How to write discoverable and irresistible web copy

Sharon Tanton

The words on your website have to work hard. They need to instantly reassure a visitor that they’ve landed in the right place, and encourage them to stick around to explore your products or services. How do you make yours irresistible?

The words on your website have to work hard. They need to instantly reassure a visitor that they’ve landed in the right place, and encourage them to stick around to explore your products or services. If they’re doing their job well they’ll get a chance to do even more – to teach, to inspire, to delight, to persuade, to motivate, to sell – but it’s the very first words that have the biggest task of all.

If the words on your home and other top level pages miss the mark, people won’t dig deeper to find out what else you’ve got to say.

These roles of the super hard working top level words are on my mind at the moment. We’re working on several fascinating website messaging projects where copy ideas come into the mix. I’m switching between projects, writing copy that needs to feel and sound exactly like Company A, and then copy that feels and sounds exactly like Company B (and C and D etc) and back again. Sometimes the sections I’m writing are only 100 words long, so how do you make so few words count?

A whistle-stop guide to writing irresistible and discoverable website copy

Be clear on the job each section of copy has to do. Is it your top line message – the couple of lines max where you set out what you do and who you do it for? Is it introducing the team? Setting out your process? Introducing people to the blog where you share your ideas? Getting clear on the job spec for each section will help you keep the writing tight and focused.

Write each section of the copy as if you were writing to one ideal client who you know inside out. Knowing your customer and her challenges means you can write with insight and empathy. And they’re useful qualities if you’re looking to reassure readers that they’re in the right place with you.

That’s it, basically.

But there are ways of getting clear on what the words need to do, and ways of getting to understand the customer better which really help me when I’m writing web copy.

1. Listen before you write a word

We’ve blogged before about the power of listening, but it can’t be underestimated. Listening underpins our entire content strategy process. You can’t create customer focused websites or marketing strategies without a big juicy chunk of genuine customer feedback to work with. I like to listen, read and wallow in these customer words before starting to write.

2. Create your lexicon

My writing process eases out of the wallowing and absorbing stage and into something more organised. I create lists of words from the interviews – words that describe the customer, her challenges, her world, why my client’s service matters.

I have a lot of customised word lists, and they’re invaluable for writing copy that sounds natural and authentic. Being able to reflect back the exact same words a customer uses is a fantastic shortcut for building empathy. (It’s probably to do with mirroring, or NLP or something like that. If you know why, please tell me.) Copy that makes you feel understood is hard to turn away from. It’s irresistible.

Part of what makes copy discoverable too is if it reflects exactly what people are looking for. Google loves content that answers the questions people are asking. Customer’s words and descriptions of their challenges are excellent things to have on your website. Knowing exactly what people are looking for, and how they express it, and embedding those words in your web copy is good fuel to get your website found.

3. Be systematic

When you’ve got very few words to spare it’s good to be able to cut to the chase. Following a tried and tested formula is a great way of structuring key page copy.

For example starting, with an Audio Logo often helps nail the ‘what we do’ hero copy for the home page. (The box where you say exactly what you do and who for in as few words as possible.) Here’s the Audio Logo exercise devised by Robert Middleton of Action Plan Marketing. See www.actionplan.com.

  • We work with (this target market) ……….
  • Who (have this issue or challenge) ……….
  • We help them get (ultimate outcome) ……….

Following simple filling in the gaps exercises are useful prompts for top level web copy. Once you’ve got the structure right, then you can play with the words. Finding examples of great word structures on other websites, and switching up the relevant nouns and verbs can give you a sound foundation to work from. Check out some of our Valuable Content Award winners to see sites that rock their copy.

4. Write ‘you’ more than ‘we’

Keep the customer in mind all the time you’re writing, and write to her. Keep referring back to your word lists. Listen to the interviews again if you find yourself forgetting what the customer sounds like. (And then try the We We test, it will show your how customer focused your copy is).

5. Inject some personality

This is the most writerly part of web copy writing, and the part I think scares people the most. How do you create a unique and original voice that reflects the brand? How do you know if it’s right?

There are other techniques that you can employ, like using more metaphors and making your writing more conversational, but the best advice I can give here is to practice and have fun doing it. Make yourself smile while you’re writing. Read what you’ve written aloud to other people. If you’ve got the structure right, and you’re peppering the copy with words and phrases that customers use, then you’re more than halfway there.

6. Read more and steal widely

Don’t steal copy from other people’s websites, but pinch ideas from other places. Novels, poems, films, TV programmes, radio shows, adverts, conversations. Become a voracious word magpie. Open up your eyes and ears to words that really make you take notice. Pick them apart. Analyse the effect they have on you. Why did that word combination work? Why did that line stick in your mind? Curiosity and experimentation are cornerstones of memorable writing.

Get your website words working

With these tricks up your sleeve writing irresistible website content will come more easily.

If it’s inspired you to learn more about writing, we highly recommend Henneke Duistermaat’s writing courses. And we’re running a course for copywriters who want to learn about more content strategy early next year. Drop us a line if you’re interested and we’ll keep you in the loop.

And if this is all sounding like something someone else would do – it’s so not you – then get the help of a good copywriter. Going through these exercises will give you a really strong grounding of what the words need to do, and will mean you’ll be able to brief someone to do a great job for you.

Best of luck with your writing. I really hope this helps.

Sharon

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2 Comments

  1. Having personality goes a long way to creating good copy. But also I would say practice. Practice makes perfect, and I am still learning and always will be

    Reply
    • Sharon Tanton

      Thanks Carolyn, you’re right. Practice definitely makes perfect when it comes to writing. The more you do it, the better you get.

      Reply

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