21 simple copywriting tips that will improve your business website today.
Last updated: Feb 23, 201715 Comments
Every business has a website, right?
But how many have a website that’s popular enough to regularly enjoy a high-volume of traffic?
And how many can boast quality, search-friendly content that turns browsers into buyers?
Copy is the most powerful marketing tool there is, but achieving the above is hard.
Because I’ve got 21 easy-to-implement copywriting tips, that you can use on your business website right now. This is basically 20 years of copywriting experience crammed into almost 4,000 words.
Tip 1: Set yourself a word count to ensure that your copy is laser-focused.
Be ruthless with your words - digital readers don’t have time for waffle, especially when they’re evaluating a business.
Quite rightly, once they’re looking at a website, they want to see value.
Copywriting that sells tells the reader what’s in it for them, fast. Follow these steps to make sure your copy does too:
- Go to the website of a brand that you admire.
- Browse all their different pages (e.g. ‘about us’, ‘services’ etc).
- Copy and paste the different copy into a series of Word documents.
- Make a note of all the word counts and how they differ.
- Think about why the word counts vary. What does each type of web page have to accomplish?
- Check the word counts on your corresponding web pages and edit accordingly.
Tip 2: Forget everything you’ve learned at school.
Academic writing doesn’t prepare us for developing business copy at all.
Grammar and spelling are obviously important, but in terms of writing technique, school teachers encourage elaborate vocabulary and structural conformity.
And how can a brand create individuality in that environment?
Great copywriting isn’t about following rules; it’s about knowing when to break them. Here’s how to do that:
- Close your eyes and think back to the English lessons from your schooldays.
- Make a list of all the guidelines you remember. If you get stuck, go online and explore the search results for terms like ‘essay writing tips for school’.
- Highlight the ones that you think would inhibit the creation of good business copy for the digital arena.
A couple of examples to get you started are:
• Never start a sentence with ‘and’ or ‘but’.
• Your copy should always have a beginning, middle and end.
- Print the list out - now you’ve got your own checklist to keep forever.
- Compare the list against your website copy.
Tip 3: Use plenty of paragraph breaks to make your copy visually less imposing.
Just like when you flick through a book in a library, you can sense when the copy on a web page is going to be a hard read without absorbing a single word.
Less is more.
No one wants to sift through a large block of text, so embrace white space.
Here's an example:
Look how hard it seems just to even get started!
Compare this to Copyblogger's layout. The short, sharp sentences (and larger fonts) make for a much more pleasurable reading experience.
Fortunately, a stylish and effective web page is easy to achieve:
- Take one of your web pages, print out the copy and grab a red pen.
- Insert a line after every unique point or statement that you make.
- Separate each point so that they all sit on their own line. It doesn’t matter if some points only take up one line – in fact, that’s often preferable.
Tip 4: Put your customers first to create a legion of loyal super-fans.
What you’ve got to say about your business isn’t important; what your audience needs to hear is.
Most business owners have a million and one things that they want to get across. Don’t make that mistake - forget about your agenda.
Business copy needs to be benefit-driven. The value of what you’re selling needs to be extremely clear from the start.
Basically, make it super-easy for consumers to say ‘yes’ by putting the below into action:
- Check your copy for any jargon. Be careful not to casually reference terms that might not be widely understood.
- Ensure that your copy is logical – avoid putting unnecessary barriers between your website and a sale.
- Write down the goal of each of your web pages. Every piece of website copy has a role to play, whether it’s to usher someone down a sales funnel or to hoover up a blog subscription.
- Write down the sequential steps of each of those journeys. And be detailed - don’t assume your readers know everything.
- Adjust your original copy accordingly. Make sure you leave nothing to chance.
Tip 5: Use emotion to boost your conversion rates.
Emotion sells. Big brands use emotion in their copy and their advertising campaigns all the time.
It makes sales copy and marketing campaigns memorable - just think of the John Lewis ads at Christmas time.
Robinsons used emotion well in one of our favourite ads of all time.
Check it out:
But regardless of whether we're talking about copy, pictures or anything else, I think Maya Angelou put it best when she said:
I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
So, does your product or service solve a problem and give people that feel-good factor? Take a look at the steps below:
- Write down all the problems that your product or service solves.
- Attach some descriptive emotions to those problems.
- Structure your copy so that you firstly show empathy with the reader.
- Then show how your product or service will help them.
- Finish by reaffirming how much happier they’ll be.
Tip 6: Choose your font carefully so that your copy passes the first test.
Fonts are basically clothes for our words, yet they’re seldom considered when a piece of copy is published.
Why is this? After all, it’s possible to sniff out a spammy email or an annoying advert just from their trashy appearance.
This is what you want to avoid:
Looks matter when it comes to digital copy. Don’t butcher the effect of your messages before anyone’s even read them.
Your aim is to come across as a respectable brand, not someone advertising a get-rich-quick scheme or ‘singles in the area’.
Get the most out of your copy by taking these actions:
- Without compromising your security, check out the last few emails in your junk folder.
- Find some of the worst-looking emails, then copy and paste the copy from them into a Word document and check which font they’re using.
- Fire up the websites of 6 quality brands that you respect (preferably those of high-street businesses).
- Copy and paste their website copy into a Word document and see which font they’re using.
- Note the differences between all the fonts and colours you’ve seen. Pick out one that you like the best.
Tip 7: Use everyday language to engage with as wide an audience as possible.
The tricky thing about business copy is that it needs to connect with a wide variety of people; yet every time someone reads it, they need to feel that the brand is speaking just to them.
Writing business copy is about making money, not winning literacy awards.
Don’t try to be cute or clever. Never use a thesaurus – if you can’t think of an appropriate word to use, think harder.
Choose normal words because you can’t risk your message not getting across or not being understood.
And you know what, it’s also a style issue: everyday language is nicer.
Take Innocent Drinks for example. They've created an amazing brand through their down-to-earth approach to communication.
Here’s how to nail your tone:
- Print out your web pages.
- Read what you’ve written out loud. If some parts don’t sound like something you’d say to a friend in real life, then change it.
- Read what you’ve written out loud to someone else and ask them to tell you what the copy is about. If they can’t tell you easily, then change it.
Tip 8: Tell a story to become memorable.
As humans, we’re hard-wired to love stories. From fairytales as a kid through to movies and books in our adult lives, stories work.
In business copy, storytelling makes ideas stick. Relatable stories transform businesses into brands and customers into loyal, repeat clients.
This doesn't require a lot of words. Apple famously use succinct storytelling to market their products.
In the advert below, they're conveying that their iPad Pro addresses numerous issues, namely that of usability.
We know that we get a nice piece of kit from Apple that does loads of cool techie stuff.
But are some prospective customers put off by a worry that such an item would be heavy and cumbersome to carry around?
And that's the 'story' that Apple are selling here. And they're doing it with just 3 words.
Here are a couple of killer tips to turning words into powerful copy that sells:
- Try to identify a hero and a villain within your subject matter. They don’t have to be actual characters. If you’re selling window cleaner for instance, then daily grime is the enemy.
- Move the reader along a journey. Create the sense that you’ll help the reader overcome a challenge and discover something new and valuable.
Tip 9: Master punctuation to make statements stand out and be impactful.
Good copy has rhythm. But there’s more to creating words that flow really nicely than you might think - clever use of punctuation is a must.
Punctuation was first used hundreds of years ago by speechwriters in ancient Greece. They used various notes and marks to help the speeches get delivered properly.
In other words, punctuation was created so that meaning wasn’t lost. Mastering punctuation really only revolves around knowing a couple of ground rules:
- Make sure you don’t overuse the comma. It’s easy to tell when to put a comma into your copy. Read what you’ve written out loud and insert a comma when you naturally breathe.
- Try not to use any exclamation marks. Unless you’re selling half-price sofas on a Bank Holiday, there’s no need to be dramatic. And forget about having them for humorous reasons – using an exclamation mark is like laughing at your own joke.
Tip 10: Use sub-headings to make your key points get noticed.
Understanding how people read digital copy comes in very handy.
Unfortunately, we typically don’t tend to read much website copy. Instead, research shows that 79% of people scan web pages before they do anything.
It’s natural: they’re subconsciously looking for words, phrases or images that interest them or catch their eye.
But there’s more.
Only 16% of people read every word on a web page even in the best circumstances.
And - for all you marketers out there - don’t think your email newsletters are any different; they're not. Apparently people read these even more abruptly than they do websites.
Here's another image from a Copyblogger article. The sub-headings really catch the eye and are an incentive to keep reading:
Follow these steps to give your words some TLC.
- Break any long pieces of copy up into manageable chunks.
- Insert a sub-heading to introduce each section. They need to be very benefit-driven. Don’t talk conceptually – be blunt and include the appropriate keywords.
- Make sure the sub-heading is in bold.
- For SEO reasons, assign an h2 or h3 tag to it.
Tip 11: Avoid sloppy copy. Make sure your copy is free of spelling mistakes.
Sounds obvious, but how many people proofread their copy? And how many do it well?
Perception is reality. If your readers notice any spelling mistakes, you risk coming across as sloppy. Customers now have all the power, and with plenty of competitors just a quick click away, that’s a dangerous game to play.
Disney replace all the flowers in each of their parks every single month. Why? Because details matter.
Look at this error from Toys R Us:
These are the kinds of mistakes that can crush a business.
Here’s how to improve your attention to detail and enhance your reputation:
- Never rely on a spell-checker. It’s always better to reach for a dictionary.
- Don’t just proof your copy on a screen. Print it off and review it.
- Proof your copy in different places and at different times – our brains can become complacent.
Tip 12: Think about the hierarchy of your messages so that lazy readers don’t miss your main points.
Burying the most important thing you’ve got to say is a really common mistake that business owners make on their websites.
It happens for two reasons.
Firstly, the writer hasn’t done any preparation. They’ve not thought about the order of their points, so the copy has just been blurted out.
Secondly, the business owner isn’t aware that they’ve got just 7 seconds to make a good impression on their visitor; so long, labored introductions just aren’t going to cut it.
To make your messages stick, check this strategy out:
- Take a web page on your website.
- Have a brainstorm and list out everything that you want to say (each point should just be a quick note).
- Juggle the order of the list until you’re happy with the hierarchy.
- Move your paragraphs around until they correspond with your list.
Tip 13: People buy from people; so be authentic, honest and trustworthy.
Websites have made it easy for us all to find a business and make a purchase from them. But there’s a lot that needs to happen before someone becomes ready to buy.
Customers are much more likely to reach for their wallet if they get the feeling that a website belongs to a brand they like. Ultimately, web content should attract, not annoy.
As such, words are one of the main ways that this can be achieved. Here are 4 stellar tips to becoming likeable:
- Make the most of your ‘about’ page. It’s your main chance to expose the people and ethics behind your brand.
- Never copy from a competitor.
- Be true to yourself. If you have a particular opinion about an aspect of your industry, take a stance and stick to it.
- Blog regularly.
Tip 14: It’s not always what you’re selling that matters – it’s the way you’re selling it.
Be under no illusions: if your copy is good enough, you really can sell ice to Eskimos.
What’s more, sometimes the quality of your product won’t even come into the equation.
The trick is to be interesting and relevant. Here are 3 great quotes that are worth reading and absorbing...
Advertising guru Howard Gossage once said:
People don’t read ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad.
PR pioneer Edward Bernays thought the same, but also added that businesses need not feel guilty about our motives for creating different concepts and agendas:
The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organised habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society.
And as William Bernbach aptly put it:
No one counts the number of ads you run; they just remember the impression you make.
Tip 15: Write with design in mind or risk a low-quality user experience.
Sometimes life isn’t fair. You spend ages creating the perfect copy, but it just doesn’t work with the look and functionality of your website.
But at least you’ve noticed.
Because it’s the people who write their copy and hit ‘publish’ without so much as a glance at the new live look of their business that need to worry.
Web content is a different beast. Avoid a design malfunction by noting these 3 tips:
- Pay attention to how copy wraps around any images you may have on a web page. It’s really common for an image to completely dissect a sentence. It looks horrible and amateurish.
- Look out for any hanging words (where your sentence reaches a certain length and then sends a solitary word to the next line). Not only does this look poor, but it also severely disrupts reading momentum for your user.
- Make sure your buttons and links are framed by a consistent amount of white space.
Tip 16: Create a style guide if you’re serious about making a statement to the world.
Savvy business-leaders shape the culture of their company to drive innovation and earn revenue.
They know that it’s the culture of a company – the values, morals and subtle behaviors of all employees - that often limits performance.
A style guide officially documents these ideas and, because they’re a continual work-in-progress, they future-proof a company. They also demonstrate that some thought has gone into how a firm wants to be portrayed.
Feeling ready to create your style guide but don’t know where to start?
- Come up with 3 values that represent what you stand for.
- Create a mission statement that would give a complete stranger a good idea of what you’re trying to achieve.
- Incorporate a detailed house style into your guidelines. This should include the font you want to use, any banned clichés and pieces of industry jargon, plus your copy rules on how to communicate numbers, dates and the like.
Tip 17: Think about human psychology in order to understand why we say “yes”.
Well-known brands use a variety of scientifically-backed copywriting tricks to influence us and try to get us to part with our hard-earned cash.
It’s called subconscious framing, and you should try to use it in your business strategy too. The trick is to understand the way we all think.
Here are 16 things about consumers that business owners all need to know:
- Consumers have more trust in companies who display some sort of social responsibility.
- In the context of looking to the future, people are more responsive to optimistic copy.
- We part with more cash when we’re not physically parting with any money (i.e. paying by card or via an online account).
- If the end result is worth it, we don’t mind going down the hard route to get it.
- Thinking about failed strategies in the past makes us want to pay more now.
- Words that are simpler to follow are more trustworthy.
- We place more emphasis on what we read first.
- We’re more reluctant to stop doing something if we’ve already put a lot of time, money and effort into it.
- If we find it difficult to make a decision, we tend to copy what other people think, say and do.
- Faced with a selection of items, people usually choose something in the centre.
- The price of a product or service greatly affects how we perceive its value.
- Perceived ownership of a product or service is very powerful.
- We place a lot of emphasis on products or services that we can use to help ourselves.
- Offering a variety of choices can often lead to indecision and lower sales. People prefer smaller lists of items.
- Round numbers are seen as being more trustworthy.
- Products that stand out as being unique for the right reasons are held in high esteem.
Tip 18: Use images to add a quality finish to a piece of copy.
As a web copywriter, I’m never likely to say that a picture says a thousand words. However, the fact is, content that contains an image is easier on the eye.
And in the case of a blog, it’s been proven numerous times that a post with an image is far more likely to be shared than one without.
They also carry SEO value too.
There are only 4 things to worry about with images:
- Make sure the quality of your image is good. While a great image is a classy touch, a badly cropped or low-res picture can ruin even the best copy.
- Your image needs to be relevant. Are you able to tell what the content in question is about from just looking at it?
- Add alt text and alt tags to images in your website’s CMS.
- Ensure you don't break any copyright laws. Read more on that here.
Tip 19: To be truly creative and utterly unique, allow yourself to fail.
Fact is, fear is at the heart of most bad writing.
From an early age, creativity is actively discouraged. Yet in business, it’s exactly what we need. That’s why many famous business leaders like Richard Branson, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates all underachieved at school. Many dropped out, in fact.
Instead, people like those mentioned above relied on their instincts. To become a master copywriter, you’ll also need to. Here are 2 pointers:
- Show your copy to a friend or family member. Take their feedback on board, but always carefully assess any negative comments before making any knee-jerk reactions.
- In terms of online marketing, real creativity is much more about solving problems than it is about self-expression.
Tip 20: Define your best customer so that you can create content that they’ll like.
All the copywriting tips in the world won’t increase your conversions if you don’t know who you’re selling to.
A lot of business copy is doomed to fail from the get-go because it isn’t geared towards the right audience. That means, even if a piece of content is popular, it lacks strategy and might not achieve the intended goal.
Website traffic isn’t an exercise in vanity. Don’t aim to attract the most visitors; instead, follow these 4 steps to focus on getting the right visitors:
- Grab a piece of paper and a pen.
- Think about the characteristics of your most valuable customer. Are they male or female? Young or old? The more detail the better.
- Give that person a name, job and location. Visualise them.
- Work out what sort of content they like and how they prefer to consume it.
Tip 21: Be a perfectionist: take pride and edit your copy multiple times.
This is in relation to technical flow rather than accuracy.
The thing about good copy is that you just don’t notice it. However, getting your copy into that state takes a lot of effort.
Note that refining copy is usually about subtracting words, not adding them. Super-charge your copy with these 3 tips:
- Don’t just edit your copy on-screen. Print it out on a piece of paper, grab a red pen and make notes.
- Get someone else to proofread your copy too. Sometimes we can almost train our brains to overlook errors if the page is too familiar.
- Take a break and come back to your work with fresh eyes ahead of the final edit.
As Stephen King once said, writing is a form of telepathy. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, writing is about trying to put an idea in someone else’s head.
In business, there’s a lot riding on it.
Now it’s your turn.
The right words are powerful.
Do you want to transform your business today?
Then start putting these copywriting tips into practice. And, if you’ve found these tips useful, please leave a comment or share this post on social media.