Category Archives: Copywriting

Why use a copywriter for your website?

How much time, money, and resources have you spent on your website – on the design, domains, hosting, imagery, and development?  Yet the copy is the thing that clients are most likely to try and do themselves.

I’ve been involved in creating websites since 2005, and the number one reason for a website launching late is a client’s DIY copy.  Don’t believe me?  Ask a Web Designer.

Until you try and do it yourself,  you may not realise just how much work goes into the words on your website.  I always liken it to plumbing a bathroom.  You may have no experience, but a quick tutorial on YouTube and you could install the whole thing yourself…but hiring a plumber who is qualified and experienced means that they will know the best way to do things.  They’ll have ways that just work better than others.  They can anticipate and deal with small problems so they don’t end up being big disasters.  So yes, you could plumb it yourself, but if you want a professional job, you get a professional to do it. 

It’s the same with building a website.  You could go to Wix and get a free site, or you could go to an agency and get a bespoke system that actually helps your business.  One that ties in with your sales processes, and looks and sounds just like you – not like every other website in your industry.

DIY vs Professional Copy

Obviously I think it’s better to get a copywriter to write the content for your website, but why believe me?  My livelihood depends on you agreeing with me!

So, to try and convince you, here are 2 accountancy websites I found with a Google search – this is what happens when people write the copy themselves (I assume at least, they are not good – either way, company names have been removed to save me getting angry emails from insulted marketers):

Accountancy website 1:
“At XYZ our team of expert chartered accountants and business advisers are on hand to listen and advise to help you grow your business. An award winning team, our accountants and advisers offer a range of services tailored to your business and personal finance needs including: tax planning, audit, payroll services, bookkeeping, employment tax and pension and succession planning to name but a few.”

Accountancy website 2:
“ABC Accountancy offers high-quality, affordable accountancy services for small and medium-sized businesses.  ABC is a specialist in offering accountancy services to small and medium-sized businesses and offers extremely reliable, cost-effective Payroll & CIS and Bookkeeping and Management Accounts services. Our Personal Tax Return and Corporation Tax services are comprehensive and affordable.”

How on earth would you pick between them? 

They don’t tell me anything about the business, the personality, or the values of the business.  They are repetitive, and largely they make no sense!

  • Your Corporation Tax service is comprehensive?!  Does that mean you offer one where you only partially complete the form for me? 
  • Your business advisers are on hand to advise me?!  What else would they be doing?
  • You are expert chartered accountants?  I’d assume that all CAs are experts in their field…that’s why they got the accreditation!  What makes you different? 
  • “Extremely Reliable” – you are either a reliable person or you aren’t, it’s a binary concept, the fact that you are using the same USP as my 18-year-old babysitter does not fill me with faith.

The two examples are full of words but say nothing.

Right, enough critiquing for today – what would I write…?  Well, something that told me and their other potential clients about the company for a start; something that told me that they could solve my problems, and not take up hours of my time; and that they would be worth the hard-earned money I was paying them to take care of my hard-earned money! 

A great example of copywriter-written copy in the same industry is Quickbooks – their home page is full of words that take my fear away and solve my pain points:

“Always know what you owe.” Yes please.
“Maximise your tax savings.” Yes please.
“Snap receipts on the go and avoid hours of data entry.” Yes please.

Do you see the difference?  Rather than telling me about how affordable you are, tell me what value you are going to offer me.  Or better yet, get a copywriter to do it for you…and for the love of Thor don’t use the word reliable – you are business, not a Volvo.

If you are ready to give up on the onerous task of penning your own copy and get a professional to do it for you – get in touch.

How do you use a copywriter for SEO?

I have been working on SEO projects since 2005.  The thing that freaks me out most about that (apart from the fact that I started so young…cough), is that nothing has changed.  OK, the keywords meta tag is not a thing anymore, and people care less about Yahoo! – but the golden rule is still the same:

To be successful, you should only optimise your website for the thing your website talks about.

Back in 2005, this meant don’t optimise your accountancy website for ‘Free iPod’, now it means, if you want to be found for a search term, you better have it on your website.  This is where a copywriter comes in.  So here are some particularly great reasons to use a copywriter for SEO:

1. Processing your Keywords Naturally

We’ve all been on websites which force the keywords into the text.  We call it ‘writing for Google’ rather than ‘writing for people’.  A good copywriter won’t sacrifice the purpose of the text for the sake of search engines.  They will write high quality copy that people will actually want to read and engage with, and it will feature your chosen search terms in the correct density without you even noticing.

2. Maintaining Brand Consistency

You may want to be found for ‘cheap cars Glasgow’ but is that consistent with your brand?  An SEO copywriter strikes a balance between the keywords you want to get found for, and the ones which marry with your brand.  This is especially helpful to reduce bounce rate on your web pages.  If the web page relates to the search terms it is optimised for, that’s great, but it needs to relate to the rest of the site too in order to get that second or third click.  Brand consistency promotes engagement and engagement leads to sales.

3. Creating Pages with a Single Mission

If pages are confusing or convoluted, people will leave.  The ‘instant result’ mentality of your average online browser means that your pages must draw them in and help them to take the next step that you are leading them to.  A great SEO copywriter can take an existing page and improve it to have a single mission and help your visitors to follow that path…which leads us nicely to…

4. Planning a Path for the Visitor

About once a week I will get a list of keywords, or a single keyword, from a client with a request to write copy for that keyword.  My reply is, and always will be, ‘why?’.  In order to create pages that convert, we need to know what you want the client to do once they reach your site so that we can direct them that way with our calls to action.  If you need help with that, I can help you work through the ‘why’ questions until we figure it out!

5. Write knowledgably about the Subject

In my training I love telling the story of a brand putting a new marketing intern in charge of their next bike related product launch.  She created web pages, a Facebook community, live Q&A sessions, and more, managing it all herself.  They asked me to audit their pages and see why the campaign just wasn’t converting.  A quick check showed that the poor intern had no clue about bikes.  She’d not ridden once since she was very small and her copy had no substance at all.  The morale of the story – don’t ask amateurs to talk to experts. 

What a good copywriter will do is research – a hell of a lot of research sometimes – so that they can talk knowledgably about a subject.  This helps hugely with SEO as people will share and link to the page if it’s useful and written by an expert.  If it adds value for your customers, the likelihood of it doing well in the search engines is much higher.

If you’d like to find out more about SEO Copywriting and how we can help you, please get in touch.

What is your brand voice?

We can all think of brands that sound a particular way.  The examples I always use in my training are Marks & Spencer’s food vs. Iceland food.  Consider how they show off Christmas biscuits:

The way they sound, the words they use, the emotions they conjure – that is done through ‘brand voice’. So how do you find yours?  Let’s start with a definition.

What a Brand voice is:

  • Attitude: sometimes called the ‘register’.  It’s about the attitude behind the words – formal or friendly, funny or fierce, homely and honest or cheeky and crass…there are so many options.  It’s unlikely that your brand is the extreme of any of these.  Let’s look at Innocent Drinks – they are friendly, homely and very cheeky:
  • Vocabulary: sometimes this is particular words (saying ‘people’ instead of ‘staff’ for instance) and sometimes it’s a style of words (slang, technical jargon, long and complex or short and snappy).
  • Grammar: should things be active or passive; first person or third person; do you say “don’t” or “do not”; this is a list that could go on forever, so don’t get too pedantic!

What a Brand Voice isn’t:

  • A list of values: a florist, a car manufacturer, and a supermarket could all say that they were affordable, honest, and passionate, but they should not all have the same brand voice.  Your values should inform your voice, but they are not the same thing.

Pulling all of these things together creates a picture of what your brand voice should be – but once you define your brand voice and create the guidelines, it’s no good to you sitting in a folder on your shelf, so how do you turn it into something you can actually use?  Firstly, don’t make it a vague list of rules, nor a lengthy document that no one will read. When I create a company’s brand voice guidelines I include an easy to understand description, plus hints, tips and plenty of examples.

The examples are so important, as brand voice is not exactly the same every time you produce content. Your tone needs to vary depending on the 5Ws:

  • Who are you speaking to – is it prospective clients, existing clients, or potential suppliers?
  • What you are telling them – don’t go too quirky in your Terms & Conditions, or too formal in your thank you letters.
  • Where you are speaking to them – is it on social media, or in an ebook?
  • When you are speaking to them – what stage of the buying process they are at?
  • Why are you speaking to them – are you trying to get them to make a decision, or are you telling them valuable information?

All this adds up to there being no hard and fast rule for how you write in your brand voice every single time you write (or speak). The purpose of the guidelines is to give you and your team a way to check and see if writing obeys the rules, and has the correct tone of voice for your business, and for the occasion. 

You need Buy In

No matter how clearly I create them, or what exciting font I use, a list of rules is not going to inspire your people to create content in your new voice.  You need to get them to buy into your brand voice, and believe in what you are saying to get them to use it.

How you get them to buy in depends on your people, your organisation style and more – I can help you through this step with my brand voice workshop.  Get in touch to find out more.

If it’s all a bit overwhelming, don’t worry, I can help.  Get in touch for more information on how I can help you to establish your brand voice.

How the feck do you write for websites?

Well hello, nice t – BYE!  Four seconds.  That’s how long it takes someone to decide if they are going to read your content. So why the feck are you writing so much of it?  OK, I know that Google prioritises quality content, and the more you have the better, but what about the people who find you using Google?  Don’t you want them to hang about and actually read what you have to say?

I started working as a Web Copywriter and Editor back in 2005 (that was my actual job title!).  Now I teach others how to do it, and there are two simple truths that will make your website content better every time – are you ready?

Big mind-blowing fact 1:

So here it is – the big secret for writing for websites…are you ready? Write for people not search engines.  I know, I know, mind-blowing.  Imagine if you wrote website copy the same way that you wrote your brochure copy or, even better, the way that you explained your business to real live people at networking events.  Think how much better your pages would sound.

Think about the questions that your customers need answered, the pain points your service solves, and write about that.  Don’t worry if you cannot squeeze your “keyword density” in (that’s for another blog post…) just focus on telling your customers and future customers what they need to know.

Big mind-blowing fact 2:

There is a good chance that I am going to be excommunicated from the secret society of SEO copywriters for saying this but…Google is not the only way that people find your website.  No, honestly, it’s true.  In fact, when you were just starting out, I would bet good money that the majority of your business was not due to you being number one in the search engines.

So picture the scene, your potential customer saw your Facebook advert and has clicked through to your homepage where they are now reading about how you are the ‘best plumber plumbing company plumbers service Glasgow Edinburgh Scotland’.  Yeah, that’s not going to sell it to them.  Instead of writing for a robot, pretend a real person is going to read your page or, better yet, ask a real person to read the copy and see if it makes sense to them.

Super helpful bonus tip

You can still have the really long keyword rich content for the search engines, and not put your customers off.  Use clever ways to break up the text with sub-headings (or cross headings if you’re an old school copywriter like me), block quotes, images and more.  Employ tricks like answering FAQs, telling stories and explaining processes to make keywords flow with your text rather than jarring with them.

TL:DR

Things in the web world change every single year – sometimes even more frequently than that, so I will probably have to come back and edit this blog regularly to update with the new tips and tricks that are working for me and my clients.  However, one thing has never changed in the last 15+ years of me writing for websites: if you write for people rather than search engines, your website will convert better.  So do that.  Please.

If you would like some coaching in your website copywriting, get in touch.

Peace, j x

What is a copywriter?

I do a lot of networking, it’s the nature of running your own business.  Part of me loves it – meeting new people, hearing their stories…but part of me really hates it.  I hate it because at every single event I’m asked ‘What do you do?’ and I say ‘I’m a copywriter’ and they look at me blankly, or worse, ask ‘like patents and stuff?’  ‘No, not copyright, copywrite – oh, never mind.’

So after answering the question so many times, I thought it was about time I just wrote down the answer – if nothing else it’ll give me a URL to pass people when I can’t get beyond the vacant stares…

So what does a copywriter do?

It’s fairly simple – they create original written copy.  This can be for adverts, promotional brochures, websites, PR, radio scripts or even the back of cereal packets.  It really all depends.  Some copywriters work for one company, internally as part of a marketing team.  I’ve held this position before, often along side designers and developers, producing the SEO copy they need for their websites. It means you end up as a bit of an expert in a company’s product, service and even industry, which can only make your copy better.  It’s a great place for a writer to work.

Other writers work on a freelance basis, one day writing a newsletter for a professional clown, and the next writing website copy for an undertaker.  Some write scripts, some write or proof legal documents, some write the content for the back of software boxes, and some do all of them!  This is the type of writing that I love.  I love having to immerse myself in research until I can speak knowledgeably about a subject I previously knew nothing about.  It keeps writing fresh and every day interesting.

Yes, copywriters do come up with product and company names, slogans and snappy advertising catch phrases – but coming up with catchy things to say isn’t enough.  You need to have the flexibility to adapt from client to client, project to project, audience to audience.  After all, it’s not just the topic that changes, it’s the people you are writing for.  Your ultimate goal is to influence a reader to action with just your words, so you need to understand who it is that you are writing for.

Ready to find out more about how I can help your business? Get in touch.