Website copywriting: a guide for beginners
Website copywriting is the most important aspect of your site. What your website says determines whether people believe you can help them. It shows why they should trust in you.
Yet for many business owners, writing doesn’t come naturally. As freelancers, contractors, companies-of-one, we have to wear all the hats. It doesn’t mean we are good at everything though! This beginner’s guide to website copywriting is written with those people in mind. To show that you don’t have to be perfect to get it done!
This article explores the three most important things to work on when writing your web copy, which are:
Recognise client pain
In this guide, we’ll also explore things to consider when writing your web copy and some general website copywriting tips. The article also answers broader questions, such as ‘why is copywriting important’, to give you a contextual understanding of why it’s worth getting your web copy right.
I hope you find it useful. Let’s go!
Were you looking for copywriting services rather than a website copywriting guide? No problem – you can skip the article and check out website copywriting services instead.
What is website copywriting?
Definition: website copywriting is writing copy for websites.
‘Copy’ is the text that appears on a site.
‘Writing’ is the act of…well, writing.
Copy + writing = the act of writing copy.
Website + copywriting = the act of writing website copy. In other words, writing text that will appear on a website.
Glad that’s cleared up! Now, away from the arithmetic lesson and on with the words.
Why is copywriting important?
Copywriting is important because it’s an opportunity to speak directly to your customers. To share ideas. To solve problems. To explain what you do, how you help and why it’s beneficial for them.
For your copywriting to be effective, it needs to be clear. As clear as this brilliant example, shared by a New York bookshop earlier in the pandemic:
Image and Tweet posted by @mcnallyjackson
So, how do you achieve clarity in your copywriting?
Tell people what you can do for them with your web copy
Take the example above. The signage tells you immediately what you'll find on the inside - books! Though the example is a literal shopfront, the principles are worth bearing in mind for your website copywriting.
The copy on the shopfront identifies the bookshop owner's beliefs about the world of bookselling: bookshops should be stocked by humans. This gives the passer-by an opportunity to agree with that belief and explore inside. Or it gives them a chance to disagree, and walk away. As Seth Godin might say, it's marketing with people, not at them.
YOUR message needs to be that clear!
Even if you don't have a literal shop front. Otherwise, people won’t know what you offer.
The copy on the front of the bookshop makes clear what they represent. It’s easy for people passing by to ‘get' what they're about and whether they can get on board with it too. For the person on the street, the decision to give their custom to the bookshop becomes easy, because the copy has done the hard work.
So far, we’ve explored why copywriting is important. We’ve looked at the role of clarity in your copywriting. There are two more key tenets of website copywriting: recognising client pain and demonstrating the benefits of your service. We’ll explore these now.
As the old marketing adage goes, nobody is buying your service, they’re buying relief of their pain.
How can I write copy for my website?
One of the best things you can do with your web copy, is to recognise your reader’s pain. As the old marketing adage goes, nobody is buying your service, they’re buying relief of their pain.
As a freelancer, consultant or contractor dealing with businesses, we are almost always up against the pain, rather than the pleasure, factor. We sell accountancy or sales training, after all, not Nike trainers or holidays!
The next best thing you can do, is show them what they’ll get out of it. What’s in it for them? What other benefits will they get, besides the pain you take away when you resolve their problem?
Yes, sales training might make the team more effective at closing deals and therefore resolve a cash flow problem. But what are the wider benefits of more sales? Perhaps there’s now money to invest in new services, a bigger office or more staff. Illuminate your potential customers: share these insights with them.
Website copywriting: solve your clients’ problems on the page
To convince your clients that you can solve their problems, first you need to know what those problems are. Think about your target audience, or revisit your buyer persona documents. Take time to identify the issues your clients face. Which of their challenges relate to your field of work?
Not only will this help you identify client pain points, it’ll also give you greater clarity about your audience in general. What they want, what interests them and what their needs are, for instance.
To convince your clients that you can solve their problems, first you need to know what those problems are.
When you write your web copy, show that you ‘get it.’ You might choose to do that in a headline. If you’re a recruitment consultant speaking to stressed business owners, you might have a headline that says:
‘Recruit staff that stick around’
The beauty of website copywriting is that you’re in control. You could also recognise the reader’s pain in the main body of the text, known as the body copy. Perhaps your opening line reads:
‘I help busy MDs find the staff they need, when they need them.’
These words are ready to prompt a spark of recognition in the reader. ‘Oh’ thinks the business owner. ‘That’s me! I’m growing my business and I’m super busy. I need staff and I need them to stick around to help me take the business to the next level.’
Website copywriting: highlight the benefits of your work
There’s an art to website copywriting which revolves, in part, around explaining the benefits of your service. I know, it’s not always easy with service businesses; without a physical product it can be tricky to nail down the real-world benefits that come from what you do. What you offer is intangible: it’s felt, not seen, and it might require an investment of time or money, or both, before results appear.
All of the above makes it doubly important for you to convey the benefits of what you offer.
When you write web copy, use the features of your service to springboard to the benefits.
The following examples show how to do this:
10 years of experience working in Estate Planning (feature), so I have a thorough understanding of the possibilities clients can achieve (benefit)
24-hour turnaround time and free next-day delivery (feature), no need to wait for your prints again (benefit)
Group coaching available (feature), designed to break down barriers and build cohesive teams (benefit)
These are some quick, made-up examples for imaginary businesses. However, it does demonstrate how to draw out benefits even if you’re not used to writing in that way.
Copywriting tip for writing about benefits
It can be tough to write benefits straight out of the gate, especially if you’re not comfortable writing copy. Begin with features and make the links to why they are beneficial, as demonstrated above.
Once you get used to writing copy, you’ll grow more comfortable leading with benefits. You might even find that you drop the features altogether! Of course, only drop the features if it’s still clear to your target audience what you do. Don’t sacrifice clarity for fancy copy, otherwise your potential customer will be none the wiser and they’ll leave your site.
Build Know, Like and Trust with your web copy
The point of website copywriting, especially for companies-of-one providing a service, is to build the Know, Like and Trust (KLT) factor. The self-employed build this all the time, whether consciously or unconsciously: at networking meetings, on social media, in marketing emails...
All of those interactions are geared to building bridges with potential customers, so those people are happy to work with you. It’s no different with your website copywriting.
If you can achieve a level of clarity in your web copy, if you can recognise your client’s pain and show why working with you is beneficial, you’re well on your way to building the KLT principle with your prospective clients.
How much does copywriting cost?
Website copywriting costs vary. This is true for copywriting in other areas too, but especially true with websites. The price of website copywriting varies so much because every website is different.
That’s not all.
A done-for-you copywriting service will have a bigger price tag than a website you write yourself. Having your website copy professionally written will take a lot less of your time.
To write effective copy, you’ll need to check that it answers your clients’ problems, resolves their pain and conveys the benefits of working with you.
How to improve your website copywriting
My guess is that if you’re here, you’re looking to take care of your website copywriting yourself. Perhaps you’ve already written your web content and you want to polish it before you hit ‘publish.’
The best way to improve your website copy is to thoroughly edit your work: check it for sense, spelling and grammar, of course.
You’ll also need to check that it answers your clients’ problems, resolves their pain and conveys the benefits of working with you. I’ve put together a free website copywriting checklist to guide you through the process of improving your website copy. The ‘Yes/No’ questions allow you to audit your headline, body copy and call to action for every page of your website.
The result is web copy you have confidence in, a site you’re proud of and clients that know, like and trust you. I hope you find it helpful!
Do your words feel effortless? Are you confident that they speak to the people you can help?
Service businesses: look and learn from a brick-and-mortar shop
You have a brilliant purpose, a great service. I don't doubt that for a second.
If you’re struggling with writing your copy, ask yourself: do your words feel effortless? Do they speak to the people you can help? Are they a foghorn for the passing ship carrying your lost crew, like the bookshop example?
If you care about helping your customers – and my guess, given that you're offering a service, proffering your skill for their benefit, is that you do – then please don't leave your website copywriting to last.
Copy is not a magic wand; it is about as near as you're going to get, short of receiving your invite to Hogwarts. Revisit your buyer personas. Reflect on your target audience. Spend time getting to know them and proceed to wondrous website copy with clarity!
Or, if you’d like a professional to handle your website copywriting, get in touch.
Good luck out there!