Websites may feel like a dime a dozen. You sign up for Wix or Wordpress or something, pick a template with the right colors, upload a few rad pics and… you’re open for business. Right?
I mean, sure. That is one way to live your life.
But the reality is, websites may feel easy and super accessible but that is a ruse.
The actual mechanisms, first off, behind the visuals on your website are composed of complex code that neither you and I know anything about. Unless you are literally a coder. In which case, good for you for seeking to diversify your skill set. Although you can probably make plenty of money coding.
The point of this blog is to teach you how to write a website.
There are a few key pieces of copy that any website needs to succeed.
Some of these can be developed in tandem with design. A lot of times, you will write blocks of copy that work with a template you’ve picked out.
Here are step-by-step instructions for writing a website:
1. Pick a Style of Writing for Your Website
You may not know this existed. Surprise! Whether you have a new brand or are launching a website for an old brand, however you write your website should match your branding.
You may think: that goes without saying. But you’d be surprised.
Some people feel like their website has to be this super modern, clever, conversational vibe but they sell urns.
Think carefully about the kinds of words you want to use.
Of course, as a copywriter, I have to give a little pitch for grammar and punctuation here. In an ideal world, you’d have some standards.
For instance, use the same capitalization on all of your headers. Decide if you want to use punctuation in bulleted lists. Will you use italics or bolding? Caps? Ellipses?
These may seem like small decisions but you’d be surprised at how standardizing this DOES NOT happen by instinct. You might only do it if you plan in advance.
A second huge reason to pick a style of web writing in advance is because website copy can be hard to edit. Usually, you won’t write it in one long document.
More on that in a minute, but my point is that if you have multiple documents or multiple pages, it’s super hard to see the copy next to each other. This leads to inconsistencies that ultimately undermine your presentation and cohesiveness.
2. Decide How You’re Going to Write Your Website
Again, this may feel like I’m telling you to start a race from home...l and everyone else is at the starting line… and you’re like, I can’t even hear the starting gun from here this was ridiculous advice. But deciding how you’re going to write your website matters. Seriously.
Are you going to write it in individual Google Docs? Are you going to write it as comments over a website mockup? Are you going to write it in a Word Doc?
All of this is going to impact not only your website content production but also the website content editing process.
Second major incentive to doing this: someday, you are going to want a master copy of this. A lot of people (don’t judge) literally write their website copy onto the website. And that’s the only version of it that exists.
What happens if the site crashes before it’s published? What happens if you ever want to edit it?
I know what happens because people hire us to deal with it: you have to go page by page, copy and paste the words back into a Google Doc before you can assess and edit.
I’m just telling you now: be smart and write in Google Docs or some kind of live, shared document. This way, you’ll easily track edits, be able to recover previous versions and have a master.
3. Do Some SEO and Competitor Research
You knew I was going to say this and you were right. Congratulations! Have a cookie! Not oatmeal raisin. You don’t hate yourself.
Truly, you must at least do a little research before you go all copy-happy on your website. SEO research is what takes your website from nothing to the little engine that could.
It gives you a fighting chance to be indexed and ranked. It will take some time, but this starts you out on the right foot.
If you have NO SEO knowledge, I’d suggest you start with competitors. Identify maybe the top 10-15 people who are selling what you are and have sites like the one you want.
Copy their URLs into some kind of SEO software, like Moz or Spyfu or SEMRush. See what they’re ranking for. Use that as a starting point to create your own SEO keyword list.
Now that you have the data, what you do with it matters immensely. There’s a lot more to it than this, but to start:
- Pick one SEO keyword for each page.
- Pick a handful of secondary SEO keywords for each page.
- Write with the primary SEO keyword being present as the H1 and in the meta content.
- Sprinkle the rest of the SEO keywords in H2s and in the copy.
I’d also suggest using external and internal links thoughtfully throughout.
4. Write Short and Succinct Web Copy
I want to quickly disabuse you of one notion: please don’t believe that people are going to read your website word for word. I’ve worked with plenty of businesses who get really caught up in the… shall we say preciousness of their website.
Every word is selected with greater care than their child’s communion clothes.
And that is an utter waste of time.
I am NOT saying don’t be branded. I’m not saying write gibberish or without intention. I am saying edit ruthlessly, say less to say more and use SEO keywords to your advantage.
5. Use a Copy Wireframe
This may not always be accessible, but writing web copy is a unique skill. I have a few people on my team who only write websites, because it requires a unique sensibility. You have to write a lot of taglines, one-liners and then a few really pithy, short blocks of copy. To train, I have writers use a copy wireframe that looks like the one on the screen in my YouTube video (haha! Gotcha.). Basically, you write into a table that looks a lot like blocks on a website. Of course, if you already have your site framed out, you can replicate that on a Google Doc and get the exact impact.
The last thing you want is to spend a ton of time developing great web copy, only to find that you’ve missed half the blocks or have to cut word count for a bunch of areas. It’s best to know as much as possible about what you’re writing for, so you can hit the specs with accuracy.
Hire a Website Writer
If this feels like a steep learning curve, you can always hire a website writer.
You can see if Hire a Writer has anyone available.
There are also good freelance writing platforms like Upwork and even Fiverr sometimes has quality writers.
Even if you do hire a web writer to take care of this for you, make sure you own the original copy and have the master saved somewhere.
You’ll thank me in a year.