As a small business, your website is the most powerful marketing tool you have. However, if you aren’t able to engage your audience quickly enough, you could be losing business.
Today, you have less than five seconds for your audience to form an opinion about your site. With only a few seconds to tell people what you do, how you make their lives better, and what they need to do next—every word counts.
In this week’s episode of Priority Pursuit, we are again joined by Treefrog’s Content Director Angel Tobey as she walks us through how to write website copy for your small business in a way that showcases your BrandStory. Check out her step-by-step, section-by-section guide on writing your home, service, and “about” pages.
What is web copy?
Simply put, web copy refers to the words on your website pages. This includes headlines, subheadings, calls to action, and other text on your pages.
It’s important to note that while blog posts may be on your website, they aren’t technically considered web copy. Instead, they are categorized as a separate type of content and have their own unique strategy.
Why is it important to create web copy before you start web design?
We often see small businesses try to write and design their website at the same time. But, copy needs to come first because ultimately, copy drives design. You can have a beautifully designed website, but without strategic content as the backbone—it isn’t going to work properly as a marketing tool.
As crucial as layout, color, and other design elements are, copy is what converts and what will guide your website users to work with you. Because of this, it’s important to develop your web copy before designing your website so that the design can enhance your messaging—not take away from it.
What do you need to get started?
The very first thing members of the Treefrog content team do before they write any piece of content is make sure they have the client’s Marketing Guiding Statements.
When it comes to web writing, your Marketing Guiding Statements do just as their name suggests—they guide the writing and messaging process as you create copy for your website. In fact, a lot of the web writing process is strategically placing these statements throughout your small business’s website. So, it’s important to have those and review them before you get started.
Another important piece of the web writing puzzle is the web plan and keywords document. For a website writer, the web plan functions as a sort of outline that tells them all the pages that will need to be included in the website.
Along with each of those pages, this document also lists the strategic keywords found during the SEO strategy phase. As a writer, it’s crucial to have these before you start writing because each keyword will need to be included in your web copy. Without them, you won’t be able to create copy that is SEO optimized.
Confused about what we mean by the “web plan” and “keyword document”? Listen to “Episode 104: How to Build a Lead-Generating Website” where we break down every piece of building a website—including the processes that need to be completed before writing copy begins.
There are a few other miscellaneous items we collect from clients before starting the web writing process, including contact information for contact forms, specific service or product information, and past web copy for reference if it is relevant.
Every website is different, so there might be other items and information you find you’ll need throughout the process, but having your Marketing Guiding Statements and web plan and keywords document on hand will be crucial to get started.
How do you write an effective homepage for a website?
Did you know that people are 22 times more likely to remember your small business when you make your marketing into a story?
At Treefrog, we use the StoryBrand framework to create content because we know that storytelling is the best way to strategically reach our audience and drive them to do what we want them to do.
That being said, there is a great formula for developing this story on your website’s homepage, which includes the following sections:
- Value Proposition
- Explanatory Paragraph
- Lead Generator
If you’ve tuned into our Marketing Guiding Statements series, you’ll notice that some of these sections look familiar.
They’re exactly what is included in your Marketing Guiding Statements—which is why developing this messaging before you start writing your web copy is not only crucial for strategy; it also makes writing your website much easier.
Let’s break down each of these homepage sections so that you have a better idea of what needs to be included in each.
First, there’s the header. When prospective customers visit your website, you have less than five seconds to help them understand exactly what you offer. So, starting your homepage off with a simple and clear header is crucial.
With a clear header, visitors will immediately know if you offer what they’re looking for and if you can help them. With this immediate validation, they will then be much more likely to continue browsing your website and do business with you.
Some great headers would sound something like this:
- The most reliable plumbers in Lafayette, Indiana.
- Plan the perfect Midwest wedding.
- A new home, on time and on budget.
As you can see from these examples, your header is not the time to be cute, abstract, or vague in any way because if your visitor’s attention isn’t grabbed quickly and they don’t understand what you offer—they’re not going to stick around.
You’ll also want to include a call-to-action button in your header. This will be something that, once you’ve captured their attention, your visitor can easily click on to do what you want them to do. This can be as simple as “schedule a consultation,” “buy now,” or “contact us.”
In the first section after your header, you need to focus on your ideal customer’s problems and the stakes they face if they don’t solve their problem.
This is the place to highlight the struggle your ideal customer is facing in relation to your product or service, and the negative outcome your ideal customers will face if they don’t invest in your products or services.
For example, the problem and stakes for a professional handyman service might be:
“Most people don’t have the time or expertise to complete small home improvement and repair projects, which increases the risk of being burned by contractor no-shows, poor workmanship, damage to your home, or sneaky pricing models.”
This example clearly lays out the problem their ideal customer is facing and the negative outcome that could occur if the customer doesn’t use their service.
The great thing about this section is that the information can be pulled straight from your Marketing Guiding Statements.
To be effective, your homepage also needs to include a value proposition section—which is simply a clear list of what your customers will receive when they invest in your services.
This list, however, must be presented in a way that helps potential customers see the value in working with you and shows them how you solve their most challenging problems.
Basically, this is where you’ll answer the questions: “What’s in it for me?” and “What am I going to get by choosing this business’s solution over another?” Whatever the answer, simply put it in a bulleted list.
Next up is the guide section. Remember, in your marketing story, your ideal client is the hero and you’re the guide. So, the guide section needs to be written to show how you'll support and lead your customers to a solution to their problem.
To do this, you’ll have to show that you empathize with your customers’ problem and that you have the authority to help them find a solution.
Let’s continue using the professional handyman service as an example. Their guide section would sound something like this:
“We know it can feel like a leap of faith to hire a handyman, especially if you’ve been burned before by no-shows, poor workmanship, damage to your home, or sneaky pricing models.
Because of this, we’ve spent a lot of time building a professional handyman division that provides a worry-free experience when it comes to workmanship, fair pricing, and your safety. Our goal is simple—we want you to be entirely satisfied with every project we complete.”
This guide section hits on important pain points—like the need to get jobs done around the house and the worry associated with hiring a contractor—and then positions the business as a guide to help the customer (or hero of your story) solve their problem.
Again, this is another section that can be lifted straight out of your Marketing Guiding Statements.
After covering the problems and stakes, value proposition, and guide sections, you’ll want to move on to listing your services or products on your homepage.
This section is a great place to hit on your ideal audience’s pain points again as you list your products or services and how they’ll help solve the customer’s problem.
Be sure to keep this section clean and easy to read. You don’t need to list every detail about each product or service on the homepage and overwhelm your website visitors.
Instead, just provide the most important points about each product or service and give your audience the opportunity to learn more about each by linking to the individual service or product pages.
The testimonials section is where you’ll build authority that will help your potential customers trust that you know what you’re doing.
Choose a few great testimonials or reviews that showcase what is most important to your ideal customer.
For example, if a great customer experience is really important to your ideal client—be sure to include at least one testimonial that emphasizes the ease of the buying process. Is quick delivery high on your ideal client’s priority list? Then, find a customer testimonial that highlights how quickly they received the product or service.
Next, your website needs to include a three-step plan that helps your audience understand how easy it is to work with you.
Why do we use three steps? The brain simply likes steps of three.
So, while there might be a million things happening behind the scenes, giving prospective customers a three-step plan to follow makes the process seem less daunting and will result in you earning more leads.
After detailing the plan, you can start your explanatory section. Writing a longer explanation about why people should do business with you is a great addition to a homepage, especially for your more interested prospects. This section can be around 400 words, but remember to orient it toward the needs and pain points of your prospects.
Ideally, your next section will be lead-generating content you can direct your audience to. This type of content, for example, could include an informational download or product discount. Regardless of what it is, it should be a means for you to capture perspectives’ email addresses.
If your website visitors aren’t ready to purchase from you immediately, having a lead generator will allow you to collect prospects’ contact information, enter them into your sales funnel—which we will talk about more in a later episode—and keep the conversation going.
Call to Action Buttons
Each section on your homepage will likely need a call-to-action button that directly takes site visitors to the next step in their journey—whether that’s scheduling a consultation, buying a product/service, or doing whatever else you want them to do.
Remember, you want to make it as easy as possible for your ideal customer to work with you. To do this, you want to (1) have several call-to-action buttons throughout your homepage and in the upper right-hand corner of your website and (2) use the same call-to-action.
If every button gives your website visitors a different instruction and takes them to a different web page, you’ll only confuse and lose them. Instead, use the same CTA over and over again throughout your homepage.
How do you write a service page?
The process for writing internal service pages is similar to how we write a homepage. You’ll actually use the same sections, but instead of talking about your services as a whole, you’ll make each page about how that specific product or service will help solve your ideal customer’s problem.
Before we move on to talking about other pages, we do want to clarify one thing. The items we discussed are proven to be effective. We use this exact format to build websites for our clients and have seen its effectiveness. Likewise, StoryBrand has used this framework to help thousands of businesses big and small.
That said, the elements we discussed aren’t always the only pieces you want on your website. For example, you might need to add a gallery section to showcase your work. Don’t add more information than needed so you don’t overwhelm your prospects, but do feel free to make additions or adjustments to ensure your website serves your ideal client well.
How do you write an “about” page?
We see a lot of small businesses make the mistake of writing their “about” page only about themselves instead of about how their business can help and serve their ideal client.
While your staff members’ favorite colors or your super-detailed origin story might be important to you—your ideal client probably isn’t going to gain the information they’re looking for from that content.
Instead, focus on creating copy that shows how your business is equipped to guide your ideal client in finding a solution to their problem. You can still share your story and feature your amazing staff—just make sure it’s in a way that showcases your business’s authority and capabilities. In other words, your “about” page shouldn’t be about you; it should be about how you can help solve your ideal client’s problem.
There are a few things you should be sure to include on your “about” page:
- Your business’s “why.” Basically, what you provide, who you serve, how you help solve a problem, and why you do what you do. This can be taken directly from your Marketing Guiding Statements.
- The relevant parts of your company’s story are also important. This is a great way to display your company’s progress and show authority.
- You should also include your company’s values—especially ones that appeal to your ideal customer. This might be things like describing your company culture or what drives you to do business.
What are the most common web copy mistakes small businesses make and how do you avoid them?
There are two big website copywriting mistakes we often see small businesses make: not including the right information and including way too much information.
When it comes to including the right information, it’s important to keep in mind exactly what your ideal audience wants and needs to know about doing business with you. If a prospective customer comes to your website and can’t find answers to their questions—such as cost or how to work with you—they’re practically guaranteed to leave your site without making a purchase, scheduling a consultation, or doing whatever it is you want them to do because you failed to give them the information they were looking for.
To avoid this mistake, be sure you understand what your customer is looking for and what questions they need answered before they’ll work with you. Your Marketing Guiding Statements will be a big help during this process because they outline exactly what problems your ideal client is facing and how you can help them solve said problems.
Once you have the right information in place—be sure to edit your copy to include only the most important information. If you don’t make it as concise and easy to follow as possible, you’ll run into the second biggest mistake—which is including too much information.
Too much information on your website is bound to overwhelm your website visitors—which will cause them to leave and not do business with you. You want to make sure you’ve included the right information, but more often than not, less copy will lead to bigger results.
Leave your website copy to include only the most important information your potential clients will need. As we mentioned before, your ideal clients likely don’t need to know what every member of your team’s favorite color is on your “about” page or how you used to offer X but now you offer Z.
The most strategic thing you can do is to make sure your web copy strictly includes the information that is pertinent to your ideal client.
Can small businesses realistically write their own website copy?
Writing copy for a whole website well has a lot of moving parts and can take quite a bit of time. At Treefrog, every website copy document is touched in one way or another by a minimum of three copywriting and strategy professionals who have different and specific skill sets.
So, can you as a small business write your own website copy? Yes. But, if you or your team don’t already have the skill sets or experience needed to create clear messaging, write grammatically correct and professionally, or understand how to properly include SEO and keywords in your copy—learning even the basics will take hours of your time.
As a busy small business owner or leader, writing the copy of your own website likely isn’t the best use of your time—considering your hours could be spent focusing on money-making aspects of your business or life outside the office.
So, yes. You can write your own website copy; however, it’s a skill and an art that takes a lot of knowledge to do well.
In case you’re thinking, “There’s just no way I have time for all of that,” or, “I really hate writing, and that’s not how I want to spend my time,” please know that at Treefrog, professional web copy development is included in all of our website packages, and we are even happy to just create your web plan and write your web copy using the StoryBrand framework—meaning we would come up with the strategy and write the copy, but you could have your site designed elsewhere.
If you’d like to learn more, visit our website and schedule a Discovery Call today!
Links & Resources Mentioned in This Episode
- Listen to “Episode 104: How to Build a Lead-Generating Website”
- Try ShowIt for One Month for Free
- Learn More About Treefrog’s Small Business Marketing Resources & Services
- Join the Priority Pursuit Facebook Community
- Follow or DM Treefrog Marketing on Instagram
- Follow or DM Kelly Rice on Instagram
- Follow or DM Victoria Rayburn on Instagram
The Priority Pursuit Podcast is a podcast dedicated to helping small business owners define, maintain, and pursue both their personal and business priorities so they can build lives and businesses they love.
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