The value of copywriting is not to be underestimated.
According to the Nielsen Norman Group, users typically decide whether to explore a website or leave within their first 10 seconds of browsing. If your copy holds their attention for that long, you have another 20 seconds to convince them to want to learn more. And if they linger for more than 30 seconds, there’s a good chance that they’ll still be there after two more minutes—and two minutes is a big commitment for web users.
So how do you hold a reader’s attention?
It’s all in the copy.
When written well, web copy invites visitors to keep reading and explore a site further—and perhaps even make a purchase. On the other hand, poor copywriting discourages users from sticking around. It’s only through text that your brand voice becomes clear after all.
So, to convince today’s prospects to stick around and become buyers, pay attention to these 9 copywriting best practices.
1. Find the right tone for your audience
You want your copy to sound professional and authoritative, but you also don’t want it to come across as unapproachable. It’s a delicate but necessary balance for driving more conversions from your target audience.
To nail the right tone for your readers:
- Imagine that you’re talking to a client face to face. Listen to the script in your head and write it out. It’ll help you “write like you speak” without letting your copy become too casual.
- Avoid using jargon and terminology that the average reader wouldn’t know, unless you’re targeting a highly educated audience. Users generally want an easy reading experience, not a flashback to studying for the SAT.
- Address your users directly by writing in second person. Using “you” and “your” makes your writing more conversational and personal, while writing in third person generally feels distant and standoffish.
2. Showcase numbers for impact
When possible, include precise numbers in your copy to reinforce major points. Quantitative information levels up your messaging, making it more tangible and precise.
Without numbers, your writing comes off as vague and flowery. Consider the difference between these two examples:
- Our solar-powered flashlight’s beams travel impressive distances.
- Our solar-powered flashlight throws light up to an impressive 700 feet.
See how the phrase “700 feet” in the latter statement provides more detail to readers? In this way, exact figures and statistics not only provide more support to your claims; they also lend your brand more credibility.
For a real-life example of copywriting that harnesses the power of numbers, take a look at Imperfect Foods’ website.
Spotlighting food waste stats on its homepage distinguishes Imperfect Foods from other grocery delivery services. First, it underscores to visitors the troubling scale of nationwide food waste; secondly, it reiterates Imperfect Foods’ noble mission of tackling this issue.
In fact, Imperfect Foods spells this out further on its Our Mission page, where it includes numbers about the company’s community impact.
The result: visitors to Imperfect Foods’ website can see the tangible difference the company is making in reducing food waste. Including these numbers showcases the brand’s commitment to its mission, and it’s far more effective than if Imperfect Foods simply wrote, “We save a lot of food!”
3. Incorporate “power” words into your copy
Power words are sensory, emotional, and action words that have strong associations for readers. You’ve probably seen examples all over the internet, especially in headlines and calls to action:
According to a Content Verve representative, power words have the potential to boost conversions by more than 31 percent. They work because they’re strong, definite, and inspire trust. Any time you want to use a wishy-washy word like “maybe” or “some,” replace it with a power word.
4. Appeal to readers’ emotions and logic
Data speaks to your audience’s rational brain, but emotions have a more powerful pull on the human decision-making process. As logical as we think we are, we tend to make decisions with our hearts first and then back ourselves up with facts.
Use that order of operations as a copywriter: emotions first, then facts. Lead by appealing to the prospect’s emotions—for instance, by addressing an issue they might have. Then present a solution.
In case you don’t find your product or service particularly stirring, know that emotion doesn’t mean inserting melodrama into your copy. Strong feelings like anger and love aren’t the only ways to reach potential customers. For an example, check out how infographic creator Venngage capitalizes on boredom in its web copy.
Anyone working with data knows how difficult it can be to convey the value and importance of their work. Venngage capitalizes on this by asking its visitors, “Have a lot of data to share? Tired of boring bullet points? … Do you feel ignored?” It appeals to those who know the dread of presenting to a bored, disengaged audience, and presents its infographic maker as the solution. By using its software, users can “be a data hero” and connect better with their respective audiences.
5. Provide relevant social proof
Nothing quite sells like social proof—that is, the power of social influence. Applied to marketing, social proof explains why someone is more likely to buy a product if two or three million other people have already happily bought it.
So use this psychological principle in your own copy. Whether it’s customer testimonials, case studies, or something else, find a way to incorporate social proof into your site. This tactic can win over users who are hesitant about trying your product or service.
Consider Smile Direct Club, the teledentistry company disrupting orthodontics with its custom aligners. Some dental experts find the brand’s work concerning since it doesn’t fully evaluate a person’s oral health before prescribing treatment—and as you can imagine, this may raise red flags for prospective customers.
However, Smile Direct Club convinces users that it’s worth trying with its pleased customer testimonials.
The company features positive reviews as well as before and after pictures to gain legitimacy as a teeth-straightening solution. Without this social proof, there’s no doubt Smile Direct Club would see fewer conversions.
6. Remember to sell your results
When you’re explaining how your product or service meets a need, don’t stop at simply describing its features. Call readers’ attention to how their lives or jobs will be easier if they buy from you.
- If you run a home cleaning service, highlight how great it is to spend your weekends hiking or hosting dinner parties instead of cleaning your house.
- If you sell medical records software to health care providers, brag about how your program can help them serve patients more efficiently.
Paint a picture of what you can do for your users even if it’s outside the realm of your product’s offering.
SnackNation accomplishes this with its inviting homepage copy. Boiled down to the basics, the company offers a subscription service that sends boxes of snacks to users. But its copy sells SnackNation as more than just a box—it’s an experience.
Language like “delight your employees” and “nourish and inspire your team” enhance the appeal of SnackNation’s boxes, elevating them from a simple box to a “remarkable breakroom experience.” It’s the perfect example of selling your results rather than just your product.
7. Write eye-catching headlines
Remember how users generally decide whether to stick around a website or leave within the first 10 seconds?
Oftentimes the first thing they’ll see is your web page’s headline—which means it’s crucial to make it a great one. After all, titles are the entry point for your users, and whether they decide to click and continue reading depends on whether yours is compelling enough.
To create an eye-catching title, try one of the following:
- Ask a question.
- Drop a shocking fact.
- Address an emotionally charged topic.
- Include numbers for specificity.
- Take a controversial stance.
For some inspiration, take a look at major media company Vice.
Vice’s homepage features news across a variety of verticals and uses provocative titles that are sure to pique readers’ curiosity. For instance, one article innocuously asks, “Can Weed Cure a Hangover?” while another simply reads, “All the Places We’ve Been Publicly Dumped.”
8. Address users’ fears and concerns
Beyond selling a product or service, effective copywriting assures readers by clearing any uncertainties or fears before these feelings can drive them away. Oftentimes, these worries stem from fear of financial loss or invasion of privacy, so it’s worth investing in consumer protection.
Once in place, make these features clear by including them in your copy. For instance, include language like:
- 100% Satisfaction guaranteed
- No-hassle returns
- Secure checkout
Giving customers peace of mind doesn’t have to fit a cookie-cutter mold, by the way—try getting creative with it. Take a look at Amerisleep for an example. Instead of a standard refund or exchange policy, the online mattress company offers a “100-night sleep trial” on all of its mattresses and pillows.
It’s a creative spin on the usual satisfaction guarantee, and though mattresses are a large investment, this copy makes users more willing to try one of Amerisleep’s.
Alternatively, if your customers are concerned about their security, consider getting a trust badge for your site. The most effective, as measured by the percentage of people who trust them, include:
- Norton Secured (35.6%)
- McAfee Tested (22.9%)
- BBB Accredited Business (13.2%)
At its core, copywriting strives to persuade readers of a certain view or perspective. It’s all about minimizing bad feelings—fear, uncertainty, disinterest—and increasing good feelings like confidence, pride, and excitement.
9. Structure your content for readability
The formatting of your content matters. Long blocks of text are visually overwhelming, regardless of whether you’re reading on a desktop or a mobile device.
With that in mind:
- Use line breaks generously. Two to three sentences per paragraph usually do the trick, but don’t be afraid to let one sentence stand on its own.
- Give structure to your content by writing informative but concise headings.
- Break up long paragraphs with bullet points and numbered lists.
- Bold, underline, or italicize any info you want your readers to see. This emphasis helps to catch readers’ eyes even if they’re skimming—just don’t overdo it.
Need an example? Take a look at this article. Each best practice is formatted as a heading and bullet point lists are peppered throughout it. Even if you aren’t closely reading each point, this article is still easy to skim and understand.
Take a look at your website—how many of these copywriting strategies do you currently use?
If the answer’s none, don’t be surprised to find that your website has lackluster conversion rates.
After all, copywriting goes a long way in getting users to stay on your website and more importantly, convert. This is because it functions as your voice and means of persuasion. If your copy is weak, then what would compel readers to act?
Turn things around by incorporating the above best practices into your content strategy. The better your copywriting, the more users you’ll see staying on your website and converting.
About the Author
Joyce Chou is a Content Marketing Strategist at Compose.ly, a content platform that matches businesses with seasoned freelance writers. Apart from managing and writing for Compose.ly’s blog, Joyce also contributes to other publications about digital marketing, personal finance, and business and ecommerce.