Finding time to produce great copy for your website can be challenging. Finishing it can be even harder. Most people find writing website copy takes much longer and is much tougher than they expect.
Of course, your web designer might be able to help with this, or you could hire a professional copywriter.
For the quality required nowadays these options can be cost prohibitive. What’s more, there will still be a reasonable time implication to work through revisions and provide enough information.
There is no easy answer; writing for a website takes time and effort to get right.
Here are five tips to help you write website content that engages your visitors and will have them returning for more.
5 Tips for Writing Great Web Copy
1. Web Copy Is Unlike Any Other
Why? Because people don’t read websites, they skim them, occasionally delving further into other content if it’s relevant. Visitors only seek out what they’re interested in, and will leave pretty quickly if they can’t find it.
Take a little time to look at other websites in your niche. Some will undoubtedly have too much text. This is bad for them but good for you. It’s important to experience the negative effects of text-heavy web pages.
Then, find a few sentences in ‘About’ (for example) which are meaningful to you, but ignore all that is not. This should give you an idea of what works and resonates with you (and thus an audience), but also illuminates all the wasted words.
Tip – illustrated perfectly by Chekhov’s Gun.
Anton Chekhov was a master of the short story, and famously said:
“If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”
By writing short, snappy sentences and breaking pages up with subheadings, links, icons and other imagery, your visitors will (conversely) spend more time reading your website.
2. User Flow
When writing for your website you must be conscious of where a visitor might want to go next.
Why? Because your primary aim is to hold their interest for as long as possible. For this reason, it’s important to include logical links to other sections and pages within the text.
The two main methods to do this are: a hyperlink within the text or nearby as a button.
Tip – Don’t be shy with links throughout your content. Visitors flowing around your website is a good thing. Leave them to make decisions about where they explore.
3. Speak To The Reader
Business websites should refer to ‘we’ or ‘our’. Use expressions like ‘we do this’ or ‘our customer service’ for example, to try to be as inclusive as possible. It makes a visitor feel welcome and more familiar which engenders trust.
Also, you must always use an active voice where possible.
Using a passive voice disengages people after continued use. This is because it becomes quite repetitive, and the words seem to lack real meaning.
Passive sentences often use more words. Here is an example to illustrate the difference:
Passive: The readers were helped a lot by the free guide.
Active: The free guide helpedreaders a lot.
Tip – website visitors have small attention spans. Use an active voice to them through the content to build trust and familiarity.
4. State The ‘Benefits’
This makes a huge difference to a visitor. In addition to boldly stating what your business does, it’s imperative that you include the actual benefit to customers.
It can take a little practice to be succinct whilst making clear the benefit of what you’re selling.
Once you get it, it’s easy.
A plumber doesn’t sell boilers, they sell warm homes. A fitness trainer doesn’t sell workouts, they sell healthier and happy lives. A gardener doesn’t sell landscaped lawns, they sell ambient garden parties.
Tip – state the benefits of each service and product. Make it real for a visitor by telling them exactly what it will do for them.
This is probably one of the hardest aspects of writing content of any kind, let alone for your website. Ultimately, the tone of your copy needs to resonate with your target customers.
Why? Because words that resonate feel familiar. This builds trust and trust underpins sales.
A professional copywriter will need detailed knowledge of your customers which would normally come from a marketing specialist. Armed with this insight (i.e. customer profiling), the copywriter produces content which is going to mean something to them. But, this all comes at a cost.
If you decide to go it alone (as many do), start by writing in a way that reflects your business values. What does your company stand for? What’s important to customers? Why? What might a legitimate complaint be? And, so on…
Brainstorm a list that best describes your company, for example:
Then, add this to what you do know about your customers to consolidate as much insight as possible.
Tip – Don’t write the copy that gets down with generation-Z if your target customers are nearly always middle-aged baby boomers. Ideally, get a trusted customer to read it and take their feedback seriously.
Web copy is hard to write, but even harder to get right. Sometimes you need to brainstorm initially to derive relevant information that can then be crafted into web content.
Ultimately, people buy from people. By applying these tips you’ll inject real feeling and personality into your content that not only engages visitors, but also makes them return again and again.
This section will help you brainstorm relevant information if you’re struggling to get started. If this is the case, don’t try writing actual web copy at first; simply answer these questions and then apply the tips previously explained once you have some content to craft.
1. ‘About’ Page:
Why did you start the company?
What does it do/ make/ provide? Explain the operation in basic terms.
Who is your audience/ customer base? Give examples of typical customers.
How does your product/ service benefit the customer?
2. Products/ Services Pages:
What are your main products/ services? Explain how each one is made (materials, technique, skills)/ delivered (personnel/ expertise etc).
Where do you provide/ deliver these products/ services?
How do you do/ make/ provide the products/ services to customers?
Explain a typical customer-journey with your company.
What is your approach to customer service? Why?
If there is a unique selling point of your company, what is it? Think about a point of difference – what is your company brilliant at and what benefit does this brilliance bring to a customer.
3. Case Studies / Projects:
Describe the best example(s) of your company making a customer happy – what did they want? What did you sell to them? How did you do it? Use the STAR approach:
Situation (customer need)
Task (business’ solution – i.e. what did you do?)
Action (how did your business deliver the solution)
Result (describe the actual benefit to the customer)
4. Other important factors:
Please explain the ‘spirit’ of how you do things; what do you enjoy about your work? What satisfies you in your job? What do you hope the future holds for the company?
Describe or list any other key elements to your business, even if they are not necessarily visible to customers – examples could be a way of working, an approach to creating the product/ service, or environmental considerations etc.
Gav Stevens is the founder of Webbit, a digital pathfinding consultancy. When he’s not seeking out the right question, he loves enabling others to ‘do-it-themselves’ (like he did) by blogging about his professional knowledge and experience. Connect and stay tuned with him on Twitter and LinkedIn.