Do you know what we always find really sad? The number of poorly written websites in the world. So many businesses invest heavily in design, in development, even in photography. But when it comes to written content, they get the poor marketing manager to cobble something together. Anyone can write, right?
There’s no doubt that design and development are both vitally important elements of a highly performing website. But written content is what your audience will be looking at to determine whether you can do what you need them to, whether you know what you’re talking about, whether they can trust you.
And getting it right is about a lot more than having your A-level English certificate. You need to take a strategic approach to your written content and make sure you’re not making any of these common mistakes.
It’s hard to understand quickly what you actually do
If you teach yoga classes or you produce craft cider or you offer accountancy services, it should be relatively simple to explain what it is your business does. But not every product or service is as easy to understand, especially if you’re talking to an audience that is less knowledgeable than you.
One of the best ways to quickly communicate what it is you do is to focus on the value you can bring to your audience. How will buying from or working with you benefit them? Why will their lives – either personal or professional – be better for having chosen your product or service?
But don’t be too obscure or generic. “Disruptive software that transforms organisational paradigms” doesn’t really mean anything when you break it down. And “A unique formula that’s better for the planet, better for you” could apply equally to a host of eco products from washing powders to facial scrubs.
There isn’t a clear reason to choose you above the competition
Clarifying what it is you do and how it’s beneficial to your audience is one thing. Now you’re on their shortlist, you have to show them why you’re the best option for them compared to everyone else on the market.
This is where you have to think about everything from your value proposition to your brand personality – and make sure it’s conveyed in your website copy. Perhaps you’re a recruitment company that prides itself on its strong values and ethics. Maybe you offer the widest range of bike hire options in the South West. It could be that you’ve got multiple awards, hard-to-get accreditation, a stellar client base.
Whatever you believe your audience will most connect with, you need to be showcasing that front and centre in your website content. Chances are it will inform your messaging throughout your site.
It’s difficult for people to find what they’re looking for
People will navigate through your website in one of two ways. They will use the menu, and they will also scan subheads and follow calls to action (CTAs) through the body copy (the main text on each page). Both options must be as simple as possible to use.
On your homepage, you need to ensure that the body copy links through to each of the most important areas of your website that you might want people to visit. Obviously this should include your product or service pages, but might also include your About page, case studies page or blog.
If you offer a range of product or service categories or work with distinct audience groups, make this as clear as possible on your homepage so people can quickly get to the section that’s most relevant for them.
You haven’t provided any social proof
You can say you’re an expert or your product is the best on the market until you’re blue in the face, but you’re never going to be as convincing as someone who has already benefited from working with or buying from you.
Your website should, at the very least, include testimonials. These don’t need to be extensive. A few lines capturing how you made a difference to your customer or client is enough. You can clump these together on a dedicated page but they’re far more powerful spread through your site where people can’t help but see them.
Case studies are even more powerful, especially for service-based businesses and especially if that service is relatively complex. These longer pieces of content should set out the challenge you helped to solve, the way you did it and crucially the results. If you can pepper your case study with quotes from your client, even better.
You aren’t telling people what to do next
Getting people to visit your website is the first hurdle. The next is to get them to stay and engage – to actually read enough of the relevant sections of content that they at least move along the customer journey towards working with you. But you don’t want to leave it there.
A call to action is one of the smallest segments of copy on your website and yet it is potentially the most powerful. Your audience needs to know what to do once they’ve finished reading a page – do you want them to buy something, sign up for a newsletter, join a webinar, book a demo?
Be clear on what you want your audience to do and then test different CTAs to see which has the most impact. The difference between ‘buy now’ and ‘add to basket’ could massively increase your conversion rate.
How to fix your website content so it delivers results
If you’ve identified one or more issues with your current website content, don’t panic. Knowing there’s a problem is the first step towards fixing it, after all.
It may be that before you can actually fix the copy, you need to go back and do a bit more work on the fundamentals.
Who is your audience and what problems are you solving for them? How do you communicate what it is that you do so that people will both understand and care? What is your value proposition? Why should people work with or buy from you and not the competition?
One you’re clear on these, you’ve got a much higher chance of creating website copy that resonates. Then it’s just a case of coming up with engaging messaging lines, crafting punchy and persuasive paragraphs to back them up and structuring the copy so that it supports the customer journey.
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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.