Website copy is a testy thing. I mean, normally when a client contacts me for content, I'm actually dealing with three separate entities: there's the client who wants to sell his products/services, the customer who wants to know that these products/services are the best thing since bagged potato chips, and then there's the business, which needs an accurate and effective voice. This is a tall order, but it's necessary.
Whether you choose to write the copy yourself, have a friend do it, or hire a professional, you need to have great website copy. Your online and offline business depends on it.
So, what makes the difference between great website copy and the junk stuff anyway?
Great Website Copy Speaks WITH Customers Not TO Them
If you stand up in the middle of a movie theater and start screaming about the fantastic new magic bread ties your company sells, chances are it's not going to be appreciated. Ok, honestly, chances are pretty good that you'll end up getting beaten to a bloody pulp, but either way, you aren't going to make a lot of sales.
If you notice that someone is having difficulty getting the tie back on the loaf of bread, and you take time to identify with that person. Then, if you show her that your new magic bread ties work so well that even the kids will love using them, you're going to sell a lot more. And, since this person didn't feel like a walking dollar bill when you approached her, she'll have a positive experience and tell everyone.
Now, if I were selling these magic bread ties to married men, I'd connect with them in the same way except that these bread ties will become the 'ultimate nag-free device'. (Just so no one gets me into trouble here, a disclaimer: My hubby uses the bread ties. Personally, I see nothing wrong with folding it underneath.)
You have to speak in a language your reader can understand. Because, if you can get the idea across that you understand their problems, you'll really understand how to fix the problem. It builds trust. Beer commercials are a great example of this technique.
Great Website Copy Matches the Company
When you go to the new Beverly Hilton, The Savoy, or Le Bristol Hotel, you arrive with expectations. Luxury expectations. And, with these luxury expectations, you expect the hotel staff to be formal, professional, and emanating the same luxury the building does.
If you were to go to the local all-you-can-eat ribs place and get that same formal professionalism, you'd look at the guy like he's got a… Never mind. You fill in the blank. Anyway, you're going to find yourself a new all-you-can-eat buffet place that provides more of what you expect. You're going to go where the people are friendly, sociable, and make you feel like a long-time friend they've just met.
Case in point, your web copy has to match the company, not just its marketing strategy, its brand, image, and mission as well as its goals.
Great Website Copy Qualifies and Funnels
If your products and services are aiming at professional plate twirlers, talking about how easy it is to learn how to plate twirl with your product is useless. You need to know whom you're talking to and use words, phrases, ideas, and topics that match that type of person.
Of course, this is for SEO reasons, but also for your client. If I'm an expert, and you're talking to me like a beginner, I'm not going to think much of your products. The same goes for instances where the opposite occurs.
From there, you have to give visitors a direction to go. Don't 'expect' them to know anything. Tell them exactly what to do, make it easy for them, and you'll find your conversion rates increasing. Also, don't forget to make it clear to the visitor what he'll get when he follows your call to action. Visitors don't like venturing into the unknown…well, at least not when they're paying money for it.
Great Website Copy Needs to Be Long-Lasting
While this one depends on the company as much as it does the website copy, longevity is the factor that a lot of people miss in their copy. Even copywriters often miss this one: You need to write your copy so that a single visit has long lasting effects.
When I meet someone, he or she will form an opinion of me within the first three seconds. Therefore, I make certain that the opinion is a positive one and that I'm remembered. Unfortunately, the Internet and (hopefully) the sheer number of people, however, make this same kind of service impossible. That's where good web copy comes in.
Great copy will leave a lasting impression on that person and begin to build a rapport. A brand. And you'll leave a lasting impression that will stay with your online visitor for a long time to come. This means your visitors will return, and if the other elements are there, they'll buy from you.
Great Website Copy Needs Keywords, Spelling & Grammar
Well, I'm sorta lying with this one. The general idea surrounding SEO web copy seems to be changing somewhat. While keywords are still important in your heads and subheads (titles, and subtitles, whatever you'd like to call it), when it comes to the actual copy, they aren't as important. HOWEVER, the copy needs to be tight. And by this I mean, less garbage and rich in relative terms. When this happens, the search engines seem to do much better with it, particularly with the last few updates. And, the copy also does much better with site visitors.
As for grammar, it depends on what style the website demands, but you'll find that most of them these days require a very relaxed, informal, write-how-you-speak, type copy.
Good grammar is still important, but you'll find that it's much more relaxed. Incomplete sentences and the like are perfectly acceptable, so long as it flows correctly. (Let's not forget that copy is music to the reader's ears!)
Spelling is important for others to understand what you're telling them. You can get a bit creative in areas like company names or taglines, but you'll find that these will have higher usability if they're spelled in a traditional way.
Angie Nikoleychuk (Haggstrom) is the Senior Copywriter and Consultant at Angie's Copywriting Services. She loves to create SEO Web copy and other types of online and offline content, but she figures SEO and Social Media is pretty great too. She likes to chat about business and marketing, find great links, and more. Oh, and you can find this copywriter on Twitter too.
Angie Haggstrom is the Senior Copywriter and Consultant at Angie's Copywriting Services, specializing in online and offline content including SEO web copy, brochures, and more. A Twitter and blogging fanatic, you'll find she chats about SEO, Social Media, business, marketing, and just about anything else she finds interesting along the way.