Climb the Ladder

Don’t Write Your Website Copy Until You Answer These Questions

Best practices and copywriting tips to help you write more effectively for the web

Your website needs brand-new copy, and you’re just the person for the job. But before you type a single word, ask yourself these 15 important questions:

1. Who is your website’s main audience?
Here’s one of the most effective website copywriting tips: know who you’re talking to before you start writing. Create an image in your mind of the type of person you want to visit your site—your perfect customer. Everything you write should be aimed at that person.

2. What do you want your audience to know about you?
Sometimes it’s hard to determine what to put on your website and what can be communicated through other mediums. Determine the most important things you want your core audience to know about you (or your product, service, company, etc.). Don’t overwhelm them with too much information.

3. What action do you want your audience to take?
Do you want them to buy your product? Sign up for your service? Apply for a job at your company? Donate to a worthy cause? Join your email list? Follow you on social media? The possibilities are endless. Copywriting and marketing professionals refer to this as a “call to action.” Make sure you know exactly what actions you want your website visitors to take, and that the web copy tells them exactly what to do.

4. Who are other visitors who might come to your website?
You might have a secondary audience who comes to your site for reasons unlike those of your core audience. For example, if you’re a freelance copywriter, your website mainly talks to potential clients who want to hire you. But, your secondary audience could be other freelance copywriters who stop by to read your blog about copywriting tips.

5. Do you want your secondary audience to know anything different, or do anything different?
Make sure you prioritize your main audience, but don’t leave your secondary audience out of the loop. Write crystal-clear copy that tells each group what they need to know and what you want them to do.

6. What is your brand’s tone of voice?
Ask yourself: what tone will appeal most to your main audience? Are you friendly and approachable? Funny and witty? Serious and professional? Heartwarming and deeply personal? Wacky and creative? Innovative and cutting edge? Casual and irreverent? Luxurious and high-end? The tone you choose will dictate the kind of language you use.

7. Are there any words or phrases your main audience might use to search for a website like yours?
Web Copy Best Practices 101: Add search-engine friendly keywords to your copy that will guide people to your site.

8. Have you visited other websites similar to yours?
Time to check out the competition! Take some time to research what other people are doing in your field. Looking at other websites from within your industry is a great way to understand what your audience might expect from you.

9. What do you like about these other websites?
Don’t steal anyone else’s copy verbatim, but allow yourself to be inspired by good web copy examples. Maybe you like one site’s clever menu names, and another site’s bold call to action on the home page. Note what you like so you can remember when you start writing.

10. What DON’T you like about these other websites?
Jot down the things you don’t like. Are there too many navigational items in the header? Is there way too much copy on the home page? Not enough information on the “about” page? Are you confused about where you’re supposed to go and what you’re supposed to do? Keep these dislikes in mind for later.

11. What’s special about your website/brand/product/service?
Now that you’ve checked out the competition, you should have a better sense of where you fit in the landscape and what sets you apart. You should communicate this in your copy, so your audience knows why you’re unique.

12. What do you like about the web copy you have right now?
If you already have a website, take a minute to see if there’s any existing copy that you really like and want to keep. Sometimes you don’t have to do a total overhaul—just a quick brush-up.

13. What don’t you like about your website copy?
The more clearly you articulate the problems with your existing website, the easier it is to avoid making the same mistakes twice. When in doubt, ask a friend or colleague to take a look and give you their honest opinion.

14. What’s the most important message a website visitor should see?
What’s the big concept or main message you want to convey right away when someone lands on your site? Your home page is your most important real estate, so use it effectively.

15. How confident do you feel about writing your website copy, on a scale of 1-10?
If you rank your confidence at an 8 or above—congrats, you’re ready to get your wordsmith on!

If you’re feeling more in the 1-2 range, take a step back and consider hiring a professional to handle your writing needs. There are hundreds of freelancers and copywriting services who are standing by to help you.

If you’re in the 3-7 range, you’re almost there—you just need a nudge in the right direction. Take some additional time to educate yourself on copywriting best practices so you can write your site with confidence.

Need help? The Mediabistro course “Copywriting for Websites” is a fantastic place to start.

Like what you’re reading? Sign up to get our best career advice and job search tips.

Topics:

Climb the Ladder, Skills & Expertise