Seven Steps To Writing Online Copy That Converts
by Amy Rowe
on Apr 21, 2020
Content is a crowded market. With brands like John Lewis and Nike now competing for your attention against established media broadcasters such as Sky and BBC – it has never been harder to grab someone’s attention.
According to Chartbeat’s Tony Haile, you have only 15 seconds to wow someone with your web page before they move on – so how can you write copy that converts? We’ve compiled a fool-proof list to help you capture and keep your audience.
1. Define your purpose
What are you asking your reader to do? Are you asking them to leave an email address, expressing interest in your webinar? Are you asking them to download further content or are you further down the sales funnel and pushing a sale? Make sure you are clear on the objective of your webpage ahead of writing any copy. It is all too easy to offer your reader too many choices – culminating in confusing messages and multiple calls to action. Keep it simple.
2. Know your audience
Your audience, which may be made up of different segments – such as job levels or industries, has varying pain points and needs. You’ll need to tap into these pain points with your copy – and decide exactly who you are writing for. If it’s not clear within 15 seconds that you can solve that person’s problem – you’ll likely lose that conversion. Marketers use a range of techniques for defining pain points in customers and there are lots of resources on the web to help you define yours. In a perfect world, you’ll be able to ask questions of your current customers in order to clearly define their pain points. HubSpot starts with eight helpful questions to get to the bottom of issues your customers might be facing, check them out here. However, you might not be able to launch a large survey or garner huge amounts of response straight away. Businesses, such as start-ups, might start by asking a few target customers questions in order to define personas and create marketing content. They will then revisit these personas once they have more data and refine the content.
3. Think like the BBC
There is absolutely no reason why your content shouldn’t be of the quality expected of media outlets like the BBC. Even if you are writing B2B copy, remember that you are still competing for attention against both B2B and B2C content. The quality of your content has to be just as good. The BBC’s founding principles – still adhered to today, are to inform, educate and entertain. Does your content do one of these things or more? If it doesn’t – it is not creating any value for your customers. To make sure you stick to these principles, you should regularly revisit your audience’s pain points. If, for example, you are writing advice for first-time property buyers and regulations change that might affect a sale – you need to make sure you cover this information in relevant content and – if necessary – amend older content so that it is up-to-date. Some industries change faster than others – and it is your job to ensure you keep up to date.
4. Hone those headlines
If it takes 15 seconds for someone to decide whether your content is worth reading or not – the news is even starker when it comes to grabbing someone’s attention. Whether your audience is accessing your content through a newsletter, a social media post or Google – they will do so via your headline. Online content works differently from print – your headline needs to say exactly ‘what it does on the tin’ and will also need to use any key words you have researched in your headline to help search engines rank your content. You also need to remember these three things:
- Be specific
- Be active
- Be engaging
This might sound fairly obvious but we often see headlines which swing from the vague to the overcomplicated.
Here’s an example of a vague headline:
Six reasons to be happy
Happy about what? Bikes?
A more specific headline:
Six reasons to be happy about bikes
A good time to think about bikes
- Wheely healthy: Why more of us are investing in bikes
5. Keep it brief
Use as few words as possible to make your point. Nobody wants to read reams of your copy. You need to take a leaf out of William Faulker’s book and ‘kill all your darlings.’ And while we’re on the subject – choose the simplest word available in your vocabulary over the longer or more obscure one. Leave ‘flowery’ to the garden.
6. Clear calls to action
The best calls to action use strong command verbs that create a sense of urgency such as “Compare prices,” “Find savings” and “Shop now.” The copy is simple and effective. HubSpot has some great examples of CTAs to scroll through here. Depending on your brand voice, you can be playful with CTAs. Wild cat conservation charity encourages website users to sign up to their email by asking them to ‘join our pride.’ If you’re creating social media ads, you’ll know the CTAs are multiple choice and that you’re not allowed to edit the buttons. However, remember that as long as the message is simple – your CTA can start in the text on the post, be carried through the media, and finish with that very simple button.
7. Test and test again
Last but not least, test your copy to see if it is resonating. This is easy with adverts and email campaigns because the results will come in very quickly and A/B testing is so easy to set up. Test one hypothesis – such as “Customers will respond more to ‘buy now’ rather than ‘learn more.’” Don’t be tempted to test more than one hypothesis at a time because the results will simply be confusing. Most CMSs allow you to A/B test pages. For example, if your website is on HubSpot, you can do this or, if you’re on Wordpress – you can download helpful plugins.
Finally – and this probably doesn’t need saying – but re-read your copy yourself. Give it 24 hours and come back to your copy with fresh eyes. It’ll make all the difference.
There are many techniques out there to grab people’s attention – all you need to do is flick through the Twitter feeds of The Sun, Buzzfeed and other news organisations to see how their sub editors do it. Listicles do well, for example, chiefly because readers like to have a rough idea how long a piece of content might be before they commit to click. Short headlines are better than long headlines, according to Outbrain, and copy editors should keep in mind that when appearing on Google search, headlines get cut off after XX characters. Much of the time, headlines should be keyword-rich, to do well in searches – people also typically scan read. Try not to fall into the trap of clickbait – a headline which reads “This is the real reason you need to buy a bike this season” which leads to a post about the durability of a bike – will quickly turn readers off and likely won’t suit your brand. What works for the Sun doesn’t work for everyone. Finally – if appropriate, try a pun or alliteration – thesaurus.com is a great idea generator when you’re thinking of a memorable headline.
If you would like to speak to our content team today for more copywriting tips or how to create an A/B testing strategy, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
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