Posted: Wed 3rd Feb 2016
Nick Leech, digital director at 123-reg, explains how to write copy for your company website that encourages people to buy your product or service.
Nick will be sharing plenty more advice on generating sales online at our Turn browsers into buyers event in London on 16 February. Book your place here.
There's no intrinsic value to website visitors. It's what they do on your site that counts.
When designing or updating your site, there are four main levers you can pull to convert more visitors into customers.
Site structure: how your pages link together
Page layout: the position and size of your headlines, images, text and buttons
Images: your photos and graphics and the meaning they convey
Your copy: be that headlines, service descriptions, blog, or FAQs
In my experience, most focus goes on the first three. Copy is often overlooked. That's because editing copy is a rare skill.
We're wrapped up in our businesses, talking about our services every day. It's difficult to strip that knowledge away and look at what we do afresh, through the eyes of our next customer. Working out if your text is easy to read, and makes sense to them is a constant challenge.
So how can you make sure your text is easy to digest and delivers the right meaning? Here are my five rules. You can apply them to every piece of copy on your site.
Understand your audience
It's a fundamental question every business owner needs to answer. Who are you selling to?
Are your website users experienced industry veterans who will quickly assimilate complex ideas? Or are they new to what you do and need to be walked through the basics? Understanding this will help you pitch your content at a level that can be easily understood.
In addition, what problems do they have that your product or service solves? Can you speak to existing customers to understand what they were looking for, and why they bought from you? This is essential to work out what benefits to highlight in your text.
Understand your objective
Every piece of text has a different purpose.
A product description should help visitors understand what that product does. An 'about us' page should explain why you're the smart choice to do business with. A blog post should tell a story.
Whether it's selling, engaging, enthusing or educating, make sure each piece of copy directly addresses a clear objective.
At school when the teacher asked for a two-page story, most of us kids struggled to pad it out that long. We got used to adding many words when a few will do. And that doesn't make for good reading.
At university my dad used to ruthlessly edit my essays. He'd challenge himself to cut length without meaning. I'd regularly see my efforts decimated.
It was an important lesson and one which applies tenfold on the web. People don't read webpages like they do books and newspapers. Your site has to compete with some exciting stuff: Facebook, YouTube, pictures of cats.
So keep it short. Follow these rules:
Maximum 25 words in a sentence
Maximum 3 sentences in a paragraph
Try to use the active voice. Give your sentence meaning at the beginning not the end of each sentence. It means you catch the skimmers, those who will browse only the start of each paragraph.
A great tool to help here is the Hemingway App . Inspired by the master of brevity, it highlights long complex sentences and suggests how they can be improved.
Break it up
People find blocks of text daunting. Many don't have the commitment to plunge in to uncover your meaning.
So break up blocks with headlines, bullets points and quotations.
Copy that includes these is less likely to intimidate the reader. It helps them to gain meaning just from reading headlines. They can instantly navigate to the important stuff, often the bullets.
These tricks also give your text shape, which helps readers retain it in their visual memory.
Include a call to action
As we discussed above, every piece of copy should have an objective. Make this clear by including a call to action at the end.
Tell your website visitors what you want them to do next, whether that's getting in touch, looking for more info, or comparing your products.
It doesn't end here
There are many more ways you can improve the copy on your site, but if you address these five then you'll be a long way down the road.
Nick Leech will be talking about how to improve not only your copy but also your page layout, content hierarchy, trust elements and so much more at Turn browsers into buyers on 16 February in London. Buy a ticket below: