How to write website copy that sells: A 3-phase process
If your website is your business’s digital home or storefront, the words on your website (aka your website copy) are the helpful host or sales associate. Your website copy is responsible for informing and guiding your reader so they can take action, whether that’s clicking to the next page, booking a call, or purchasing something.
Writing website copy that sells (or converts in some other way) takes much more than stringing words together so they sound nice. It takes a careful process rooted in strategy and creativity, just like our left-brain-right-brain approach to web design does.
So where do you start? (Hint: it’s not with writing.)
In this post, we’re giving you an inside look into the 3-phase process for writing website copy that sells.
But first, what does “good” website copy look like?
Before getting into the website copy process, let’s paint a picture of the end goal.
Website copy is different from other types of content like blog posts or articles. Yes, it requires good writing and storytelling. But it also:
- Needs to hone in on your business’s core objective. It needs to be persuasive so it encourages readers to explore your offers.
- It needs to have a personality—your brand’s personality. When you read it, it should be unmistakably aligned with your business and the feelings you want to evoke.
- Lastly, it has to take the user experience into account. Very few people read every word on a website, so it’s important to make your copy scannable.
You can make your website copy scannable by:
- Making your copy as clear as possible—don’t leave any room for confusion
- Writing in shorter sentences and paragraphs
- Using lots of headings and subheadings that get your point across
- Writing in your audience’s language (i.e. don’t use jargon they don’t recognize)
- Writing clear calls to action so visitors know exactly what to expect when they click
With all this in mind, let’s dive into Phase 1 of the 3-phase process for writing website copy that sells.
Phase 1 of writing website copy that sells: Strategy
Before you type a single word, you need to set some brand foundations. This involves developing a strategy for how you will articulate your brand’s mission, values, unique selling points, and even your tone of voice. That’s how you take your brand from ordinary to extraordinary.
This could be a whole blog post on it’s own, but here are some brand messaging questions to start with:
- What is our competition doing? How are we different?
- What kind of vibe or feelings do we want our copy to give off? How do we describe our personality?
- What stands out about our process and how exactly does it benefit our customers?
- What does our brand care about?
- What are our values and how do they affect how we work?
- What is our overarching mission and vision?
On top of your brand messaging strategy, you need to develop a strategy for your website itself. This strategy has to establish how you will guide your visitors from Point A to Point B.
To clarify your website strategy, consider questions like these:
- What are my main goals with my website?
- Where are most of my visitors coming from?
- Where do I want visitors to end up?
- What do my visitors need to believe before they will take action?
- What pages do I need so visitors can easily find what they’re looking for?
- What is the purpose for each page? What action do I want them to take on each one?
- How do I break the information up into digestible sections?
It’s only after establishing these strategic elements that you can move onto the next phase in the copywriting process: research.
Phase 2 of writing website copy that sells: Research
You likely already have some insight into your customers and competitors, but taking the time to do additional research will help you fill in the blanks. Think of it this way: The research phase provides solid proof to support and build upon your strategy so you can write the most compelling copy possible.
When writing website copy, you might tackle 3 main pillars of research:
1. Customer Research
Your goal with this pillar is to get inside the heads of your ideal customers. You can do this by conducting interviews, sending out surveys, and reviewing your existing testimonials.
You want to ask your ideal customers things like:
- What were they struggling with before working with you?
- What are/were their goals?
- What caused them to look for a business like yours?
- What objections did they need to overcome before buying from/working with a business like yours?
This is all intel that will help make your copy much more impactful. The goal is to identify with your ideal customer’s struggles and appeal to their desires by highlighting the most relevant benefits of your offers.
Researching your competitors gives you insight into what works well in your industry—and what doesn’t. It also helps you spot gaps and ideas for differentiating yourself.
For example, perhaps you can use a more casual tone than your competitors. Or maybe you can structure the layout of your services page in a unique way that’s more helpful to visitors.
We don’t suggest obsessing over your competitors. But, by thoughtfully examining them, you may discover ways you can use your copy to stand out from the noise.
3. Keyword Research
If search engine optimization (or SEO) is part of your marketing strategy, you’ll want to identify keywords to leverage in your copy.
That handy-dandy customer research you did will help you determine what kinds of questions and phrases your ideal customers might be Googling. For example, if your customers told you it was important for them to find a local business coach that specializes in creative service providers, you might brainstorm keywords like “business coach for creatives, [city]” and “photography business coach, [city].”
You can then use SEO keyword tools like Keywords Everywhere, Moz, or Ubersuggest to nail down the perfect phrases to target.
Phase 3 of writing website copy that sells: Write
Yep. Writing doesn’t come in until the third phase of the copywriting process!
Once your strategy is crafted and your research has given you intel to leverage in your copy, you’re ready to put hands to keyboard.
Start by organizing the information you need to cover on each page (based on your strategy). Then, start fleshing it out.
Write with your brand strategy at the core. Keep it engaging, concise, clear, and compelling. Remember, less is more when it comes to website copy. But don’t be afraid to infuse some personality.
And, as we mentioned at the beginning of this post, do not forget to format your copy so it’s skimmable. Use short paragraphs, headings, lists, and clear buttons to make things easy on your reader.
Here are a few key tips for writing strong website copy:
- Leverage your brand personality but be clear before clever
- Ask someone outside your business to read over your copy and summarize what you’re offering and what the next step should be (if they’re unsure at all, revisit it)
- Write headings that help readers understand what the page is about without needing to read all the body copy
- Aim for a grade 5-7 reading level on the Hemingway App
- Try to limit paragraphs to about 3 sentences
- Incorporate FAQ sections where appropriate
- Write each page with a goal in mind and an action you want your reader to take
Wondering if you should DIY your copy or invest in a professional?
As you can see, the copywriting process is, well, a process. It takes time and skill to craft copy that both captivates your readers and helps boost conversions. Even if you’re a strong writer, it can be a lot to tackle, especially as a busy business owner.
As web designers, we want our clients’ websites to be the best they can possibly be. That’s why we strongly believe, if you invest in professional design, chances are you should invest in professional copywriting too. It will only make your beautiful, strategic web design all the more worth it.
If you’re still unsure, check our post that covers 5 reasons you should invest in professional copywriting for more information.