What makes good website copy? My five copywriting values.
I think most of us recognise good website copy when we read it. It’s very easy to distinguish a website that’s been written with real thought, craft and integrity, from one with words that have been carelessly thrown up. However it’s fair to say that good website copy is subjective, and is also completely context specific. What would make persuasive sales copy for a new car, is completely different to what will work for a small creative business, whose clients or customers want to really connect with the owner and what they do.
So whenever I write copy for clients, or for myself, I always keep these five values in mind. They act as a sort of guidepost to make sure that I’m not just writing effective website copy, but copy that I’m really proud of.
1. Good website copy says something.
So often I see copy on websites that doesn’t seem to actually say anything. It is, I think, what the writer thought they should say, or thought sounded good, not what they actually wanted to say. As an example, I once wrote the copy for a small boutique hotel and restaurant, and the owner was desperate to insert the phrase “taste sensations” into the website copy. What does that even mean??? It doesn’t mean anything! It says absolutely nothing about the restaurant, its culinary values, or the type of food it serves. They’re just redundant words that take up valuable website space.
Style over substance is a big copy bug bear of mine, and I think the way to avoid this is to work out what you really want to say first. And then stick to it. However small, every piece of copy on your website should serve a purpose, and every single word should mean something.
2. Good website copy is truthful and authentic
This is again something that I see quite often, and I think comes down to the same issue of the writer saying what they think they should say, rather than the truth. I think quite a lot of new business owners feel they have to shout and make grand promises to order to stand out online and attract clients. They have to promise the dream. Yet I firmly believe this always backfires. Never make promises in your copy that you can’t keep. This was something that I was very careful of when I wrote my own website copy. I know, and trust, that my clients will have more clarity after they work with me, that the words will connect more with their readers, and that this will lead to their business having more of an impact. Note that at no point do I promise readers a massive surge in sales, an abundant six-figure business that will allow them to live their dream life, or a crazy-high conversion rate!
As to being authentic, this comes back to what I said in my post on brand storytelling. We are all unique, and the best way we can show up for our businesses is to bring that uniqueness to it. Don’t try to copy what worked for someone else. Be authentic. Be you.
3. Good website copy is simple
There is a bit of a myth that good website copy is fancy. That it is heavy with adjectives and puns. That it is full of colloquial slang, and peppered with vibrant personality. Yet while I think it is important to weave yourself into your website copy, I also think that ultimately simple is always best. A good website describes what someone does, how they do it, why they do it, and who they do it for. And it does that as simply and concisely as possible.
This is probably the value that I find the hardest to stick to. Almost every first draft of website copy that I write is way too fancy! I love words, and have a real desire to show-off through them. Yet I know that it’s serving my own ego more than my client’s business. I always end up toning my writing down, and focusing on clarity and brevity.
4. Good website copy connects with the reader.
I wrote a blog post recently about why I write to connect, not to convert, and it’s something that I really believe in. I think of words, and stories, as the bridge between two people. This isn’t to say that good copy should connect with everyone, the opposite in fact, it should connect only with the people it is meant for. Your dream client or customer should read your website and be able to see themselves somewhere in it. They should be able to identify with the problem that you are solving, and your approach to solving it. They should be able to connect to who you are as a person, and business owner, and why you are running your business.
If you are focusing only on making sales then you’re missing out on making this connection.
5. Good website copy tells a story.
One of most common signs of rushed and ill-thought-out website copy is that it doesn’t flow. Your whole website should exist as a cohesive whole, and tell an engaging and compelling story. So often different pages of websites feel like they were written by different people, or belong to different brands. If you’ve done the work on your brand, curated it thoughtfully, and connected the dots, then you should be able to bring everything that you want to talk about under the same umbrella, and present it in such a way that it makes sense as a whole.
This is tricky, admittedly, and working out your brand story can be hard to do for yourself (even I found it tricky as I say here). So either hire someone (not necessarily me (!) but if you did want to read more about how I can help you do just this, then here is my brand storytelling services page), or simply ask a friend to sit down with you, and talk it over with them. Sometimes all you need is someone to sound off ideas with. If you are writing your own website copy then here is a post I wrote with some more advice on how to do it.
As I usually do I feel like I need to end by saying this is just my opinion, but I hope it gives you an insight into the sort of copy that I write, and what I believe makes website copy good.
This time next week I’ll share my five content creation values, so if you enjoyed this piece and found it useful, look out for that!