The goal of your copy should largely depend on the purpose of your website. Aside from websites that exist solely to generate revenue from advertising, the purpose of nearly all websites is to generate sales - either directly via ecommerce (for websites that sell products) or by generating inquiries that will hopefully convert to customers (for websites that advertise a service). It is important at this stage that you are clear about what specific actions you ideally want your website visitors to carry out (what we refer to as a "conversion"). For example, do you want your visitors to submit an inquiry form, call you or sign-up for your newsletter? In other words, what should your copy's "call-to-action" (CTA) be?
When defining your CTA, it is important to use some imagination and focus on what you are actually offering your visitors. For example, even if it is standard practise in your industry to provide a free quote, you should explicitly offer this as one of the benefits of contacting you. If your CTA is not clear, you will reduce the number of visitors that act on it. In the following examples we demonstrate the importance of telling your visitors what you want them to do and what they will get in return:
Your CTA should dictate not only the exact wording of your website's copy but also the layout of your website and pages. You must remove every possible obstacle in the way of your potential customers acting on your CTA. For example, even if you have a dedicated "Contact Us" page, not having your telephone number prominently displayed on every page of your website can reduce the number of visitors that actually contact you. It may sound obvious, but it's surprising how many websites actually make it difficult for visitors to act on their CTA.
A common mistake when writing for the web is to speak to your readers as if you were addressing a theater full of people. You need to distance yourself from thinking of your visitors as one large audience and instead focus on the individual. Imagine one of your typical customers or clients and attempt to speak to them, using the same tone and level of formality. For example, using a conversational tone can sometimes be welcomed by the reader, but would not be appropriate if you are selling legal services or investments.
With so many websites competing for their attention, visitors to your website who are in the midst of searching for something will almost certainly leave your website almost immediately if it is not obvious your website can provide them with what they are looking for. According to a March 2015 study by Chartbeat, 55% of website visitors spend less than 15 seconds actively on a page - so you have to stay clear of the delusion that visitors to your website will enjoy thoroughly browsing your website with nothing else competing for their attention. A clear, concise title that conveys exactly what you are offering (and perhaps why you are best placed to provide it) is a necessity.
Most of your website's visitors will only skim your copy. At least during their first visit to your website, during their decision-making process, most people are only interested in a few key points about your product or service - for example the price, shipping cost etc. It is a good idea to try to identify these key points by surveying your past customers and by making sure they are prominent on the page. And you can make it easy for your visitors to get the gist of what you are offering by breaking up your copy using sub-heading, bullet points and graphics. You can of course provide as much detailed information about your product or service as you want, but this should initially be hidden from view unless the visitor wishes to find out more.
Having got their attention and given your visitors just enough information to convince them that perhaps your product or service is right for them, they should now be considering acting on your CTA. At this stage most visitors will scan the page for some way in which you can either put their mind at rest about giving you their contact information or further convince them to make a purchase. A prominent phone number not only provides the option to call you with any questions or concerns, but also gives the impression of authenticity. And, if you are asking for a visitor's email address you should always mention whether or not you ever share or sell such information. But if your CTA is buying your product or inquiring about your service, convincing your visitors to make that crucial step is more difficult, and a number of different types of copy can help:
The fact that so many websites make the same copywriting mistakes is illustrative of the fact that it's hard to look at your own website objectively and without the delusion that somehow your website is special. It's therefore often a good idea to ask your friends, family and colleagues to review your website and give you critical feedback regarding whether or not they think they would act on your CTA. Since very small differences in copy can have significant effects on the number of conversions you achieve, you should never stop looking for ways to improve it.