The idea of building a new website or redoing an existing website is usually exciting. We have visions of a beautiful, show stopping site. It’s going to look amazing, better reflect where your business is going and instantly magnetize every browser who visits.
But first, you need to build the dang thing. And before you can build it, you need to write the copy. (Always start with the copy.)
And, I have to warn you: writing your own web copy is hard. It sounds easy, but then you’re staring at a blank page, having no idea where to start. Then you start, and it gets harder. It feels like you’re permanently stuck on day 2 of a 10-day cabbage soup diet. 🤢
At FastCopy, we don’t believe in diets. So, let’s dive in with 5 ways you can instantly improve your web copy.
#1 – Be conversational
If you’ve read enough about copywriting, then you’re not surprised to see this one here. So, why is it here? Spend a few minutes looking at some websites, and you’ll see plenty of corporate-speak, empty jargon and robo-talk.
I know many businesses worry about sounding professional and intelligent. But I think they often confuse professional and intelligent with formal and stuffy.
This has a few detrimental effects:
- It’s often boring, and people won’t keep reading if it’s boring.
- When you use more formal words or longer words, instead of simple words it creates a heavier burden for the reader – even if they’re really smart. A heavier burden fatigues your reader, so they won’t make a decision about doing business with you. They’ll just leave your site.
- It also creates the subtle effect that you’re hiding behind big or confusing words. This insincerity triggers the finely-tuned BS detector in the reader. And once the BS detector is activated, you’re done like dinner.
Look at what George Orwell had to say about this:
“The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms.” ~George Orwell
Whatever your company’s voice is – even if it’s ‘professional’ – it can still be conversational. Think about how a face-to-face conversation would sound with your ideal customer. Write like that – but with plenty of editing.
How to be conversational in your copy:
- Use contractions. Use it’s instead of it is and you’re instead of you are.
- Use a simpler, more direct word when possible.
- Read your copy out loud. Does it sound like something you’d say face-to-face with a real person? It should.
- Use sentence fragments. C’mon, live a little.
- Adjust your mindset about what you think ‘professional’ sounds like.
#2 – Use more words
You might be thinking: What do you mean use more words? You just said to use simple words to make it easy on the reader.
Yes I did.
But the key word there is easy.
We should definitely be cutting the fat when we write. As William Strunk and E.B. White suggest:
“A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”
So, why am I saying use more words?
Because sometimes we need to use more words to make things easier on our reader. When we’re more specific, the reader doesn’t need to think as much.
Not thinking is critical to conversions. It helps to create the “slippery slide” that Joseph Sugarman talks about in The Adweek Copywriting Handbook. He says:
“As you start to slide down and build momentum, you try holding on to the sides to stop, but you can’t stop. You continue to slide down the slide despite all your efforts to prevent your descent. This is the way your copy must flow.
Every element in an advertisement must cause that slippery slide effect… the first sentence must be so easy to read and so compelling that you must read the next sentence and so on, straight through the entire copy to the end.”
And don’t for one second think that not making the reader think is some sort of condescending remark. That copywriters think readers are stupid or unable to make their own decisions. It’s actually the complete opposite. We have such high regard, empathy and respect for people that we will do ALL of the heavy lifting for them.
We are presenting everything they need to know on a silver platter, so they only need to decide if this is the right solution for them or not.
We don’t want to put the burden of figuring out what we’re trying to say on the reader’s shoulders. If they’re trying to figure out what we’re saying, they might not be able to. Or they get so fatigued or confused that they can’t be bothered anymore.
This creates friction. And friction is a no no when it comes to conversions. We want that slippery slide.
How to make sure you’re using enough words:
- Ask a friend or family member to read your copy – but make sure they are not familiar with the product or service you’re selling. And, for the love of gravy, don’t ask for their opinion! That’s not what you need right now.
Sad “fact”: most people don’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to copywriting, but think they do.
Ask them to explain what your product is and what problem it solves. If they don’t know or explain it incorrectly, get back to writing and be more specific. This method is not foolproof, but will give you a better indication.
- Review your copy for instances of summaries or assumptions that you’re making. Ask yourself if your reader will be aware of the details or steps that are missing from your summaries. If they aren’t, it’s worth adding a sentence or two to fill in the blanks.
#3 – Create images in your readers’ head
Our brains process the images faster than words, so if we’re able to create a vivid picture in someone’s mind they don’t have to think as much.
And if you’ve read the previous sections of this post, you’ll notice that too much thinking can be detrimental to conversions.
Let’s try something. Play along.
When I say “Empower your health,” what picture do you see in your mind?
And, when I say “Harness your body’s potential,” what picture do you see now?
There is no picture, right? It’s kinda nebulous, kinda murky.
But, when I say “Your kids won’t have to help you up the stairs,” do you see a picture?
Yes, of course you do.
The first two examples are from a website that sells a health and wellness product that’s supposed to help with the effects of aging. They don’t really tell you much about the device, do they? Those statements could be about almost anything. What does harnessing my body’s potential really mean? It doesn’t create any type of picture for me.
The third example is much more understandable and visual. It gives a clear and very real outcome for the customer. It’s immediately recognizable. Which means less thinking for the reader!
Here’s how to create images with words:
- Be descriptive with your writing, never leave things vague. Don’t say animal, when you can say elephants and giraffes. Describe blue as turquoise or indigo.
- Always ask yourself if something you’re writing about is immediately recognizable to your specific reader. If it isn’t, change it.
#4 – Tell a story
Antonio Damasio is a neuroscientist who has written and spoken extensively on how our emotions play a critical role in our decision making.
“The problem of how to make all this wisdom understandable, transmissible, persuasive, enforceable – in a word, of how to make it stick – was faced and a solution found.
Storytelling was the solution – storytelling is something brains do, naturally and implicitly… It should be no surprise that it pervades the entire fabric of human societies and cultures.”
With copy, we want to be sticky. To be noticed and remembered. If it’s not noticed and remembered then it has no chance of converting. Storytelling is a powerful way to get through to a reader.
The critical part about storytelling that we need to keep in mind is that even if we’re telling a story about ourselves or our business, the reader’s brain will immediately put themselves in the role of hero, and will consume the story based on their own personal experiences.
Which is why copy that’s company-centric doesn’t hold attention. We need to make sure our readers can see themselves in the copy. We need to constantly answer “what’s in it for me,” with me being the reader, and not you.
You may have heard that with copywriting and marketing you’re not selling the product or the service – you’re selling the benefit or the outcome. And the benefit or outcome is usually a better, happier version of the reader’s life.
This helps us when we write our copy to make sure we’re telling a story about the prospect and what their life will look like if they become a customer.
So we’re not actually selling the thing, we’re selling the transformation from the way their life is now, to a newer, better life. And we do this through story – we, as potential customers, need to be able to navigate the plot of a product or service.
Here’s how to add storytelling elements to your copy:
- Show your readers a beginning, middle and end in your copy. When you’re writing about their current situation in the beginning, be sure to hint about their future. It creates tension that will compel them to keep reading.
- Be specific about the outcomes for your readers (the end). What will their lives look like exactly?
#5 – Be trustworthy
People will put up with a lot, but we will not put up with being made to feel stupid. We’ll also avoid – at all costs – putting ourselves in a situation where we’ll end up feeling stupid.
We want to feel safe from making a bad decision. If we feel anxiety, we won’t make a decision.
That’s why it’s so important to eliminate anxiety (and friction) when we write copy.
Copy needs to reassure people that not only will they love our product or service, but that there’s no risk to them. If it’s a pair of shoes and they don’t fit, they can return it easily. If it’s skincare and it causes an allergic reaction, they’ll want to know they can get their money back.
People also want to see that other people like them have bought from you and succeeded. For instance, when you’re thinking of making a purchase, you probably look at reviews and ask your friends if they’ve bought it. You want to know if they liked it, if it worked for them, and if they’d make the same decision again.
This is why testimonials, certifications and guarantees should be included on your website. This ‘trust bling’ should be placed strategically near conversion points (buttons), so that you’re reassuring your readers every step of the way.
How to show you’re trustworthy in your web copy:
- Show logos of companies you’ve worked with or where your work has appeared – as long as those companies have a good reputation.
- Include badges of any certifications that are relevant to your product or service, such as if your product is certified organic or you’ve received certain training.
- Add testimonials to your site. Make sure the testimonials aren’t overly edited, they don’t sound believable. Include full names and pictures of the testimonial giver when possible – it adds more credibility.
- Have a guarantee, and make it prominent on your site. It shouldn’t be buried in a FAQ section. Show that you have some skin in the game when it comes to your guarantee – you do this to show your reader that you are taking the risk for them.
Now it’s time to make it happen!
If you’ve already written your web copy, go through it again and make sure you’re adding these 5 elements. And if you haven’t started yet, now you know what to include.