Clever Website Content Writing that Converts

Welcome to Day Six in the series on Writing Website Content. Last week covered specializing in website content writing, the right questions to ask buyers, how writers are like website tour guides, why great headlines are important and how to lose 7% of your client’s customers.

Today, we’re focusing on tips and tricks for writing website content and that includes being clever with your words.

If you’ve been following our series on writing website content, you should know by now that writers attempting this type of work have a great deal to achieve with very little text. They have to keep people moving through a website, guiding them while compelling them to take action quickly.

Remember, each click reduces the chance of conversion. Each click costs your client customers.

That means that all the fluff, all the extra words, all the clever turns of phrase – it all has to go. Be as concise as possible and save the space for words that really matters.

This is why a good tagline, a great slogan and a perfect headline matters so much – they each need to pack a wallop in just a few words. They tell people immediately what they’re going to get from a site in the prime real estate location of the web.

A writer who tries to be clever and witty risks screwing up the job.

Something clever, like Nike’s “Just do it” or Timex’s “Takes a licking and keeps on ticking” can achieve miracles, yes. Most writers – a huge majority of writers, from average to above average – can’t come up with catchy phrases like that.

No, seriously. You may believe you can (and I know you’re sitting there thinking as much), but you can’t. Quit fooling yourself.

But let’s say you do get drunk on your own words and think you’re some ad copy superstar. You write up a tagline you think is funny that says it all. You love it. You’re brilliant.

You risk misunderstanding. You take a chance with someone’s website that a reader doesn’t get the message you thought was so tricky and clever. Worse, the message might be taken the wrong way.

The reader clicks away out of complete incomprehension.

It’s not worth it, people. Trying to show off how witty you can be hurts your buyer, plain and simple. Never be clever; be clear.

Fast Tips for Clever Content That Converts

Most people like to follow formats, and since website content has a general set of guidelines for formatting, improving your work can happen quickly. Here are some tips for keeping your website content well formatted:

  • Keep your headline, your tagline or your slogan at about six or seven words at the most.
  • Have a headline for each page, and make it relevant to the content on that specific page.
  • Bold your headlines to attract attention and draw the eye.
  • Keep paragraphs beneath headlines at three sentences or less.
  • Use impact statements. These single sentences in their own paragraph really drive a message home.
  • Use sub-headers throughout the content. Secondary headlines help people skip, skim and scan pages. Bold them, too.
  • Try to keep the website content less than 250 words per page. 200 is even better.
  • Remove all passive language and use strong action verbs and an authoritative tone – even with friendly, warm writing. (This is tricky, but it can be done.)
  • Also remove all exclamation points. Be confident and convey bold confidence, too.

Here’s a last trick: Include call to action in your content. Suggest actions readers should take, like signing up for an RSS feed, opting into a newsletter or the next page they should read. Use the word please, too, because being polite counts.

We’ll talk more about manners in tomorrow’s post.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. Ben Overmyer says:

    An interesting book that can help with choosing the right words is ‘Words that Work’ by Dr. Frank Luntz.

    Though written by a political speech writer, it addresses ad copy, marketing slogans, and PR in general. It’s very good and very informative.

    It also ties in perfectly with this post, heh.

    Ben Overmyer’s last blog post..Passionate life.

  2. James,

    “Remove all passive language and use strong action verbs and an authoritative tone – even with friendly, warm writing.”

    That is the Holy Grail–to do it without making it obvious. Commanding attention without being a boor. Steering without manipulating.

    A touch of wit done well in copywriting for the web is fine. Wit badly done is what most everything is, which does make it worth avoiding. (I know, I know. We disagree.)

    I love being drunk on words. Getting drunk on your own is totally dangerous. Get an outside opinion fast when you think you’re a genius.

    That’s why there are two Men With Pens. 🙂



    Kelly’s last blog post..I Know It Was Earth-Shattering! But I Lost It in Bed!

  3. Thanks, James! Really useful, as usual, as are the previous ones. Earlier you raised a good point about specific types of writing requiring specific skills and know-how. I was totally one of those who thought that if I could write, I could write anything. I’m over that, thanks to you, but now I’m realizing my limitations in my editing, too, as my client base and the topics grow. I think that’s much harder an issue to fix. At least with writing you can learn. With editing it’s also got to do with understanding what the hell the author’s talking about and I’m not about to start reading up on physics just in case I get that topic next! Anyway, I plan to apply today’s tips when revamping my own website and when I edit clients’ sites. Merci bien!

  4. @ Steph – Bienvenu – we pride ourselves on being the place you can come to where we’ll kick your ass if you need it. Honesty, integrity. And then we pat your back and help you get back on your feet, because we’re nice guys like that 😉

    Editing is a tough area. This is definitely one thing that you can outsource easily and free up your time. Worth it, definitely.

    @ Kelly – Harry and I often ask each other to double check whether something’s okay on those moments when we’re not 100% sure it’ll fly. What’s funny is that it’s always THAT content that gets the most positive response.

    I get drunk all the time. Only in my fiction, though 😉

    @ Ben – There is TONS of marketing in politics. That’s probably a great resource.

  5. Your point:

    >> Remove all passive language and use strong action verbs and an authoritative tone – even with friendly, warm writing. (This is tricky, but it can be done.) <<

    I think is the most important component. I find myself tending towards the humor aspect quite often but try to keep it in check.

    Data points, Barbara

    Barbara Ling’s last blog post..Bright Idea – Profitable eBay Alert Trick

  6. James: But editing is what I DO. Writing is what I want to do.

    I think? (I might be scared…I can’t drink like the rest of you!)

    PS. I always need an ass-kicking. I’ll be back regularly.

  7. Graham Strong says:

    I’ve found over the years that what I think is “just enough” words is “too much” for others. This is natural, I believe — writers also tend to be readers. We have to get into the mindset of those who don’t want to read.

    As for getting drunk on your own words, I find that the stuff I *really* like is the writing I need to be most suspicious of. It’s usually the content I’m nervous about that gets the greatest response.

    Besides, it’s usually more fun to get drunk on your own wine than your own words (though the hangover is sometimes worse…)

    Great post as usual James — I’m really enjoying this series!


    Graham Strong’s last blog post..Succeed or Fail, Writers Always Lose

  8. Steph,

    Irish author Brendan Behan described himself as “a drinker with a writing problem.” Stay this side of that, and you’ll be fine.

    & read MWP.



    Kelly’s last blog post..I Know It Was Earth-Shattering! But I Lost It in Bed!

  9. Graham Strong says:

    Okay — you caught me — I didn’t read all the comments before I posted! (Shame, shame…)

    @James – Looks like I echoed your comment to Kelly — I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who suffers from the seeming paradox of the “worrisome” copy usually being the best received!


    Graham Strong’s last blog post..Succeed or Fail, Writers Always Lose

  10. @ Graham – HA! That’ll teach you… (okay, I admit, I skim comment sections too in the normal, natural behavior of a typical surfer. Except on my own blog. I avidly read everything everyone writes.)

    Other quirks – the posts we think are tame and bland end up lighting fires, and the posts we worry about hitting Publish because we think we’ll be burnt at the stake end up being the ones where everyone does group hugs and passes hankies.

    The web is a weird, weird place.

  11. Michael Martine | Remarkablogger says:

    Rock solid advice, James. Both my wife and I are writers and we are each other’s best “wise reader.” Having another person to float something to is great if you can get it. Even better if that person is the opposite sex.

  12. Ben- Thanks for the Frank Lutz.

    Editing. Gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair. So hard to do, but so necessary, if the piece is going to work. Grrr… I think I spend as much time figuring this out as the actual words themselves. It’s kind of like dealing with “negative space” in the studio work. What isn’t there importantly contributes to what is, in a piece of art. It is the same with words I think, yes? There is a constant tension in creating just that balance that makes it “pop”…textures, shapes, tones, call to response…it is very similar I think.

    Janice C Cartier’s last blog post..86 Million Reasons A Passion Position Works

  13. Great post James.

    Here are a few things I go by as well that I think may compliment this article:

    – Don’t repeat the same keyword over and over again. Many people think their site will rank better with a higher density of keywords. This isn’t so. Google’s search equations don’t place more weight on a word repeated 12 times over one that’s repeated 3. Concentrate more on keyword links and using them in title tags if you’re interested in SEO.

    – In regards to a call to action, if you can, make your call to action an “action with suggestion” word or phrase. For example, instead of saying, “Click Here,” have it say “Get A Website.” This is great for both SEO and suggests something to the reader.

    – If something in your tagline or header is the least bit vague but you’re dead set on keeping it, make that tagline clear asap – but as I’m sure you’d say James, if it’s not clear, change it – and I agree. Point here is make sure the website’s USP is immediately known, otherwise they may never get to your content.

    – To convert, you have to make sure you solve your reader’s problem in those 250 words. The sooner the better.

    John Hoff – eVentureBiz’s last blog post..How To Buy A House Like A Real Estate Investor: Part 5 – Finding a Realtor

  14. @Steph: have a read through this series

  15. Thanks, Kelly and Harry!

  16. PS. Harry: I can already tell after having read only the first one (so far) that the series is going to be very helpful to me! Yayyy! Thanks, again.

  17. Yer right, darn it all anyway. Probably not often enough I’ll be editing through a piece and a turn of phrase that I just loved the day before just doesn’t sit right today. Pffffffft! I tell myself. It’s got to go. Darn it all anyway.

    And that politeness post? I’m Canadian (eh) so I got that one in the bag. Thanks anyway!

    Loraleigh Vance’s last blog post..How to Get the Alcoholic Advantage: Part 2

  18. Mallory says:

    Great post. I found you from Copyblogger. This blog has wonderful content and great info. I will definitely keep reading.

  19. I totally agree with the list of tips. Concise and to-the-point writing is definitely the way to go but yet I see websites with long drawn stuff all the time.

    Andre Thomass last blog post..Special Announcement… QuickFix Copywriting Tips now Equipped with Commentluv

  20. I have just started one of my website and was looking for some tutorial that could help me in writing search engine friendly content. I struck lucky. I thing these points gonna help me a lot.

  21. Great pointers. Thanks!

  22. Rohan Jha says:

    It was indeed a nice experience reading this blog. Thanks James.

  23. Good article, but I disagree about the less than 250 words point. I suppose it depends on the topic, but I think articles that short leave the reader wanting more – assuming it’s a good article! And if you just mean spreading it out over multiple pages, I guess that makes sense, but personally I would prefer to see an article on 1 page. This post was 600+ words, and I read the whole thing.

    Just my $0.02 🙂

  24. @ CC – That’s because there’s a world of difference between an article, a blog post and a page of website content. The 250-word rule is for website content, ie, a top-level hierarchy page on a website, such as Home, Services, Work with Us, Contact, etc.

    …which, this post is not, hence, it’s far longer. 🙂

  25. @ James. Ah, ok, I got it. However, I still disagree somewhat. I think certain pages, especially “Services” or something similar warrant a longer description. When I buy something/hire someone, I want to know as much as possible about the product/them.

    I see what you’re saying though about getting directly to the point.

  26. Jeff - Britacoon Articles says:

    That was quite an informative post. You covered almost everything that needs to be said regarding content writing. However, here’s something you could add to your post:
    “Research shows that people get influenced by what other people say about your product (Something like a testimonial). You should push in a testimonial in your content and that is sure to catch the eye of the reader and make him/her more convinced to purchase your product.”

  27. Once again you hit the nail on the head. Short & sweet… wise words. Reminds me of something an old wise friend told me “the classic lines of beauty is simplicity.” Ahh yes, keep it real etc. etc. I always enjoy reading your copy “mon beau.” I hope you have a wonderful new year w/family & friends.
    .-= Gabriella´s last blog ..How To Compete In The Blog World =-.


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