Published on February 28th, 2013 | by Jennifer Sherwood1
How to Write Effective Website Copy
You know the feeling. You’re staring at a blinking cursor on a blank screen, trying to figure out how to get your website visitors excited about your product or service. It sounds easy. After all, who knows your product better than you do? But most of us were never taught this kind of writing in school, and effective website copywriting is a much different animal than an essay on why Romeo and Juliet were doomed from the start!
To help you get started, or to give your current copy an update, keep these principles in mind:
Know your audience
Ask yourself, who is visiting my site, why are they visiting, and what actions do I want them to take?
All of your website copy should be written with these answers in mind. Target your message for your specific audience and give them the information they need. Include a very specific call-to-action. This is what you want them to do, and will depend on your goal. It could be filling out a lead form, making a purchase, signing up to volunteer, etc. Here are some examples:
- Sign up for our mailing list
- Donate $25 to our cause today
- Add to cart
Extra credit if your website “knows” where people are coming from, and can direct them to a targeted landing page. If I have a bakery business, someone searching for “wedding cakes” will need very different information than someone searching for “cookies near 94105.”
Less is more
To turn more visitors into buyers, avoid the temptation to over-communicate. Often we’re so proud of our product or service that we want to go on and on about it, but remember that your visitor likely has a few key pieces of information they’re looking for. Find out what these are, and put them right in front of the reader. Your goal here is to give your visitor relevant information quickly.
Being too wordy or specific makes it difficult for visitors to zero in on the info they want, and can distract them from their “mission.” Consider using bullets to make your key points, and use links so readers can easily find more in-depth information if they want it.
Say you’re looking for a new washing machine, would you rather be greeted with this:
Your writing style is an important aspect of how people perceive your company or product, so make sure the tone matches your other communications, and is appropriate for your product type.
If you sell medical supplies, “Try a free sample of X” may be a more appropriate choice than “Check out our new stuff!” However, if you sell surfboards, “Check out our new stuff!” might suit your readers.
Bonus section for overachievers:
Making a sale shouldn’t be your only goal!
Obviously you’re in business to sell things and make money, no argument there. Much of your web copy should be devoted to achieving this goal. But, don’t forget about creating engagement with your web visitors. Building a relationship with people before they’re customers puts your biz top of mind when they decide they need a product or service like yours.
If you’re a regular reader of the VerticalResponse Marketing Blog (and you are, right?), you’re probably thinking, “But shouldn’t I use social media to build relationships? What does this have to do with effective web copy?” Good question! You should absolutely use social media to help build relationships, but don’t forget about the web. Part of your website copy should be devoted to positioning yourself as an expert in your field, or a good source of information and providing helpful information so people recommend you to others and keep coming back to your site.
For example, if you’re an accountant, people may visit your site to get answers to common tax questions. You could devote a section of your web copy to a “common questions” page with brief answers and links to deeper resources. Your goal is to capture lead information so you can market your tax preparation services at a later date.
If this seems counter intuitive, check out our recent blog post, Stop Selling, Start Helping, to see why it makes sense.
What changes will you make to incorporate these website copywriting tips?
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