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by Stephen Logan on 29th October 2009
As a Copywriter, I’m continuously surprised at how many websites still overlook the fundamental principle of business – effective communication.
There’s a lot to be said for projecting an image. That’s why salesmen in the offline world wear smart suits and have immaculate presentation. Websites are the same; an attractive design can show professionalism and intent, drawing in inquisitive visitors. But behind the aesthetically pleasing first impressions, there needs to be some depth.
In this instance, the depth is provided by content. Arguably, there is nothing more important to the success of a website than the quality of its content. The ability to reassure visitors, clearly signpost where they should be navigating towards before convincing them to proceed with a tantalising call to action, is the exclusive domain of copy.
Unpopulated pages appear to be lazily thrown together. Yes, some websites are predominantly artistically lead, therefore the abundance of stylised imagery is somewhat justifiable. However, in the most part, particularly where businesses are concerned, it is the standard of content that will ultimately encourage a visitor to give you the time of day. It is the foremost method of customer interaction available to you; don’t let it pass you by.
Benefits of Good, Honest Copy
Of course, some copy can do more harm than good. Whilst it is important that all pages offer at least a modicum of textual information; if that is poorly penned and barely legible, you can safely wave goodbye to your credibility. So there is a bit of polarity to the content conundrum. On the one hand your site will struggle to retain a visitor’s attention without it, but if it falls below an acceptable level, the damage to your website could be just as significant.
For me, and I accept I may be alone in this, copy doesn’t need to be of an exceptional standard, but it does have to have a basic honesty to it. The odd grammatical lapse and phrasing clumsiness can be excused if it is free from pretention, mistruths and garish errors. Using professional SEO copywriting services might well save you time and ensure an effective outcome, but nobody knows your business better than you do.
If you can’t write, you can’t write. There’s no point forcing someone to do something that they aren’t comfortable with; the end results will almost certainly prove to be a self-fulfilling prophecy anyway. But you have to work with a copywriter to get the best results; effectiveness of content is often found in its context [as highlighted in the recent CopyBlogger post Why Content is No Longer King (And Who’s Taking His Place)]. This is your website’s mouthpiece after all, it’s your chance to tell visitors why they should choose you.
To take this analogy further, think of it in terms of speed dating. You have a targeted audience (other singles/customers looking for your products and services), but you only have a short amount of time to convince them that you’re better than anybody else. Yes looks may go a long way, but ultimately you have to offer some words and personality to back it up. Don’t get dumped by your customers for being socially awkward.
Don’t Just Say Something, Mean It
A website full of empty rhetoric is devoid of context. It doesn’t inform the visitor of anything and certainly won’t encourage them to use their services. Copy is a promotional tool. You can’t just use it as a way of filling space, because if you do, that’s all it will ever be. The words used on each page can make the difference between securing a new customer and seeing your bounce rate statistics rise once again. Your personality and professionalism should be apparent on every page, this means writing content that engages rather than spelling out the cold hard facts.
Your content is there for visitors first and search engines second. You can’t overlook the ability to use keywords and flag up your website’s relevance to the robotic spiders out there; but you also can’t be blinded by it either. Copy is a fantastic tool within the wider SEO armoury, there aren’t many who would argue that. When used correctly and proportionately, it can serve to improve your site’s weighting with search engines and encourage people to link in. This is ideal, natural SEO.
So your copy can say more about your website, and your business, than you may realise. It’s your front of house sales staff and chief marketing vehicle all rolled into one. Just a hundred contextualised words can define your business. Get carried away and people will about turn and leave the site. Write something robotic and uninspiring, the results may be the same. Fill your pages with garish errors and your professional image will be in tatters. Get it right and you can reap the rewards.
It sounds simple, and it is. If customers define you by your copy, make sure you’re delivering. Bad copy is unhelpful, no copy is worse; so make page population a priority.