As a copywriter, I spend a lot of my time reviewing and writing websites. Here are some of the most common issues I come across – and how to fix them:
Unless you ask a proofreader to check everything you write before you post it online the odd mistake is likely to go unnoticed (I miss them from time to time and I write for a living). It’s worth trying to correct as many as possible as typos look really unprofessional (see below!).
So, ask someone to proof your content – it’s easy to miss your own errors – and install a spell checker on your website (I use Jetpack for WordPress, which does about 100 other jobs too).
We… We… We…
“We’re based in London and we have 300 members of staff. We do this. We do that. We… We… We…”. Of course you need to tell people about your business but using ‘you’ in your copy is much more engaging so try to make the reader the focus of your copywriting when you can.
After our own names ‘you’ is everyone’s favourite word. OK, I made that up, but ‘you’ is known as one of the “power words” in marketing (along with ‘free’, ‘because’, ‘instantly’ and ‘new’). Here’s a link to the Copyblogger article that talks about power words (there’s loads more out there about persuasive language if you’re interested, just do a Google search).
An out of date blog
The more regularly you can (you – see what I did there?!) update your blog the more you’ll connect with your audience, and the more it’ll help your site’s SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) but don’t trade quality for quantity. How often you should blog will depend on what you do, and the resources you have in terms of time, if you write them in-house, or money, if you pay someone external to do them. Writing one good blog a week is better than chucking up four badly-written, poorly-researched posts.
As a general rule, try not to leave your blog unattended for more than a month. If you haven’t got time to post once a month (and as someone who only just manages that, I get it) perhaps blogging isn’t the best marketing tool for your business. [Here’s an in-depth look at blog length, its effect on your search rankings and how often you post]
Old skool SEO
Back in the old days, to rank higher in online searches you’d stuff every web page full of keywords and phrases but now that will count against you. Search engines want to bring back quality results when people are looking for a business like yours online, and “Plumbers north England” repeated 18 times on a page is not quality.
And search engines are pretty clever these days, they don’t just look for a specific word or phrase they understand semantics. If you include a keyphrase once (say, ‘HR consultant based in Nottingham’) then write about that topic naturally, Google (and other search engines) will know what you’re talking about. Writing naturally, much the same way as you speak, is better for your SEO and your readers. [For more on this check out my guide to SEO in 2016]
Blocks of text
There are two main things to think about with online writing: words + layout.
How you present what you say is as important – maybe even more important – than what you say, if the layout is off-putting no one will ever get to read your words of wisdom. I talk about format a lot and this post – Give Your Copywriting Some Zing! – includes lots of tips.
If you’re in doubt just have a look at your own work. Would you read what you’ve written or would that dense paragraph of text look dark and intimidating? Lots of us read websites and blogs on mobile devices so keeping your paragraphs short and snappy is essential.
No Call to Action (CTA)
You’ll probably have noticed that marketing copy ends with a CTA, which is simply a suggestion of what the reader should do – it’s the action the copywriter would like the reader to take. A CTA might be plain text or a button and there are countless examples, such as ‘Leave me a comment’, ‘Read more’, ‘Sign up here’, ‘Buy now’ and ‘Get in touch’.
Why do copywriters include them? Because readers are suggestible! If you see ‘Do this now’ you’re much more likely to do it. So when you’ve written all that gorgeously crafted copy, your readers love what you’re saying, they want to know more or sign up or buy from you.. don’t leave them hanging! Make sure you always include a CTA.
There are two fairly common issues I see with images on websites – slow loading time and the dreaded cliché. Photos saved as large files load slowly but it’s easy enough to make them smaller. There’s a trade-off between size and image quality so here’s a blog that looks at 9 online image compression tools and explains which one will work for what you need.
I’m not sure if I should even mention this as I’m sure I’ve been an offender at times but it makes me laugh so I’m going to… if you use stock photography on your website try to avoid clichés.
What do I mean? A lightbulb to mean a bright idea. A group of business people in matching suits studying a graph with an upward-pointing arrow. The handshake. The pretending we’re in a meeting shot. The puzzled look to show that I’m thinking really really hard. You know the ones!
There’s some brilliant stock photography out there – lots of it free – so get hunting (my site of choice is Fotolia, which charges a maximum of £1/pic for small files, and here are lots of other sites you might like). Alternatively, you could take your own photos or, if you can afford it, ask a professional photographer to take some bespoke shots.
My pet hate
Maybe I’m a luddite stuck in the 1990s but I can’t stand autoplay on websites. It could be someone speaking or some music but if I click onto a website and a sound starts immediately, without fail it nearly gives me a heart attack. And if I’m somewhere quiet it sends me into an uncontrollable panic spasm to try and locate the mute button on my laptop before anyone else hears it. I can’t be the only one surely?!
To my mind, watching an explanatory video on your homepage should be my choice, whether I want to hear a well-spoken lady tell me all about your new product or service – again – my choice. So please, if only for the sake of my heart, lay off the automatic sounds!
Feel free to let me know what you find most annoying on websites and get in touch if I can help you with anything.