Website copywriting: 16 best practices for 2018

It’s no secret that I love a good website copywriting project.

In a lot of ways, website copywriting is like a puzzle with a set number of pieces and a variety of possible solutions.

My job as a copywriter and content marketing strategist is to find the best one.

Building on the puzzle metaphor, what are the pieces that go into website copywriting ‘puzzles’? What do we need to consider  when writing content for a website?

The way I see it, there are four main categories…

The 4 Parts of the website copywriting puzzle

  • Search engine optimisation (SEO): you’ve got to follow the latest conventions to make sure the website content you write is easy for search engines to find and rank.
  • User focus: that last point might have made you think that writing for search engines was the way forward. It’s not. Taking user experience into account is vital if you want links, shares, engagement and brand trust.
  • Conversion rate optimisation (CRO): making visitors to the site happy is one thing. Making them do what you want them to (click, engage, buy!) is another. Conversion rate optimisation takes research, data, and a lot of testing.
  • User experience (UX): how is your written content going to work with the rest of the site? The design, the build, the flow, the customer journey…How are you going to make sure website visitors find the ‘right’ content, in the right format, and at the right moment?

Click here to skip to…

Website copywriting best practices: SEO

Website copywriting best practices: User focus

Website copywriting best practices: CRO

Website copywriting best practices: UX

…or scroll down to read the entire article.

Website copywriting best practices: SEO

Not that kind of long tail

1. Break it up: 

Search engines make assumptions about the way we write things, and what that means about how important that content is. H1 and H2 text are considered priority, so make sure you include regular, keyword rich titles (H1) and sub-headings (H2) in your written content.

Bullet points and lists are also favoured by Google, so try and include them where possible.

2. Sort your meta descriptions

Take control of the meta data attached to your written website content, and you’re on a quick road to boosting your SEO.

Your meta data:

  • Describes the content of each page of your website
  • Advertises your content to search engine users
  • Displays relevant keywords to entice people to click

If you don’t fill out your meta data, Google will auto-generate some that’s almost certainly going to be less effective.

This article, on the SEO value of meta data, by Stone Temple is a handy reference guide.

3. Use bold font

Make it as easy as possible for visitors to your website to see what you want them to do, and keep their eye moving down.

Draw their attention to key points in your written content by using bold text.

See? Made you look.

4. Think about long-tail keywords

When you’re thinking about the keywords to include in your content, cast your net wider than the basic – often highly competitive – short-tail keywords.

Use keyword tools like the aptly named Keyword Tool to identify keyword phrases you could easily rank for, then build content around those.

Website copywriting best practices: User focus


1. Make it easy to read

There’s a number of ways to make your written content easy to read:

  • Front load: start off with the important information to grab attention and let readers know what to expect from the rest of the page.
  • Summarise: in content like blogs, white papers, articles and case studies, include a summary. Online readers tend to start at the intro, skip to the bottom, then scan the middle bit last.
  • Break it up: paragraphs of no more than three lines, and plenty of interesting images (not bullshit stock ones) will keep your audience engaged for longer.

2. Sort your brand tone of voice

A consistent brand tone of voice is so important. Prospects should know what to expect from your content, and it should be tailored to what matters to them.

Warm and approachable? Witty and relatable? Formal and authoritative?

Decide what works for your market and stick with it.

3. Cut the sales spiel

According to DemandGen’s 2017 B2B Content Marketing Preferences Report (here), 72% of B2B consumers are turned off by content that sells to them.

Things you can do instead of opting for the hard sell:

  • Include calls to action that are visually attractive and compelling
  • Incentivise conversions by offering exclusive content and offers in exchange for data
  • Align content and customer journey to move prospects down the sales funnel

4. Make it useful

Internet users are getting increasingly demanding. They’re used to content that offers value and asks nothing in return (nothing they can pick up on, that is…).

Focus on creating engaging, informative content that gives visitors to your website what they want. Particularly hot right now in the world of B2B content marketing:

Case studies
– E-Books
– White papers

Plus, you can make your best content available as downloadables – think of all the lovely contact data…

Website copywriting best practices: CRO


1. Include a CTA above the fold

Sometimes, you just can’t be bothered to scroll. We’ve all been there.

Include an attractive, prominent call to action above the fold on your website (the area that’s visible without scrolling down) to capture those visitors whose fingers are just too tired to travel.

2. Test your text

A big part of conversion rate optimisation is testing, adjusting, and testing again.

The kinds of website content you should be testing for effectiveness:

  • Titles
  • Meta data (titles, descriptions, keywords)
  • Subtitles
  • Calls to action
  • Button text

There are all kinds of little tricks to remember, so work your way through your content, do your research on each, and optimise for conversion.

3. Make your contact details prominent

Now I know my traditional B2B vendors are going to like this one, so let’s get right down to it:

GET A BIG OLD PHONE NUMBER AND PLONK IT RIGHT AT THE TOP OF YOUR WEBSITE.

Yes. 

It’s human. It works. It shows you’re available to customers and prospects when they want you.

It’s good to include your email address too, but the phone is the big thing.

Told you you’d like that.

4. Include social proof

There’s a bit of a cross-over here – two things that are working really well for B2B content marketing right now (and for the foreseeable future, too):

  • Social proof: customer reviews, client logos, press mentions, ‘wisdom of the crowds’ social proof (“89% of manufacturers recommend us”, “Britain’s number one supplier”)

(Some great examples of social proof in action by HubSpot)

  • User-generated content: reviews, testimonials, interviews, case studies, dynamic FAQs, social media campaigns

Including content from your customers in your own marketing helps you engage your target audience, build trust, and takes some of the pressure for content creation off your own shoulders.

Website copywriting best practices: UX


1. Make it clear there’s more to see

Website copywriting needs to integrate with the design and build of a website to get you the best results. One of the first ways to get visitors to your website engaged?

Let them see that there’s more below the fold by including written homepage content that either:

  • Requires them to scroll to continue reading
  • Tells them to scroll for more info
  • Links to content further down the page

2. Consider ‘hidden’ content

User experience is all about how visitors to a website navigate and use it. Don’t just think of your visitors’ actions – think of their indecision and their waiting times, by creating:

  • Rollover text: grab the attention of users who aren’t ready to click
  • Hover text: introduce more info without crowding your website
  • Loading text: a neat line or two between pages shows you’re an attentive brand
  • Thank you pages: do what your mum taught you, and say thank you!
  • Error messages: be friendly, tell users how they’ve gone wrong and how to fix it

3. Use clear links

Much as your website might be populated with bee-yootiful content (especially if I wrote it), some visitors just aren’t interested in reading. They’re busy, they can’t be arsed, they’ll come back to it later – whatever.

So, don’t make them.

The key objective of your website is to get visitors to do what you want them to.

The key objective of visitors to your website is to find out what they want as quickly as possible.

Make sure your links (text and buttons) clearly indicate what will happen on the click. So instead of:

Click here to download”

…write something like this:

“Download our 2018 guide to UX copywriting

In short, descriptive link text is great for:

  • UX: tell users what you’re giving them, then give it to them. Simple!
  • SEO: how’s Google supposed to rank your content if you’ve got 15 links on your page, all reading “here”?
  • Accessibility: make it easy for visually impaired consumers using screen readers to browse

4. Value at every stage

I lose hours browsing my favourite sites.

Why? Because for every article I click on, there are tonnes more interesting links to click. Down the side, at the bottom, in pop-ups…wherever I look.

While your website might not be quite as appealing, there’s no reason the same principles can’t work for you:

  • Group and clearly label related content using tags and categories
  • Recommend related content whenever possible, both as links and downloads
  • Create content to appeal to consumers at every stage of the buyer’s journey
  • Link to more relevant content: don’t let your web pages be a dead end

The second visitors to your website get bored or frustrated?

That’s the second you lose them.

The Short Version

Website copywriting is a specific skill, and needs to take into account:

  • Search engine optimisation (SEO)
  • User focus
  • Conversion rate optimisation (CRO)
  • User experience (UX)

The good news is that, generally speaking, what’s good for one of these categories is good for the others.

Nicely broken up text? Good for Google, good for readers.

Clear links to related content? Good for consumers, good for Google, good for conversions.

Long-tail keywords? Good for SEO, good for consumers.

While website copywriting may be as much science as it is art, it’s not alchemy. The advice you need to follow is common sense, backed up by data and evidence.

Study the basics, stick with them, and your website copywriting standards will sky-rocket.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of website copywriting best practices, but it’s a good start. What else would you include? Tell me below in the comments 👇🏻

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