If you’re reading this, you have a website. Maybe it’s a proper website. Maybe it’s more like a Facebook or LinkedIn page. Either way, you have some online presence. And that presence has copy on it, for better or worse. Which means you’ll be tasked with some copywriting, either now or in the future.
Words can be make or break your website in more ways than one. Not only is your web copy the first taste of your brand many people receive, it’s also how you’ll get discovered in the first place (usually through some shared link or search result). What you say online and how you say it has meaning. Without the right strategy, you’ll fall behind.
We do a ton of copywriting here. Blogs, websites, emails, social media and more. And for good reason; it’s difficult to transfer all your thoughts to paper (or in this case, screen) while making them sound appealing to people beyond yourself. Some would even say it’s a valuable skill. We agree.
Here are a few of the tips and tricks we’ve picked up over the years to add value to your words and save your website, in whatever form it takes.
Know Your Key Concepts
Before you try and hammer out a few written web pages, you need to know what you want to say. Because that sounds daunting it can lead you to either slap down everything in your head or put off the task indefinitely. Instead, we reposition the task with a simple question:
“What do I want to be known for?”
With this, you start writing down a list of the desirable traits for which you’d like to be recognized. Personable. Detailed. Service-oriented. Low cost leader. You begin to write down your brand’s personality (or your personal brand) that way, which helps unstick the writer’s block and keeps you on message when copywriting.
You should also note niches within your industry and competitive advantages. Whatever points for which you want to be remembered as the leader will frame your web copy. For us, that means things like:
- Digital Marketing
- Ethical Advertising
- Forward Thinking
- Personal Attention
- Facebook & Social Media
Because this list can get long, you’d also do well to note the things you don’t want to be known for. Don’t try to be all things to all people. Instead focus on what you do well and what point you want to come across.
Note: There’s a Difference Between “Key Concepts” and “Keywords”
I want to stress that this is different from knowing your keywords. This is by design. Algorithms are getting more sophisticated every day. Old style SEO keyword-based strategies don’t work anymore and even get penalized in some situations if you’re not careful.
Instead, search bots continue to improve their contextual reasoning and can figure out what you do from the sum total of content on your website or page, not a few specific keywords. That’s why it’s better to stick to a few key concepts and expound upon those, using whatever words are related to the topic.
In short, the specific words you use don’t matter as much as explaining what you do clearly and precisely. Keyword stuffing is indeed a thing of the past.
Start with a Copywriting Outline
Now that you have some key concepts you want to drive home, start writing them down and organizing them in a hierarchy, with the most important things at the top and lesser supporting concepts toward the bottom. By writing out and ordering your concepts, you’re actually creating the outline of your web copy, which will come in very handy in finishing it.
One of my favorite shortcuts here is to take these concepts and turn them into headlines for paragraphs, sections or even pages, depending on how much depth is needed. This frames the entire story you want to tell your reader. After all, don’t you want to tell them the story of why you’re the manifestation of all those key concepts? We’ll get to that later.
Not only does the outline help you organize your thoughts better than free writing does, it also helps you organize your copywriting effort into topics upon which you can expand. This is what I call “copy blocking.”
Once you have your outline, write a couple sentences supporting each header. Do that for as many headers and subheads as you see are important. Eventually, you’ll have enough copy to fill out that section, essentially writing a large web project in pieces at a time.
Copy blocking will let you work on different elements at different speeds, depending on what’s coming natural to you at any given time. You end up focusing on the most important topics at the expense of those that are less so. You’ll also add more variety and interest to the piece simply because it’s written in different stages. There will be less monotony when you jump around explaining different things.
Caveat: You will have to review it all at the end, though, to make sure your thoughts run together and demonstrate a cohesive point.
Show, Don’t Tell
When copy blocking, you’ll want to make sure of a few things. First, keep it simple. Be short and to the point. Superfluous words (like “superfluous”) dilute your message. The shorter you can write, the more impactful your language.
Second, try to paint a picture of what you do. Avoid the endless lists of accolades and adjectives. Explain the “why” of what you do, something we attempt on this website through What We Believe and How We Do It, which explains the way the Digital Pudding machine thinks. Tell a story of how you help make a difference. Demonstrate your value instead of telling people you’re worth it. That makes you more believable and more likable, too.
Here’s the thing about web copywriting. You don’t have to be professorial. As noted above, you want brevity. So for added punch, skip the pleasantries of full sentences and correct grammar. Stick to short, succinct bullets and headlines for the most impact.
Bullets can also be callouts, captions or other one-off sentences (or not even sentences) that convey your point. Maybe these were lists left over from your outline that don’t require expansion through copy blocking. Or there could be a few key industry buzzwords and concepts you want in there that don’t need a full explanation. Hit them then get on with your story.
Anyone Can Write Web Copy
This is how I write most of these blog posts,. Maybe it’s just my weird brain that makes this copywriting process work. In sharing, I hope at least some of this advice will help some of you write better, more focused web copy.
There aren’t any hard and fast rules for making your writing project amazing. It can be boring and absolutely tank your website, though, so heed this guidance in creating web copy as a way to stick to your strategy and elevate your web presence.