Should you write your own website copy? It’s a question many founders ask themselves, especially when their business is still relatively new or small.
The answer isn’t black and white. There’s inevitably a cost associated with getting a professional copywriter involved, and it may be that your budget simply won’t stretch to it. But there could be costs if you do the writing yourself too.
Too many people are quite happy to pay for a graphic designer, photographer or web developer to ensure that their website has the right look, but when it comes to the copy they shrug and say, “Oh that’s ok, I can write it myself.”
Unfortunately, being able to write an articulate email or even a blog post isn’t the same as writing effective website copy. So before you get started, it’s worth asking yourself a few questions to make sure that you’re not going to inadvertently let your website down at this hurdle.
1) Have I got a structure in place?
Before you start writing, you need to think about both your sitemap and the structure of the page content itself. It’s not just about deciding which words to use but which ones will go where and in what sort of hierarchy. This is both a design and a copy decision.
You’ll need to understand user experience (UX) and the journey people will take from arriving on the site to taking some sort of action. And you’ll need to support both those visitors who are willing to read every word of copy on the page and those who will be doing no more than scanning the homepage.
2) Have I worked out my core message?
Speaking of scanning, if someone does spend just 30 seconds on your site, what is the one thing you want them to know, think or feel about your business? Have you ensured that your top level copy communicates this quickly and easily?
3) Do I know how to balance benefits and features?
You may have heard marketers talking about how copy should highlight benefits over features. What this means is that you need to sell the outcome of doing business with you, rather than the actual facts of your product or service. As someone clever once said, “No one wants a 2 inch drill bit, they want a 2 inch hole.”
But there’s a balance. If you keep going on about how your customer or client’s life or business will be transformed, without telling them how, they’re going to get frustrated quickly. A good website will balance emotive and factual copy, and a good copywriter will know where to prioritise each one.
4) Can I see from my client or customer’s perspective?
One of the benefits of having an external copywriter creating your website copy is that they will bring an outside perspective. Too often as business owners – and even marketing managers – we are too close to the subject.
We are so knowledgeable about what we do or sell that we forget what it’s like to be new to our business. We think as people supplying a product or service, rather than people looking to buy these things. And we use the word ‘we’ too often, forgetting that good website copy should always be about the reader first.
5) Do I know how – and when – to move people to action?
It’s no good just getting people to read your website copy. The copy needs to encourage them to do something. This is where calls to action (CTAs) come in. In some cases you might want a visitor to click through to another page to get more information. Will you ask them to ‘read more’, ‘meet the team’, ‘discover the latest features’?
At some point you’ll also want to ask them to buy, or get in touch, or download something, or sign up for something. Again, wording your CTA is crucial if you’re going to turn their interest into an actual sale or lead.
6) Can I really write?
Ooh, now this is a tough question. Because you’re likely in one of three camps. You either know you can’t write nearly well enough to do your website justice (probably not, otherwise why would you be reading this?). Or you believe you can write well and you’re correct in your assumption (in which case, fantastic).
Or you believe you can write well but the truth is that you can’t (ouch). If you’re not certain, get feedback (more on this later). Don’t ask people who will flatter you. Ask those that care enough to tell you the truth. Tough love doesn’t feel nice, but neither does not getting any leads through your website.
7) Have you got the time?
This is a purely practical point that is nevertheless worth considering. After all, if you run a business then you’re bound to have a lot on your to do list. Think about how long it’s likely to take you to write your own website copy, and then think about what else you could be doing with your time.
What would you be charging a client if you spent those hours delivering your service? Is it as much as you would have to pay a copywriter to write your copy? Or perhaps you could spend the time writing a business plan that gets you funding, or a presentation that will win you a huge new contract. What use of your time is going to add the most value to your business?
Whatever you decide…
Even the best writers need a good editor. If you’re going to write your own copy, make sure you get feedback before you press the ‘go live’ button. Feedback, as we’ve already said, from people you can trust to tell you the truth. That might be people in your industry, clients or any professional writers offering a feedback service like our Website Health Check.
First ask them to scan the copy quickly, and report back on what their first impressions were. What do they think you do? Who do they think you work with? What do they think makes your business different to others in your field?
Then get them to read more deeply. What impression do they get of your brand? Are there any words or phrases that stand out as being ‘not quite right’? Is any of it confusing? Do they know where to go to get the information they need.
All of this feedback will help you work and rework your website copy until it becomes something that not only reads well but will actually deliver results for your business. Then give it to one last person to proofread it for typos.
If, in the end, you decide you need professional help, don’t be disappointed. Even professional writers don’t automatically make good website copywriters. There’s so much more to it than being able to craft an articulate sentence. Deciding to work with an experienced website copywriter could be the best decision you ever made!
Your monthly dose of copywriting, marketing and business advice…
Subscribe to the Right Words to make sure you never miss an issue and get access to exclusive content from the RH&Co team.
Journalist turned copywriter Rin Hamburgh (formerly Rin Simpson) is the founder of RH&Co, a Bristol-based strategic brand copywriting agency working with expert-led businesses across the South West, UK and Europe.