How to write engaging copy for your site

I hear a lot of talk about content being important, but far less about why. It's the latter I'm most interested in. Copy can affect moods, sway opinion and influence buying habits, but in the end it all comes back to one thing: engagement.

As a writer, I set out to engage my audience, whether that is a client, a client's customer or a reader of my blog. But how can we ensure what we write is engaging?

Well, it starts long before the writing itself. In fact there are three stages to the process: planning, creating and measuring.

You could produce some well-written web copy in an appropriate tone, but it won't be engaging if you don’t know who you are writing for and there is no strategy behind it.

You need to know what your story is and who it is for – only then can you decide how to tell that story. This allows you to make informed decisions on things like language, tone of voice and tenses.

Taking some time

Engaging copywriting

Engaging copy needs a lot of time to be written

One obstacle I have regularly faced with clients is how long it takes to put content together: a long time if you want that content to be good, longer still if you also want it to be engaging.

I recently took part in Gather- Content's webinar about content strategy for agencies, during which we completed an exercise concerning a web page with 700 words of copy on. It was determined that this 700-word page would take around 10 hours' worth of time from briefing to publishing.

Scale that up across all the pages on your website, chuck in more content types and you should see that without any planning, making the copy engaging is going to be a tall order.

There needs to be a stringent content production process. All stakeholders must know what that process is and where they are needed throughout it, and whether they are the content creator or not.

A brief will help get things off on the right foot, providing it isn't too restrictive or too wishy- washy.

If your resources and budget allow (make it so!), a content inventory and audit along with audience research will further ensure what follows will be engaging.

Once your process is nailed down and you, the content creator, know what you are doing, now comes the production part of the process. When writing, keep your audience in mind, along with the personality and brand values of who you are writing on behalf of.

If there are existing content guidelines available, this will be an excellent way to make your content engaging because it will help you write consistently and authentically in terms of brand language, tone and personality.

Gauging engagement

Rob Mills

Writing copy is a continuous process, says Rob

When the content has been signed off and published, the next step is to measure the level of engagement you have generated.

This part can be tricky. Hopefully the very fact that you have planned the content and understood your audience will ensure your writing is engaging.

How you measure engagement depends on what metrics are available to you. Social media activity can help give some indication, analytics may reveal further insights, and – if possible – A/B testing content may help you refine copy to increase engagement.

Even gauging feedback directly from your audience is useful. Reviewing your content isn't a one-off activity post-launch. Keep asking questions: Is it still accurate and relevant? Is it working for you? Is it working for your customers?

You must know the purpose of what you are writing and who you are writing it for in order to can make informed decisions on language, tone and style. This will ensure your content is engaging. Consider every word, have a strategy and keep refining after the publish button has been clicked.

Words: Rob Mills

Rob Mills is content strategist for GatherContent. He is also a copywriter, editor, and published author. This article was originally published in net magazine issue 267.

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