How to Write Powerful Website Copy That Converts
Writing compelling, original, and authentic copy is one of the things I see business owners struggle with the most. And it’s not just that they can’t put into words what they’re trying to say. Often, it’s that they don’t know what they’re trying to say at all.
I’ve been writing online content for almost a decade and believe me, I struggled during a lot the first few years. It’s hard to get clear on what you’re trying to communicate and even harder to lay it all out in a way that makes distractible website visitors want to stick around for more.
Copywriting isn’t the kind of skill you can perfect and, I’ll be honest, there are still days when I struggle to express myself on the page (or screen, as the case may be). But it’s a lot easier than it used to be because I’ve learned some lessons along the way. I learned these things the hard way but I’m going to give you a shortcut so you can start seeing results a lot sooner than I did.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. When you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, I receive a small commission (at no additional cost to you). Affiliate links are marked with an asterisk (*).
Start with your mission.
Whatever you’re writing–whether it’s sales page copy, your about page, or a new blog post–it all starts with the what and the who.
What do you do? What service or product do you provide and what sets it apart from others in your industry?
Who do you help? Who is your ideal client–the person your product or service was designed for?
If this sounds a little vague and inapplicable, don’t fret. I’m about to break it all down using a concrete example–me.
I practice what I preach and if you click around my website, you might notice that my mission statement is plastered all over the place. The very first thing you see at the top of my homepage is this:
“Strategic Squarespace design for women business owners and creative entrepreneurs.”
What do I do? Squarespace design. What makes me different from others in my industry? My focus is on doing it strategically.
Who do I help? Women business owners and creative entrepreneurs.
It’s really that simple. Just fill in the blanks:
I help [your tribe] do [the thing you help them do].
[the thing you do] for [the people you help].
Here are some more examples:
Sustainable garments for eco and style-conscious women.
Timeless wedding invitations for elegant brides.
I help busy business owners stay healthy and create a more balanced lifestyle.
I craft custom gourmet recipes for cookbook publishers.
I have variations of my core mission statement sprinkled all over my website:
“I work with passionate women to craft intuitive websites that drive growth on autopilot”
“I create elegant websites that help passionate entrepreneurial women grow their businesses on autopilot.”
...And so on.
The takeaway: when you’re crystal clear on what you do and who you do it for, writing everything else becomes a lot easier.
Identify your goal.
Now that we have the what and the who we need the how. How is this particular piece of copy going to help move your ideal client closer to her goal? How is it going to move you closer to your goal?
The idea here is that your ideal client or customer’s goal is the same as your goal. Your ideal client needs something you can provide and you need a client to pay the bills. It’s a win-win.
So let’s say you’ve just written the copy for your about page. The question you want to be asking for every paragraph and sentence is, “Does this help convince my ideal client that I’m the right person to work with?” If not, send it to the scrap heap.
This is still something I have to pay close attention to in my business. I actually rewrote the bio on my about page less than a week before launching my website because I realized it wasn’t really communicating to my ideal client why she should choose me to design her website. The old bio might make you like me (especially if you, too, are a diehard fan of Stranger Things) but it wouldn’t necessarily have made you want to hire me.
Another example–I just finished brainstorming more than 6 month’s worth of blog posts this morning every single one of them serves one of two purposes. It’s either directed at my client base (women business owners and creative entrepreneurs) or it’s meant to help my search engine ranking so more potential clients can find my website.
The takeaway: every part of your copy should help you make the sale. If it doesn’t, scrap it.
Craft powerful headlines.
Once you’ve nailed down the basics, it’s time to get on with the hardcore copywriting. And that starts with crafting a powerful headline that grabs your reader’s attention and compels them to read on.
One of the best tools to help you write better blog post titles is CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer. Based on extensive research into what words and word combinations make people more likely to click on a link, Headline Analyzer is a free tool that scores your title on a scale of 1-100. You want to aim for a score of 70 or higher.
Other types of headlines on your website will probably need to be shorter than your average blog post title. The primary goal with these headlines is to communicate what you’re offering clearly and concisely. You might also want to consider using SEO keywords in your headlines.
The headline of my services page is “Squarespace Website Design.” It’s not fancy. It doesn’t evoke an emotional response (which you definitely want to do with blog post titles) but it clearly and concisely communicates what I offer.
You can also pack more of a punch by using a pre-header. This is text that comes before your headline, usually in a smaller size so as not to overshadow your primary headline.
On my services page, my pre-header reads, “Grow Your Business on Autopilot,” which evokes more emotion than “Squarespace Website Design” on its own.
When writing headlines, take your time, play around with different word combinations, do SEO keyword research, and don’t settle on a headline until it feels right. You may also want to consider asking friends, family members, or your online community if a headline seems clear to them.
The takeaway: Your headlines should be clear, concise, and SEO-friendly.
Write as you speak.
Grammar is all well and good (and you should definitely use a grammar/spell checker like Grammarly* whenever you write anything for your website) but you don’t want your copy to read like a school essay. A good rule of thumb is to read your copy out loud. Does it sound like you?
You want to consider your ideal client or customer as well. Does the language you use in your copy–your cadence, word choice, and overall tone–appeal to the person you want to attract?
Here’s an example:
Let’s say you’re a business coach and you want to work with entrepreneurs in the new age/spiritual development industry. Your ideal client is more than a little woo, so you’re probably not going to attract her with copy that emphasizes why you’re the logical choice for her business. You’re going to want to appeal to her emotional side instead.
Or let’s say you’re a high-end event planner. Your brand words are luxury, elegance, and refinement. A casual conversational style might feel out of place. You’ll probably want to focus more on using sophisticated words and proper grammar–and dropping f-bombs is definitely out of the question.
The takeaway: write like you would talk to your ideal client in a face-to-face meeting.
Address pain points.
Your ideal client has a problem you can solve. Restating the problem is a great way to let her know, I understand. It also helps filter out people who are not a good fit for you.
One way to do this is to pull the words right out of your client’s mouth. What have past clients told you about their problem?
On my services page, I actually ask, “Does this sound like you?” and then I paraphrase things I’ve heard people actually say.
“Lots of people visit my website but only a few join my email list or become paying customers.”
“I want to raise my prices but my website isn’t attracting the kind of high-value clients I want.”
“I spend so much time working in my business that I never have time to work on my business.”
The second half of addressing pain points is to help your ideal client or customer envision what life will be like when the pain is gone.
Let’s say you’re a health and wellness coach offering a six-week healthy lifestyle jumpstart package. You might want to list the ways your client’s life will be better once they’ve completed the program. You can even use bullet points.
Better equipped to handle stress.
You get the idea. On my services page, I list all the ways a strategically designed website can help grow your business and make your life easier.
The takeaway: Restate your ideal client’s problem and list all the ways solving it will make her life better.
Be the solution.
Naming the problem and the benefits of solving it isn’t enough; you have to sell yourself or your product as the solution.
One easy way to do this that doesn’t require any writing on your part is to use testimonials. There’s nothing more powerful than an unbiased third party saying, “This product or service changed my life.”
It’s also important to present your product or package in a way that highlights the things your ideal client or customer actually cares about.
Here’s an example:
When I was creating my core web design package, one of the items I listed was “Custom Styling + CSS.” But you know what? Half my clients don’t even know what CSS is and they don’t really care. All they care about is that their website has custom styling. It doesn’t matter to them whether I use CSS or Klingon to get there. So I changed it to “Custom Website Styling” which is 100% clearer.
Get into your ideal client’s head and figure out what’s really important to her. Then, create a solution that reflects that.
Here’s another example:
Let’s say you’ve just invented this amazing kitchen appliance that cuts vegetables 15 different ways in a fraction of the time it would take with a knife. Your customer’s kids might care about the fact that your device cuts food into 15 different shapes but the person paying for it probably only cares about two things:
Will it save me time?
Is it easy to clean?
Make sure you address and highlight these two key points in your product description.
The takeaway: focus on what matters to your client and use testimonials to make the sale.
Copywriting can seem scary to the uninitiated but it’s a lot easier once you know the basic formula. To sum it up:
Start with your mission. What do you do and who do you help?
Identify your goal. Does this help my client move closer to the point of booking my service or buying my product?
Craft powerful headlines. Be clear and concise. Consider using pre-headers to add an emotional appeal.
Write as you speak. How would you speak if you were talking to your ideal client? Write like that.
Address pain points. Restate your ideal client’s problem and the benefits of solving it.
Be the solution. Use testimonials and persuasive copy to sell yourself as the best solution to your client’s problem.
Have a question, comment, or feedback? Leave a comment below!