Website Copy Best Practices
Last updated: November 21, 2022
You may think it’s just words on your website, but having quality and effective content on your website can either help a customer make a booking or make them go back to the search engines. Website copy should be persuasive, fun, and informative to increase those online bookings!
Copywriting is all about your customer. A good guiding principle when laying out your content: Use your copy to show how awesome life will be with your product, not to show how awesome your product itself is.
Here’s a quick rundown of some best practices and common mistakes we’ve seen on tourism and activity websites and some easy fixes to optimize your content today.
When a customer lands on your site, do they have all the basic information they need to feel comfortable with their online booking? Think about the 5 Ws – who, what, when, where, and why.
Each activity page should answer:
- Who is this activity appropriate for? Are only adults able to book it or are children allowed, and if so, what ages do they need to be?
- What are they doing? Give a detailed itinerary with colorful descriptions of the tour events to entice customers to book.
- When is this activity available? Every day? Only on specific days and times? Only in specific seasons?
- Where is this activity located? How do they get there? Is the activity done in one specific place? Briefly describe what makes this place special.
- Why should they book with you? What do you offer that other tour operators don’t?
Are your calls to action (CTAs) or booking buttons different? If website visitors keep seeing “Book Now” all over the website, they tune it out or ignore it. It’s okay to spice up your CTA verbiage.
Have your customers:
- Discover Our Tours
- Explore All Tours
- Plan a Kayaking Adventure
- Experience a Sunset Cruise
- Ride a Segway With Us
- Take a Helicopter Ride
- Rent a SUP Board
- Reserve a Tour
Does each page of your website have a specific keyword or targeted term included in the content? Not only should you have activity-based keywords in the content, you’ll also want to include location-based terms and your brand name.
For example, you offer snorkel tours at Poipu Beach on Kauai and your company is Hawaii Snorkel Excursions. The primary keyword phrase is: snorkel tours Poipu Beach.
The landing page content could look like:
Plan the ultimate underwater adventure with one of our guided snorkel tours at Poipu Beach. We want to make sure your snorkel tour with Hawaii Snorkel Excursions is the highlight of your Kauai trip!
Your snorkel tour starts at Poipu Beach — not only one of Kauai’s most popular beaches, but also named one of the top 10 best beaches in America — with a quick safety lesson before we get out into the cool, turquoise waters to see the vibrant marine life, including Hawaiian honu (green sea turtles), in their natural playground. Add the popular Poipu Beach snorkel tour to your Hawaii itinerary now!
Google’s recent core algorithm updates have been focused on rewarding quality content, meaning trustworthy, original information that is of value to the reader. Google has provided some guidelines to help you self-assess the quality of your content. In general, these boil down to ensuring that your content:
- Provides original information.
- Provides a comprehensive overview of the topic and valuable information.
- Comes from a trustworthy source, such as an expert on the topic (it helps to have an About page that clearly explains the company’s experience and expertise).
- Doesn’t simply copy and paste from other sources but adds its own value and originality (avoid copying and pasting information about your location from sites like Wikipedia, for example; you can use that information as a starting point, but you should rewrite it from your own point of view and add your own knowledge; as a tour operator in the area, you have plenty of expertise to draw from).
Another SEO element that can hurt or improve your ranking in search engines is duplicate content. Google rewards uniqueness and added value, which is why it’s important to write unique descriptions for each of your activities and category pages to signal to Google that each of these has valuable content for the reader. Learn more about duplicate content here.
While Google’s Search Quality Raters Guidelines don’t address duplicate content directly, this is what SEOs have gathered from the information Google has provided on the topic:
- Copied content: This is content that is copied from another site or within the same site. When there is copied content, Google will only rank the original source or the one with the most authority, which is why it’s important to ensure that pages have as much unique original content as possible to give them a better chance of ranking. Google does not recommend “spinning” copied content by slightly changing the wording and using synonyms. John Mueller from Google has said this practice is “probably more counter-productive than actually helping your website.” If the search engine can’t figure out where the original version of the content came from, this can affect rankings, even though there’s no specific “penalty” for duplicate content.
- One important note is that this copied content issue is relevant to pages ranking for the same keywords. Each page should target a unique set of keywords, otherwise Google will be confused on which page to rank over the other since both are targeting the same keywords and effectively displaying the same content
- If you have multiple locations that offer the same activities, the copied content should be okay because each page is ranking for different location keywords. Each location should have at least 2 sentences of copy above the fold and above the row of activities targeting the location specific keywords in a natural and not “keyword stuffed” manner.
- Boilerplate content: This is the content that might apply to multiple pages on your website, such as cancellation policy, the starting point for your tours, or a list of what to bring. Google’s Webmaster Guidelines recommend that you “minimize boilerplate plate repetition,” meaning they don’t want to see the same content repeated everywhere on your site. What Google is really focused on is the primary content of your pages. So if your activity description has three or four paragraphs of unique, valuable content, followed by two brief lines about your cancellation policy that are copied from another page, that’s okay. The primary content is unique, which is what’s most important. What you need to avoid are pages with thin content — a lack of original, valuable content — and mostly consisting of copied boilerplate content. Each page should stand on its own with original content. Google looks at the ratio of original vs. duplicate content, and you should maintain the percentage of duplicate content as low as possible.
Humans now have an attention span shorter than a goldfish’s and don’t want to see a wall of text on a landing page. Group your site’s content into scannable blocks and have about one to three sentences per paragraph.
You could also use bullet points to make your content easier on the eyes.
Scannable paragraphs example:
Bullet points example:
Paint a vivid picture for your potential customer of what they can expect with this activity or tour. Weave in the 5Ws and important details as you walk them through exactly what the activity is.
Write your content in present tense so it reads like it’s happening now. It helps readers connect with and put themselves into the experience and makes you sound like the professional you are. Most writers default to future tense as it is something that will happen in the future, but present tense is much more exciting!
Example of future tense:
Maui Adventures will take you on the adventure of a lifetime! With our three-hour Haleakala bike tour, you will enjoy stunning panoramic views of the sunrise and then you will bike your way back down on this guided excursion. You’ll learn about the history of this National Park, the rare species that call it home, and you will travel along the unique volcanic landscape.
Example of present tense:
Maui Adventures takes you on the adventure of a lifetime! Enjoy stunning panoramic views of the sunrise before biking your way back down on this guided three-hour bike tour. Learn about the history of this National Park, the rare species that call it home, and travel along the unique volcanic landscape.
Essentially, remove any instance of “will” from the sentence unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Write in second-person point of view to make it more engaging for the reader. Second-person uses “you” and “your” in the content to talk about the activity and the company. It also makes the content more informal and friendly.
At Maui Adventures, we provide you with exceptional helicopter tours and we pride ourselves in our first-rate customer service. We take care of every detail for you to make sure your Maui helicopter tour is exactly how you dreamed it.
Third-person is commonly used in business writing as it tends to be more formal. The company will refer to itself as the company name and will refer to customers in a broad sense.
Maui Adventures provides exceptional helicopter tours to a variety of travelers. Customers will be delighted with the level of customer service that Maui Adventures provides by taking care of every detail of a Maui helicopter tour.
Common mistakes and corrections
Plurals & Possession
- Plurals do not need apostrophes (for example, “On this tour we’ll see dolphins and whales. Please read our FAQs if you have any questions. We have bikes for every ability level.”).
- Possessives require apostrophes (for example, “Stop by the gift shop to get one of Jane’s world-famous cookies. We visit one of Hawaii’s most famous beaches on our tour. The bike’s safety features ensure a smooth ride. We stop at Denver’s most historical sites on this tour.”).
- When you have a plural that is showing possession, the apostrophe goes after the last “s” in the word (for example, “Maui Adventure Tours’ snorkel gear is brand new”).
- Weather does not need an apostrophe (for example, “30s, high 50s”).
- Decades (without the century) have an apostrophe in front (for example, “Back in the ’80s, we held our first guided foodie tour of New York City. By the 1990s, we were the number one walking tour in the city.”).
- Proper nouns (company name, brand name, cities and states, people’s names, months, etc) are capitalized.
- Titles and headlines can be capitalized, but regular nouns and words in the site’s content should not be capitalized.
The first item in a bulleted list. For example:
Our private charters are perfect for:
- Birthday parties
- Anniversary celebrations
- Corporate outings
- Team building events
Similar sounding words, different meanings
- Affect vs. effect: Affect is a verb and is doing the action, and the effect is the result of that action.
- The weather affected the players’ ability on the field.
- The weather had a negative effect on the game’s outcome.
- Your and you’re: “Your” shows possession and “you’re” is a contraction of you are.
- Your reservation is complete.
- You’re an excellent tour guide!
- There, their, and they’re: “There” denotes a location, “their” shows possession, and “they’re” is a contraction of they are.
- We’ll have our meeting over there.
- They left their computers at their desks.
- They’re going on a great tour.
- Its and it’s: “Its” shows possession and is one exemption for using an apostrophe to show it, and “it’s” is a contraction of it is.
- The company released its revenue figures today.
- It’s really sunny out today.
- To, too, and two: “To” shows a direction, “too” means also, and “two” is the number.
- I’m going to Hawaii this summer.
- I’d like to try that kayaking excursion too.
- For the last two years, this has been our most popular tour!
- Then and than: “Then” shows time or continuation whereas “than” indicates preference.
- I’m wrapping up this project, then I’m going to lunch.
- I like this stock photo more than the other one.
- Complementary or complimentary: “Complementary” means to enhance or go well together, and “complimentary” is praise or something that’s free or included.
- Their site colors are complementary and look good together.
- As you wait to board the bus for your tour, make use of our complimentary Wi-Fi.