5 Tips for Writing Effective Website Copy

As a professional website designer, I know firsthand how intimidating writing effective website copy can be.

In a dream world, we would all have the means to hire a professional copywriter to help us out. However, the vast majority of small business owners start out wearing all the hats, and trying to figure out how the heck to connect with your dream customers in a meaningful way can feel crazy overwhelming at times.

You know you’re a rockstar at what you do — but how do you communicate that without coming off as salesy or pushy?

A good friend of mine (Ben Watson of Fiscal Fluency) recently started helping me out with my business finances and when I found out that his wife, Casey, was a copywriter who is familiar with the StoryBrand framework, I was over the moon.

I recently picked up a copy of Don Miller’s book and fell in love with his down-to-earth, authenticity-driven approach to brand messaging and I’ve been sharing it with many of my clients as we’ve embarked on their website design process. If you haven’t familiarized yourself with the StoryBrand framework yet, grab a copy of the book!

In the meantime, I’ve asked Casey to provide her five best tips for writing effective website copy.

The tips below will give you a great foundation and guide you as learn to market your business in a way that feels good — to you and your dream customers.

You might think in today’s visual world, the copy (or text) on your website might not be that important for selling your products and services. If so, you’re wrong.

It’s true that photography and video have become major components of every successful site. Yet, the copy still tells your customers what you’re selling and how to buy it—so you had better make it good.

Check out these five guidelines for writing compelling website copy and learn a few basics about how best to communicate your brand’s messaging.

1) Only write about yourself when necessary.

This seems counterintuitive, I know. You’re creating a website to sell a product or service, so you need to tell your customers all about your company, right?

Yes and no.

Many businesses craft narratives about their exemplary records and their amazing products. They write sparkling stories about their excellence—but they forget to include the customer in the tale. As a result, they cast the customer as a spectator in their journey toward success. And, that’s a huge mistake—because people like to read stories about themselves.

Instead, your business needs to take a backseat in this tale, because good copywriting is all about the customer. For example …

Bad Home Page Blurb:

Braggart & Sons Construction has served this area for 40 years and earned 6 awards for exemplary homebuilding. We’ve built 340 homes in the tristate area, and we’ve never received a complaint from a single customer.

Good Home Page Blurb:

Relax in the bedroom that you design. Cook in the kitchen that meets your every need. Call Guide & Sons Construction today and use our 40 years of experience to build the quality home you’ve always wanted.

See the difference? The first blurb certainly gives important info, but customers want to know how you’re going to improve their lives.

Position yourself as the one and only business or person who can empower them to make their dreams come true—but remember that you aren’t the star of this story.

2) Choose clarity over creativity. Always.

I know it’s tempting to write fun headings for your copy or play around with creative language. Don’t. Attention spans wane these days. To make a sale, you’ve got to make your point, and you’ve got to make it quickly and clearly.

Customers need to know what you’re selling as soon as they start reading your website, and they need to know how to get it. They aren’t going to slog through creative language to figure out your product’s benefits.

StoryBrand’s Donald Miller uses a technique he calls “The Grunt Test.” He says your customers should know the following within 5 seconds of viewing your website …

1. What you offer.
2. How it will make their lives better.
3. What they need to do to buy it.

In other words, you need to create copy and design that are so simple a caveman could communicate your point with grunts.

3) Be brief.

As I said before, attention spans are short. You don’t need a lot of copy to tell people about your product or service. Most customers don’t want to read a lot of text, and they often click off a site that contains too much of it. That’s why one of a copywriter’s most essential skills is to condense a paragraph into a sentence.

When you write your website content, try a copywriter’s trick. Imagine you’re composing a telegram and the telegram office is charging by the word.

You have an important point to make, but every noun, pronoun, and adjective is precious because each one costs you. Cut out the extraneous info and whittle your copy down to its bones.

4) Ask for something.

This may seem obvious, but you have to ask the customer to take action.

A website may paint a poignant picture about how its product or service can change a customer’s life, but it falls short unless it actually pushes the customer to buy—or call or schedule an appointment or whatever. People need to know how they can get what you’re selling, and most won’t take the time to figure it out for themselves. So, you need to tell them.

There’s going to be a big button on your homepage that will sum up the entire point of your website. It’s going to say, “Buy now,” “Call today, “Schedule an appointment,” or maybe “Learn more.” It’s called a “call to action” button, and you need to sprinkle those words throughout the site. Add them to your homepage. Insert them at the end of your about page. Use them here and there on blog posts.

Just make sure you give that extra nudge to act.

5) Embrace the skimmers.

I know you will spend hours or even days getting the language on your website just right. Yet, you have to accept that people won’t read every word. This means you (again) should keep your copy short and then add headings whenever you can.

Make those headings as clear and direct as possible to serve as a roadmap for those who are skimming through your pages.  

Remember that great copywriting is a skill you develop over time. Be patient. Keep reviewing and refining your copy to cut the fat and clarify your text because direct and clear messaging will work wonders for your bottom line.

When in doubt, hire a professional—because your copy is too important to ignore.

Morgan Stapp Branding + Web Design Services

Meet Casey!

Casey Watson has worked as a journalist for ten years and a copywriter for nearly as long. She has traveled throughout Asia and Southeast Asia, writing stories for a missionary agency, and has served as a staff writer for Baptist Global Response. Casey now writes entirely on a freelance basis and produces social media content as well as website and fundraising copy. When not writing, she’s scheming about how to have the most fun life possible with her husband, Ben.

Connect with Casey: caseywatsonwrites(at)gmail.com

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