5 Things to Consider When Writing Webcopy

When I write for someone else’s website, the first thing I do is hold a face-to-face meeting. I want to be able to hear the owner’s actual voice and figure out what it is about their business that makes them stand out from the competition. Some of the information I’m specifically looking for is:

What is the voice? I talk about voice a lot in my marketing writing. It’s something you hear about all the time with regard to internet writing. People want to hear your voice. But what does that mean? You, as the writer, need to gauge whether the client’s voice is friendly, authoritative, funny, or motherly to name just a few examples.

A company that offers services to declutter someone’s house is going to have a far different voice than a company that offers international shipping options. When I sit down with the client, I listen to their physical voice when they explain what it is their company does, and that gives me an idea of how they want themselves represented on the internet.

What benefits do they offer the customer? I recently saw a client who showed me his introductory slide presentation for prospective customers. It started with how his company got started (30 years ago) and continued until today. That’s clearly a presentation that was designed for a person who is very proud of his company. It was not designed for someone who wants to know what it is you can do for them. Find out what the benefits and then use that information in every piece of writing you create.

What are the Keywords? I always ask my clients, what words would I use to describe your business? Those will often be the SEO words you’ll use for much of the documentation. I then ask, what words would I use to describe you? Those are often the words by which the company wants to be known  – trustworthy, intelligent, competent, etc. It will be those attributes that you’ll  be showcasing in your writing.

What’s the best way to present the information? Is what the company does visual? If so, like in the case of a decluttering service, perhaps before and after photos would be effective. Is the company more results oriented, as in, they save the customer money? Then charts and graphs might be effective. . Does the company showcase or teach skills? Well now, there’s a case for video clips.

Figure out, based on the product and services, how best to represent that information on the web.

To whom are we targeting the information? In almost all cases, it starts with a blog. That part is easy, what becomes a bit trickier is figuring out how then to broadcast that blog material.

Figure out who the company typically sells to? Is it the CFO? If so, then don’t spend a lot of effort on Facebook and instead concentrate on sending articles and blog posts to LinkedIn groups and out on Twitter. Does the company have a more “friendly” community? If so then go guns blazing to Facebook. Get those blog posts up and invite discussion in a community format.

Not all web promotion is created equal. It’s up to you to match what you hear and understand from your discussions with the client to what is available out there and that would bring the most bang from their investment dollars.

***

Wendy Thomas is an award winning journalist, columnist, and blogger who believes that taking challenges in life will always lead to goodness. She is the mother of 6 funny and creative kids and it is her goal to teach them through stories and lessons.

Wendy’s current project involves writing about her family’s experiences with chickens (yes, chickens). (www.simplethrift.wordpress.com)

An important part of being a good writer is being a good listener.

12 thoughts on “5 Things to Consider When Writing Webcopy

  1. This is sound advice but I sometimes wonder whether there is information overload for new writers nowadays? As a published writer and working journalist, I am old enough to recall the good old days of the notepad and pen, public telephone kiosks for talking to people and the long hours of research in public libraries. I often smile when I realise the emerging writers of today, armed with their smartphones, internet and all the other tech, get into a hot lather wondering which advice to heed. I just think that the writer of today spends too much time with tech and not doing what the writer must do: write.

    • Richard,

      You raise some valid points. I, too, come from the days when cut and paste meant scissors and tape. With my posts, the starting point is that I assume you have the ability to write. My intent is not to teach that skill.

      However, writing, especially as it pertains to the internet, has changed so drastically in the last few years that if you are just starting out (as a writer), I offer guidelines, things I’ve learned, that might make the journey just a little easier.

      Wendy

  2. As someone who also remembers the old days of a contact book and reverse telephone directories, I am so with you Richard. A client of mine says he always has questions emailed to him by journalists and is expected to email them back. How on earth can a journalist grill a subject, explore tangents that might contain a new story, or generate the best copy possible without speaking to the person?

    And Wendy, we have exactly the same methodology! These things that we take as the basic starting points are so often missing on company websites…which is good for us eh?

    At the moment I’m revamping the written content of a video production company’s site. They were quite amused at our first meeting when I was removing so much of their proposed text. Areas they were expecting me to work on were company bio, staff bios, descriptions of their services etc. I’ll now be doing thumbnail captions for short films and animations, most of which will cover all these ares. Here was a clear case of a company that has to show not tell!

  3. I agree with your comment that the starting point is good writing. The basics are what count and even though everybody seems to have a different opinion when it comes to how and why – in the end it’s still basics. These tips are common-sense advice for writing web copy! You’ve just confirmed my own approach, and given me a few things to add to my professional bag of tricks as well.
    Thanks Wendy!

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