How to Write Captivating Web Copy

web writing

Feb 13, 2017 by Emily Gunderson

Haunted by the ever dominate phrase, “content is king,” we marketers are constantly trying to crank out new content to beef up our website and get our brand out there. But there’s an important content area we hope you’re not forgetting: the copy on your website.

Websites aren’t a one and done deal. We understand the hours upon hours of work that go into creating a new website or updating your current one. When it’s finally up, all you want to do is throw up your hands and say, “It’s done! It’s FINALLY done.” We’re not heartless; we’ll let you have that euphoric moment.

excited screamingOkay, moment’s over.

The truth is, websites need constant updating, especially with technology and trends evolving as quickly as they are today. The good news: we’re not going to ask you to look at the structure or navigation of your website (at least not yet). Today, we’re asking you to take a look at the language on your site. If you find it needs some updating, well that shouldn’t take too long.

The text on your site is what will ultimately lead visitors to take action, whether that’s adding a product to their shopping cart, contacting you about your services, downloading a whitepaper, or something else. And, chances are, your email and social media efforts are driving leads to your site, so you want them to have a good experience when they get there.

Here are some general guidelines for web writing:

Keep Text Short and Scannable

Website readers scan, so it’s a good idea to keep content on your homepage short and snappy. Get a snippet of your message across so you can let visitors know what you do without taking up too much space to explain it. The deeper into your site a visitor goes, the more engaged they are. Wait until you have their attention before diving into full descriptions.

The short and scannable rule also applies on those pages where you expand on a topic. Explain products and services as concisely as you can, but when the explanations get lengthy, be sure to break up paragraphs often so readers can still scan to find sections they’re most interested in. Nothing deters readers more than giant blocks of text.

Use Language That Focuses on the Reader

Your visitors are likely on your site because they believe your products or services can solve a problem they have. While you may think they’re interested in your hopes and dreams for the company, visitors really just want to hear about how you can make their lives better. Make sure the text on your site acknowledges the customer’s experience and isn’t too “me, me, me.”

A great way to reach your readers is to ask yourself what questions/problems your product or service solves. In her book, Letting Go of the Words, Ginny Redish suggests treating the page like a conversation between you and the reader. Imagine why the reader has come to your website, and use your copy to answer their questions. By anticipating their concerns, you’ll establish authority and gain their trust.

 

"Treat your website like a conversation."

In an example Redish cites, Mint does a good job of anticipating their audience’s concerns. Since Mint is a budgeting app that has access to its users’ bank accounts, the users will want to know that their information is secure before deciding to use the tool. By adding this section to the home page of their site, Mint alleviated concern that may otherwise turn readers away:

screenshot of mint.com

Show off Your Company’s Personality

People appreciate seeing the “human” side of companies, so wherever you can, throw some personality into your site. I have actually spent a good fifteen minutes looking at Emma’s “Our people" page. When you scroll over a team member’s head shot, it flashes to a less serious picture. You get to see a bit of personality from each employee, and you get the feeling that Emma is a fun place to work.

Toss in a joke or get creative with your word choices to keep things light and connect with your audience on a more human level. Of course, you don’t want to overdo the pizzaz or isolate any readers, so push the boundaries while maintaining a level of professionalism.

Give Each Page a Purpose

Your web copy should be leading readers toward an action. Information on products should nudge readers toward making a purchase. Blog posts should prompt readers to share on social media. Any other information offered should be there to highlight why readers may need your products/services.

If you find pages on your site that aren’t pushing readers to take action, reconsider their purpose and merit. If you have too many pages with too much information, readers may get lost in the depths of your site. Make things clear and simple so they can make decisions on your company easily. Again, Mint does a great job of including calls to action on each page of their site.


Now, I’m going to take you back to high school English with the mention of the three rhetorical appeals: logos, ethos, and pathos. Reach your audience by using these three appeals in various places on your site. Depending on your business, you may choose to focus on one more than the others, but they all have their place in connecting to your audience.


gears

Logos

What it means: Appealing to the logic of your audience
Where to use it: Product pages, descriptions of services
Why to use it: Appealing to your audience’s logic will help you explain yourself clearly and gain the trust of those who value facts over emotion.

 

book

Ethos

What it means: Establishing credibility
Where to use it: Resource pages such as blogs, articles, and whitepapers
Why to use it: You’ll gain your audience’s trust by establishing yourself as a knowledgeable contender in your industry. Well written blogs and other information sources prove that you have authority on the subject.


heart

Pathos

What it means: Appealing to your audience’s emotions
Where to use it: “About Us” pages, mission statements, product and service pages
Why to use it: People connect over emotional understanding. Showing off your company’s values and personality can help you gain your audience's interest and trust.

Take some time this week to read through the copy on your website. Some red flags to look for are:

  • Large blocks of text
  • Dull or strictly informative text (especially on the home page)
  • Too many “we”s and not enough “you”s
  • Pages without calls to action

Your marketing efforts drive prospects to your website. You want it to be a place where their questions are answered, they come to trust your company, and they move further in the buying process. Strong copy is the basis of your site’s success. Get it right, and it will fuel your sales conversions.

 

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