Writing your own web copy can be a complete pain in the bum. It’s a job that you put off. You might start, spend an hour on it then get stuck and bored and leave it. Trust me. I’m there right now.
Writing your own web copy can be tricky. You’re so close to it, trying to work out what your audience doesn’t know becomes difficult because you already know it.
It’s a necessary evil. If you need a website, then you need the copy to go on it. That gives you two choices. Do it yourself, or get someone else to do it. Budgets don’t always allow for the second choice, so, let’s roll up our sleeves and look at some basic rules to follow to create engaging and effective copy for your website and your business.
What are the rules for writing your web copy?
Visitors won’t read everything
This isn’t something to be offended by, chances are even your most loyal customer won’t have read everything on your website. Think about when you go on a site.
Do you read every word or do you scan the headlines, bullet points, maybe the first paragraph?
A 2008 study found that only 28% of the text on average is read by a visitor. Not only that but the Missouri University of Science and Technology found that users only spent around 5.59 seconds scanning the content. Yikes.
When you write your web copy you need to keep those stats in mind and think about how you can make the most impact in that time.
Make use of:
- Big, bold, punchy headings.
- Short sentences that are easy to read.
- Bullet-points or lists.
- Highlighting key phrases.
You can make an impact in 5.59 seconds. It just requires thought and planning.
2. Write how you talk
I’m a big believer in this one (surprise surprise!) The easiest way to create accessible, interesting content is to model it on how you talk.
Now I’m not saying you should include everything you would say, but steer away from the jargon and the formal end of the language spectrum.
The best way to check this is to read your work aloud. You might sound a bit crazy doing it but I promise it works. When you read things aloud you find the clunky sentences, the weird sentences that don’t sound right, where you’ve used the wrong word.
Reading it out loud lets you hear how someone will be reading it. If it doesn’t sound right, you’ll notice. I do this for ALL of my written work.
There is a feature built into Word that reads it for you, give that a try. My personal preference is to have the words come out of my mouth, it’s the best way to feel how the content sounds.
I know that sounds weird but give it a try and let me know how you get on.
3. Don’t wait until the end
We’ve already learnt that you need to make an impact in 5.59 seconds. That makes this point critical – don’t leave the most important part until the end. Put all your eggs up front and centre, not tucked away in your basket.
In school and through TV, books and films we’re taught to build suspense and drama before reaching a climax. Forget that. Put that out of your mind. You want to be upfront and grab your audience’s attention with that information.
There’s a term in design ‘above the fold line’. Think of a newspaper and where it’s folded – that’s the fold line. For websites, the fold line is generally thought to be the bottom of your screen, where you have to scroll down to find more.
When writing your content and considering the layout, you need to make sure that above the fold line you let your audience know who you are, what you’re about and why they should care about that. That’s the time to grab their attention and for them to realise if they’re in the right place.
Of course, you need to build a broader picture, provide all the information and tell them what to do next but do that at the bottom of the page.
4. Be active, not passive
Don’t worry we aren’t going to get into fronted adverbials here! Instead, a gentle tip to use the active voice in your writing. Instead of writing “services can be booked through our website” try “You can book services through our website”.
Makes a difference doesn’t it?
The active voice will perk up your writing, making it snappier and more reader-friendly.
5. Check it, then check it and finally check it again!
When I write any copy for a client I factor in time to leave it. Normally 24 hours will do the trick. That’s long enough to forget what I’ve written. Why is that important? Go back to point 1. Read it aloud and check for any inconsistencies or weird bits.
Then get someone else to read it. Bonus points if they don’t know your business. Ask them to check if it makes sense and if things are explained fully. You want enough people to find all the mistakes, and there will be mistakes, but not so many that you get overwhelmed with feedback and changes.
You might want to consider paying a proofreader to check it over for you if writing and grammar really aren’t your thing. That doesn’t have to be expensive but could be worth it to avoid embarrassing mistakes.
6. It’s not set in stone
There comes a point in every project where you need to stop. You need to create copy for your website that’s good enough. It might not be perfect but is anything ever truly perfect?
The beauty of a website is that it’s easy to make quick fixes too. Don’t compromise on the quality of your website copy. But don’t obsess over it.
Spend time to create the best copy you can, check it, make some edits, check it again. Then have the balls to press publish. Even if you notice an error 5 minutes later you can change it.
Absolutely hate it after you publish? Scrap it and start again! You can always bring in an expert at this point to do it for you.
Top tip: Save a version of all your original web copy in case you want to use that instead.
7. Be yourself!
Of course, I was always going to end on this! There’s only one you, that’s what makes your business so amazing and unique. Be you. In everything you write, show your personality, your humour and your quirks. That’s what will make readable, engaging content.
Don’t be afraid to be yourself – maybe don’t reveal your deepest, darkest secrets but show your audience what makes you human. It’ll help them connect with you before they even talk to you, and that’s what will set you apart from everyone else.
Writing your web copy can be daunting. But don’t let it be. Focus on one page at a time and write as though you’re having a chat with your friend. Be upfront, honest and straight to the point. That’s the secret to great web copy. Also, remember that if you try and really can’t do it there are people you can pay to do it for you!
If you’re still struggling, send me a message and let’s work it out together!
Tell your audience what to do next. Make it big, bold and simple. What is the next step? Reading another page? Sending you a message? Booking a call? Doesn’t matter what it is. Just do it, on every page, one clear call-to-action.