You know the 8-second rule, right? No, not the one where it’s ok to eat the piece of candy that fell on the ground if you grab it before 8 seconds. The other one – the one where you have 8 seconds to catch the attention of your website visitor. It might even be less these days. After you catch their attention you want to get them reading…then clicking around and getting an idea of just how awesome you are.
This is where writing great website copy comes in. Engaging and powerful copy initiates the relationship with your new reader, leading them on a path through your page that ends in asking them to take a specific action. In short, website copy builds relationships and sells your stuff
But it can be difficult to clearly express what you do, who you serve, and everything else you need your reader to know. Have no fear, friend! Just go through these ten tips below and your copy will be transformed into a client magnet.
1. Remember to always focus on the reader.
Think about your own mindset when you’re on a website that sells something (a product or service).
Sure, if the person seems really interesting you might want to know more about them, but mostly you’re wondering what they can DO FOR YOU, right? Otherwise, you wouldn’t be there.
Pick ONE of your readers who is your ideal customer, preferably a real person you’ve connected with (online or in person) and write JUST TO THEM.
As business owners, we don’t want to exclude anyone from being a potential customer. We feel like (even when we know it’s not effective!) we need to be everything to everyone.
The only way to speak to anyone effectively is to speak just to your ideal customer. You may feel like you’re alienating all of those other potential customers, but what you’re really doing is creating a sane marketing plan for yourself.
Your about page needs to be largely focused on the big ‘about,’ or how you serve your customers and solve their problems. You will also add some information about yourself; just be sure to put it below the other information.
2. Write like you talk and like your customer talks.
You can learn exactly how your customers talk by reading their emails to you, looking at your social media accounts, and surveying your readers.
This is one of the most important tips in website copywriting. You can literally pull their words and use them on your site. They’ll feel like you’re talking directly to them.
3. Write in active voice.
Always use the active tense of a verb when writing copy. This leads to sentences that are more clear and concise.
When you use the passive voice, it tends to end up in more complex sentences that are not as easy to read.
Let’s look at a simple example that illustrates this.
Active: The girl ate her lunch.
Passive: The lunch was eaten by the girl.
The passive voice version doesn’t flow and feels like it takes some effort to read and comprehend.
Also, make sure your tenses are consistent throughout.
When you’re editing your web copy, go through it sentence by sentence to make sure it’s all in the present tense.
Hopping around in tenses makes copy hard to read and feel inconsistent and disjointed.
4. Keep them wanting (needing) to read on.
Did you notice the first sentence I wrote in this post?
I wrote that for a reason. It evokes curiosity and makes you want to keep reading (hopefully!). This is one of your biggest jobs when writing your website copy. Keep em’ readin’!
5. Have your homepage hero area be a clear statement about what you do.
Remember that eight seconds we have to engage a customer?
The first thing they see on your site should be a clear statement of who you help and how you help them. They want to know, immediately, if they’re in the right place to find a solution to their problem.
I recently wrote home and about page copy for my friend Samantha’s site, which gives us a good example this.
The hero area clearly states what she does and who she serves. Also, it evokes emotion…which leads us to the next tip.
6. Use emotion.
On Samantha’s site, the reader immediately sees, “Imagine a peaceful and joyful relationship with food. It’s closer than you think.”
Since Sam is an Eating Psychology Coach, I aimed to help the reader feel the possibility of what could be by working with her. Then I encouraged them to feel how close that solution might be.
Using emotion is one of the best ways to connect with your audience. If you can get them to FEEL, they will want to keep reading your site.
7. Incorporate story.
The story can help establish rapport with your reader, especially on your about page.
Say you’re a website designer. You struggled in the beginning, learning how to create an effective design, learning to code, and all that’s involved in your craft.
You struggled and worked your tail off so your client doesn’t have to. Tell that story. Talk about how you figured it out so you can now help them NOT have to figure it out.
Let your reader know that you’ve been in the exact spot they’re in right now and it will help them trust you.
Here’s an example of a great about page from a copywriting perspective. You’ll see it does a great job at telling how the company makes their clients’ lives easier (by offering themes and kits that will make creating a website easy).
It goes on to tell a bit about each team member, keeping it friendly and easy to relate to.
8. Include a CTA on every page.
It’s soooo important to lead the reader through your site. It should be like a map where every page leads to ONE button or action you want them to take (call to action or CTA).
For example, your homepage CTA could be to hop on your email list, read a popular blog post, or to check out your services.
Your CTA on your services page could be to contact you with questions about your services or to check out your portfolio or testimonials to build trust in you.
9. Use basic SEO practices…but focus on writing for people, not google.
While you can spend a ton of time researching keywords, keyphrases, and what your competitors are doing, I don’t think it’s really necessary for some of us.
It’s definitely nice to turn up high in a google search, but some of us are using social media to get our brands out there instead of intensive keyword strategies.
If you do want to dig a bit deeper and utilize SEO more in your strategy, check out Allie’s post SEO Guide for Beginners.
Be sure to use keywords and phrases in your copy, but only where they naturally fit in and sound great. Remember, you also have the backend of your site to add keywords and phrases, so there are plenty of opportunities to add them in (don’t forget those alt tags on your images!)
10. Write amazing headlines (and subheadlines).
On shorter website pages, headlines may not come into play at all. But if you have a longer page, or a services page, headlines and subheadlines can serve as place markers and make it easier to scan the page.
Even though this infographic from Hubspot is geared more towards writing headlines for blog posts, the same basic rules apply to all headlines.
It’s a good one to pin and refer to when writing any type of headline. Note further down the infographic where they list sets of words for writing headlines…super helpful!
Before I sign off, I wanted to share an example of website copywriting that isn’t very effective based on the tips I outlined above.
Let’s look at the homepage. Here are some issues I see right away (besides the outdated design):
- He says ‘my’ and ‘I’ too much.
- There aren’t clear headings.
- It’s hard to read and follow.
- It’s not clear what’s being offered (it’s a bit wishy-washy).
I feel bad criticising his site, but I’ve actually taken a class by him and he’s a really amazing guy. I’m sure he’ll never read this, anyway!
If you take some time today to make these tweaks to your site, your readers and customers will have a better experience while getting to know you and your services.
Not only will you increase the chances of them taking the action you desire, but you will begin building a relationship that could result in your new favorite customer.
Cari Maines is a Freelance Copywriter and Content Writer. She specializes in soulful copywriting and blog posts for big-hearted brands. You can get her free ‘Words that Work’ Website Copywriting e-course here and check out her services here. You can connect with her on Facebook & Twitter.