How to Make Sure Your Website Copy is Clear and Not Confusing

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What does your website copy say about you?

Your web copy provides text or messaging that visitors to your website read to find out about you and what you offer. It has a vital role to play in attracting potential customers and hopefully encouraging them to buy or sign up with you.

Given the crucial role of website copy, you’d think it would be a priority for businesses to do well, right? Unfortunately, poor web copy is a common mistake. We often see businesses more focused on having a “pretty” website than on clear website content.

There’s a saying about how “a confused mind never buys” and this holds true for your web copy. Data from Crazyegg suggests you have less than 15 seconds to capture attention on your website, before visitors leave. If your copy is confusing or doesn’t provide enough useful information, they’re not going to hang around for more.

So, it’s worth taking the time to get your messaging right (and it’s something we are big on at One Week Website!). How do you make sure website copy is clear?

What does an effective homepage look like? Download our resource here

Define your ideal customers

The first step is to know exactly who your message is for. Your aim is to attract not just anyone, but “ideal customers,” those who are best suited to your product or service. You need to identify these buyer attributes, including:

  • Demographic information
  • Where they are
  • What they do/ their job role and level of authority
  • Their problems and goals.

Collating this information helps you incorporate some key components into your web copy, designed to attract those ideal customers. If you understand their needs and what appeals to them, you can craft your copy to suit.

Know what your audience wants from you

What does your target audience want from your products or services? Clearly understand this from the perspective of the buyer personas you have identified. This way you can highlight those benefits in your web copy and other online content.

There’s a quote from copywriter and sales expert Dan Kennedy that fits well here:

“Get a fix on the prospect/customer/client and on his or her desires; failing to do so will undermine all your other efforts.”

Agitate the problem

A core reason that people buy is because they have a problem that needs solving. They might have tried something else before they came upon your website, and maybe that other thing didn’t work for them.

Agitating the problem is about being able to clearly articulate the issue and how it makes your ideal customers feel if it goes unresolved. What emotions does it evoke? Why is your product or service a better solution than others? This helps you to deliver website copy that is clear and appealing.

For example, if you are an accounting business, agitating the problem might look like this:

  • Problem: Are you trying to plan ahead to minimize your tax obligation?
  • Agitation: The new tax code ushers in the biggest changes in over 30 years. How do you interpret the complexities and ensure you’re not paying too much tax?

Note how agitating the problem can also involve suggesting what might happen if it remains unsolved. Highlighting the potential impact to your audience’s lives helps create some urgency.

Be succinct and upfront

How many websites have you visited where the product descriptions or other marketing materials lack basic, useful information? There are a lot of websites that are not clear upfront and when this happens, you can almost guarantee that visitors aren’t going to hang around trying to figure it out.

You need to be able to succinctly communicate what your business does through your website copy and within seconds of someone landing on your website homepage. People don’t like to click around trying to understand what you do – in fact they probably won’t.

“Keep it simple” is a good rule of thumb to follow. A common mistake is to try to be “clever” with copy, ending up with something that no one else understands. It’s great to let your personal voice shine through, as long as website visitors know what you mean!

We have a couple of strategies that we use with website copy in an effort to keep it simple and effective:

  1. Show website visitors a simple three-step plan to get what they want. So you’re addressing the problem upfront, but immediately giving them some easy steps to resolve it. Take a look at the example below, from our own website:
    Website copy
  2. Take the position of being a guide, rather than a hero. This means positioning the company with empathy and authority, as a more relatable entity than one which takes a “supreme” kind of position.
  3. Make it clear who your business is for. This might be included in a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) statement upfront. This is a statement of why your business is the best choice, perhaps hinting at why you’re different from others.
  4. You might include who your business is for by saying something like: “We take the stress out of tax planning for small businesses.” A statement like that immediately says that the company is not serving individuals or large businesses – their ideal customers are small businesses. Sometimes it is worth including somewhere who your business is NOT for too – this helps to avoid “tire kickers” – those who might take up your time with enquiries, but are never going to become customers.

Have consistent branding

Your branding involves all the elements of your website and other areas (such as social media) that make your business unique. This includes elements such as the logo and color scheme you use, and the overall voice and tone of your website copy. It all adds up to the overall messaging you want to communicate.

Consistency and congruent messaging is the key. If we were to go back to our example of an accounting firm, it would be an unusual move to take an “edgy” sort of voice in your website content or marketing materials, or to go for loud colors. Perhaps it would work for some firms, but overall, people would like to be reassured that their CPA is professional and takes their business seriously.

“Brand voice” encompasses things such as the words you choose, the attitude of your content marketing, and the values and personality that you convey. It all adds up to creating clear messaging. It is confusing when a company tries to borrow elements of different branding voices, for example switching from edgy to reassuring and sensible.

Why is this all so important? Developing consistent branding carries over into everything that you do. It includes press releases, social media, content creation, website copy and every other marketing effort you make. Consistency leads to better brand recognition over time. We could write an entire article dedicated to branding alone, but for now, it’s important to see how it ties in with clear website copy.

Have strong CTAs

What do you want your website visitors to do? You might think it is obvious, but more often than not, it really isn’t to the average website visitor. This is why having strong CTAs are important. The CTA (Call to Action) is the part of your website copy that tells potential buyers what they should be doing. Some very simple examples include “click here” or “buy now.”

As a general rule, an effective CTA includes more information than those last two examples. Your target audience needs a compelling reason to heed your CTA, so clear messaging is important. For example, “click here for your free copy” or “subscribe to receive deals in your inbox” are clearer and more compelling reasons to do as you ask.

If you’re able to evoke strong emotions, this can be another excellent way to get people following through. For example, “click here to start planning your dream vacation today.”

Giving the audience a clear reason to act or take the next step is a key part of effective CTAs. You should answer the questions “what’s in it for me?” within your CTA and the surrounding web copy.

If you’re writing sales copy for anything that might be limited (such as products with a finite supply), you can take advantage of this to leverage the natural FOMO (fear of missing out) that most people have. For example, “Limited supply available. Buy now before they’re gone!”

Your calls to action can be tested over time to assess their effectiveness. For example, you might monitor actions via Google Analytics or even through split testing different CTAs. It’s important to test and figure out what works best for your ideal audience.

Show the customer what success looks like

You’re addressing key pain points that your customers have, you’re ensuring your website copy and your branding are consistent and that your CTAs are clear. Another important technique is to show potential buyers what success looks like with your company.

This is important for helping the customer to visualize their own success through buying your products or services. For example, you might include testimonials from happy past customers within your web copy, or imagery to highlight that success. As a website-building company, we highlight images and testimonials from the websites we have created.

Website copy

Test your website on users

You know what your company does and who your ideal customers are that you’d like to attract, but is that really clear to website visitors? Often we are too close to our own businesses to see where there might be any confusion over website content, so it’s a good idea to take a step back and view it through the lens of a complete outsider.

First-time visitors may not perceive your website content as you do and it’s important to understand this early if so. One way is to go through independent user testing (as is offered by several companies), but otherwise, you might simply seek feedback from various people who don’t already know your business. You’re looking for any confusion they might have over your website, so that you can make it as clear as possible.

In the end, your website isn’t there for you, it’s for your potential buyers. As such, we suggest that you keep an open mind for the sake of clarity. Don’t be so attached to any particular thing on your website that you’re not willing to change it to be clearer.

Need examples of effective homepage copy? Get our quick examples here

Final thoughts

Your website copy may be the first point of contact with you that your potential buyers have. It must be clear so that there is no confusion left in the minds of your audience. This way they are more likely to take the actions that you desire on your website.

If we were to leave with one final piece of website copy advice it would be this: a professional-looking website is important, but your messaging needs to come first. When you know what you want to say and how to say it clearly, a more effective, professional website can be built with that in mind.

Danny Peavey

Danny is the founder and CEO of One Week Website. He is also a certified StoryBrand Guide. When he's not talking about clear messaging or marketing, you can find him drinking amazing coffee, shooting hoops, and spending time with his family.
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