Ah, the words on your website. They’re packed full of potential and, when written strategically, can turn your website into a hard-working sales tool that qualifies and converts leads on your behalf (while you catch up on zzz’s, rewatch Beyoncé’s 2016 VMA performance, and/or catch the latest Anthropologie sale). But when they’re not working for you—particularly after you’ve spent endless hours writing them yourself or have invested your hard-earned dollars in a copywriter who’s done so for you—they can lead to endless anxiety, wonder, and what-ifs.
Today, then, I wanted to dig deep into the elusive art of conversion copywriting to help business owners figure out why in the world the words on their website are acting as total freeloaders rather than heavy lifters. Below are eight questions to ask yourself about your website copy. Grab some coffee (and maybe a cookie because you deserve it) and dig on in…
When I’m serving up conversion copywriting tips, this one is always at the top of the list. Website copywriting is an entirely different beast from résumé or cover-letter writing. Sorry to break it to you, but you are not the hero of this story—your ideal client is.
Selling your services is a psychological game—it requires far less focus on you than you might think and far more focus on your reader and what they’re seeking. Meet your ideal client where they are—connect with them by commisterating with their issues, making it clear you understand what they’re seeking, and then segueing into you as the experienced professional who can swoop in and solve all of their problems (ok—so I guess in that sense, you are the hero…bring on the cape).
Think of it this way: your ideal client should play the starring role in your copy while you play the supporting one. Or, if you speak my language, let’s go with this: They’re the Beyoncé—you’re the Nicki. Ya dig?
Focusing less on you may feel counterintuitive at first—especially if this is your first go at conversion copywriting. After all, you’re selling your services; so how in the hell do you not make yourself the star? A great way to shift your perspective is to look for opportunities where you can switch a “we/me/I/us” statement to a “you/your” statement:
Wait—it’s my about page…shouldn’t it be focused on me? Yes and no. Your about page is just another sales page—so rather than reading like a straight bio or résumé, it still needs to connect with your ideal client. There are a number of ways you can use the copy on your about page to do so:
Psst..want even more about page goodness? Check out this super helpful post on writing your about page.
In jargon speak, these are CTAs. In everywoman speak, they’re the fun little buttons you click on on a website that tell you where to go and what to do (i.e. a “Let’s Meet” button that leads to an about page or a “Check out our offerings” button that leads to a services page).
Your website is a sales funnel—and a large part of your copy’s job is to help readers navigate through that funnel as seamlessly and intuitively as possible (it’s what conversion copywriting is all about!). In other words, you need to tell them where to go. If I get to the end of one of your web pages and there is no call to action driving me to another page, you’ve just cut off the powerful sales tool that is your website at the knees (um, ouch).
Listen—I’m a words woman through and through, but there’s only so much copy a website visitor’s eyes can handle. All of my conversion copywriting packages are based on web pages up to 500 words. Occasionally, I’ll write pages a little longer than that when the story calls for it and when design allows—but for the most part, you don’t want too many more than 500 words on a page, particularly on your home page. About pages, on the other hand, can handle more than 500 words in certain instances (like when you’re including a content block to connect with the reader, a personal bio, core values, and a diversity statement—for example)
You also want to use plenty of paragraph breaks and lots of white space throughout to ensure your pages don’t feel cluttered. Your copy should be easy to skim—because, spoiler alert, that’s what most of your readers are doing (skimming, not reading). If a potential client lands on a page and it immediately gives them homework-assignment vibes and book-report PTSD, they’ll bounce (quite literally) from your website.
Here’s a fun fact—your website can look and read incredibly well on desktop, but it also needs to look and read just as well on mobile. In 2020 (I apologize for even typing that year—but it’s the most recent stat I can find), 68% of all website visits came from mobile devices. What looks like a nice, short 5-line paragraph on desktop becomes a super lengthy, 12-line paragraph on mobile (because the screen is far more narrow). Before turning in any of the websites I write, I check them out from my iPhone—and I always (always) find areas where I need to add more paragraph breaks to make the content more digestible and easier on the eyes for mobile.
You can wax poetic on your website all day long about how amazing your services or products are…but the one thing a majority of visitors are looking for? Proof. If the proof is in your pudding and not on your website—you’ve got big problems. Leads want to know that people like them trust you and were happy with your services. They want to know that someone besides you thinks you’re amazing (and not just your mom). They want to trust that the investment will be worth it. So what does proof look like? It can come in a few different forms:
We all want to sound smart and sophisticated—but there’s a fine line between “she knows her shit” and “whoa, this is off-putting.” When it comes to conversion copywriting, I always like to say: the first word or phrase that comes to mind is usually the right one. Or as one of my journalism professors used to constantly remind his students: There is no need to say to “utilize” when you can say “use.”
You can write in a way that’s elevated and clever without packing your copy with overly flowery language (what we writers call “purple prose”) or unnecessary jargon. Worry far less about sounding smart and far more about sounding clear. Remember, even the most discerning clients want to feel welcome when they land on your website. Your copy can read super sophisticated and luxe (especially if you’re targeting a higher-end, larger-budget client), but it should still come across as approachable above all else. Longer words don’t equal more value, and complex sentences don’t win you a trophy. If a reader feels put off, isolated, or intimidated by your copy—particularly if you’re a service provider—they’ll leave your website. Leads want to know that the person they’re going to be spending their time and money with is enjoyable and easy to be around.
Here’s my favorite cheesy thing to say to service providers attempting to write their website copy: You are not a service; you are a solution.
If your website is suffering high bounce rates—or you find you’re constantly getting off-brand leads landing in your inbox—there’s a strong chance your copy isn’t connecting with your ideal client and making a case for how you can solve their problems. Instead of positioning what you offer as simply a service, position it as the solution your dream client is seeking. Dig less into the details of what you offer and more into the benefit you can bring. Some samples?