Creating Great Website Copy
Enlisting the help of a website copywriter is probably the first step for most — one who fully understands what makes web copy work, how it differs from ‘ordinary’ copy and why it needs its own specialised approach.
We see this mistake time and again. Website owners writing their own copy just because they can. They hire a website designer to create the look and feel but too often insert lack lustre copy that detracts from the impact of the website.
Despite whether it’s you or a hired copywriter writing the copy, it’s important to put together a proper brief. Outline what the copywriter is doing and why. The brief should at least cover the following:
- Be clear about who you are talking to: picture your ideal prospect as a real person standing in front of you
- Be clear about why your website exists: to provide information, pull in enquiries, bring in sales — all these?
- What you offer that your competitors don’t, eg, extra value for money? Superior quality, better service, greater experience?
- What response do you expect: enquiry for more information, pre-sale dialogue, immediate sale?
How web copy is different
Website visitors are extremely impatient and will switch off as soon as they find your copy doesn’t answer their needs.
They expect instant, useful information and dislike hype or being ‘sold to’. Certainly, you need to be persuasive but you have to dial your approach back so your website copy talks TO and not AT the prospect.
Here are 16 points to bear in mind:
Yep: there are plenty of these, but are all are essential and worth considering.
- In all segments, start with the big news first just as newspaper, magazine articles, press releases and well-written websites do; don’t bury your most important info — today’s busy, rushed reader skims, speed reads and won’t dig through poorly structured copy.
- Make it easy for your visitors to stay on to read all of it, fully engaged and hungry to learn more
- Remember: website visitors regard your website as a reliable, trustworthy information source first and a sales venue second
- They want credible solutions to their needs or problems: value will often be more important than cost; focus on benefits: don’t just describe your product or go on and on about your company history and achievements
- Informing visitors about the key benefits of your product is vital — your visitors are only interested in what you can do for them
- If you push too hard with hype or obvious sales techniques, you risk their abrupt departure
- Don’t sit at your keyboard ‘composing prose’; write like you talk; read your copy aloud to fix where it stumbles
- Whatever you do, don’t waffle (especially about yourself) — ever!
- Use keywords in headlines and subheads; keywords are the words your prospects will type into Google or other search engines when they seek information about your offering *See below for more information about keywords and search engine optimisation
- Focus on your visitor and their needs…not your own
- Don’t try to push your visitors through the purchase funnel or shopping cart…they’ll go there if your info/offer/price is good enough
- Make sure every word you write works towards your objective: enquiry, purchase, the beginning of a business relationship that will lead to purchase
- Remember that it’s much harder on the eyes to read from a computer screen: use a lot of white space and leave some air between sections and paragraphs
- Avoid reverse type: it’s hard to read and dances and flickers before the eyes, often with disruptive white lines appearing as well
- Build a relationship with your prospect: at least offer a subscription to a newsletter or permission-based e-mails; maybe include some free downloads of useful/relevant information
- Ruthlessly eliminate everything that doesn’t work towards your objective: including unnecessary animations, distracting graphics, pop-ups and pics to keep page loading times down; but do include relevant, informative rich media such as video clips to keep your audience engaged.
*The importance of keywords
Keywords are by definition the most important words in your website copy. If you don’t use enough of them, your website and product service have much less chance of being found.
At the same time if you overload your copy with them, Google and other search engines will penalise you. Plus your copy will read badly, becoming stilted and most unappealing to the reader who, remember, will only keep reading if your web copy is informative, easy to read and satisfies their need to know about your offer.
Effective keywords and search engine optimisation
Search engine optimisation (SEO) used to be pretty simple but is now increasingly complex.
Gaining the highest Google rankings is an art form, having progressed well beyond the stage where just peppering your copy with keywords was enough.
Your web content needs to be relevant to the enquirer and of high quality. But nowadays you also need to accommodate the constantly evolving algorithms (criteria for automated site rankings).
These encompass your website’s trustworthiness, popularity, external links, keyword usage, the ‘up-to-datedness’ of your content, degree of user engagement and more. Search engine robots (bots) continue to learn and evolve their techniques so focusing on high quality engaging content is the best strategy and for meeting their needs.
With the increasing complexity of visitors and search engine needs, having experienced and expert copywriters become even more important.
Write to sell not show off
The less-informed copywriter and designer believes creativity for its own sake has some sort of inherent virtue.
They write clever-clever headlines that draw attention to themselves, not the product. Designers can make the same mistake.
They claim the wild design elements intrigue and create interest, get attention. Unfortunately not, the visitors aren’t going to puzzle out what’s you’re saying or what they’re seeing. They don’t care about you, only what you can do for them.
Know who you’re writing to…and why
Before you start writing, keep these questions in mind:
These are the words reporters and journalists are told to memorise when they begin their careers: the five Ws + H.
No competent editor will accept a story unless at least these basics are covered.
They help clarify your thinking by constantly reminding you of what you are writing, who you are talking to — and why. So… give your next piece of writing the WHO? WHAT? WHY? WHEN? WHERE? HOW? test:
WHO: who are you writing to — and are you writing in a way they will relate to? You would talk to doctors and scientists in a different way than to truck drivers and tradies.
WHAT: is everything you say relevant or of keen interest to your reader? Remove anything that isn’t.
WHY: why are you communicating? To get enquiries? Start a pre-sale dialogue? Get an immediate sale? Maintain an ongoing customer relationship (say with a newsletter?)
WHEN: when do you expect the reader to respond or react?
WHERE: where are you? Are locations and directions clearly explained?
HOW: how do you want people to react or respond? You may not always have (or need) answers to all six questions.
There are some obvious overlaps. But keeping these questions in mind will help you think and communicate clearly.
Like to know more? Let’s talk now
If you’re looking to step up your website copy to reach a bigger market and convert more leads, we can help. Contact us at (02) 8211 0668 or email us at [email protected].
Co-founder of Cornerstone and web junkie, Michael knows just how to diagnose your online problems and remedy the issue. An online enthusiast who believes in technology as an enabler of growth, Michael worries about all the details so you don't have to.