Three Simple Rules for Writing Copy for Your Website
“You’re the folks famous for your flower farm,” the man said.
He was a tiling contractor working on our farm’s bed and breakfast. He just arrived, introduced himself, and proved that he had done his research on us.
You see, the notion that our flower farm is “famous” didn’t come around by accident. He didn’t read about us in People magazine and he certainly didn’t see me on the cover of Vogue.
No. He went to our website, where his opinion was shaped and formed exactly the way we wanted it to be.
It’s a powerful force. In fact, it’s not a stretch to say the words on your website can make or break your business. Too often, small business owners spend most of their online effort creating the prettiest site, with lots of features and unique pages. That’s fine. But test after test proves it’s the words on the site that matter most.
I know because I’ve written millions of those words—and suffered the pain when they don’t hit their mark.
Fortunately, there are some simple rules to follow when it comes to writing copy for your website. Stick to them and I promise your words will work. Your site will convert better. You’ll get more business. And your customers will be enthusiastic and excited about what you do.
Done right, the act is nearly magical.
While an entire course could—and should—be taught on the nuances of web copy, there are just three main rules to follow. Focus on just one of them and you’ll have better copy than 90% of small-business sites on the web. Nail all three, and you’ll own a powerful magic wand that makes sales seem to appear out of thin air.
The first idea aims at something I see all the time. As a young copywriter, it was a mistake I made often. It’s easy to do, especially because we see it everywhere and assume if everybody is doing it that it must work.
I bet you’ve been on a site that prominently says these horrific words, “We here at [enter business name] believe in…”
I’ll be blunt. No prospective customer wants to know what you believe in. Or, at least, they don’t want to read about it. That’s something you show them through your words and actions. It’s not something you tell them.
That’s a huge difference.
Instead, the very first words a visitor to your site should see must be about them. You have to solve their problem. Entice them with something stunning. Invite them along for a wonderful journey. Just don’t make it about you. They don’t care.
Imagine going to a car company’s website and the first copy you see is about the company, the CEO’s dog or the backstory behind it all. You’d be clicking away in an instant.
Instead, we want to see what discounts they’re offering, what new features are available, and what custom add-ons we can get with our hot new car.
When we go to a website, we’re looking to make our life better or easier. The site must meet that need. Display your products. Show what’s new. And give the visitor something to get excited about—something that convinces them their life will get a lot better if they just give you a few bucks.
Yes, it’s true that what makes most flower growers unique is their backstory and how they got to do what they’re doing. All of our stories are unique. Just put that copy deeper on your site. The really engaged folks will read it. But, sorry, most don’t care.
So what do you put front and center? This one is easy—at least if you’ve been in business for a bit.
Solve All Their Problems
To know the very first thing prospective customers must see when they visit your site, think back about the last 10 phone calls you’ve received. Go into your inbox and look at the last 30 or so emails from current or new customers.
What are they asking? What are some of the common themes?
Again, I bet they’re not asking about your story or what you believe in. Instead, they’re asking about availability, your hours, your location or if you offer a certain service.
Lots of folks have “frequently asked questions” pages on their site. That’s great. They’re important. But the most-frequent inquiries must be answered right up front, right on your homepage.
For flower growers, it’s easy. You can display some satisfying pictures of what you produce (not bucolic pictures of your farm) and then link to a page that lists what’s currently available. I guarantee it will be your most-clicked link.
But not everybody is there to buy flowers right away. Perhaps a florist simply wants to know how to do business with you. That’s a common question, right? And you certainly want to answer it quickly and efficiently.
So right below the pictures of what you grow (which, by the way, is your real “about” copy), you can have a brief blurb about why it’s so easy to work with you. Again, like the car company, show your unique features, your oh-so-smart pricing model and offer them a link that leads to a page that makes it easy to get started.
You can see where this is going. With just two small blurbs, we’ve already given the prospective customer two very important things. They know what you do and they know how to do business with you.
They haven’t seen pictures of you… your farm… your dog… or how “at [enter company name] you believe [enter latest cliché buzz words].” They don’t care.
Remember, they didn’t search the web for details about you. They searched the web because they had a problem they needed to solve.
Now that we’ve got the easy stuff taken care of, let’s get into the real moneymaker: the copy trick that helps the pros make ten times more than the average keyboard hacker.
Cut it Out
This concept is easy to understand but quite hard to put to practice. But every word on every page of your site must be pushing to a singular goal.
We call it the “rule of one.”
It’s unlikely that your homepage will get sales. That’s not its purpose. Its sole goal is to quickly dazzle a customer and get them to click to another page—hopefully a sales page. A good site quickly parses what the person is looking for and swiftly moves them to the appropriate section of the site.
Once on that second-level page, there must be just one call to action.
Again, every word must be pulling the oar in the direction you want the ship to go. In the writing world, we all must adhere to the painful decree to “murder your darlings.”
We must not fall in love with a phrase or concept. No matter how great it is, if it doesn’t point to our single call to action, it must be cut.
If our goal is to get a person to schedule an online appointment, there’s no need to waste the reader’s time with details about where your farm is or how they’ll take delivery of the final product. It will confuse them—even if oh so slightly—and fewer folks will fill out that appointment scheduler. Again, decades of testing and research prove it.
Yes, you can cover all the other details, but only after the customer does what you want them to do.
As you lay out a new website or as you review your current site, simply write down the singular goal for each page. If there is any element that cuts away at that goal, move your pinky up to that delete button and murder it.
Your site—and your sales—will be much better for it.
Writing website copy is not all that hard. In fact, it’s some of the easiest writing out there. Just follow the rules. Make it all about the customer. Solve their biggest problems. And follow the “rule of one.”
Nail all three of these simple rules and your site will bring in new leads and fresh sales like magic.
Like all good wizardry, it just takes a bit of proven science to make it happen.