9 hallmarks of outstanding website copy

It should be easy to navigate, audience-centric, succinct and optimized for SEO.

Website content tips

Is it time for a website redesign or refresher?

Stunning graphics, sharp design and eye-catching visuals are crucial for attracting eyeballs, but engaging copy is how you get visitors to act. As you’re crafting and editing copy for your new site, keep these nine content attributes in mind:

1. It’s easy to navigate.

If content is hard to find, difficult to read or anything other than user-friendly, it’s useless.

Whether you create navigation maps and wireframes or use a content outline or audit, prioritize cross-departmental collaboration and insights as you develop your new layout. Gather a wide range of feedback from web strategists, graphic designers and IT folks, but also get opinions from PR, execs and members of your target audience.

2. It follows a logical flow.

Each webpage you create should adhere to an internal logic that enables visitors to process crucial information quickly. Most landing page heroes feature a headline—which should capture visitors’ attention with a succinct, specific value proposition—and a subheader, which should support or expand on that proposition in some way.

As the user scrolls down the page, the subheaders and content should get more specific. A statement-and-explanation, macro-to-micro content structure eases readers down the page and streamlines comprehension. No matter what page format you use, make sure that the copy, design and layout exist in logical harmony.

3. It’s benefit-driven.

Websites frequently tout product features in a company-centric way that leaves visitors wondering what’s in it for them.

Product or service details are important, but tooting your own horn won’t drive conversions or convince any skeptics. Use your target audience’s main pain points, goals and challenges to help you decide which key benefits and features to highlight. Your copy should clearly state how your product or service can solve or alleviate your audience’s problems.

4. It’s succinct.

Writing web content should be an exercise in selectivity and restraint. If your copy is too complex, wordy or jargon-filled, you could be losing potential customers.

Use short, punchy sentences, and delete extraneous words. Brevity rules.

5. It’s well-formatted.

Make your copy skimmable by formatting it for quick comprehension. Use headers, subheaders, bullet points and white space to break up text and highlight key information.

If you want to compare options or features, consider creating a visual aid, such as a table or comparison chart, which can help you communicate more in fewer words.

Preview what each section looks like on a mobile device. More than half of all web traffic is now mobile, after all. (You can see how mobile-friendly your page is here.)

6. It outlines a clear conversion pathway.

Good website copy is like a tour guide. Along with telling you what to focus on at different points in your journey, a tour guide tells you where to go next and what’s to come.

Writing effective web copy is about knowing where you want people to go and what you want them to see along the way.

On a landing page, for example, your visitors’ destination is the call to action. What questions should you answer so they’ll be ready to take the action you desire? How can you prepare them to make that decision? Make your copy resemble a handy, helpful and engaging tour guide.

7. It changes.

There’s no need to adjust your web copy every day, but even the best copy should be refreshed. Your business and your customers will evolve, as will content trends, preferences and technology.

Use analytics and metrics to identify areas for improvement, and conduct A/B testing to determine which messaging appeals most to your audience.

8. It tells a story.

Think of your web copy in narrative terms. All the pages on your website should tell a cohesive, compelling story. Your company and your product play supporting roles in this story, but they’re not the protagonists—your audience is.

As you write your “About” page or mission statement, think of how you can center your brand narrative around your customer. This small shift in narrative perspective will go a long way toward helping prospects see themselves as part of your brand’s story and mission.

9. It’s SEO-optimized.

Visitors won’t be impressed by your wonderful web copy if they can’t find it.

Before you begin writing, research relevant keywords and common alternatives to include in your copy. Tuck your main keywords into your page title and body text—judiciously—and use related or alternative keywords elsewhere on the page.

Ultimately, your website must appeal to real people, so don’t go overboard with jamming keywords into your copy.

A version of this post first appeared on the SmartBug Media blog.

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