How to Make Your Web Copy Suck Less (Very Specific Advice)

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Why is there so much boring blah blah on your website?

I’m not trying to mock you. I’m genuinely curious.

How do I know?

I bookmark business websites I come across among my new subscribers, LinkedIn connections, Twitter contacts, etc. to watch the latest trends in copy and design (and the newest ways to ruin a website).

I have two folders. One called “Website examples: Bad” and another, “Website examples: Good”.

Chrome bookmarks, bad websites
A snapshot of my “bad websites” bookmarks folder. Apart from soooo much vague blah blah, “bloody scary” shouldn’t be the first thought of a visitor on a SaaS website.

So yeah, there’s too much boring blah on your website.

But on the other side…

But on the other side, I know that you’re an articulate human being who knows their offer and audience and is capable of constructing coherent sentences that sound like normal conversation.

How do I know that?

Every time I send my clients (who usually have too much blah blah on their websites) a questionnaire before I start a website review and ask them questions about what they do, whom it helps and how they’re different from their competitor, they’re able to produce great answers. Not ready-to-be-put-on-website great, but meaty sentences packed with important info phrased clearly in plain words.

So, I’d like to ask again: Why is there so much blah blah on your website when you clearly can do better?

“Back off, Gill. Writing web copy is hard!”

No, it isn’t. Writing great website copy may be hard. But writing blah-blah-free copy that tells people in plain words what you do isn’t.

Here, let me show you.

Write for these 3 people and listen what they say

When you read web copy, you probably don’t think much about it. You rather feel or react upon it.

You know what happens when I read web copy? I hear voices in my head.

I have a whole committee up there that helps me critique existing copy or come up with new sentences. Today, I’d like you to meet its 3 most important members.

Why?

Because if you want your copy to suck less, you need a committee like that, too.

Meet the Team

Gnome #1: Huh?

Huh?

Can’t stand unclear and vague copy, especially if it’s written in words no human being would be able to utter spontaneously, without reading them from a piece of paper.

Also known as: What the hell does this mean?

Favorite face expression: 🤔 #thinkinghard

Gnome #2: Prove it!

Prove It!

Hates exaggerations and unfounded claims. Won’t believe anything you say unless you give him details or bring third-party witnesses.

Also known as: You don’t say!

Favorite face expression: 🤨 #eyebrow

Gnome #3: Why should I care?

Why Should I Care, Jr.*

Doesn’t care about anybody else but himself. Won’t listen to you unless you tell him what’s in it for him.

Also known as: So bloody what?

Favorite face expression: 🙄 #eyeroll

* – currently filling in for Why Should I Care, Sr. who’s recovering from a burn out while helping Gill with her copy critique last week.

How to make your web copy suck less (very specific advice)

They say you should write your copy with one person in mind – a persona from your target audience.

I say, you should write for 4 people: that one persona from your target audience + 3 employees of yours.

Their names?

Huh, Prove it and Why should I care.

And while you want your persona to engage with your copy, if at least one of those guys is talking, you have a problem.

I’ll demonstrate:

Example 1: Live and lead from the best of who you are.

Huh? => Unclear copy

Example 2: You’ll meet the members of our community over a cup of coffee.

Why should I care? => Useless sentence

Example 3: We can help you achieve success

Prove it! => Useless sentence

In 95% of the cases, you can shut these guys up with these 2 things:

✔️ Plain words

✔️ Specificity

Here’s how:

1) Live and lead from the best of who you are

+ plain words + specificity =

Business coaching for executives and leaders with high potential.

2) You’ll meet the members of our community over a cup of coffee.

+ specificity =

You’ll meet our school principal and teachers over a cup of coffee.

3) We can help you achieve success

+ specificity =

Over the last 5 years, we helped 75 entrepreneurs take their businesses from an idea to a high-converting website.

Care for a dare?

Ok, jokes aside. You seriously need to remove vague blah blah from your website!

To help you find motivation, I’d like to suggest a dare.

Open your homepage and read through it attentively listening for Huh, Prove it and Why should I care screaming.

Did those other guys remain quiet the whole time? Congratulations! Leave a comment with your website’s URL asking me one specific question about your website, and I’ll be happy to answer.

Note: Stuff like “What do you think about my website?” or “How do you like my website?” doesn’t qualify as one specific question.

Have you found at least one phrase that pissed off your new gnomployees? Share my latest blog post on social.

But it’s a win-win, actually, as you found something you can improve in your copy.

18 Comments

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  1. Hi Gill,
    I’m excited for your view on my question about our site message. It seems like our persona audience sits in Why Should I Care, Jr.’s seat. Is that your take? What can I do to trigger a reason to care and an impactful call to action? Thank you!

    1. Hi Ian,

      Thanks for reading and commenting with your question, but I’m afraid you misunderstood my offer at the end of this article. It says I’ll only answer your question if you don’t have any problems with “Huh?”, “Prove it!” and “How should I care?”.

      As you say yourself, and as I have to unfortunately confirm, your homepage has some problems not only with the care part but also with clarity (I would actually sort out the clarity part first).

      If you’re interested in my detailed feedback and improvement suggestions, here’s how I could help:

      https://gillandrews.com/website-critique-packages/

      Gill

    1. Hi Umesh,

      I’m afraid there has been a misunderstanding. My offer at the end of this post was to answer a specific question regarding your website IF you checked your website copy and found that none of the characters that I describe in your post had anything to say (meaning, if your copy is clear, describes the real benefits and also is trustworthy), not to provide free feedback to anyone who links to their website.

      And as I checked your website, I’m afraid I had several “huh?” and “prove it!” moments. But I’d be happy to review your website as a part of my regular services. I just sent you an email replying to another email I got from you.

      Gill
      Gill

  2. Another good post, Gill. However, I have some advice for you. Can you do something about that annoying newsletter sign-up form at the bottom of the page? There is no way to get rid of it. I am a fan of your writing, which is why I have you on my Twitter favourites list. I don’t need email updates. Thanks, Andrew.

    1. Hi Andrew. Glad you found my post useful. Sorry to hear that you find the sticky footer annoying. I was hoping because it’s pretty thin and white won’t interfere with the reading experience as much. I hear you, but I’m afraid, I’ll have to keep it since you’re the first person to mention it in 2 years it’s been there and I get new email subscribers from it every day.

      Feel free to read my articles on your smartphone. There’s no sticky footer there.

      Gill

    1. Hi Annie. Thanks for reading and for reaching out. I’m afraid I can’t answer your question in full because what you’re asking is essentially a homepage review. But I’d be happy to answer your question in the context of your website header. I’ll come back to you via email tomorrow on this, if that’s ok.

  3. I’m so excited to have you answer my question! The copy at the top of my home page feels wordy but I’m finding it difficult to get my point across in fewer words. Most people that use my services have been greatly disappointed by at least one other company or person providing similar services. I get compliments and appreciation from my clients for being attentive and responsive when they need support. Do I need to try harder to be more concise with my messaging on the top of my home page? (I have to admit that this is a scary thing to put myself out there in such a public way.) 😬

    1. Hi Susan,

      I just checked your homepage and am happy to confirm that Huh, Prove it, and Why should I care didn’t say a word while I was reading 🙂 So, I’m happy to answer your question.

      Fewer words isn’t necessarily better. More words isn’t necessarily wordy.

      I would call “wordy” something that uses too many words that don’t carry value. But I love the copy on your homepage. It’s to the point but also descriptive and very relevant.

      I also like the fact that your subtagline – the paragraph that starts with “Say “Goodbye” to your current tech support guy…” – isn’t phrased in a neutral way but has a certain dominant voice. Not everyone will like it, but I can imagine it will resonate really well with certain type of prospects (probably better, than if you had phrased it neutrally).

      So, as far as I can judge without having had an in-depth conversation about your target audience, the current copy on your homepage is good and has the exact right amount of words.

      I do see a couple of other issues that may require improving (for ex., the copy on the CTA buttons or the fact that there’s not much info on the page). But if you’re happy with how your website performs, you shouldn’t change a thing. And in case you aren’t, I don’t think that the headline is the issue.

      Hope this helps.

      Gill

    1. Hi Henry,

      Thanks for reading and reaching out. I’m happy to report that you have a very clear, no BS, lets-get-straight-to-the-point text in your header that also lists strong benefits. So, if I were an API developer, I’ll definitely start scrolling down as your promise sounds very appealing.

      How long I’d scroll down depends on:
      1) How good in terms of relevancy, value and clarity the single sections are.
      2) How soon I’ve got enough info to take it to the next level and click on one of the CTA buttons.

      And this I can’t answer within this small exercise because I would need to look at each section in detail and talk to you more about your target audience, business model and expectations re your website.

      Hope you found this helpful nonetheless.

      Gill

  4. Hi Gill, I’ll bite! My gnomployees seem to be happily caffeinated and working away, though Mr. Prove It knows he has some work to do.

    My website is http://www.thestemwriter.com. Is my headline clear enough about who I am and what I offer? I definitely spent a lot of time reworking it until I was satisfied, meaning my opinion is probably now far from objective.

    Thanks for all the great tips!

    1. Hi Amanda,

      I just had a quick look at your homepage and I’m sorry to report but Mr. Why do I care? is also fussy 😬 Nevertheless, I’ll give you some feedback on your header in a couple of hours. I’ll send you an email.

      Gill

  5. Hi Gill!
    I did this very interesting exercise and I couldn’t hear anybody, except for maybe a teeny whisper in one part from Mr. Prove It! My question about my site (www.sober-bliss.com) is: Should there be more copy and fewer images? Thank you!

    1. Hi Gayle,

      Thank you for trying out this exercise. I had a quick look at your homepage, and indeed, the guys stayed quiet 🙂 I’ll have a closer look later today and will come back to you with my answer to your question via email.

      Cheers,

      Gill