No one reads your website.
Hey! Thanks for reading the second sentence. Believe it or not, you just entered an elite group. Here’s why:
If you’re like most people, you decide to leave or read a website within three seconds.
First, you read a headline. Then, your eyes flit around the page looking for something to do. If the headline happens to interest you, you read the first sentence. If that’s interesting, you read the second.
At this point, you decide if the information and writing style are engaging. If they are, you sit back in your chair and read the whole website…
Or maybe you decide it’s useful, but not interesting enough to actually read. “TL;DR” came about for a reason, right?
So, you commence scanning. Then you’re gone.
The Issue with Website Copywriting
Sound familiar? Of course it does. You’re doing it, I’m doing it, and our clients are doing it. So what’s the problem here?
Despite the fact that your website is where the most valuable information about your business lives, very few people actually read it. They visit your site, definitely, but they aren’t browsing around reading every carefully chosen phrase on each carefully planned page.
In other words, no one reads your website. They visit, definitely, but they aren’t browsing around reading every carefully chosen phrase.
There are plenty of reasons people don’t read a website. Perhaps your copy isn’t providing value for your customers. Perhaps you’re too salesy. Perhaps your website isn’t visually appealing, or your writing style is just, well, boring (sorry — it happens!)
Whatever your specific problem is, your situation isn’t helpless! Let me talk you through seven ways you can help your visitors actually read the copy you’re writing on the site.
Seven Solutions for Better Website Copywriting
Editor’s note – this post was originally published in 2012. It’s been thoroughly rewritten for clarity and content.
1. Make the headline count
Remember how I said you read a headline first, then decide to move onto the first sentence if it’s interesting? That means a lot of weight rests on your headlines, so you better make them good. And this doesn’t just apply to your page headline… you’ll want a powerful title tag, too (the title that pulls into search engines). If you can’t entice your audience to click through to actually visit your sites you’ve already lost.
Who’s doing it well: MailChimp
2. Make it scannable
Our online world has made our attention span incredibly short. People skim — it happens. Don’t fight a losing battle. Instead, make your content scannable. You can use various techniques to draw a reader’s eye down a page.
First, use plenty of headlines and subheads. Next, instead of paragraphs, try bullets and lists. Or, if you feel paragraphs are the best way to get your information across, trying breaking them up into smaller paragraphs (and using action words!). You can also separate text with pictures or other visual elements.
Who’s doing it well: Trello
3. Get to the point
There’s something to be said for concise writing — especially on a website. People are looking for information, so don’t beat around the bush. Give it to them! Ditch the flowery language and instead focus on communicating clearly and concisely. Use short words, avoid industry jargon, and use shorter sentences and paragraphs (see above).
Who’s doing it well: Apple
4. Use captions / call outs
What gets read more than any portion of a piece of content? Even as back as David Ogilvy in the 1960 – it was image captions & callouts. Images can be powerful, especially for drawing the eye down the page or breaking up lots of text. However, some images can be distracting. If you have a highly relevant image, don’t be afraid to use it — but don’t be afraid to use a caption with it, either. (Hint: You’ll also want to craft alt text for SEO purposes.)
5. Write for your audience (and where they are at)
Not a large, boring corporation? Then cut the corporate speak. Write like you would talk to a customer – not like you would write in 11th grade English class. If your customers speak plainly, then speak plainly. If they make jokes, crack a few yourself. Be relatable — it shows you actually get your customers and can help them. Check out this guide to tone of voice.
You’ll also want to make sure you’re writing for where your audience is in their” buyer cycle” (AKA the sales funnel). Don’t assume they know who you are just by getting to your website. Provide the right information, on the right page, with the right calls to action. It’s your job to move your customers through the marketing funnel — not theirs.
Who’s doing it well: Dollar Shave Club
6. Don’t distract
Speaking of calls to action… make sure you’re being clear about what you want your audience to do. Sure, provide options, but make sure they don’t distract from the main call to action. Pick one action that you want customers to take above all else, and make it the most prominent CTA on the page.
Also, lay off the links, buttons, badges, and image overload. They may have a purpose, but if it’s confetti on a page, you’re distracting from what you’re trying to say (see #3).
Who’s doing it well: Crate and Barrel
7. Give the benefits
I love knowing what I’m going to get for my time –- and what I should do to get it. No confusion! The Internet is a confusing place to begin with.
If you don’t let your visitors know what to expect from reading your website, why should they stay? Great website copy provides clear benefits to reading a page or article, and backs up claims with data, statistics, case studies, and examples.
Good copywriting also includes with a clear call to action that instructs a reader on what to do next. Catching the theme here?
Who’s doing it well: Unbounce
The world of copywriting isn’t standing still.
It might be a very old discipline but it continues to evolve, and will continue to evolve, especially as more and more content takes over the web. If you want to keep learning more about copywriting, check out the resources like How To Become A Copywriter, Headlines That Sell and Copywriting Exercises by Neville Medhora, in addition to other resources websites like ConversionXL.