Copywriting – such a critical step for our online businesses, but one that can hold up a website project like no other single thing!
In this week’s interview I asked my long-time friend Rakhee Ghelani about her copywriting process and tips for getting the best results, whether you are paying someone else to do it, or doing it yourself.
My advice – just get something started, write an outline, jot some notes, even talk into your phone and play it back to yourself later. Getting your thoughts out on paper will get the ball rolling, then you can refine over time. Don’t forget, it’s not set in stone – you can always evolve your website copy as you go, it doesn’t have to be perfect from the beginning.
I asked Rakhee, firstly – what’s your process for getting into a client’s head, to enable you to really hone in on the critical points for their copy?
The best way to make sure I understand what a client wants is to spend time talking to them. I ask a lot of questions, and if I’m not sure I keep asking (sometimes the same question in different ways).
I also find it helpful for the client to show me examples of things they like, and even things they don’t like, so that I can get a feel for the style they prefer.
In terms of content, it’s critical that the client can explain to me the objective of the content, what it is they are trying to convey or achieve from it. I then usually repeat this back to them before closing a meeting, so that we both know we’re on the same page.
What do you recommend that a client should do before engaging their copywriter, to make the content process successful?
It’s really important that a client is clear on what they are trying to achieve with their website so that they can brief a copywriter well. While the answer to that may seem simple… more page views, it’s really not. Here’s some questions to ask yourself before engaging a copywriter:
- What is your primary objective for the website?
- How do you envisage people will find your site (i.e. if you’re relying entirely on Google then this impacts how the site needs to be phrased rather than if you’re using the site to inform people who’ve been directed to your site by word of mouth).
- Do you want to provide information only on the site, or are you trying to close a sale on the site? What’s the call to action then?
- Do you want the reader to contact you, if so what for? This is related to the sales cycle for your product or service, some are quick and may have an instant purchase, while others may take months to convert to sale. This can make a big difference in how you position yourself on your website and how you phrase a call to action and contact page.
- What do you want the reader to feel about you when they visit your site (for example, do you want them to feel like they know you personally or rather see you as a professional trusted advisor, this sets the tone for the site)?
- Who are your competitors? How do you differentiate yourself from them?
- What sites have you seen that you like? What do you like about the copy on those sites? Are there any you don’t like, if so why?
For those that really need to DIY their copy/content, what’s your advice to help them get their ideas and vision out onto paper?
Research. Research. Research. Take a look at competitor sites and see what you like about them and what you don’t. You’ll get a very good idea about what works from a reader’s perspective and then be able to use this knowledge to create your own content. You can then take this information and work out the basic structure of the site. What pages do you need and what information should each page have on it.
When writing the site, it’s important to keep content as free of jargon as possible, simple, easy to understand language is always best (and generally more Google friendly). To help make it jargon free, always get some friends who have nothing to do with your business to read it, and ask for their feedback.
It’s also very common for people to write too much, make sure you don’t duplicate information on more than one page. Keep the most important information on the front page (as most people won’t read the rest of the site). Then make sure that every page contains new information that is easy to read and not too long. If a reader has to scroll down more than one click on a page, it’s really unlikely they’ll ever get to the end. To get your point across, use bullet points, tables, pictures etc. These all break up text and make a site more visually appealing to a reader.
Once you’ve got it ready, get someone completely fresh to the site to proof read it for you. If you’ve written something and read it over and over again, it’s inevitable that you’ll miss something. My business partner and I actually edit each other’s work for this very reason.
What’s a typical workday look like for you?
I don’t really have a typical day as such. I can be working on so many different clients at one time, every day is always a bit different. Usually I do some form of exercise each morning, whether it’s a Yoga class or taking a walk, I’ll then make a cup of tea and check emails. If I have time I’ll respond to the urgent ones, and leave the others until after I’ve finished my work for the day.
Client work always come first, and my first task is always responding to any social media queries on behalf of my clients. I’ll then get onto the rest of the day’s work which can be anything from researching blog posts for a corporate client to scheduling tweets for another. My research can be anything from researching periodicals online to looking for cool photos to go with a great Facebook post. If I’m writing an article or post, I may need to interview someone, so I’ll either meet with them or interview them over Skype. That’s always an interesting thing to do.
Once I’ve completed my tasks for the day, I’ll go back and check social media responses for clients and my emails. I generally respond to my emails each day, as I don’t like leaving them. If I have time, I might write a post for my personal blog or spend some time on my personal social media profiles, reading interesting things or engaging with people.
And I ask everyone this question – what are you reading, or have read lately that has helped you in your business or personal growth?
At the moment I’m reading a book that was given to me as a birthday present called The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton. It’s beautifully written and talks about the impact that architecture has on emotions. It’s meant to encourage people to look at how they see architecture in a different way. It’s not really business or personal growth.
In terms of business, I most recently read a great book on Social Business by Design by Dion Hinchcliffe and Peter Kim. It looks at how powerful social media can be in business and where it has been used effectively, and ineffectively by major corporations. It really is a critical force for businesses to be involved in now so that they can engage with their customers and have real conversations with them.
As Co-Founder of The Content Arc she now creates communication and content strategies for businesses, and puts their vision into words in print, digital and social media. Rakhee is also a freelance writer with interests primarily in travel, food and customer experience.