The internet is a visual and often audio-visual medium but within that, words are still incredibly important. Words give definite shape to ideas. Words are very personal. Words form the set of results revealed by a Google search. So it makes sense that businesses need to use text well to attract attention and communicate a compelling offer.
These five simple steps will help you create high quality text for a business website, and include tips that apply to any business copywriting project.
1. Make clear time
This is the big one: make the time, put it in your calendar, turn off your phone, work from home, do whatever you need to do so you can concentrate on writing for decent stretches of time.
Writing is a key initiative in your business and it needs that priority.
2. Know your audience and keywords
To get to know your audience better, check out the online places related to your audience or industry: forums, Facebook groups, Twitter, YourTube, blogs, related websites and competitor websites.
What are others who talk to your customers doing?
What’s happening in customer reviews and comments which highlights your customers’ wants and needs?
What words and phrases are used to address these people and issues?
Make notes to build a profile of the person you’re addressing, what their strong opinions are, and what language is used to connect with them.
In addition, keep a file of any text which really grabs your attention. Even if it’s not addressing your audience, when an article title or social post makes you click, keep a record of it. As you work through the following steps, refer to these nuggets to see if re-purposing them will help you connect better with your audience.
While your text should primarily talk to real people and their needs, it should also be seeded with keywords which will help your site rank well in Google search. Optimising your site for search engines like Google (SEO) isn’t just for businesses selling to retail customers — SEO is becoming a bigger source of new leads and conversions for B2B businesses, too. The consensus is that high quality, helpful and plentiful, keyword-rich text leads to better search rankings.
List the keywords, phrases and questions which your audience will search for to find a business like yours
Use those keywords throughout your text in varied but natural ways
Name and title pages and images using keywords
Remember that more text content means more keywords.
This simple approach is a great SEO foundation, and for many businesses it’s all that’s needed to rank well. Deeper optimisation for search can build complexity on top of this, but I recommend completing your text and getting your website live first, which will provide some data for your SEO offensive.
3. Start writing
Starting can be the hardest part. Just remember how much you already write each day in emails, text messages or social posts and as part of your job: you got this!
Initially, simply aim to get all the relevant info out of your head and onto the page. In terms of what to write about, it can help to use the broad headings of: who, what, when, where, how and why. By simply filling in those headings, you can be pretty confident that you’ll give your audience the information they need.
Once you’ve put all the information you want to communicate into words, it’s time to order it so it make sense to your customers. Typically, this would mean determining what to put on the home page, an ‘about us’ page, a ‘contact’ page, blog posts all your other pages.
Don’t be too critical of your writing at this stage, it’s more about general ideas and structure. In the following step, you’ll edit it until you’re happy.
4. Craft your message
Now is the time to refine your expression and grammar.
The first, and critical aspect of that is to ensure your words talk to your customer, rather than about you. Boss woman guru Marie Forleo has a neat video on this which is well worth a play.
In summary, most people write with the ‘spotlight’ on themselves: my passion, my cleverness, my goals. But your audience is looking for someone to address their problems, their aspirations, their goals, and that should be your focus. For example, rather than writing “Melbourne’s expert boutique estate agents”, try addressing the customer and including a benefit to them, like “Find a boutique Melbourne property you’ll love”.
Once the spotlight is correctly on your customers, read and reread your text, making improvements with each pass. As you do this, pay attention to tone of voice. Your expertise will come through in the information you communicate. Using grand terminology and jargon is likely to sound hollow. In most cases, website text reads better and is more convincing if the tone of voice is simple and casual, like talking with a friend.
To demonstrate your expertise, answer questions definitively, presenting statistics and facts, and using number and bullet lists of quality information. Saying what you know clearly and plausibly gives the strong impression that you are a trusted expert. Providing deeper information about a topic you know well also helps with SEO.
5. Make it easy to get into
To make your text more approachable and respectful of your audience’s time, intersperse it with meaningful sub-headings. Even if your readers only see the sub-heads they should still get the gist of the information you’re presenting.
Also, use lead-in paragraphs set in a larger font size, to summarise the content and entice further reading. Again, by just taking in the lead-in, the reader should have a fair idea of the information to be shared through the entire page. Bullet and number lists are another way to make lots of information easier to take in.
Images are also important to break up long text and provide visual information and interest for your readers. If images are titled and tagged with keywords they may also help your search ranking.
Using a copywriter requires your time, too
I have enormous respect for professional writers — a good copywriter can take your business to the next level. But engaging someone else to write for you doesn’t mean you can go home early: they need your time and attention to form the brief, review their text and provide specific information that only you could know.
So if you go down the path of working with a copywriter, keep in mind there’s still a lot for you to do to make the text fit your business. It may end up less time-consuming if you write a solid draft then have the copywriter make it awesome it for you.
Also, make sure your copywriter is switched on to SEO and knows your audience and keywords.
Just do it.
Please trust me that passable text on a live website is far better than no website at all. In my experience, clients not having content ready for a site is the main reason for sites not launching. That’s a pity because most clients do have it in them to write copy that states the main points and is free from typos – and that’s all they need to launch.