Writing the copy (that means text for those of you not in the biz) for your website is arguably the most important part of creating a website for your business. It can also be extraordinarily difficult to write about the things you know so well that you do them almost automatically. So if you’re stuck in front of a blank page or screen that is staring back at you, here are some tips that I’ve relied on for years not to just fill up a page, but to write clear, concise copy that works.
Now, what you’ll need to cover on your particular website might vary wildly from this guideline depending on your specific circumstances. I’ve outlined my process and I have gravitated toward describing things through a company/service model. I’ve tried to make allowances for companies that supply products, but saying “product/service” over and over grows tiresome. Try to translate the meaning of this guide to your situation but if something doesn’t work for you, feel free to ignore it. Ideally, this process will help you think about what your company or organization does and inspire you to get that website copy finished.
If you can afford to hire a copywriter you probably aren't reading this. But even if you do have the budget for a copywriter (or if you have a talented friend that owes you a favor), going through these steps will help generate the information they need to create organized, compelling text for your website. Without some direction or an outline, there's no escaping the generic copy that will result. It will be bland, uninformative filler text that could be about any company anywhere. Let’s avoid that.
What is your company name?
Is there a story behind the company name? What about your logo?
What does your company do?
Write the most basic description possible. Use business directory language like: restaurant, manufacturing, lawyer, landscaping, financial services, etc.
Now expand on this to create a more elaborate description of your company. Add all the specializations you can think of. What are some of the interesting things about your business? What do your customers/clients get out of it?
We are a family owned Thai restaurant that serves authentic, yet gluten-free and allergy-conscious dishes based on family recipes that go back generations.
We are a manufacturer of precision gearboxes for equipment used in industrial-scale food preparation facilities.
Why do you do your job? What do you enjoy about it?
These questions can gather personal insight about your company. What you answer here can help define your company’s appeal, what you bring to the table, your passion, and help make a connection with people.
What do your customers say about you?
This is especially important. Regardless of what you think about your business, it isn’t what people see or experience from the outside. You should check your online reviews for what people really think. If you don’t have any, now is a good time to reach out to some of your clients/customers and ask them for reviews. Ask for testimonials to be sent to you or have them write reviews on Google, Yelp, etc.
What is it that makes you different from your competition?
If you like, you can talk about the core principles or the philosophy behind your work/business. Or you can be specific about the things you do, steps you take, actions you perform, or facilities/equipment you own that makes your company unique.
What would your parents say you do?
Another really good exercise. This helps you cut through a lot of the noise and get back to the fundamentals This is a particularly good step for thinking about keywords potential customers might use to find you.
With your answers to the last three questions in mind, answer the question:
What does your company do?
Don't worry about the length of your response. You can condense it later. Get your thoughts down.
List all of the products/services you provide to your customers.
All of the things you do or sell. You can get as specific as you like.
How do you help your customers?
This is another big one. This helps shift your mindset a bit and put your customers’ needs first. What are their problems/points of pain? What are their concerns? What do you do to help them?
Look at what your customers say about you. What is the most important thing they say? What do potential customers need to know to make an informed decision? What bit of info will lead to them purchasing from you?
What is the most important thing for your customers to understand?
Jot down all your answers.
What is the single most important thing to communicate to your potential customers?
If it helps, write down a few things and then prioritize them or put an asterisk by the one thing you’d mention to a customer if you could only say one of them.
While thinking about the most important thing you just wrote:
Describe to a potential client what you do.
Describe why what you provide is special.
We’ve done some good content gathering. Now let’s see if we can get these ideas organized into a presentation.
Look at your complete list of products/services. Can they be grouped in one way? In several ways? By category? By cost? By customer type?
If your offerings aren’t critical to a customer’s decision, think about the list of most important things to communicate: a list of benefits to the customer, or range of solutions provided.
Try writing out multiple lists where each list is grouped or divided in a different way. I find that pen and paper works best for this. I prefer to use fresh sheets of paper often as it keeps me from getting “claustrophobic” with my words and thinking. I also sometimes use notecards to rearrange ideas.
I’ve seen clients who organize product info by the names of different categories or worse, by model numbers. While these work great for a company spreadsheets, these names/numbers don’t mean anything to a human who isn’t intimately familiar with your company. If you need to organize info this way, give these categories meaningful names or descriptions to help your customers navigate it.
Which list/grouping makes the most sense in terms of communicating that most-important message you wrote above? Do the categories of one grouping seem like good bullet points to go under that single most important thing?
The Most Important Message:
The most important message will be what all of the resulting copy will relate to as we move forward. All content should to some degree reinforce that most important message. Ideally, this should communicate, or imply the most important thing, but depending on the complexity of your organization, it may have to become less specific in order to encompass everything.
What ideas are also really important but make the main idea too long? Do you have major categories of products/services? Write these down if you have a few in your head. These are supporting ideas. These can be things that are only slightly less important than the most important thing, or they can be examples that provide supporting evidence to prove the most important thing.
These additional points, supporting ideas, or categories become Highlights.
You've probably seen highlights on websites before. Below the main headline, there are typically 3-4 (but there can be 2-8) headings with an icon or a sentence below them. These sections provide an overview about a key point of the company. But there are no hard and fast rules about what they cover. They can be supporting arguments for the most important thing, main categories that organize products/services, the core selling points, answers to commonly asked questions, or other critical ideas you need to communicate.
Condensing the Message
The hero message is the big headline someone sees when they arrive at your website. This should be one short sentence (4-10 words), that clearly defines what you do, what makes you exceptional, and sets up the reader so they want to know more. This is a big deal, but it doesn't have to be daunting. You don't have to get it right on the first try. I usually have to write dozens of sentences until I find something that really clicks.
The trick is to convey a powerful idea in a few words. A good hero message is a snappy, condensed version of the most important message you‘ve settled on. Easier said than done, right?
It doesn’t have to be a complete argument either. It can be something that sets up follow up questions. This can be a great way to get visitors to move on to the highlight section or further into the site.
If that doesn’t work, then go for clarity. If you’re a restaurant, make sure to use the word “restaurant.” People should at least have a rough idea what you do from reading the hero message. If the name of your company doesn't include what you do, you MUST mention it here.
It's time to write a main paragraph all about what you do, why you do it, and why your customers have kept you in business. Hit on some of the most important ideas you’ve come up with so far.
This should be an overview about your company and a few key points to let potential customers know what you’re all about.
If inspiration strikes about a subtopic or a specific product, service, or aspect of your company, go with it! Get those ideas down before they’re gone! You can always come back to writing the intro paragraph later. (I find this happens a lot.)
Now write some sentences or paragraphs about the main services you offer. Things like consulting, home delivery, onsite repair, free quotes, catering, etc. all deserve a few sentences. If you're stuck, just clearly say what it is, why it’s important, and how it benefits the customer. These are a way to expand on an introduction about your company.
We mentioned highlights earlier when creating the most important message. Highlights are supporting arguments, key pieces of info, or navigational helpers. Highlights expand on the hero message as the next most important points. Do potential customers have specific questions that need addressing? Do they need convincing about something? Do they need to know where to get specific information about a product? Is there something really important that didn't fit into the hero message? Or do you just need to list your major product/service areas so visitors can learn more? Now is the time to expand on these areas.
If you feel the need to write a full page of information on a topic, that’s great! But that info should probably be turned into its own page. Write a 1-2 sentence summary and make that a highlight that links to the new page you’ve written.
If you’re stuck, think about questions you’re often asked or important info customers need to know.
- If you’re inspired to write about something specific, follow it. Something is always better than nothing and you may find a good place for these ideas elsewhere in the site or later in a blog article.
- Don’t be afraid to start over. Sometimes when following an idea I get so deep into the weeds that I can’t bring it back. Just stop. Even mid sentence. Hit [ Enter ] a few times and start with a fresh thought. Be ready to abandon something you don’t feel is clear. Come back to it later to see if there are points that could be added elsewhere.
- Statistics can provide proof and credibility. If you have some good ones, don’t be afraid to mention them, but don’t overdo it.
- Pepper in keywords you think someone might use to look for your company but don’t overstuff it. It should sound natural.
- If you ever get stuck, go back to the basic definition of what your company does and branch into the specifics from there.
- If you get really stuck, reach out to Version2. We've been making websites for a long time. Writing and organizing information is definitely part of our bag of tricks.