How to Write Effective Website Copy
Good writing is good writing is good writing, right? Not exactly. Just like not all novelists would be comfortable penning a book of poetry, not all marketers are comfortable handling website copy.
But websites are the heart of a business’s total online presence, so it’s critical that the copy describes what the business does and how they can solve prospects’ problems. Getting that messaging across can be easier said than done. Fortunately, I have some tips to share below for writing effective website copy.
Keep it Short and Sweet
When you go to a website, do you read each and every word, or are you skimming to see if you can spot the key phrases you were hoping for? Chances are, you’re doing the latter.
Most people don’t have the time to read lengthy paragraphs and run-on sentences about what your client’s business does. Stick to headlines that say it all and body copy that is short and snappy.
Headlines should be concise and punchy. If you’re feeling stuck, consult a thesaurus to find the perfect active verbs that will make the line jump out. Paragraphs should not be longer than four sentences. And sentences should not have multiple clauses, semicolons, and em dashes. When in doubt, edit out those flowery adjectives.
Build In Visual Breaks
Since you’re trying to keep things short and to the point, there are ways that you can get creative about putting more words on the page without it feeling like a wall of text coming at the reader.
Adding in subheads, lists, and bullet points can break up the text itself. Subheads make it easier for visitors to scan and find the information that’s most relevant to their needs, while bullet points allow you to feed them the most relevant morsels of information.
Once the designer gets on the scene, they can add other visual elements like images, video, and whitespace to give readers’ eyes a small break between topics.
Think About Flow
When a prospect visits a website, they’re looking to get a sense of your client’s story and why their business is the one best suited to solve their problem.
I’ve written before about the importance of storytelling in website design and copy, and it’s worth reiterating here. Start with the part of the story that will grab a reader’s attention: How is your client able to solve the prospect’s problem? Then build out from there.
What makes your client the most qualified to solve the problem? Sharing their founding story, what makes them passionate about their business, or some information about their team’s expertise makes sense here. How do they plan to solve the problem? Here you can get into your client’s products or services. Are the prospects ready to take the leap? You can end with a call to action, where your client offers to speak to them directly and give them more information about their business and process.
Focus on Keywords
As important as it is to focus on storytelling for your readers, you also can’t lose sight of keywords.
This is obviously critical for SEO, but it’s so much bigger than that. When you understand what terms people are searching for, you can better understand the problems potential customers are facing. And when you understand that, you can tailor your client’s website copy to better address those concerns from the get-go.
If you or your clients have never undertaken a keyword research exercise, now is the time to start. This will help you to hone in on your most important messaging and even decide how information should be grouped and where it should fall in the page hierarchy.
Don’t Talk Down to Readers
Think about your target audience. Your client is an expert in their field, comfortable with all the industry jargon. But is that true of the audience they’re serving?
If your client uses acronyms or terminology that their audience doesn’t recognize, the prospect is feeling alienated before they can even learn what the business really does. Plus, prospects and customers don’t like to feel like they’re being talked down to. Sure, they want to feel that a business has the expertise to solve their problem, but they don’t want the business to be a know-it-all about it.
As the consultant, it’s your job to act as an interpreter. If your client provides you with background information that is jargon-heavy and confusing, whittle it down to its essential elements. Sometimes it’s even helpful to have a call or send a questionnaire where you ask them to describe, in the simplest terms, what it is that they do.
Create Harmony Between Words and Images
A modern website is often image-heavy, and I’ve advocated recently for the incorporation of video into web design.
It’s important when you’re bringing these different elements together that you’re doing it artfully. You don’t want it to be repetitive, but at the same time, you don’t want all of the most important information to only be expressed in one medium.
When you think about writing the copy for the website, you also want to plan any scripts for videos or text that appears on images simultaneously. Putting the whole package together will allow you to make sure your content isn’t exactly the same in all three areas, but that a prospect can get all of the information they could want or need if they only decide to interact with one element on the site.
Writing effective website copy is an art all its own. Creating a compelling, accessible story, while also adhering to SEO needs and best practices, can be a delicate balancing act. But once you’ve mastered the skill, it’s one that will keep you in high demand with small business owners looking to get the most out of their website. And it will help you to write a highly effective site for your own business, too!
If you liked this post, check out our Small Business Guide to Website Design.