Technically speaking, anyone can be a copywriter.
If you’ve ever written something and published it online, you’ve already done copywriting in one form or another. Congratulations!
However, if you want to turn your online writing into a marketable skill, you may have a little extra work to do. Website copywriting, especially for a brand or company, can be a bit more complicated than just typing out the first thing on your mind and hitting “publish.”
Here at Brafton, website copywriting is our game. We talked to a few of our accomplished copywriters in order to get the scoop on how you can produce effective website copywriting.
So without further ado, let’s get started!
Website Copywriting, Defined
In the most technical sense, website copywriting is the process of writing any piece of online content. This can take on a variety of different forms, ranging from in-depth profiles and social media posts to the perfect landing page. So yes — when you spend hours on social media liking and reading other peoples’ posts, you’re technically doing website copywriting research. The next time someone calls you out for spending too much time on your phone, you’re welcome to use that excuse — heaven knows we have.
The best type of website copywriting, however, is the content that is able to move a reader to make a purchase or conduct a certain action. This means writing eye-catching articles, captions or emails that can motivate an audience to do what you want.
Think about how many times you’ve read a post online and have been inspired to buy a product or click on an external website. Great copywriters are able to subtly guide you towards doing such actions without you being aware of it.
Here are a few forms that copywriting can take:
Ah, SEO: the content marketer’s favorite acronym.
SEO, or search engine optimization, is one of the most powerful tools that you can learn how to do to be a successful copywriter.
To understand why SEO is so important, it’s important to know the basics of how a search engine like Google works. Normally, when you finish publishing an article and post it online, Google crawls your website looking for keywords in order to make an educated guess on what your article is about. If you just published an article about, say, “5 Secrets to Effective Copywriting in 2021,” Google will scan the site it’s hosted on, the content it’s linked to and look for keywords that can tell it what the article is about.
After analyzing the article and looking for words that are often paired with the search term — like “dream client, web copy, or value proposition” in our example — Google now knows that this article is likely about effective copywriting techniques. The next time someone performs a search for that keyword, this article will likely pop up because the algorithm thinks it’s probably what you’re looking for (if you’re here thanks to a Google search, hello!).
There’s no set way to game the algorithm because Google keeps the details of their process a secret, but knowing how to nudge your article in the right direction so a search engine picks it up can be a valuable skill to have for a copywriter.
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Business to Business (B2B) and Business to Consumer (B2C) Copywriting
Another important skill that copywriters have is the ability to write from different perspectives and to sell to different audiences.
Depending on the client that you’re writing for, you might have to change the tone, the style and the manner in which you write. Articles that are B2B oriented are usually more formal and can further elaborate on industry topics, while B2C articles are less reliant on industry jargon and often more conversational.
Being a chameleonic writer and allowing your work to blend in with your client’s brand voice is key to success.
Creative copywriting is another type of copywriting that can be difficult to perfect due to its additional creative factor. Instead of explaining in clear-cut terms the benefits of a client’s services, creative copywriting aims to pair a product with a strong, memorable feeling.
Ad jingles, for instance, are examples of one form of creative copywriting that is a lot harder than it might seem. If you’ve ever been in the Southern California area, you may know the “Keyes on Van Nuys” jingle, or even the horribly grating “Toyota of Orange” jingle. Sure, the feeling that is associated with these jingles is general annoyance, but the fact that they were the first ones I came up with off the top of my head means that it’s successful copywriting at work.
Other forms of creative copywriting can be found paired with other art forms, like ad and print campaigns, in order to sell you their products or services.
Social Media Copywriting
One type of online copywriting that has exploded in the last decade is social media copywriting. No longer a job passed onto the position of the intern, social media marketers have become an integral part of the marketing team as of late. And for a good reason too—seven-in-ten Americans use social media according to Pew Research, making it one of the easiest ways that a brand can interact with their audience.
This means that social media copywriting is similarly becoming a hot commodity for many brands transitioning to the digital age. Every caption that is created and almost every piece of text used in a social media post is the work of a social media marketer or copywriter.
In addition, social media copywriters also often have to do their jobs under the constraint of the social media platforms that they’re working on.
Twitter, for example, only allows you 280 characters per post, which means that every letter and space counts. On Instagram, where many users are looking at photos rather than reading long pieces of text, there’s an added self-imposed constraint for marketers to keep their content brief but still engaging. Social media copywriting is still a growing position that is finding its place in the business world, so keep an eye on this space for the years to come.
Are you an expert on a niche sector or subject matter? Perhaps technical copywriting is the position for you.
Technical copywriters are often able to focus on a few subjects in particular with pinpoint accuracy, pushing out website content that can go deeply in depth on a subject matter. In subject fields that have very specific jargon, like tech or online security, technical copywriters shine. While it may be a little more difficult to market technical copywriting skills to a company, you’ll be all set when the right businesses come along.
Becoming the Best Copywriter You Can Be
Now that we’ve walked through some of the more commonly used types of copywriting, it’s time to hear from some of the expert copywriters here at Brafton.
Writing for hundreds of different clients all around the world, Brafton’s writers are very well-versed in what it means to produce highly marketable, well-written copy for their clients. Let’s hear some of their copywriting secrets, and see what goes through their minds every time they’re faced with a new project.
Tip #1 – Write Like You’ve Got All the Answers
When you’re writing for a client, it’s highly likely that you won’t know the details of the project or the campaign as well as they do. While they’ve got years of experience in their field of work, you might have only a scant, surface knowledge of the subject matter at hand.
However, that shouldn’t stop you from producing great pieces of writing about a product or a campaign for them. As the writer, you shouldn’t be expected to become an absolute expert in the field within a week’s—or even a few week’s—time frame, but you should have at least a good sense of what you’re trying to promote. A lot of that uncertainty can be masked with the confidence in your writing.
Brafton Senior Writer Matt Demarco writes with this mantra in mind: “Knowledge – and empathy – trump bravado.”
“Knowledge – and empathy – trump bravado.”
“A quick shortcut for turning around some copy might be to puff the client up – to speak as if the reader’s got problems and the client has all the answers,” he continues. “You have to be able to actually capture the pain points in a way that resonates with the potential reader instead of skating over them as if they’re all too obvious.”
However, Matt warns against going overboard and veering into boastful exaggeration. “Savvy readers will always sniff that out,” he confides.
By writing in a way that is confident and assured, with an air of authority, your web copywriting will be all the better for it.
Tip #2 – Outline, Outline, Outline!
When you’re given the difficult task of writing very long-winded website copy or a blog post with a very large word count, it can be easy to accidentally veer off track. Losing focus on your article’s primary goal can happen naturally with just about any piece of writing, but it can happen much more frequently when you’re writing about a subject that you’re not too well-versed in. For those cases, it can help to create an outline with various subheadings to stay on course, suggests Senior Marketing Specialist Molly Ploe.
“I think one of the most important steps to do before writing is to create an outline with predetermined subheadings,” Molly says. “Outlining helps you stay focused on the core topic, plus it helps keep the length in check. I like to write long, so the outline is really important for me to stay within a word count when there is one.
“Outlining helps you stay focused on the core topic, plus it helps keep the length in check.”
Having the piece broken down into small chunks helps me think about how long each section is allowed to be in order to reach the word count without going too far over. So, having the subheadings in the outline helps in 2 ways.
First, it keeps me focused on the most important points of each subtopic. Second, when you’re writing an SEO article, you need to include key terms in H2 and/or H3 subheadings as well as throughout the copy. Prewriting the subheadings helps plan where and how to intersperse the words and phrases you need to include.”
Tip #3 – Understand the Subject Matter
One of the fastest ways that you can confuse your reader and frustrate yourself is beginning a piece without fully understanding the subject matter.
It’s often tempting to just start writing and see where you go—especially when you’re under a time crunch—but it’s well worth your time to understand the subject matter as well as you can before typing your first words. Without a solid grasp on what you’re writing about, your project can quickly turn from an enjoyable exercise into a nightmare. Writers also commonly find themselves stuck, or repeating themselves, throughout a piece of writing.
Here’s how Senior Writer Jess Barker tackles a piece for a new client:
“Before diving into the copywriting process, it’s essential to understand the overarching message you’ll be communicating,” Jess said. “This is important for any piece of web copy but especially so for copy that will make a first impression, like on a homepage or product/service landing page.
“Before diving into the copywriting process, it’s essential to understand the overarching message you’ll be communicating.”
For our clients, we often start by scheduling calls with subject matter experts who can talk at length about the company or the flagship offering we’ll be writing about. Taking notes during those calls helps me process the information, so I’ll usually end up with several pages that capture all of the important details as well as the nuances.
Once I understand the main idea and the key messaging points to get across in the copy, it’s easier to focus on other aspects of the process, like writing in the brand’s voice and optimizing the copy for search.”
Proper preparation through research is one of the easiest ways to combat this issue. Visit your client’s website, schedule meetings with them to discuss the goal of the piece and even take a peek at competitor sites. By putting in this extra effort, your copy will be much more robust, and the writing will come much more easily — take it from someone who’s been there many, many times.
Tip #4 – Ask Yourself… “So What?”
Writing a piece of copy or content usually means that you’re writing within a word count—most likely one that is set in stone. In the context of social media or website copywriting, that word count is usually inflexible, meaning that you have to choose your words carefully. To help you stay within the limit, ask yourself… “So what?” to make sure you can justify a sentence’s existence.
“After every sentence, say to yourself “so what?” Creative Director Michael O’Neill explains. “If you can’t easily defend why a sentence exists, then it should be cut. If it doesn’t propel the reader to the next sentence, it should be cut.”
“After every sentence, say to yourself ‘so what?’ If you can’t easily defend why a sentence exists, then it should be cut.”
Tip #5 – Know the Importance of a Good Introduction
In a content ecosystem where millions of brands are fighting to keep an audience’s attention, having a good introduction is more imperative to great copy than ever. Give your website visitors a reason to keep reading, especially when you’re trying to sell them a product or persuade them to take a certain action.
For copywriting, that can be especially difficult since not many people spend their free time reading or watching this type of content in their free time. To improve your chances of keeping the reader on the page, presenting your audience with a great introduction can help.
“Really work out the intro before moving on, to the point that you at least feel good about it,” suggests Head Writer Alex Cox. “Having a good intro, even if it’s really short, makes me feel like I have momentum and that I know what I’ll be talking about. On the flip side, it’s important to revisit the intro later on since it’ll likely change as you build out the body of the piece. So get it good but not necessarily perfect before moving forward.”
“Having a good intro, even if it’s really short, makes me feel like I have momentum and that I know what I’ll be talking about.”
Applying Copywriting Best Practices to All of Your Content
To push ordinary site visitors, intent-driven readers and important influencers toward a desired action, there are a number of key best practices you can employ when writing:
- Never bait and switch – content should always follow through on what the headline promises.
- Use language, as shown above, that corresponds to your audiences’ level of understanding and expertise.
- If writing for search, use a keyword or related term in your title.
- Use engaging adjectives and active voice. Other tactics may include alliteration, clever phrasing and trigger words like “how to” or “this is how.”
- Be concise. You should be able to say all you need to in fewer than 12 words – ideally in six.
- In addition to placement and color, CTAs should be optimized with A/B tested copy.
- Copy should be fewer than four words.
- Use active verbs.
- Include exclamation points or question marks when necessary.
- Make your CTA offer absolutely clear, such as “Download our eBook” instead of “Learn more.”
- Use urgent, first-person language like “Subscribe now for instant access!”
Dive deeper into CTA conversion rate optimization here.
- Write with your platform-specific audience in mind (i.e., longer is OK for LinkedIn but not so much for Twitter).
- Depending on the platform, copy should support the image/video or vice versa. Understand this relationship to determine whether copy is complementary or paramount.
- Encourage comments, shares and likes in your copy descriptions (or directly in the comments section).
- Be more conversational and even humorous than you normally would on your own domain.
- Use copy and hashtags to attach your company to relevant, timely events and conversations.
- Space out copy appropriately – don’t use blocks of text.
- Use data, bullets and different font weights to place emphasis on where readers should focus their attention.
- Use “you” to highlight what you can provide to the reader.
- Keep it short, as in fewer than 100 words.
- Craft personalized subject lines for higher open rates.
- Ensure CTA copy or buttons are succinct and align with the email copy.
- Focus only on a single keyword and related terms.
- Meta descriptions and title tags are copy, too, so optimize them with keywords.
- Break up text every 200-300 words with informative subheads, images or videos.
- Make headlines clickable and shareable by using numbers and compelling adjectives.
- Include hyperlinks to reputable sources over anchor text.
- Use word counts that enable you to comprehensively cover the topic.
Measuring the Performance of Your Copy
Of the hundreds of content marketing metrics you can measure, there are specific KPIs you can use for copywriting in particular.
For starters, gauging in advance how well your copy might perform is, of course, extremely valuable. Luckily there are a few free tools that help determine your “Readability” and whether there is both subjective and objective room for improvement. Those are:
Additionally, traditional metrics you can find in your Google Analytics dashboard and integrated email/social platforms shed light on your web copywriting, such as:
- Unique visitors.
- Dwell time.
- Social shares.
- Social engagement.
- Open rates.
- Opt-in rates.
- Organic rank.
- Organic click-through rates.
- CTA click-through rates.
- Pages per session.
Setting up proper Goal Completions, whatever they may be, in Google Analytics will also provide more context on how well your copy is converting. Ideally, at the end of your campaigns, you can attribute new customers to the copy that lived on a CTA, or landing page or email.
Trust the Content Marketing Experts
Producing fantastic content for your brand can be challenging. There are a lot of factors that one may not consider when producing copy for landing pages, blog and social media accounts. In these instances, it can be beneficial for your business to trust web copywriting experts.
Remember that content writing’s primary goal is to educate and entertain, while copywriting is done to persuade an audience one way or the other. Content marketing agencies like Brafton specialize in both types of writing with years of experience in almost every field. In addition, our writers have tons of writing advice to give (as seen above!)—finding the best way to help you achieve your business goals.
Reach your target audience with our services, and leave the heavy lifting to us.
Editor’s Note: Updated August 2021.