Digital Shakespeares: How to write awesome website copy

This was posted on June 3rd, 2019

To write, or not to write, that is the question.  Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to hire a copywriter for an outrageous fortune.  Or, to take arms against a sea of troubles, and write the website copy yourself.  Awesome website copy doesn’t take Shakespeare.  In fact, such flourishing language would do you more harm than good online.

Do you not remember the pain of GCSE English?

Luckily, in the twenty-first century, people want things simple.  They don’t want to waste the entirety of their eight second attention span trying to translate your point.  With that in mind, perhaps I should have begun this blog another way.

Oh well, it is too late now.

When it comes to building websites, people are more interested in having all the flashes and bangs of brand-new technology than they are writing the copy.  Some people are even convinced that they won’t be read.  I sit in an office with people who are happier to hand the crafting of text over to me than to try their hand.

That is fine by me.  But, if you’re on a budget, or your business is suffering under the crush of industry, then you might not have the resources to outsource.  It might be time to roll up those sleeves and lick the end of your quills.

Here is how to write that awesome website copy.

Awesome website copy inane babble

Write a plan to write

Unless you want your website to read like a stream of inane babble, it is best to start off by knowing what you want to say.  What is the message of your website?  Do you know what point you’re trying to make?

Often the aim of a website is to convince a prospect to invest in your product or service.  However, an unstructured stream of consciousness is not going to achieve that.  You can’t write awesome website copy without knowing what objectives you’re trying to fulfil.

So, plan.

Especially if you have a specific demographic in mind.

Have it printed in front of you so that you can see where everything leads.  Under each page, write a brief sentence describing what this page wants to achieve.  Does it simply want to educate or inform your prospects about your services?  Are you offering free advice?  Is the page intended to bring people onto your mailing list.

By forearming yourself with a plan, you can structure your website for optimal engagement.

Lists aren't memorable

Focus on the benefits

Perhaps, the temptation to write a list of products and their prices is great.  It would be easy to do. It wouldn’t be time consuming.  But it would not be awesome website copy.  You would be creating a list.  Like the one your mum writes before going shopping.

There are two problems with this.

Firstly, lists are boring to read.  One list doesn’t stand out from another.  There is a reason that we carry the shopping list with us when we go to buy our paella ingredients.  Lists just aren’t memorable.

Secondly, writing such a list is all about you. It is all about what your company does.  You need to write your customers into the website. 

Remember, potential digital Shakespeare, your buyer persona is your hero.

If you’re an ecommerce site that intends to sell shoes, you need to remember one important thing. 

You’re not selling shoes.

You’re selling comfort.  Your prospects want a secure fit and striking design.  Shoes can be bought anywhere.  But your shoes?  What benefit is there to your prospect?  As Brian Clark eloquently asserts:  stress benefits, not features.

Awesome website copy is scanable

We like a scannable read from time to time

Now this might seem like it goes against the afore-ranted sermon about lists – but here goes.  You need to make sure your web copy is scannable.  You know, a bit like a list.

But, entirely different.

Big clear punchy headings are useful for leads when they are looking through your website.  Your product or service might offer thirty-gazillion features.  Yet, your prospect might only be interested in one or two of them.

The last thing that you want is for the prospect to have to trawl through reams of text looking for the portion that is relevant.  Lay your awesome website copy out so that, if needs be, your prospect can scroll through to the elements that make them feel all warm and fuzzy.

They might be in the market right now for a service like yours.  They also might have another ten websites to get through whilst they shop around.  It is best to make their job easier for them.

People read blogs scan websites

Awesome website copy isn’t clever

This point is going to hurt to write.  It might even hurt the more creative of you to read.  However, the copy for a website needs to be as simple as possible.

If you’re the sort of writer who wants to inscribe their website with marvellous haikus and alliterative paragraphs written in the iambic pentameter, then your day is going to be long and unproductive.  Your website needs to be direct.  To the point.  Delivered in a nice easy conversational tone.  Getting clever with your prospects will do you no favours.

Says the blogger who began this article butchering Hamlet’s soliloquy.

However, therein marks the difference between a blog and a website.  People read blogs to keep informed about things going on in their industry.  People sip their tea and get involved with the text that a blog provides because it is educational.  The truth echoes our previous point.  People scan websites. 

Think of the last website you read every word of.

Is there one?

Probably not.

Clever language might be a signifier for all that stored up literary potential that you’re harbouring, but it isn’t going to impress someone who just wants to know what your services truly entail.  Furthermore, whilst you’re omitting verbose flowery language from your awesome website copy, you should ensure that you’re removing any complicated jargon.

Especially if your less-savvy prospects aren’t going to understand what your hyper-active-triple-java-core-processor really does for your coffee machine.

Tippex edit by hand highlighters

Re-write that awesome website copy

Do you remember that time when you wrote a website in one sitting and it was perfect? 

I didn’t think you would.  Under the assumption you have undergone some form of education in your life, you will know that you never submit your first draft.

Your website needs to read well and sound good.  So, you are going to have to edit and redraft. 

Print off all your website copy and sit down with it.  Get your highlighters, your red pens, or your Tippex and edit by hand.  The issue with editing on screen is that you end up getting lazy with it.  Your eyes glide over mistakes and you can miss the odd typo or badly phrased sentence.

For the same reason you should also ask a colleague to read through your work.  There might be an issue in your awesome website copy that you didn’t pick up on. 

Restraint stamina website copy

Wrapping it all up

Writing a blog is more enjoyable than the prospect of writing the text for another website.  You can be a little freer with the copy.  The intent is to engage the reader to want to continue going through the article.  Often the blog topics aren’t exactly the sort of thing the next Stephen King would relish crafting.  However, you have a little more licence and can afford some flourish with a blog post.

But that doesn’t mean writing a website is easy.

On the contrary, demonstrating the restraint and patience that it takes to write a website is a difficult skill in itself.  In fact, writing a website is a work of stamina.

And coffee.

Lots of it.

Don’t be disheartened.  Once you are in the rhythm of writing you will cover a lot of ground quickly.  And if you want to have a bit of fun in your first draft – do it.  It might just be the thing that gets you through writing an entire website of copy. 

You can always prune the bush when it is fully grown.

(As far as metaphors go that was bad).

If there is anything you feel I have left out of this article, or something that you wish to add then please don’t hesitate to comment.  It will certainly help anyone else researching this topic.

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