If your website is like your welcome mat, then your web copy is the aroma that greets people when they’re on your doorstep. Do they smell warm, inviting chocolate chip cookies or garbage? In other words: does your web copy entice people to spend time on your website or run to the competitors?
I was curious how marketers and business owners find ways to attract visitors and potential customers through copy, so I interviewed 10 of them to get their mastermind strategies just for you.
While you can make guesses about the wording that will resonate with your audience, you’re better off actually seeing what your visitors like.
Quincy Smith, Marketing Manager at Visiple, says the best advice he can give to improve web copy is to test everything.
It doesn’t matter if you have the best copy writer out there if it doesn’t resonate with your audience. In order to test effectively, you need one of two things: significant traffic or a user/customer base that you can interact with.
How you can master it: While there is software that you can use to do A/B testing, such as Optimizely, Smith says it’s even easier to simply run one version of copy for a week and measure the results, then run the other copy and compare the two. Stick with the one that gives better results.
You can play with many different components, like alternate headlines, different opening paragraphs, and even different color font or buttons. Just make sure to change one thing at a time with your testing so you know which tweak changed results. Too many factors means it’s nearly impossible to know which factor worked.
You might feel silly reading your copy to yourself, but this is, as Jason Sheil of Jason Sheil Consulting Services says, “an age-old trick amongst copywriters.”
Sheil says you’re looking for two things:
The first being general feel — if your copy sounds awkward out loud, it still needs work. The second thing to look for is any moment where you trip or hesitate while reading. This is a clear sign that you haven’t written as clearly as possible.
Another way to ensure your copy is appropriate for your audience is to use the Hemingway app. Once you paste your copy into the app, it will provide feedback about sentences that are hard to read as well as instances of passive voice, which you can then edit.
How you can master it: Realize that you’ve only written a draft until the copy is concise. Reading it aloud or using the Hemingway app will help you see your copy how others do. If you stumble when you read, you need an edit or two.
Another technique that writers know — but you might not — is to address the question your visitors have: “what’s in it for me?”
Rahul Alim, President of Custom Creatives, says you only have a few seconds to connect with potential customers on your home page.
They made a search online and found you — that’s the 1st goal — now it’s time to help empathize with them that you feel their pain and you want to help solve the problem.
He says it’s essential to present your core services or products on your homepage, as well as outline what benefits they provide to customers.
How you can master it: Look at your business from your customers’ perspective, or even consider your own thought process when you shop for something on another website. Your customer has a problem and you have a solution. So rather than writing about all the cool features of your products, center your copy around that solution you can provide. Put your visitors at ease with your copy by showing them they can trust you to help.
Another trick that might seem odd but that is effective: write your copy as if you’re talking to a single person, says Beth Carter, Chief Strategist at Clariant Creative Agency.
Imagine that you’re at a bar, and that person is sitting on the barstool next to you. How would you talk to that person about what you do? What words would you use? What points would you raise? What questions do you think the person would ask? What would your answers be?
Carter says this imaginary conversation can direct you to writing copy that really connects with visitors.
How you can master it: Read other websites’ copy to see examples of this in action. When the copy resonates with you and you feel like it’s speaking directly to you, take notes and leverage those strategies on your own site.
Just as important as those meaty paragraphs of text in your web copy are the headlines you use. Some people, like Murray Suid, Cofounder of MobileMovieMaking Magazine, would argue that headlines are even more important.
Because time is at an all-time premium, says Suid, your headline has only a second or two to entice people to read more.
To make that happen, at MobileMovieMaking.com, we almost always write headlines using seven or fewer words. On our homepage right now are concise headlines like ‘Drone Moviemaking Tips for the Novice’ and ‘The Single-location Film.’ No ambiguity. Just the facts.
Suid says he also likes to create headlines that give readers a command, because that gets their attention.
How you can master it: If you’re stumped for headline ideas, try Tweak Your Biz’ Title Generator. Enter your subject, and it will create dozens of options you can use or modify. You can also go back to your A/B testing to see what kinds of headlines resonate with your audience.
You can have the most perfect web copy in the world, but if it doesn’t contain a call to action, what’s the point? That call to action is what tells readers what you want them to do next, such as “click to read more” or “sign up to get 20% off.”
Nathan Barber, a Digital Analyst who writes blogs for digitaladvertisingWorks, says the call to action at the end of the article is arguably the most important few words of the copy.
The wording of your call to action must engage your reader with value around empowering word choice using language such as ‘discover,’ ‘unearth,’ ‘learn.’ You also want to include urgency in the wording by using words such as ‘now’ or ‘today.’
Barber says to be specific about the actions you want people to do, and that the copy should relate to what people are reading. He says doing so will continue the flow from awareness to final purchase.
How you can master it: For each page of web copy, ask yourself what single action you want people to do. Stick to just one or you’ll overwhelm people. On your homepage, that might be to subscribe to your email. On your Products page, it might be to schedule a free consultation.
You don’t have to be an SEO guru to make nice with keywords, and they’re absolutely what will determine what kind of traffic your website gets.
Casey Meehan, Founder of Epic Presence, stresses the importance of researching the best keywords.
Keyword research is the foundation of website copy that will actually draw qualified, organic traffic to your site. Spend the time necessary to get this step right.
How you can master it: Meehan says that whether you use a keyword research tool like SEMrush or not, you should measure potential keywords against a four-point rubric:
Have you ever read web copy that turned you off because the lingo was over your head?
That’s why copywriters know that they’re better off writing at a 7th to 9th grade reading level so that anyone — not just rocket scientists — can understand the copy.
Victor Clarke, the “Marketing Quarterback” at Clarke, Inc., says there’s a reason why lawyers, doctors, or accountants don’t always make good writers for their own web copy.
Often their jargon-filled copy is a turn-off to anyone who is not a fellow lawyer, doctor, or accountant. You should use normal words in your web pages because they will be more easily understood by readers and rewarded by search engines. Try using ‘car wreck’ rather than ‘motor vehicle accident’ and ‘results’ rather than ‘clinical outcomes.’
How you can master it: Explain in your own words what you’re trying to say with your copy. How would you explain it to a friend who doesn’t know your industry as well as you do? If you were searching keywords, what would you use?
I love a good exclamation point as much as the next gal, but sometimes I have to put my love of enthusiastic punctuation aside when writing for business. Kim Kohatsu, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of Charles Ave Marketing, suggests being judicious in your use of exclamation points.
Often writers try to infuse energy into their copy by overusing exclamation points rather than choosing words to convey passion about the business. This overuse can result in an overeager tone that sometimes borders on desperation. You want to create a voice that’s emotional but still professional.
In this example above from FabFitFun.com, you can see what using repetitive exclamation marks does. For me, anyway, it turns me off and I hear a Valley Girl reading the text in my head.
How you can master it: Really limit your use of exclamation points, and never, ever use two at a time. (I wanted to use an exclamation point to stress that last sentence.) Find other ways to emote through your copy, such as the use of bold and italics.
Storytelling is the best way to connect with readers. Even if you’re relaying information about your products or services, there’s a way to do it with a bit of a story.
Kuba Koziej, CEO and co-founder of Uptowork.com, says unless you hook people at the start of your copy, they’ll just skim it and move on.
Nothing works better than making a connection with a catchy story and then focusing your readership on your product, service, blog post, email, or whatever.
Here, Koziej shares an example of storytelling pulling in the reader to this blog post:
The post starts with a short story, then transitions into what the article is about. It’s more engaging than it would be if the article just started out telling the reader what to do.
How you can master it: Try inserting stories throughout your website. You could include a story about how or why you launched your business or use them to talk about how you’ve helped clients.
All these strategies aside, your web copy should be concise and targeted. There’s no reason you need 1,000 words of copy on any page on your site. Say what you need to say, then be done with it. And make sure you’re gearing it toward the right people, otherwise your bounce rate will be high, indicating that the wrong people are finding your site on search engines and then leaving once they see it’s not what they wanted.