Is your dread of writing website copy keeping you from getting your word out on the web?
I’ve seen it happen to so many people. They finally get around to building or upgrading their business website. They search for a web designer / developer, go through the process of quotes and proposals. They choose who they want to work with, put down their deposit and …. freeze!! Roadblock! The thought of writing their website copy sends shivers down their spine. So they procrastinate. They push it down the priority list. And their website languishes unfinished, unpublished as they struggle with what on earth they should write.
When it comes to your website, done is better than perfect. Of course, you should write the highest quality content you can, but the quest for perfection is a futile one. A website is like a house – there will always be improvements to be made, or something to fix.
So when it comes to writing the pages for your website, there are two things to remember:
(1) Your website copy isn’t set in stone or carved in concrete. The beauty of modern technology is that the copy can be updated and amended at any time – especially if your website is using a content management system such as WordPress.
(2) If you write your website copy with your customer in mind, you can rarely go wrong. Instead of troubling yourself with what you think “should” be on your website, have your target customer in mind and answer the questions they often ask. Solve their problems and think about what they want to know (as opposed to just thinking about what you want to tell them).
(There is a third thing to consider – you can always outsource your copy writing to a professional. The time you spend agonising over words might be better spent on other areas of your business. But for the purposes of this blog, I’m talking to the DIY-ers who are determined to craft their own words themselves.)
Here are some website copywriting tips that will help get you out of procrastination and into action.
PREPARATION IS VITAL
Some people choose to throw themselves at their keyboard and just start writing. I think the blinking cursor on the screen is an instrument of torture and prefer to get some thoughts down on paper before I launch myself into a writing project.
So in preparing to write your website copy, brainstorm your answers to these topics:
(1) What is the goal of your website?
Seems obvious, but the primary goal of your website will drive its text, images and structure. So make sure the goal is clear in your head. Whether the main goal is to drive online sales, reinforce your position as an authority in your field, build a community or something else – each will have an impact on the way you write you copy.
(2) Who is your target audience / ideal customer?
Here she is again, banging on about target audiences. But as with any aspect of marketing and business, if you don’t know WHO you are talking to, how do you know HOW to talk to them in a way that is effective and persuasive. I’m hoping you’ve already done the work to determine your target market, but writing a new website is a great time to revisit your target audience and see if you know all you need to know about them.
(3) Brainstorm the problems / challenges your target audience face – and how you can help solve those problems.
This knowledge and information will form the basis of your website copy. The secret to truly effective websites is to understand and solve problems or issues for customers.
(4) Make a list of all of the questions your customers ask you.
Set aside some time and write down every question you have been asked by your customers: before, during and after the sales process. It’s even better if you can do this with your team. Knowing these questions helps you answer them within your website – and your website them becomes a round-the-clock salesperson for your business.
(5) Do a competitor analysis.
Take a look at the websites of your key competitors. What information do they offer, and what do you feel is missing (from your customers’ viewpoint)? Most importantly, how can you really set yourself apart from your competitors with your website and copy? How can you build trust and a connection with your target customers in a way that makes you stand out from the crowd?
(6) What keywords do you think people would use to search for a business like yours?
While keyword stuffing (using the same keywords over and over again throughout a website) is now frowned upon, it’s still helpful to consider the words and phrases your target customer would use, and incorporate those into your website in a natural way.
DECIDE THE STYLE, PERSONALITY & TONE OF YOUR WEBSITE?
What’s your brand’s personality? Are you serious, knowledgeable, luxurious, down-to-earth, cheeky, funny, helpful?
Will you use formal language, or have a more conversational tone?
Will you write in the first person (appropriate if you’re a sole trader or you are your business) or in the third person? (I recommend using the first person / first person plural (e.g. I and we). It feels more approachable and authentic).
WRITE TO BE UNDERSTOOD
Make your sentences easy to read and understand. Avoid the temptation to string together long sentences. Keep them short and sharp.
Again think of your target audience, and try and use the language and conversational style that would attract and engage them. Avoid industry jargon and big words. Write so that your words are easily understood.
Make your website copy scannable. Use headings, subheadings and bullet points so that people can quickly scan the copy to see the main points.
Don’t feel that you have to write thousands and thousands of words. Use as many words as it takes to get your message across and to answer the questions your target audience might ask. A website needs to have enough copy that readers (and search engines) understand what it’s about, but in today’s world of short attention spans and character limits, no-one is going to read an endless stream of words.
CHECK, CHECK AGAIN AND HAVE SOMEONE ELSE CHECK!
It’s a shame to put so much work into writing and creating your website only to have it spoiled by typos and grammatical errors. Even if you don’t pay too much attention to grammar, your customers might. Plus poor spelling and grammar may detract from your brand. It’s hard to claim you pay great attention to detail if you have errors on your own website.
Correct spelling and grammar is not a difficult thing to achieve. It’s a matter of proofreading and double-checking. I also recommend getting two other people to proofread your website before you hit publish:
(1) Someone who is in your target market.
By asking someone who fits your ideal customer profile to read and check your website, you can ask them to identify gaps in the information they would want to receive. They can ask any questions they feel aren’t answered on the website so you can revise your copy to include all relevant information.
(2) Someone who is obsessed by grammar and spelling.
We all know someone (or might even be someone *ahem*) who is obsessed with grammar. One easy way to identify them: they are the people who share grammar memes on Facebook. Or correct other people’s use of “your and you’re” or “there, their and they’re” because they just can’t help themselves. These friends come in really handy when you need a proofreader. Ask them to be brutal and find as many errors as possible. That way you can be confident your average reader won’t find any errors.
Of course, mistakes happen and no-one is perfect, but giving attention to proofreading can minimise the errors (and therefore potential distractions) on your website.
So there you have some tips and guidelines for writing your website copy. In next week’s blog, I will look at writing the four most common website pages, with questions and prompts to inspire and inform your writing.
ACTION: Complete the 6 preparation steps above ready to tackle the key pages of your website.