Miscellaneous Best Practices: Writing Stellar Website Copy, Part 8
This article is an excerpt from “The 8-Part Guide To Writing Stellar Website Copy”—you can download the full guide here. (It’s free!)
Miscellaneous Website Copy Writing Best Practices
In this last article of our website copy writing series, we’re going over all of the “other” best practices that didn’t quite fit into the categories outlined in our previous posts—this includes establishing credibility, formatting, copy length, interviewing, and more.
Inbound marketing is nothing without the trusting relationship between the company and the reader. For inbound marketing to function correctly, your persona should believe that what you’re telling them is accurate, truthful, and helpful. If they feel like you’re being less than forthright about your product or service, your reputation—and your bottom line—could suffer. And if your website copy is filled with grammatical errors or disorganized ramblings, you’ll likely dissuade your persona from purchasing your product or service.
There are many ways you can showcase your trustworthiness on your website. Here are a few ideas and some examples of each.
Customer & Client Logos
Organized Lists Vs. Paragraph Text
Anyone who’s written website copy before knows that it’s best to include both paragraph text and organized lists (numbered, lettered, or bulleted) on your web pages. Why? Doing this gives “scanners” enough information to quickly glean the information they’re looking for and provides “liners”—anyone who wants to read the web page from top to bottom—with enough information to keep them happy.
But before following that simplified rule of thumb, you’ll want to consider your personas. If your ideal customer is a busy CEO (or anyone who works in a fast-paced environment), he needs to take in information quickly. Therefore, bullet points with action-packed verbs may be the ticket. If your personas are thoughtful and studious—or your product offering is more detail-oriented—your readers will want all the detail you can provide them with. Paragraph copy is going to be the best solution for them.
You should always try to err on the side of less copy.
Think about the last time you went to a website and were frustrated by the sheer amount of content—you just wanted to know how this company’s product could solve your problem, and instead, you had to scan through paragraph after paragraph of text you didn’t care about! Keep that in mind when you’re writing your copy and delete any redundant language or overused sales pitches and answer your users’ questions in as few words as possible.
One way to manage this is to write your copy and then delete half of it. (We’re actually not kidding!) When we write web copy, our final draft is usually about half (or a third) of the word count of the original outline. You absolutely should focus on taking a handful of sentences and culling them down to create one extremely powerful sentence. It isn’t reaching to say writing web copy is like trying to pack the essence of an 800-word article into 1-3 powerful statements.
Point Of View
Keep in mind that no matter which point of view (POV) you write in, you should stay consistent with it throughout your entire website. Your readers will get confused (and rightfully so!) if you’re constantly switching between “you are,” “our company is,” and “we were.”
- First person: This POV should be used for the pages that talk about you and your company—like an “About Us” page.
- Example: “We’re a pretty fun team. Get to know us.”
- Second person: By and large, your copy will be written in second person. This is an extremely conversational approach, which is likely what you’re going for. This POV is likely to get your persona to identify with the pain points you’ve discussed, because it’s focused on them.
- Example: “You’ve got a hunch that your company’s website could be way more productive than it is right now. Let’s prove you right.”
- Third person: The only time you should write in third person is if you’re talking about someone who isn’t reading the copy. If you’re writing about caterpillars and the readers aren’t caterpillars, talk in third person. But if a reader is a caterpillar and she’s the persona, don’t write in third person.
- Example: “The caterpillars will turn into beautiful butterflies.”
Subject matter expert (SME) interviews are a critical part of writing stellar website copy. These interviews offer key insights you may not have ever considered yourself and make your job as a writer a whole lot easier.
From an inbound marketing perspective, these interviews are vital in helping us craft really great copy (without BSing it). If you aren’t an expert on the topic you’ll be writing about, here are a few important tips to keep in mind when you interview an SME:
- Only interview one person per web page at a time, if possible. Trust us—interviewing two or more SMEs at a time can spell disaster. It’s likely that they’ll disagree or talk over one another, which isn’t helpful for anyone.
- If you have to speak to two (or more) people at a time, email them an outline of the questions you’ll ask them beforehand. This will give your SMEs time to think through the topics and talk among themselves about them rather than discussing them at length with (or in front of) you and wasting time during your meeting.
- Set up a recurring interview time. The duration and number of interviews you’ll need will vary based on your website copy writing timeline. When we’re rewriting a client’s entire website, we often write 4-8 web pages each week and have found that we can cover the topics we need to discuss for those pages in an hour-long interview per week (assuming we’ve done our due diligence beforehand). Setting meetings up to recur each week keeps things consistent for you and your SMEs.
- Don’t ask direct questions about specific elements of web page copy. If you’re interviewing for the homepage, don’t ask your SMEs, “What headline ideas do you have?” We’ve found this approach to be ineffective. Instead, ask them a number of questions (like the following), and then craft your text using their answers:
- “What specific pain points are your personas dealing with?”
- “What are three things that could make your visitors nod their head in agreement?”
- “Describe what your product or service can do for the visitor in as few words as possible.”
Download Now: The 8-Part Guide To Writing Stellar Website Copy
Exercising these miscellaneous best practices is the eighth and final critical part of writing great web copy. Want to see all eight parts in one place? The free guide below will help you hone in on what’s important so you can write copy (for any industry) that gets results.