How many websites have you seen that are confusing, hard to navigate or just plain bad? As someone who works on site copy and has writers who work on site copy, I see it everyday. Actually, many times a day. I think the majority of people out there just don’t have the basics down when it comes to being able to write, and write for different mediums. Website design is a whole other story – that’s even worse. It seems like we almost need an official design and guidelines standard that all websites would need to meet before they can be allowed on the web. Let’s face it, a lot of web pages and web sites out there could use a little improvement in the copywriting department!
From boring prose to bad sentence structure, from poor logic to inadequate copy optimization, I’ve seen it all. And this is what your customers are reading as they jump on to your site! If they have to sludge through bad writing or long, drawn out writing, chances are they will get a negative feeling about your product or service. Is this the impression that you want them to have? Definitely not.
The bottom line is that bad copy means fewer sales. That’s how important it is. Don’t discount it. It’s critical that this piece gets done right. One other point – an impressive site design can never rescue poor copy. There are lots of beautiful websites out there that have poorly written content. They usually end up being just that – a few pretty pictures. And forget about being found in the search rankings. It’s not going to happen.
How to Approach Your Website Copy Analysis
How do you look at your site with a new set of eyes? What’s the process that a copywriter goes through when they are rewriting a site? Good question. There are lots of different methods and approaches, but when you’re trying to fix those broken sentences and phrases you should look at three areas separately:
- The Copy Itself – What’s Written?
- The Copy and how it relates to the design – How does it look on the page?
- Usability – Are you making it easy for visitors to find what they need?
The Copy Itself – What’s written?
The first thing to look at when you’re analyzing a page of copy is the copy itself, naturally. That’s the stuff that’s staring you in the face when you log on to your site! So, how does it look? Really. Take a step back and seriously think to yourself, what would the average person think of this copy? Does it make sense to me? Would I understand what it is all about if I was on this site for the very first time? Remember when considering your site’s web copy: People “scan” read – they don’t take in every word. (We’ve covered that one.) And second, it’s better comprehended when the copy is written the way people speak. Things have changed a lot for the written word over the last fifty years or so. There used to be much more structure and formality to writing. It was expected. There was also a strict adherence to grammatical “rules,” like you can’t end a sentence in a preposition or start with the word “and.”
But you know what? That type of formal, cliché-ridden language is horrible to read! It’s boring and uninteresting. It takes all the creativity away from people when you have to follow a set of strict rules. Did you know that some of the greatest composers of popular music can’t actually read music? Paul McCartney is among them. He and his buddy John Lennon violated so many “rules” of music composition that it is really astonishing to think about. But you know what? That’s what made their music distinct. They figured if it sounded good, then why not? Many of their songs have chords that are not even in the key of the song – but they work for all the right reasons. Well, it’s the same thing with writing. Rules can get in the way.
Don’t get me wrong. There are guidelines for the basic structure of copywriting on the web – that’s what we’re discussing in this chapter after all, but they don’t handicap the expression of thought. They are merely the frame of the house, the words you write make up the rooms and truly make it a home.
Excerpted from the book Content Rich: Writing Your Way to Wealth on the Webby Jon Wuebben. Reprinted with permission from the author.
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