It’s hard. I get it. You sit down to write the copy (that’s words) for your website. You’re faced with a blank sheet of paper. And your mind just goes completely blank.
You’re not alone.
It happens to all of us (it certainly happens to me too). I’m not a copywriter, but even the copywriters I know tell me when they sit down to write their website copy they struggle.
The words you use on your website matter. They matter because they make a big difference to whether the person who is on your website takes that action you want them to take. Be that “buy now”, “schedule an appointment” or “book a call”.
The images hook them in, but the website copy and layout are what converts them.
So what can you do?
Well the good news is that anyone can write good website copy. It doesn’t matter how good you were at English at school, or how educated you are. Sometimes being good at English at school or having a career that involved a lot of writing is unhelpful. Because good website copy is written differently.
1. Write for your Target Audience
The first tip is to write for your target audience, whoever that might be. You’re not writing for your school english teacher (unless of course your target audience is school english teachers…)
We all speak differently to different groups of people. We talk to our children differently to the way we might talk to the King or Aunty Gladys. Differently to our partners. Differently to our best friends over a glass of wine than we do to peers in our industry. Most people have a wide range of styles that they use to speak to different people depending on how they want to be perceived.
If your target audience is teenagers you will use a different tone to that if your target audience is barristers, for example.
It’s not just demographics but background and knowledge. I might speak techie language to other people in the website world but wouldn’t dream of doing so with my target audience because it would alienate them.
Knowing who your target audience is is the first step to defining your “voice”. You have to choose one group (it doesn’t mean you can’t serve others). How would you speak to someone from that group if you met them in the street or over drinks?
2. Write like you speak
Your website is not a formal document. The best websites connect with their target audience.
A website is a substitute for you sitting with a potential client and explaining what you do and how you can help them. There’s obviously not the two way conversation you might have with them there, but your website needs to be doing the best it can to replicate that.
Your potential client wants to feel like you understand them and can help them. You want to come across on your website as you would in real life.
And that means writing like you speak.
Use words like “I” or “we” rather than your personal name or business name. You don’t want to come across sounding like Jacob Rees Mogg. Unless of course that’s who you are! You want to be the friendly (but professional) person who gets them and can help.
If you’re struggling to write your website copy try speaking it instead. Use some kind of a transcription app that will take your speech and transcribe it into written words. Otter.ai is one, or you can just use the microphone on your phone with the notes app or word or similar. These are never completely accurate though so make sure to go back through and correct any words (as well as removing the “ums” and the “ahhs” that we tend to use when we speak – they’re not so good for website copy!)
3. Be Clear and Concise
It doesn’t matter how long you spend building your website, your audience is busy. They’re busy people. They haven’t come to your website to be “entertained”, spend time browsing or to be impressed by your use of the english language. They want to know if you can help them and, if you can, the information they need to know before taking action.
Every word on your website needs to earn its place. You shouldn’t be wasting other people’s time.
Use shorter sentences. Write using more simple language. You’re not trying to shoehorn in as many descriptive words as you can. This is not an english literature class. Your audience will be bored if you go on too long. They’re busy people remember!
4. Remember Every Page has a role
Every page on your website has a role. An action you want visitors to take (sometimes there might be an alternative action – but just the one!).
The role of your homepage is to get people interested in your business and signpost them where to go next to find the right information they need. Therefore it doesn’t need to go into lots of detail. You don’t need to try to tell them everything they need to know to choose to work with you. I talked about what should be on your homepage back in the blog post 7 key things to include on your website homepage
The role of your About Page is to show people why they should work with you. You don’t need to give them your whole life story. Just the bits that are relevant to why they should work with you. That does include some “human interest” parts. I talk about the fact I had a corporate career before starting a website design business because a lot of my audience have done the same (it shows I understand). Likewise the fact I run my business whilst having responsibilities. If you want to know more, take a look at my blog post It’s not all “me, me, me” – writing your About page.
The role of your Services Page is to sell your services. You might have these split into more than one page, but ultimately you want someone to read this and think “I need this service” (or not of course if it isn’t right for them). There may well be more on this page, but every word should be designed with this job in mind.
The job of your Contact Page is for people to be able to get in contact with you. So make it easy for them to do that!
You don’t need lots of words on these pages to do their job!
5. Make it scannable
People don’t read every word on a page. On average people read about 25% of your website copy on each page.
We read by scanning a page. Because we’re busy. Of course you need to write the page as if someone is going to read all of it (and there are some people who will read every word). But you also need to set it out so that someone can see (and read) the highlights.
This isn’t just about the words, but the layout. Use headings and sub headings, or at the least some kind of way of highlighting a few sentences that are key. And of course make sure that the next steps are very obvious!
6. Make People Feel
The best copy makes people feel something. We usually buy with our hearts rather than our head (although we might want to justify it with our heads).
You want your audience to feel understood. You need to show empathy with their current situation. And you want them to feel hope and excitement. Finally someone who can really help them.
Because that’s when they buy.
Power words are particularly good at conveying emotion and getting people to take action.
These are words like Elevate, Explore, Discover, Indulge, Exclusive, Curated, Dedicated and Artisan.
7. Just Write
It’s much easier to edit copy than to write when you’re staring at a blank screen.
So my advice is to just start writing. Pretend you have an Ideal Client in front of you and start writing as if you would speak to them. You could even ask someone to be that “Ideal Client” and record the conversation.
What points would you make? What questions would they ask? What’s their current situation and where would they like to be?
This is not the final version, but a start. Then go away and do something else. Revisit it when you’ve spent time away from it and begin to edit it.
And if you really struggle with editing it beyond this part then I’d recommend bringing in a professional copywriter. They are best when they have your initial passion and voice which needs sorting into something coherent.
Writing website copy is difficult, but hugely important.
The good news though is it isn’t rocket science. And you don’t need to be good at English. You’re just looking to write something that is a substitute for you being in front of the potential client.
So write as you would speak to them. Be clear and concise. No waffling (they’re busy remember). Remember the role of each page. You’re not trying to do everything on any one page.
Once you have a good draft you can work with it. Add headings and subheadings or highlight sections so that the “scanners” will get the important bits. Make it emotive, using words that will make the reader “feel”.
And most importantly? Just do it. Just start. If you get stuck, hate what you’ve written or just think it could be a lot better then employ a professional. After all, we all have our skill sets and there’s no shame in outsourcing what we’re not good at.