A stellar design isn't the only thing your website needs to stand out and engage your audience. It all boils down to what you put on it. Writing web copy can be a challenge because it's completely different from any other writing style.
However, if you follow a few simple rules, you'll be well on your way to creating compelling copy that converts. Here's everything you need to know about structuring and writing content for the web.
Table of Contents
Prioritize your content and lead with your value proposition
In most cases, people intend to do one of two things when they visit your website — get information, or do something (like book an appointment). If what they're looking for isn't readily available or obvious, they're likely to navigate elsewhere.
With this in mind, you should be ready to prioritize your content to suit the needs of your customers or prospective clients. In most cases, we suggest leading your content with a striking value proposition that quickly differentiates your product or service from a competitor's.
Learn more about value propositions:
- How to Craft an Effective Value Proposition
- 4 Steps To Building A Compelling Value Proposition
- How to Create a Unique Value Proposition (with Examples)
- 7 of the Best Value Proposition Examples We’ve Ever Seen
Make your content scannable and easy to read
Make the assumption that your website visitors won't have the time, energy, or interest to read every bit of content that you've written. Highlight the most important points by formatting your content in a way that is more convenient and digestible for readers.
Here are a few tips:
- Break up big paragraphs
- Use subheadings
- Bold the significant points
- Use bullet points
If you think your content is any more engaging than the next, or that your readers are any different — I promise you that it isn't, and they aren't.
- Reality Check: 40% of Your Article Goes Right Down the Drain
- You Won’t Finish This Article — Why people online don’t read to the end.
- Don’t Cringe: Here Are 12 Blog Editing Strategies to Make Every Word Powerful
Be mindful of your search engine optimization goals
No professional website should be stuffed with keywords, but you should still be mindful of SEO best practices when creating your content. Focus on using wording that delivers your message best, but take advantage of opportunities to optimize your content for SEO when possible.
Here are some of the places it's valuable to include keywords in your content:
- Page title
- In the first paragraph
- Naturally throughout the body text
- Alt tags
- Image filename
- Meta description
Make it focused
When a user visits one of your web pages, it should be easy for them to understand what it's about. All the elements on a particular page should serve a single purpose. For example, you can have testimonials and case studies together on one page because they both serve as social proof for your product. However, putting a product tour and your FAQ together doesn't make sense and could confuse readers when they reach the page.
Start by setting a specific goal for each of your site pages (e.g., illustrate your product's features), then create content that works towards that goal alone.
Make it visual
Pairing your written copy with visual elements has many benefits for your site visitors. Research has shown that when content includes images, people can remember 65% of the information after three days, compared to 10% for content without images.
So as visual grows to become the dominant content-type on the web, people have come to expect it when they visit websites. Mobile users who visit your site don't want to find a bland page full of text — they want visual elements to help their understanding of the content.
Stock images are a start, but there are plenty of other ways to include visual elements in your pages. Photos or screenshots of your products or team, informative video clips, graphs, and infographics can help make your pages more memorable as well.
Crypto20, for example, created a great visual timeline of their cryptocurrency mining process for site visitors:
Consider your audience
If you want to write web copy that communicates effectively with all your site visitors, you need to consider the knowledge, needs, and expectations of your audience.
For example, it's okay to use industry jargon on your site if your target audience is advanced-level professionals in your niche. A website for a dental practice wouldn't want to use the term "resin infiltration" instead of the general term everyone understands — a filling!
If your business/product is novel, you may also need to create new jargon for it. Your content should help inform your audience about the meaning of these new words.
Write as you speak
Your web copy serves as your virtual salesman and customer service representative. Visiting a website can't compare to chatting with a representative in person, but you should do whatever you can to make the experience similar.
So stay away from bland descriptions or overly-salesy web copy. Instead, write like you're chatting with someone face-to-face. To do this, try writing your copy then read it out loud to another person.
Vary your sentences
Avoid creating repetitive web copy by varying the words you use and your sentence structure. Here's an example of a paragraph that does this poorly:
Our agency is the best PR agency in Manhattan. Our goal is to help businesses become Manhattan's most renowned. Our agency can help with a variety of PR tasks, including…
Change up the wording and sentence structure, and it sounds so much better:
They say we're the best PR agency in Manhattan. We have a goal of making businesses the most renowned in the city. Our team can help with a variety of PR tasks, including…
Look for and eliminate repetitive words in your copy, especially at the beginning and end of sentences.
If you want your web copy to stand out from your competitors, avoid clichés like the plague (including that one). Clichés aren't just everyday colloquial sayings that you can easily pick out of web copy. They can also be language specific to your industry/niche.
To test for this, try going through your web copy and substitute your business name with one of your competitors'. Does everything your copy says still make sense? If it does, that means your content is too generic (too cliché for your industry) to stand out from the rest.
Be the expert
If you want your audience to pay attention to and value your web copy, you need to write like you're the expert. Use an authoritative tone and state your claims as fact. No "We think our product is great because…" Instead use: "Our product is great because…" Then use statistics and other data to back up your points.
Jargon and complicated writing don't necessarily help you come off as an expert. Instead, focus on creating sentences that illustrate confidence in your business/product.
Tell a story
Web copy can so often come off as bland. On the other end of the spectrum, it can seem salesy. Storytelling is one way you can avoid both of these issues with your writing. Tell a story that engages readers while conveying all the information you need.
Here's an example of great storytelling from NGO MAG International's "About" page:
Storytelling is a very captivating way to describe what your business (or in their case, NGO) is all about.
Use positive language
If you want readers to remember your website in a positive way, then focus on using positive language in your text. Copywriters often fall astray with this when trying to address audience pain points. Compare Wasting too much time on social media marketing? Try our new tool! to Save time and get ahead with social media marketing. Try our new tool!
Negative language is a valuable tactic you can use to help illustrate the need people have for your product/services. Just make sure 90% of your web copy focuses on good things about your product, not bad things about not having it.
Use simple language
School is the first place most of us learn professional writing. The more complex language you use for your English essay, the smarter you sound.
However, writing for the web is a different animal. There's no need to use unnecessarily complex vernacular when simple, everyday words will do the trick. Also the more jargon you use in your web copy, the more likely you'll alienate some of your site visitors who aren't familiar with it.
Write, then cut down
Writing is a process. You try to create sentences that get your message across, and nine times out of 10, they end up being more complex than they need to be.
That's why you should always edit down your web copy. Create a draft, then look for opportunities to break up your sentences or make them shorter. In some cases, whole paragraphs can go from your copy because you're repetitive. Write, then cut down.
Get help when you need it
Not all of us are writers. Some business owners still insist on writing their own web copy when they really shouldn't. If writing isn't your strong point, then enlist the help of others. You want your web copy to be memorable and help drive your marketing goals, and professional writers are positioned to help.
Of course, writing isn't the only part of creating web copy you might need help with. Keyword research, on-page SEO, and creating unique visuals are all advanced tasks that you want to do right.
Your website may only exist on computer screens and mobile phones, but it's still an amazingly powerful tool to communicate with your audience and encourage them to act. All you need to do is create compelling copy that's easy to digest and works towards your marketing goals. These 15 rules are all you need to make it happen.