April 2nd, 2020

Copywriting for a Website: A Helpful Guide

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Written by Copycat Staff

When someone visits your website, they’re usually searching for something.

Be it an answer to a problem (your solution is everything), a piece of information, a specific service, or the clients you’ve worked with, even if they’re just “browsing,” this exercise has an underlying purpose.

For instance, when you’re browsing through the top picks of Prime Video, you might come across a few movies that don’t pique your interest. Yet, The Fellowship of the Ring passes by in all its glory, and you suddenly remember your affinity for swords and Orcs. Although you didn’t exactly know what you were looking for, you do now.

Beyond that—web copy is your first impression.

Your company’s first chance to say hello! My name is ___ and this is how I’m going to change your life for the better. Trust me. Believe in me. Purchase this.

A 24/7 Salesman

While quality content is marketing’s lifeblood, online copywriting is governed by an entirely different set of mechanics. Your web content—atop of being snappy and on-brand—uses this ruleset as its spine. All this to say, what’s the overall goal when writing for your website?

To create a charming, persuasive, and friendly 24/7 salesman out of your digital storefront.

Note: we’re going to use The Lord of the Rings as reference material for this entire guide, although we don’t know why and it doesn’t really tie into the material that well.

#1 Speak “Friend,” and Enter

Does anyone remember when Gandalf is trying to solve the riddle at the Mines of Moria? He’d forgotten that the Elven Doors were built by the Sindar, a race from the Second Age. What did Gandalf do wrong here?

He wasn’t speaking to the right audience.

The same goes for your website’s copywriting strategy—if you don’t know who you’re talking to, you’re not going to open doors.

Your graphics can be striking, your copy written by a future Hemmingway, and your brand design brilliant. Yet, if it’s not positioned for the people you want to buy your product, why on Middle Earth would they stay?

If you can’t speak to your customers’ needs, your website copy is useless.

  • Create Buyer Personas – Look, every marketing initiative is going to be aimed at your target audience. That means these personas (which you need to create), are going to be flocking into your digital lobby. Every word, image, and piece of content on your website needs to be written for them. You can’t tempt an Orc with a good time, it has to be a bad one. And you can’t sell CBD products to help an Elf’s well-being, because they live forever. But you can sell wedges to a hobbit, because it makes them taller.

  • Objective-Focused Copy – Take each piece of web content and tailor it to an objective. Is it to inform? To compel? To convert? By separating these objectives and ensuring each block of text is well-positioned, you tell a story.

Effective and compelling copy is forged from the great fires of Mount Doom knowing your target audience and ensuring that each word, each sentence, and each block of copy serves a purpose.

This exercise alone can help position and trim the fat of your website.

#2 The Hero’s Journey (hint: your reader is the Hero)

Unfortunately, Frodo is the one that’s tasked with carrying the ring to Mordor. If this means nothing to you, essentially this young, innocent, sweet little hobbit is responsible for ridding the world of evil and saving all that’s good in life. Yet, when he begins his quest to Rivendell, he doesn’t know it yet…

The same goes for your reader. They’re the Hero. This is their journey. You need to guide them along, mentor them (lightly), and then inspire them to act. When it comes to the question: “What’s in it for me?” the experience they have on your platform needs to provide the answer in a succinct, bold, and compelling narrative.

  • It’s not just about providing a solution, it’s about your customer solving their issue – What marketers tend to forget is that by focusing on the reader, you empower them to complete their own journey. Although you’ve created a solution, it’s them that answered the question.

  • Pro tip: Talk about them more than yourself. Sometimes, “you” is the most persuasive word in the dictionary. Humans are naturally self-serving. We’re designed to put our interests first, being that we all need to survive. When someone says “you,” speaking and appealing to our emotions, our ears raise like the Wild Wargs of the Misty Mountains.

As Frodo discovers the nature of his quest, so too will your customer. And instead of having to fight Gollum and throw The Ring into a volcano, they just have to click “buy.”

#3 Like the Nazgul, Your Readers Scan

As Gollum leads Frodo and Sam through the Dead Marshes, the Fell Beasts fly above, piloted by the dead—the Nazgul. These Nazgul scan below, trying to find and locate this young hobbit and ruin all that’s good in the world. Fortunately, the Dead Marshes are vast, an endless quagmire of moss and dead vegetation—the hobbits blend in, unseen by the Dark Riders.

Literally, what does any of this mean and what does it have to do with web copy?

Because if your website is like the Dead Marshes, your customer isn’t going to be able to scan and find what they want. Like the Nazgul, they’ll fly away…

You need to format your web pages for digestibility.

Less is More

While you might think that it’s time to call upon your designers, this relates to website copy too. Your writing should be sparse; your whitespace plenty. Here are a few copywriting tips to help prepare for the Nazgul:

  • Brevity. Why use multiple words when it can be done in one? Why speak like an Elf when Gimili’s one-liners can tell an entire story? You want your readers to scan your page and pick out the exact information they need. This is not the time for flowery language, nor is it to try and sound intelligent. Here’s a fun exercise: for every text block you have, try to achieve the same purpose in half the characters.
  • Headings convert. A seasoned copywriter knows an old trick—can a reader understand the entirety of an article by only reading the headlines? Especially with web copy, be sure that your headlines accurately explain the text body below. That way they can scan and stop when they’ve found their Palantir. Additionally, use subheadings to break up text and guide your reader where you want them.
  • Bullet points. Nothing is more attractive to the eyes than a list of short, concise, and well-positioned bullet points. If there’s something on your web page that can be consolidated into actionable words or mini sentences, this not only helps with scanning, it induces flow.
  • Benefits over features. Focus on the benefits. Don’t just say our ___ can do this and this. Say, customers have saved money because of our ___. By focusing on the benefits, you strum the reader’s heartstrings. The features? They might not understand them yet.
  • Frontload CTAs, be bold. Your reader scanned. They get it. They want it. But now, in their great quest, they can’t seem to find the path to Mount Doom. And there’s no crazed, ring-ridden hobbit to whisper “my precious” and point a gaunt finger in the right direction. You need to have your CTAs right in front of your reader. If they’re ready, they know where to go.

If we were giving Frodo a lesson on how to write web copy and apply it to his adventure, something would’ve probably eaten him.

So to you, Reader, know this—let the Nazgul find what they’re looking for (sorry, Frodo).

#4 Saving the World – Your Value Proposition

As it goes, Frodo didn’t really understand his value proposition when embarking on the journey. For The Fellowship, however, it was quite simple—defeat Sauron, or you’re dead. That’s a pretty easy value prop to understand.

How about your product or service? Is it as easy as understanding why the One Ring needs to be destroyed?

You have to remember that, your web copy needs to convert. You’re trying to sell to potential customers.

Another thing that marketers tend to forget is that your value proposition isn’t your sales pitch. It’s an offering, a conversation starter, one that then allows you to pitch your product or service.

  • Brevity, again—Ideally, your value proposition is threaded throughout every page of your website. Try and consolidate it into a single headline, with a few “benefits” beneath it (rather than features). Web adventurers are in a hurry. They want information and they want it yesterday. Keep your value proposition front and center, with a CTA that’s adjacent.

Legolas didn’t look at Aragorn and think, hmm, not dying sounds swell, let’s talk about what’s in it for me further. He sprang into action. As did Gimli, Boromir, Gandalf, Merry, Sam, and Pippin.

Could you imagine if your value proposition was met with the same enthusiasm as The Fellowship?

That’s what you should aim for.

#5 Sauron, A Destroyed Ring, And Frodo – The Overall Story Arch

At the end of the day, no matter how clever your tactics or how much whitespace you’ve created, you’re telling a story. You need a Sauron (a problem—in this case, a super unchill one), a melted ring (a solution), and a Hero (your Reader).

Build the problem, showcase the solution, and allow the Reader to fulfill their Hero’s journey.

  • Tip: Remember that listing benefits is the same thing as highlighting a problem. How? It implies it. If you were to tell us here at Copycat that, by using your ___, we’d have a single-click button that allows us to capitalize any letter (rather than having to delete it then add in a new character), you’ve explained the problem… while speaking in the positive.

The more you focus on this story, the more effective your sales pitch becomes. If you can convince your reader that they’re the pilot, they’ll fly to you. If you try to convince them why they need to become a pilot, you run the risk of overwhelming them. By any means, please do a better job persuading them than we’ve done with this metaphor.

At the end of the day, copywriting for websites lives and dies by its ability to tell a story.

“There And Back Again,” by Bilbo Baggins, Your Repeat Customer

There’s no ubiquitous formula for fantastic web copy. Just like it took four hobbits, a wizard, a ranger of the North, a dwarf, an elf, and a steward-prince of Gondor to defeat the Dark Lord Sauron, it could’ve happened with six wizards and a Dunlending.

What works for one business may not work for another, and vice versa. This guide is meant to help you shape your web copy in its entirety, when in reality the mechanics descend along the branches of a website’s family tree—landing pages, About Us, your homepage, and any service/industry pages all have their own rulesets, too.

That said, you need to think of your website as a salesman. They need to:

  1. Answer a question
  2. Provide a solution to a problem

How do they do this? By telling an emotional and compelling story, allowing the reader to become the protagonist.

As overall guidelines, remember to:

  • Speak “Friend” and Enter: know your audience, use their language
  • Use The Hero’s Journey: allow your audience to be the protagonist
  • Like the Nazgul, Your Readers Scan: remember how quickly people scan
  • Saving The World: your value proposition is a conversation starter, not a pitch
  • Sauron, The Ring, and Frodo: your website needs to tell a compelling story

Soon, we’ll have a guide up on how to tackle each facet of your website content.

“Someone else always has to carry on a story.” - J.R.R. Tolken, LoTR

In this case, that person becomes your brand ambassador, marketing your product for you.

Copycat Copywriters

If you’re looking for web content that hits on all the above, can target your audience like Legolas with a bow, and persuade them like Grima Wormtongue, you’re in the right place. As for website copywriting services, you’ve found your Fellowship.

You have Shawn’s Sword.

Mikey’s Bow.

Adam’s Axe.

Kate’s eye.

JJ’s honor.

And Gandalf’s (Copycat's) Staff—A Team of Remarkable Creators.

Welcome to Copycat.

ps: if none of these LoTR references made any sense and you have no idea why you decided to read this entire thing…

We’re sorry.

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