April 19, 2019 | Sean Foo
When it comes to website copywriting, whatever worked for you in print does not necessarily translate into success online.
What you need are clear website copywriting principles to guide you towards the results you deserve.
While great design and killer UX is essential to create an online atmosphere that welcomes your visitors, it is kick-ass web copywriting that will get them hooked.
Hooked to the point of scrolling all the way to the end, clicking through to your service pages, devouring every piece of content on your blog and eventually converting into leads and sales!
In order for your website to become the virtual salesman that you need it to be, you will have to play by another set of rules that most successful sites employ under the radar.
Rules that shockingly many websites fail to utilize and then chalk it up to the poor quality of traffic coming to it – but in fact, the only thing that is failing is their web copy!
In this article, we will be taking you through 8 website copywriting guiding principles that you can immediately use to write compelling copy for your website.
When writing web copy, you want to come across with a strong and direct tone that makes what you say crystal clear – the last thing you need is for your readers to be rearranging sentences in their minds!
By using the active voice (and avoiding the passive voice), you will be ensuring your writing will be clearly understood.
But what is the difference between active and passive voice?
Active voice is when the subject of the sentence (i.e. your customer) does the action.
‘You gain the ability to double your muscle in 30 days.’
Active voice sentences make it seem you are speaking directly to the face of your customer making it seem intimate.
Compelling web copy also utilizes verbs at the start of their active voice sentences.
‘Download Our Plugin & Triple Your Conversions Today.’
Verbs allow you to transform a sentence into a ‘command’ which is great for compelling your reader to take an action (like clicking that conversion button ?)
Still unsure? Use the zombie test to check for the passive voice.
Basically, add a ‘by zombies’ to the end of a sentence and if it makes sense (in a weird way) then it is in the passive voice.
‘Our new feature was built over 3 months of intensive research (by zombies)’.
Since this makes sense, it is written in the passive voice and should be avoided. A smart web copywriter will rewrite it in the active voice:
‘We built our new feature over 3 months of intensive research’
Feeling lazy? Then just use this online tool to directly check for passive voice!
First impressions count, doubly so online!
When it comes to making great first impressions on your website, that responsibility lies solely on your headlines.
In fact, tests conducted by Upworthy has concluded that traffic can vary by up to a whopping 500% depending just on the headline itself!
So how do we ensure our headlines are infused with the right stuff to capture attention and entice those eyeballs to read through the rest of our copy?
Simple! Focus on crafting a headline that delivers the benefit fast, is concise and hits on the key terms that resonate with your ideal reader.
The copy on Proposify’s hero banner utilizes a powerful headline that delivers on making it crystal clear about what they do and how the user will benefit.
The headline itself already highlights the benefit of closing more sales, with key terms such as ‘sales team’ and ‘closing machine’ front and center, allowing the reader to visualize the desired end goal.
The supporting copy tells the reader how it is done – through a software that creates quotes and contracts. No ambiguity here, the reader can immediately understand what the business, how they can benefit and how Proposify delivers it.
On their features page, Proposify continues their use of incredible headlines that are benefit-rich while hitting on key terms every sales and marketing team look out for – time savings, faster sales and more business.
So spend some additional time on your headlines.
Map out the desires of your customers and list down all the benefits your product or service can deliver to fulfill them and place the most compelling ones front and center in your headline.
Convincing your reader with logic is good, but connecting with their emotions gets them to relate with you, forming a strong connection with your brand!
So how do we leverage this superpower for our website copy? By speaking their language while using a tone of voice that is personality-filled, allowing your reader to easily relate to you.
Buying goodies and toys for your dog is always a fun and enjoyable experience – and that is exactly what Barkbox (a monthly subscription service providing dog products) aims to show with their product copy.
With its cheerful tone and creatively wacky descriptions, Barkbox taps into the wonderment and fun-loving nature of their audience, creating an impression their customers probably won’t find elsewhere.
They have transformed a bunch of doggie treats into a fun-filled adventure experience not just for the dogs, but their owner as well!
Conversely, if you are a technology business selling artificial intelligence software, your tone of voice might be more serious with a hint of authority. Your copy would probably be less descriptive, filled with technical jargon like ‘machine learning’ and packed with clear benefits that are easy to understand (no guesswork or imagination needed).
The end goal isn’t just to sell your products or services, but to also showcase to your reader what your brand’s personality is really about too!
Want to deep dive and learn how to craft a tone that connects with your audience?
Check out our article where we break down how to match the right tone of voice for your brand!
Writing web copy isn’t the same as crafting a Harry Potter novel where you start out with a slow beginning and leave the exciting best for the last, it’s the direct opposite!
You need to hook em fast within 3 seconds!
As people’s attention span become shorter than a goldfish’s, it is vital that you frontload your best information right at the start to immediately capture their attention and create a feeling of ‘I need to read more and learn more!’
So what kind of information should you front load?
Here are the top 5 to put up front and center:
1. Your unique selling point (What makes you different from your competitors)
2. Any special or seasonal offers that are going on
3. The greatest benefit your product will bring
4. Information To pre-empt your customer’s biggest worry
5. Powerful social proof (such as reviews and testimonials)
When it comes to front-loading information, Quickbooks takes it to the next level.
The first thing a visitor to Quickbook’s website sees is a testimonial that shows their big benefit ‘simple accounting software that is easy to use’ as well a limited time 60% discount offer.
They provide key information that their reader will want to know to make a quick decision if they are in or out.
Oh yea, see that 30-day free trial button?
When it comes to software, the presence of a free trial is a piece of information that is vital to frontload on your web copy, it helps to address a worry many customers have – what if I buy it and I don’t like it?
The best websites that enjoy higher conversions are the ones that strategically utilize social proof elements in their website copy.
When making a purchase online, your visitor will take cues from other people who have bought from your business and it’s no surprise – people rely heavily on online reviews when making purchasing decisions.
While there are many formats and types of social proof you can gather such as:
– Customer testimonials
– Media features and mentions
– Influencer endorsements
– Brand Logos
– Number of products sold etc
It is much smarter to take a step back and understand what your customer will identify with before you just go around slapping social proof all over your website.
So take a moment and ask yourself, ‘What type of customers do I want to attract and what type of social proof will make sense to convince these group of people?’
Let’s take a quick case study of a beautiful use of social proof by Ahrefs.
Trying to sell a paid trial (7 days for $7) is quite crazy considering the rest of their competitors from Semrush to Moz are giving away trials up to 30 days for free!
In order to compete and successfully pull this off, Ahrefs realized they had to pull out the big guns when it came to social proof.
To attract the customers they want: big companies and growing businesses looking to their SEO game to the next level, Ahrefs intelligent showcases 2 types of social proof.
By utilizing logos of iconic companies including UBER and Facebook, they establish the credibility of their software – even the big boys use us yo!
Their ‘1,986 users joined us in the last 7 days’ show the overwhelming demand they are enjoying and how accepting customers are of the $7 paid trial.
Want to become a master at social proof? Go here and discover the 8 types of social proof every website needs!
Remember when we mentioned keeping the headline concise?
Well, you will need to do the same for virtually the rest of your web copy – no long paragraphs telling a story, but brief descriptions placed neatly under a short and punchy heading!
The reason? Keep things simple and allow your reader to scan comfortably through your website.
Take Sumo, for example, they keep their product features descriptions highly scannable with headings that immediately get to the point.
Plus, notice how concise their description copy is without taking away any of the benefits the feature can offer.
To accomplish this, try to stay in a mindset of ‘how do I get my point across with the maximum amount of impact with the minimum amount of words.’
Great web content is concise, gets to the point and is highly scannable.
In an eye-tracking study done by the Nielson Normal Group, it was found that 79% of readers scanned a new page they come across and only 16% read word by word.
So unless you are optimizing your content for eye-scanning, you are alienating more than three-quarters of your audience!
Thankfully there are awesome strategies we can employ to make your text more scannable that include:
– Using Bullet Points or bulleted lists
– Using meaningful sub-headings
– Showcasing just one idea per paragraph
But let’s just tackle using bullet points.
It is quite obvious to see from the example below why utilizing bullet points is highly recommended – it adds clarity, makes your text that much easier to understand and highlights the key points you want to showcase.
Leadpages intelligently utilizes bullet points when it comes to highlighting the core features of their toolkit.
Instead of burying their features within the paragraph, Leadpages uses a bulleted list to allow for easy scanning without causing any reading exhaustion.
Where can you use bulleted lists in your web copy?
These are prime scenarios to use them:
– When you have core benefits or features to showcase
– When your content is a set of instructions (Step 1, step 2…etc)
– A long item list (such as cooking ingredients or holiday packing list)
A lack-luster and uninspiring call-to-action that is unclear can outright kill your conversions.
Let’s change that.
While there are many ways to optimize elements of your calls-to-action such as the CTA Button itself, let’s firstly focus on a powerful language hack you can use to level up your call-to-actions!
Heard of power verbs?
Let’s take these two sentences:
Build success for your business today. → Build is a weaker verb
Engineer success for your business today. → Engineer is a stronger verb. It sounds more confident, long-lasting and intelligent.
Here is one more:
Begin your first campaign now! → Begin is a weaker verb.
Launch your first campaign now! → Launch is a stronger verb, it brings to mind the idea of a ‘successful launch’ and positive feelings about getting started.
By using power verbs, you build confidence in your reader and add more desire in them to go ahead and click on your CTA.
Inspire them to act, not bore them to death!
Need a comprehensive list of power verbs? Here is a list of 249 power verbs from a New York Times bestseller!
Clarity is king
When you want to get your reader to take action, you must provide enough information so that they know what they will be getting.
Either throw in benefits or remove doubts (best to do both!).
Close’s CTA leaves nothing to chance. You know what you will get once you click the button – a free trial that will last 14 days and you won’t have to sign-up with a credit card.
Be clear in your CTA message and your reader will reward you for it.
By the time the reader comes to the end of your website copy, it’s good to always assume they might be a little tired at the end – the last thing you want is to bore them even further with low energy words like ‘subscribe now’, ‘sign-up for our list’ or ‘buy now’.
You want your web copy to energize your reader, you want your call-to-action section to be filled with enthusiasm and positivity to jolt them to take action!
Fitnessista is a shining example of crafting a CTA that uses a strong dose of energy in their copy!
Notice the level of enthusiasm in the CTA, it sucks the reader into a state of positivity and excitement about what they are going to enjoy – all they need is to sign-up!
Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the call-to-action also clearly states everything a subscriber will enjoy: workouts, recipes and cheat sheets.
Want more CTA secret sauces? Deep dive here and learn how to craft a call-to-action that converts!
While the design is the first thing your reader experiences when they enter your website, it will be your copy that will ultimately win the day.
These 8 website copywriting principles we went through will help you craft amazing copy that captures attention and inspires action online.
Want us to write your web copy?
Get in contact here and let’s work magic together and get those conversions sky-high!