Designing a great website is about more than pretty graphics or a smooth logo. It’s also about a usable experience that helps people consume content or engage with the page.
But there is a difference between writing a blog post and writing the interface copy for Facebook. Yet webmasters should learn both since this carries over into web design and UI/UX design.
In this post I’ll cover the top 12 books on web copywriting and content marketing. These are sure to help everyone improve their writing skills for the web and engage users regardless of the topic.
When I first started digging into copywriting I scoured the web for recommendations. The book Nicely Said was brought up many times so I decided to give it a go.
This is a truly unique book because it gets into many different “types” of online writing. You’ll learn about interface writing, blog writing, sales/ecommerce writing, and how to develop a voice for your website.
Many sites have their own voice guidelines like MailChimp. They add rules and general writing points into a big style guide so that any writer can pick up their tone with ease.
As you write for a web project you have to consider the tone you want. Should it be playful or more professional? Room for jokes? What type of writing will best attract your readers?
Nicely Said also helps you organize paragraphs better and create purposeful line breaks in content. This way users aren’t staring at huge walls of text that are often quite intimidating.
An excellent read no matter what your background is or how far you want to take copywriting.
Websites that Convert
If you’re more into the marketing side of the web check out Websites that Convert by Claire Suellentrop.
How you design a site can play a huge factor in conversion rate optimization. But the same can be said about copywriting and how well you engage users. This book takes a deeper look into CRO and how to ultimately increase conversions with writing.
Each type of site has a different conversion goal whether it’s increasing newsletter signups or increasing checkouts. Compelling web copy is the cornerstone of all these behaviors and many more.
I specifically recommend this book as a resource for developing greater conversion skills and improving your knowledgebase. It’s a short read with only 85 pages but it’s also packed with information. You might find yourself rereading this for years to come.
You don’t need to plan your own memoirs to consider yourself a writer. Even simple interface writing or newsletter writing has its place in web design.
Everybody Writes is a best-selling book covering the fundamentals of writing for the web. Naturally this includes copy for webpages but this also includes blog content, email newsletters, and social media updates.
You might not think writing a tweet is really writing but in our age it most certainly is.
If you’ve hated writing all your life this book is for you. It’ll showcase how you can use writing to your advantage and how you can eventually learn to hate writing less.
Later chapters delve into best practices for building trust, authority, and presence with your words. Many chapters explore journalistic writing and how these ideas carry over into writing on the web.
In an era where every blogger thinks they’re a NYTimes writer it can feel pretentious to write your own copy. But when you realize how much money you save by pounding the keyboard yourself you’ll realize that everybody really can write.
Writing for the Web
Author Lynda Felder has more than 15 years experience writing technical manuals and publishing content online. Her book Writing for the Web explores the phenomenon of Internet content and how fast it’s grown in just a few short decades.
You’ll learn how to write for the reader and save yourself from overcomplicating topics. Getting to the point is always a good idea!
But you don’t always know how to get to the point. Sometimes this involves pictures, tables, or bulleted lists. When do these fit in? Lynda guides you through all this decision making by using plenty of examples from other websites.
You can also pick up a few tips on podcasting and how a scripted podcast should feel different than a written blog post.
This book gets into more detailed subject matter so I recommend it more for people who already feel somewhat comfortable writing and want to take it to a higher level.
The Yahoo! Style Guide
You wouldn’t think of Yahoo! as a go-to resource for copywriting. But they are one of the oldest tech companies in the world with a massive reach on their many Yahoo-owned news sites.
The Yahoo! Style Guide gathers inspiration and advice from dozens of editors, writers, bloggers and tech workers to compile the best resource on publishing content. This is very similar to the many journalism writing books out there, except this one focuses solely on web content.
There’s a big focus on your website’s voice and the specific style guides used to create this voice. It’s a big step to follow when launching a new site but it’ll make a big difference if you can nail the tone first.
This tone leaks into everything you write from blog posts to newsletters to interface copy.
And thankfully this book can help you through the entire process for any website. If there’s any authority you should trust on this subject it has to be the team at Yahoo!
The term content marketing didn’t really exist a decade ago. Yet now it’s common knowledge and it’s one of the reasons guest blogging has blown up.
It’ll teach you how to write great content for your blog and how to get others to notice.
You can even use these content marketing skills to write guest posts for other sites and build up your authority as a writer.
Joe is one of the few names associated with coining the term “content marketing”. This is where you publish great content on your website with the aim of driving attention to your brand. This works for automotive shops, bakeries, and design sites like Vandelay.
If you’re hoping to dive into blogging then this is the book you need. It’ll help you look at your company as a publishing house and a content creator alongside the primary business goal.
Anyone who already knows about content marketing won’t find much use in this title. But it’s definitely the best resource for business owners who want to increase revenue and build more authority around their company.
The Content Strategy Toolkit
You don’t always hear about a “content strategy” but it should be a huge consideration for every new site you launch. This relates closely to a UX strategy and if you’ve never thought about your site’s content this book will help a lot.
The Content Strategy Toolkit is a massive guide with 288 pages full of practical advice for planning, organizing, and creating seamless content. It’ll help you recognize problem areas in your site and what you can do to fix them.
This book is also a great resource for interface copywriting to plan a strategy for increasing conversions. The web is made up primarily of written text and that’s not going away anytime soon.
By working through these lessons you’ll learn how to write with intention. This comes from placing your attention where it belongs:
- What your readers expect
- What the company needs
- The tone and required style of the brand
- Writing for the metrics/KPIs of success
If you’re looking for a way to organize content and get it under control then this book is for you. It is no doubt the best resource to help you plan “big picture” ideas and nail down your own content workflow.
Writing for the Web
In this short-but-sweet title you’ll find some some key techniques to improve your writing for any website. This goes far beyond blogging and makes you look at the project’s needs before placing a single word on the page.
Writing for the Web is a very short book with only 80 pages. But it’s also one of the more generalist guides where the tips can relate to all websites.
Chapters include the basics of SEO and writing for humans(which search engines love). You’ll also learn about persuasive sales pages and how to write for the user rather than vague selling points.
If you’re creating a SaaS product you’ll also find lots of tips for interface copywriting. This ultimately boils down to simplicity first with the goal of helping every user find whatever they want to do.
Later chapters get into blogging and email marketing, both of which are crucial skillsets for copywriting.
If you want a quick read that offers genuine value take a peek at this guide and see what you think.
Born to Blog
When you work as a designer there’s good reason to blog. It’s a helpful skillset that you can also offer as a freelance service and charge good money if you’re skilled.
But when writing online you’ll also learn how to express ideas and reach users. The book Born to Blog is a fantastic read covering all the fundamentals of blogging and content marketing.
It’s not specifically geared towards designers but I think it should be mandatory reading for any web designer. This will ultimately improve your ability to create profitable projects that engage readers and keep people on a site for longer.
You could even launch your own blog and create a name for yourself in the web design space.
If you want to see blogging as more than just a hobby I absolutely recommend a copy of this book.
Letting Go of the Words
In the updated 2nd edition of Letting Go of the Words you’ll find tons of ideas for how content should be organized on the web.
Information needs architecting and users should be able to pick up on your designs quickly. This book spans 350+ pages with advice for every type of website.
You’ll learn how to design usable navigation menus, how to write compelling page headers, and how to write copy that actually encourages readers to keep reading. Later chapters get into SEO techniques for helping your content rank in Google.
But most of that just boils down to writing great stuff and keeping readers on the page for longer.
One thing I like about this book is how it considers the reader’s experience. More people are on smartphones and more websites are going responsive. This means your content should fit onto smaller screens if you want to increase usability and time on page.
And everything you need to know about that subject can be found in this book.
The Adweek Copywriting Handbook
Some web copy is just for information but other copy is meant to sell. It’s your job to make sure you know the difference.
The Adweek Copywriting Handbook is a complete guide to copywriting for advertising. It’ll help you understand customer motivations and how to entice people into taking action.
If you skim articles online you’ll see there are all kinds of techniques for selling. This handbook goes into detail with many of these techniques and how they work on the web. Internet marketing is a huge industry and it’s not slowing down either.
Whether you’re hoping to design incredible landing pages or start running Facebook ads, this book will make a huge difference. I absolutely recommend it for anyone who wants to learn the marketing side of web copy.
The Content Code
Last but certainly not least is The Content Code written by Mark W. Schaefer. This book offers a hodgepodge of advice for writing copy that grabs attention on any medium.
Whether you’re working on social media, writing landing pages, or designing a crafty ebook, this guide will help you through every step of the way.
You get to peer into various case studies that showcase how great copywriting is done. This includes a focus on the audience and your target goals. Most people want their articles to go viral on social but they don’t write posts geared towards that!
Learn how to craft sentences and headlines that grab attention. Learn how to crack the content code that’ll send your clickthrough rates skyrocketing into low Earth orbit.
This book is one of the newest on this list and it’s incredibly practical. Definitely worth the money if you’re looking bulk up your marketing strategy.
No matter what you’re writing or what your skill level is there’s bound to be something here that’ll help you grow as a copywriter.
Content marketing is still a huge subject and there’s room for businesses to dive into this. Likewise if you’re launching a new tool then interface copywriting techniques will prove imperative to your success.
This list is comprehensive enough to offer something for everyone. You just have to dig in and find the gem you need!