Writing websites should be easy, right?
Well, not so much. Even a good copywriter can be challenged when it comes to writing an effective website that helps the right visitors find it, then engages them in the goods and services offered. Clearly and succinctly.
First, what should your website do for you?
A quick review of what a great website should do for your organization. (To grade your website’s marketing effectiveness, download our free website scorecard.) Writing websites to reach the right audiences and deliver business requires skills and knowledge to address the following key points.
- It’s more than an online brochure, your website is at the heart of your marketing. It must provide what your target audiences need to know so they will choose what you offer.
- Your website should help visitors choose by providing value and answering questions. Why? Because today, on average, people use more than 16 different sources of information before they make a buying decision. They’re not going to buy/call/respond on the first visit.
- It must be found for what you have to offer. That means your website is optimized for search … not in your language, but in the words and phrases people use to find what you offer.
- It must be easy to read. So many websites are hard to follow because the layout is confusing, the type is small or it’s all in reverse text (white on black). If it’s hard to read, people leave.
Here are seven fatal flaws to fix
When writing websites, avoid these common mistakes. Or, check your own website. When you fix these issues, you’ll see a big difference in traffic and response.
1. It’s not clear and obvious … What do you do? Why should I care?
At a glance, when someone lands on your website’s home page, they must be able to see quickly what you offer and why they should look further. Be direct. Be clear. Be obvious. Don’t make your visitors have to think, search or figure it out. Tell them and show them.
EXAMPLE: I visited a website (from a lead). I had to dig through many pages to get a clue about what they do. (And I’m still not sure.) They’re a large company but their copy is so vague and generic, it tells me nothing I need to know. Here’s a sample of the text on their home page.
AT XXXX, OUR FOCUS IS YOU.
Welcome and thank you for taking the time to visit us online. At XXXX, we understand that our companies’ success begins and ends with our customers. That’s why our staff is dedicated to solving your unique needs and making your job easier.
While many manufacturing companies are closing plants in the US, we’re adding facilities and strategically making acquisitions in our industry to meet and exceed your needs.
Our goal is to design processes to fit your product requirements. XXXX is committed to continuous improvement to deliver the highest quality products with the shortest lead times.
Doesn’t that sound nice? But WHAT THE HECK DO THEY MANUFACTURE? The rest of the home page wasn’t any help, either. No pictures, a list of brands, more generic statements. Those same words sound like what thousands of companies say. I say WHAT DO YOU DO AND WHY SHOULD I CARE?
2. Copy is all about “we”
When writing websites it’s easy to fall back on “here’s what we do” (see above). The writer wants to emphasize how wonderful we are and all of the things we do for our customers. But your customers don’t really care what you do … they care what that means to them.
Remember, they’re not buying a drill. They’re buying the hole it makes.
Test yourself each time you write a paragraph. From your audiences’ point of view, ask “what’s in it for me? why should I care?” Think about the outcome or purpose of what you provide, not just the description of what you do or provide.
3. Content isn’t written to be found online (SEO)
Writing websites means writing to be found by search engines. Because if they don’t deliver your website when someone searches for what you offer, you’ve lost a visitor, a potential client or customer. Your website won’t even show up. The subject of SEO (search engine optimization) is long and deep, but here are some quick tips:
- Go beyond standard industry keywords that everyone uses (fat head keywords) like “landscaping” or “remodeling.” Add more context to create a long-tail keyword that’s descriptive like “sustainable landscaping installation” or “award winning bathroom remodeling.” Review Google’s SEO starter guide for a wealth of information and tips.
- Create individual pages for specific keywords/phrases you want to be known/found for. Google rewards more content. Optimize each page of content (from headlines to copy to alt-text on images) for your chosen keyword.
4. Too much copy that’s hard to read
People don’t read any more, they scan. Writing websites that work means short copy in short sections. Copy that is inviting, easy to read, friendly and engaging. So many websites just throw up lots of description from a brochure, all in one size of type. Instead:
- Use subheads break up text and make it easy to scan
- Add bulleted lists to scan more quickly than paragraphs
- Use larger type with open leading (line spacing) so copy doesn’t run together visually
- Write shorter sentences with active language to increase readability. Use Word’s Flesch reading score or install SEO Yoast if you’re on WordPress. Both will help score and improve your writing.
5. Filled with acronyms, industry terms
On the opposite end of the flat, boring and generic copy shown in #1 is copy that’s filled with industry terms and acronyms. That’s sort of okay if you’re reaching people who understand your language.
But why not be clear and use simpler language? Write out acronyms at least once. Explain industry terminology. Make your information easy to understand even if the reader isn’t an expert.
6. Boring and generic
Back to #1 again (what a great example!). This sample is not only unclear, it’s so boring and generic that it could be nearly anyone. How many times have you read “we offer great service” or “our quality is excellent”? But what does that really mean? Fast, responsive, friendly or even fanatical customer care? Or “handcrafted with care to last for generations” or “only the finest materials”?
Paint a picture in someone’s mind. Don’t fall back on default words like “service” and “quality,” or “needs” and “solutions.” Dig deeper. Get emotional. Touch the imagination. Find the “wow!” that you hear from your best customers and clients and use those words.
7. No clear next step or call to action
If someone’s interested, what do they do next? Is it clear? It needs to be more than “call us.” People won’t decide on the first visit. Give them a next step … something to download, more links that relate, a blog post or ? You decide. Make it visual with color and a badge or button. Make it clear. Don’t “dead end” your reader.
Of course it takes more than good writing to create an amazing website that delivers business 24/7.
But these days, writing websites is as important as design or the technology. Because once someone finds you, what will keep them there? Good content that delivers what they’re searching for.
More posts to help you put your website at the heart of your marketing:
- Your website is a critical point of choice
- Think of your website like a company truck
- Define your marketing message before you rebuild your website
- Inbound marketing is today’s marketing
You may be interested in our website worksheet, we’ve combined two popular ones into one — 6 essential elements to include in your website redesign, and 8 mistakes to avoid (courtesy of HubSpot). Download it below … it’s very helpful!