Tag Archives: how to write great site copy

How to Write Compelling Copy for the Modern Web

Is your copy doing as much for your business’s website as it could? Both an art and a science, copywriting must take into account personality and eloquence while also appealing to a target demographic and being compelling enough to be effective. In short, it’s harder than it seems.

We’ve previously posted a multi-part guide on writing content, but this was more geared towards blogwriting. Copywriting is a totally different animal, and therefore worthy of a whole separate set of tips and guidelines.

Obviously both blogposts and copy are comprised of text, but the main difference between them is generally a call to action. The copy’s purpose is to drive your reader to an action (such as to buy your product or fill out your contact us form), while the blogpost may just be informational or interesting. Since the goal of copy is different, your style has to be adjusted accordingly.

Things get a little tricker though when you consider the state of the modern web and how people access it. Every day, the number of people visiting the Internet on a mobile device is climbing. This means the size of the average screen being used to view your website is getting smaller all the time, and your copy (as well as your design) should take this into account, which brings us to our first point…

Keep it short. 
Decide what the most important one to three points you want to get across on each page are, and write one to three sentences to convey them. Visitors (and especially mobile visitors) are looking for information fast – so give it to them fast. If you absolutely must have more copy than three sentences…

Break up paragraphs.
Visually, breaking up your paragraphs will make your copy easier to read, but separating sections of copy will also help to define a hierarchy of importance. Put your main one to three points in the first paragraph. Then, if more information is needed, put that in a second short paragraph. The next-most important information can go in the third paragraph, and so on. Readers can then self-select where they want to stop reading, but they’ll have certainly taken away your most important points since you put them in the first paragraph.

Be conversational.
This doesn’t mean you have to use the first or second person, though you certainly can. The idea behind conversational copy is to make reading and comprehending your copy nearly thoughtless. Use simple sentence structure and stay away from advanced vocabulary. Have a friend or colleague read over your copy and ask if they had to go back to read anything more than once. If so, revise.

Only use superlatives you can backup.
If you find yourself walking around New York City, just about every block has a shop touting that they have “The Best Pizza in New York.” The claim no longer means anything. However, “‘The Best Pizza in New York’ – NYT” has a lot more power. Superlatives tend to make customers suspicious or doubtful, so make sure your superlatives are backed up by testimonials or facts to pack a real punch.

Recognize the difference between ‘need’ and ‘want’.
This may vary based on your business, but chances are good that your product or service is not a basic human need. Your copy should tap into readers’ wants with copy that evokes desire and interest, not urgent necessity. Ways to do this would be to hype the “cool-factor” of your product or the competitive advantage your service can offer.

Write in phases.
Try writing your next bit of copy in four phases like this:

  • Phase 1: Define key points and write one to three sentences just conveying those points as simply as possible.
  • Phase 2: Rewrite with desired tone and personality as though you were talking directly to a customer.
  • Phase 3: Rewrite for SEO, using targeted key phrases.
  • Phase 4: Read your copy aloud. Resimplify by cutting as much superfluous text as possible.

Challenge: Pick one page on your website and rewrite the copy keeping these tips in mind. If you have access to an A/B testing module, run your new copy through a test!