A 2023 State of Content Marketing report by SEMrush revealed that 37% of brands surveyed say they outsource copywriting. If you fall in the 63% and want to improve your website copywriting skills, we’re here to help.
Web copy can make the difference between a visitor and a lead. Yet, web copywriting is a strategy that sometimes falls by the wayside, often overlooked for other website elements like SEO, design, and functionality.
It plays an integral role for consumers at every buying cycle stage, from awareness to decision-making and advocacy.
What is website copywriting?
Website copywriting is the process of writing content – think blog posts, landing pages, product pages – to prompt a desired action on a website. Well-crafted website copy can turn visitors into leads and leads into customers.
Most marketers can identify poor web copy when they see it. Why? Because poor web copy doesn’t read smoothly, stir emotions, influence behaviors, or make explicit calls to action.
It feels purposeless — and that’s the exact opposite of what marketing is meant to accomplish.
Below, you’ll find tips on how to write compelling copy.
1. Know your audience.
The number one tip for website copywriting is to know who will read it. If you don’t have a reader in mind, how will you know which words and tone will resonate with them best?
As a writer myself, I am constantly aware of the user and their needs. It’s my north star when writing posts. How did I get to know them? Through user personas and data.
User personas will tell you who the average reader is landing on my article, their pain points and challenges, and their goals.
Data will give you insight into what strategies have performed well with that audience and which ones to stay away from.
With both, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of your audience, allowing you to write copy that will engage and compel your users to take action.
Expert tip: Ryan Robinson suggests hanging out on the social media platforms your audience frequents.
By reading your target audience’s posts and comments, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of their needs and pain points and how to market to them effectively.
2. Figure out the why.
You’ve been tasked with writing a particular piece of copy on the company website.
Once you understand your audience, one HubSpot marketer recommends asking yourself, “Who cares?”
“If I can’t answer that, then I can’t expect anyone to read it,” said Curtis del Principe, SEO content writer at HubSpot. “Once I have an idea of who cares (and why), then I have an angle and a throughline to guide my writing.”
Too often, we write without diving into the purpose of the content. What will the reader gain from reading this? What do I want them to do after reading this? Why should they care about this content?
Answering these questions is key to writing valuable content.
Expert tip: Amanda at Blogs by Jarvis suggests finding your angle before you begin writing. Amanda says, “Who you are selling to will determine the direction you choose to write from.”
Take time to flesh out what you hope your audience will gain from your piece. This will make the writing process easier.
3. Complexity kills readability.
According to SEMrush, “data shows the more readable an article is, the more likely it is to perform.”
Take this as your sign to skip the jargon and the fancy words — just get straight to the point. Here are a few examples:
- Helpful vs. Beneficial
- Use vs. Utilize
- Happen vs. Occur
- Test vs. Examine
When in doubt, keep it simple. However, if you’re struggling with keeping your copy readable, consider using an AI tool, like HubSpot’s campaign assistant, to help you create copy for a landing page, email, or ad.
Expert tip: Polly Clover, an SEO copywriter, believes most people skim a blog post or article instead of reading it. Polly suggests keeping your post easy to read and skimmable. Use easy-to-read words in your posts to target a wider audience.
4. Be concise.
Nobel prize winner and writer William Faulkner said it best: Kill your darlings.
As writers, it’s so easy to get carried away with our words. In marketing, using excessive language can have the exact opposite effect of what we want.
AJ Beltis, senior marketing manager at HubSpot responsible for blog leads, calls himself a wordy writer. So, he focuses on brevity.
“The first time I write something, I get all of my thoughts down in writing. Then, I’ll look it over again and ask myself, ‘How can I say this more concisely?'” he says. “I find that I’m able to get my point across clearer and faster as a result.”
Madison Z. Vettorino echoes this by encouraging brands to keep their copy “bite-sized” without sacrificing accuracy and authenticity.
“Every word and sentence should connect to that core idea. If it doesn’t, it’s unnecessary and should be deleted,” she says. “When it comes to copywriting, the ability to keep it brief yet impactful is a superpower.”
Expert tip: Nicholas Tart of Income Diary suggests keeping paragraphs to only one to three paragraphs. Short paragraphs help keep readers engaged and moving through your content.
5. Write how you speak.
This one seems obvious but can be the biggest hurdle for copywriters.
We often think that our readers use language that’s more advanced and elevated than our own. But the truth is, many readers want to be spoken to like a friend.
When you write how you speak, your copy sounds more conversational and relatable. If you’re writing on a complex topic, think about how you would explain it to a family member and try to emulate that in your copy.
Expert tip: Elliott Pak, a content writer, suggests reading your copy out loud to hear how your words sound. This way, you’ll be able to hear the tone of the copy. Is the tone friendly? Is it direct? Or is it boring?
Think about these things as you read out loud.
6. Take breaks between drafts.
When you’ve been working on something for a while, it becomes hard to spot errors.
To combat this, take a lot of time between edits, says HubSpot staff writer Madhu Murali.
“This gives me a fresh perspective on the piece each time I read it and gets a better idea of a reader’s POV,” he says.
When rereading, you’ll likely spot clunky sentences, awkward phrasing, and grammar mistakes more easily. This approach can turn good copy into great copy.
Expert tip: Blogger Margaret Bourne suggests giving yourself some time before making edits or changes to your content. Like Elliot Pak, Margaret advises reading your content out loud, but this time to spot clunky sentences and mistakes.
7. Break up the copy.
No matter how good your copy is, if it’s long and bulky, you’ll likely lose your reader’s attention.
Eye-tracking studies reveal that website visitors often skim articles instead of reading every sentence. As such, break up your paragraphs — especially if your traffic mostly comes from mobile devices.
This can also be done through subheaders, bullet points, and images, as shown in the example below.
Expert tip: Magoven Creative Studio knows breaking up the text is an important strategy to keep your readers moving through your content.
However, they suggest using graphics, headers, and bullet points to engage your audience and create breaks in the text. Be sure to include only relevant graphics that match the intent of the content.
8. Avoid overuse of buzzwords.
I once landed on a website and read so many buzzwords that I had no idea what they were saying. I spent a few minutes rereading sentences to make sense of them but got nowhere.
I got discouraged and exited the site.
When using buzzwords, the goal is usually to use words most likely to stand out to readers. Sometimes, people get carried away a bit, and you end up with a convoluted sentence with no substance.
In this case, less is more. So, keep your copy straightforward and jargon-free — unless you have data to prove that it works for your audience.
Expert tip: Jessica La, a blogger, says you need to be mindful of your tone and not overuse jargon. Overusing jargon doesn’t just make your content unreadable, but it also sets a poor tone for your readers. Keep it simple and light.
9. Focus on benefits.
As straightforward as this seems, many companies fail to apply this principle to their web copy.
They focus on what their company does and what products they offer, instead of writing from the reader’s perspective. What can they gain from using your software? Start from there.
So, instead of saying, “We do inbound marketing,” try something like “Increase your web traffic and leads with engaging content,” which immediately outlines the benefits.
Expert tip: Samantha Travis, a blogger, emphasizes the importance of focusing on topics relevant to your target audience. Samantha says, “Be creative and consider what your target audience would find interesting and useful.” Make sure your content is clear about its value and benefits.
10. Don’t overlook microcopy.
Microcopy refers to short text on a website, such as a call-to-action (CTA) and the label on a form field.
The text doesn’t seem to come up in conversation very often, but little details like these can make or break the user experience on your website.
Easier said than done, right? We know.
There are a few surefire ways to write an engaging CTA:
- Use action verbs – Instead of generic phrases like “Click here” and “Learn more,” use terms like “Discover” and “Join.”
- Appeal to their desires – If you know your audience seeks community, you can emphasize this with a CTA like “Join a community of 1,000+ marketers.”
- Evoke urgency and scarcity – Terms like “Limited,” “Act now,” and “While it lasts” can drive action from consumers who don’t want to miss out.
Expert tip: Sarah Turner, a copywriter, suggests your copy should encourage the reader to take action. She says, “You actually need to tell them exactly what to do next.”
Double-check your copy and ensure the reader understands the next, direct step they should take after reading your content.
11. Check out the competition.
It’s always helpful to see what your competitors are doing, as it can inform your strategy. Copywriting is no different.
Review your direct competitors’ websites and take note of their copy. What’s their tone? How do they present their products and services to consumers? What CTAs do they use (and on which pages) to drive traffic through to the bottom of the funnel?
I’m not suggesting that you should adopt their copywriting approach, but it doesn’t hurt to know their take.
Expert tip: Caelan Huntress is always checking out the competition and suggests creating a “swipe file” of effective copywriting. Don’t confuse a swipe file with stealing, though.
Instead, a swipe file as a source of inspiration to tailor your copy with your brand’s message to best market to your audience.
Now that you have all these tips, you can up your copywriting game and increase those conversions.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in March 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.