We are the change

Pain-free copywriting for your website in 5 easy steps

Running your own business or working for a small company often requires you to wear a multitude of different hats; you may start the day raising invoices, spend your lunch break preparing to meet a new client and come to the end the day working on a new marketing idea.  This wide range of tasks is just one of the reasons why your job is so exciting, no two days are ever the same and news skills are always being learnt.  But that doesn’t mean these new responsibilities won’t sometimes appear a little daunting.

One task that I often hear clients worry about is that of writing copy, particularly content for websites, certainly the phrase ‘email me your web copy over’ does sound daunting, even to me – and I work in the web industry! The important thing to remember is that this is your business, you are the expert, nobody knows the company better than you do so it is only logical that the best person to produce content for your key marketing tool is you!

But how do you go about transforming all that business information you carry around in your head into meaningful, effective web copy? Just like any other daunting task, break it down into small, manageable steps and tackle them one at a time.  As this is something that I help people do regularly, I just so happen to have a procedure for tackling this task that I’m happy to share with you.

Here are my five manageably small steps to writing web copy:

1. Make a cup of tea, grab a biscuit and find somewhere quiet and comfy to work

It’s important that you are able to give your full attention to this important task, turn off your phone (even if it’s just for an hour at a time) and settle down to concentrate.  Also make sure you find the nicest biscuits you can as this is a fun, creative task and you want to take every opportunity to enjoy it to its full potential!

2. Establish the volume of content required

Before you even type your first word, it’s important to bear in mind how much content is required (it’s often far less than one would think!).  I always recommend that people ask their web designer for a copy of their site map and then try to visualise what will go on each page and how many paragraphs are required.  Good designers will usually advise you of the target word count for each page.

3. Think about the audience in relation to your product/service

Consider who will be reading your website and in what capacity.  Are you targeting new mothers at home? Or a solicitor in their office? The tone and vocabulary employed should reflect who you’re talking to and where they shall be.

Think through the features and benefits of your product or service.  For example, clients of a cleaning service shall be interested to hear about the service features (experience, skill, packages available) but it is the benefits that shall compel them to buy (“your home shall be wonderfully clean”, “you’ll have more time to do what matters to you if we do your cleaning for you”).  It’s important that you are very clear about the benefits your product or service offers and that your website content reflects this.

4. Get writing

Don’t worry that what you’re writing isn’t good enough, just write.  Starting is the hardest bit and once you get in the flow you can always go back and edit what you have written.

Remember that website content requires a different approach to brochure copywriting, here are the key elements to consider:

  • Keep it short – visitors tend to skim read websites, writing short sentences and short paragraphs will help them find the information they’re looking for.
  • Use plain English – don’t alienate potential customers with complicated language or industry jargon, your aim isn’t to impress visitors with your fantastically accomplished writing style, it’s to engage them with relevant and accessible information.
  • Front load content – visitors may not read to the bottom of a website page, put the messages you want them to hear at the beginning of each paragraph or page.
  • Keep it keyword rich – keywords are simply the words that visitors put into a search engine to find your website.  Google will ‘crawl’ your website and compare it to others, placing those it deems to be most relevant at the top of the search results. Therefore, if you sell cupcakes, make sure that your website mentions cupcakes frequently!

5. Proofread and edit

Once you have your lovely content written out, make sure you take the time to proofread it.  This may sound obvious, but it is surprising how often this important step is omitted.  Your website is likely to be one of the key factors to determine a customer’s first impression of your company.  If they find daft spelling and grammatical errors here, they’ll quickly apply this to the way the rest of the business is run.  If possible share this task as it’s easy to overlook mistakes in content that you have written yourself.

Now you have highly honed, well written content and it’s time to get it up onto your website where it can start working for you while you concentrate on your next challenge in running your new business.

Good luck – and get writing!

About the Author: Natalie Smith, a CIM qualified marketing professional is the Client Service Manager at Blaze Communication, helping clients to build brands, increase sales, excite customers and communicate more effectively.  follow her with Twitter on @Blaze_Group and visit the website at http://www.blazecommunication.com/.

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  1. Sarah Turner says

    I couldn’t disagree with this article more! If you’re serious about your business and you’re serious about having a website which looks great, drives traffic and gets you sales PLEASE get it down professionally – and that includes the copy. I can’t recall how many times I’ve heard clients say “I’ll do the copy myself” and then six months later their website is still not live. Why? Because writing compelling copy is harder than making cupcakes.

    As for this statement “the important thing to remember is that this is your business, you are the expert, nobody knows the company better than you do so it is only logical that the best person to produce content for your key marketing tool is you!” Not true. You know your house better than anybody else. Are you going to put your new roof on? You know your kid better than anyone else. Are you going to take his appendix out? No, you’ll call in the experts. Copywriters, like me, have very detailed briefs and we spend time with our clients immersing ourselves in their business before we write a single word. So we get to know your business, your market, your goals, plans, strengths, weaknesses – the lot!

    If you haven’t got the money to pay for a well-designed well-written website don’t have a website until you have. Get a profile on LinkedIn. Get a Facebook page. Then when you have the budget please get your copy written professionally.

  2. Julie says

    I agree Sarah, if you have the money, a copywriter is a very worthwhile investment but not everyone has that kind of money. But I would have to wholeheartedly disagree that small business owners should wait until they are able to pay someone to write their copy, to have a website. Simple copy, with well thought out text, can be a great starting point for many small business owners.

    I do think the site needs to look good and well put together … But even these can be done reasonably well with software like WordPress offering an affordable/free solution. While the resulting site probably won’t be quite as good as one with professionally crafted design or copy, it can be enough for a new business to get off the ground.

    A Facebook page and linked in profile are poor substitutes for a website for most businesses.

  3. Julie says

    I agree with Sarah’s points above.

    If you are paying a web designer/developer to craft a website, why not pay a copywriter to write winning copy?

    Sure, the business owner will have a good knowledge of their own industry, products/services etc, but they may not be able to do it justice when it comes to writing decent web copy.

  4. Sally Atkinson says

    I’m with the commenters. A lot of my copywriting clients bring me on board because they are too close to the business, too prone to jargon or tired old cliches to be effective.
    I’m not saying business owners shouldn’t do their own copy, but just like building your own website or filling in your own tax return, there is a cost in time and hassle that means paying an expert to help is a worthwhile and valuable investment.
    For anyone who is going for a DIY job, the benefits over features point is the Golden Rule. Also, however great the biscuits, writing is tough for amateurs and pro alike!