Our Take - 8 Jun, 2022 – 7 Min Read

Sharpen your message: 10 tips for writing better web copy

Lauren O'Donoghue
By Lauren O'Donoghue

Senior copywriter

Functionandform blog hero copywriting

Introduction

Good copy has the power to stop people in their tracks; it can raise a smile, provoke a strong reaction, leave a lasting trace, and ultimately — it can get people to do what you want.

Follow our top tips below to understand how to make every word count and ensure skim readers and time poor individuals are still drawn in.

Know your audience

First things first, you need to define your audience; the people you’re speaking directly to. Who are they? What makes them tick? What do they care about? And how does your offering help them?

Once you’ve identified this group of people, it’s time to turn them into an individual or a character. For example, your audience of ‘time poor business executives’ can become one, named person with defining characteristics. By making the group a person, it’s so much easier to speak directly to them by using lots of ‘you/your’ rather than ‘I/we’. So rather than, 'this platform helps investors to achieve x', you’ll be prompted to say 'this platform helps you to improve your investments to achieve x'.

Be authentic, and consistent

Authenticity is key when it comes to developing your style. It might be useful to start by writing down a few words that capture the essence of your brand, your persona, your offering and your relationship with your audience. It’s tempting to assume the style of brands you admire, but question whether that would really work and whether it feels authentically ‘you’.

If you’re a relaxed and chatty brand, speak like that. If you pride yourself on your professional and corporate identity — lean into that. Your website is an extension of your brand and your copy should be reflective.

Once you feel like you’ve established an identity, try and put together a few tone of voice rules that you, and anyone working for you, can stick to. This will help ensure consistency, which in turn builds trust and recognition with your audience.

Look at the whole picture

As every copywriter has probably heard at least once, ‘everyone just looks at the pictures anyway.’ And while we obviously don’t subscribe to that statement at all, we do appreciate the importance of good imagery and design, and the importance of ensuring it complements your copy.

The two should work in tandem to strengthen your website and paint a clear picture of who you are and what you offer. If you’ve already established your tone of voice and brand persona it will be easier to select imagery and design elements that work in harmony. For example, do softer illustrative styles work better with your identity, or is your message better reinforced by a particular photographic style? Look at other sites for inspiration but remember to always do what feels natural and authentic to you.

Simplicity is key

However complex the product, service or idea you’re writing about is, conveying it as simply as possible is the best way to ensure you don’t lose your audience. There are many ways you can do this, but these are perhaps the most effective:

  • Use short sentences with straightforward words.
  • Avoid jargon. If it is essential to use, consider bracketing the meaning of specific words after using them for the first time, or introducing a key.
  • Wherever you can, use images, short captions or even tools like infographics to help illustrate complex ideas.
  • If it fits with your brand, use formatting tools like bullet points, fonts and bolding to drive home key takeaways or call to actions.
  • Proofread everything you write with a view to cutting. Have you used superfluous words? Is there a clearer and more concise way of getting an idea across?
  • Finally, if you can, ask someone with little knowledge of the subject matter to read through what you’ve written and explain the idea back to you. If it makes sense to them, you know you’re landing your message.

Be human

It can be tempting to unleash your inner wordsmith, get the thesaurus out and colour your website with flowery language, idioms and analogies. But really, the best way to get through to people is just to speak to them as you would if you were having a face to face conversation. Read over your copy and question whether you’d say certain words or sentences in person — if not, ditch them.

Tell stories

This isn't always possible, but if you can use stories to draw people in you stand a much better chance of making a connection with your audience.

Whether it’s case studies, client testimonials, interesting details about how you came to set up your business, or a page dedicated to your team and how you work, people are naturally curious and love to see the human face behind the brand. Giving a little bit of yourself can help you forge connections, build trust and ultimately, drive engagement.

Keep testing

Simple AB tests can help you hone call to actions and copy on key pages and allow you to make incremental changes, whether big or small, to optimise your website.

Look at headlines, email subject lines and call to actions. The more you can learn about what resonates with your audience, the better your conversion rates will be.

Optimise your copy for SEO

If you have the budget, invest in audience and competitor keyword analysis to determine what your audiences are searching for. This will give you the valuable insight you need to ensure your content responds to actionable, trending problems that people are looking for solutions to. In practice, this means using the same keywords and phrasing they use when searching.

Invest in your content

Have you ever been on a poorly spelt, confusingly worded website? Chances are you switched off quickly. That’s because good copy is important. It has the power to sell, to create trust and to sway opinion. So, failing to invest in it can be detrimental.

If you have the finances, hire a strong copywriter. If you don’t, there are plenty of free websites such as Grammarly which can run checks on what you’ve written and give you pointers on how to improve your basic spelling and grammar. You could even ask someone you trust to read over what you’ve written and check for errors and overall clarity.

Remember it won’t always come easy or quickly...

— and that’s ok.

Good copy hardly ever materialises in an instant.

The important thing is just to start writing; get something down and you have something to work with. If you don’t like what you’ve written, take a break and come back to it. Or try thinking about what you want to convey in a different location, whether that’s on a run, in the shower, or just away from your desk. It’s amazing how creatively stimulating it can be to change your setting.

If you have the resource, get your team into a room and brainstorm lines and ideas. Question what makes people cringe, smile, laugh, get angry etc. Take votes and bounce ideas off each other. Just one additional perspective really does have the power to totally shape and transform an idea.

If you keep ripping it up (literally or figuratively), you’ll eventually find something you don’t hate. Which means it’s probably content gold.

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