Writing copy for a website is never an easy task. But when it’s your own website, especially the first one for your own business, it can be a major challenge.
The other day a client confessed that, before she sought professional help with developing her web copy, she had been going through a nightmare trying to write it herself.
She told me, “I found that it was easier for me to write on paper. Sections I thought worked, I ripped out and kept, then shuffled them around. I ended up surrounded by a snow bed of crumpled up paper.
“Literally I was in my pyjamas all the time and I continuously drank way too much coffee and ate chocolate.”
Questioning her further, I discovered that she came up against two major stumbling blocks that I think many small business owners will relate to…
The hardest topic to write about is yourself
My client told me, “I really struggled with writing about me and what I do. Unless you’ve got the character of a prima donna, it’s incredibly difficult to write about yourself.”
If your business is centred around you and your skills, you might find the same. I know I did, when I came to write the copy for my own website, and I’m a copywriter!
The trick is to step back and try to look at your business from an outsider’s perspective and think about what they will want to read, which brings us to the next stumbling block…
It’s not easy to put yourself in a visitor’s shoes
It’s really important to be able to stand back and look at the copy you’re writing from the perspective of a potential customer. That’s far easier said than done.
“I’m used to seeing the big picture, but when I was trying to write my website content, I became incredibly narrow in my focus,” my client confessed. “Speaking with you allowed me to step back and see the bigger picture.”
Take a step back before starting to write your web copy
If you’re determined to write your own copy, take your time.
I’d suggest starting by having a good think about who you’re writing for:
- Who are your main target customers?
- What will they want to read when they arrive at your site?
- What problems might they be looking to solve by visiting it?
- And how can you help?
Then consider the sections your site should include. This might change later, as the copy evolves, but it’s very helpful to have a clear idea of the sections you’re writing content for before you make a start.
Then move on to putting together some brief notes, covering the key points you want to cover on each page.
This process will help to orient you, so when you start writing you’ll already have a fairly clear idea of who you’re writing for, what they will want to read and the messages you want to convey.
Remember you’re writing for human beings
One of the most powerful ways of engaging visitors to your website is to make them feel like you’re talking directly to them. Even if yours will be a business-to-business website, your audience is still made up of individuals. So:
- use the word ‘you’ liberally
- concentrate on writing in a natural style
- keep jargon and buzz words to a minimum
- and avoid stuffy, bureaucratic language.
When it comes to writing copy for the web, less is definitely more. This applies to blocks of content too. Keep paragraphs short and break long lists up with bullets to make the content easy on the eye. Remember people might be looking at your site on their mobile phone.
Also, think about a visitor’s journey thought your site. Include helpful calls to action at the end of your pages to help people navigate through the site to find the information they’re looking for.
Optimising your website
With Google’s current algorithms, the most important factor for attracting traffic to your website is genuinely relevant, original content. Bearing this in mind, don’t worry too much about search engine optimisation (SEO) at this stage. However think about incorporating a blog. That will help you keep a stream of fresh, relevant content flowing onto your site, encouraging the search engine crawlers back to rank it.
If you do want to take a more strategic approach to optimising your website from the outset, there are some very useful articles in the SEO section of this blog.
Go easy on yourself
Don’t be too judgemental as you’re writing. Feel free just to jot things down as they occur to you, then take a good break before looking at it again, to help you get perspective.
Even if, unlike my client, you’re working on a computer rather than paper, don’t be afraid to shuffle things around. Sometimes just changing the order of points can make a huge difference to the way something reads.
It’s a good idea to have someone you trust on hand, even at the end of the phone, to bounce ideas off and help you keep your sanity!
If all else fails, call a copywriter
I’m often called in to help after the client has had a valiant attempt at writing their web copy themselves and eventually given up. Don’t worry, you won’t have wasted your time. As long as it’s not too wordy, having rough content to work from is extremely helpful for a copywriter. It speeds up the whole process, so you’ll probably find they will quote less than if they’d had to gather the content to write the copy from scratch.