If you’ve ever participated in building a website, you know that content creation can be the most challenging and time-consuming part. Copywriting for an extensive website can be a huge undertaking. What a website says is just as important as how it looks and functions, and, as a copywriter, you have an important role to play in moving visitors through a website and helping achieve the overall goals of the website.
I’ve written dozens of websites, and while I’m challenged by each and every one, there are some processes I’ve developed along the way to make writing website content easier. It’s all about equipping yourself with the right information before you start writing, collaborating closely with your development team, and taking the writing itself one step at a time. Follow these 7 steps to set yourself up for success and finish with exceptional website content.
1. Understand the Goals for Your Website
Your website is one of the most important tools to help meet your business goals. It has the power to be so much more than a digital version of your company’s brochure. So before you begin writing – or even outlining – you need to have a firm grasp on your business’ goals for the website you’re writing. This will likely require some conversations with executives in your company about the purpose your website will serve.
2. Identify Your Audience
As a website copywriter, one of the first questions you should ask is, “Who is the audience for this business?” The answer to this question will inform your writing voice, tone, and other content elements. If you haven’t yet defined your brand’s audience, I highly recommend doing so before writing your website content. HubSpot’s Make My Persona tool is a great place to start. It allows you to input data about your audience to develop personas – semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers. When you have your audience and personas in mind, you can write directly to them, making your copy all the more relatable and impactful.
3. Understand the User’s JourneyWhether it’s your role or the web developer’s role to design the navigation of the website, you need to both have an understanding of how your audience will move through the website and how you can guide them towards the actions you want them to take. On the development side, this usually begins with a sitemap – a visual map of all of the pages on a website and how they connect to each other. But there are other parts of the user’s journey to consider, too.
- How will users arrive at this website?
- What are the common objectives a user may have when they arrive on the website?
- What do I want users to do on this website?
- What information will a user need to take the desired action
4. Work Closely With Web Development
While web development teams are often tasked with creating sitemaps and navigation, this work shouldn’t be done in a bubble. Collaborate with your web team on this process so that your copy can better facilitate a user’s movement through the website. On a website, a lot of content is needed just to provide wayfinding for users, making sure they don’t get lost or confused on your site and ultimately decide to leave. Understanding the website’s flow is key to getting this right.
5. Outline Your Website Content In Its EntiretyUsing the sitemap as a guide, begin outlining your website in a Word or Google document. Use headings to identify each page like “Home,” “Services,” “About, “Contact,” and whichever other pages are in your sitemap. Then, slowly start filling in more detail, identifying specific sections on each page and what they’re about. No need to start writing your content yet – simply identify what kinds of content you’ll want on each page. You’ll also want to think through the calls to action (CTAs) you’ll need and where they’ll link to.
This is the perfect chance to get all of your ideas down in one document and allow things to get messy for a moment. But don’t worry – next, you’ll be able to tidy it up into something more legible.
6. Write For Your GoalsIt’s time to write! For most copywriters, this is the most exciting and most intimidating part of the process. You might even want to get up, walk away and find a new way to procrastinate. But you don’t need to. Your outline allows you to take this project one step at a time, section by section and page by page.
Spoiler alert! Writing a website doesn’t require an elusive spark of genius. While the perfect turn-of-phrase can be nice to read, it isn’t always the best way to write a website. What’s better is writing direct, clear copy that helps your user find what they need and eventually take the actions you desire. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have fun with the language, but your first priority should always be clarity.
The way you write your website content will range widely depending on the brand and industry you’re writing for, but here are some good tips for website writing in nearly any scenario:
Be concise. If you can say it in one sentence, why say it in three?
Use active voice
Active voice nearly always creates a stronger sentence. For example, passive voice would read, “The blog was written by the copywriter.” Active voice would read, “The copywriter wrote the blog.”
Don’t be salesy
No one wants to feel like they’re being sold to. Your company is offering something meaningful and beneficial to your audience, so you don’t have to give the hard, sleazy sales pitch. Leave the exclamation points and superlatives at the door.
Use headings to guide the reader
Peoples’ attention spans are short. That’s why it’s important to break up your website content into shorter sections with clear subheadings that let the reader know what’s coming. This allows readers to quickly find the information they need rather than digging through multiple long paragraphs.
Use lists, charts and infographics to break up content
A wall of text can be very scary to readers. Switch up your text format frequently to make pages more aesthetically pleasing and easier to read.
Address your audience’s pain points
Your audience has come to this website because they have a problem, and you can solve it. Start by showing them that you understand their pain points, then offer your solution. This is key to writing any marketing copy.
7. Optimize Each Page for SEOYour website’s performance in search engines will depend, in large part, on your website content. Use SEO best practices to optimize each page for one target keyword, using the keyword naturally throughout your content. In addition, you’ll also want to use your keyword in these content elements:
- Page title (the headline that is visible on the page)
- At least one subheading (the copy that is formatted with H2, H3, H4, etc.)
- Title tag (the 50-60 character page title embedded in the code of the page)
- Meta description (the 150-160 character page summary embedded in the code of the page)
- Image alt tags (the text that describes an image and allows for the use of screen reader
8. Monitor and UpdateEven the best websites will need frequent updates. In fact, evolution makes them better. For example, you may find that certain pages aren’t performing as well on search engines as you’d hoped. Or maybe users seem to leave your website after arriving at a certain page. Clearly, it’s time to switch things up. Over time, your website will become more and more dialed as you learn what works and what doesn’t.
For more tips about creating a website that works for you, download our PRIME Guide: How to Get the Most Out of Your Website by clicking the link below.
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