Bonsai Media Group’s Quick Guide to Writing Effective Copy for Your Website
Why hire a copywriter? You can write, can't you? Yes, of course you can - if you can read, you can write and you shouldn’t let the idea of writing webcopy intimidate you. But, there are some things that you should know, and a few guidelines that can help you draft effective copy for your website.
Just a couple things before we get started
- This post is not meant to be a comprehensive guide to copywriting. For a thorough guide for writing copy for your website, we recommend Maria Veloso's book Web Copy that Sells
- Both Keywords and SEO best practices are a big part of writing web copy in 2017. For the sake of brevity, this post will focus mainly on strategy, messaging, and tone. But don’t worry, we plan on writing a post full of helpful tips for optimizing web content for search engines in the next month.
- Remember, for the most part people DON'T READ ONLINE. They scan for relevant information and move on. It’s true:
- 55% of pageviews get less than 15 seconds
- Visitors will only read about 20% of the text of a web page.
If people don't read online, how are you going to write your web copy in such a way that it conveys and connects with your prospective customers? Here’s how:
Step 1 - Understand Your Audience
This is a hugely important rule for writing anything. From e-mails, to postcards, to your personal memoirs, to writing the copy on your website. Whatever it is, you’ve got to know who you’re writing for, what they want to know, what you want them to know, and the most efficient way of communicating that information.
Start with your target audience - define these individuals as clearly as you can based on your services and your industry.
- Who are they?
- What do they want to know?
- What are their goals with your business?
Technically speaking, I can cook a decent meal, but that doesn't make me a gourmet chef. Ultimately, that doesn’t matter, because when I cook it’s usually for myself and my loved ones, and not a restaurant full of hungry patrons. I know what my recipients, or my ‘target audience’, is looking for out of the meal, so I don’t have to reinvent the wheel to please them.
The same principle is true for writing copy for your website. You’re not out to win the pulitzer prize with your website’s content, you’re trying to convert leads into sales.
Keep it simple by prioritizing the needs of your target audience and aligning their goals with yours.
If a person makes it to your site, they’re looking for the quickest, clearest way of understanding whether or not your services are right for them. Like it or not, this decision typically comes down to:
- price point
- value proposition
- customer convenience, or how easy you make it for customers to get what they want from you (to sign-up, get started, get a quote, etc.)
Remember, the goal of your web copy - it’s not to flex your writing chops or to bog users down with loads of unnecessary info - it’s to generate interest or a sale. The best way to do that is to determine the goals of your target audience and then provide them with the relevant information along with a simple means of converting, which should come in the form of a timely and well-placed call to action.
Step 2 - Utilize Structure
When it comes to writing copy for your website, structure is your best friend. If and when you can, break your content into logical chunks with clear titles, bolded text, and bulleted lists. Not only will it help you tackle the the task of drafting copy, it also hugely benefits SEO, which we’ll cover more in our next post.
Utilize this hierarchy when structuring and organizing your website’s copy
Don’t be shy when it comes to deciding how many pages your website needs. A ‘Home’ page and a ‘Contact Us’ page are great, but you should also have a single page dedicated to each of your services, for starters. This will help you organize your content while also keeping each page succinct.
Headings and Subheadings
Headings and subheadings are also incredibly useful. Headings will help you organize the flow of content up and down each web page. Plus, in a medium where people are reading less and less, large, emboldened text is one of the only ways to grab a user’s attention.
There’s a reason we’re currently living in the era of the listicle. Bulleted lists are a quick means of conveying all the necessary information; they save both you and your readers time.
Paragraphs are a necessary evil. You undoubtedly need them, but too many paragraphs on a webpage give users an excuse to tune out before they even start to read. Keep each paragraph 2-4 sentences max, and try and use no more than 5.
Remember, people don’t read much online, so it makes no sense to burden them with paragraphs after paragraphs of content. Leave the flowery language and the supplemental information for the sales pitch, but when it comes to your website, keep it short, sweet, and punchy.
Step 3 - Go for a Conversational Style
You should always opt for a casual, inviting tone in your webcopy. A formal tone is great for conveying professionalism, but doesn’t yield much in terms of building trust, which is key if you’re going to get them to buy. Stay conversational - convey your message in the same way that you would if you were speaking.
Don’t shy away from contractions. In fact, you should ere on the side of using contractions wherever you can. It saves time and space, and it helps to maintain a casual tone. Consider the difference between, “we’ll help you out” versus “we will help you out.” Which sounds more inviting?
Use Colloquialisms with Care
Colloquialisms help you stay conversational while concisely conveying complex information. But beware, colloquialisms for the sake of colloquialisms are never the way to go. Overused idioms will actually muddle and detract from your messaging. Use them only when they aid you, and keep them few and far between.
Step 4 - Don’t Overlook the Obvious
Remember this: when it comes to webcopy nothing is too obvious. This last step touches on each of the previous steps. Part of understanding your audience includes knowing what they don’t know. It’s not as though you should condescend to your target audience, but the truth is that they’re coming to you because you know something that they don’t. The only way to convey the relevant information while still securing a conversion is to utilize structure and stay conversational.
Call-to-Action’s are both the most obvious and the most effective aspect of your web copy. Remember, it’s important to provide user’s with a simple way to take the desired action, and there’s no better way than providing well-placed CTA.
Don't you hate it when a web page doesn't answer your question or you have to go digging to find the answer? Think about the questions your prospect has when landing on your web page... Where are they located? What are their hours? Do they provide X,Y or Z services? How has their service benefited others like me? Frequently asked questions are inherently obvious (they’re questions that people often ask), but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include them. In fact, including an FAQ page is a huge help overall because it allows you to relegate all of that content to a specific page, allowing you to keep landing pages and service pages short, sweet, and optimized for conversions.
At Bonsai, Copywriting services are often the first line item to go within our web design & development proposals. Clients just don't see the value in something that we can all do to varying degrees. As a copywriter myself, i’m of the humble opinion that well-written copy - for any medium, whether it be a website, a brochure, or a product description - can truly make a difference. But, don’t worry, the purpose of this blog isn't to sell you on why you should have hired a writer. Instead, with this post we aim to equip you with the proven framework we use here at Bonsai. If used correctly, you’ll be well on your way towards crafting stellar webcopy without having to spend a ton of time or money.
Bonsai Media Group is a full-service internet marketing and web development firm based in Seattle, WA. If you’re interested in any of the ways Bonsai can help you bolster your online presence in order to drive more business, please get in touch today!