It’s a Swiss Army Knife
Swiss Army knives pack a megaton payload of bitchin functionality. Bottle opener? Check. Awl? Check. Magnifying glass? Check. And that’s just on one side! Is there another tool on the entire earth that you can use to darn some socks, remove a splinter, pop a beer top, and inspect some clues? I submit that there is not.
Similarly, your website content needs to be a Pandora’s box of multipurpose wizardry. Over the last 8 years I’ve worked with a lot of clients and have come across web copy that was thrown up (pun intended) in a matter of minutes as well as businesses who made an earnest attempt to create some good web content. Your site content needs to do more than make an attempt. It has to fulfill so many different functions that, unless you get really lucky, the chances of your self-written content meeting those needs is very slim. Slim to none, in fact.
What Does Effective Website Copy Do?
Like the Labors of Hercules, your website content has some impressive goals to accomplish.
- It meets SEO best-practices
- It converts customers
- It communicates your brand voice and culture
- It has accurate grammar and punctuation
- It has simple instructions
Like I said, these are some daunting goals that you need to accomplish with your website content. We haven’t even started talking about blogs, social media posts, and marketing copy either! Let’s take a look at each of these goals to see how effective website copy accomplishes them.
SEO Changes with the Seasons
Your website needs to show up when someone Googles keywords related to your business. To do that, your content has to be written with those search keywords strategically placed throughout the copy. Seems easy, right? Wrong! Every few months, search engines like Google and Bing change how they calculate your website’s relevance to those search terms. So that means you have to stay up on the latest news from the SEO world to ensure that your site’s content stays within the search engines’ rules. If it doesn’t, your site could suffer penalties and not show up in search results anymore. Plus, even if you do everything right there’s really no guarantee that your efforts will pay off.
Free tip: If you’re not sure how many of your inbound leads come from Google searches consider asking your customers. You can ask them in person or add a “How did you find us?” question to your checkout process or website.
Content with a Focus on Conversion
Once you have a visitor on your site, your web copy (along with the design) have to separate them from their money. Your copy must convince them to make a purchase, schedule service with you, or perform some other desired action. There needs to be prominent calls to action (CTAs), compelling headlines, and convincing copy all combined with strategic design to make it as easy as possible for your website visitor to understand why they need your product and then to buy it.
But there isn’t one silver bullet to do this. Getting good conversion rates takes time and intentional experimentation with copy and page design variations. Converting visitors is as much art as it is science and data.
Free tip: Try running a simple experiment with a call to action on your website. For example, if you have a button or line of text that says something like “Call us today!” try changing it to “Call for a free quote” or something like that. Make sure you only change one thing at a time!
Brand Voice Means Effective Website Copy is Subjective
What constitutes “effective” website copy can vary from one business to another. Take a company like Red Bull. Their website and social media copy will vary greatly from that of an organization like the AARP. The reason is two-fold. First, their target audience couldn’t be more different: Red Bull writes to young people while the AARP talks to seasoned citizens. Second, the companies’ goals are different. Red Bull is selling a lifestyle and a beverage while AARP is a multifaceted coalition for people over 50.
But their site content will have one thing in common: it uses the language of the target demographic to express the value of the company’s product and culture. This is something that many businesses overlook: the feeling that your website content gives to your visitors and readers. From the minute they land on your page they begin to formulate an opinion of your business based on what they see and read. You have to make sure that the voice in which your content is written expresses what your company is about.
Free tip: Building a brand voice takes time and thoughtful introspection. A good place to start is to write down the top 5 values of your company. They could be things like customer service, loyalty, honesty, etc. From there you can look at the appearance of your site and logo. Are they industrial, modern, minimalistic, earthy, rugged, beachy, quirky? These things contribute to the “character” voice that you’re building for your company.
You Can Write Good?
If you’re reading this then I can safely guess that you also have the ability to write. But that may not mean that you should attempt to write the content for your website. The accuracy of your grammar and punctuation go a long way to making your content more readable. That’s the whole point of punctuation!
I definitely understand (very well) that some businesses can’t abide the expense of paying a writer to create the content for their site. If that’s the case for you, jump on my email list to get weekly tips and ideas on how to get great website copy.
Free tip: The most common grammar violation that I see in self-written content is the run-on sentence. Keep your sentences short. If you’re not sure when to break the sentence, read it aloud and let your ear will tell you where to drop in the period.
Make Any Instructions or Details Simple
If visitors to your website need to read any kind of technical instructions for your product or service, those instructions must be written so that anyone can understand them. And I do mean anyone. I sometimes see it where a business tries to explain the benefits of their product in language that is too technically advanced. This happens often with service-related businesses that need to convince customers to get regular service, maintenance, or upgrades.
Free tip: A good exercise is to explain the concept as if you’re talking to a five year-old.
How to Get Effective Website Copy
As you can see, the job that your website copy has to do gets really big really fast when you start to pull it apart. Like I said before, we haven’t even touched social media and blogs. Both of those fit into this puzzle in very interesting ways and we’ll explore those later in other blogs posts.
Of course, as a content writer, I think the best way to get effective website copy is to have someone like me write it. I wouldn’t be doing this if I didn’t believe that!
But if you want to go it alone, I’m certainly not going to stop you.
I do offer some free tips (like you see above) each week so make sure you subscribe to my email list below to help you on your way. Thanks for reading!