Dare To Do Website Copy Differently
I’ve probably written content for over 100 websites now. That’s neither a brag nor a cry for help, merely a statement of fact.
Many have been very enjoyable, usually those where the client has a clear idea of where they want to be, hands you over all of their knowledge and expertise, and allows you to refine it down to the parts that really matter.
Others have been a slog. A 200+ product descriptions for a business that sold a remarkably large number of seemingly identical ironmongery products kind of slog.
I recently found a folder full of some of the early website content I produced. After getting over the initial horror of the quality of some of the writing on show, I was struck by how my view on how to write effective web copy has remained steady.
Website design has evolved continuously over the past decade, and the guidance regarding how to do it ‘properly’ has changed at a similar pace. However, the things I felt were important then seem just as important, if not more so, now.
Many of the rules shared for writing good web copy lead to identikit sites treating the audience as one homogenous mass, or are needlessly slavish to Google. However, by following a few key principles, you can do things differently.
Regardless of the sector we’re working within or the brief we’re working to, I always sense-check my work against the below. This allows the sites we create to have personality and a point of distinction within their market.
Have I left room for intrigue?
For a long time, the common consensus re: website content has been ‘the more the merrier’. Put everything you have to say about a topic on a page and watch it fly up the rankings as the leads pour in.
While I agree there are some circumstances where this is appropriate, the majority of the time it’s unnecessary. At a basic level, you’ve made your designer’s job a complete nightmare, and more than likely overwhelmed your reader.
More fundamentally, if you’ve told your audience everything you know about a topic on one page, they can make a complete judgement call on your business there and then. The chance to start a conversation, clarify points and build on what you’ve shared is lost. There is no soft conversion point here, merely a ‘yes I want to buy’ or ‘not today, thank you’.
The key to avoid this is refinement. Gather all of the information you require, get it down on the page, and then begin to pick it apart. Keep what is required, and leave something in your back pocket to entice your audience to get in touch and find out more.
Is this interesting or informative?
If you’re bored to tears reading what you’ve just written, it’s likely your audience will find it even more tiresome.
No matter the topic, if at the most basic level your web content is neither interesting or informative, you’ve really got to ask yourself why it’s there.
Is it spam? Have I just created yet more spam?
Thankfully the dark days of OTT keyword stuffing are over. However, some of this culture still pervades.
I always prioritise writing for an actual human that I want to elicit an actual reaction from. Even if the objective is to satisfy an SEO need, my view is that that can’t be the only reason why that content exists. If it is, it’s likely to be spam.
Work with your SEO analyst, understand the opportunity, and find a way to satisfy both needs.
While the irony of advising you to ignore the rules before providing three of my own is certainly not lost on me, it’s much more convenient to my argument if you view them instead as guiding principles.
Have a really clear view of who you’re writing for. Inform them, entertain them, but always leave them wanting more.
And if I’ve abided by my own principles here, you’ll be heading straight over to my Ultimate LinkedIn Post Type Guide now to continue your journey of discovery.