Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Website Copywriting Tips to Help Your Content Resonate

by Paul Leonard

Contrary to popular belief, being a website copywriter isn't easy. In fact, successfully copywriting content for your website can be downright tough, even without the added complication of SEO. Use the appropriate language and people will remember you - and everything you say - for all the right reasons. Use the wrong language and you could inadvertently be saying goodbye.

If you're dealing with customers face to face, it's easier to get your language right. For instance, if you own a shop, your customer is right in front of you. You can see who they are, how old they are, what mood they're in. You can pick up on all sorts of visual cues and tailor your language accordingly, without even really thinking about it.

Website copywriting is different

It's stating the obvious, but communicating with your online clientele as a website copywriter is different. You can't see your customers. You can't gauge how they are reacting to what you say, your products, your prices, anything. With this in mind, and assuming you've already done some due diligence research into your market, here are some simple website copywriting tips to make your content more engaging and effective.

The power of 'you'

Remember, as a website copywriter you're talking to a person - one customer, not some vague group or demographic. Personalize your copywriting by using 'you' to address your audience. 'You' immediately means you're talking directly to the person who's in front of their monitor looking at your website. You're engaging with them as an individual, while also giving your content a warm and inviting tone.

Using 'you' also helps you get into the right headspace. As soon as you make sure you address your reader as 'you' you'll automatically find yourself using more appropriate and conversational language. This is especially helpful if you're used to copywriting more formal documents, such as official letters and contracts instead of advertising or marketing material.

The first person, not the third

You can usually tell when a company has written their own marketing or website content in-house - more often than not, inexperienced website copywriters write in the third person. Rather than 'we' their copy refers to the business by its name, subsequently referring to the business as 'it.'

For example:

"Acme Grommits is an international grommit manufacturer with distribution centres throughout the world. Its reputation for excellence is unparalleled."

This is a copywriting mistake.

Firstly, it can be confusing and misleading, especially in situations where you're talking about partnerships or alliances with other companies. Before you know it, your reader doesn't actually know which business 'it' is.

Secondly, it simply doesn't engage your reader. It gives your copy a detached feel. Using 'we' and 'our' and 'us' in conjunction with 'you' creates a more immediate link between your business and your online audience, like so:

"Here at Acme Grommits, we're one of the world's leading grommit manufacturers, with an unparalleled reputation for excellence. You'll find our distribution centres throughout the world."

Ask questions

People like to be asked questions. Questions make you feel important and involved. That's why using website elements such as feedback forms or email surveys as a two-way conduit for dialogue with your customers is so effective. By involving your customers and asking for their input, whether it be feedback on your website or recommendations on what products they would like to see, you're developing a relationship.

The same applies to your website copywriting. Using questions within your copy, even if they are rhetorical, not only engages your audience, it makes your content feel more natural. After all, we all use questions when we're trying to make a point, don't we?

Strike the right tone

Before you start copywriting, consider your business as a brand in the context of the marketplace and your competition. If your business were a car, what make and model would it be? Is it a Mercedes or a Ford, a Ferrari or a Volvo?

By asking yourself these questions, and thinking about the style and tone of language other brands use to communicate, you'll be able to identify the right copywriting style and tone for your business and website. Big-name brands put a huge amount of money into researching their brand and the language they use to differentiate themselves, so you should take the time to consider your website copywriting style and tone too.

Use your imagination

This is the most important bit; the best way to ensure you're doing a good job as a website copywriter is to imagine your customer is sitting in front of you. Imagine you're talking directly to them. If it helps, picture someone you know who fits your demographic - a neighbour, a friend, whoever.

Imagine you have 10 seconds to make the right impression and convince them to find out more about what you and your business has to offer. What do you say? Just as importantly, how do you say it? By going through this exercise, you'll find it easier to write more convincingly, and that's half the battle when it comes to being an effective website copywriter.

Paul Leonard is a freelance advertising, website and SEO copywriter and founder member of Caboodle Copywriting, a freelance copywriting team based in Perth, Western Australia (WA). He has extensive international advertising and website copywriting experience, having worked with brands including Harrods, IBM and Amnesty International. To find out more about Paul and Caboodle Copywriting, visit

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