Look, I’m going to be harsh with you.
That pretty, modern, clean, user-friendly website you built can only get your client so far.
Those expensive photoshoots they did are great, but the pictures aren’t the main thing a customer cares about.
And you can build a website that moves at lightning speed, but your client is still not going to win on that alone.
What is it, then, that takes your website from everyday to something that actually stands out and converts?
Hint: it’s what you’re reading now.
Copy is the Single-Most Important Aspect of Any Website
While all of the components of a website (copy, design, code, functionality, accessibility, etc) should work together to create a harmonious example of a brand and their awesomeness, the copy is what is going to capture the customer.
Think about it – that picture may be great, but it’s the words on the page that tells the brand’s story, explains how they help their customers (what they do), and invites them to connect with the brand and business.
I get that you’re probably not a copywriter, and that’s OK. Even if you’re having your customer provide a bulk of their copy, you can actually add in a service that improves their provided copy to ensure it’s going to connect with their ideal customer and be better for SEO.
Personally, I highly recommend getting a Google Doc of copy (because you should have that nailed down before you ever start designing) and going through that with your client, editing with the 5 steps I’m about to outline. Keep in mind if you don’t already write copy for your clients that you can now sell this as an add-on to your normal website package or increase the price of your websites to reflect the work you’re going to do to improve their copy.
And these steps are something I teach my own clients. You don’t have to be a master copywriter to produce copy that sells!
1. Focus on the Problems the Brand Solves, Not its Service/Features
People don’t really care if you offer this thing over that. If the business is really technical, they may not even really understand why the service or product your client offers is so much better than their competitor.
What they will understand is how the business solves their problem.
In that document of copy, make sure you’re using headlines that answers the pain point this business solves. Are you focusing on the benefit of working with your client, rather than the features that they offer with their product or service? Go through the body of the text and make sure you’re highlighting the solutions that clients receive from the services the business offers.
For example, most of my clients don’t really care that I build them custom WordPress websites with contact forms, blogs, and 5 main pages. What they do care about is that I build them WordPress websites that they can update themselves without ever touching a line of code. They also care that the website I build them will always deliver their contact forms without issue and can express their main services and parts of their brand story.
Look through the full copy document and tweak to ensure that you communicate the problem the brand solves and less how they solve that problem. (Most of us don’t care – just fix me!)
2. Write in the Target Market’s Language
This one seems logical, but it’s incredibly hard to do, even for me. Remember that the target market speaks a different version of English than your client does. They have terms that they use for the problems they have and your client’s technical jargon probably doesn’t align with that.
Do some research on social media, message boards, and communities and see how their target audience is talking about what their pain points are. I personally am in a couple of Facebook groups not to sell to the members, but because most of the people in those groups are my ideal audience. I get to read all the time what they find difficult in marketing and how they talk about it. And believe me, the terms they use are decidedly not the ones I do.
Remember, your customer is the expert in the service they’re providing their client. Sometimes that means they’ve gotten a little deep into their own world and forgotten how their target audience actually talks. As an outsider, it’s even easier for you to break down those differences and help your client understand their target audience even better. Doing the research can even help them change up they write and speak to their target audience, and suddenly they’re able to connect better with them. This part of the copy phase can be invaluable to your client’s social strategy, email marketing, paid ads strategy, content strategy, and more, so don’t discount how important it is to help them with it.
(Pro tip: this same research is great for finding hashtags to use on Instagram and TikTok)
3. Keep a Consistent Brand Voice/Tone
I’ve screamed about this for years, but a brand is more than just a logo and a couple of colors. It’s their company’s voice in all of their website copy, social media posts, video scripts, and even they engage with their audience (and 100% how the company makes them feel).
As you can see, I have a slightly sarcastic tone (I find it incredibly hard to get rid of in any of my writing) that’s mixed in with a more casual approach. I try to avoid using a lot of tech speak and aim for a lot more conversational.
Part of your branding guide should be the brand voice, but sometimes I find that the true brand voice comes out more naturally in social media posts than anywhere else.
Go through your client’s social and their copy document and see if it’s consistent. If it’s not, tweak it! The Content Marketing Institute has a great Brand Voice exercise that you can go through. Once you have it laid out, make changes on throughout the copy document to fit and then remind your client that it should stay consistent across their social media and content marketing efforts (i.e. their blogs).
4. Include Social Proof to Back Up Your Claims
Share reviews, testimonials, client success stories, results, portfolio examples, anything that shows what your client does actually helps the people you’re claiming it helps.
You can share excellent insights and look like you have the best product out there, but without some kind of social proof to back that up, your sell is harder (though not impossible). The target market will dictate a little bit what you should be using as social proof, but the best thing to do is to have your client ask a few happy customers for their thoughts.
I’ve even had a client tell us a story of how we’ve helped a customer, had us write the review draft, and then sent it to the customer for their input and final approval. It worked much better for his busy, large business owner type of clientele, and helped him mix in the results that he knew he had provided.
What if this business is brand new and has 0 clients right now? That’s OK. Have your client ask a colleague or friend in their target market to review the product or service (freebies for a review, if applicable, can be OK as long as they actually used the service), or have them just endorse your client’s awesome character. Those first reviews can be replaced as your client sells more. Just remind them to ask for feedback after the first few sales especially.
5. Make the Copy Scannable
No one wants to land on a website and read a novel.
(Yes, I know that I basically wrote a novel in this blog post. Do as I say, not as I do, OK?)
Introduce sections with clear, concise headlines, keep paragraphs short, include bullet points and lists to break up text, and add sections of bolded text (scroll up, you’ll see I bolded all over this article) to make the important pieces stand out.
Think of website copy like a college textbook. No one is going to read every single line of that thing. They’re going to skim. Just make sure that when they skim, they get the important pieces.
You also want to approach copy like a journalist (or Hemingway) would. Use as few words as you can and keep sentences brief and to the point.
(Fun fact – I actually told my students last semester that they could skim their first assigned chapter of their textbook. Am I a terrible teacher or realistic??)
Put All the Pieces Together And….
You get a website that is 100% easier to read, digest, and answers customers’ questions. That means they’re more likely to buy from your client and keep buying from them! That means you have a happy client and really, isn’t that the only thing you want?
Another cool thing? I promise that if you focus on good website copy, improved SEO will also follow. Google really just wants to ensure you’re answering their clients’ questions; if you’re using their terminology, those are your target keywords; and making your copy skimmable means they keep moving through your site (hello higher clickthrough and lower bounce rates).
Especially with the constant updates in Google’s algorithm, if you just focus on providing good copy, good search results will follow.