When I launched my freelance writing business 10 years ago, one of the first things I needed to do was build a website. Even though there were do-it-yourself kits you could use to build your own website, I’m not much of a “tech” guy so I knew I’d be better off hiring a pro to build my site for me.
But I wrote the website copy myself, of course. It clearly and succinctly describes the kinds of writing I do and the niche areas I specialize in — which are business and finance — so prospects can see the benefits of working with me.
As a bonus, my site ranked near the top of page 1 search results for the keyword phrases I optimized as soon as I launched it, and it has ever since. This makes it a great lead generation tool.
A Different Kind of Writing
Over the past 10 years, I’ve written copy for dozens of my clients’ websites. One thing I’ve learned is that website copywriting is very different from other types of writing, such as articles, blogs and advertising copy.
Here are 7 website copywriting tips based on my experience and observations over the past decade.
1. Write for the way that people read online. Most people read online content differently than they read ink on paper. For example, they tend to skim and scan instead of reading word for word. So you need to write website copy in a way that makes it easy for people to quickly find what interests them.
In other words, make your website copy “skimmable and snackable.” This means using plenty of subheads, bulleted and numbered lists, and boldface type. Ålso vary the length of your sentences and paragraphs, including writing single-line paragraphs occasionally.
2. Don’t indulge in “corporate-speak.” I wish I had a nickel for every business website I’ve seen that featured dull, boring copy talking about the company’s “core competencies” and “synergies,” or how they “utilize best practices” to help clients “achieve their strategic objectives.”
C’mon, does anybody really talk this way? No, and neither should you on your website. Instead, write like you’re having a conversation with a customer or prospect. And don’t overuse industry jargon and buzzwords, either — these are a surefire way to drive website visitors away.
3. Pay especially close attention to your homepage copy. Your homepage is usually the first page your website visitors will encounter. So it’s really important to get your homepage copy right.
Your homepage copy needs to accomplish the following:
- Clearly explain exactly what it is that your business does.
- Communicate your competitive advantage, or your USP — unique selling proposition.
- Describe the benefits to clients of working with your business.
- Help visitors navigate to the other pages on your site.
- Ask yourself this: If the homepage is the only page on my website that a prospect visits, will he or she understand what my business does and the benefits of working with us?
4. Don’t get too distracted with SEO and keywords. Yes, I know that search engine optimization and ranking high for your target keywords is important. But in my experience, businesses sometimes put too much emphasis on this — often to the detriment of the website copy itself.
The main job of your website is to clearly explain to customers and prospects who your business is, what you do and how you can help them. Therefore, your main priority should be writing for human beings, not search engines.
5. Write an effective headline on every page. Headlines are often saved for last and just thrown together without much thought. This is a big mistake, because strong headlines are essential to attracting readers to your pages and drawing them into the body copy.
There are lots of different approaches you can take with headline writing — I could publish an entire article on writing great headlines. The point for now: Don’t ignore this critical aspect of website copywriting.
6. Let your business’ personality come through in your copy. Every business has a personality. Your website copy presents a great opportunity for you to share your personality with prospects who are checking you out online.
For example, maybe your company is casual, relaxed and informal. If so, write your website copy in a way that reflects this. Conversely, if your company’s personality and culture are more formal and buttoned-down, your writing style should match this as well.
7. Write in the active voice. I know, this is Copywriting 101 advice. But I’m including this tip here because it’s so important — and so often ignored.
Copy written in the passive voice is weak and ineffective. New research also indicates that passive-voice copy can actually hurt your SEO rankings.
Unfortunately, it can be easy to slip into the passive voice if you’re not careful. Before posting website copy, review it carefully — or better yet, have a professional editor review it — and make any passive voice copy active.
Make A Great First Impression
Your website is probably your most important marketing tool. It’s the first impression many prospects will have of your business, so it’s critical to make sure your copy is well-written and effective.
Compare your website copy to these tips to see how it stacks up. If your copy comes up short in any area, spend the time and resources necessary to get it where it needs to be.