methods have worked for you?
Matt Brennan is a Chicago area marketing copywriter and copy editor. He is also the author of Write Right-Sell Now.
Good call on using a photo! I’ve found it really makes a big difference if you’re brave enough. As a consumer I definitely feel a lot more comfortable knowing there’s a real live human being on the other end of the screen (as long as they’re not a stock model!)
Exactly! It makes it so much more personable. Thanks for stopping by.
I was given a task to write content. This is really helpful to me. Thanks for sharing!