All of the visual elements on your website have ONE purpose: get visitors to read the first line of copy. Which, ideally, will entice people to keep reading.
If you’re going to redesign your website and write the copy as an afterthought, don’t even bother. You’re wasting your money.
Your layout, your brand colors, the size of your logo, your illustrations are NOT going to sell your potential customers on your product.
If you want your website to be your best performing sales person, generating revenue around the clock, the copy needs to shine.
Website copywriting can be daunting. What even goes on a website? What kind of tone should you use? How much information is too much? Or too little?
I gotta say, home page layout and copy is probably the hardest part of web design. It has to be spot on to generate results. But once I developed a process, it’s made my writing and design a lot easier.
With that in mind, I’ve broken website copywriting into 6 simple steps.
First things first, I want you to think of a website as a sales machine. Not an online brochure. If you want to improve your chances of generating revenue from your website, you first have to define who you’re trying to sell to in the first place.
Unless you have Coca-Cola money, you can’t afford to appeal to everyone. Enter the target audience.
A target audience is simply a share of the market that you aim your marketing efforts towards. This is the group of people that companies have in mind with every business decision that’s made.
A buyer persona is a profile of someone in your target market. The more detailed this profile the better. You should include characteristics such as
The more detailed you are in describing these characteristics, the more effective your copy.
This buyer persona will be the center of a strong marketing strategy and is the key to a successful website. You can’t sell if you don’t know who you’re selling to.
Attention spans are getting shorter by the day. People need the bottom line up front. A unique value proposition is a great way to get your message across in a few lines.
The first step to writing a unique value proposition is listing out all of the benefits of your service. Reach out to your customers and be sure to get their input here. That way your UVP will align with your target market.
Next, you want to explain how you achieve results for your customers. Case in point, Active Campaign (see below) connects their offering (email marketing, automations, and CRM) to the benefit of “creating incredible customer experiences.”
Finally you want to be clear about who you’re talking to. You can name your audience but you don’t have to. You can talk about their goals instead. Case in point, Appcues doesn’t explicitly name their potential customers, but they make it clear that they serve people who want to “convert new users into raving fans.”
A good unique value proposition answers these questions
There are generally 3-4 visual elements that make up a unique value proposition: Heading, 2-3 line subheading, bullet points, and a visual element. You don’t need to have all 4 of these but you should at least have a heading and a subheading.
A great example of a unique value proposition that appeals to potential customers is Active Campaign’s.
What does Active Campaign do? Email marketing, automation, and CRM tools.
Why should you care? You can create incredible customer experiences.
What makes them unique? They go beyond automations.
If you don’t get the UVP right, people won’t know what you do and they’ll leave.
Remember. Time spans are short. Bottom line up front. Don’t make potential customers dig for answers to their biggest questions
One of the highest paid copywriters of the 1950s and 60s only wrote for three hours a day. For 33 minutes at a time.
Eugene Schwartz was able to support his lifestyle living in Manhattan and growing what would become one of the nations leading collections of contemporary art on a 15 HOUR WORK WEEK.
Schwartz could get away with writing for such a short amount of time because his copy was already written for him.
“The first step, therefore — the essential step — in turning an item into an ad, is turning yourself into a listener.”
The majority of Schwartz’s copy was spoken to him. Before he wrote anything, he would record his interviews with business owners, customers, and even competitors. Then he would just cherry pick the best words that he felt would be meaningful to potential customers.
Today we call this Voice of Customer data. And it’s the foundation for good copywriting.
The premise is this: the more you sound like your customers, the more revenue you’ll generate. People want to feel heard before they make a purchase. VOC data is the perfect way to connect with potential customers.
You can collect this VOC data in one of two ways: email surveys and in-person interviews
You can’t just assume that people will gladly fill out your survey. You need to be very strategic here.
The best example of this strategy is when I got an email from the founder of one of my favorite clothing brands. When I saw her name in the subject line I was like
Best believe I filled out that survey right away. It was only after I finished the survey that I realize they had thrown in a discount code for people who filled it out.
Two things to learn here. First. The person who sends the survey matters. If I had gotten the email from a generic, no reply address, I wouldn’t have bothered opening it.
Second, offer a thank you gift for people who fill out your form.
Now let’s get into optimizing the form itself. With every question you ask, people have two options: answer the question or quit. The more questions you ask the more chances you give for people to quit. So keep your surveys short. Five questions is generally plenty.
Make the first and last questions easy ones. Asking for a name or a one word answer, for example.
My favorite questions to ask in email surveys are
I like to use Typeform to send surveys but there are plenty of other options you can choose from.
You definitely have more freedom with in person interviews than with surveys. You can ask more follow up questions and get more clarity when you’re speaking with someone face to face.
Speaking of face to face, you want to do this face to face. You don’t have to be in person (Thanks ‘Rona) but you should be on video. At the least, the interviewee should be able to see your face.
Why? It’s a great way to put someone at ease. Plus, we tend to be more focused if we’re looking at someone vs just being on the phone.
Case in point while I was on the phone with my cousin this morning I was also cleaning the kitchen and trying not to burn my breakfast. Safe to say she didn’t have my undivided attention.
Now, in order to avoid scribbling down notes the whole interview, just ask permission to record it. That way you can be in the moment and focus on asking the right questions.
Start out the interview casually. There’s no need to jump right into business. If you can build rapport in the first few minutes by simply being interested in the person you’re speaking with, you’ll get more honest answers.
The type of questions you want to avoid are why. Why, you ask? This kind of question is great for discovering something alongside someone, but not for interviewing them. In an interview “Why” can come off as if you’re pointing the finger, or as if there’s a right answer.
Ask questions more along the lines of, “How come” or “What made you decide to do that.” Keep in mind that people don’t always have a linear thought process. So asking open ended questions allows the interviewee to give honest feedback without feeling like there’s a right answer.
The whole point of VOC data is this. Your potential customer needs to see themself in your words, not just hear about your brand or your product
Having words to start with also saves you from staring at a blank page waiting for inspiration to strike.
Deciding what to include on your home page is one of the hardest things for a copywriter. You don’t want to have too much information, but you also don’t want people to feel lost. You want to tell a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. In that order.
You need to have information for every stage in the buyer process. From people who have just recognized their problem, to people who are ready to buy.
But before you even start organizing the copy for your website, you need to have a clear exit goal. Unless you’re an eCommerce store, the final purchase doesn’t happen on your website. Which means you have to send visitors somewhere.
Where you send potential customers depends on your business. It might be scheduling a call, it might be requesting a demo. Once you’ve established the exit goal, make sure your CTA copy clearly reflects that.
Now it’s time to create an outline for the copy that will push readers towards that exit goal. The most straightforward way to do this is to follow the reader’s train of thought. Frame your copy around questions that they’ll ask.
Here are 7 questions you should answer on your home page, ideally in this order.
Each question builds on the previous question. By the end you’ve laid out a solid argument of why a potential customer should respond to your call to action.
Just create sections of copy and headlines that answer these questions and you’ll be looking at a persuasive home page that makes sense.
When it comes to other pages on your website you want to follow the same principles. Make sure you follow the reader’s train of thought. Don’t start your story in the middle.
For example, your about page should start with how you help your customers. Your sales page should start with the problem that you solve.
Nobody wants to stare at a continuous block of text.
Your website needs to be easy to scan. So let’s take it from the top.
Headlines are THE most important copy on your website. Ideally, you want people to understand your content by just reading your headlines because let’s be honest, the chances of them reading the rest of your copy is slim to none.
You want your headlines to be informative but also eye catching. Never use boiler plate language for a headline. Words like “innovative” and “disruptive” are a waste of space on your headline.
When it comes to headlines, you want to sound like a person. Specifically, the person you’re marketing to.
When Joanna Wiebe of Copyhackers was hired as a copywriter for Dressipi, she looked to forums for inspiration. The original headline “Clothes you’ll love, perfect for your shape and style,” just didn’t sound anything like the way most people talk about their bodies.
So after doing voice of customer research on Reddit and searching for copy inspiration, they came up with the new headline, “Big bum? Thick waist? Not-so-perky-boobs? Find outfits you’ll look fab in - just as you are.” They updated the CTA to say show me outfits I'll love.
Underneath the headlines you can break up your text in a few different ways: short paragraphs, bullets, or lists.
Within your text use typography to draw the reader to important words on your page. Create contrast using complementary fonts, different font weights, and different font color. This is something I’ve done on my own website and it makes my copy easy to read.
There’s no need to guess if your copy is working or not.
With software like Google Optimize and Crazy Egg, you can know without a doubt if your visitors liked your new copy or not.
What these programs will do is split your web traffic for you so that part of the web traffic sees version A, and the remainder see version B.
Next, establish a goal for the software to measure. For example you can track whether changing the value proposition on your header makes more people click the CTA.
Depending on how much traffic your website gets you’ll want to run the test for two weeks to one month.
I use Crazy Egg for all of my projects. It lets you know when you’ve collected enough data that actually represents the overall pattern of user behavior on your website i.e. statistically significant. Crazy Egg will even push more traffic to the version of your website that is achieving more results.
While you can test any copy on your website, focus on what will generate the most returns: headlines and calls to action.
As we saw earlier, a simple change to your headline and CTA can double your revenue. And if you noticed in the previous example, the body copy didn’t change at all. Those gains were achieved by just changing the most effective copy.
And if ya don’t know, now ya know.
Got anymore questions on copywriting? Feel free to message me on LinkedIn or send me an email at email@example.com