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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
If you think writing web copy that…
...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!
Beth Powell, Expeed Software
Doug Nebeker, Power Admin
Denise Darienzo, net2phone
Viktoriya Gorod, Starwind Software
Bill Lewis, New Offerings