Words matter: How to write effective web copy for better conversions

Many things come together to create a high-performing website. As a marketer, one of the most powerful components is web copy. The words you use can have a direct effect on sales and client retention.

Why? Copy is a core website building block that both describes and helps you sell products or services. Every word matters. Despite its importance, website copy is far too often put on the backburner at many companies when they are creating websites or undergoing a website redesign. 

There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution for every website when it comes to copy. However, we have found in helping run thousands of personalizations that some general messaging guidelines increase the odds of driving more conversions. Check out these techniques to see if they can help you maximize the effectiveness of your web copy. 

1. Know your customer’s needs 

Before you ever put pen to paper, you need to empathize with your customer’s needs. You need to walk a day in their shoes and understand what’s important to them. Here are some questions that can help you understand customer intent to better inform your web copy:

  • For business customers:
    • What will get them promoted?
    • How are they evaluated in their jobs?
    • What are the most pressing trends facing your customer’s industry?
  • For consumer customers:
    • What emotions do they feel around the category of product you offer?
    • What kinds of emotions do you want your customers to feel while using your product or service?
  • What are the biggest stresses your customer faces on a day-to-day basis?

Answers to these questions can help you write more effective copy, as you can tailor it more easily to their needs. 

2. Explain what makes your product or service unique

In order to make your product or service sound exciting and impactful, it’s absolutely crucial to have a deep understanding of how your product or service works and how your offering differs from the competition.

You do not, and typically should not, list out all of the differences. Instead, focus on the features that matter more to your customers, which you’ve outlined above in the first technique we shared. Marketers often refer to these as “key differentiators.”

While customer needs and situations are the main actors in your copy, key differentiators are important supporting pillars in the words you write. Using key differentiators and customer needs consistently should guide your headlines, copy, calls to action, etc., so that you can effectively connect your product or service into your customers’ daily lives. You should use a similar, consistent approach across all of your marketing channels to reinforce these messages.

Evernote lists their key differentiators clearly in their hero section copy.

3. Pay attention to your verbs

Most website copy serves one purpose: getting your customers or prospects to take action. Whether it’s clicking “Add to Cart” or getting a prospect to sign up for a demo, calls to action are where web copy turns into results for your business. That’s why writers and marketers need to pay special attention to the verbs they are using. Make sure they are clear, concise, connect to customer needs, drive the action you want, and invoke a sense of urgency. 

Why does this customer need your product or service, and why do they need it now? This is the underlying theme that needs to be reinforced with the verbs you use. Stay away from flowery language, and ensure you’re speaking to the needs and key differentiators you’ve already outlined above.

Tip: Don’t be afraid to use more direct calls to action with prospects that have engaged with you repeatedly, or prospects that are further down the sales funnel. Sometimes these visitors are on the fence and need a more aggressive nudge to take the next step. 

Lyft does a great job of incorporating action words into their headlines.

4. Keep it short and simple

As you’re trying to work in all of your messages, conciseness can be a tough thing to do as a writer. You’re really excited about your product or service, you know it’s going to help your prospect succeed, and you want to include every last detail.

However, unlike a great novel or screenplay, marketing copy is intended to be processed quickly. You want your readers to quickly understand your offering, see value, and stay focused on the actions you want them to take. Although you want to pack in every last idea, allow yourself to not be comprehensive and instead focus on the most important differentiators and points you want to make.

Keep your sentences short. Usually if a sentence is longer than three lines, you should say the same thing in fewer words or split the sentence into two.

Choose words that everyone can understand. Chances are, your customers aren’t interested in reading jargon or seeing how advanced your vocabulary is. A good rule of thumb? Stick to a 5th-8th grade reading level. There are several platforms like Readability Test Tool, Grammarly, Readable and the Hemingway App than can help you find out what reading level your writing is at and help you edit accordingly.  

5. Write in a positive, active voice

Whenever possible, write in the active voice rather than passive voice. In most cases, it makes your copy easier to understand and gets to the point faster. Here’s an example: 

Passive voice: The dog was walked by her.

Active voice: She walked the dog.

We’ve also discovered that using affirmative, positive language can, in the right situations, have a big impact on conversion rates. For example, one of our ecommerce customers, Stella & Dot, tested 400+ versions of its cart page through our predictive personalization platform. It turned out that using affirmative language like “You’re going to rock this!” (see image below) was one of the highest performing ideas that, together with all of their ideas, drove a 52% lift in conversions to the checkout page. 

By adding affirmative language like Stella & Dot did in this example, you can help customers feel good about interacting with your brand.

6. Be a storyteller

Would you rather read a collection of industry-related stats about new groundbreaking medicine, or a story about how that medicine helped make a person’s life better or easier? More often than not, people are drawn to the story first, then focus on the stats later.

Why? Our minds are naturally wired for empathy and we like having real-world examples to reference, especially when we’re making purchasing decisions. Connect your copy to elements of storytelling, such as using specific examples about how your company helped someone, to humanize your product or service. Show how your offering impacts actual people rather than just focusing on metrics and functions

Make sure to reference how and why a person is using your product or service in addition to cool features. Give your customers examples of other people using the product or service, whether it’s a case study, customer testimonial, or simply a hypothetical demonstration of how a person would ideally use your product or service.

Google’s blog, The Keyword, features real-life stories about how their products have helped people in their day-to-day lives.

 

7. Know when to show them and tell them

Customers are typically drawn to stories, and they are also often drawn to visual content. In general, people like to be shown how things work, especially if the concept is complex or has multiple steps. If this is the case with a part of your product or service, consider explaining concepts or demonstrating how your offering works with visuals alongside your copy. Consider using video, infographics, images, or diagrams as powerful accompaniments to written copy. 

Airbnb combines short, compelling web copy with engaging visuals to showcase their Experiences offering.

8. Write unique web copy for each audience and/or stage of the sales funnel

It’s important as a marketer to meet your prospects and customers where they are in the sales funnel with you. Recognize where your customers are based on their behaviors on your site, and then personalize their web copy, experiences, and offerings. Here are some questions that might be helpful as you develop copy for different audiences and/or stages of your funnel:

  • Is this visitor a prospect or an existing customer? If a prospect, is this their first visit or a repeat visit?
  • For a repeat visiting prospect, where have they engaged on your website before and what can this tell you about them and their needs?
  • For existing customers, are there other products or services you offer that would be helpful to them? Are there new upgrades you’ve launched recently they might find valuable?

Answers to these questions and more can help you tailor web copy to meet your prospects and customers where they are in their relationship with you. For instance, you may include the latest release and cross sell content for an existing customer, while focusing on introductory overview copy for a first-time visitor.

8. Your web visitors change over time. Your copy should too.

Not only is each individual customer different, but their purchasing patterns and preferences often change over time. Additionally, the mix of prospects that you bring to your site changes as you change your marketing efforts. Their behavior on and reaction to your website also changes as your competitors change their marketing. A consistent flow of ideas based on your customer’s interactions with your company, and the iteration of those ideas, can help you find what works for your customers and prospects.

To truly maximize conversions as customer behavior changes, marketers should test many web copy ideas concurrently, and test often. To see how you can incorporate some of these web copy techniques faster with predictive personalization, reach out to us for a free consultation