Are you text ready?

Rushing never yields the same result as planning

One of my colleagues and I were recently discussing creating websites for our clients. She related the first question she usually asks her clients, “Are you text ready?” With her question she shows that she expects the clients to have done much of their planning when they come to her.

As a first step, we often focus on the client’s expectations for the site; customer experience, business and sales goals for the site and who will update the content. My colleague’s focus on “Do you have content?” is also one of our primary questions.

Planning pays off

Many of our clients want a website and they want it fast. We hope to have them hit the pause button for a bit so that they follow a careful, thoughtful planning process. Part of the planning process is understanding what you want to communicate and why. Ask yourself, “Who will be reading this copy?”  The next question you should ask yourself is, “Who will be writing our website’s copy?”

Many of our clients feel they are so familiar with their products and services that they can write their own copy. Some do an excellent job of writing their own copy, but many have difficulties.

If you are planning to write your own copy, here are a few things to consider:

  1. In the past, how successful have you been writing copy for your company newsletter or advertising? If you’ve struggled in the past, you may continue to struggle when taking on developing website content.
  2. Do you have the time? Time spent writing is time spent away from management, sales or doing the work you are most frequently paid to do.
  3. Do you know the core points you wish to make?
  4. Will your team members or staff help you write the copy?
  5. Do you have insights from your sales team to inform you of what customers are looking for?
  6. Have you researched your competitors to understand how to differentiate your company?
  7. Do you know what keywords are important to include so that you build in SEO from the start?

Some customers may balk at paying a professional copywriter for their services, but a professional is held accountable for their abilities and time. Instead of thinking you can just write something during your weekends, then struggling to write and ending up mad with yourself, use a professional copywriter. The expense is worth every penny.

Advertising Copy: Avoid Negative Connotations


Avoid negative connotations by using positive associations

Years ago, when reading a parenting guide, I learned a bit of sage advice which I paraphrase here:

“When offering direction to children, avoid negatives; e.g. ‘Don′t jump on the couch. Rather, say, “Stay on the floor.’ If you choose negative direction, the child will hear, ‘Jump on the couch!’ and will do precisely that. If you say, ‘Stay on the floor’ the child hears exactly what you want them to do.”

When it comes to ad copy, deliver messages using words without negative connotation. Those negative connotations are easily pulled into the reader’s mind and stick, where they fester and undermine your message.

In the ad below, a health care firm seeks new physicians. However, rather than say that they were growing (and in our culture growth is generally good) and want to add new staff members, they state that they are growing like a weed.

Doctor's office ad with a negative connotation in the headline

I don′t know about you, but in my garden I pull up weeds: those undesirable, troublesome, unwanted plants. Ken Immer, a chef turned entrepreneur, said upon reading in social media my comments on the ad, “That’s like a restaurant advertising that it’s waitstaff scurries around the dining room as quick as roaches!!”

Simple, direct is best

When you write your advertising copy, it’s best to use simple messages. They can be direct, funny, contain puns or allusion. But when you want a positive association, you must take great care with any terms or phrases which have negative cultural associations — especially ones with deep roots in the psyche.

This ads copy could be restated as: “We′re growing.” Then followed with the message that the organization needs more docs. Enough said.

Oh, and proof read your ads. Docs is plural, not singular.

What are your most nettlesome notes on advertisements? Share your thoughts in comments.

If you found this article helpful, informative and useful, please share and recommend it to others.

Why Your Website Needs Compelling Copy

Cheryl’s Note: This guest post is from my colleague Heather Mueller who is one of the most savvy web copy writers around. Her tips on creating compelling copy and setting attributes for it are important advice for every business owner and following them will lead to less frustration and more success.

Frustration button

On the web, you have mere seconds to grab people’s attention. Which is why having a polished, professionally-designed website is so essential.

But what if you’ve invested in a killer website for your business—one that’s mobile-friendly, fast and filled with stunning visuals, readable fonts and a beautiful color scheme—and it still isn’t generating the results you expected? What more can you do?

The answer is in your copy.

Carefully crafted web copy is what turns casual website visitors into paying customers. Add a few SEO (search engine optimization) elements, and more of your dream customers will discover your business in Google, too.

What high quality copy can do for your website

For example, did you know image captions are some of the most-read copy on a web page? Or that image alt tags (for people who are visually impaired) help search engines determine what your website is about? Or that after last year’s big Hummingbird update, Google favors conversational language?

Paying attention to these details can make a big difference in how your web pages are indexed by search engines, where they appear in search results and, most importantly, what people will do when they land on your site.

High quality web content can:

Lead more dream customers to discover your business in Google

And Bing, and Yahoo, and even often-overlooked search engines like YouTube. (Yes, even YouTube has a place for search engine-friendly copy.)

In addition to writing image captions and alt tags as mentioned above, you should spend some time crafting unique title tags and meta descriptions (more on this below), headlines (also known as h1s), subheads (h2s, h3s, h4s) and behind-the-scenes code (called structured data markup) to help your website stand out in search results.

Even your image names and URLs can impact how the search engines “read” your web pages and blog posts.

Convince people to click from search results to your website

Every web page has a title tag that appears as a clickable headline in search results, along with a meta description or, in some cases, snippets of on-page web copy.

Web copy: write compelling titles and descriptions
Don’t overlook your website’s page titles and descriptions. This is where great web copy can help drive more revenue and profits to your business.

If you spend time on just one aspect of your web content, it should be page titles and descriptions. If you want people to click on your search result instead of a competitor’s, it needs to be compelling.

Keep visitors from hitting the back button

How often have you clicked on a Google search result, only to find the actual website doesn’t offer what you were looking for? Your prospects are doing the same thing. And they’re deciding within seconds whether or not to hit the back button.

Your copy should give them a reason to stick around.

Answer a pressing question. Provide a solution. Include an offer of help. Web copy that sells is typically:

  • Free of jargon and acronyms
  • Easy to skim (that’s what bullets, bolding and short paragraphs offer)
  • Focused on readers and their needs

Great web copy can also inform your website’s calls to action—the language that convinces people to signup for your newsletter, follow you on social media, subscribe to your blog’s RSS feed and hit a “buy now” button.

Make your web content a priority, not an afterthought

Do you have one of those polished, professional websites I mentioned at the start of this post? Great! Now go fill it with compelling, searchable web copy that sells.

Heather Mueller of Mueller Writing is a website copywriter who went digital with her love of the written word after a decade in journalism and public relations. You can connect with Heather on Twitter and Google+.