What’s the first thing you do when you visit a webpage for the first time? Clearly, your top priority is to look and see whether the page in question meets your particular needs. Those needs will vary depending on what exactly it is you want to do, but if you can’t immediately see that the page offers what you want, you’ll be off to look for another site that does. So if you’re trying to book a holiday in France, the first thing you’ll do is check to see if the webpage offers holidays in France. If you want to buy a book, you’ll look to see if the page is selling that book and so on.
This is why good copywriting is so important. The written word is the easiest way to tell a visitor that the webpage they’ve landed on is the webpage they’re looking for. It also plays a vital part in turning these visitors into customers.
By understanding the power of the written word and how to use it, your website will become a better sales tool. In this guide we’ll look at the things you need to know to get started with improving the copy on your website.
Understand your customers
The first step to improving your website’s copy is to understand why people are coming to your website in the first place and what they expect to see when they get there. Understanding your audience is a huge topic and deserves a guide in its own right, so if you really want to get in depth with this topic you can check out this huge guide to buyer personas by Mike King.
However, even a casual assessment of your audience’s needs can help you improve your copy so take some time to jot down answers to the following questions.
- What kind of person will be interested in my product(s)/service(s)? What are their jobs, interests and hobbies?
- What needs do these people have that my product(s)/service(s) can meet?
- How do my product(s)/service(s) meet these needs?
Once you’ve done this, you’ll be armed with the questions your potential customers will be asking when they visit your site and the answers you should give them.
Pick the right tone of voice
Tone of voice will stem from the kind of audience you’re trying to address. Clearly if you’re selling fashion items to young people you’ll use very different language than if you were selling accounting services to professionals. Once you understand your audience, use this information to draw up a style guide which sets out how you’ll talk to your website visitors. Even if you’re the only person writing for your site, a style guide will help you stick to the rules and will ensure that the copy across your various pages is consistent. You can find a guide to creating a style guide here.
We started this article by asking what you do when you visit a webpage for the first time. But as a website owner, what you really need to do is reverse that question and ask “what will a potential customer do when they visit one of my webpages for the first time?” You might find it hard to be an impartial judge of this – you’ll know what you want visitors to do and that can colour your judgment. If you think this might be a problem for you, then you can ask friends to help you out or use Five Second Test, a tool that lets you know how strangers interact with your website.
Here are some questions you need to know the answer to so you can tell if your pages are doing what they should.
- As a first time visitor, can I clearly see what the page is about?
- As a first time visitor, is there a logical next step for me to take?
- As a first time visitor, do I have all the information I need to be confident in taking that next step?
There’s also another factor to bear in mind – each page on your site should be focused on one thing and one thing only. Don’t confuse visitors by offering them several potential next steps. For example, on a product page you’ll want people to add an item to their checkout so don’t include distractions like a pop up which gets them to sign up to a mailing list. You can learn about the importance of getting your landing pages right in this guide. But put simply the copy on your page should guide visitors towards the action you want them to take.
Another important thing to understand is how people are arriving at your various pages in the first place. You can learn more about that in our guide to the user’s journey from search to purchase.
Call to action
A call to action (CTA) is probably the most important piece of copy on a webpage. It may only be a few words, but a poor CTA can render the rest of a page’s content useless. If your CTA is missing, confusing or just bad then people won’t know what to do next. So even if the copy above your CTA is perfect, if your CTA fails then the page fails. You can learn more about what makes a good CTA in this video.
You also need to make sure that your text is formatted in a way that’s easy to read. That means doing the following.
- Use headings and subheading to highlight key points so people can see them at a glance.
- Remove unnecessary words. Visitors will want you to get straight to the point so don’t waffle.
- Use images and video where possible. People want to see products in action. Let them.
Remember, your copy and visuals should flow towards your CTA, creating a smooth, logical customer journey to your required action.
Although you may feel like you drafted the perfect copy first time, that’s rarely the case. Proofreading is important for two reasons. The first is to cut out mistakes from your copy. Everyone makes them and a spellchecker won’t catch every error. The second is that rereading your content spark ideas, allowing you to write a more convincing webpage than if you had just stuff with your first draft.
Here’s a basic copywriting process for you to adapt to your own needs.
Ideation and objectives – Jot down the aim of your page and the way you’ll communicate with visitors.
Rough outline – Develop a working title for the page and write down the key points. These will form the basis of your heading and subheadings.
First draft – Get writing. Follow your outline as closely as possible, but don’t worry if it changes as you go along. Just make sure that it still aligns with your objectives for the page.
Proofread – Once you’ve finished the draft, get reading. Correct as many errors as you can and also make a note of any ideas for improvements that occur to you as you do so.
Redraft – Rewrite the piece using the ideas that occurred to you during the proofread. Also cut out any chaff to make the copy flow as smoothly as possible.
Proofread and redraft until happy – Simply repeat these two steps until you’re happy with what you’ve got. However, be sure to always end with a proofread. Even the smallest change can introduce an error to your copy, so check everything you do.
Finally, if possible, get someone else to proofread your copy as they may spot errors you’ve missed.
If you’ve followed the advice above, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about making sure your copy is optimised for search engines. By gearing it towards the needs of prospective customers, you’re also gearing it towards the needs of Google, as Google wants to help people find content that’s relevant to them.
However, there are some areas of search engine optimisation (SEO) you should consider.
Keyword research – This can help you develop content ideas and ensure your pages are constructed using terms that people are searching for. Don’t go crazy and stuff keywords into your page as often as you can, just use the research to guide you. You can learn more about keyword research in this guide.
Avoiding duplicate content – Reusing content from another page can confuse search engines and make it harder for you to rank well on Google.
Optimising titles and descriptions – The art of writing titles and descriptions that get clicks is worthy of its own article, so check out our guide to the subject here.
If you’re struggling with any of these things, you can get a free SEO report with the 123 Reg Search Engine Optimiser to help you see what improvements you need to make.
Finally, if your site is already making sales you may want to test any changes you make to your copy so you know whether your adjustments make things better or worse. You can find out about getting started with testing in this guide.
Are you struggling with any particular element of copywriting? Tweet us @123reg and we’ll get back to you.