Let me begin by saying that I’m not a professional copywriter. And I’m not aspiring to become one! I’m a marketer…a long-time agency owner. I care deeply about helping businesses, not-for-profit organizations and membership-based organizations grow their businesses. I’ve dedicated my agency career to helping organizations with strategies that allow them to build a professional website, new brand or marketing materials that support them in their success. But let me sideline by saying that a really talented copywriter understands the art, science and execution behind really amazing copy aimed at influencing the minds of consumers.
In this article, I’m going to teach you how to structure and position your website copy to support business growth, including increased leads, donations or sales. This proven and practical methodology will win you more business. Although my focus in this article is on website copy, this way of thinking can also be extended to any marketing or digital communication you create. The best part…you don’t have to be a professional or talented copywriter to do this! You can do this on your own. Plus, if you decide to get professional copywriting support, you can use this knowledge as a way to qualify if that copywriter truly understands how to write for direct response and engagement with your ideal audience.
The Most Important Takeaway
If you take nothing else out of this article, know this!
Stop writing website copy that focuses on how amazing your business is and start writing about how you can help an ideal customer solve their problem.
All of the emphasis in your copy should be on your customer, not on what your business is so good at doing. And the question is, what real problem are they trying to solve?
First, let me identify what I mean by “their problem”. When we do research on a product or service, we’re looking to fill a need that makes our life better or more fulfilled. Sometimes that can be a major lifestyle choice, such as buying a house or a car. We want something that speaks to us, which could include a combination of lifestyle, convenience, visual appeal, quality or space. But the product or service we are seeking could be small, yet there’s still a fulfillment we’re desiring by acquiring that product, service or cause.
When we put on an amazing pair of pants, we look good, we feel good, but most of all, an amazing pair of pants provides us with a better image of ourselves, and a confidence we currently may not have. For the online clothing retailer, your goal in your website copy is to help them connect with a pair of pants that they look great in, feel great in, but most of all, provides them with that feeling of confidence and a better version of themselves.
Let’s explore a few other examples.
- Someone shopping for toothpaste may be looking for a brand that helps them make their teeth more white, their gums more healthy and is made from natural ingredients. For this person, they care about looks and health, but they also care about their environmental footprint. Health and vitality may be what they are after.
- A person looking for a car mechanic may be looking for someone who is honest, reliable and affordable. You want to hear from others and what their experience has been like with that mechanic. It has to be conveniently located. What you’re really after is someone you can trust, so how does a mechanic position him or herself that way?
- Lastly, what about a not-for-profit organization that relies on donations and volunteers to support mental health services being administered in a community? In this case, the focus is on the problem we’re seeking to eradicate in the community. Perhaps the potential donor or volunteer also struggled with mental health issues in the past, or had a close family member or friend who either suffered or they lost due to mental health. That hits home! When we hear the stories of others that are struggling with the same issues that we’ve experienced in our past, it hits a nerve. Or perhaps a child who is struggling. A heartfelt story of a child in need is something that no parent can ignore. Beyond this, we want to know that the organization we’re giving money to is in a good position to truly address the problem. They must be sound stewards of the money. Confidence in their ability to act on the problem is key. Trust, hope and confidence in their operation translates into us knowing that we were able to make a difference in our community about an issue we care deeply about.
All in all, what’s important to understand with all of this is that those who visit your website do not care about what amazing things your company has done unless it provides something of value to them. Yes, you may be award-winning, innovative, have decades of experience, be excellent at customer service, but that doesn’t grab any website visitor’s attention unless they understand how that translates into value for them.
How to Organize Benefits
There are several great (and sometimes brain busting) exercises that challenge you to look at your core offerings and to sum up what real problems you are solving.
The first one is a prospect avatar worksheet. You’ll complete this worksheet for each major product line, service, or cause you offer with your business.
You’ll begin by working your way down the middle of the worksheet and address the questions about “Ideal Prospect”, “Problem” and “Outcome”. Then, you’ll draw your attention to the top left quadrant of the sheet and address the “Positioning” and “Authority” sections. Lastly, you’ll move to the right side of the sheet and address the “Offer” and “Objection”.
Get the Worksheet
What Pages Do I Need on My Website?
Quite simply, small businesses, not for profit or member-based organizations will likely need the following core pages on their website. When planning your website copy and design, consider the following:
- Home Page
- About Us
- Product/Service Pages
- Cart/Checkout/Order Confirmation Pages (for e-commerce)
- Donation Page (for not-for-profit organizations)
- Members/Member Listings (for member-based organizations)
- Contact Us
- Thank You Page
- Blog/Blog Post
- Search Results
- Terms & Conditions
Most certainly there are other pages that may become a need. The first thing to consider when planning out your navigation for your website is to outline what goals you have for the website. Is it to drive leads, online sales, contacts or donations? Or do you consider your website to be a glorified resume? Understanding these goals will help you to plan out your most important pages. Less is more when it comes to page choices. Too many pages can unnecessarily fill up your site’s navigation which in turn creates confusion for those visiting your site (as to where to go and what to look at).
Build Your Website Copy Using AIDA
For those who majored in marketing or business may be familiar with an old marketing principle called AIDA. Known as “attention, interest, desire and action”, the term aptly explains the four stages a consumer goes through before making a purchasing decision. It’s used in advertising and marketing (and one might argue sales as well). Some authorities interchange the word “attention” with “awareness” instead, and when it comes to advertising, that may be a more appropriate term. For the purpose of website copy, “attention” is a vital term for us as this is the hook that ensures site visitors stay long enough to engage with other parts of your website.
AIDA can be applied to any core product or service page on your website, including your home page. It also should most definitely be used on any landing page you intend to run, particularly if you build a landing page that supports a digital advertising campaign, email marketing and/or other initiatives where your key marketing message sits on a landing page.
AIDA isn’t the only formula for writing copy. As my colleague Bonnie explains in this article “A Marketer’s Guide: How to Write Website Copy That Sells”, there’s also the PAS formula, “problem”, “agitate” and “solution”. AIDA is also covered in this article, but we’re going to dive even further into it below and how to organize and apply it to a website page.
When drafting your website copy, it’s often desirable to want to create your home page copy first. However, I’d recommend you begin with your major product or service pages first. By planning out what you want to say on these pages first, it will give you a better picture as to how you want to summarize it all on your home page. For not-for-profit or member-based organizations, this would likely be your donation request, volunteer recruitment or become a member page.
Let’s break down the components of a website page build.
The first step is to establish your attention statement. With a product, service, donation request, volunteer recruitment or becoming a member page, this statement will sum up the key pain point you aim to solve. So as noted earlier, the perfect pair of pants may touch upon the self-confidence one receives by wearing them.
Whatever this statement may be, the key aspect is to create a statement that catches your ideal customer’s attention. A good attention statement relates directly to the problem, pain point or motivation that your ideal customer wishes to solve. It’s meant to assure them they are in the right place and is that “ah hah” moment that they’ve been waiting for in their online search.
Your written may often include the headline statement followed by a sub-heading statement that helps to explain or connect what the headline is all about. With our pants page, the heading might discuss self-confidence and the sub-heading might relate that self-confidence back to the fact that you’ll look good, feel good, etc. with the perfect pair of pants we’re selling.
In respect to the home page, your attention statement should be an overall summation of what help your organization is there to solve. For the auto mechanic we discussed earlier, it may be an overall statement around trust. For a not-for-profit organization, the heart-felt story about how a child in need was helped may be the ticket to grab someone’s attention. Whatever it may be, focus on your customer’s pain-point, motivation or problem they are seeking to solve.
Alongside your headline and sub-heading statement, always try to include a button that lobbies them to learn more or get to a core page on your website. Perhaps they are already at a stage where they are ready to take action. Or maybe you have a core page that follows this that is a natural next step for them to further build up interest and qualify their interest in doing business with you. Our mechanic may show a button asking them to “View Testimonials” or reviews about their auto shop and the work they do.
Lastly, the attention statement and banner text can sometimes be the most difficult content on the page to write. To help position you to write this copy, consider writing the other sections on the page first. Leaving your attention statement till last is generally a smart thing to do.
This by far is the most in-depth part of the page. The bulk of your copy for the website page will focus on amplifying interest. Your attention statement was set to catch their attention and encourage them to read on. If they don’t follow through on your call-to-action button at the top, the interest portion of the page is set to do all of the heavy-listing to convince a website visitor to complete an action.
The following is a good base-line formula that will aid you in developing the interest section of your page.
For visitors to your website, the intro statement is your opportunity to relate and connect to the problem that your ideal customer has, as we presented in our attention statement above. This statement should show compassion to their problem/motivation/desire and introduce your organization by way of telling the website visitor that there is an answer to their problem. Provide only a few hints at this point as to the nature of how you can solve their problem. An introduction should be no longer than 2 – 3 sentences.
2. Core Areas of Support
Following the introduction, now’s the time to start introducing your core areas of support. This could be product categories, key service areas, or in respect to a website for a not-for-profit organization, this may include the core ways your donations go to good use to help the cause or need you represent. As a membership-based organization, this likely will be the core benefits of becoming a member (ie. what value they get in return as a member). When terming your services, begin with a title for that service and lead into a statement that demonstrates what unique value or approach you take with your product, service, cause or member benefit. The unique value should tell the reader what’s in it for them. Don’t use your organizations’ name here, nor use it as a self-promotion space. Keep the message focused on the value you provide back to the ideal customer or website visitor. It doesn’t matter if you are writing copy for a website service/product page or the home page, this same formula holds true.
Be frugal when choosing the number of support areas you feature here. Studies via UX experts such as Neilsen Norman Group will often suggest 3 support areas, as we best retain things in 3s.
3. Social Proof
If the tone of your copy and what’s been presented so far warrants it, now might be a good time to introduce some kind of user review or testimonial.
If you do introduce it, be rather understated about it. The best reviews that a website can show are ones where there’s either a photo of the person with it, or a video testimonial.
Once again, I’ll note that this may or may not be a good idea when building your page copy. If you put one in place and it feels as though the flow of the page is interrupted by having this in place, I would then suggest removing it.
4. Soft Offerings/Added Value
What other ways can your organization provide value to your ideal customer? In this section, you’ll want to look for 2, 3 or 4 value-added points that will help a website visitor and ideal customer feel even better about the fact that they are in the right place. Let’s take a look at a few examples of this.
- For a product business, it could be detailed specifications on how to use it. Or you could get into aspects of service and delivery, such as the speed in which an online order will arrive at their doorstep. Maybe you have a quality or money-back guarantee that’s extremely helpful.
- A service-based business may have other value to disclose to a website visitor. Perhaps you provide a free in-person consultation, estimate or plan. Or an expectation of what they will get out of the service they will receive.
- For a course, workshop, event or webinar, perhaps this is a great time to tell the visitor in detail what outcomes they will get out of the course, while following up with how that new knowledge will help them grow or get better.
- A not-for-profit organization may see this as a place to further identify how they help address the root issues of their cause. Or what percentage of all donations go to where the money is needed the most, and not to support internal administration costs or overhead costs to operate that charity.
- A membership-based organization could focus this section on communicating what retailers they will receive a discount with by being a member of their organization, upcoming events, webinars, courses, etc.. that are also offered as a result of becoming a member.
- Lastly, this example will apply to all types of businesses and organizations. Consider using this section as a place to showcase the impact of your work through the presentation of stats. Present impact stats that show the degree of your work and how many others have trusted your organization in the work it does.
5. Social Proof
Expanding upon #3 above, this is most definitely an appropriate time to introduce some element of social proof, which the primary method would be through the use of reviews or testimonials. Video testimonials and testimonials with profile photos will always convert better than those with simple text only. If you do not have a photo, try to at least ensure you attach a name and title to the person that said it. As you can imagine, anonymous quotes hold the least clout of all reviews or testimonials.
Here are a few other tactics that can be valuable ways to add in social proof.
- Case Studies/Success Stories – If displaying these on the landing page, keep it brief and add a learn more button that takes people to the full case study/success story written. Video case studies/success stories work very well here as well (if you have the ability to prepare these). When displaying these, be sure to identify the problem, solution and results. Photo(s) showing the after or end results is key to include. A possible testimonial or review (with photo) of the person you helped is also very valuable.
- Third Party User-Generated Reviews – Consider incorporating a widget, area or logo/link that connects people to organic consumer reviews, such as Google My Business, TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc.. This provides more reassurance to your ideal customer or audience visiting the site that you’re proud to show off user-generated reviews that you have no control or filter over.
- Stats – This can also be a great place to back up that you’re legitimate through business stats such as the number of customers you’ve helped, years experience, growth, etc.. You’ll want to tread a fine line on self-promotion, but at this stage in the page, self-promo is a little more accepting as the trust you’ve started to receive up to this point on the page has definitely increased. If you do decide to include stats, it likely would be beneficial to ensure one of the other forms of social proof above are also present in this section as well.
6. Trust Logos/In Good Company
If it makes sense for your organization, trust logos can often be a great way of demonstrating legitimacy. This can take the form of showing logos of big name companies that you’ve done business with, or it could take the form of industry accolades or partners you work with.
From a user experience perspective, it’s good to show the logos together in a grid or via a slider that you can scroll through. It’s also advisable to make the logos 1 colour or black and white so as to not overwhelm the user with too much colour or inconsistency. Link each of the logos to their respective websites.
Up to this point on the website or website landing page, we’ve been able to capture our website visitor’s attention and have been really able to make a connection with our ideal lead. The interest section should also help to pre-qualify the ideal audience we want to work with, and weed out the ones who we may not want to work with. If your product or service for example is high-end in nature, hopefully your page has been able to weed out those who are simply looking for the best bargain on your product or service.
Every business or organization is different, but the formula for the interest section of your page (noted above) should provide a great foundation for most websites. There will most certainly be exceptions to this. But broadly speaking, any effort that is given to try and incorporate interest steps noted above will provide a good return on the work you invest into your website.
By this stage of the website page, our ideal customer is interested. So now is the time to motivate them to take action.
Early in the planning process, you should have already identified what hard offer or action you want your website visitor to take. It could involve getting in touch with you, buying something, donating, becoming a member, etc.. When a visitor takes a tangible action to either directly engage with you or buy from you, the way we do that is called a hard offer. An action such as subscribing to receive email updates, connecting with us on social media, downloading an ebook/whitepaper, etc. are all forms of soft offers. Soft offers can be incorporated into your page layout in the interest section. The desire section of the page should always try to focus on a hard offer.
When the ask is to contact, we’ll often recommend you show the contact form directly at the bottom of the page. That puts the action directly in front of them. We’ll get into more about the action part of the page in a moment.
The “desire” part of the page is simply the statement you use to encourage them to take action. To help take the anxiety or unknowns out of it, it’s also great to identify (in very broad and simple terms) what the website visitor can expect when they reach out to you.
The last aspect of your conversion-focused website landing page is the hard offer action your website visitor takes. The desire statement has helped to set the tone for what they can expect when reaching out to you. The contact form should also make it easy for someone to quickly reach out to your organization. You can keep it as simple as asking for a name and email, and after they hit the submit button, you can ask them additional questions to further qualify and allow your organization to receive the information it needs to have a conversation with this lead. There is an additional strategy behind this re: commitment pages, but that’s a topic for another day.
Of course, there are many other actions that may be taken here. For a SAAS based business for example, it may be a free trial or a display of 3 plan levels that they could sign-up for.
Of course, there are many other actions that may be taken here. For a SAAS based business for example, it may be a free trial or a display of 3 plan levels that they could sign-up for.
When planning out the action portion of the page, think about what the customer journey might look like after.
What Else Should I Do?
I previously wrote an article that provided some decent tips on other things to consider or incorporate into your website to increase conversion with your website visits. The 8 website planning tips found in the article will also help you to prepare a better experience for website visitors and a greater chance of converting more into leads, contacts and/or sales.
Bringing it all Together
So there you have it. Follow this formula and you’ll take some big steps forward in connecting better with your ideal customer. Every person who visits your website is an opportunity to get a new customer, client, donor or member. How are you going to make them comfortable doing business with you?
Lastly, when using the AIDA model for generating conversion copy for your website, you should start to notice the page reads more like a story. It should be a page that’s easy to skim, and is visually appealing.