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How to Optimize Your Web Copy to Drive Conversions

“Print is dead.” “Don’t quit your day job.” “Yeah, because the money’s in writing.” As a writer, you hear it all your life: You’re doomed. High school counselors, your uncle’s friend in the red sweater-vest at the Christmas party a few years back, even your doctor — everybody around you feels the need to let you know that anyone who writes for a living will end up penniless, curled up in a gutter.

The thing is, they’re not wrong (even if they are exaggerating). Writing is not so much a field as a precarious skill that you enter the job market with at your own peril. At the same time, people need to communicate, and that’s when you hire a writer. Blogs, websites, landing pages, retargeting ads, and other tactics in your digital marketing strategy — we copywriters probably handled the language for all that. But if we didn’t, and you’re wondering how to optimize web copy to drive conversions, here are some tips the writers at Jacob Tyler have written for you.

Stay on Point

The term “writer” got batted around a lot in the paragraphs above, so let’s define terms: Slinging digital marketing copy is often way different than crafting an essay or plotting a novel. Print tends to afford writers more space than digital layouts, which are usually functional or parceled out between web pages. Remember, readers on your site might be clicking between 15 tabs at the same time, and they’re likely to only scan 20% of your page’s content, anyway. 

So keep your sentences pithy. Guide your audience to the most relevant info with headers and bold type and bullet points, since people may only be on your site to get an answer (“Should I hire this company for my kitchen remodel? When does this place even open?”). And be consistent. You don’t want to strike a lofty third-person tone on the landing page only to switch to the earnest first-person in the “About Us” section. Maintain the same voice throughout your web copy so users don’t feel like they’ve somehow jumped between those 15 tabs unbeknownst to them.

But What’s the Point?

Let’s return to one of the phrases above: “People may only be on your site to get an answer.” That idea is more pertinent than it may appear. Novels, essays, scripts all give authors the breadth to move characters through countries and centuries, picking up on themes later on that they foreshadowed at the outset — and letting the reader (or viewer) sink into an argument or a narrative. Not so with digital copywriting, which needs to be punchy because it drives toward a CTA. Copywriters, with each page you compose, ask yourself: “What is this accomplishing?”

Are you nudging users to book a resort, enroll in theology school, become a member of a credit union? Craft your content so that it’s smart and fresh, yes, but don’t leave your reader floundering in a sea of pretty descriptions. Effective UX copywriting compels prospective clients to journey further down the funnel, so you should A) have a CTA, and B) make your CTA compelling — and then run A/B testing to make sure it really is driving people to book a resort or enroll in theology school or become a member of a credit union. (Which it is, if you’re wondering. Those are our accounts, and our director of business development would love to tell you all about them.)

Mean What You Say

Even though web copy may be the newest medium in the history of writing, the old verities of how to compose a good sentence still apply to the art of digital marketing: Go heavy on verbs and nouns, light on adjectives and adverbs. Know your grammar, and if you break it, be able to defend it. Read what you’ve written out loud and let your ear guide the phrasing. Be specific — but don’t get prosy with detail. And assume the reader is smarter than you are.

Since web copy does generally hinge on a CTA, copywriters can sometimes trick themselves into taking the attitude that they’re tricking consumers down the funnel. But people know when they’re being talked down to; they sense it if you don’t believe in what you’re saying or selling. So find a way to enter into the copy emotionally. If your client is a nature preserve, conjure up memories of fog raveling fir trees. If your client is a bank, think back to that feeling of security that a customer service rep at your mortgage company gave you when you called about maybe, hopefully waiving late fees. Adopt whatever mindset you need to write with passion, because if you don’t care about the subject at hand, why should your audience? 

Know Your Audience

On that note: Never forget who your target audience is. Imagine you’re a business that makes high-end baby products. Your target audience might be Andy, a thirty-ish accountant who’s about to have his first child. Inhabit Andy’s perspective. This guy is overjoyed, scared, nervous, and impatient all at once for this baby to arrive. He can’t wait — so he’s buying as many baby products as he can to feel like he’s prepared, but baby strollers confuse him (Do they fold up? Can you fit them in a car? Do you really need the accessories they come with?), and he’s willing to pay more for the right one because he doesn’t want to let his wife down.

Talk to Andy. Soothe his worries. Strip out your buzzwords and address him as “you,” as if writer and reader are just having a beer and talking about how baby strollers work. Try out a headline like “Baby Strollers Made Simple.” Then get into some body copy that addresses Andy’s concerns dead-on: “We know what you’re thinking — which baby stroller should I pick? We’ve got some answers.” 

Hear that sigh of relief? That’s the sweet sound of a conversion.

Mix It Up

The best web copy is minimal web copy. We’ve said it before: Be succinct. But also be willing to yield space to developers and designers who optimize conversions with their own skill-sets. A page of copy stamped onto whitespace will look HTML-y to users — like they landed on a blog from the dial-up days, or like you put zero seduction into guiding them through your digital marketing strategy. Nest the copy in a color palette that makes your sentences pop. Break it into modules alongside photos that illustrate what you’re describing. Nail that brand headline for a CBB client, but be cool with a programmer animating it so that it emerges out of a cloud of smoke. Think past the copywriting to visualize how your words — thrilling as they are — complement the talents of the other artists working alongside you. And remember to proofread your site with the rigor of a technician. No matter how svelte that CBD brand line is, it’ll look dazed and confused if even one word is misspelled.

Web copy, a memoir, a brochure for a museum — you can make any piece of copy excellent if you trust in it as an art form that moves people. What does that have to do with conversions? Well, it’s not by accident that Google penalizes websites that stuff the text with keywords. Think about that: Even search engines recognize that writing that talks to an audience like humans is more valuable than jargon that assumes consumers are psychographic profiles. Use keywords and meta descriptions, absolutely, but remember this above all else: Write with soul and sincerity, and people will listen to you.

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