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A Guide to Creating Good Website Copy

Category: Web Design
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In 1996, Bill Gates wrote a paper for Microsoft outlining how he envisaged the internet would progress, what purposes it would serve for business and how it might develop as a media platform over time. The paper was called ‘Content is King’. Unbelievably, that paper was written almost a quarter of a century ago now. To put it in perspective, in 1996, Britpop was at the height of its powers, Take That were splitting up, The Spice Girls were releasing their first single, and Dolly the Sheep was created in a lab. Feeling old yet? Yeah, me too. Anyway, the point is that History has proven Bill’s vision to be completely on the money. However, with the many benefits that hindsight brings, we can actually extend that oft-quoted phrase to inform that ‘Useful Content is King’.

Here, he relates that the possibilities exist for anyone to use the Internet as a form of communication; “No company is too small to participate. One of the exciting things about the Internet is that anyone with a PC and a modem can publish whatever content they can create.”

In the first 5 to 10 years of the internet, the human race took a collective dash at the opportunity to express and represent themselves and their businesses online. The above statement is tempered somewhat by Bill’s notion on what might make some people endure over the longer term, “The television revolution that began half a century ago spawned a number of industries, including the manufacturing of TV sets, but the long-term winners were those who used the medium to deliver information and entertainment.”

Where things went awry for some businesses was that, previously, they had only ever prepared content for use in print. Static content. One-way, non-interactive content. This does not translate well online. Those who continue along this route today are the ones who are destined to fail.

When we are working with businesses on developing their online strategy, we always stress the importance of them providing high quality, informative content. Content that is customer-focused. As a digital partner, our job is not to think like our customers, it is to think like our customer’s customers. Your website should speak directly to people who see you as a potential, viable business partner or supplier. It should engage with people who have never dealt with you before, and it should reassure existing customers that they are investing their money with the right people. Once it has captured the attention and given people something, it should encourage them to take action. To interact.

As a general theory, this sounds simple. However, in practice, it is not always straightforward. Writing and preparing the right copy for your own business is not easy. The default approach is to boast about how great you are. To articulate the heady heights you’ve reached as a business and what a solid prospective partner you are. Here are some of the phrases you will find on many a business website: 

“We offer a vast array of services.”

“We work with a wide variety of blue-chip clients.”

“We have worked across a wide variety of sectors.”

“Our team has a wealth of experience.”

Sound familiar? Of course they do. They are used in millions of business websites all around the world. For example, 'vast array of services' returns 1.78m results when phrase-matched on Google. They have become part of a substantial group of clichéd words and phrases that are so overused online that they no longer carry kudos or lend the credibility that they are reaching for. In fact, they have the opposite effect. The reactions induced by these are, ‘everyone says that', or ‘so what’. If someone takes the time to read your content, the last thing you want to do is blend into a crowd of idle boasters. When was the last time you gave your web content the ‘so what’ test?

How to Provide Useful Content that Sells

You need to quickly tell people what they stand to gain by working with you or buying from you.

1. Know What Your Audience Wants

Your website can be a highly powerful sales tool. Whether you have previously considered it to be that or not, that is its true potential. If the content is right, it will generate interest, and in turn, sales for your business. Knowing your audience is one of the basics of any sales process. But there is a difference between knowing who your audience is and knowing what they want. People buy based on want. By learning more about their demographic, you learn what they want and why they will buy it from you. What age range are they? What gender? What industries/sectors do they operate in? What job roles do they hold? What responsibilities do they have (personal and professional)? What demands do they have on them? What challenges do they face when choosing a supplier? How much detail do they need in order to make a decision to buy? We call it getting to know your Joe and Joanne. More about Joe and Joanne here.

Once you have documented this, you will have a clearer indication of exactly who your Key Target Audience (KTA) is. This will inform you (or your copywriter) on how to speak more directly to them and get them to take action, e.g. buy, call, enquire, etc. All of these things increase the chances of your website in generating sales or enquiries (leads).

2. Research Online Competitors

Identify who the main online players are in your sector. They may be different from those you consider to be your main competitors offline, so don’t make assumptions. Look at their websites to find out how they present themselves. What benefits do they offer customers? What are their value propositions? If they display pricing, how does it compare to yours? How do they speak to people? What functionality do they have in place to generate interest and convert to sales or leads? Look at the things they do well and plan to emulate them, or preferably, improve upon them. Look for things they are poor at and that you can do better.

Consider carefully what your differentiators are and how you can present those as value propositions to people. Remember, the benefit must always be driven by what your customers stand to gain, not how great you are, or what you stand to gain.

3. Be Customer Focused

Let’s take a look at the examples above and see how we can make them more customer focused. In other words, turn ‘boasts’ into a benefit:

Before: “We offer a vast array of services”
After: “Businesses like yours save money every day by combining our services.” 

Before: “We work with a wide variety of blue-chip clients”
After: “Have peace of mind in knowing we provide comprehensive support at all levels.

Before: “We work across a wide variety of sectors”
After: “We partner with businesses just like yours across all sectors.”

Before: “We have a wealth of experience in our team”
After: “You will benefit directly from the experience that our team can bring to your project.” 

As you can see, each revised statement is slightly longer, but that is because it now contains a benefit for the customer. This is a quick illustration but when you’ve written something like, ‘We have a wealth of experience’, try to add the words ‘…which means that…’, to the end. That will help you to join the statement to a benefit. It’s not as easy as you may think. It takes time and careful consideration to do it properly. But it makes a huge difference and it needs to be done properly if you are to succeed.

4. Be Succinct

Get to the point and don’t waffle. Concentration spans are short in the media-driven times we live in. They are even shorter when people are using phones and jumping between websites and social media platforms. So, keep sentences and paragraphs as short as possible and break out key information and benefits into a few bullet points. Don’t make people have to search for key information and structure your text accordingly. Don’t use industry jargon and avoid using TLA’s (Three Letter Acronyms) that could cause frustration or confusion.

5. Back Up What You Say

Always provide backup for what you are saying in the form of independent data or third-party testimonials. Testimonials and reviews are great content when used in the right place. For example, if you’re publishing a case study on your website, it becomes much more credible if there is a quote from, and potentially a photo of, the satisfied customer. This has much more impact than adding a single Testimonial section on your site with a bunch of them all dumped onto one page. If you are extolling the benefit of someone buying your product or services, give proven performance stats too. Don’t lie though, remember they need to be real-life, credible and true.

6. Use High-Quality Media

Don’t scrimp on this. The clever use of high-quality, consistent and relative photography and video content lends power and presence to your website. Fuzzy, uncropped, unoptimised snaps taken on your phone are not good enough.

On any page (both online and offline) the use of photography has two key purposes: (1) to attract attention to the text; and (2) to back up and illustrate what the text is saying.

By following the above, you should be on the right road to success. However, don’t forget, a website is never finished, only launched. In other words, you need to keep making improvements and publish more and more useful content to keep people interested.


How Can We help?

Big Red help businesses like yours to speak directly to your customers through your website. By getting your design and content in good order we can work with you to get measurable results. Once your website gives people what they want, we can then target more potential customers and direct them to your website using our tried and trusted blended approach to digital marketing. Don’t just take our word for it though, read our case studies and customer testimonials, or contact us now to get things started.

Either way, I hope you have found this content useful.

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About The Author

Hi, thanks for reading this article. I'm Big Red Digital's Managing Director and have been with the company since 2012. After starting my career in one of Glasgow's busiest advertising and design agencies, I made the natural shift to web design and digital marketing. I'm passionate about getting the very best results for our clients.

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