How to write great website copy
This is a post from a member of the Freelancers Union community. If you’re interested in sharing your expertise, your story, or some advice you think will help a fellow freelancer out, feel free to send your blog post to us here.
Which statement intrigues you more?
- I'm a copywriter, and I write great About pages.
- When your "About" page is crafted carefully, you'll attract your ideal customer.
Probably the second one. I'm talking to you, and about what I can do for you.
Is your website engaged in a conversation, or giving a lecture?
Focus on customer needs and wants
You do or offer something wonderful. We have no doubt of that here.
But if your website copy goes on and on about what your business does and sells—well, friend, you start to sound a little self-centered. Let your customer know you're thinking of them, too.
Focus on customer needs in your language and in your content.
Language: Use "You"
It's best practice to use the second person in sales and web copy.
In case you forgot that day in grammar class (and who could blame you?), second person means addressing the reader as "you."
First person: I am a wonderful copywriter, and all who fail to hire me gnash their teeth in despair!
Second person: You would be so smart to hire me as a copywriter!
Third person: People who don't hire copywriters may incur high dentist bills from gnashing their teeth so much.
Of course, you can use "we" and "I" and "our" when it makes sense. Just keep an eye out to make sure your focus—and your pronouns—don't stray from the customer too much.
Imperative language counts
Let's look at a big example: Netflix.
We all know what Netflix is, right? They don't have to explain much on their home page.
"See what's next. Watch anywhere. Cancel anytime. Join free for a month."
That's not a ton of copy. It's a tagline, a couple of counter-arguments against why you wouldn't push the button, and the offer.
And it's all imperative language, which... oh no. Watch out. I'm going to do another grammar thing.
"You" is in all of these sentences. The second person is implied.
Do you remember diagramming sentences? Maybe in Spanish class, if not in English?
Bear with me.
When you're making a command, grammatically, there's an invisible "you" acting as the subject of the sentence.
- [You] see what's next.
- [You] watch anytime.
It's language that speaks directly to the reader, and it can make a big impact in a few short lines.
Content: Shine a light on your customers
We've talked about focusing on the customer using language, so let's think about focusing on them with your choice of content.
When you tell your brand story, do you talk about the successes for your clients? Do you explain how your service or product has helped your previous customers?
Leads and prospects relate more to your clients, who've ostensibly been in their shoes at some point. They needed what you had to offer, and had a positive result.
Boom. Just the kind of content you need.
Testimonials, reviews, and case studies provide "social proof" that you're real and legitimate.
Don't just tell; listen
Part of writing website copy is staying open to changing it. Listening to your customers, asking for feedback, and adjusting your products accordingly will go a long way toward success.
Networking isn't just for leads
Networking isn't just about handing out business cards and getting hot leads. It's also about learning what kind of questions the public has about you and what you do. Networking events are also opportunities to try out new messaging, especially if you can get an opportunity to talk to big group for a few seconds. Try out your new elevator pitch to see how many smiles and head nods you can get.
Ask questions on social
You need to post something anyway, right? Be strategic about what kinds of questions you ask, and you might get a seed to some content strategy.
You don't have the time to A/B test your entire freaking website, so try with the high-impact items like your call to action or email newsletter signup copy. (I just started an A/B test on mine, as part of research on how to get more people to sign up for my newsletter.
Do more A/B testing
Just one isn't enough! Since you're ideally just testing one variable in each test, it'll take a lot of testing to get to your perfect copy.
Just when you have it all dialed in, your clients or the environment might change. Test, test again.
Kelley Gardiner writes content and copy in beautiful Portland, Oregon. She specializes in website rewrites and copy overhauls for small businesses.