Don’t Let Your Copy Ruin Your Website2 OCT
5 tips to help you create the copy your page deserves
Creating a new website for your business is pretty exciting stuff really. It’s going to be bold, modern, with big, beautiful pictures. Your customers are going to love it, your colleagues are going to be proud enough to plug it left, right and centre, it’s going to look brilliant! There’s just one, niggling little thing you’ve failed to think about...
You need some words on there.
Web copy for many is something of an afterthought. In the heady rush of making sure your site looks great, the words are produced in a last-minute scramble. That, or the content is copy and pasted, or clumsily rehashed, from company literature or an old website.
While a picture may be worth a thousand words, the words we use are still of value. Too many gorgeous sites are ruined by copy that is dull, poorly written or riddled with clichéd ‘business speak’.
Please, friends, let us stop marring perfectly good web design with lazy copywriting! But don’t despair, there’s hope yet. Below are a few pointers to help you craft the copy your website deserves.
1. What’s important?
I’ve come across a surprising number of company websites, many of which look the business, that completely fail to tell me what the organisation actually does.
The homepage needs to tell me everything. It needs to say:
1. Who you are
2. What you do
3. How I can contact you
Whilst pretty pictures and clever, punning straplines are all well and good, if I’m not given this crucial information at the front door I’m unlikely to come in any farther to seek it.
To clarify, I mean what you really do. Telling me you offer ‘incorporated business solutions’ at ‘the forefront of digital pioneership’ or other such nonsense, is effectively telling me nothing. What I want is an explanation of what you can offer me, which I, the general user, can understand. This leads me to my second point...
2. Keep it simple
Writing simply doesn’t mean writing poorly. Think of Occam’s razor, the reasoning that the simplest solution to a problem is often the best.
Good writing is clear, straight-forward and doesn’t rely on clichés or jargon. The use of highly technical or flowery language might make you look clever (unless, of course, you misuse it, then you look a right plum), but it does little good if it bores, confuses or misleads the reader. Keep it short and keep it clear.
I’m a big fan of The Campaign for Plain English’s page and I use their brilliant (and free) resources on a regular basis.
3. Edit, Edit, Edit!
This is the boring bit. No matter how good a writer you may be, you are not immune from typos, spelling mistakes or the odd grammatical error. A significant part of your time spent copywriting has to be devoted to editing and proofreading. I don’t mean a quick once-over, I mean really analysing your text: reading it forwards and backwards, looking up exactly how to use semicolons and insisting a colleague double checks everything before you hit 'Publish'.
People do notice mistakes (just take a look at Copy Writer Fail). Whether it’s a spelling error, poor grammar or a regrettable choice of wording, some eagle-eyed individual will notice and may even call you out on it.
4. Write like a person
Your copy is a key part of your SEO strategy. Good, relevant copy, well-written blogs and useful content is loved by users and search engines alike. Writing like a link-building robot, however, will alienate your readers.
Tactics like keyword stuffing (packing your web copy with keywords and phrases in an attempt to manipulate the search engines) or repeating words or phrases over and over again are not big and they’re not clever. This will turn off your customers and will eventually attract Google’s attention - and they won’t be too happy with you, either.
Write like a person, which shouldn't be too hard, seeing as you are one.
5. Consider calling in the professionals
The point I’m really trying to make here is that your copy can’t be taken for granted. You need to invest time, effort and energy (and, dare I say, budget) into creating clear, accurate and compelling writing.
If you don’t have the resources to do this in-house - or if poring over The Elements of Style to triple check whether you should have used that dash there isn't your bag - consider contacting a company (like us!) to do the job properly.
Your website deserves it.