By Damon Yerian

Why Is Web Copywriting Important?

Your website copy is another opportunity to engage with your customers. Good web copy conveys your brand, connects to your customer base, and allows you to control the brand narrative shared through your number one salesperson: your website. It entertains and educates your audience, without overwhelming them with information.

In the steps below, we go over web copywriting best practices, explaining how to prepare a copy deck, apply keyword research, and follow the word count guidance of your website wireframes or templates. We also discuss web copy best practices and ways to gather feedback from your brand’s stakeholders.

Step 1: Prepare Your Copy Deck

As a best practice, effective website copy is written first, edited, and eventually validated by all relevant stakeholders in a well-organized copy deck. At SmartBug®, we use Google Docs for our copy decks. Google Docs facilitates collaboration, so you can easily write your first draft, share it with your stakeholders, and gather their feedback as comments in the copy deck. Once you’ve saved your copy deck and renamed it, please create a page for each webpage of copy that you intend to write.

Tip: Create a Table of Contents to allow you to easily index and reference each page.

Step 2: Abide by the Word Count in Your Wireframe or Template

Once your copy deck is prepped, keep in mind the word count that will best fit each webpage. You can do this by referencing the wireframe or template for which you are writing copy. 

Tip: Set up the wireframe or template next to your copy deck—you can size each browser to split one screen. If you have two monitors, display the wireframe/template on one screen and the copy deck on the other. 

Most web designers and UX strategists use placement copy during the wireframing stage. This is called “lorem ipsum,” “greeking,” or “FPO (for placement only) text.” It shows how the copy will look on the page, and it gives the copywriter direction on how much copy to write. Sometimes, the placement copy will be actual guidance content for the copywriter.

As a copywriter, you want to abide by the word count that is dictated in your wireframes or template. Writing too much (or too little) copy can interfere with the designer’s intent for the page’s look and feel.

Step 3: Incorporate Keywords

You should use keyword research to inform your copywriting. Follow these three steps to make using keywords more effective:

Don’t force keywords into the copy. They should naturally work with your message.

As you write each page of copy with your keyword(s) in mind, try to integrate your primary keyword into the page header, as well as within the body copy. The keyword should align with the content on the page, so this should happen naturally. Subheads are a good way to integrate additional keywords.

Once you’ve finished writing a page, use the “Find” tool to search for each keyword. By highlighting all the times you’ve used it on the page, you can see if you used it too much or too little. What is “too much” will depend on how much content you have on the page, but generally, aim for using it 2-3 times. Of course, keep our first tip in mind: Keywords should naturally work into your message.

Tip: Include keywords as part of prepping your copy deck. For example, if you know a particular keyword fits with a particular page theme, add a comment or replace some of the placement copy with the keyword so you don’t forget to use it. This will also help focus your message and prevent you from having to rework the copy to fit keywords in later, which can often lead to copy sounding forced.

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Step 4: Follow Copywriting Best Practices

You are now ready to write your web copy. To guide you on this journey, here are some best practices for writing web copy:

Start with substance before style. 

Figure out what you need to say first. Then figure out how you want to say it. Like a puzzle, some copy may fit better in another spot, or maybe some content belongs to an entirely different puzzle, such as a sales pitch, email series, or blog post. By knowing what you’re going to talk about on each section of the page, you can better organize your thoughts and write concise, focused copy that drives your point.

Front-load important information. 

When you write, start with the most important information. This is especially true for your homepage hero, where you’ll want to include your value proposition, differentiator, and/or key benefit you provide your customers. Why should someone choose you over your competitors?

Focus equal attention on interior pages.

You may feel like your homepage is the star of the show, but remember that users may land on one of your interior pages first and may never land on your homepage at all. Write your content with that in mind. Don’t assume what your reader does or doesn’t know. Help them by linking text to other relevant pages.

Cut, then cut again.

Attention spans are getting shorter. You have a lot to say, but the headline isn’t the place to say it all. Headlines should compel users to keep reading. As for your body copy, remember that many users may access your site via a mobile device. Determine what you need to say, then say it in as few words as possible.

Break up text.

“In 2010, 80% of the viewing time was spent above the fold. Today, that number is only 57%,” according to Nielsen Norman Group. That means users may scroll right past the catchy headline you spent hours crafting in order to focus on the content. Make that content scannable (again, think of your mobile users) so it’s easy for users to find the information they need. Use subheads, bullet points, pull quotes, infographics, or other ways of displaying information to break up text and make it more visually compelling.

Forget your essay writing course.

Web copy is different from any other format. Although you’ll want to check spelling and grammar, you can throw a lot of the traditional rules out the window. A sentence can function as a paragraph. You can end with a preposition. And you can start a sentence with “and” or “but.”

Talk directly to your customers.

Frame what you do in the context of why your customers should care. This means you should be using the second-person “you” a lot more than the first-person “I” or “we.” What’s in it for them?

Add a direct call to action (CTA).

What do you want users to do? Set up one clear, direct call to action. Use a verb that expresses exactly what you want a user to do so they know to do it. Will clicking the button start a white paper download? Use “Download White Paper.”

Sometimes, you may need more context. Maybe you need them to fill out a form to enable them to receive more information. Tell them that. You can still keep your button or text link simple: “Submit Form.”

Write in the active voice.

Active voice: The subject conducts the action (SmartBug loves copywriters).

Passive voice: The subject receives the action (Copywriters are loved by SmartBug). 

Readers prefer active voice because it is more direct and impactful. It creates a clear image in the reader’s mind of who is doing what.

Avoid using negative phrasing (i.e., write positive).

Positive phrasing is easier to understand and makes for a stronger message. It also makes your users feel better. Instead of “We never miss a deadline,” write “We always deliver on time.”

Keep it simple.

Use words your audience knows. Brands with a C-suite audience should be especially cautious of using complex phrasing. Your audience can see through jargon, and everyone is short on time. Make it easier for your users to understand your message by eliminating unnecessary filler and maintaining substance.

Stick to your voice.

Professional? Witty? Straightforward? Revamping your website is the perfect time to ensure your copy’s voice fits your brand.

Read your copy out loud.

The best way to know if your copy communicates your idea and nails your brand’s tone is to read it out loud. You’ll be able to hear any clunky spots (as well as spots where keywords feel forced) that you can smooth over.

Step 5: Share Your Copy Deck with Your Stakeholders

You are now ready to share your copy deck with your stakeholders—the people you want feedback from. Here are some guidelines on sharing the document in Google Docs.

Tip: Be sure to instruct your stakeholders to use the “Comments” feature to provide their feedback in the document. This will allow you to respond to comments and interact with that stakeholder until you arrive at an agreed-upon version of the copy at hand. Here are instructions on how to use the Comment feature in Google Docs.

Step 6: Finalize Your Copy Deck

Once you’ve revised your copy deck based on the stakeholder feedback you have received, it is time to finalize the copy deck. This basically means that you perform the following steps:

  • Review the copy deck
  • Ensure there’s no need for further changes
  • Run a spelling and grammar check
  • Update the Table of Contents
  • At this point, it is also a good idea to have a trained editor complete a thorough edit of your final copy deck. 

Following these six web copywriting steps should lead to effective copy that draws and engages your target audience.

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Damon Yerian

About the author

Damon Yerian As the VP of Creative at SmartBug Media, Damon Yerian leads SmartBug's content development, design, and UX strategy. An award-winning creative director and strategic account manager, Damon spent nearly 20 years in Houston, Texas leading a team in traditional advertising, B2B marketing, and social awareness marketing. Damon has worked with Fortune 100 clients, government entities, start-ups, and not-for-profits. Away from work, he is an avid fan of live theater and is the proud papa of a Yorkie-Chihuahua mix named Zimba. Read more articles by Damon Yerian.

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