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Say it straight. Why Clear Website Copy Always Beats Cleverness

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Simone Duggan
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The Seven Rules to Writing Clear, Effective Web Copy

Life today is non-stop, always-on. Attention spans are short. People aren’t going to spend ten minutes reading paragraphs on your app’s latest feature updates, and they’re certainly not going to click through 7 links to find what they’re looking for.

Successful copywriting doesn’t rely on the best ‘clickbait’ title or a clever call to action. If you want to keep your reader’s attention and encourage them to take action, your website copy needs to be punchy, clear and concise. Follow these seven rules and you’ll be well on your way to writing clear, effective copywriting that drives your reader to action.

1. Start with a clear strategy. Always.

The biggest mistake most people make when writing copy is to rely on clever adverbs or clickbait titles, rather than developing a clear strategy for their written content. Start with your objectives and purpose (what you want to say) and your voice (how you want to say it).

  • What’s your single, most important objective?
  • Are you writing to encourage immediate action, or to educate and build authority?

2. Your homepage is not a billboard. 

Understand your website’s role in the customer journey. Chances are, people will visit your website after hearing about your brand from a friend, seeing an ad online or on a billboard, or perhaps after Google searching for your product. They’ve often developed some awareness of your brand (or at least product) before visiting your website, so your homepage doesn’t need to be a clever brand awareness campaign that leaves people pondering. Your website should get to the point, so the reader can quickly understand what you offer and why it matters for them.

3. Clarity of message is not the same as simplicity. 

The first step to writing engaging copy is to write with clarity and honesty, and with good structure and grammar. You should speak in Plain English without the meaningless fluff, but your writing doesn’t have to be plain.

Find your brand’s tone of voice, and let it shine in your writing. If your brand had a personality, how would you describe it to someone? Who would it sound like? Do you want to sound quirky, passionate, youthful or authoritative?

4. Less “us,” more “you.” 

When you read over your website homepage, how many “We” “Us” or “Our” pronouns do you see? A lot of brands use the space on their website to tell their own story, which is all very well if you want to distance your reader and get a “good for you” response: 

  • “We are the industry leaders for…” 
  • “Our goal is to provide the best service.”
  • “Through years of experience, we have developed the best product.”

If you want your customers to take action, your brand needs to tell their story. Ask yourself, “so what?” and then shape your content so it tells a story with the customer at the centre. How is your offering helping people get to where they want to be?

5. Plan for scanning. 

As humans, we’re drawn to clarity and we resist confusion. Imagine your website is viewed by people in a rush, not by the patient and focused reader. Keep it short, use a clear page hierarchy, replace features with benefits. Bullet points and clear headings are your best friend.

6. Cut the jargon. Talk like a human, not a robot. 

A word of warning: the decision-maker purchasing even the most advanced software products may not be a tech expert. Filter your writing through a lens of your customer’s needs and how your offering will help solve them, rather than focusing on the technical features. Pass your copywriting to someone who knows little about the subject for a sense-check. 

7. Keep decisions to a minimum.

Offering your reader too many decisions will likely result in them making none. Lots of calls to action will overshadow the primary objective (e.g. ‘Get Started’) with lots of little ones (e.g. ‘Follow Us,’ ‘Get the Newsletter,’ ‘Meet the Team’), which will make your reader confused and more likely to disengage. Reduce the decisions on your homepage, and clear the path for the reader to take action.

So what’s the bottom line to good copywriting? Clear strategy from the get-go. Clarity of message and audience. Unique tone of voice. Relatable and relevant, customer-centric messaging. 

Have another look at your copy. Is it time for a refresh?

If you still find yourself confused and overwhelmed with editing your website or writing your next ad campaign, it might be time to call in the experts. Book a free strategy session to discover what steps you can take to elevate your copywriting and communicate in a way that connects and resonates with your customers. We’ll help you say it straight.

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