Who would you rather sit next to at a dinner party—a renowned but egotistical “expert” who drones on and on about himself and doesn’t let you get a peep in edgewise or an engaging entrepreneur who wants to learn all about you and specializes in something you need help with?

This same thought process can be used in website copy.

Like you, your customers would rather not have their eyes glaze over with boredom but would instead prefer to be “seated” next to those from whom they can benefit and who are interested in them and what they do.  So if your website copy is more boring blowhard than an engaging dinner companion, your visitors are likely to be scanning the room in search of an escape route.

To create content that resonates with and engages your target audience, follow these tips.

1. Clarify your goals. As author David Campbell observed, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll probably end up somewhere else.”  And nothing could be truer when it comes to your website copy.  Before your fingers hit the keyboard, it’s crucial to determine the core actions you want your site visitors to take. 

  • Do you want them to make purchases? 
  • Subscribe to your e-newsletter? 
  • Share or comment on blog posts? 

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Clear goals lead to clear copy, which guides users down a pre-defined path, reduces the chance of confusion and increases overall satisfaction rates with your site.  As an added bonus, it allows you to more effectively measure your success down the road.

2. Know your audience. Once you’ve determined the core goals of your site, it’s important that you understand who you’re trying to reach.  Go beyond basic demographics and get to know your target audience on an intimate level.

What do they want more than anything else in the world? What keeps them up at night? What do they do for fun? Where do they hang out?  What kind of humor do they appreciate?  To what types of cultural references would they most relate?

The more nuanced picture you have of your ideal customers, the easier it will be to speak their language, tell stories they can appreciate and relate to and make reading your website feel like talking to a close friend. All these factors help consumers trust your company, which can help with monetization strategies.  

Related: The 4 Questions You Must Answer When Launching a Content Project

3. Don’t be an egomaniac. To put it bluntly, your potential customers don’t actually care about you and what makes your company so great.  They care about themselves.  Their needs.   Their goals.  And what you can do to help them get whatever it is they want. The biggest mistake businesses make when creating website copy is being overly promotional and talking at rather than to their target audience.

A simple way to refocus your copy toward your customer is to replace “we” with “you” and run every piece of new content by the question: “Does this add value to my customers?  If the answer is no, chuck it.

4. Brevity is the soul of great web copy. Remember in high school English class when you stretched out your papers to hit the word limit and stuffed in as many fancy words as possible to impress your teacher? These behaviors are the kiss of death when it comes to writing for the web.  If your content is bogged down by overly long paragraphs, unnecessary and jargon-y words, you’ll put your potential customer to sleep -- before, not after, they click the purchase button. 

5. Show don’t tell. One of the best ways to create content that’s awesome is to use vivid imagery. Quotes, stories, analogies and puns are all great ways to engage your customers at a deeper level, excite their imaginations and allow them to more fully visualize what it is you’re trying to say.   A few of my favorite resources for juicy turns of phrase and memorable one-liners are The Free Idiom Dictionary and Punrise, Punset

Related: Writing Tips: How to Come Up With 50 Topic Ideas in 30 Minutes