Love it or hate it, your website can’t exist without copywriting. Combined with strategic design, copy is pivotal in guiding your visitors right where you want them and convincing them to make a move. It can truly make the difference between a visitor who’s hooked and one who bounces right on off your site.
Sadly, it’s not enough to throw the first words that come to mind up on your website, no matter how pretty it is.
You could spend years studying the art and science of copywriting, but the first step is knowing who you’re talking to and expressing your mission to them super clearly.
If you’re DIYing your website copy, here are 8 common mistakes you want to avoid.
The headline is the first thing visitors read on any given web page. It’s the hero statement “above the fold”. If it isn’t persuading them to keep reading or clearly getting your message across, it’s wasted space.
Instead of starting with “Welcome to my website” or “About us”, use a headline that speaks directly to your reader and captures what you do. The headline should get at the purpose behind your business, communicate what to expect on the page, and propel the reader to the next paragraph.
Use your headlines to hook your audience. Allude to benefits they can’t resist, trigger emotions, and create open loops so they’re tempted to keep reading.
Here are some examples:
When it comes to website copy, every word needs to serve a purpose. Humans are lazy creatures and uninterested in copy that drags on or is redundant.
This isn’t to say people don’t read long-form content (they definitely do!), but they are notorious skimmers, especially when landing on a new website. You need to write just enough to get your point across without asking too much of the reader.
Certain pages warrant longer form copy than others, but never more than necessary. Just imagine landing on a homepage and being welcomed by a giant wall of text. It makes you feel stressed just thinking about it.
Focus on quality over quantity of words and, whatever you do, format, format, format. Leverage headings, bolded and italicised text, bullet and number lists, and short paragraphs.
On the flip side, you could not be writing enough. The singular job of your website is to sell your services and showcase your brand’s personality. To do that effectively, you need DETAILS— especially well-explained ones!
Even if you’re going for a minimalist, straight-to-the point vibe, it’s important not to leave your prospects in the dark. They’ll wind up confused, uninformed, and unconvinced.
Take Apple, for example. When you first land on their site, the copy is extremely minimal but, once you’re hooked by their clear, punchy headlines, you’re prompted to “learn more”. You’re then guided to another page that gives you all the juicy details. Because, once you’re trying to decide between two specific models or brands, it’s the details that are going to make your decision.
That said, be cautious about making your homepage as minimalist at Apple’s. It works well for them because, well, they’re Apple. Everyone knows who they are and what they make, so they can afford to keep out extra details on the homepage. It’s the kind of brand awareness that doesn’t need an introduction—it comes with being one of the world’s biggest corporations.
When you’re a smaller business, you need to say enough from the get-go to explain what you’re all about, draw in the visitor, and tempt them to explore the rest of your website.
Raise your hand if the idea of “selling” yourself gives you the heebie jeebies?
Selling your services can be a daunting thing to embrace, especially at the beginning. The word “selling” carries negative connotations but it shouldn’t. In fact, it’s the only way to grow and scale your business!
Instead of picturing the sleazeball salesmen at your door with a briefcase and too much hair gel, picture a casual conversation over coffee (or Zoom…) with your dreamiest client, full of genuine laughs and friendly grins. They WANT what you have to offer. What you’re putting out in the world is exactly what someone else is on the hunt for. By selling to them, you’re actually making their life easier because their hunt is finally over!
Sometimes our lack of confidence in selling ourselves comes out in our writing without us even realizing it.
The result is weak language that doesn’t add any value to your message and, at its worst, completely undermines it.
For example, look at these two statements:
Which one sounds more legit?
There’s always room for exceptions in writing but, in general, avoid passive voice, unnecessary qualifiers, and adverbs. The Hemingway Editor is an amazing resource to help strengthen your writing.
People will only believe in you and your business as much as you believe in yourself. That needs to come across in your copy! By bold, be confident, and be clear about what makes your offerings worth their money.
This is a mistake we’ve seen almost every new business owner make. Point of View is the position you take as a writer and it has a big impact on how your words are perceived. Effective copywriting is conversational, so it often uses a combination of first, second, and third person. That said, you want to be strategic with how you use each.
First-person: the “I” or “We” perspective
In school, we’re taught to avoid using the first-person point of view because it lacks “professionalism”. But you aren’t in school anymore! Now you’re a bad-ass boss lady and people should know that! It’s personal and invokes a direct connection to you. After all, people are looking to hire people. It makes the reader feel cosy like they’re being welcomed into your little bubble.
Use first-person copywriting to talk about your business or your experiences in your own voice. If you’re a one-woman show, use “I”. If you’re a team and want to be perceived that way, use “we”.
Second-person: the “you” perspective
You will never refer to yourself in the second person, but it’s an excellent strategy for speaking to your prospects (kind of like this blog post is!).
Use second-person copywriting to help the reader experience your product/service through words. It speaks to them directly and helps them envision themselves taking the action you’re telling them to.
For example, “Stand out from the crowd by ensuring your visual brand and brand voice work together harmoniously.”
When you use the first and second person together, it truly creates a conversation:
“We craft Showit and Squarespace websites that are stunning and offer full functionality for you to take charge of maintaining and updating.”
Third-person: the perspective of someone on the “outside”
For example, “Sinead is a designer” or “Starbucks serves coffee”.
When it comes to third-person, be careful! It’s much less conversational and we recommend only using it to refer to your business in small doses.
If you’re a team introducing your company, you might say, “Hello Magic Studio is a boutique design house committed to helping female business owners flourish.”
In this case, third-person copywriting serves as a clear, sophisticated way to explain what Hello Magic Studios does. In the vast majority of our copy, though, we refer to ourselves and our values in the first person. This helps you, our readers and clients, identify with the real-life humans behind this business!
Consistent third-person takes away from your human element. Think about the big corporations that only speak about themselves in third-person, like Walmart or Amazon. You aren’t picturing a human when you buy from them—the business is its own entity.
If you’re a larger team and everyone has their own bio on your About page, you might choose to use third-person copy. Just keep in mind that it won’t sound like the individual is writing about themselves but, rather, that the business is writing about them. It’s up to you to decide the feeling you want to evoke.
The other time you may use third-person point of view is when you’re referring to your clients or customers indirectly. For example, “Every woman needs a customized nutrition plan”.
These types of statements are fine to use sparingly but, if you want your reader to feel seen, be careful with how often you go in that direction in your website copy. You don’t want them to feel like the “other”.
Your brand identity visually captures the essence of “who” your business is and works to draw in the right kind of customers. But, in order to authentically communicate with your audience, it’s essential there is consistency between your brand identity and your brand voice.
Brand voice is how you speak to your audience. It’s the attitude, style, and tone broadcasted to the world every time you communicate through words.
As readers, we quickly and instinctively know if we resonate with a brand’s voice or not. We are also excellent at sniffing out inauthenticity. It’s critical that you speak to your audience in a thoughtful way that is true to your brand. You want them to “get you” and to feel like you “get them”.
Before you start throwing copy up on your website, think critically about your brand voice. How can you ensure you stay consistent? How can you thoroughly capture your brand’s personality? Your brand voice should reflect your purpose, mission, values, and the backstory that links it all together.
Get clear on the kind of terminology you use and the tone you evoke. Are you casual or formal? Feminine and sophisticated, quirky and fun? Think about the type of voice your target market resonates and figure out how you can level with them through words.
Are you REALLY struggling with this one? We work with brands to help them define their brand voice. Learn more here.
From the moment visitors land on your homepage, they should understand what your business does and how you can help them. There should be zero confusion about the benefits people get from working with you. Spell it out for them; don’t be mysterious or vague.
Make sure you’re communicating the “benefits” of your business just as clearly as the “features”. A feature explains what something is (your specific product or service), while the benefit is why that feature matters—how it actually makes your prospect’s life better.
The benefits of your business might be glaringly obvious to you, but that doesn’t mean it is to your audience. Lay it all out for them.
When people land on your website, they should feel like you’re in their heads and fully understand their problems. To do this, you’ve got to make the right people feel understood, not everyone.
In the words of the great Marie Forleo, “If you’re tawkin’ to everybody, you’re tawkin’ to nobody.”
Don’t start writing your copy without diving into the minds of your specific target market. To persuade them to make a move, they need to feel like you empathize with them. If they don’t feel like you care about them, why would they care about what you have to say?
If you’re trying to address everyone at once, that empathy gets lost. So narrow in on your audience. Envision a specific individual. How old is she? What does she like? Where does she work? Go ahead and create a full customer avatar.
Then, write specifically to her.
If DIY copy is making your head spin and you want to reap all the benefits of your website’s words, it might be time to hire a professional. At Hello Magic Studio, we offer a variety of copywriting services. Click here to learn more. We also offer on-going blog and content writing.
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