10 Things You Should Expect From Your Website Copywriter
As websites and electronic commerce are becoming more and more common, business owners and marketing managers are realising that quality web copy is every bit as important as impressive design. And with the ever increasing importance of search engine presence, the role of web copy has never been more critical.
But in such a relatively new field, customers are still coming to grips with what they can expect of their website copywriter. The question a lot of people are asking is, “How do I know I’ll get what I pay for?”
Before engaging a website copywriter for your next project, ask them whether they’re able to provide you with the following ten essentials…
1) Fixed Quote
A lot of website copywriters will tell you they only work on an hourly rate. They’ll cite varying requirements, rapidly changing technologies, greater incentive, the risk of customer indecision, and a host of other reasons why they can’t provide a fixed quote. But don’t be fooled. You have a right to know what the job is going to cost you. If a website copywriter won’t give you a fixed quote, think twice…
2) Contract of Works to be Completed
Just as important as a fixed quote is a signed contract. It may not be drawn up by a lawyer, but a written and signed document outlining the works to be carried out, and the cost of those works is essential. If a website copywriter is reluctant to provide a written, itemised quote including estimated number of words, you have to ask yourself why.
Always ask how long your job is going to take. If you’ve already had a go at writing your own web copy, you’ll know how time consuming it is. Never make the mistake of thinking the job will be done in a day. Granted, a professional website copywriter will be very efficient in crafting your copy, but no matter who the writer, a quality product requires time. And on top of writing time, remember that you’ll have to review and provide feedback on everything they write. In a lot of cases, it’s the review phase that takes the most time, so make sure you try to set some time aside, otherwise you’ll find yourself the bottleneck!
4) Plan of Attack
Try to get some idea from your website copywriter about how they plan to approach your project. Don’t be fooled into believing you have to hand over the dollars before they’ll reveal their plan of attack. You have a right to be comfortable with their approach before you engage their services. Will you receive individual drafts of every page, or a single draft of the entire site? What format will you receive the finished product in? How many review iterations do they anticipate?
A lot of ambitious web service providers of all types are calling themselves writers these days. They offer copywriting as a specialist service, but don’t engage a specialist to complete the work. Always ask to see samples of their previous copy. Read it thoroughly and ask yourself, “Does this copy convey benefits?”. Pretend you’re the intended audience and ask “Does this copy answer the questions I need answered before I’ll buy?”
Most copywriters’ websites will give you a very high-level overview of their business and the services they offer. Some even offer samples. But very few offer a professional biography of their writers. If you’re not happy relying on their website as your sole source of information, ask for a copy of their CV. The things you’re looking for are a professional history in writing, and preferably some tertiary education in the same.
Perhaps the best indication of a website copywriter’s ability is customer satisfaction. Don’t be afraid of asking for customer testimonials. A good website copywriter will be proud of their testimonials – so proud, in fact, that they’ll be offering them without you even asking. Look for testimonials from companies you recognise and/or can verify. Anyone can get their great-aunt write them a testimonial. Some will even write their own. If you really want to be sure, ask for contact details so you can give the customer a call and hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.
8) SEO Copy Skills
Approximately 80% of all web traffic comes through search engines, so it’s essential that your website copywriter has proven experience in SEO copy. Ask them their general approach to SEO copy. Do they normally perform the keyword analysis themselves? How do they know when they’ve used enough keywords in enough of the right places? Can they show you a high ranking site they’ve written the copy for? What steps do they take to avoid diluting the effectiveness of your primary keyword phrases? Will their SEO copy change the text links on your pages? (It should!)
9) SEO Copy at No Extra Charge!
Never be fooled into paying more for SEO copy. If you’ve already performed your keyword analysis, and you know where you want your keyword phrases used, writing of the copy should take no longer than usual. I’ll say it again… SEO copy is not an extra – it’s how web copy should be written! Do not pay extra for it! The only things you should expect to pay extra for are keyword analyses, adding the HTML code for unmarked text links, providing guidance on site structure, sourcing of inbound links to your site, etc. SEO copy by itself should cost no extra.
10) Writing Experience for Online Media
Writing for an online medium is entirely different to writing for print. Readers have different requirements and objectives, and reading conditions are very different. Make sure your website copywriter knows how to cater to these differences. Ask them to recommend a maximum page length or word count per page. The correct answer should include some comment on the trade-off between the problems of scrolling and the need for a high keyword count for SEO. Ask them whether they prefer long sentences or short (and hope to hear “short”). Ask them whether they will include lots of text links within the main body of the copy, and if so, will they appear as regular links (colored and underlined) or will they be unmarked.
Professionally written copy can mean the difference between a great looking site and a great looking site THAT EARNS YOU MONEY.
Choose your website copywriter carefully.
Making It Easy for Customers To Choose You
Isn’t it frustrating? All you need is a new computer desk (or whatever you may be currently shopping for), but you can’t make a decision you’re comfortable with. It shouldn’t be this hard, should it? What’s holding you back? Probably lack of information.
Here’s something every web site owner should know. When visitors come to your site, they are looking for a reason to buy from you. Think that’s stating the obvious? You’d be surprised! I come across countless sites every day that do everything but give the visitor a reason to buy, subscribe, click, call or otherwise take action. It’s a fatal mistake in any business, but it’s especially damaging for web-based companies.
Let’s continue with our example of buying a computer desk. You start with the big three office-supply stores. You click the “office furniture” link, and you’re faced with a barrage of links to pages about lamps, printer stands, bookshelves and more. Then you get to the desks. Computer desks, desk collections, metal desks, workstations… geez! There are lots of links, but no information. Finally, after drudging through pages of links, you find some actual copy that describes a desk you think you might want.
You look over the features. You write down the price. You gather the shipping or delivery information. Great! Now, on to the next site.
When you arrive, everything looks almost the same except the logo. Same navigation, same links, same inventory, same prices. The shipping amount is the same, and the delivery policy is identical to the site you just came from. As you click from site to site, it’s like déjà vu. How are you supposed to make a decision to buy when all your options are equal? What will be the determining factor between site A and site B?
If you’re feeling frustrated just reading this scenario, imagine how your site visitors feel. When they come to your site, they are looking for a clear reason to buy from you instead of all the other sites. Do you give them a reason? Do you give them several reasons?
If all factors are equal – even if all factors are similar – your visitors will find it difficult to make a decision. When they start guessing at which site would be best to buy from, you start losing business. Maybe they’ll choose you, maybe they won’t. There is a way to ensure you are chosen over your competition. You have to clearly point out how you are different or better than every other option available.
MarketingExperiments.com recently published their findings in regards to differentiating your company from others. They reported that most companies – when asked what their most unique aspect was – answered, “Our great customer service.” I have bad news for you. That won’t cut it. Why? Because, in most cases, when customers are visiting sites to gather information and make purchasing decisions, they won’t come in contact with your customer service department. It would be a nonissue until something went wrong.
Also, since most businesses are claiming excellent customer service, it’s an overused promise that has begun to carry less and less weight. You need something solid. You need something that is persuasive. If I were standing in front of you and told you that I was considering buying my desk from you or from Vendor Z, what would you say to convince me to buy from you? Here are some things to consider when trying to discover ways to differentiate yourself from other businesses.
· Offer free shipping (on all orders or on orders over a certain amount)
· Increase your inventory
· Decrease your inventory and only carry specialty items
· Lower your prices
· Raise your prices (works well for premium goods & services)
· Increase your area of expertise (for service-based businesses)
· Specialize or narrow your niche
· Achieve ratings or rankings from well-known associations or organizations
· Apply for a patent
· Win awards
· Offer a customer loyalty program
Conduct an online survey of your visitors to ask what they want. (SurveyMonkey.com is great for this.) Look back over your complaints and other feedback for ideas about how to set yourself apart. Email existing customers (if you have their permission to do so) and ask them why they chose you. Whatever you do, don’t stay in a position where you are exactly the same as (or highly similar to) your competition. The chances are far too great you’ll get lost in the crowd.
Perfect Grammar Is for Sales Sissies
If you’re like me, you’re not writing that banner ad, Web site, or landing page to make your English teacher proud. You’re writing to sell.
If you get an “A” while you’re at it, great. But don’t count on it. To get prospects to click, call, or buy, you’ll need to take some liberties with the English language.
As direct-response legend Herschell Gordon Lewis so aptly said, “Grammar is our weapon, not our god.”
Although copywriting requires a different approach than Strunk and White would advocate, don’t burn your grammar books just yet. It’s important to know the rules before you break them.
Following are some rules to keep and some rules to bend or break. But first an important principle.
Next time you face a grammar grappler, ask yourself this question: Which word construction will be clearer to the prospect or customer?
Clarity comes first because it’s the prescription for fast comprehension. Copywriting that blurs meaning (which sometimes includes grammatically perfect writing) slows reading and jeopardizes interest — and sales.
WARNING: This isn’t license to play havoc with the English language. Literacy must prevail. Following are some rules to keep.
<B>Rules to Keep</B>
<I>Subject and verb agreement.</I> Whether you’re writing an infomercial or <I>War and Peace</I>, singular subjects take singular verbs and plural subjects take plural verbs. Always. A simple rule, execution is sometimes problematic. The key is to clearly identify the subject of the sentence.
<I>The active voice.</I> If you want your copywriting to have maximum punch, use the active voice at every opportunity. Active voice: I wrote the sentence. Passive voice: The sentence was written by me.
<I>Use of Modifiers.</I> Modifiers can cause a variety of problems. There are the questions of which and how many modifiers to use. Again, let clarity be your guide. Also, poor placement of modifiers results in confusion, your enemy. To make comprehension easy, put modifiers near the words they’re modifying.
<B>Rules to Bend or Break</B>
<I>The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn</I> by Mark Twain ushered in a new era in American literature. One of the main reasons was Twain’s use of vernacular. He wrote the way people talked, a departure from the stiff, formal English common during the Victorian period.
For copywriters, writing the way people talk is absolutely essential.
Why? Because copy that is friendly, informal and conversational stands a better chance of getting prospects to click, call or buy. Which is exactly why sacrificing the following conventions can be in the copywriter’s best interest.
<I>Ending sentences with a preposition.</I> To some a no-no, ending a sentence with a preposition can warm up your copywriting. Which sounds friendlier to you: “Here is the information you requested” or “Here is the information you asked for”?
<I>Beginning sentences with a conjunction.</I> Beginning sentences with conjunctions (and, or, but, nor) is more common, even in journalism. Not only is it the way people talk, it can shorten sentence length, a plus in delivering sales messages.
<I>Other informal devices.</I> Use contractions to warm up your message. Also, use sentence fragments. Not only do they shorten average sentence length, they add rhythm. And drama.
<I>Punctuation.</I> Use punctuation to your selling advantage. I’m inclined to use more dashes and an occasional exclamation point and ellipsis to add drama and excitement to the sales message. Commas can be pretty subjective, so I have a tendency to use the minimum amount to keep readers moving through the copy as quickly as possible.
Keep that grammar book, stylebook, dictionary and other writer’s references nearby. You’re still going to need them.
But also don’t let grammar be your god, or your next online promotion could be a giant sales flop.
Review: Words That Sell
It’s the Golden Rule of copywriting. “Know your target audience.” It is impossible to persuade someone you know nothing about to take any type of action. But the question remains: How – exactly – do you get to know your prospective customers?
For copywriters, this task is the most time-consuming. When you’re faced with making a connection with someone you’ve never met, it can be frustrating. That’s why I was excited when I found out about a series of reports entitled “Words That Sell” (see: http://www.copywritingcourse.com/wordswork.html.)
How would you like it if someone else did the hard part for you? Then take heart! The people at The Brooks Group (publishers of these reports) interviewed hundreds of professionals in a wide range of occupations to get the specific information included in the ebooks.
These reports target people in 38 different industries in detail including medical professionals, chief executives, entrepreneurs, human resources, dentists, doctors, hospital administrators, engineers, real estate managers and so many others. What do they deliver? Details. Exact details about what words work, what words don’t and why.
What’s Good About These Reports
A lot of research went into the making of these reports. It took years to interview countless professionals then compile and sort the data. Then the creators of the reports developed easy-to-read ebooks written in everyday language for each profession. Inside you get:
· background and personality profile
· psychological profile
· exact wording to use
· reasoning behind why some words work and some words don’t
· exact wording NOT to use
· sample letters, headlines and copy to use
· and more
You get a lot of information in each report. These are not just 5- to 8-page lists of words to use. Each report is 20-25 pages long and has insightful, specific information that will make your job as a copywriter go much more smoothly and quickly.
I also liked that I could buy each report individually or in “combo” packages for a discount. That way, if I need just one, I only have to pay a small price.
These reports are quick to read, and for busy copywriters, that’s a real blessing. I find myself going back to them over and over and – because of the simple layout – I can get the information I need quickly without having to reread the entire report again.
What’s Not So Good About These Reports
They need more examples. Yes, you do get examples of how to use the information, but more would be nice. (Can we ever get enough examples?) The examples given are definitely suitable, but could be more “real world.” They seem rather elementary to me.
Also, it would have been my preference to include a table of contents with clickable navigation links. A minor point? Maybe, but when you use the reports, as much as I do, it would save a great deal of time over the long run.
Overall, the Words That Sell reports (http://www.copywritingcourse.com/wordswork.html) are a huge timesaving tool. They are interesting, accurate and very useful. The sales copy claims you’ll double, triple or even quadruple your profits. I can’t attest to the quadruple part, but I have seen the use of the information in these reports double and triple sales for some of my clients.
Are they worth the $28 (each) price? Absolutely! They’ll save you way more than $28 in research and brainstorming time, and you’ll have a powerful new tool for converting lookers into buyers for 38 different industries.