Creating good copy for the web

Your web designers will come up stunning graphics and beautiful artwork that make your website look amazing but it will only perform well for you if the wording is perfect. Your web designers do not know enough about your business to write the best copy… so what do you do?

Nobody Knows Your Business Like YOU

You could pay a large sum of money to a professional copywriter, but NOBODY knows YOUR business better than YOU. This might come as a surprise but YOU are the best person to write the copy for your website.

This prospect might scare you or intimidate you at first, since writing copy is not what you do for a living, however, the fact is that you CAN write the very best copy about your business if you follow some simple golden rules.

Golden Rules

People often try to bamboozle readers with long words (like bamboozle) but the written word is designed to communicate and the best way to communicate an effective message is with the SIMPLEST explanation in the LEAST possible number of words.

Motorway Signs

The internet is a very different medium to any other. People look at websites like they look at motorway signs. They are travelling at high speed. Websites are read (or “browsed” to use internet jargon) at a much faster rate than people read magazines or newspapers. You need to grab attention with focussed messages that pull the reader in using bold headlines and sub-headings.

Informal Sells

Keep your tone informal wherever possible unless you need formality due to your business. If you run a funeral home you might need to sound sombre, but most of the time, upbeat, informal copy reads better, makes people more comfortable and sells more.

Write Like You Speak

Keep your sentences short. Don’t waffle. Write in the same way that you would speak. What do I mean by that? Simple. Look back at this paragraph and you’ll see the word “don’t” is included. It reads really well, because that’s how we speak. Oooh, there’s another one – “you’ll” and now I’ve just used “that’s”. Your old English teacher might hate you, but try it out. Your copy will read well, and more people will read it from start to finish.

An Exception To The Rule

An exception to the “write as you speak” rule is the removal of redundant words. We often fill our sentences with padding as we speak. “Our great big warehouse” sounds perfect when spoken, but probably reads better as “Our warehouse” when written. Once you have written a sentence or paragraph, look back over it and if there are any words you can remove that leave the meaning of the sentence intact then cut them out. If you’ve written “very large” then would “large” suffice? Probably.

Jargon

Never use technical jargon where you can find an everyday equivalent. Technical jargon is often used to try and impress people with your knowledge. More often, readers become frustrated or confused and lose interest.

Pictures Paint A Thousand Words

It has been said that a picture paints a thousand words and this is true of photographs on your website. If you are a large company with many delivery trucks and a huge warehouse then you can say “We have a fleet of 24 trucks and 22000 square feet of pallet racking warehouse” – or you could just take a picture! The picture option means you can convey the same sense of size and professionalism but under the picture you can put something like “call today, for delivery tomorrow” and suddenly you have a sales message, where before there was only a boring bit of text.

Remember Your Purpose

What are you writing copy for? It’s there almost certainly to perform one function. Your copy has to make people buy your products or service (give you money now) or call you (give you money soon!). Try to keep this in mind as you write.

Benefits SELL Not Features!

If you have ever done any sales training the first thing you learn is that it is the BENEFITS of a product or service that make people buy something, not the FEATURES. Far too many websites simply list features of a product or service and leave it up to the visitor to try and think of any benefits it might have.

Sometimes features are obvious benefits so they sell themselves. If one of your features is that your product is the cheapest on the market, the cost benefit is obvious. It is the less obvious that needs to be made clear. For instance, if you are selling a Widget 3000 Washing Machine your feature list might say

Fast 1200 Spin
Light Load Feature
Eco Wash
Button Lock
But by adding BENEFITS in brackets you could have
Fast 1200 Spin (your clothes come out nearly dry)
Light Load Feature (wash small loads in half the time)
Eco Wash (if you have a water meter this will save you £££s)
Button Lock (essential if you have children or toddlers)

Suddenly each feature becomes part of your sales pitch. This technique works equally well with services instead of products

Think like Google

You want your site to appear in Google’s search results when people search for your product or service. Search Engine Optimisation is a huge field which your web design company can help you with, however, an important point when you are writing your own copy is to ensure that the PHRASES you want to be found FOR are within the text your are writing. It is amazing how many people are disappointed that their website does not feature in Google’s results for phrases like “Carpet Cleaning Swindon” but taking a quick look at their site shows that the phrase “Carpet Cleaning Swindon” doesn’t appear ANYWHERE in their site. Google isn’t magic! Google looks at the text on your site and then displays your site when people’s queries match your site text (slightly over simplified). Ensure you have 300-400 words per page and pepper the text with the phrases you want to be found for, trying to make it sound as natural as possible. Another search engine tip is to use your company name in place of “I” or “We”. This will ensure you are found in Google when people search for your company directly, and often sounds more professional.

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