The small business guide to web copy

The small business guide to web copyReading on a screen is different to reading a printed document or magazine. What do you do when you’re reading online? You’re trying to answer a question or solve a problem quickly, so you scan the page, looking for the most relevant and useful information.

If you don’t find it quickly, you just hit the back button and try another site.

That’s what people are doing when they visit your business website. And this is really important, because customers today control their journey through the buying cycle more than ever before. Research shows that they might be up to 90% of the way through that cycle before they reach out to you – and they’ve done a lot of searching online to get to that point.

So what are our customers looking for on your website? It’s probably not a long-winded mission statement, or a cut-and-paste of your proposal or sales brochure. They simply want to know what you can do for them, and how they can go about getting it done.

With that in mind, here are some dos and don’ts for website writing: 


  • Decide what your website’s most important objective is. Do you want to generate new leads (and capture details for your database), get people to buy and complete a transaction online, be found more easily through search, or cross-sell to existing customers? This influences the way your website is structured and designed, as well as the call to action on every page.
  • Keep all your web copy brief, so it’s easier to scan on a screen. This goes for headings, sentences and paragraphs. Get to the point in the fewest number of words possible. A paragraph can be as short as three words.
  • Break your content up into easy, digestible chunks. Use lists, pull-out boxes and subheadings. This also makes it easier to read on smaller screens like smartphones and tablets. Plus, use links to help your reader navigate around your website.
  • Talk directly to your reader – use you, your, I, my, we and our – and your copy will be more engaging and interesting to read.
  • Be consistent in the way you write (your tone of voice). Most small businesses like to sound friendly and approachable, and not too corporate or formal. Write as if you were speaking to your clients. (Hint: this also goes for your design – make sure it looks the same the whole way through, your website will appear much more professional.)


  • Copy and paste the text from your printed brochures onto your website. This is a common mistake, as it seems like a quick fix. But the layout of your printed marketing won’t translate well to the web. People don’t read online in a linear narrative, they jump from page to page quickly, and they are looking for different types of information online.
  • Make it all about you. Readers need to know what you can do for them. If that isn’t made clear, they’ll grow frustrated, and likely head towards that back button.
  • Use lengthy paragraphs and sentences. 
  • Get bogged down in jargon. No one wants to read a webpage full of techspeak. Choose simpler words where you can.
  • Forget to proofread. Typos and spelling mistakes look sloppy and unprofessional.

And if that all seems too much? 

Running a small business takes up a lot of your time and energy. Writing an entire website might seem a daunting task to add to your to do list.

If you decide to hire a professional writer to do it for you, it’s important you know what you want. Be clear about what your business does for your customers, what your key messages are, and what your website’s objective is, before you outsource the hard part – otherwise you won’t get the result you have in mind!


You may also be interested in our related posts:

The small business guide to writing brochures and flyers

The small business guide to writing business letters

The small business guide to eNews

 Do you have any tips to share?   We’d love to hear from you so please leave us a comment below.



  1. Great tips! It’s so important to speak TO the reader not AT them and using YOU more than I/We is a great place to start!

  2. Mostly I write as if we are hanging out enjoying coffee & conversation, so I do proof to make sure my sentences work. Guilty of incomplete thoughts. So great you can write about writing.

  3. Thanks for these great tips.

  4. Great tips! Definitely keeping it simple will make someone more likely to continue reading. If it’s drawn out and complicated to understand you’ll lose the reader. Even if what you do is simple, if you use wording that is hard to understand or lingo the ordinary human being doesn’t understand they wlll get confused and leave.

  5. Looks like we were on the same page… I have been doing a few of these lately… having content that is skimmable is so important. Loved the extra tips.

  6. Excellent points. Will have to go back to my website and review. Thanks for the tips!

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