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6 Web Writing Tips That Could Save Your Startup

Avoid the common mistakes that make visitors leave tech websites fast.

If you’re part of a tech startup, launching your company website is an important part of your journey. A carefully-crafted website convinces investors, journalists and potential customers that your product's worth a closer look.

However, far too many startups and small businesses make fundamental mistakes when writing their website copy. They end up with unclear messaging that doesn’t explain what their company does, or why visitors should care.

The truth is, writing for tech websites can be tougher than it looks. But by following this guide, you’ll avoid the most common and easily-fixable mistakes that startups make.

1. Explain what you’re offering, quickly and clearly

Your headline and introduction are arguably the most important parts of your site. They let visitors know they’re in the right place and give them a reason to read on.

However, many tech websites frustrate visitors at this important stage by being totally unclear about what’s on offer. Here are some typical examples:

Tile website copywriting
Fyber website copywriting

Nyblecraft website copywriting

Why is this bad?

What these headlines and introductions should do is answer some of the fundamental questions visitors have when they land on a website—like ‘what can I get here?’ or ‘who is this for?’

But when they’re written in the wrong way, these sections fail to answer those basic questions. And even worse, they instead leave us with new questions, like ‘why are you telling me about your mission?’

What to do instead

·    Tell us what’s on offer with straightforward, conversational language. Start simple - how you might respond to a friend who asks what your business does?

·    Describe your product in terms of actions, not concepts. You probably wouldn’t say to a friend that your business is ‘a new era of app monetisation’. But you might say ‘we help content publishers make more money from their in-app content’.

·    Don’t waste space on copy that isn’t explaining or selling. Hype phrases about the ‘next generation’ are meaningless if it’s not clear what you do. People ignore platitudes like ‘welcome’, so use the space to say something meaningful instead.

·    Be as specific as possible about your product and how it benefits buyers. Rethink anything that’s ambiguous. Looking at the first example above, the word ‘finder’ could mean a lot of things to the average consumer. But ‘key finder’ would be self-explanatory.

How it looks when it's done right

Youappi website copywriting

Notice how specific the copy is here. By saying 'your app's revenue' instead of just 'your revenue', Youappi immediately makes it clear who their solution is aimed at.

Chipolo website copywriting

Notice how much clearer this copy is than the Tile website intro. It immediately explains what a finder is and how it improves your life.

2. Write sub-headings that educate and entice

Studies show that visitors often scan-read websites, so sub-headings are vital for grabbing their attention. A well-written sub-heading entices visitors to read on by educating them about your product or service.

If your sub-headings aren't enticing or educating visitors, they're white noise—a meaningless distraction that won’t tempt anybody to learn more.

The wrong way to do it

Let's look at an example from Sparkup (a nice product that helps kids to enjoy reading).

sparkup landing page copywriting

What's wrong here?

These sub-headings break up the text nicely, and they sound positive. But if we're scan-reading, they don't do much to educate or entice us. 'Independency' could mean lots of different things, so the copy is more confusing than anything else.

What to do instead 

·     Use sub-headings to describe how your tech enhances customers’ lives. When highlighting a product feature, copywriters try to grab attention by hyping up the benefit or outcome it creates. For example, Apple’s early iPod ads said ‘1000 songs in your pocket’(the benefit) rather than ‘5Gb memory’ (the feature).

·     OR highlight a technical feature that you know people are looking for. When your audience is nerdy about tech specs (e.g. if you’re selling I.T hardware or high-end electronics), its ok to lead with the feature instead of the benefit.

·     Use clear, action-based language that is specific about what you’re offering. This makes sub-headings clear for people who are only skim-reading. So in the Sparkup example, ‘Independency’ becomes ‘Encourages independent reading’.  

·     Follow up with body copy that’s clearly linked to the sub-heading. Sub-headings should leave readers with questions, like ‘how does Sparkup encourage independent reading?’ Your body copy should answer those questions.

How it looks when it's done right

Mixpanel website copywriting
Source: Mixpanel
Duolingo copywriting
Source: Duolingo

Notice how much more powerful the phrasing in these sub-headings, compared to the Sparkup example. Because the language talks in terms of actions, rather than concepts, we immediately understand what the product does.

3. Break up uber-long blocks of text (especially on your home page)

Inexperienced writers, or the people hiring them, often take the approach that ‘the more we say, the more we sell’. This leads to some tech websites having reams and reams of copy—while actually saying very little of value.

Nyblecraft website copywriting

Why is this bad? 

Long-winded copy like this is a problem, especially when it’s one of the first things the visitors see.

First, the length makes visitors work to learn more. Second, the company isn’t making it clear why the reader should care about anything it’s saying. Rambling text like this is a great way to lose people who aren’t ‘hooked’ yet.

What to do instead

·      Break your copy into manageable chunks, especially on your home page. Paragraphs should be 2-3 sentences long, and sentences 25 words long (max).

·      Focus each text chunk on one ‘theme’. The long ‘Who we are’ piece above could break up into chunks about services, specialities, clients etc (or put into a separate ‘About Us’ page.)

·      Save in-depth descriptions for your deeper pages. Visitors who are a few clicks deep are invested in knowing more, and will probably read your longer copy.

·      Don’t waste space stating the obvious. If you’re a company that creates apps, you don’t need to tell us you’re a dedicated team of technology enthusiasts.

How it looks when it's done right

Ceterna website copywriting
Source: Ceterna Group

By breaking copy into concise chunks like this, Ceterna makes it far easier for visitors to learn about their company.

4. Use clear language that focuses on selling, not complicated ‘business-speak’ that tries to impress

Some startups use unnecessarily complicated language that takes serious mental effort to read. This usually happens when copywriters (or their employers) think they need to sound academic or ‘clever’ when speaking to a B2B audience.

Crucially, trying to wow people with technical language also takes the focus off explaining how the product or service actually helps people. And that’s a serious fail.

This is arguably THE biggest mistake that B2B companies make on their websites.

How not to do it

Remember the 'We are Fyber' headline above? Here's the next section that comes immediately after it.

Fyber body copy copywriting

Why is this bad?

The copy here uses way too many conceptual words and clichéd marketing adjectives. Even if you're well-acquainted with all the tech jargon used here, deciphering the lengthy business-speak feels like hard work. This distracts us from the message itself.

Plus, we have another white noise sub-heading that seems unrelated to the text underneath it.

The text is also completely focused on the technology, explaining nothing about the benefits it provides. In other words, it doesn’t sell.

What to do instead

 1. Talk like a normal person would. That doesn’t mean you should avoid speaking in the language of your audience. But even an Oxford-educated CEO doesn’t say ‘I have an exigent requirement to de-hydrate my urinary system’. They say ‘I need the toilet’.

 Also, there’s scientific evidence that people perceive overly conceptual language as being less likely to be true. So when you want to impress, don’t rely on clever wording.

2. Use simple, clear, action-based language to show how your tech meets specific audience needs. Focus on describing the feelings, experiences, and outcomes customers will get from your product or service. There is nothing more impressive to your reader than a product that genuinely makes their life easier.

3. When you’re finished writing, read your copy out loud and simplify anything that sounds unnatural or long-winded. Try not to use more than two conceptual words (like ‘segmentation’ or ‘monetisation’) in a single sentence.

4. Take a break. Tech copywriter Aleksandr Smechov shared his advice with me:

“After your first draft, take a break. Giving your brain time to forget what you wrote allows you to look at it like a customer visiting the site for the first time. This is a great way to hone in on clichéd, boring, or stilted copy and write something more engaging."

How it looks when it's done right

Google landing page copywriting
Source: Google AdMob

Short sentences, action-based sub-headings, clear, user benefits...hallelujah! The copy is also free of over-enthusiastic adjectives, and yet feels more impactful because it gets to the point quickly.

5. Talk about the customer more than you talk about your company

Picture this scenario. You walk into a car dealership and start looking at the different models on offer. A salesperson approaches you and says:

“You should buy this car because I get paid for every sale I make. I’m on a mission to buy a sweet flat-screen TV and along weekend in Las Vegas. Oh, and I’m totally passionate about cars.”

Pretty terrible way to sell something, right? It makes the whole interaction about the salesperson and not at al about the customer.

No business would employ a salesperson who talks like this and expect to make money. Yet many businesses talk exactly like this on their websites.

Thalmic labs webite copywriting

Why is this bad?

This kind of self-focused copy seems unhelpful at best and boastful at worst.

Your visitors are on your website because they want something. If you’re not immediately talking about how you can meet their needs and desires, you’re being a bad salesperson.

What to do instead:

 ·     Count how many times you say ‘we/us/ours’ and ‘you/your'. If you see ‘we’ more than 'you', then you need to reassess. But this is often simply a phrasing problem. In the example above, Thalmic Labs could just change the phrasing from the ‘way we interact with computers’ to ‘the way you interact with computers’.

·     Assess your content’s overall focus. Can’t find easy opportunities to say ‘you’ more than ‘we’? Then you're probably not focusing enough on the reader’s desires and needs enough. Even an ‘About us’ page should relate the company’s story to the end benefits it offers its customers.

·     Use the ‘so what’ test. Re-read your own copy while asking ‘so what does this actually do for our customers?’If your copy doesn’t answer that question in some way, you’re not focusing on your readers enough.

Notice how these two sections of copy introduce Loom by explicitly saying how it serves its customers:

Loom website copywriting
Loom website copywriting

And in this ‘About Us’ page, Adacta introduces itself in the context of what it does for its customers:

Adacta website copywriting
Source: Adinsure by Adacta Fintech

6. Check that your copy supports its accompanying images (and vice versa)

It’s really important to make sure that all the messaging in your site is clear and consistent – your site’s copy, images and layout should work together in harmony.

However, when businesses rush their projects, or do things in the wrong order, they sometimes end up with mismatched copy and images. Here's another example from the Fyber site (sorry Fyber, nothing personal!):

Fyber image and copy pairing
"Get a FREE random piece of glass when you use our platform!"

Seeing this image, you could be forgiven for thinking that the company sells smartphone screens. This is a confusing visual message when you're reading about a SaaS platform.

What to do instead

Ideally, when you're building your site, you should plan out the copy first and add images after, making sure they complement the story being told. But when that's not possible, update the sub-header copy so it matches what’s being shown in the image. You could either mention whatever is physically being shown in the picture, or the theme it represents.

For example, I'm guessing that Fyber wanted to represent the theme of 'clarity' or 'focus' here. To link to this theme in their copy, they could change the sub-header to 'Crystal clear ad quality', 'Ads that get clear results', or 'Focused on user needs'.

None of these examples would be amazing sub-headings, but they do create a noticeable connection between the copy and the accompanying image. As a short-term fix, that's a big improvement!

How it looks when it's done right

Hubspot website copywriting image

The copy and image here both reflect a single theme: Hubspot's software and CRM fit together perfectly.

Conclusion

If you’re not used to writing web copy, getting all of this right might feel tricky. It could even take you a few tries.

But stick with it, because the end result is well worth your time. Clear, straight-forward copy makes it much easier to win the interest of investors, journalists, and potential customers. And that’s just what your startup needs to reach the next level.

Got questions? Add them in the comments below!

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Background photo by Joe Lewandowski on Unsplash

Cover image by Vecteezy

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