May 31, 2018

8 Tweaks to Improve Your Website Copy in 30 Minutes or Less

8 Tweaks to Improve Your Website Copy in 30 Minutes or Less

Are you struggling to get new customers from your website? Is your bounce rate through the roof? Is your website not showing up in Google searches for businesses just like yours?

An underperforming website can be incredibly frustrating, especially if you spent a good chunk of your yearly marketing budget building and launching it. It’s a problem that we encounter regularly when we talk to new web design clients.

The good news is that these problems are all fixable, and most times, they all point back to the same problem area: your website copy.

The written content on your website pages is what lets visitors know what your company is all about and why they should want to do business with you. But words are powerful, and if you’re not careful, your website copy could wind up telling customers something entirely different that what you intended.

Want a quick way to improve your messaging? We’re giving you 8 ways to improve your website copy … and each of them can be done in 30 minutes or less.

1. Use spell check

The quickest and most basic way to bump your website copy up a notch is to run it through a spell checker. That’s because three quarters of website visitors pay attention to spelling and grammar on company websites, while 59% of people avoid doing business with a company that makes obvious spelling and grammar mistakes.

You can paste the text from your website into a free online spell checker like Grammarly, which points out spelling and grammar mistakes that other spell checkers miss.

grammarly website copy

You can also use the online word processor Hemingway, which takes the role of spellchecker one step further to help make your writing clearer and more concise.

Hemingway website copy

2. Write motivating headlines

Headlines are the hardest-hitting parts of your website copy. They grab your readers’ attention more than the rest of your copy, thanks to their position at the top of your page and the fact that they’re usually in a much larger, bolder font than the remainder of the page text. They also get more eyeballs — 80% of website visitors read the headlines, while only 20% read the rest of the page.

Headlines give you a unique opportunity to appeal to your audience, so you need to make every word pack a punch. Focus on the customer instead of your business with words like you and your, not we and our, use powerful verbs like maximize, transform, or crush, and keep your headline short to keep your readers from losing interest.

3. Shorten paragraphs

If you’re still writing copy like a middle school essay, it’s time to rethink your strategy.

Gone are the days of 3-5 sentence paragraphs on a website. Nowadays, anything longer than 2-3 sentences should probably be shortened.

That’s because the longer the paragraph, the longer it takes your visitors to read. Long paragraphs with more than 3 sentences bog down your readers and make reading the article feel labor-intensive.

But short paragraphs of 1-3 sentences are skimmable because they allow readers’ eyes to move quickly.

And since 43% of people admit to skimming blog posts and website pages, breaking up your website copy is a good way to keep them engaged longer.

skimming website copy

4. Use plain English

Here’s a problem we see on nearly every website we redesign. Too often, businesses use lots of industry-specific terms and formal language in an attempt to sound more professional.

But the result is website copy that’s hard for their visitors to understand. To make matters worse, 43% of U.S. adults only have Basic or Below Basic reading skills — meaning they read at only about a 4th-grade level.

website copy reading levels

Industry jargon flies over the top of most readers’ heads, and language that’s too formal makes your company seem stiff and aloof.

Unless you want to alienate all of your website visitors — and we’re guessing you don’t, since you’re reading this — then it’s time to simplify your web content.

Start by having someone who works in an unrelated field look it over for you. This might be your best friend, your babysitter, your parents, or your personal trainer. Once they’ve finished reading it, ask if they find any part of what you’ve written confusing.

If they do, you know which parts to simplify.

5. Use active voice, not passive

A good way to simplify your website copy is to write in active voice rather than passive voice. If you’re struggling to remember your grade-school English class, that’s OK. Here’s how to tell the difference …

Active voice is when the subject of the sentence performs an action. Passive voice is when the subject is acted on by an object.

Active voice: Trajectory designed a new website. Passive voice: The new website was designed by Trajectory.

Notice how much shorter active voice makes your sentence? It’s also more easily understood because it gets right to the point.

active voice website copy

You’ll probably never have a situation where your website visitors point to a sentence on your site and say, “Hey, that’s passive voice! This isn’t a credible company!” But when your copy is written in active voice, they’ll understand it more easily and connect with it more strongly. And that connection will play a big role later on when they have to decide whether to do business with you or not.

Not sure if your writing uses active or passive voice? A good rule of thumb is to look for the word, “by.” Not all sentences in passive voice contain the word “by,” a decent amount of them do, and looking for those throughout your website copy can help open your eyes to other instances of passive voice.

6. Focus on the customer

If you really want to connect with your customer, your website copy needs to focus on them.

Unfortunately, this is where a lot of companies go wrong. They see their website as a place to tell customers what their business is all about — and in a way it is.

But too often, the message that comes across is “We’re all about XYZ service,” not “We’re all about solving your problems.”

Nobody likes to listen to someone who talks only about themselves. The same thing goes for reading website copy.

Start by using pronouns that your customers can relate to. Your website should speak to them, so use 2nd-person pronouns like you and your instead of we and our. This helps them feel as though they’re being addressed directly, which makes them sit up and take notice a little more.

Next, highlight how your company benefits them. If you’re a podiatrist, don’t just say that you perform foot and ankle surgery; say that you help them walk easier (see the website that we built for Georgia’s premier foot and ankle specialist here).

case study website copy

Essentially, your website copy should show readers why they should care about what you do, and that only happens when you phrase things in a way they can easily apply to their own lives.

7. Add keywords

Writing website copy that appeals to your readers is important, but there’s another audience member you need to consider, too.

Yep, we’re talking about Google.

Since its last algorithm update in 2013, Google has started placing more and more emphasis on websites with plenty of content, especially when that content is written in a way that appeals to your human audience. But that doesn’t mean it’s time to throw keywords out the window.

To rank highly on search engines, you still need to include relevant keywords in your site content.

Start with words and phrases that you want your website to show up for when people search. For instance, if you’re a dentist in Atlanta, you might include the phrase “Atlanta dentist.”

Next, branch out into variations of what you do or services you offer. These keywords tend to be a bit longer and are called long tail keywords. For your Atlanta dental practice, you might include the keywords “Atlanta emergency dentist,” or “Atlanta root canal.”

Pick one or two keywords that you want each page to rank for and include them throughout your copy. The trick is to include them enough that Google recognizes that your content is about those keywords, but it is much that it reads unnaturally to your visitors. Generally, your keywords should make up 1-3% of your page copy.

8. Use compelling CTAs

Ultimately, the goal of your website copy should be to make someone perform a certain action. To do that, you need to use compelling calls to action.

We won’t go too in-depth here since we already dedicated an entire blog post to CTAs, but here are some tips to tweak yours right away:

Be clear about what action you want your visitors to take. If your ultimate goal is to get them to sign their puppy up for obedience training, all non-navigational buttons should point them closer to that goal. If you want them to sign up for your email list, that should be clear as well.

Next, you’ll want to make that action sound appealing to your customer. Usually this part of your copy is pretty short — a sentence or two is plenty. Be sure to use those strong words we mentioned earlier and highlight the benefits of taking that action.

Evernote is a great example of a strong, compelling CTA. Its headline grabs the reader’s attention with a concept that their target users can immediately identify as something they want, i.e., a second brain. Then they highlight some of the benefits to new users, like the app’s main functions and high level of convenience.

evernote website copy

Small improvements can make a big impact

If you’ve taken the time to make these tweaks — or even if you’ve just looked into the ones that most apply to your website — you’ve made huge progress toward connecting with your audience, building trust, and getting those conversion numbers up.

Looking for more ways to resonate with your target customers? We show you how in our previous blog posts:

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