Along with the five major purposes of copywriting, there are also five principles you should know to achieve success.
These are basic writing guidelines that almost all copywriters follow. These guidelines aren’t necessarily hard-and-fast rules, but they’re good advice for anyone who wants to successfully engage with their customers online.
When you follow these simple ideas, you can write excellent website copy that’ll continually generate new leads for your company.
1. Craft compelling headline
One of the most important and difficult principles of writing website copy is crafting compelling headlines.
Compelling headlines encourage users to click on them by summarizing a page in a few concise, powerful words.
This science of headline creation has been used by Internet writers for years now. As a result, there are huge quantities of data that point to certain headlines that attract more readers than others.
These headlines are broken into seven groups:
Urgency headlines highlight time as a factor and stress the importance of an article.
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Curiosity headlines make someone feel like they’re missing out on information.
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Self-help headlines appeal to someone’s need for emotional solace or personal calm.
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Lists are common headlines that tell people exactly what they can expect from an article in terms of length and structure. List-style headlines can also work with other kinds of headlines, as you’ve seen in previous examples. Generally, your headline will get more attention when it uses bigger numbers.
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How-to headlines start with the words “How to,” and they promise do-it-yourself solutions to complex problems. These kinds of headlines can also be used with urgent, curiosity, or self-help headlines.
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Newsjacking is a new form of headline creation that capitalizes on current news to draw readers. This headline is best for timely content that will only attract readers for a short while. When you use this kind of headline, it’s also important that you keep it tasteful and avoid anything that could be seen as exploitative.
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Finally, contrarian headlines present an idea that most people already accept, and then they turn the idea on its head. Contrarian headlines are often accused of sensationalizing topics. But if you keep the headline true to your material, it can work wonders.
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Now that we’ve looked at headlines, let’s talk about composing and creating your actual website copy.
2. Consider what your readers know
The second guideline is to consider your readers before you write.
This means you have to get into the mindset of someone who’s reading what you want to publish. You have to empathize with their position and understand what they already know, what they want to know, and how your business can help them.
At the same time, you have to remember that you’re not always writing the same material for the same exact audience.
For example, let’s say you run a shoe retail store, and you use your website to generate new clients.
One of your pages could be a brief guide comparing men’s and women’s shoe sizes. Another one of your pages could be a product page that features lots of information about one shoe, including size.
For the guide, it’s important for you to show how each shoe size for men compares to each shoe size for women. That way, someone shopping for their husband or wife will have a frame of reference for what to buy.
But on a product page, that guide would be excessive. Even if someone is shopping for a loved one of the opposite sex, you can’t assume that everyone on that product page is doing the same thing. Instead, it’s better to simply list the appropriate shoe size since that’s all the information someone buying the shoe needs from the page — especially if they already looked at your guide!
Along the same lines, an introductory page to women’s heeled dress shoes would include different information and jargon than a page about men’s wingtip dress shoes. The people looking at these pages can become your customers, but they need different information.
That’s why it’s so important for you to think about the different customers who could come to your business.
What does someone need to know if they’ve just been introduced to your business? What do they need to know if they’re ready to become a customer?
Take some time to consider this for every page you write, and adjust the information you provide accordingly.
That could include defining a common acronym or term in your industry before you discuss it in-depth. It could also include writing for someone who already knows the information they need.
Either way, when you write each page for your specific readers, you can achieve significantly better results than if you didn’t consider them at all.
3. Write like you’re talking to a friend
On the Internet, you can never be sure who’s reading your website.
But we do know one thing — readers like to feel like they’re talking to someone they know.
That means writing informally, and maybe even using slang (if it’s appropriate for your audience).
This kind of friendly, conversational approach makes your pages feel warmer in general. It also creates an atmosphere that feels like a two-way discussion, even though that’s not possible with a simple page.
Still, the feeling of an informal and conversational setting helps your brand. Instead of sounding like a salesman who’s rehearsed his lines over and over, you sound like a friend who’s offering helpful information.
That may not sound like a huge difference, but it really counts when you’re trying to reach new customers. They feel like they’re talking to a real, relatable person instead of reading a billboard.
The feeling that you create by how you write is called the tone, and it’s a subtle, important part of your website and overall brand.
Your tone should align with the attitude and sentiments of your target audience.
So if you’re writing to middle-aged business owners, you will probably want a more proper and professional tone.
But if you’re trying to get teens to buy video games, you can be much more colloquial, laid back, and funny.
With a consistent and practiced tone, you can provide helpful information to your readers that will also connect with them on a personal level.
That helps you build relationships with visitors to your website, which makes them feel more comfortable around you. It also builds trust so they can confidently become paying customers.
4. Write for readers who scan
Contrary to what many beginning writers believe, most people don’t actually read on the Internet.
Instead, they scan.
That’s why lists and other simple content formats perform well when it comes to keeping people on a page — readers know exactly what to look for when they open the article.
To help with scanning, you can add a few elements to your copywriting to keep readers on a page.
- Numbered lists
- Bulleted lists
- Bolded / italicized words
- Section headings
Numbered lists are great because they keep things nice and orderly. Whether you’re using a numbered list for your whole article or a small section of it, it’s great for maintaining organization.
Bulleted lists do the same thing, but they’re just not ordered. Instead, they provide short bits of information back-to-back so readers can easily digest information.
Bolded / italicized words help certain words and phrases stick out from the rest of your content. This is helpful for creating lists without using numbers, and you can also direct a reader’s attention to certain parts of page.
You should also use section headings to break your text into manageable chunks that allow readers to easily scan through your article. These headings can be numbered, but their main purpose is to add big text and extra white space that makes your text easier on the eyes.
Last, you should add multimedia to your articles, including images, videos, interactives, and more. These also help break up your text, and they present information visually instead of textually. That makes it easier for readers to consume and enjoy.
With these elements working in your favor, you ensure your readers can easily digest and appreciate what you’ve written on your site.
5. Emphasize your call to action
Your call to action is the part of your text that tells your readers what to do next.
Calls to action work best when they’re concise, descriptive, and informative. They should only ever be a few words long, and they should focus on a strong verb to get your point across. You can even include a link in your call to action to make sure people can quickly do what you ask.
Some of the most common calls to action include:
- Learn more
- Contact us
- Talk now
- Buy now
- Shop here
- Click here
- Get started
- Start now
These calls to action are brief, informative, and helpful. They tell someone what they should do in the fewest possible words, and they’re perfectly clear.
A call to action should go at the bottom of your copy so that it’s the last thing someone reads on a page. That way, you create a convenient, tangible link to another part of your site that could turn your readers into customers.