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Website Copywriting: A Practical Guide for Engaging Copy

Lego tour guide with text guide to writing engaging website copy

What's in this article

Writing copy for your website is one of the most important and difficult steps of building a new website. Difficulty in choosing one word over another or relying on a burst of creative energy makes the whole process harder. Luckily there is a practical method to writing website copy that anybody can get started with right now.

Develop a simple objective and decide whether you want your audience to take action or to educate them. Decide on the copy’s tone of voice and create a user avatar. Then start listing all the relevant keywords and based on those keywords free write, once you have filled a page list out the main points you want to get across then you can write, no editing just yet. When you’re finished come back and edit your copy

There is a lot more to each step listed above when writing copy for your website and the great thing is you don’t need to be an expert copywriter, you just have to be knowledgeable about the subject matter. copywriting is a methodical process which means you can write your own copy with confidence.

Create a Goal and Strategy

Before we even start thinking about tapping away at our keyboards we have to decide on a strategy/objective for the website copy. What is the goal of the website? what do you what the reader to know? and what do you want them to do? Start by listing out all of your objectives for your website and write down everything that comes to mind here are some examples to get started

  • Get visitors to request a quote
  • Book a call
  • Make a purchase
  • Sign up for your mailing list

Now that you have listed out all of your goals pick one. Having too many goals for your visitors weakens your strategy and creates the paradox of choice, pick one goal and stick to it.

Educate or Take Action Strategy

While both strategies ultimately have the same goal, to take action, they do it in totally different ways

Action Strategy

This strategy is short and persuasive and encourages the audience to carry out a particular task for example, join now, book now, or subscribe to the newsletter. The action strategy sums up everything the reader needs to know so they can take the next logical step on your website.

Education Strategy

The education strategy is to help the reader make an informed decision. Rather the getting the user to take action there and then like the action strategy it removes the perceived risk by explaining, building trust and building a long-term relationship allowing the reader to take action when they are ready.

when writing for a website you may use both strategies for example on your website home page you can use the action strategy and on your blog section or case study section, you can use the educating strategy. for more on these strategies check out this article Conversion vs Direct Copywriting: Key Differences

Find a Tone of Voice

The tone of voice starts with good grammar, don’t use colloquialisms or fluff like saying something without saying anything at all. Be clear and straight to the point and the tone will follow. if you get stuck it’s ok to use examples that have the same audience as you. better yet if it resonates with you and you have the same traits as your audience then it will resonate with them as well.

Discover your Target Audience

Do you know someone who is 35 and the same person when they were 25? unlikely so why would you put them in the same category 25 – 35 demographic? a better tactic would be to imagine someone you know, just one person and be very specific.

For example, if you’re targeting dads trying to lose weight think of some you know who fit that profile, what are they into, how they do their research, do they read books magazines or articles. Do they use a phone table or laptop to surf the web? when do they sure f the web? a lot more specific than 25 to 35 right?

“If your audience doesn’t understand what you’ve said, you haven’t understood your audience”

Copywrong to Copywriter: A Practical Guide to Copywriting for Small Businesses, Small Organizations, Sole Traders and Lone Rangers by Tait Ischia

Create a User Profile

Now organise your user target audience into 3 modes, physical, cognitive and emotional state.

Physical state: what is your reader doing while they’re reading

how will these states affect how they read?

On the go? keep it short and clear CTA, If they relaxing on the couch you can write something that they can invest a little more time

Cognitive state: What is your reader capable of?

Are they well versed in the subject you’re writing about, are they new to it, what is their reading level? If they are not well versed in the subject then try writing in plain language and explaining important subjects in simple terms. If a reader understands the topic you won’t need to go into depth about the subject

Emotional state: Stressed and busy or relaxed and time to learn and understand how this will affect their patience. Are they stressed? keep it simple, straightforward and clear, for example, they just had a car accident and are trying to complete an insurance claim

Are they in a good mood? it’s okay to play around and add some humour

Create a Measurable Outcome

What do you want them to think and do? Don’t create a broad goal like creating brand awareness or getting more sales. Be specific and focus on something that can be measured, for example, increasing the number of inquiries through our online form.

Tips on Writing For the Web

Give them as few choices as possible mostly read by readers in a rush just skimming the content

Clear page hierarchy important readers can quickly find what they’re looking for list things out in order of importance and work with a designer so you can ley out this in order of importance

Use the scroll bar to reveal the narrative and then reveal parts of the story section by section to keep the reader engaged think home pages articles and landing pages

The fold doesn’t exist referring to newspapers where the headline had to capture the user’s attention so a reader would pick up the paper and read the rest. websites are different device widths and heights are all different so people are more likely to scroll before the fold that’s if your page loads fast enough

So with that don try and cramp all of your text above the “fold” tell a story and give them a reason to keep scrolling

Some SEO tips write some that people find interesting, use keywords strategically throughout your website and get people to link back to your website

Should You Write a Clickbait Title

Don’t short-change your audience by tricking them with clickbait titles, instead provide value. Try different headlines add some humour, juxtapositions keep trying until you find something that works.

Almost everything that’s true is boring and almost everything that’s interesting is false

Clay Shirky

How to Start Writing

Getting started is the most difficult and worst part when it comes to writing. Where do I begin? What words do I use, should I say it this way or that way? This is normal when starting out and the reason why it’s so difficult is that you don’t have a strategy and sometimes that strategy doesn’t work so then you try another one and another one until you get it.

Here’s a strategy from Copywrong to Copywriter: A practical guide to Copywriting for small businesses, small organisations, sole traders and lone rangers by Tait Ischia

List Your Keywords

write down all of the keywords, don’t go into sentences just yet just list out as many as you can then filter them with someone and figure out which ones fit your brand then and only then you can start to write

Free Write

Start writing get up a google doc or whatever tool you wish to use and start writing filling an entire page with your thoughts, ideas, ramblings and bad sentences. Don’t edit, don’t delete just write until you fill the entire page. This is your starting point.

Make a Plan

Now write out a bullet list of all the main arguments/points that you want to get across doesn’t need to be detailed. You can add in some of the keywords and sentences that you created in the previous steps

Write Hot, Edit Cold

now start writing, in this step don’t stop and edit just write. don’t delete or rewrite just keep writing. some writers will write whole chapters only to throw them away at the end of the day

After writing your first draft, or as much as you can in one sitting, go do something else unrelated. After 10 minutes an hour or even a day, you can come back and start editing. This helps the analytical side of your brain when editing any structural or grammatical errors.

Write in a Different Tone of Voice

If you’re not happy with your result try rewriting in a totally different tone of voice, try at least 3. You could try a very serious tone then, a humorous tone, or a negative tone then overly positive. write them out then with a friend start picking out which ones work and which ones do.

Read it Aloud

If your writing is read aloud you will see if it flows and makes sense. Sometimes it doesn’t feel right and reading it aloud helps find errors that you may have missed while editing.

Develop a Copywriting Brief

Ideally, keep your brief to one page, for larger websites a brief for each web page is reasonable, the more planning you put into what you’re going to say and to who, and their background than the more effective your copy will be.

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