Website Copywriting: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly, and the Rewarding
I have been doing website copywriting for about 10 years now. The challenges and experiences of website copywriting fall into roughly four categories: the good, the bad, the ugly, and (gratefully) the rewarding. If you are thinking about creating a new website for your company, or revamping the one that served you well five years ago, but just isn’t quite up to snuff anymore, then this is information that could help you launch (or re-launch) a website that truly addresses your most critical business development needs.
Let’s start with the good. The truth is that just about every client I have worked with starts out with great optimism, very interesting ideas, and the willingness to participate fully in the development of their new website. This attitude is key to their success. It sets a tone of teamwork within their company that engages colleagues and encourages everyone to share the information that helps me, as a website copywriter, to fully understand the company’s strengths, weaknesses, and positioning in relation to competitors. With this information, I can begin to craft the right tone of voice to capture the target audience’s attention and zone in on the key messages that need to be conveyed about the company.
The bad tends to be a result of garden-variety over-scheduling and stretched resources. After the excitement of launching, a website project dies down, and the bulk of information is passed off to me as the website copywriter so that I can begin writing, and clients very reasonably return their focus to their usual daily business commitments. However, inevitably, questions will arise as I begin to write–some clarifications or additional information will be needed. Requests may not seem urgent (“Oh, I can send the project details to her next week”) or may just be annoying (“How many times do I have to remind senior staff to send updated resumes so the website copywriter can write their bios!”). None of these items will be in itself mission-critical, but taken as a whole, not following up with them slows the process down or weakens the result.
On occasion, sad to say, things can get temporarily ugly. Or, at least, frustrating (for all parties, not just the website copywriter). If there is disagreement among the client’s senior staff about the essential direction of the company, its core brand positioning, or its most important products and services, then the web project (if done properly) will inevitably bring this to light. Strong copywriting is crystal clear, and when there is disagreement on core issues, the clarity of the writing highlights that fact. Website copywriting should really take place after an in-depth discussion about the company’s mission, its target audience, its market position, and its brand promise. Clients may genuinely believe that all of their colleagues are on the same page, but, sometimes they are not. Holding in-depth discussions prior to launching a website gets things out in the open where they can be resolved, ultimately helping the company become a stronger competitor in their market. It is an opportunity to get all minds working at their best toward a shared goal–a stronger company.
Finally, happily, there is the rewarding. After the new website launches, clients experience the tangible benefits of a satisfying coherence between what they are saying about their company and what their website is saying about it. Depending on the functionality of the new website, clients will have new (and much less time-consuming) avenues of communication with their customers. White papers and newsletters will be seen not only when they are emailed to existing customers, but will also become part of a more robust online presence, building the company’s reputation as a resource for key industry information, and contributing to content on the website which in turn is critical to search and traffic.
Website copywriting (and design too, but that’s another conversation) is challenging. Teamwork between the website copywriter and the client, and among the client’s key staff people, makes the outcome well worth the effort in terms of bottom line impact to business development and client retention.