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14-07-2020 - - 0 comments
Four Essential Pillars of Great Web Copy

Many a sleek, beautifully-designed website has been tanked by poor web copy.

Not everyone can code a backend in Python, but being able to write coherent sentences is a pretty widespread skill. This often leads people into the trap of thinking that web copy is the least important thing to worry about when building their website. 

This is absolutely not true. 

Unfortunately, web copy that hasn’t been thought through properly will lose you as many visitors as confusing navigation, slow loading times and bad design. Web copy is as important an element of your site design as anything else – so it’s essential to dedicate appropriate time and effort to getting it spot on. 

So, how do you go from writing ‘decent enough’ web copy to creating something on-brand, eye-catching and central to the success of your business? 

It’s all to do with how you approach it – and that’s what this article is all about. We’ll cover: 

  • Understanding your web copy’s purpose
  • Developing a solid SEO strategy
  • Centring user experience whilst writing web copy
  • Finding a tone of voice that’s ‘you’

1. Understand Your Web Copy’s Purpose

Not all websites fulfil the same purpose, and how you write your web copy will depend on what you want your website to do for you. 

It’s important to dig deep here. Don’t settle for “We want to expand our online presence” or similarly high-level statements – a website does this by definition. What you – and your copywriter if you're using one – need to understand is what you need that web presence to achieve. 

Do you want your website to generate solid leads, or will you use it for an extensive inbound marketing strategy? 

Do you think that your ecommerce site will get most of its traffic from already-established social channels? 

Are you a sole trader looking for a way to present your portfolio to potential clients in an attractive and easily accessible way? 

Each situation requires a different approach to writing great web copy that converts on its purpose. Of course, it’s likely you’ll find that you want your website to fulfil multiple purposes as time goes on – so do revisit this discussion as you expand. 

Some areas where great web copy matters include:

  • Inbound marketing and content marketing campaigns – lead generation and data capture
  • Publicity – PR resources, company updates, press releases and other materials
  • Direct sales 
  • Recruitment
  • Online CVs or completed work portfolios
  • Online shop/e-commerce store

A website isn’t free. At the very least you’ll need to pay for hosting, and you may need to pay for a CMS, designers or developers, and, of course, a copywriter if you don’t plan on writing all your web copy yourself. 

In other words, your website is an investment like any other and you need to think carefully about what potential returns will look like. Knowing what you want out of your web copy (and therefore what success looks like) is essential in understanding this. 

2. Develop a Solid SEO Strategy (and Understand Its Limitations)

SEO is one of the most useful tools in your arsenal for inbound marketing and growing your web traffic. It is also one of the most misunderstood. 

Writing web copy for SEO is important. Keywords are important. Achieving a good search ranking on terms that matter to your business is important… but it is not the be all and end all, and incorporating keywords into your content isn’t enough on its own. By all means write for SEO, but remember to do so in the context of a wider strategy that takes into account the discipline’s other key aspects. 

Another common trap people fall into is viewing SEO optimisation as a one off, open and shut action that can be checked off a to-do list, rather than an ongoing process. Google updates its algorithms over 500 times a year, so it stands to reason that any web copy you write will need revisiting regularly to make sure it’s still performing to its full potential. 

SEO and Your Content Strategy

The good news is that writing for SEO doesn’t have to be difficult, as long as you follow a well-thought-out strategy and understand what advantages it will give you alongside its limitations. 

Here are a few tips for starting off:

  • Keep things realistic. If you’re launching a new website, it’ll be a while before you can compete on the most sought-after keywords for inbound marketing simply because of how Google calculates domain authority. Could you incorporate more specific keywords into your web copy in the meantime? They might even convert better too…
  • Optimise your site metadata. It’s an easy way to increase a page’s SEO value. Aim to get main keywords in the page title and description, and make sure you get them in the URL slug wherever possible.
  • Use keywords in the right places. Use keywords in titles, subheads and in the first paragraph of blog posts for extra visibility. 
  • Target geographically, if relevant. Some businesses are restricted by location – sole traders, for example, will only travel so far to do a job before it becomes unworkable. For those in the B2B space, some of your target customers will prefer to work with local businesses so they know they can easily meet you and your team in-person if needed. In these cases, targeting “cloud hosting provider”, for instance as a keyword is far too vague and won’t result in many realistic leads. Much better is “cloud hosting provider in ” or “managed cloud services provider in ”, for example.  
  • Use LSI keywords. Latent Semantic Indexing or LSI keywords are terms that searchers might use alongside or in place of your main targeted keyword (think “cloud hosting”, “managed cloud services”, “private cloud application hosting ” alongside the basic term “cloud” to give a basic example). Using these can give your search ranking a boost – LSIGraph and Answer The Public are good free resources to use here. 
  • Add content regularly. Adding new content regularly does wonders for SEO, partly because of its effect on keyword count. Blogging is a great way to do this – websites with a blog have on average 434% more indexed pages than those without, which is a pretty significant advantage.  
  • Update content regularly: to go back to the point we made at the start of this section, search algorithms change regularly. To keep your site traffic and conversions as high as they can be, it’s important to make space for regular content reviews in your written SEO strategy. Only 38% of bloggers update older articles, so this is your chance to get ahead.  

The Limitations of SEO Copywriting

On-page SEO is perhaps the most immediately accessible part of the discipline, so it’s easy to over-focus on it. 

Unfortunately, content-based SEO will only get you so far, mostly because achieving growth using organic (by which we mean ‘not paid for’) keywords takes a very long time. It’s important to manage expectations here and understand what else you need to do alongside it. 

There’s a wealth of information out there (we recommend Neil Patel for up-to-the-minute SEO thought leadership, in the truest sense of the word), but, in a nutshell you should consider: 

  • Backlinks. Part of how Google ranks sites is by domain authority, which is heavily linked to established, trustworthy sites linking back to your content. As well as producing blogs for their own sake or to up keyword count, consider what sort of content would entice links back to your site – and follow up with an active outreach effort. 
  • Site structure. Organise your website’s content so it’s easier for search algorithms to identify the most important parts of your site and rank them higher. Categorising pages properly, updating or removing outdated content and adhering to a solid internal linking strategy can all help you achieve this. 
  • Paid ads: Bidding on keywords (i.e. paying Google to promote your content) can be a fantastic way to gain search visibility – especially if you need results quickly. As well as bidding on your ‘standard’ keywords that you’re targeting with organic search, consider branded keywords and competitor keywords too. 

3. Centre User Experience Whilst Writing Your Web Copy

Getting users to your site is only half the battle. Once they’re there, you want them to take one of the actions you identified as central to your website’s purpose in step one. 

And, as any user experience (UX) designer will tell you, simply getting your users to your website and hoping they will figure things out for themselves isn’t a strategy that will pay off in the long term.

Whatever you’d like your users to do once they find your site – whether that’s download an eBook download, make a purchase, or check out your open vacancies – you’ll need to write your web copy to encourage these actions. 

Approaching web copy this way is also known as ‘UX copywriting’ or simply ‘UX writing’. 

UX Copywriting Checklist for Writing Web Copy

The checklist below lists some key UX principles and explains how you can use these whilst writing your web copy. 

  • Consistency: Keep language consistent across your website, especially where instructions or calls to action are involved. As well as brand/tone of voice benefits, this makes it much easier for users to understand how to complete certain actions. If you use “get in touch” as a CTA on one page, for example, avoid variations like “get in contact” or “let’s chat” on others. 
  • Clarity: Your users should be able to tell who you are and what you do immediately when looking at your homepage. Keep language simple and avoid overloading with jargon or unnecessarily fancy vocab. This seems like an obvious point, but think about how many times you have been left confused by a brand’s homepage rather than informed – it’s a disappointingly common experience. 
  • Hierarchy: A well-written website prioritises the most important information so that users can find it easily. Pay close attention to what you talk about where, and how you use both visual design and copy to emphasise the importance of key messages. 
  • Accessibility: Inclusive design is central to all things UX, and whilst words might not be the primary issue here, there are things you can do to help. Avoiding large blocks of text and using plenty of subheads makes it easier to follow, for example. 
  • Testing: It’s common to test other elements of your website’s design against a prospective audience, so do it with your site copy as well. At the very least aim for a round of A/B testing, though you could expand into user panels, focus groups and usability testing if your timescales and budget allow. 

 

4. Find a Tone of Voice That’s ‘You’

A solid SEO strategy will bring users to your site. A good user experience will help turn them into paying customers. A memorable tone of voice lays the foundations for a brand that customers will fall in love with

You know your company and your customers better than anyone. What do they respond well to? How would you describe your brand’s products and outlook – friendly, useful, luxurious, rough and ready, aspirational, accessible? What are other brands in your industry doing? 

Take these observations and incorporate them into how you write your web copy. 

Be mindful of limitations here, but don’t be afraid to subvert expectations and go against the grain. A big departure from your industry’s norms will turn heads in the best possible way if you get it spot on, but there is an element of risk involved.

Consider how much risk you’re willing to tolerate, and don’t go all out if it isn’t appropriate – you can stand out from the crowd in more low key (but no less noticeable ways) with a bit of thought. 

Final Thoughts

If you think writing web copy that…

  • Optimises your site for search rankings
  • Creates a good user experience for your site visitors
  • Builds an engaging, stand out tone of voice for your brand

...sounds like trying to keep several plates spinning at once, you’re 100% correct. It’s not easy to get the balance right. That’s perhaps why there is so much mediocre web copy floating around the internet, and why those brands that nail it stand out so much. 

That said, good web copy is absolutely achievable. More to the point, it’s not just achievable for established multinationals – with some clever strategizing and a lot of hard work, it’s achievable for you as well. 

For inspiration, check out our free guide to writing first class web copy – and let us know how you get on!

 

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