THE BODY COPY
Okay, every element we described in part 1 of our guide to writing your website was the precursor to the main event, the prawn cocktail if you will. However, it has all been essential as your website can now be found online and has keyword-rich, click-enticing title tags, meta descriptions and H1s.
Now comes the real money maker. The job of the body copy is to make you sound credible, trustworthy and like the sort of organisation customers want to do business with. Your copy must persuade customers to part with their hard-earned cash, and that, dear readers, is easier said than done.
To write good body copy, you need to know:
- Who you’re communicating with
- How that person thinks
- What that person needs
When writing your website, you should never patronise your customers and you should never make false claims. Visitors can differentiate hyperbole from fact at a thousand yards, so don’t claim to be the UK’s leading anything unless you really are. And even then, define ‘leading’ – are you the largest, do you sell the most or do you have the best-kept customer toilets?
BODY COPY SHOULD BE BENEFIT LED
Even if you are the UK’s leading company in every single way, what does that actually mean for the customer? The customer wants the biggest benefit for their money, so your copy should focus on the benefits the consumer will receive when they buy from your business.
- Do you provide a guarantee or warranty?
- Are there unique elements associated with your products or services that cannot be found elsewhere?
- Are you cheaper than everyone else?
- Is your quality provably better than everyone else?
Anything that constitutes a benefit for your customer should be included in your body copy.
TOP LOAD IMPORTANT INFORMATION
We’re a lazy bunch when it comes to browsing online, so to get the customer’s attention, you should include the most important information at the top of your page. If you put valuable content at the bottom of the page then it’s unlikely to be read. Heat maps can show you how browsers look at a web page and this should be taken into account writing your website.
SUBHEADINGS MAKE YOUR WITTERING MORE READABLE
We don’t consume information online in the same way we read a good book. The first few seconds on any web page are spent scanning the content to see whether we can find the information we’re looking for. Subheadings make it easy for visitors to scan the page and find the section that contains the information they need.
Subheadings should be short, to the point and accurately summarise the information contained within the chunk of text to follow.
When writing subheadings you should:
- Expand on the H1 and provide a framework for the page
- Use them like a road map to help readers navigate longer chunks of text
- Make the font smaller than your H1 to convey their relative importance
USE BULLET POINTS TO GRAB THEIR ATTENTION
When writing your website, take as many opportunities to use bullet points as you can. It’s not about keeping your copy short, although concision should always be a consideration, it’s more about imparting information in the simplest possible way.
If a visitor is searching for product specifications or the unique selling points that differentiate your service from the rest, they don’t want a detailed description complete with the whys and wherefores. Instead, they want to see the facts, and bullet points are the perfect way to present them.
Here are a few pointers:
- Bullet points should be written in a clear, concise way
- Make bullets consistent in structure
- Try to use a single line of text for each point
- They don’t have to complete sentences, in fact, they can be more effective when they’re not
MAKE IT EASY ON THE EYE
There’s a lot more to writing your website than just the words you choose to use. In many cases, the presentation of your content is just as important as the messages it contains.
Online visitors are put off by large chunks of text, and who can blame them? They want fast access to information without trawling through a thesis. To make your content reader-friendly, scannable and attractive to online readers, try to:
- Keep your sentences short
- Keep paragraphs to a maximum of four or five lines
- List important information in bullet points
- Format the content consistently – that means using the same font, spacing it evenly and deciding when capital letters will be used
THE POWER OF PICTURES
Research into the use of images on website pages has revealed something called the picture superiority effect. The theory goes that while written information enters our memories as abstract concepts, images are encoded in our memories in a more solid way, and have a more lasting effect on us as a result.
Leave that lab coat on for just one second. Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab has conducted research into the power of visual communication. It found that the overall design of a piece of information, including images, “was the number one criterion for discerning the credibility of the presented material”.
What does that actually mean? Well, it means companies that expect to be taken seriously by prospective customers must select high quality, complementary images which add to their written information. They must also present these images in a consistent, eye-catching way.
BREVITY AND CONCISION
When writing your website, try to keep your copy clean, crisp and concise. There should be no wasted words, overly long sentences or paragraphs that don’t add to your offering. When completed, the copy should take the visitor on a journey. By the end of that journey, they should know everything they need to convert.
The key to effective copywriting is simplicity. The reader doesn’t care how many big words you know. They just want to buy a pair of shoes, or find out what parts they need to fix their lawnmower. Planning the structure of a page and the key messages you wish to include will help to maintain this clarity from the start.
IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU
You have every reason to be proud of your business, but as the advertising tycoon David Ogilvy once said: “If you can’t turn yourself into a consumer, you probably shouldn’t be in business at all.”
From the second you start writing your website copy you should be thinking like a consumer. Many businesses break this rule and write copy that tells customers how fantastic their business is, or how great their products and services are. The best way to spot this business-centric writing style is the recurring use of ‘we’ rather than ‘you’.
I’m afraid the sad truth is that customers don’t care about you or what you do. They care about themselves. They only care about you in the context of how you can help them.
So, everything you write should focus on the customer. The copy should be easy to read, not too dry and full of details about how your products or services can make their lives better.
AL COPY MUST BE ERRORR FREE
Never underestimate the impact a simple spelling or grammatical mistake will have on your website’s ability to convert. When you’ve gone to all the effort of writing your website and doing a darn good job of it, the last thing you want is for one simple error to undermine your credibility. Just think about how you react when you spot an error on a web page. It’s often the case that any trust you had is lost.
SOME ADVANCED TIPS
If you’ve got this far then hopefully you’re nearing the end of your website copy and never want to see another keyboard again. But before you go, here are a couple of advanced tips to give your website copy a little extra flourish.
TIME FOR SOME RHYME
Excuse the subhead but I’m trying to emphasise the point that a little bit of rhyme can work wonders on crusty corporate copy. I’m not talking about limericks here, but the melody of rhyme can aid memory and help your copy stick in the mind. Don’t overdo it though, a simple line will do.
This example from Innocent, the UK based smoothie maker, illustrates the point:
‘THIS KIDS’ SMOOTHIE HAS ZING, PING AND PROBABLY SOME KER-DIN.’
Granted, it’s not Shakespeare, but it is an effective way of softening the tone and giving your brand that personal touch.
REPETITION, REPETITION, REPETITION
Deliberate repetition is an effective method of stressing important points in your copy. Again, if we pop over to Innocent, we can see an example of a copywriter earning their keep:
‘OUR 100% PURE FRUIT SMOOTHIES. NO ADDED SUGAR. NO CONCENTRATES. NO FUNNY BUSINESS.’
What does this tell us? Simply that repetition, combined with a short, snappy sentence, can give your website copy some additional shine.
CRAFTING A CLICK-ENTICING CALL-TO-ACTION
The final stage of writing your website is the metaphorical cherry on the top of your copywriting cake. Underestimate the importance of the call-to-action (CTA) at your peril, as this instructs the reader precisely what you’d like them to do next.
You might have hooked the visitor with your persuasive, enticing copy, and built a brand they’d love to buy into, but unless you tell the reader what steps to take next, they might decide to take their business elsewhere. A call-to-action is intended to turn interested browsers into conversions by prompting visitors to complete an enquiry form, request a quote or make a purchase. There’s no hocus-pocus or subliminal messaging at work; all you need is a little know-how.
It might feel a bit shameless directing your visitors to make a purchase, but providing simple directions to the next stage of the process is essential. In fact, you’re doing them a favour. If a visitor lands on and reads your web page then that shows intent, so give them clear directions as to what to do next: ‘sign up’, ‘download now’, or ‘make a purchase’.
LINK YOUR CALL-TO-ACTION TO YOUR CONTENT
It might sound like common sense, but understanding the part your web page plays in the prospective customer’s journey is crucial to crafting a legitimate call-to-action (CTA).
For example, it’s unlikely a visitor will go straight from your homepage to make a purchase. If you think about it, they probably haven’t read your product or service pages yet, so your homepage CTA should direct the visitor to more relevant information.
On the other hand, a visitor on a product or service page possesses all the information they need to make a purchase. So, your call-to-action should direct them to the checkout or ask them to complete an enquiry form.
KEEP IT SHORT AND SWEET
You might think your best option is to cram your call-to-action full of directions to hedge your bets, but too many CTAs on a single page has been proven to lower conversion rates. The general rule when writing your website is that the less your visitors have to think, the better. Cramming multiple CTAs onto one web page is only likely to confuse them, so keep it short and sweet to make them click.
NEVER ASK FOR MORE INFORMATION THAN YOU NEED
Your copy might have transformed an idle browser into a prospective lead, but you can undo all your good work with an enquiry form which asks for more information than you need.
It’s not only a matter of wasted time; consumers are becoming increasingly cautious about giving away their personal details online and given the introduction of the recent General Data Protection Regulation, you could find yourself with a hefty fine if you do. So, don’t ask for the visitor’s telephone number or home address when their name and email address is all you need.
SOME SUCCESSFUL CTA EXAMPLES…
There’s nothing like a call-to-action done well to provide the inspiration you need. Here are 17 effective call-to-actions courtesy of Hubspot. While they may not all be to your taste, at least you can see what you’re trying to achieve.
AND THAT’S YOUR LOT!
So there you have it… writing your website – the complete guide, courtesy of To Your Heart’s Content. And if all that sounds like an awful lot of work, just drop us a line and we’ll write your website for you.