post tag icon GuidesMarketing
16 / 03 / 23

Website copy: how to write compelling pages that sell

Writing copy for your website can seem like a daunting task. Especially if you haven't put pen to paper since scraping by in your English GCSE. Writing isn’t for everyone. But here’s the thing: everyone can write. You just have to find your voice. And when it comes to writing copy for your business website, there are a few basic pointers that will help you on your way.

What do we mean by website copy?

The fact that you’re here and reading this would suggest you already have a pretty good idea of what website copy is. However, it’s worth noting exactly what comes under the banner of ‘copy for websites’ so you can maximise your newfound skills across your platform at every opportunity.

Website copy is the words you use on your website. This can be on your home page, about page, products page, services page, and any other main page across your website. It also covers things like headings and subheadings, menus, and calls-to-action or CTAs. (These are the invitations you use in your website copy to get customers to contact you or take another form of action, like ‘buy now’ or ‘click here to find out more’.)

What’s not website copy?

Weirdly, blog content (like this) doesn’t qualify as website copy, even though it’s hosted on a website. Marketing copy isn’t strictly website copy either. So, this article won’t cover writing copy for blogs or marketing material. Instead, we’ll focus on writing compelling copy for the main pages of your website.

It’s worth remembering at this stage that, although website copy is published to THE WORLD WITH JUST ONE CLICK, it’s also totally fixable. Spot a mistake? Don’t like it? Find it’s not working? You can hop in the back end of your website and edit the pages to your heart’s content. “Done is better than perfect,” as my old mentor used to say.

So, grab a pen and get comfy, because you’re going to want to note down these top tips for writing compelling website copy.

1. Make your website copy concise

People usually come to websites for a specific reason, with a specific goal in mind. Often, it’s to find information or make a purchase – as quickly and efficiently as possible. This is good news for you as a business, because these people are already looking for something. Now it’s your job to make sure they find it, and fast.

Being concise in your website copy will help visitors get a clear idea of what your business is about straightaway. You can do this by:

  • Using short words, sentences, and paragraphs. Keeping copy brief makes it easy to read and digest.
  • Using basic language. Don’t be tempted to go all fancy to sound more professional. It doesn't work. If you wouldn’t use a word in normal conversation, don’t use it in your website copy
  • Using an active voice. This makes sentences easier to understand. So, ‘We sell delicious ice creams’, not ‘delicious ice creams are sold by us.’
  • Cutting fluff. If what you’re writing doesn’t help the user journey in some way, be brutal and cut it out.

2. Make your website copy scannable

People read website copy differently to how they read text on a printed page. In languages that are read left to right, convention is to start at the top left-hand side of the page and work your way line by line to bottom right. Not so with website copy.

Because people are generally looking to gain information as quickly as possible from websites, they will scan the page first to make sure it’s relevant before either committing to reading your website copy in more detail or leaving the page entirely if it’s not offering them what they want.

You can make this journey easier for visitors by making your copy scannable. Bullet points and subheadings are a great way to highlight important points and break up big chunks of copy so readers can spot what they're looking for quickly and easily.

Using H1, H2, and H3 headings also makes your website copy more accessible for visually impaired visitors as screen-reading devices dictate these headings first. Google likes these headings too, which will only help boost your search engine rankings.

3. Use images to break up your website copy

Attention spans are short these days – even more so when people are scrolling on phones. Using images is a good way to break up your website copy and direct visitors’ eyes where you want them to go. Want help with your website design? We can do that too.

A light-up sign display the wording Gotcha! Using images to break up your website copy makes it more readable

(I'd put money on you reading this first before the rest of the article. That's why using images on web pages works.)  

4. Features vs benefits

Writing your own website copy is a slippery fish. On the one hand, you know your product or service better than anyone, so you’re the best person to extoll its virtues to someone else, right? On the other hand, having little or no distance from the thing you’re selling can often make it difficult – or even impossible – to tell the features from the benefits.

Consumers like features, but they LOVE benefits. This is because, ultimately, people are only interested in what your product or service will do for them. If you’re selling anti-wrinkle face cream, for example, it's features might be that it’s light, easily absorbed, and smells like spring rain. The fact that it irons out facial creases in a single application, taking 10 years off the user, is the benefit you want to use to push it. So, be sure to play to the selling power of your benefits and make them clear in your website copy.

5. Back up your website copy claims

Citing third party research and data from reliable, independent sources is a good way to substantiate what you’re saying in your web copy. If there are authoritative stats and facts out there to back up the benefits of your product or service, use them.

Say you’re selling sun hats. Some independent stats or research from the NHS on the dangers of prolonged sun exposure would back up the benefits of someone buying your sun hat.

This is an ideal example of an independent and reliable source. Everyone has heard of the NHS, and their advice is highly regarded. They’re also not in competition with you in anyway when it comes to selling sun hats, so there’s no danger of you losing a potential online customer by mentioning them in your copy. Thirdly, using data from regulated bodies like the NHS adds authority to your own site.

Including positive feedback from existing customers in your website copy is also a good way to authenticate any claims you’re making.

6. Emotive vs buzzwords

Much like features and benefits, confusion over ‘emotive’ words vs ‘buzzwords’ is another trap to avoid when writing your own website copy. You love your product and you’re passionate about the service you provide, so it’s easy to want to sensationalise with words like ‘game-changing’ and ‘ground-breaking’ to stir up enthusiasm online. Unfortunately, this kind of clichéd copy often has the opposite effect on consumers, causing readers to zone out and disengage with both your website and your brand.

Emotive copy, on the other hand, will speak to your website visitors in a genuine way, stirring feelings that will lead them to convert. Focus on the five senses, to help give readers a taste of what it would be like to experience your service or use your product. You can also use sensory words like ‘luxuriate’, ‘stimulate’, and ‘satisfy’ to tap into that emotive part of your consumers’ decision-making process.

7. Find your brand voice

Finding your band voice is perhaps one of the most important factors when it comes to writing copy for your website. This sets the tone for your product or service. It also helps build brand loyalty with consumers when they become familiar with your brand’s personality and the way it ‘speaks’ to them. Brand voice is something you can develop over time, so don’t worry about getting it perfect straight away. It might help to think about what your brand is – and what it’s not – when deciding on the kinds of words to use in your website copy and the way you want your brand to come across to consumers. For example:

  • Informative but not condescending
  • Professional but not stuffy
  • Friendly but not informal
  • Eccentric but not ridiculous

This leads nicely onto...

8. Speak to your audience

If you want to form a relationship with consumers, you need to start a conversation. And that means speaking to your website visitors in a way they will recognise and understand. This is the second part of finding your brand voice. Using the kinds of words and phrasing that your audience would use in everyday conversation. Customer feedback and surveys is a good way to get a handle on the kind of language your customers use to express themselves and the kinds of problems they face that your product or service has resolved.

9. Memorable website copy

Although you want to ensure your website copy adheres to your own brand guidelines, you also need to make it memorable. People tend to remember copy that provokes an emotional response, so adding humour – where appropriate – can help get consumers on side and make you stand out from the competition. This isn’t to say you’ve got to become a comedian overnight or that your website copy should be a gag a minute – unless that’s the brand voice you’re going for. But subtle use of wit and wordplay can be enough to raise a smile, making a visit to your website a fun and memorable experience.

Writing isn’t for everyone, but here at Formation, we have some expert word nerds who get a real kick out of creating website copy that’s optimised for SEO. For help and advice on your website copy, contact us today!

Written by Emily Formation