4 Steps to Writing Amazing Website Copy
When I build websites for small businesses, I ask them to provide me with three things pre-design: their branding (or a Pinterest inspiration board), their photos and their copy. And pictures of their dog if they have one, but that’s besides the point.
The most easily intimidating pre-design homework for most folks is copy (for people who are new to the terminology, “copy” is just another word for “text”). Website copy is important for the same reason it’s intimidating: it is how you describe your business to the world! You obviously know how fabulous your business is and you want to convey that awesomeness to others and you want to convey it well. And for folks who don’t count writing as one of their top skills, this can be a stressful task…but it doesn’t have to be! So I’m here to tell you two things:
1) You’re not alone! Even if you’re a great writer, it can be tough to write clear, thorough, effective copy when it comes to something you care a lot about (ahem, like the business you built on your back), and…
2) It’s easier than you think! And I’m about to walk you through it.
Step One: Outline
With a little planning, most things in life go a little bit smoother, and this is no different. In your outline, you’ll just list the information you know you’ll need/want on your website. You can go as in depth as you’d like or you can just sketch out the basics. I tend to “sketch,” myself. For instance, the outline for my website looked something like this:
Web Design services
Meet Renee/About Me
Pretty basic, right? That’s pretty much all you need!
Step Two: Figure Out Your Content
Next you’ll expand this outline by adding topics you know you’ll want to talk about under each page you outlined above.
For example, in an About Me/About [Business Name] section, you may want to talk about your experience, the history of the business, your mission statement, or other similar things. In a Services/Products page, you’ll (of course) want to talk about what you offer, describe what you provide, etc.
Again, I’ll use my site as an example of adding content to your outline:
Brief intro about who I am and what I offer
How to contact me
Web Design services
Two week process
My philosophy behind using the two week process
How to contact me
Info about my full design package and what it includes (w/ pricing)
Info about my a la carte offerings and what they are (w/ pricing)
Brief info on why I only work in Squarespace + info about my design style
How to contact me
Briefly mention my writing experience (link to “Meet Renee”)
Why copywriting is important
How effective copywriting boosts SEO
What my copywriting package includes
How to contact me
Intro that includes who I am, the clientele I serve and what I offer
My history of how I got into writing and web design
My writing and web design education/experience
Personal/Fun facts about me
How to contact me
*I don’t have anything (besides the blogs themselves) written on my Blog page, but you could include…
A description of your blog
A short bio
A list of Categories or your Featured/Favorite posts
One sentence about why I’d love to hear from people
A list of items people might want to talk to me about
Mention free consultation call sign up
Contact form (I ask for a website URL if people have a site already, but think about what YOU want to know from people who will be reaching out and make sure to ask for it!)
Again, hopefully this step will be easier than you anticipated, too. Just think about what information you want or need to share under each page you came up with in your initial outline and jot it down! Again, this can be as detailed or “sketched out” as you’d like — just make sure to keep this list with you so you can use it as a checklist as you go.
Step Three: Write!
Now that you’ve got a clearer, more organized picture of what information you’ll be pulling together, you can write! My number one tip for this step: do not worry about getting it perfect. Nothing digital is set in stone — your website will change and fluctuate and grow and evolve as you and your business do the same. Trust me…I’ve changed my site layout and site copy about a dozen times since the start of the year!
Even after your website has launched, you can tweak your copy whenever you like (especially on a user-friendly platform like Squarespace or if you have a web designer who shows you how to edit/use your site after it’s built, like I do!). Not worrying about perfection takes the pressure off of the writing process and makes it much less stressful. It’s easier said than done, I know, but take a deep breath and do your best to let the perfectionism goooo.
Here are some other Pro Tips to consider as you write:
Keep it short and sweet. As much as you could boast about your business or go into every minute detail of the services you offer, people’s attention spans are short and they’re coming to your website to get quick, basic info about what you do. Try to keep the text on each page less than 600 words. I’ll be honest, I break this rule with regularity, but it’s the #1 thing I’m working on. “Less is more” is a rule of thumb when it comes to website copy (if you really want to go into detail, put the extra info in a downloadable brochure and send it to your designer so they can link it on your site).
Break up your paragraphs. Again I say: people have short attention spans and you have a short window of time to catch someone’s attention and keep it. If a potential client comes to your site and sees a wall of text, chances are they won’t even start to read it. The more white space you can incorporate (i.e. breaking up long blocks of copy into shorter paragraphs), the more likely visitors will be willing to read it.
Know who you’re talking to. Are you speaking directly to your dream client/customer? As you write, make sure you’re writing directly to them! Your tone and wording will play a part in determining who you attract. For example, if you don’t want super stuffy clients, don’t write in an ultra professional tone that would impress the best analytical CEOs — write in a fun, more casual manner! If your dream clientele is made up of mothers in their mid-30’s, write to them! How would they want to be spoken to? What would entice them to buy your product(s)? What would they find valuable? What would they want to read? (You get my drift!)
Do some keyword research and weave in your findings. Here’s the deal: the text on your site will play a big role in your SEO (search engine optimization…basically whether or not you show up in Google searches, and if you do, how high you rank). Search engines “read” your site too, and based on what you’ve said (written), those search engines will determine whether or not to pull up your site when someone is searching for something. For example, if someone is searching for a “small business web designer in Asheville,” I want to come up! On the first page! In the first five options! How can I work toward that? By making sure I have ALL of those words woven in throughout my site. So go to Google right now, search “keywords for [your business, niche, industry, etc.], make a list of ones that resonate, and make sure to weave those in throughout your copy as you write (and use this headline analyzer to make sure you’re on the right track!).
Step Four: Edit
Reviewing your work is always a good practice, even if you’re so fed up with the writing once you’re finally done that you just want to hit “send” and never look at it again (why yes, that is how I handled every paper I ever wrote in college). Just take an extra 20-or-so minutes to read through your copy and check for typos, grammatical errors, etc. Also keep an eye out for the following:
Are you mixing up the use of first- and third-person tenses? Pick one and stick with it on every page!
Catch those run-on sentences and break them up for easy readability (I’m notorious for these).
Speaking of readability, does your copy flow pretty easily as you read over it again? If it seems choppy or if you get off topic easily, revisit the content outline you made!
Ask yourself this: Is my copy compelling? Would I read this copy on a website and and want to invest in me/my business? Make sure that answer is a resounding YES! (Something that helps with this is to try to read your copy with your ideal customer in mind. Read your copy from their perspective and see if it changes the way you would write/present anything).
The Final Step
You did it! You wrote your own copy! Bask in the satisfaction (and brag about it relentlessly to your friends because why not?). The last step will be to either send the copy to your web designer (if you’re using a designer) or lay it out yourself (if you’re building your own site).
If you’re sending it to a designer, there are a million ways to do it — most designers will let you know how they’d like you to send it. In the welcome packet I send to my clients, I ask for them to share it with me via Google Docs (that way we both have editing access in case they need or want to change anything without having to resend it to me). If your designer doesn’t mention a certain method, feel free to ask them! They’ll just be stoked to have your copy, period.
The Final Final Step
Okay, there’s one last thing: Congratulate yourself. Admire your hard work. Remember that you are a badass who built a business out of nothing, and that makes you a not-so-small-time super hero. You’re doing great. You’re working hard. You deserve great things. Your writing will be fabulous even if it’s not perfect. All the best things are :)
Happy writing! xx
(Psst…if reading this just made you feel even more overwhelmed by the thought of writing your own copy, get in touch with me. I happen to be the ultimate writing nerd who offers copywriting services because I just enjoy writing that much. No, really — I write these blogs, copy for other websites, articles for various online magazines and I journal several times a week. It’s a total #nerdalert. You should probably send help.)
If there’s anything else you want to know or learn about copywriting, leave your questions in the comments below!