Copywriting for Websites
Two approaches can be taken when creating website copy:
- Write the desired information you want to share and then let your designers figure how to make it fit, or
- Work with a rough layout of the website design and draft content to fit available space.
It’s better to go with latter as it will reduce the number of edits and rewrites. In my experience, the design should dictate the placement and volume of copy. Negotiate with the designers later if a particular point should be included but space wasn’t adequate and explain why, or re-write. With a little effort, it’s likely accommodations can be made to incorporate the bullet point, phrase or sentence or paragraph. Design and content are a collaborative effort. Communication is key.
Remember that the vast majority of website users today are driven by and impacted by the visuals – images, videos, colors, fonts, art elements – and to a lesser extent the words. Words have taken on the role of being a supporting cast member. The visuals serve as teasers to draw the customer into the site and then help them journey through the particular areas of interest. Once the user is closer to their desired product or service, that’s when they will want more details. The closer a user gets to a purchase that’s when they want to read product descriptions, ingredients, reviews, etc. Don’t overwhelm a user with too much information too earlier in the process.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2019 American Time Use Survey, the amount of time Americans read each day is declining. In the early part of this century, readers spent more than 29 minutes reading for personal interest. Two years ago, it was down to 16.8 minutes. Factor into this equation how much time remains after consumers review social media posts. In 2019 time spent reading for personal interest varied greatly by age. Individuals age 75 and over averaged 44 minutes of reading per day, whereas individuals ages 15 to 44 read on average for 10 minutes or less per day.
An “Entrepreneur” magazine article from January 2018, “4 Ways to Get Visitors to Stay on Your Website Longer,” listed content as one of the key website pillars. Emphasis was placed on “bite-size paragraphs of no more than two to three sentences, descriptive headings and bullet points.”
The most effective copy for a website is that which is elegant, inviting, concise and draws users through the website to ultimately take action in the end. Too much content too earlier in the process will mire down the user and fail to drive them through the website. In many case less is more. Write content and then scale it back more. Write tighter information. Leave out introductory and connecting phrasing. Make short statements.
A critical misstep is that when a client read the copy by itself and is not placed in context to the design, they often want to make changes. Frequently the visuals tell the story eliminating the need to say it with words.
This is similar to the website client who loves green and wants his or her website to be green. It’s not about what the website client prefers, the focus should be on your customers want to drive business.
Copy needs to be written to strategically to feature key SEO words that help attain and maintain high rankings in search engine results. It takes research, a keen eye and a strong understanding of SEO to be able to include the right words or phrases. Otherwise, your website will be taken in the wrong direction.
A huge swath of space exists between copywriting for a website and writing blog posts. If brevity is not your style, your wheelhouse may be in creating blog content instead.
Making website copy accessible to those with visual disabilities in compliance of ADA has gained attention in recent years. This blog is well worth the read, if you’d like to explain your audience and be more inclusive. As it relates to readability and color sections in headlines, sub-headers and body copy, you’ll find this video provides some great insight, especially as it relates to those who are colorblind.