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SEO Copywriting, The Ultimate Guide To Writing Websites That Rank And Convert

SEO Copywriting 2020: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Killer Website Content [Updated]

If you want to write website content that ranks well in Google and converts visitors into leads, you’re going to need a solid SEO copywriting strategy.

One of the biggest challenges business owners face when writing their website is not knowing what to say or how to say it in a way that’s optimised for search engines and will appeal to their audience.

But writing your website content isn’t too difficult if you break it down into several smaller steps.

Don’t worry if you can’t afford a professional SEO copywriter. If you follow these simple steps, you can write your own website content that generates search engine traffic and converts site visitors into leads.

In this article, you will learn the steps involved in writing successful website content.

We will cover:

(1) Structuring and writing your website content

  • How to write your home page
  • How to write your about page
  • How to write your services pages
  • How to write your contact page

(2) Search engine optimising your website content

  • How to select your SEO focus keyword and supporting keywords
  • How to use keywords effectively in your website content

(3) Optimising your conversion rate through usability, design, and copywriting

  • Optimising your website’s usability for conversion
  • Optimising your website’s design for conversion
  • Optimising your website copy for conversion

Let’s get started…

Which Pages Should You Include When Writing Your Website Content?

Depending on your business model and marketing goals, your website will include a series of different pages. For example, if your business model is built around one or a few high-ticket products, it may be a good idea to work with a series of landing pages / sales pages instead of a typical website (which includes a home page, about page, etc.).

If you have an E-commerce store, your website content will be centred around your product categories, and each product will have its own page. For this type of site, you may not have a detailed about or contact page, and your product category pages typically won’t include a lot of copy.

If you are writing for a service-based business, there are a few key pages that you should include in your website. These pages are Home, About, one page per Service, and Contact .

Depending on your business, you may include extra pages like a portfolio or separate pricing pages.

No matter which pages you include, make sure that they are all logically linked together to guide visitors through your website. This ensures the highest likelihood of site visitors finding and reading all the information they need to convert (buy!)

Table showing which elements to include on different pages of a website (home page, services page, about page, and contact page) for best SEO rankings and conversions
Each page of your website should include specific elements

How to Write Your Home Page

Your home page is the heart of your website, so it’s important that your home page copy is SEO friendly and engaging.

Ideally, your home page will entice site visitors to click through to your sub-pages and successfully convert (e.g. make an enquire, buy now, etc.) To do this well, you need to write your home page content in a way that best serves its primary purpose.

The purpose of your home page is to give a complete overview of your company, products/services, team, and unique value proposition. Therefore, your home page content should reflect each of these aspects in clearly laid out sections.

Since your home page includes a complete overview of your business, you should target your copy at first-time visitors. That means writing content for an audience who presumably knows little to nothing about you, your business, and your services.

This approach will help you go into enough detail to flesh out your value proposition and position your brand. You can use a copywriting framework like PAS to help you structure your message.

The ideal length for a typical home page is anywhere between 600 – 1000 words.

Where you sit on that spectrum will depend on the size of your business and the complexity of your services. If your business is small and you only offer one or two services, your word count will be lower than if you have a large business with a wide range of services. That said, even for a small business website, you should aim to write at least 600 words on your Home page to achieve the best possible SEO ranking [1].

There are several elements your home page should include to make it SEO and conversion friendly.

Your Home page content should include the following elements:

  • A benefit-focussed headline
  • An explanatory sub-headline
  • Introductory copy
  • A focus keyword and several supporting keywords (more on this later)
  • Benefit bullet points
  • Images that support your written content
  • Elements of proof (e.g. testimonials, guarantees, etc.)
  • Overview of products / services
  • A clear value proposition
  • Internal links to sub-pages
  • A clear call to action (what do you want your prospect to do next)

These are the core building blocks of your home page content, but you can include more information if it fits the goals of your website.

For example, you may include a mission statement, a lead magnet, infographics to illustrate your process, or video content.

If you want to improve your home page, read our step-by-step guide for writing home page content [includes templates].

How to Write Your About Page

If you want to write an about page that connects with your audience and establishes you as a trusted authority, you must write with your clients’ needs in mind.

Far too many about pages are simply a long and boring summary of the company that send readers straight to sleep.

I’m talking about the type of about page that lists company facts, achievements, and processes, but doesn’t relate any of that information back to the clients’ needs. (A dead giveaway for this kind of page is if every sentence starts with the word “We” or the business name).

If you don’t relate your copy to the needs of your client, it will fail to connect with and engage your reader.   

To write about page content that connects with your audience and positions you as a trusted expert, shift the focus to your client and their needs.

Show your client that you understand their pain points, concerns and objections and that you can help. You can do this by only talking about your business, achievements, processes, etc. in the context of your client’s needs.

For example, instead of saying “We are trusted industry experts accredited by Master Painters” you could say “Enjoy the peace of mind of our 5-year workmanship guarantee backed by Master Painters”. Or instead of saying “Our infant formula is the best on the market because we use xxx ingredients”, you could say “Enjoy a sound night’s sleep with a baby that’s kept fuller for longer with our special blend of ingredients”.  

Writing your web copy centred on your client’s needs ensures that everything you are saying is directly relevant to them. This gives prospects a sense that you understand or “get” them and their needs, which establishes you as a trusted authority.

Your about page probably won’t be the first page a prospect visits when perusing your site, so you should write it for a more aware audience.

Generally, site visitors will only reach the about page if they like what they have read on the Home or Services pages. The job of your about page content is to then connect with these clients on a more personal level.

The ideal length of an about page is between 600 – 1000 words.

This ensures that you have enough SEO content to rank with and to build rapport with your prospects. A well written about page can work wonders in helping prospects advance their buying decision.

Your About page should include the following elements:

  • A benefit-focussed headline
  • An explanatory sub-headline
  • Introductory copy relating your business to your prospects’ needs
  • A focus keyword and several supporting keywords
  • Benefit bullet points
  • Images that support your written content
  • Elements of proof (e.g. testimonials, guarantees, professional memberships, etc.)
  • Your team (photos, bios, personal touches)
  • Your mission / causes to help your ideal prospect align with your brand
  • A more elaborate description of your USP (e.g. “why choose us” boxes)
  • A clear call to action (what do you want your prospect to do next)

If you want to improve your about page, read our step-by-step guide for writing about pages [includes templates].

How to Write Your Services Pages

For a service-based business website, your services pages are integral for both SEO and conversion.

Services pages are where you target specific keywords and flesh out the messages you want to get across about your services. 

When you target specific and unique SEO keywords on your services pages, they can rank well in Google individually. But they also get follow-on traffic from visitors who initially “landed” on the home page and are making their way through your site.

Therefore, you need to write your services page content for different reader groups.

On the one hand, you are writing for readers who have landed on the page by clicking through from the home page. These readers will already be somewhat familiar with your brand.

On the other hand, you still need to provide enough background information for readers who have landed straight on the services page. The best way to achieve this is by writing website content for a solution aware audience, while still clearly reinforcing your value proposition.

The purpose of your services pages is to provide in-depth information about your individual services.

You will need to decide how to structure your site in a way that best divides your services into relevant pages. For some businesses, this will be straightforward if their services are distinct. But for others, there could be several possible approaches.

For example, if you are a painter and you offer indoor, outdoor, and roof painting services, it makes sense to divide your services pages into these categories. However, if you offer writing, proofreading and copy-editing services for academics, businesses, and government departments, you need to choose whether it makes the most sense to split your pages according to your services (i.e. writing, proofreading and copy-editing) or according to your audience groups (i.e. academics, businesses, and government departments).

This will depend on how similar your message is for the different audience groups. If the message is similar, it makes sense to split your pages according to your services. But if your message is different for each audience group, it could make more sense to split your pages based on your audiences.

If you want more information on how you can structure and organise your services pages, read our step-by-step guide for writing services pages [includes templates].

Regarding the ideal length of services pages, each page should be around 400 – 700 words. Perhaps more for high-priced services that are a considerable investment on the client’s behalf.

Conversion rate optimisation expert Karl Blanks[4] suggests writing about 100 words per minute of spoken sales pitch. So if it would take you one minute to convince someone to buy your product or service, 100 words on the page are about right. If it would take you ten minutes, on the other hand, you’re looking at writing around 1000 words.

That’s because the bigger the financial investment is, the more information people need to base their decision on. While 400 words might be plenty to sell someone on the idea of a $79 car grooming package, they will need a lot more information before committing to a $30,000 home makeover.

Although you can use the 1 minute = 100 words rule to guide your word count, you should still write at least 300 words per page to ensure your content is SEO friendly. Google considers pages with less than 300 words as “thin” content[5], so these don’t rank nearly as well as longer pages.

Your Services pages should include the following elements:

  • A benefit-focussed headline
  • An explanatory sub-headline
  • Introductory copy outlining the service in relation to your clients’ needs
  • A focus keyword and several supporting keywords
  • Benefit bullet points
  • Images that support your written content
  • Elements of proof (e.g. testimonials, guarantees, professional memberships, etc.)
  • Packages / prices of your services if you choose to include them on your site
  • A description of your process if this is relevant to your prospects
  • Some form of risk reversal / mitigation for your prospect in case they are not happy with the outcome
  • A clear call to action (what do you want your prospect to do next)

How to Write Your Contact Page

If you follow the typical structure of a service-based business website, most of your calls to action will link to your contact page.

This means that your contact page is crucial to the conversion. By the time your prospects reach your contact page, they are in a product aware / most aware stage of consumer awareness and are ready to take the next step.

There are several things you can do to optimise your contact page for conversion (and avoid losing qualified leads in the last second). The most important step is to make it as easy as humanly possible for prospects to contact you.

If a site visitor is confronted by a sloppy and confusing contact page (or if your contact form fails to submit), your conversion rate will suffer. Once a prospect has made it to your contact page, they are usually ready to convert, and you don’t want to screw it up in the last minute.

That’s why your contact page should be engineered for conversion, and you want to avoid anything that could distract or deter your visitor from getting in touch.

This includes things like…

  • Keeping mandatory form fields to a minimum (don’t ask for more information than necessary)
  • Reinforcing your value proposition in a short introductory blurb (200 – 300 words)
  • Setting expectations with your prospects around what to expect after they contact you. Can they expect a reply within 24 hours? Will you respond with a quote within x days? Make sure to let your prospects know what to expect after making an enquiry as this sets the right tone for a professional working relationship
  • Giving different options for them to contact you based on their preferences (phone, email, contact form)
  • Reinforcing trust by including a business address and a map (this shows that you are not a shady online business)

SEO Copywriting: How to Search Engine Optimise your Website Content

With nearly 2 billion websites on the internet[2], it’s crucial to make sure your website content is search engine optimised.

If your site isn’t showing up on the search engine results page (SERP) for your main keywords, then you need to assess your current SEO strategy and make the necessary improvements.

To improve your SEO strategy, it’s important to understand which factors affect your ranking.

Although Google keeps its exact ranking algorithm a secret, its basic principles are well known[7]. They can be grouped into three main categories: Authority, Relevance, and Technology

Three pillars of SEO: Authority, Relevance and Technology. Each pillar includes the key steps necessary for that aspect of SEO optimisation
The three pillars of SEO

Authority

Authority indicates how trusted and established you are in your field.

Google assesses your authority based on criteria like quality backlinks and social mentions. These criteria show search engines that you are “endorsed” by your peers. In terms of SEO, this peer-endorsement indicates that you are a trusted “authority”.

So how do you build your authority?

Basically, you need to attract organic backlinks and shares to your content. The more high-quality content you put out there, the more likely you are to get links and shares. That’s why business blogs are a popular SEO strategy, as they help organically build your site authority.

Relevance

Relevance indicates how relevant your content is to the search query a Google user types into the search field.

Search engines assess relevance based on the keywords and phrases on your site. If these keywords and phrases match a searcher’s query, your site is considered a “relevant” match.

That said, Google has come a long way since the days where “keyword stuffing” guaranteed you stellar SEO rankings. In fact, forcing your keywords into your content in a way that sounds unnatural will now get your site penalised.

These days, it’s all about delivering high-quality content that helps the searcher complete whatever task they set out to do in the first place (search intent). In fact, content quality has become the number 1 ranking factor in Google[9].

Technology

The technology component of SEO refers to the things you need to take care of on the back end of your website to make it search engine friendly.

This includes things like…

  • Submitting your site to the search engine for indexing
  • Ensuring your site meets current security standards (SSL encryption)
  • Ensuring a fast site load speed
  • Having canonical tags and a robots.txt file

If you are working with a web designer, they should take care of these things before launching your site. If you are not sure whether your designer has set up your technical SEO, it’s a good idea to check with them.

Regardless of whether you’re using a web design company or creating your own site, configuring the technology correctly should be the first priority in your SEO strategy. Unless you’ve got the basics in place, not even world-class SEO copywriting will help your search engine ranking.

If you already have a website and it’s not performing well in search engines, check whether you can spot any major technical shortcomings.

For example, if you look at the URL in the web browser, does it start with “https”? If it does, that indicates you have an SSL certificate, and your site is encrypted. But if it starts with “http” (no “s”), then you don’t have an SSL certificate, and your site is insecure. This will get you penalised by Google, and you will drop in the SEO ranking.

The same goes for site speed. If you notice that your site takes longer than 3 seconds to load on a desktop or 1.5 seconds on a mobile, it is considered as slow. Again, this will cause you to drop in the search engine rankings.

You can check your site’s load speed using the Google Page Speed Insights tool.

Apart from impacting your SEO ranking, load speed also affects your conversion rate. Studies have shown that there is an average improvement of 7% to a site’s conversion rate for every second shaved off its load time[3].

Improving your Authority and Relevance

Once you’ve got your technical SEO sorted, you can directly or indirectly impact the other two pillars of SEO by optimising your website’s content.

To improve your authority and relevance, you need to…

  • Find out what your prospects are searching for (keyword research)
  • Understand the intention behind their searches (understand search intent)
  • Deliver more relevant and high-quality content than your competition

If you do this well, you can take a small and unknown business and outrank the big players in your industry for your target keywords.

But where do you start?

Your first step should be to find out what exactly your prospects are searching for in relation to your product or service.

Which words and phrases are they Googling? Which questions are they asking? What are their search intentions? (Are they simply looking for more information? Are they comparing products/services? Are they shopping around for the best deal?)

You can find answers to these questions (and more) through keyword research. Keyword research is the most important step for SEO since it helps you narrow down the theme of your page and align your content with what prospects are looking for.

If you focus on the wrong keywords, your site won’t perform well, and all your SEO efforts are in vain. For instance, if you target keywords that don’t get many searches, you won’t get much traffic. On the other hand, if you target high volume keywords that are too competitive, your chances of ranking in a top position diminish.

Keyword research will help you find the sweet spot of selecting “high volume, low difficulty” keywords. That means, keywords with a decent number of searches but manageable competition.

How to Select Your Focus Keyword and Supporting Keywords

The most effective way to do keyword research is using a paid SEO keyword research tool like KWFinder, SEMrush, or Moz.

These tools provide reliable and useful information about…

  • Monthly keyword search volumes (filtered by location)
  • Keyword difficulty scores (how hard it is to rank well for a word or phrase)
  • Competitive considerations (which sites are currently ranking in the top 10 for a particular keyword phrase)
  • And much more (if you want to take a deep dive into SEO)

Unfortunately, I have yet to come across a free keyword research tool that provides useful and reliable information.

To get similar data to what the paid keyword research tools offer, you would have to combine several free tools and do your own calculations. Although possible, this isn’t a fun route to go down, and the data quality is still questionable.

If you don’t want to pay for a keyword tool, I would recommend simply doing a free trial of any of the paid tools mentioned above. This will give you access to the tool’s most important features for a short time period (long enough to find your keywords).  

Once you have access to a keyword research tool, start by typing what you think could be your most important SEO keyword into the search bar. You’ll want to narrow down the location to wherever your market is, as this will give you accurate local search volumes.

SEO keyword research results from KWfinder. Image shows monthly search volumes for focus SEO keyword and supporting keywords
Monthly search volumes for different keyword phrases shown in KWfinder

For example, we used KWfinder to find the best SEO keywords for a New Zealand company offering archery adventures to corporate teams.

We started our keyword research by typing the term “corporate events” into KWfinder and narrowed down the results to New Zealand.

As you can see, the monthly search volume for the term “corporate events” is quite low (39 searches per month). But the related keyword “team building” has a much higher search volume (320 searches per month).

The term “team building activities” has even more monthly searches, but the search intent is less relevant to our client’s service. (Our research showed that searchers looking for “activities” were on the hunt for activity ideas, rather than event services).

Based on this information, we chose “team building event” as the focus keyword for the page We then looked for related terms that also get decent traffic to use as supporting keywords.

Three or four supporting keywords are plenty.

In this case, we opted for “team bonding”, “corporate event”, “Christmas event”, and “End of year event”.

Once you have selected your focus keyword and supporting keywords, it’s time to strategically weave them into your content without disrupting the natural reading flow.     

Note: You should do keyword research for every single page on your website and optimise each page for a different set of keywords. This ensures that you cover as many relevant keywords as possible so you can rank for a wide variety of search terms. Otherwise, your pages will simply compete with one another for the same keyword phrase.

How to Write SEO Content for Your Website

Having done your keyword research, you are now ready to write SEO content for your site.

By now, you should have one clear theme per page with a focus keyword and some supporting keywords. As you write the page’s content, bear in mind the theme and your keywords and integrate them into your copy wherever it is naturally possible.

Although there is no magic keyword density to shoot for, you should aim to incorporate your focus keyword in a few key places…

  • Once in the page headline (H1 tag)
  • At least once in the body copy near the top of the page (first paragraph)
  • Once or twice further down the page in sub-headlines, image captions, bullet points, alt tags, or body copy

If your keyword is a phrase (i.e. two or more words), you can change up the word order if it makes sense or sounds better. This still counts as your keyword phrase, since Google doesn’t just look for exact keyphrase matches.

So, if your keyword was “team building activities” but you change it up throughout the text to “activities for team building”, it still counts.

To recap, consider the following points when writing SEO website content:

  • Ensure you have one clear theme per page
  • Choose high volume / low difficulty keywords
  • Include your focus keyword in the page headline
  • Include your focus keyword (or variations thereof) in the body copy at the top of the page
  • Include your focus keyword once or twice throughout the page copy
  • Incorporate your supporting keywords to fully establish the page theme
  • Ensure your keywords flow naturally within your writing and don’t sound forced
  • Ensure you have enough content on each page to rank with (minimum 300 words per page)

If you follow these basic principles and deliver quality content, your site is well-equipped for high SEO rankings.

For more information on SEO copywriting and step-by-step guidance, read our full post here.

Once your listing shows up on the search engine results page (yay!), it’s time to focus on getting prospects to click on your listing instead of the others. That’s where your title tags and meta-descriptions come in.

How to Write Conversion Optimised Title Tags and Meta-Descriptions

For each page on your website, you need to specify a title tag and meta-description.

These text snippets are displayed on the search engine results page and when you share your site on social media.

If you don’t specify your title tags and meta-descriptions, algorithms will do it for you, which will look something like this…

Example of an automatically generalted title tag and meta description, both truncated
Example of an automatically generated title tag and meta-description, both truncated

As you can see, both the title tag (blue text) and the meta-description (black text) are incomplete sentences and end in […] That’s because the algorithm simply uses text from the main page and truncates it (cuts it off and replaces it with “…”) after a certain character limit. 

What’s left is a bunch of incomplete sentences that don’t make a lot of sense and won’t get many user clicks (conversions).

To get more users clicking on your listing, use your title tag and meta-description to summarise your value proposition. For example…

Example of specified title tag and meta-description. Complete sentences including value proposition
Example of specified title tag and meta-description

Although title tags and meta-descriptions don’t influence your SEO ranking position, they are crucial for your click through rate.

That means, getting users to click into your site based on what they see on the SERP.

The more clicks you get, the higher your ranking will climb, as Google will consider your content more relevant.

Therefore, your title tags and meta-description indirectly influence your SEO ranking.

To maximise the traffic your site gets from your search engine listings, it is important to define clear and compelling title tags and meta-descriptions for each of your website pages.

Tips for writing effective title tags:

  • Aim to keep it under 60 characters
  • Avoid using all capital letters
  • Use SEO keywords, but don’t keyword stuff
  • Give every page a unique title, e.g. [Product name] – [Product Category] | [Brand Name]
  • Avoid default titles like “Home” or “About”
  • Put important keywords first
  • Make the title tag compelling, so prospects want to read more (i.e. click through to your site)

Tips for writing compelling meta-descriptions:

  • Ensure it reads naturally and intelligibly
  • Employ keywords / phrases
  • Create interest to compel searchers to click through to your site
  • Ensure your meta-description is directly relevant to the page it describes (if users click through to your page based on a compelling meta-description but are then disappointed by the page content, they will simply “bounce” back out, which negatively impacts your ranking)
  • Make sure to write a unique meta-description for each page

Conversion Rate Optimisation: How to Pull it all Together with Conversion-Optimised Usability, Design, and Copywriting

Congratulations, you have successfully improved your SEO ranking and your site is getting a decent flow of traffic… now what?

Well, now you want to engage them to stay on your page, interact with your content, and, ultimately, take the action that you want them to take.

In other words, you are striving to convert them from being a casual site visitor into a subscriber, enquiry, or customer (depending on which conversion you are aiming for).

This is the process of conversion rate optimisation or CRO in short.

There are several things you can and should do to optimise your conversion rate. These actions can be roughly grouped into three categories of optimisations: (1) usability, (2) design, and (3) copywriting.

Optimising Your Website’s Usability

Poor usability is catastrophic for a website’s conversion rate.

Most prospects simply can’t be bothered navigating a jungle of disjointed content, vague instructions, broken links and 404 error pages.

That’s why striving for good usability should be at the top of your list when it comes to your CRO efforts.

To optimise your website’s usability, focus on creating an intuitive navigation structure and paving a clear path for your customer to follow through your site.

Use a logical and intuitive navigation structure

Make sure your website is easy to navigate and that prospects can quickly find whatever they are looking for. That includes reducing the complexity of your menu structure and grouping related content in a meaningful way.

For example, if you have an E-commerce store, ensure that your products are categorised.

A good convention to follow is major product category – minor product category – product. This helps site visitors find products based on their categories, instead of having to sift through pages of items.

Create clearly signposted customer paths

To improve your website’s conversion rate, it’s crucial that you make things as easy as possible for your prospects.

Website visitors don’t want to spend much time clicking back and forth through your site to gather all the information they need to make a buying decision. That’s why it’s up to you to compile it for them in well-designed modules.  

It’s a good idea to signpost your modules with headlines, sub-headlines and bullet points to help prospects skim read your site. That way, readers can quickly find the information they are looking for.

When designing your site’s layout, consider the possible paths a user may take through your page. Once you’ve drawn up all the options, optimise all paths to make sure you are giving users the right information at the right time.

For example, a possible path through your website could be for a prospect to land on your Home page, then click through to your Services page, and then to your contact page, where the conversion takes place. Whereas, another path through your site could be for them to land on your Services page, then to click through to your About page, before going on to the Contact page.

Depending on which page site visitors first land on, they will take different paths through your website.

You need to ensure that each path has a logical flow of content, so you’re not bombarding prospects with repetitive information.

Each path through your site should tell a full and coherent story, and end in your prospect taking the action you want them to take (conversion).

Ultimately, it’s up to you to design the optimal path through your site, and your internal links and calls to action should support this journey. That also means making sure that each page logically leads to another, rather than leaving prospects hanging with a dead-end page.

Optimising Your Website’s Design for Conversion

When it comes web design, most people opt for what they consider “aesthetic”, “appealing” or even “beautiful”. But if you’re optimising your design for conversion, it needs to fulfil other criteria than simply looking good.

In fact, CRO split tests have shown that function beats aesthetics hands down[4] when it comes to improving a site’s conversion rate. That means your design optimisations should focus on improving your site’s design regarding its core function rather than to make it look better.

This is where you need to consider the primary goal of your website. Is it to get more people onto your mailing list by offering a lead magnet? Is it to get prospects to schedule a call with you? Is it to build authority through high-quality content?

The function of your design is to support the primary goal of your website. So, resist the temptation of overloading your page with design elements that distract users from your site’s primary goal.

Bearing in mind your website’s primary goal, you can use the following design elements to optimise your site for its core function.

Use a conversion-oriented layout to guide readers’ attention to your key messages

The success of your website ultimately depends on whether people read what you write and whether it’s compelling enough to make them convert.

While the conversion comes down to your value proposition and copywriting (more on that later), the readability comes down to the way you structure and format your messages.

To get more prospects reading what you write, structure your messages into hierarchical modules that build on one another.

Instead of writing out your value proposition in a 600 – 1000 word essay, break it down into smaller modules.

Make sure you clearly signpost each module with a sub-headline to cater to selective and skim readers. That way, readers don’t have to read your entire page to understand your message, which will improve your conversion rate.

Typical modules could include the following:

  • Headline and sub-headline
  • Introductory text
  • Benefit bullet points
  • Further sections of body copy split into logical sections and signposted with sub-headlines
  • Your offer
  • A recap of your USP (e.g. “why choose us” boxes)

When writing these modules, make sure that each one makes sense completely independently of the others.

That way, readers who are selectively/skim reading your site will still get your key message. At the same time, you need to ensure that your modules work together to tell a coherent story (without being repetitive) for prospects reading the whole page.

When designing your modules and message hierarchy, it’ a good idea to present the most important information first.

Most prospects only read your headline and maybe some of your introductory copy, so you don’t want to bury important messages at the bottom of the page. Modules that are further down the page should expand on the information at the top of the page for those readers who are looking for more depth/details.

Another layout consideration to bear in mind is reading gravity.

The idea behind reading gravity is that our eyes follow a certain pattern when reading down a page. When designing your website, you can use this pattern to your advantage to position your content in places where it is more likely to get read.

The reading gravity pattern is shown in the Gutenberg diagram.

The Gutenberg Diagram depicting typical reading gravity

The arrow suggests that our eyes fall naturally to the top left corner of a page, and then sweep down the page moving left to right, line by line. After reading down the page, our eyes end up in the terminal area.

As you can see, content placed in the strong and weak fallow areas receives less attention that content in the path of reading gravity.     

To ensure that your readers read (and get!) what you’re saying, you should place important information along the reading gravity-path. Designs that force the reader to work against reading gravity tend to destroy reading rhythm and reading comprehension.

In fact, studies have found that readers’ understanding of a text with good reading gravity is double that of texts with poor reading gravity[6].

What that means for your web design…

To construct a page with good reading gravity, you’ll want to arrange your content in a “main” column on the left (see example below). On the right (in the strong fallow area), you can have a smaller column where you place “eye catching” information like a checklist or a testimonial. Something that is visually distinct to draw attention to it.

Web copy layout with good reading gravity, i.e. a wider main column of text on the left and a narrow column with supplementary info on the right
Example of a website layout with good reading gravity

If you simply have text running all the way across the page in one wide column, it will be harder to read, and conversions will suffer.

Studies[6] have shown that text becomes hard to read when it runs on for more than 77 characters before a line break. That’s because anything wider forces our eyes to stray too far from the axis of orientation (left margin), which causes us to lose our place in the text.

Disoriented readers = poor conversion rate, so avoid setting up your website text in one wide column like this…

Example of website copy with poor reading gravity because the text runs on too wide
Example of website copy with poor reading gravity because the text runs on too wide

However, you should also avoid splitting your text into two equal sized columns, as this destroys the message hierarchy and reading gravity. (There is no clear focus).

Example of website copy with poor reading gravity based on lack of message hierarchy (i.e. two equal sized columns of text)
Example of website copy with poor reading gravity based on lack of message hierarchy

Optimise your font and formatting to increase your conversion rate

Once you’ve got your design’s layout sussed, you’ll want to focus on improving the readability of your text. This includes things like choosing the right font and font size and including formatting elements like bold and italic text.

Although these things may seem trivial, they are crucial to keeping readers on your site and engaged in your message[6].

Get it wrong, and you risk scaring off readers before they even get the chance to engage in your message.

It’s possible to blow away three-quarters of our readers simply by choosing the wrong typeface. If you rely on words to sell, that should concern you deeply.

Colin Wheildon [6]

To improve your text readability, make sure you choose the right font and font size…

For on-screen media like websites, use a sans serif font for your body copy.

Although serif fonts are great for print media (newspapers, magazines, etc.), the lower resolution of computer screens can make them hard to read.

That’s because their fine details become a bit blurred. Reading slightly blurred serif font is more exhausting than reading non-blurred sans serif font, so readers are more likely to give up[6]. You want to avoid this because the more they read, the more they buy!

In terms of font size, ensure that you choose a font size large enough for people to easily read without squinting.

If in doubt, it’s better to go up a size or two. You don’t want to risk losing prospects who find your page too hard to read because of your font size. Also, ensure that your headlines and sub-headlines are substantially larger than your body copy to draw attention to them.

When it comes to formatting, you can use bold and italic text for emphasis but do so sparingly.

Although bold and italic text is good for drawing your readers’ attention to your key messages, an overload of formatting can become exhausting for readers. Also, if you overdo the bold and italics, you’ll lose the emphasis effect because when everything is highlighted, nothing is highlighted.

In summary, use formatting sparingly and intentionally to achieve a specific effect (e.g. for emphasis or to draw skim readers back into your copy).   

Website Copywriting

After you’ve figured out what to say (your message), it’s time to think about how you’re going to say it. That’s where copywriting principles are helpful, as they will help you write in a more appealing way.

Copywriting is often summed up as being “salesmanship in print” or the art and science of writing in a way that prompts someone to act.

Since the goal of any functional website is to get people to take some sort of action, copywriting is an important piece of the puzzle.

So which copywriting principles can you apply to your website to inspire action and improve conversions?

Write for your customers

You can’t bore someone into buying your product, only interest them

To write engaging web copy, you must have an intimate understanding of your prospect on a personal and emotional level.

Only then you’ll know how to structure your message and zero in on the right benefits and pain points. Unless you have a profound understanding of your audience, you’ll struggle to write in a way that makes them feel connected and understood.

That’s why it’s important to spend some time getting to know your prospect. Find out their pain points. What makes them tick? What do they value? What do they worry about?

And by “find out” I don’t mean assume.

Do your research and do it well, because if you have a better understanding of your prospect than your competitors do, you’ll have the clear winning edge when it comes to writing engaging copy.

Make sure your writing is clear

Lack of clarity is a major conversion-killer since people won’t buy what they don’t understand.

Yet so many businesses fail to present their message and value proposition in a clear way. It’s your job as a writer to keep your reader engaged and to guide them through your site, so it’s important to edit your writing for clarity.

After you have written your first draft, edit it to make it clear and reader friendly.

Here are some copywriting tips to help ensure your writing is clear:

Keep your sentences short

Sentences that run too long quickly become sloppy and confusing. That’s why using shorter sentences helps keep your writing clear.

Strive to keep most of your sentences short and sweet, but also vary your sentence length for a better rhythm and flow.  

Cut the fluff

Get to your point quickly and without needless hedging.

If sentences are overly wordy, consider whether all words are really necessary or if some are just empty fillers or fluff.

If you find yourself using too many hedging words like “could”, “perhaps”, or “maybe”, it’s a sign that your argument is weak. Instead, try to rephrase sentences in a way that you can fully stand behind your claims without the need to hedge.

Avoid unclear branding waffle

Avoid using “clever” or “creative” headlines that don’t make any sense to the general public.

Although these poetic creations may sound good to you, they won’t do you any favours in selling your product or service. Instead, use your headlines to make it unmistakeably clear what each page is about.

Invest in your headline

Your headline is the most important piece of copy on the page because, on average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy[8].

That’s why writing a clear and compelling headline should be your main focus, not just an afterthought.

In SEO copywriting, your headline should fulfil three main criteria:

  • Include your focus keyword
  • Make it crystal clear what the page is about
  • Be compelling enough to make readers want to find out more

Have a clear value proposition

Make sure you are crystal clear about your message and value proposition before you start writing. If you try to focus on too many different messages and value propositions, your main point will get lost.  

Grammar matters

Using the sentence structure of Subject – Verb – Object (SVO) helps readers mentally follow what you are saying and, therefore, improves the clarity of your writing.

Also make sure you use punctuation to help readers follow and understand your arguments.  

Check your logic

As you re-read your copy, evaluate whether all your lines of reasoning hold up. Do you offer proof for all your claims? Are there any contradictions throughout your site? Does your logic hold up?

As you edit for clarity, go through your content and ask yourself “does this make sense”? Better yet, ask someone else for a second opinion.

If you use a copywriting framework like AIDA or PASO to write your copy and follow the SEO copywriting tips above when editing your text, you’ll be well on your way to writing like a professional copywriter.

Wrapping up

We’ve used these SEO copywriting strategies to write dozens of websites that are now ranking number one for their focus keywords. We’ve also applied these principles to help clients more than double their conversion rate, which equals up to a 4x increase in profit[4].

How doubling your conversion rate can 4x your profit

But even if you don’t achieve the same rankings or growth rate, you will absolutely generate more traffic and see a boost in conversions.

If you’re not leveraging SEO (search engine optimisation) and CRO (conversion rate optimisation) to get the most bang for your buck from your website, I highly recommend that now is the best time to start.

References

[1] https://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2017/07/18/how-long-should-your-content-be-for-optimal-seo/#5169ff961963

[2] https://www.websitehostingrating.com/internet-statistics-facts/

[3] Adam Clarke. 2018. SEO 2019 Learn search engine optimization with smart internet marketing strategies. Amazon Digital Services LLC – KDP Print US, 2018

[4] Karl Blanks and Ben Jesson. 2017. Making Websites Win: Apply the Customer-Centric Methodology that has Doubled the Sales of Many Leading Websites. Conversion Rate Experts, USA.

[5] https://yoast.com/what-is-thin-content/

[6] Colin Wheildon.  2007. Type & Layout – Are you communicating or just making pretty shapes. Worsely Press.

[7] https://www.searchmetrics.com/knowledge-base/ranking-factors-2016/

[8] confessions of an advertising man – https://www.campaignlive.co.uk/article/excerpt-confessions-advertising-man/996114

[9] https://neilpatel.com/blog/seo-copywriting-how-to-write-content-for-people-and-optimize-for-google-2/

Helena Merschdorf

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