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How to Make the Most of Your Website Copywriter
by: Glenn Murray
Many people feel uncertain when dealing with copywriters. Like any artform, writing is subjective; instead of black and white, most business owners and marketing managers see indistinguishable shades of grey. But copywriting possesses one key element that most other forms of art don't – a commercial imperative.
Because the copywriter's audience is driven by the realities of the business market, so too is the copywriter. Although the good ones love to write, they don't necessarily love to write about toilet paper and real-estate. Copywriters – in particular website copywriters – write because it's their job. And like any job, copywriting has very defined objectives and parameters which determine how the copywriter works, and the kind of material they produce.
So, if you need black and white, this is where you'll find it.
There are two primary commercial realities for a website copywriter. Understand these realities, and you'll understand the writer. Ignore them, and your job will take longer, be more frustrating, be less engaging, and earn you less money.
REALITY 1 – READER-FRIENDLY AND SEARCH-ENGINE-FRIENDLY
A website copywriter needs to adhere to certain guidelines to ensure your website is both reader-friendly and search-engine-friendly. This is black and white.
Because most websites rely on search engines for their traffic, your website copywriter has to write for two broad audiences: human and computer. This introduces a number of complexities because, quite often, these audiences want different things.
For instance, with humans, less is generally more. But with computers, more is more. Humans need to understand, so the fewer words the better. Search engines, on the other hand, are programmed to think that anything important enough to be ranked highly has to have a lot of words. A website copywriter must balance these conflicting requirements. Your copywriter will work faster and more efficiently if you don't demand too few words or too many.
TIP: If your site needs both humans and search engines, try not to set your heart on less than 100 words per page or more than 300 words. Generally speaking, somewhere in the middle is a nice compromise for both audiences.
And it's not just the number of words used that's important. Humans tend not to like repeated words, whereas search engines do. Humans will understand from your heading what it is you do, and if it's relevant. Mention it once, and they'll generally remember. Search engines are not so smart. They need to be told again and again. This is how they figure out how relevant your site is.
TIP: Don't ask your website copywriter to be a minimalist. The search engines won't like it. By the same token, don't ask them to simply jam every page full of hundreds of your primary keyword phrases, because your human readers won't like that (in fact, neither will the search engines). The trick is to expect each page to repeat one or two primary keyword phrases 5-10 times.
TIP: Remember, balancing human and computer requirements is time consuming. Try to have a clear understanding of the objective of each page before your writer starts. You'll get a much better product with fewer time consuming iterations.
REALITY 2 – BENEFITS, AUDIENCES, PRODUCTS, SERVICES, FEATURES
A website copywriter deals in benefits, audiences, products, services, and features. This is black and white.
These things may be painfully obvious to you, but they won't be to your copywriter. And although a good copywriter will be able to draw them out of you, they won't be able to accurately and comprehensively identify them alone.
TIP: Before you engage a website copywriter, make a list of what you do, who you do it for, and what benefits it gives them. Your job will cost more if your brief consists of one line, "I want to increase sales!"
When it comes down to it, a good website is written around benefits. Customers are only interested in how you can benefit them. This means benefits are the website copywriter's inspiration. By the end of the project, you'll be sick and tired of hearing your copywriter ask, "But what are the benefits of that to your customer?" You'll definitely thank them for asking though.
TIP: Don't confuse features with benefits. A feature is what you do or how you do it. A benefit is what advantage that brings to the customer. Your list should make a clear distinction between the two. This will save your copywriter a LOT of time, and save you a lot of money. Most importantly, it will MAKE you a lot of money because your website will engage your customer.
Website copywriting is an artform. But because it's an artform with a commercial foundation, it can be understood by anyone in business. And when you understand the commercial realities of the copywriter, the greys of the artform will begin to seem more like the familiar black and white of the nine-to-five. Then, and only then, will you be able to make the most of your website copywriter.
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