First, the bad news; there is no one single trick to writing great web copywriting. Anyone who’s ever struggled to craft content that grabs people’s attention, persuades them to take an action, and appeals to search engines all at once knows how hard this process is. It requires a special skill set and practice. Lots and lots of practice.
But don’t despair! For all those web copywriters or one-man small business and marketing operations, you can sharpen your skills if you follow some simple guidelines the next time you sit down to write a blog, social media post, or PPC ad.
Of course, every type of copy on the internet has its own sub set of rules (website copy is different than a landing page, for example). But we’re going to focus on some basic principles that can be applied across all formats.
Great web copywriting needs to have:
- Scannable headlines
- Short paragraphs
- Clear CTA
- Singular voice
- Intellectual and emotional appeal
For better or worse, headlines are everything when it comes to online content. People don’t read news feeds as much as scan them, so if your headline is lackluster or uninspired, it’s going to be scrolled over.
Make your headline specific. Neil Patel does a great job of this. Writing for QuickSprout, his headlines often appeal clearly and directly to his audience, offering them hard-to-ignore insights into blogging and SEO.
Meanwhile, news and lists site, Buzzfeed uses hyperbolic and sometimes sensationalist headlines to increase clicks.
The trick to writing the perfect headline is to find an irresistible, value-driven angle to your content. But be careful. Overly exaggerated headlines might be construed as click bait, causing people to become suspicious, or to simply not take you seriously.
If you’re writing a blog, keep your paragraphs short and sweet. Because of the volume of information online, people probably aren’t going to read your entire post word for word; it’s just not practical given the many demands of our time.
Instead, break up your content into succinct, easily digestible chunks of information. People are much more likely to read a post that employs generous amounts of white space rather than one giant, unsightly block of text. Plus, this method will help keep your thoughts focused, and provide visual cues to the reader as the topic evolves or changes.
The same principle applies to other forms of content as well, such as emails, website copy, and landing pages. Always keep chunks of text small and scannable.
The most important element to any kind of web copy is its value proposition.
Catchy headlines will draw readers in, and short paragraphs should encourage them to spend time with your content, but if what you’ve written doesn’t provide value, they won’t be persuaded to take further action. This is a big problem, as the whole point behind free online content is to convert browsers into leads and customers.
To create truly compelling copy, make sure it answers questions that your audience may have. Whether you’re providing a How-To, or addressing other types of needs relevant to your industry, people will take you more seriously if you can give them something useful.
A clear CTA
As I mentioned, the goal of any web copy is to persuade readers to take a desired action. Whether it’s a simple click, completing a form, or even making a sale, you need to state your intention boldly and clearly in the form of a clear call to action.
Sometimes the CTA is contained within the text, with the desired text hyperlinked. However, to boldly announce your call to action, consider making it a button that’s separate from the rest of the text.
This image, taken from Hubspot’s blog, shows how to properly display a CTA. There’s no question about what Hubspot wants readers to do once they’ve reached the end of the post.
A singular voice
If you’re marketing your business online, you most likely have multiple channels. From your website and social media accounts, people are reading your copy in a variety of places. While the content you post on your blog is different than your tweets, it should all sound the same. That is, you should maintain one brand voice.
If users like your witty Facebook post and are persuaded to click over to your website, don’t surprise them with formal, business copy. The shift in tone can be confusing and hurt your chances of a conversion.
The voice of your copy should reflect the values of your brand. A company that’s dedicated to customer service may use a friendly, conversational tone. Meanwhile, a B2B specializing in complex technology might emphasize clear, dry information in its copy.
Figure out the tone and keep it consistent, no matter where you’re posting.
Stop and read this right now!
…That’s the effect you want to create with your headline and subsequent copy. Without urgency, readers will be less persuaded to stop what they’re doing and spend time with your content. If you’re writing a blog, try tying your subject matter to a trending topic, such as upcoming holidays or current events.
You can even re-purpose old blogs if they’re relevant to a news item that’s popular right now. Using social media, link the current story to your post. It’s a great way to increase clicks and keep your copy evergreen.
You don’t always need current events to create urgency, though. Emphasize the benefits of your content, as well as the consequences of not reading it.
Emotional and intellectual appeal
Compelling copy plays to both our hearts and minds. Let’s face it – we may say that we’re above marketing that shamelessly appeals to our emotions, but at the end of the day we can’t resist stories of triumph, fear, etc. Indeed, copywriting that employs emotional stories can greatly impact readers’ decision-making.
As a web copywriter, you need to find the emotional angle to your topic. For example, if you’re writing about household plumbing, you may focus on the fear of a burst pipe or other emergency. How does your product or service affect or improve the emotions of your audience?
Additionally, you shouldn’t neglect intellectual appeal either. For as much as people are persuaded by emotions, they’re influenced by cold, hard facts as well. Whenever possible, include statistics to bolster your claims.
Providing links to other relevant sites in your blog, social media post or other form of online content can also help improve the legitimacy of your own writing.
As with traditional forms of copywriting, always focus on the benefits of your topic. How will it improve your readers’ careers or lives? Provide clear and concrete examples, and consider breaking them up into separate sections, each titled in bold.
Another easy way to show the benefits of your topic is to list them in bullet points. As mentioned, readers want to absorb as much information as possible from your writing. For blogs or social media content, you can cover a variety of benefits in a relatively short amount of space by simply listing them off.
Are you using any of these web copywriting techniques? Please leave a comment and share your favorites!