How to Write Content for a Website — The Huge Mistake You're Probably Making

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When people ask me how to write content for a website, there’s one go-to tip I always begin with, something that is unnervingly uncommon in the world of the web — it’s a huge mistake not to do this, and it absolutely will affect your website traffic, your sales, your revenue, and, ultimately, the success of your website and all the digital marketing efforts tied to it.A megaphone and an envelope — if you don't know how to write content for a website, you end up looking like the guy on college campuses yelling into a megaphone while everyone walks by, ignoring the selfish guy yelling about something that doesn't concern them.

It’s something I’ve been talking about for years, something that, once you start doing it, is going to make you slap yourself in the head and say “Duh! Why haven’t I been doing this the whole time!”

Strangely, it can be so subtle that you wouldn’t even think about it until someone pointed it out to you…

It’s about the language that you use—specifically, the written language you use on your website.

Copywriters have know this trick for a long time (they already know exactly what I’m talking about), but the average person who’s trying to figure out how to write content for a website that might be their first (or even second or third, after the first one failed…) is just going to miss this completely.

However, once we start to dig into this, you’ll realize that it applies to every interaction you have with your customer…

Here’s the Mistake…

The mistake is writing content that’s focused on you and your business.

And the trick to writing awesome website content starts with using customer-centric language.

Obviously, there’s a lot more that goes into writing web content, but if you’re not using customer-centric language, your efforts are going to be so held back that you might as well not even try.

The mistake is writing content that’s focused on you and your business

Simply, it means choosing language that centers around your customer and their wants and needs—and not your business, your wants, or your needs.

Remember, you have about 15 seconds to grab attention before more than half of your visitors start to bail, so if your website content isn’t on point, you’re literally losing sales.

This Is the Key — This is How to Write Content for a Website That’s Effective, That Generates Traffic/Leads/Sales

However, the trick goes so much farther than that. Truly, you should be using customer-centric language in every interaction you have with your potential leads and customers.Sword and paper — content is a battle, and if you're not properly armed, you'll lose the war.

The principle can apply to all types of communications with your customers and potential leads, but primarily, it applies to these:

  • Your website
  • Your social media interactions
  • Your print materials
  • Your user guides and manuals
  • Your written and spoken communications with your customer (including emails, phone calls, and in-person interactions)

Now, you can probably think of many examples of different types of marketing and advertising materials where you’re speaking to your customer, but for now, I want to focus on the above.

So, what does customer-centric language mean? Why does it matter? What does it look like in practice? Let’s discuss.

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Customer-Centric Language Avoids Talking About Your Business and Focuses on What Your Customer Wants and Needs

Remember in high school when your teacher told you that you weren’t allowed to use personal pronouns in your essays anymore?

Maybe that was just me.

Please, for me, don’t refer to your customer as “one” on your website

When I was in school, there came a point where essays suddenly had to be in third person. You couldn’t say “I” or “me” or “we” or “us.”

Instead, you had to write “one” or something equally pretentious, as in “One might think that writing an essay in third person is pretentious.”

(Please, for me, don’t refer to your customer as “one” on your website.)

However, that first piece of advice is good! The best way to make your writing business-centric (which is what we want to avoid) is to use pronouns like “we” or “us,” to talk exclusively about the business and forget about the most important person in the (digital) room:

The customer.

Write for and About Your Customer

You see this often in websites, but it can show up in any form of communication with a customer. Here’s what it looks like in practice.Paper, an HTML bracket, a website page — When you put your content before your design, your customers are the ones who benefit — learn more.

“We make the best widgets around. We’ve been making widgets for 30 years. Nobody manufactures widgets like we do. Our widgets will blow your mind. These widgets have the following features…”

In that horrible paragraph above, there’s only a single word that actually refers to your customer—everything else refers to the business.

Why does this matter? Why not just write about yourself?

Because your potential customers don’t care that much about you yet. Your leads haven’t gotten to know you yet. They need to know what you can do for them before they even think about contacting you.

It’s like a date—if you go on a date with someone, and they spend the whole time talking about themselves and how awesome they are, how likely are you to have date number 2?

(The answer? Not that likely at all).

Your potential customers don’t care that much about you yet

But there’s a more important reason why you want to avoid talking mostly about your business, why you should always focus on what your business can do for your customers.

Get the Customer-Centric Language Template Free

Business-Centric Language Is Less Persuasive Than Customer-Centric Language

The entire point of the content in your marketing communications—the content on your website, or on your brochure, or on your social media pages—is to persuade.The outline of a person's head and shoulders, a pen, and a piece of paper — paying for professional content is worth every penny

So ask yourself a simple question—what’s more persuasive to you:

This:

“Our vehicles are simple and affordable, and we made them beautiful too!”

Or this:

“You can get the vehicle you need, at the price that’s right for you, without compromising your personal style.”

I’m betting it’s the second one.

The second sentence is more persuasive because it speaks to the customer directly, because it considers their needs, it considers their emotional connection to the product, to issues surrounding the product that may affect their willingness to make a purchase, and to the things that matter most to them when considering the product.

Because of all of these things, it’s more persuasive.

Website content is more persuasive when it speaks to the customer directly

The first sentence is too general, has nothing to do with the customer, and is all about the business.

It’s not persuasive.

Get the Free Website Content Template

Speak to Your Customers — Inspire Them, Enlighten Them, Help Them

The marketing that’s most effective inspires people.What is content marketing? Hand holding a gift of paper and pen.

It doesn’t even acknowledge the brand, in many cases, or only does so, say, at the tail-end of a commercial, where you realize the brand of the car in question after a discussion of personal style and class.

This can happen on websites too—in fact, it needs to, because that’s where you’re going to get a great number of potential leads. This is how to write website content that persuades, that inspires people to fill out forms and click.

Because guess what? Most of the traffic on your website, most of those potential leads? They will never come back. For most readers, you have one chance to grab their attention and convince them to take action.

So you need to make the best first impression you can possibly make. If the content on your website is all about you, those potential leads become poor, lost little leads.

If the content on your website is all about you, you’re gonna lose leads

You’re not going to impress anyone with information about who you are or what you do—at best, people will see that and say “Good, they know what they’re doing—they should.” That’s a baseline.

Instead, your content on your website should focus on your customer.

However, as I mentioned above, this applies to all your communications. While all your marketing materials need to be persuasive and speak to your potential customer, you have a wide variety of places where your leads or customers are interacting with your business in a different way.

And your language there needs to be customer-centric too.

Grab the Website Content Template

Keep Your Language Customer-Centric Everywhere, Even Your Actual, Spoken Language—And Align Your Actions With Your Words

If you’re saying all sorts of beautiful, wonderful, glorious things to leads to get them in the door, but the emails you send them once they become a customer are atrocious, you’re going to lose them.A computer screen with a digital mockup, a dollar sign — success starts with excellent website content.

If you promise the moon in your marketing and you deliver an asteroid, you’re going to lose them.

If you sound nice and charitable and giving on your website and answer the phone with an angry edge in your voice, you’re going to lose them.

I’m probably not blowing your mind by saying “align your actions to your words,” but seriously, it means more than you might think.

If you promise the moon in your marketing and you deliver an asteroid, you’re going to lose traffic and potential leads

Right now, there are quite a few brands in the airline industry who are struggling to prove that their actions and their words align.

Recently, a very large telecoms company took over a portion of another telecom company’s business. When they did so, they made a lot of promises about the quality of the service that the customers would be receiving, promises that were all over their website and their social media.

Their actions didn’t align with their words, and customers were angry.

And yet, they persisted in pushing out content that acted as though everything was fine—it was decidedly not.

And so, you would see this very strange thing happen—the brand would post a video related to telecoms on their social media, and this innocuous video would get slammed with angry comments from customers who weren’t getting the service they expected.

Their actions didn’t align with their words, and customers were angry

It didn’t matter how customer-centric their words were—because their actions didn’t align, they lost some business, they lost standing with their remaining customers, and they’re probably at the bottom of the list when the next big telecoms merger is considered.

It’s critical that all your communications with your customers—everything from a social media post or a tech-support chat to an automated email drip, a phone call, or even an in-person conversation—it’s critical that all of this is approached from a customer-centric viewpoint while still aligning with your actions.

And, if you’re having trouble delivering—admit it! Align your actions with your words, and you’ll get the respect of your customers.

And, if you’re having trouble delivering—admit it!

Long term, that’s going to mean more business. Period.

These Two Free Templates Will Help You Figure Out How to Write Website Content That Works for Your Customers

It can be hard to take all this information and work it out in practice. It can be extremely difficult to try to figure out how to write content for a website when you’ve never done it before (or you’ve tried before and failed). However, with the free Customer-Centric Language Template, you can flesh out, specifically, what words you want to use when speaking to your customers.A piece of paper and a small pencil icon at the bottom right corner.

And with the Website Content Template (also free), you can actually map out the content that you’ll put on your website.

You’ll find both of these especially helpful when trying to market a new product or service—the templates will help you think like your customer, to get in their shoes a little bit and consider how they would like to be approached.

Did I mention that they’re free? Because they’re free.

Just click the buttons to download them both now.

Get the Customer-Centric Language Template Free

Get the Website Content Template

Adam Fout

Adam might be a little crazy, but we love him anyway.   Weaving beautiful paragraph-baskets into blog posts ain’t easy, but we couldn’t think of a better job for a recovering tech writer.   Follow him on Twitter @adamfout2, LinkedIn, Facebook, or our blog if you like valuable information accompanied by snarky simplifications of complex subjects.

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