10 steps to crafting click-worthy homepage copy

Did you know that you only have a matter of seconds to catch the attention of a visitor to your website before they make that all important decision: stay to read more or click the back button? Because of this, the words on your homepage need to work ridiculously hard.

Unfortunately, it’s easy to get it wrong. Common mistakes include saying too much, making your homepage a sales pitch and focusing on you not the customer. So before you put fingers to keyboard, follow these steps to ensure you keep your readers engaged.

Step 1: Work out your audience and USP

Don’t even consider starting your homepage without a clear idea of who your readers are and what problem your business solves for them. Why? Because it’s easier to get someone to engage with what you’re saying if it speaks directly to their needs and experiences.

In addition, make sure you’ve pinpointed your unique selling point (USP) i.e. what is different about you and your product/service compared to your competitors. Perhaps you’re a family-run business or you offer great value – think about what you’re good at and what will make you stand out.

Step 2: Get out of sales pitch mode

Next, it’s time to take yourself out of cheesy sales pitch mode. Today’s web audiences aren’t silly, and they don’t like to be marketed to. Instead they’re looking to buy from businesses they can trust, and ones that offer them real value.

Because of this, the best way to approach your homepage copy is to write as if you’re explaining your business to a friend. Keep it honest, conversational and avoid false claims or overusing meaningless adjectives. In addition, don’t be afraid to add a little personality– as long as it’s on brand.

Step 3: Craft a clear, irresistible headline

Now it’s time to start writing. Let’s begin with the most critical sentence on your homepage – your headline. Not only is it the first thing people see – or at least it should be – if they don’t connect with it, it can also be the last. Many copywriters argue you should write this at the end, I disagree. For me this is the hook for developing the rest of the copy.

Forget being overly clever – this is not the place for puns or cryptic messaging. Instead, say it how it is while being benefit-focused. The best tip to getting it right is to imagine your homepage consists of only your headline. How would you sum up what you offer in one enticing sentence?

airbnb-homepage-image

intuit-homepage-copy

Airbnb’s headline ‘Live there’ is a good headline example. It’s short, sweet but also manages to convey the essence of their accommodation experience.

Another example is Intuit. Their homepage headline is very much tell it as it is – effectively communicating both its key benefit and who it’s for: ‘Seriously Easy online accounting software for small businesses in Australia.’

Step 4: Create a subhead to clarify

Next, it’s time to write your subhead. This sentence or caption should be used to expand on and clarify your headline message. For example, Hello Fresh use the headline ‘More than a meal’ followed by the subhead ‘Nutritionally balanced recipes based on seasonal farm fresh ingredients delivered every week to your front door’.

hello-fresh-website-homepage-image

meet-up-homepage

Social networking site Meetup is another example. After asking ‘What do you love?’ it follows up with ‘Do more of it with Meetup’.

Step 5: Write a compelling introduction

Now it’s on to your introductory copy. This should a short 1-4 lines on what you offer, framed in terms of benefits to the customer.

For example, on my KB Copywriting website I say ‘Whatever your content requirements – from website blurb to blogs, brochures or DM campaigns – let’s work together to engage your audience and reach your business goals.’ While I’m detailing what I do, I’m also letting the reader know how I can help them.

Step 6: Add some scannable feature-benefits

After your introductory paragraph, craft some bullets or subheads with 1-2 lines of supporting copy each to highlight your main additional feature-benefits. It’s a known fact that web users don’t read they scan, so this is one of the most effective ways to get your key messages across.

Kissmetrics homepage is a nice example of this approach in practice.

kissmetrics-homepage-image

Step 7: Ask for a specific action

Right, that’s the bulk of your copy done, but there’s still one of the most important bits to write – your call to action (CTA). This is an instruction which provokes an immediate response, such as ‘Call now’, ‘Find out more’, ‘Request a free quote today’.

CTA copy should be short (2-4 words), urgent and use active verbs. In addition, you might also want to add a sentence which clarifies what a reader can expect when they click. Here are some great examples from Uber and HubSpot.

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hubspot-call-to-action-image

Step 8: Inject some social proof

Don’t let yours be the only words on the page. Add a testimonial or two on your homepage to boost the credibility of what you’re saying.

When you request one from a client, be sure to ask them to be as specific as possible. Details are more believable than something vague and generic. You can even use part of a testimonial as your headline if it’s particularly compelling.

Step 9: Edit your copy on screen

Once you’ve finished writing your homepage copy you should always read it in situ once it’s uploaded to your website. This will give you a much better idea of how it’s all working on the page. You can then make any necessary edits to ensure that it fits in the space and that all the important bits pop off the page.

A good tip is for your page layout is to keep the most critical elements e.g. your headline and CTA, above the fold i.e. visible before the reader has to scroll.

Step 10: Test and tweak

Once your homepage is live, don’t forget about the copy and see it as a job done. Ensure you’re keeping tabs on how it’s performing using an online tool such as Google Analytics. If people aren’t staying long or are clicking back – you’ll need to review your copy and consider where you can make improvements.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so make your homepage work hard.

Need help writing your homepage – get in touch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Business blogging: 7 reasons why you should bother

Blogging. Everyone seems to be doing it these days.

But why are we doing it? Well, for some it’s simply for the writing, and sharing, pleasure – which is where blogging first began. But for those of us who do it for business, the story’s a little different.

Blogging for business is not just about spreading your voice and opinions (although that is part of it).  It’s actually a nifty little marketing tactic that, when done right, can help you attract potential customers, grow loyalty and ultimately sell more of your products or services.

But it’s only a blog, how can it do that, you might be asking? Here’s how.

1. Sends traffic to your website

Basically, the more often you upload blogs to your business website, the better your site will rank in Google’s search results.

Why? Because search engines like sites that are active, and they also like ones that have a lot of relevant, quality content on them. Blogging enables both and there’s not really any other place on your website that allows you to do this as web copy is normally pretty static. If you’ve SEO’d your blog, even better, your blog post itself will rank high enough to be seen in search.

2. Boosts your authority

What’s really great about blogging is that it gives you a way of boosting your business without the ‘buy from me’, ‘buy from me’ urgency of advertising, emails of web copy.

How? By building trust through relevant content.

For example, if a potential customer is searching for information on a particular topic and they come across one of your blogs and find it useful and informative, they might think ‘hey, I like this brand’. If they keep reading great blogs from you eventually they’ll think ‘hey, they know what they’re talking about, I trust this brand’ and become customers.

3. Turns readers into leads

If a reader likes your blog, it’s a damn shame if they get to the end and then immediately leave without clicking through to your website. But, if you know how, you can stop this happening and actually turn these people who like what you have to say into potential customers.

So what do you have to do, you might be asking. The answer is, make it obvious what they can do now to connect with you. And this means putting a clear call-to-action at the end of your blog. You could, for instance, add a link to a sign-up form where they can submit their details in order to receive notifications of your future blogs by email.

If your blog is targeted at existing subscribers then you might say something like ‘Contact us to discuss XYZ’.

4. Creates a two-way conversation

Blogs are great conversation openers – they start a discussion and attract comments and feedback. This is important because two-way communication is the backbone of any relationship which, in this case, is between you and your potential or existing customers.

However, while most readers will have an opinion on your blogs, the majority won’t actually write anything when you upload your post and share it on social media. So how do you encourage them? It may seem obvious but ask for their opinion at the end of your blog e.g. ‘What do you think?’ or ‘Feel free to share your experiences’. It works.

5. Boosts your social media efforts

Gaining any kind of traction on social media is a challenge for many businesses. You set up an account on Facebook, Twitter or wherever, get an initial flurry of page Likes and then it all goes quiet. Part of the problem here is that we aren’t sure what we should be posting.

Enter your blogs. They are the perfect content to post because they are ready-made engaging fodder for your social media followers. As such, not only can they help fill your social media calendar but they also encourage post Likes and Shares which in turn can lead to more followers.

6. Humanizes your brand

Other than through the copy on your website About Us page, there are not many ways in which you can actively humanize your business. This is another reason why blogging is worth it – it allows you to do just that.

Your blog is one place where you can write in first person, share your thoughts and opinions and bring your brand to life. People like to deal with people, not businesses, and by writing a blog you can let your personality shine through and hopefully make some new (customer) friends.

You can even write blogs which provide insights into your company culture, people and premises.

7. Makes you think about your industry and audience

This isn’t necessarily an obvious one, but a really important practical reason business blogging is so worth it is that the process of creating them forces you to learn more and think harder about your industry and your audience.

While you could just sit down and write a blog off the top of your head on a random topic – it’s unlikely to be very effective. To write awesome blogs that people want to read you need to know exactly who your audience is, what topics they’re searching for and what your competitors are doing. Because of this, the process of blogging can make you more business savvy.

So there you have it – business blogging is definitely worth it, you just need to put the time and effort in. If you’d like some help writing yours, get in touch.

How being an editor made me a better copywriter (and vice versa)

Being an editor and a writer are two distinctly different parts of my job.

As a copywriter I need to be able to identify and define a client’s needs and message and turn it into engaging, well-informed copy. I need to be a researcher, an audience psychologist and adept at capturing complex ideas in simple words.

As a copyeditor, on the other hand, I’m not concerned with writing a piece, but fixing it. As well as correcting grammar and spelling, I need to ensure the language is clear and consistent and the content is appropriate for the audience and objectives.

Some people argue that if you’re one, you can’t successfully be the other. I say poppycock. Whilst the process is different, both are two sides of the same coin. In fact, rather than being mutually exclusive, I’ve found being a copywriter has actually made me a better writer and vice versa.

From editing to writing…                         

Cut the c*#p

When you first start out writing, it’s extremely easy to get caught up in the creative flow. Instead of just getting to the point, you can get side tracked into describing things in great detail, doing your damnedest to demonstrate your writing prowess.

However, what copywriters often forget – and I’m sure I was guilty of in the early days – is that they’re not writing a novel. Even where a job requires descriptive prose, being an editor has helped me realise that this is business writing, I therefore try to keep things clean, concise and to the point.

Be less precious

It seems us writers have a bit of a reputation for being easily affected, or even highly-strung – woe betide any editor who dares suggest a piece of copy is not perfect. When I first started out writing, I definitely got offended if a manager or client wanted me to rephrase or rewrite something. However, once you’ve been on the other side, you get it.

A change or edit is not an affirmation of poor writing ability – sometimes amends are necessary. Whether it’s not clear enough, doesn’t quite fulfil brief or simply because the client wants it said a different way, being an editor makes you realise that making changes is okay.

Check your work before you send

As an editor to copywriters, whilst you don’t expect a piece of writing to be perfect, if it contains multiple errors it doesn’t look great. Sometimes, as a writer, when you have spent many hours on a piece you just want to get it sent, but failing to reread your work can lead to glaringly obvious errors.

Working as an editor, I know how unprofessional this looks – especially if you see the same mistakes in a writer’s work several times even after you’ve given them feedback. As a writer, I now have ‘submitting to editors’ paranoia: I will read, check and tweak a piece of copy several times before I’m happy to click send.

From writing to editing…

Maintain the writer’s integrity

Being an editor, my job is not to rework a piece so it sounds like I’ve written it. Instead it’s about improving what’s there. I’ve worked with editors before (and in some instances, managers and directors purporting to be editors) where they make changes and edits with zero consideration of what the writer was trying to achieve or without considering the piece as a whole.

Because I know what goes into the writing process, and how difficult it can be to pull a piece together, as an editor I am very careful to be respectful of the writer’s turn of phrase, their approach and their thinking. I’ll try to ensure their writing style shines through, even when making changes.

Ensure feedback is specific and constructive

Nothing is worse as a writer than getting a piece of work back from an editor and being asked to make changes without explanation. “Can you write a new headline”; “This bit is not good/doesn’t work”. These types of comments are not helpful. Whilst amends may need to be made, if you don’t know why you are changing something, how can you improve on it?

Because I know this frustration, I am always careful as an editor to be specific in my feedback. If the headline isn’t working because it won’t engage the audience, I will suggest a different approach. If something is ‘not good’, I’ll explain exactly what’s not working – whether it’s the words used or the lack of cohesion. Be doing this, writers are more likely to get it right.

Be nice

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – writing is an involved process. It takes a lot of effort and energy to pull together a piece, so if an editor comes back at you with nothing but negatives and changes it’s not a nice feeling. Because of this, even if a piece of work is not up to scratch, I will make an effort not to be all doom and gloom when I go back to the writer.

Instead I’ll try to focus on the bits that are good. I’m not pandering to their sensitive nature, I simply know that by approaching it in this way, I’ll get a much better outcome. And if a piece of work is great, I’ll let them know – after all, everyone likes positive feedback, not just writers.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

 

 

The realities of being a freelance, homeworking copywriter

Being a freelance copywriter definitely has it perks. I get to write stuff. I am my own boss. And I don’t have to go to work. Well, not in the commutable sense anyway. But writing from home is not all typing along happily in your pyjamas drinking endless cups of tea (although there is a bit of the former and a lot of the latter). It brings challenges like any job.

Working isn’t 9-5 anymore

Admittedly, starting and finishing work whenever I want is pretty sweet. No one is tapping their watch if I’m not ready to go at 9am, and no one minds when I go to pick the kids up from school at 3.30pm – expect me when I’m on a writing roll and don’t want to stop.

But this kind of flexibility can have it downsides. With no set time to start and finish, knowing when to put your pen (typing fingers) away can be a problem. Entire evenings can be swallowed up ‘just doing a little bit more’ on this or that article or webpage. In addition, several of my clients are based overseas which means early or late night calls or emails are common.

Your laptop is your (only) friend

When you write from home it can get lonely. Save from the occasional work-related phone or Skype call, or a quick catch up with a friend or neighbour, it’s just me and my laptop. Luckily many of us wordy types like our own company (our thoughts tend to keep us occupied), so this is not a problem most of the time.

But sometimes, just sometimes, having someone to turn around to and have a gossip with or bounce ideas against would be nice. This is where fellow freelance writing friends are worth their weight in gold. The upside to a lack of colleagues, of course, is that I don’t have to endure office politics, pointless meetings or polite chit chat in the kitchen.

How’s the hobby going?

Yes, what I do is an actual job. Why do I say this? Because for some reason, when you work from home and you write stuff for a living, people assume it’s more of a fun pastime than fulltime employment. This is exacerbated further in today’s digital world where it seems anyone can be a blogger or social media commentator.

Okay, yes I enjoy what I do and yes it gives me a chance to be creative, but freelance copywriting isn’t as easy as it looks. In fact, it can take many hours (and sometimes a lot of stress) to research, write and edit even 500 words. Plus there’s all the other stuff that goes with it: marketing; pitches; networking; relationship management. And the admin and invoices won’t do themselves.

The feedback fear

Remember that feeling when you handed in an essay at school and you waited (in trepidation) for it to be returned? Will they think it’s any good? What mark will I get? Should I have written this instead of that? Well, this is the pain us copywriters endure on a daily basis.

Submitting something which you have poured your creativity and energy in to, which is the case whether you have written a lighthearted blog or a business-like webpage or presentation, and then waiting to hear what the client (or the audience) thinks can be stressful.

Even when you have years of experience behind you, you’re confident you’ve hit the brief and you know it’s error-free, writer’s fear can kick in – and there’s no one to distract you from your worrying. Of course, as a hardened copywriter I don’t take changes, negativity or not as many ‘likes’ personally (most of the time), it’s just part of the process.

No work; no pay

Unlike your average office job, where you’re sure of the amount of money you’ll take home each month, freelance writing offers no guarantees. One week you might have briefs spilling out of your inbox and pretty decent earnings, the next you might just have a few small jobs to do and you’re worrying about your bank balance.

Regular clients are fantastic as they keep you ticking along with new projects – providing you with at least some kind of financial certainty. But if you want to go on holiday or you get sick, you can forget pay. The reality is simple: no writing; no earning – there’s no compensation here for not being at work.

Being a freelance, homeworking copywriter and editor certainly has its challenges, but luckily I love what I do – except maybe when writer’s block strikes or a client expects champagne copy on beer money. The best bits? The variety of my work, happy clients and seeing my work get published.

7 reasons why you should hire a professional copywriter

Whether you’re ready to fill the pages of your newly designed website or want to put together a promotional brochure or digital marketing campaign, you’ll need words. Easy, you might think. I’m a pretty good writer; I’ll give it a go. Before you do, here are seven good reasons why outsourcing to a professional copywriter is money well spent.

1. It will save you time and stress

Why spend time painstakingly putting words together, when you can take the pressure off yourself and hire a professional who can turn it around quickly and efficiently?

Producing copy is an involved process. If you, or another staff member, are trying to write alongside the demands of your day-to-day job, you’ll put yourself under unnecessary pressure and end up with something messy. Instead, leave it to a professional. We’ll take on the responsibility and give it 100% of our time and focus.

2. Your words will scream credibility

Whatever business you’re in, quality communications are paramount. If your copy is poorly written, inappropriately structured or full of language errors, potential and existing customers will question your credibility. The result? A loss of trust and an increased likelihood that they will buy or do business elsewhere.

Professional copywriters live and breathe the written word. Not only have we spent years honing our skills, but – the good ones at least – have a continued commitment to keeping up with writing and marketing trends to ensure their copy is both spot-on and current.

3. You will better engage with your customers

If you know your business inside out, you’ll be able to explain who you are, what you do and describe the unique features of your product or service. But if this is all you cover in your marketing copy, it just won’t cut it.

To sell yourself effectively, you need to do more than simply inform. You also need to engage and persuade. How do you do this? By getting to the heart of what your customers really want, understanding their motivations for buying, and turning your features into real benefits.

Us copywriters love people psyche and have mastered this art of subtle persuasion. We will beaver away until we have crafted clever, relevant copy that taps into these base needs.

4. Your business will see results

Copy isn’t just there to fill a page – it’s there for a specific purpose: to help you promote and grow your business.  A professional copywriter has not only mastered the art of persuading and engaging an audience, but also does sufficient market and competitor research so they can better deliver on your goals.

Because they are informed, our words are better crafted to drive action – to prompt people to find out more about your business or make that purchase. If spending money on a copywriter is stopping you from hiring one, you need to think about the long-term benefits. Put your trust, and cash, into us and you will see a return.

5. You can strengthen your brand

Professional copywriters can help you establish and promote a brand by crafting effective headlines, taglines and advertising copy. But we can also help build and strengthen your brand by working with you to create a unique tone of voice which can be applied consistently across your communications.

What is a tone of voice? Put simply, it’s your company personality communicated through language. It reflects who you are and what you stand for. If you’re a fun, quirky business, a copywriter will communicate this using informal and playful language.  If you’re formal but friendly, we’ll make it professional but not stiff.

6. You get a fresh perspective

Bringing in an outside copy professional delivers an instant breath of fresh air. Whilst you may already have an idea of what you want to write on your website or leaflet, a copywriter – new to your business – can offer a fresh perspective that can help you take your copy in a more effective direction.

In addition, an independent copywriter is able to stand back and look at your existing copy objectively and critically. We are better placed to identify flaws in your current marketing communications as we don’t have the professional blindness which unfortunately comes from being too close to your business.

7. You can benefit from additional expertise

One of the best things about us professional copywriters is that we don’t just write compelling words. Many of us, through our years of experience, are also skilled marketing communicators. We can edit existing copy, advise on appropriate channels, source images and even offer assistance when it comes to design.

A good copywriter today also knows a thing or two about SEO. We can craft copy that not only hits brief but also pleases the Google gods.

Effective copy is a tough nut to crack. Even us hardened wordsmiths, who know all the techniques, still sweat when it comes to getting the words right. So give yourself the permission to hand your pen over to a professional copywriter and you and your business will reap the benefits.

Let me know your thoughts and experiences.