6 Rules for Writing Web Content That Resonates

By Chelsea Williams
Senior Copywriter
Jun 28 2023 read

Knowledge Exchange is a weekly series of educational articles that we encourage you to share and discuss with your colleagues and network. This month, we’re offering advice for successfully marketing your services.

If there’s one universal challenge of marketing, it’s communicating exactly what you do, clearly and completely. Your website should be the primary place where this happens. It’s the space for you to define your business and show its face to the world. But if you’ve ever tried to write content for your website, you’ve probably discovered it’s one of the hardest marketing channels to nail. 

I started writing web content for my own ventures and friends’ businesses back when Geocities and Blogger were the popular hosting platforms — when there were no hard and fast rules for website marketing because it was so new. And while there are some standard principles now, they’re still evolving all the time. 

The most important thing I’ve learned in nearly 20 years of experimenting with websites and blogs is that they are living things. Just like people and businesses, they require a growth mindset to develop into what they’re destined to be.

Whether you’re a seasoned writer or taking your first stab at generating web content, here are six guidelines that will help you iterate until you produce the copy that works best. 

1. Get Clear About Your Audience

I find it nearly impossible to write well if I don’t know who I’m writing for. If you start trying to write website content without first defining your audience, you’ll eventually discover that in speaking to everyone, you’re speaking to no one.

While it’s standard marketing practice to identify an ideal customer profile (ICP), you might feel like you can get away with skipping this step if you’re running a small business. You know your customers already, right?

This is faulty logic because it assumes your existing customers represent the ideal. In developing an ICP, you’re deciding who you want to work with, not just who you’ve been working with so far. Those two categories may be slightly different or vastly different. Describe the unicorn of a person who comes across your website and feels it’s speaking directly to them. THAT’s your audience.  

2. Be More Direct Than You Think You Need To Be

Have you ever visited a website and not understood what the business did? Lack of clarity is one of the first things that will make me click away and look for another product or service. I know I’m not the only one: Semrush reports that the average bounce rate is between 41% and 55%.

It can be hard to put your finger on what it is that makes some written content confusing because it’s not usually a single word or phrase. And if you’re not thinking like the visitor, you won’t be considering the questions your words need to answer. The trick to clarity is to avoid making the assumption that the reader already understands certain background information. 

There will be some variety in your website visitors’ understanding once they arrive at your homepage. Someone who’s seen a paid ad might have a better sense of what you offer than someone who clicked from an organic search engine results page (SERP). Your homepage content in particular needs to speak equally well to each, which means it should use direct language that answers the following questions at a minimum:

  • What does your business do?
  • Who does your business serve?
  • Why is your business different?

3. Use Verbiage That Addresses Pain Points

Positioning your services as the solution to your prospects’ pain points is about resonating with what they’re going through. One of the key ways to do this is to use language that speaks to their challenges and frustrations.

In a 2020 paper on language and consumer psychology, Ruth Pogacar explains that social norms and expectations influence the way people perceive the words a brand uses to market its good and services. This is why it’s so important to understand your audience well. You need to know how they’ll interpret everything from your word choice to pronoun selection to sentence structure.

When you’ve done thorough market research, you can confidently write copy that hits upon your ICP’s emotions. For example, if you know your accounting services are best poised to help new business owners who are confused about taxes, you might choose to acknowledge that keeping up with tax law is “complex” and trying to maintain compliance is “overwhelming” while positioning your team as the comforting “guides” who can “simplify” it all.

READ NEXT: The Exclusivity Angle: Marketing Your Services in a Noisy World

4. Cut Content — And Cut Some More

Clarity and length often compete. When you’re excited to describe something you’re passionate about, it’s easy to get carried away. On a webpage, it’s essential to get to the point and ensure that your content is limited to exactly what that page is about.

I’ve found the best process for achieving an appropriate length is to get everything down on paper using the stream-of-consciousness method first, then do two rounds of edits. The stream-of-consciousness technique is just what it sounds like: You allow your thoughts to flow freely without being concerned about the final product. This takes practice, and you may need to remind yourself frequently that you’re the expert on your business. 

Once you’ve got your first draft, read through and ask yourself if every sentence serves a purpose. If it’s fluff, it has to go. This is when it can be helpful to have someone who knows nothing about your business review what you’ve written and tell you what’s confusing or unnecessary.

5. Invest in Visual Branding and UX

Great copy isn’t nearly as effective as it could be if it doesn’t sit well in the space on a page — or if it’s overpowered by colors and designs that don’t work well together. Luckily, you don’t have to be a branding expert or user experience (UX) designer to meld copy and design.

Most web hosting platforms have templates that can help you preview how your words will be displayed. Sometimes, cutting a few characters to keep things on one line or making sure sections that live close to each other are roughly the same length goes a long way in making your copy readable. Don’t forget to check out what it looks like on mobile!

If you prefer to outsource the job, it’s ideal to hire a web development agency or freelancer who can make your copy feel cohesive on each page and give recommendations for what needs to be rewritten. A website refresh is a great time to revisit all of your visual brand elements, too.

6. Use Straightforward Calls to Action

You may be familiar with the fact that you need calls to action (CTAs) on your website and in all marketing communications. A CTA is usually a button or link and tells the reader what you’d like them to do.

There are three common mistakes people make in writing CTAs:

  1. Having competing CTAs on a single page or in one section of a page
  2. Using cryptic language that makes it unclear what will happen upon the click
  3. Not matching the result of a click with the expected action

To understand what you should do instead, think about your own journey on a website you visit often. Is it perfectly clear what will happen when you click any button? Does the page that opens match what you thought you’d find? If not, this confusion can be remedied with a shift in the language you use on and before a button.

Here are a few examples of bad CTAs and my recommendations for how to correct them:

Desired action

Original button text

Better button text

Setting up a consultation

Speak with someone

Book a free consultation

Requesting an estimate

Let’s chat about pricing

Request a quote

Signing in to a client portal

Go to the portal

Log in now

Submitting a question

We’re here for your needs

Ask us a question

Bottom line: Don’t try to be overly creative with CTAs. Clear and concise is the way to go!

Get more advice about marketing your business and meeting today’s challenges in our other Knowledge Exchange posts.

Think your colleagues would find this article valuable? Head over to LinkedIn to share and discuss.


About the Author


Chelsea Williams is Senior Copywriter at Accelo, where she shares unique insights with service professionals and tells user stories via blogs, eBooks, industry reports and more. She has over 15 years of B2B and B2C writing experience — primarily in tech, sales, education and healthcare. Chelsea is an AWAI-certified Master Copywriter trained in brand storytelling and microcopy.

Schedule a Live Demo
Tailored to your business All questions answered
Request a Time
Accelo uses cookies to give you the best possible experience - by clicking 'Continue' you agree to our use of cookies. Refer to our Privacy Policy for details. Continue