A B Copywriting

Hand writing in notebook - guide to writing website copy

A guide to writing website copy (+ a website copy checklist)

Website copywriting can make or break your business.

Sloppy copy makes website visitors click back to search results. But great website copy helps to convince and convert them. That’s because great web copy:

  • Builds rapport and shows empathy for customer problems
  • Gives customers all the info they need to make a decision
  • Presents your offering as the obvious solution
  • Encourages users to click, make an enquiry or make a purchase

Crafting web page copy that ticks these boxes is a challenge. Many would argue that it’s a job best left to a professional copywriter.

But I work with lots of small business owners. So I know that sometimes needs must. You haven’t budgeted for a website copywriter so you have to do it yourself.

So how do you stop DIY copy from turning into a total disaster? Start by taking a look at this post – my beginner’s guide to writing website copy plus a website copy checklist.

A guide to writing website copy

Step 1: Customer research

Before you put pen to paper, you need to do some research. First up, it’s voice of customer (VOC) research.

When you conduct VOC research, you find out why customers choose a product or service like yours. You find out what stops them from choosing a product or service like yours.

You also discover the words they tend to use when describing the problem they face and the solution you provide.

This is all really useful data to have when deciding what you want to say on your website and how you want to say it.

To do VOC research, you can use any customer data you already have. That might include:

  • Product demo recordings
  • Customer email queries
  • Customer surveys
  • Customer reviews

Of course, if you need web copy for a new business you don’t have this customer info to hand. In this case, you do the next best thing.

Find lookalike businesses – those who offer the same product or service as you. Then look at the reviews people leave for these businesses on sites like Amazon, TrustPilot and Google.

You’ll see what they value in a product or service like yours. And what really bugs them too.

Once you’ve gathered your VOC research, you can use it to:

  • Inform the language you use – use the same words as your customers and you’re more likely to catch their attention
  • Put your copy in the most effective order – start by countering the main objection customers have to your product or service, then move on down your list
  • Speed up the writing process – because you know what potential customers need to hear

Step 2: Clarify your brand voice

The second point on this website copy checklist is all to do with your brand voice.  

Your brand voice helps to convey your brand personality. It informs the words you choose and the tone you use. And it can make all the difference to how your copy lands.

Take a look at these examples:

Professional and formal: Please contact us for more information.

Chatty and down-to-earth: Drop us a line for more info.  

Casual and irreverent: Want the lowdown? Hit us up for deets!

You can see how each version creates a really different effect.

Done right, brand voice helps you connect with your audience. It makes a lasting impression. And – when you develop a consistent voice – it helps customers to trust you too.

So how do you go about developing a brand voice for your website copy?

Start by looking at your company values. What does your brand represent? What is its mission? What makes you different from other brands?

Then think about your ideal customer(s) and how they’d like to be talked to.

Look at how your competitors are talking to customers. Is everyone in the sector adopting a similar brand voice? Could you adopt a very different voice and stand out from the crowd?

Then, define your brand. Imagine your brand as a person and write down three adjectives that describe it. Try to be as specific as possible to create a distinctive voice.

With all your brand research in mind, create a brand voice guide. This is a document where you outline the tone, language and style you want to use. You can refer back to this regularly to ensure your voice stays consistent.  

Step 3: Map out your pages

Next up on the web copy checklist, you need to decide which pages you want to write. You almost definitely need to include:

  • Homepage
  • Product or service pages
  • About
  • Blog
  • Contact
  • 404 error page
  • Privacy policy
  • Terms and conditions

Depending on the type of products or services you provide, you may also want to include any of the following pages:

  • Portfolio
  • Gallery
  • Case studies
  • FAQs

When picking labels for your menu, make life as easy as possible for your website visitors. If you give vague or wacky names to menu items, visitors will find it difficult to navigate your site.

Picture of woman looking at map with a river behind her

Step 4: Keyword research

When it comes to keywords for your website, you’re looking for the SEO sweet spot. Keywords that get lots of searches each month and are relatively easy to rank for.

Established websites generally have the upper hand in search results. They have more content and therefore more keywords. They also have more backlinks, which is also good for SEO.

To stand up to the big boys, you need to think strategically. That means picking long tail keywords.

Imagine you’re a shop selling house plants in Manchester. Instead of trying to rank for “plant shop” which is really competitive, you can try to be more specific.

You might try to rank for “plant shop Manchester”. Or “house plant shop”. Or “horticulture store”. 

Using different words, adding a location and adding adjectives are all ways to find search terms that have lower levels of competition.

Generally, they’ll have a lower search volume too. But you need to start somewhere.

Start by using a free keyword tool like Google Keyword Planner. Type in words associated with your business. Then filter to find low competition phrases (with a decent level of search volume) that you have a better chance of ranking for.

Group synonymous keywords together. For example, “freelance wedding photographer” and “wedding photography” belong on the same page.

Then allocate your keyword groups to the relevant web page.

If you’re just starting out with SEO and want to learn more about keyword research, check out this great guide from Moz.

Step 5: Decide on page structure

Your copy informs your page structure and vice versa. But it can be helpful to have a vague idea of the structure you want your web pages to follow.

Remember that users tend to read in an F layout. So you need to include your most important information at the top of each page.

You may also like to use one of the various copywriting formulas.

AIDA: Attention, interest, desire, action

Grab the attention of potential customers with an impactful headline. Raise their interest by giving them more information. Make customers desire your product or service by creating an emotional connection. Tell them how to take action. 

PAS: Pain, agitate, solution

Introduce a customer pain point. Agitate that pain point. Provide a solution (i.e. your product or service).

PPPP: Promise, picture, prove, push

Grab a customer’s attention by promising them something. Paint a picture of how your customer’s life will be improved because of what you’re promising. Prove how good the offer is. Push the customer to take action.

Step 6: Write web copy

Once you’ve done your research and you’ve decided if you’re going to use a copywriting formula, it’s time for the next step on the website copy checklist – writing the copy. 

When I write a webpage, I usually gather together all relevant research. I stick key messages, relevant VOC snippets, tone of voice guidance and keywords at the top of the page to act as my reference.

Then I get to work, making sure to follow these tips.  

Use your keywords

So you’ve done a ton of keyword research. It’s time to put it into action (without ruining the reader experience, of course).

Here are some of the places it’s good to include your keyword or its synonyms:

  • Page title
  • Sub headings
  • Body text
  • FAQs
  • Image titles and alt text

Be careful not to overdo it. Google penalises sites (by moving them further down search results) if it suspects them of keyword spamming. This is where you repeat a keyword more than is natural.

Short sentences

Some people worry that they’re dumbing down by using short sentences on their website. But it really is the best approach for digital content.

If you’re not convinced, try looking at a long paragraph of text on your phone. It helps illustrate just how overwhelming a big block of text can be when it’s squished onto a teeny screen.  

Not sure if your copy is short and sweet enough? Then use tools to get handy sentence stats.  

Grammarly tells you the average sentence and paragraph length of a piece of text. And the Hemingway editor highlights long sentences in either yellow (too long) or red (far too long).

Sub headings

As well as short sentences, the best web copy has short paragraphs – three sentences at most. You should also break up your text with plenty of subheadings. This helps readers skim your web copy to find information that’s relevant to them.

Customer benefits

We like to think that we’re rational decision-makers. But science tells us otherwise. Humans make the majority of their decisions based on emotion. So the best web copy plays to those emotions.

This is why you need to talk about product or service benefits.

Of course, product or service features are important. You need to tell your customer what your product or service actually does. Just remember that features don’t make the same emotional impact as benefits.

Compare the following sentences:

  • We’re an online store selling unique and beautiful gifts.
  • Find a one-of-a-kind gift that she’ll treasure forever.

In the first sentence, we’re focused on the features of the store and the gifts. In the second sentence, we’re customer-focused. We’re painting a picture of customer benefits; if they shop at this store, they can make someone they love feel special.

Trust signals

Trust signals show a potential customer that you’re a brand to be trusted. So they’re an essential part of your website.

Trust signals include:

  • Star ratings
  • The logos of clients you’ve worked with
  • Customer testimonials
  • Case studies
  • Links to publications you’ve been featured in  

Also, try to include your physical address and telephone number in the header or footer of your web pages. It’s reassuring for customers to know they can contact you if they have a problem.  

Calls to action

What do you want readers to do after reading a particular web page? Perhaps you want them to go from the home page to a product page. Or from a service page to a contact page.

Include clickable calls to action (CTAs) – in the form of buttons – that tell website visitors what you want them to do next.

A few rules of thumb:

  • Make CTAs relevant to the page and customer journey
  • Tell readers what they stand to gain by clicking
  • Don’t presume that website visitors will make it all the way to the bottom of a page – include CTAs throughout each of your web pages

Step 7: Add internal links

Once you’ve written a first draft of your web copy, you need to add some internal links. Links make it easy for users to move around your site. And they make it easy for Google to understand your site structure too.

Pages without any inbound links are called, rather dramatically, orphan pages.

Google finds it hard to locate orphan pages. Sometimes it doesn’t index an orphan page, which means it doesn’t show up in search results.

Even if Google does find your page, it’s unlikely that it’ll rank well. Every inbound link to a page is like a vote of approval. So Google is less likely to promote pages with few inbound links.

All of this means that you should add plenty of internal links to your website. These can be in the form of buttons, clickable icons and hyperlinked text. Just make sure they occur in logical places and provide value for a user.

Step 8: Edit

Time to make things even shorter and snappier.

Start by looking at any sentences where you use the word and. Consider whether the words on either side of your and are both 100% necessary to the sentence. If you can remove one, get it gone!

You can use writing tools like Grammarly or the Hemingway app to find long and complex sentences. Once you’ve found them, do your best to split them up.

Hemingway also points out places where you’ve used adverbs, passive voice and unnecessarily complicated words. These issues all weaken your copy. So do your best to get rid of them.

You can also get someone who doesn’t live and breathe your business to read your web copy. If they come away understanding your brand and your message, you’ve done a stellar job.

Step 9: Proof

A final proof read and you can send your web page copy over to your web design team. There’ll be further tweaks as the design comes to life. But well done! You’ve written most of your website copy. And can now turn your attention to updating your site with regular blog content

Website copy checklist

A website copy checklist for people wanting to write their own website copy

Unsure about DIY website copy? Get a website copywriter to do it instead!

Sometimes, the DIY route is the only route. But quality website copy, designed for conversions, will do so much more for your website than DIY efforts.

That’s because a professional website copywriter:

  • Is skilled in web copy research
  • Knows how to capture your brand tone of voice
  • Sees your brand from a fresh perspective
  • Crafts a compelling message and offer
  • Knows how to engage a customer and convince them to click

Another benefit of working with a website copywriter? You shrink this website copy checklist right down. There’s pretty much just one step – the web copy brief.

You tell your copywriter which pages you want your website to include. And give them any research you’ve already conducted into your customers, tone of voice and competitors.

Next, a copywriter will arrange a discovery call to find out even more about your business, product or services. And they’ll take responsibility for ticking the items off this web copy checklist.

Want professional website copy that boosts traffic and conversions? Get in touch and let’s chat about your project!

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