Website copy is the text on your site’s home page, About page, product pages, etc. Since website copy is generally short and to the point – and the first thing your site’s visitors read – it’s important to make a great first impression and persuade visitors to keep clicking through your site. And the ultimate goal is to convert website visitors into loyal customers through the power of your words.
If you think this sounds challenging, you’re correct. While many techniques exist to keep visitors on your site longer, one method has stood the test of time: storytelling. Storytelling in any context is powerful. According to Elena Renken from NPR, great stories not only entertain readers or listeners, but they can change a person’s worldview, attitude, and core beliefs.
So, how does this translate into website copy? Storytelling can enhance your website copy by telling your brand’s story in a memorable, impactful, and maybe even heartfelt way through emotive and persuasive language.
Here’s an overview of what’s covered in this article:
To effectively use storytelling in your website copy, you need to know what constitutes a good story. The experts at Masterclass say a good story has the following five elements.
Think of this as the who, what, when, where, and why of a story. The premise includes characters (your business), your location (obvious answer), and your circumstances (why you started this business, when you started it, and what you stand for)
Also known as the sequence of events, the plot usually follows a chronological order, starting with an initial incident/issue, then moving to a climax, and finally providing an ending or resolution. Perhaps you were once just a typical consumer looking for a product or service that didn’t exist. So you decided to take matters into your own hands and develop it yourself – now it’s your full-time job!
This is you, your business, who you are as a brand. It’s also the product or service you’re selling and how it serves your customers. Let’s take a moment to emphasize the customer part of storytelling because it’s easy to get wrapped up in the me aspect while writing. While many people enjoy reading about other people’s lives and life stories, you have to stay focused and reasonable regarding how much time you spend writing about yourself or your business. If your web visitor wanted to read a memoir, they’d be on Barnes & Noble’s website. Be sure to spend sufficient time in your story on how your brand serves its customers.
The prose, or words, you use are what make a story great. Captivating prose engages readers, evokes emotion, and stays in one’s memory. You want readers to think about your brand’s story long after they’ve finished reading your landing page. You want them to go to their family and friends and say, “Oh, my gosh. I read about this amazing new business the other day! Let me tell you about it.”
This is arguably the most important part of any story. What is the big picture? What do you want your readers to take away from this story? In a business context, this could be a call to action or persuading readers to make a purchase on your product or service page.
In addition to having the above five elements, your story should be authentic and get to the point. A Wundermann study showed that 89% of American consumers say they’re loyal to brands that share their values. Great news! Be your authentic self, share that with your customers, and you’re set. Wrong. You only have so much time to captivate your readers before they click away from your site. Specifically, you have about 54 seconds to make an impact and hook your readers.
Take Slack, an instant messaging program, as a great example of how being authentic and to the point in a story can benefit your web copy.
In 2019, Slack decided to rebrand and change its logo. What’s special is how the company announced this rebranding through an article that was transparent and authentic. The article told Slack’s story and described how the company came to this decision in under three minutes. The result? Slack not only has a stunning website and logo but also more than 10 million daily users, and 77 of the Fortune 100 use Slack for their businesses.
Storytelling is an art and so is learning how to use it for your businesses. Many techniques exist for you to incorporate storytelling and create great website copy.
Case studies are a great way to incorporate storytelling into your testimonial or customer review pages. Talk about how a customer (the main character) came to you with a problem (the conflict). You (the hero) worked diligently and tirelessly to help the customer overcome their challenge. Go into the process of how you collaborated with the customer to solve their issues. The ending should emphasize how you can use the same problem-solving process to help others. If relevant, highlight issues you encountered and what you learned as a business.
Usersnap, a feedback platform for SaaS companies, has a dedicated page called “Read customer stories,” which illustrates how effective case studies are at telling your story. In each article, Usersnap showcases a customer, outlines what issues they had, and walks you through the process of how the feedback software improved the customer’s operations. Read one of their customer stories to see a complete example of how case studies are an effective storytelling technique.
Use visuals to enhance your story and appeal to your audience’s emotions. These items can include videos and images across your website. Visuals also employ appropriate color schemes, font sizes, headings, and subheadings throughout your site to create a pleasant experience for your target audience. Even if you have an amazing story to tell and do so with beautiful prose, no one will take the time to read it if your website isn’t visually appealing.
Julian Bicycles is a visually striking website that incorporates beautiful photography of their products and their community of women. The website emphasizes storytelling from the perspective of their customers. Be sure to check it out for more inspiration on visually appealing storytelling techniques.
LA Times is another great example of a website designed to serve its readers and emphasize the stories it’s telling. It has clear headings and subheadings so readers can identify what the articles are about, and it uses photos effectively to appeal to its readers and entice them to continue reading the articles. Most importantly, the clean, white background used throughout the site ensures that the content on the page is what shines.
If your goal is to prompt readers to take action or make a purchase from your business, you must appeal to their emotions. Many refer to this technique as emotional marketing. Using this method requires you to focus on your customer rather than your product or service. To execute a story that focuses on tugging at your customers’ heartstrings, you have to have a clear idea of who your customers are. You can accomplish this by building buyer personas. Buyer personas go far beyond the demographics of your customer – they dig deep into who those customers are, what they like/dislike, where they buy their groceries, what pets they have, etc.
While many brands use emotional marketing, especially for campaigns, Airbnb’s 2018 “Let’s Keep Traveling Forward” campaign is one of the most effective. It was a response to US legislation banning people from traveling into the US from certain countries. While the video itself is beautiful, what’s important is that it is focused on its customers and people’s freedom to travel. Can you imagine a world without travel? It’s impossible. This is why Airbnb’s campaign was so emotionally compelling and visually striking. You can see their full article and campaign video here.
We’ve outlined 5 quick tips for writing interesting stories for your websites.
Writing without your audience in mind is a recipe for disaster. Ask yourself questions such as:
Every visitor or reader on your website is a potential customer. And it’s crucial that you write for them, not yourself. Doing so starts with knowing who your readers are, then appealing to their emotions, using language they understand, and getting to the point fast. Let them know off the bat how you can serve them.
Interested in learning more about how to write better for your customers? Read our article How to Write Customer-Centric Copy.
While you can use many strategies to hook your reader, what’s most important is that you tell them up front why this story is relevant to them. Give them a reason to continue reading. For example, you can start by introducing a conflict you had that will resonate with them.
You are not Hemingway or Faulkner, and basic grammar rules still apply to website copy. Tell your story with prose that is simple and clearly conveys your message. Doing so means using the active voice, persuasive language, and action words.
What do you want readers to take away from your story? If you can focus on that, then you can write a more impactful and compelling story.
No matter what story you want to share with your readers, always use your brand voice. Your brand voice shows your readers who you are and what you stand for as a business. It creates cohesion and consistency across your website copy and content.
Now that we’ve covered storytelling techniques and tips and looked at how other businesses are using these in their web copy, let’s go over how you can start implementing them.
If this statement feels repetitive, it’s because this is key to producing any type of web copy. Find out who your audience is, what they value, and what they want to read about.
These areas could be your About page, landing page, or customer review page. The key is to make sure you can work the story naturally into your website copy.
While we all have a story to tell, there’s a right place and a right time to share it. Be mindful of what story you share with your readers. Make sure it’s appropriate in the context, will resonate with your readers, serves your readers in a meaningful way, and reflects who you are as a brand.
Can you add multimedia that will enhance your story? Is your website suitable for showcasing your story? Make sure you are considering these questions as well as making your story reader-friendly and accessible. Check headings, subheadings, flow, and layout before publishing.
Once you have followed the above steps, it’s time to revise, edit, and proofread your website copy. Check that you are using standard grammar and spelling conventions, simple and easy-to-understand language, correct formatting, and your brand voice. Nothing will drive potential customers away like spelling errors and poor grammar, so make sure your website copy is error-free and of high quality.
If you need help proofreading your website copy, we created the ultimate proofreading checklist just for you. You can check out this downloadable tool here.
Storytelling is a powerful tool, and using it in your website copy can help you attract potential customers and increase the time visitors spend on your site. Storytelling can persuade them to buy your service or product. Overall, storytelling gives readers a chance to see who you are as a brand and what your values are, thereby building their trust and confidence in your business.
No matter how inspiring or compelling your story is, it will be less effective if it has spelling and grammar mistakes. Be sure to have a professional proofread your website copy to increase its chances of attracting potential customers. Proofed has more than 750 editors and has worked with thousands of businesses, making sure their website copy and content are ready to publish. Be sure to schedule a call with us today to see how we can streamline your business’s proofreading needs.
Want to learn more about how to write great website copy? Check out our article The Ultimate Guide to Writing Great Website Copy in 2023.
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