I’ve been hearing a lot from my web designer pals lately that getting website content from their clients can be like pulling teeth, and causes projects to get pushed past the deadline. I’ve experienced this myself, and have to say, it can be extremely stressful.
There are so many moving parts to a website launch, and unless you’ve done it before, you probably don’t realize how many steps there can be. Or how important your copy really is.
Website content: the star of the show
Just like images can make or break a website design, its content can be the difference between a website that acts as your number one salesman or one that adds little value to your business. Content is definitely king in the website world, and when it’s not written properly, or rushed through, it falls flat.
Imagine you were to go to the car dealership, and the sales guy walks out to you; he’s totally gorgeous, with unforgettable charm oozing out of his pores. You know you’re done for before he opens his mouth. But then he does.
He greets you, and his tone is totally flat. No excitement, no charm, no magic. He talks to you about the car, but doesn’t give you much detail or do his energetic song and dance to convince you to buy.
You’re disappointed, because you were expecting to be schmoozed; honestly, you were ready to let this guy convince you. But his lack of effort completely puts you off the idea of buying this pretty car you’ve been looking at and dreaming about for weeks, because if he can’t muster up the excitement to sell it to you, it must not be worth the price.
That’s exactly what potential customers go through on your website when your copy is lackluster. They see your beautiful website, see examples of your flawless work, and can’t wait to work with you. Except when they start reading your content, they feel let down and lose all confidence in your abilities.
That’s why your copy should be one of the first things you think about, before you even start the designing process (whether you’re doing it yourself or hiring a designer).
Why website content gets overlooked so often
I’ve come to realize there are three types of clients when it comes to copy. Obviously there are the clients who have it all together and provide everything on time, but they’re the exception, rather than the rule—which is what has my designer friends so frustrated.
Next are the clients who simply overlook the importance of their content. These clients are usually so excited by the prospect of a new website that they don’t realize they’ll have to do a lot of the work to get it ready.
‘What?! You mean the web designer doesn’t just magically know and create everything for me?’
Sorry to burst your bubble, friends, but we CAN’T do everything for you. We have so many other parts of your website to work on that the copy falls to the very bottom of our list. Plus, while we know a lot about your clients and your biz, we don’t always know the best way to speak to them.
Finally, you have the clients who are afraid of their copy. This is much more common than you may think. A lot of clients go into their website design thinking they’ll slap together some content and be on their way. But when they actually sit down to do it, they become overwhelmed.
They look at the list of pages they need to create copy for, and have no idea where to start. You can’t really blame them, because it can be very intimidating to stare at a blank page if you’re not used to writing. I’ve been there.
These are the clients who typically end up missing deadlines, or pushing project start dates back. They’re the ones who mess with a designer’s schedule the most.
Now you could be thinking, ‘jeesh, if it’s such a problem, why don’t you just write the copy for them?’ Well, I do offer copywriting services to my clients for an extra fee, but not every designer does, and with good reason.
Why your designer doesn’t want to write your website content for you
While some of us may offer copywriting as an add-on service, it’s usually not included in your website package. There are a few reasons for this:
- Your designer isn’t comfortable with writing. Most of us went to school (or taught ourselves) for design, not writing. Sure, we can write out a compelling call-to-action or short description in a pinch, but it’s not really something we feel great at. And more than anything, we want your entire site to be great; therefore, we refuse to risk your copy NOT being great by writing it ourselves.
- Your designer doesn’t LIKE writing. Just like you, there are things we hate doing. For some of us, it’s writing. Writing just doesn’t get our blood pumping with excitement like designing does. In fact, some of us may be downright scared of it. That’s why when we need things written, we hire copywriters. Because when we aren’t experts at some part of our biz, we like to hire it out—just like you should.
- Your designer doesn’t have time to write your copy. Let us be real for a minute here: we’re super busy. We may make it look like we have all the time in the world to spend engaging on Instagram, doing Facebook LIVES for our groups, and taking on whatever requests you send our way; but in reality, we’re secretly counting the minutes in our heads because we know we have 10,000 more things to finish that day. That goes double for writing your website content. Writing isn’t our forte—it’s not what we’ve spent endless hours studying and researching—so it takes some of us twice or three times as long to write a paragraph as it would a professional copywriter. That added time is money lost for us, so we’d rather just not take the job of writing your copy on.
What you need to do to have your copy ready on time
You have two options for preparing your website content on time. 1) You figure out what copy you’ll need and have it ready (or almost ready) before you hire a designer to build your website. 2) You hire a copywriter (or designer who also writes content).
Whichever route you go, you’ll need to plan ahead for having your content ready. Because whether you write it yourself or hire someone else, it’s still going to take time. You need to be sure that you or the writer you’ve hired will have it done by your designer’s due date if you don’t want to risk missing deadlines (and possibly incurring delay-of-project fees).
11 Pages You need Website Content for
Whether you write it yourself or hire a copywriter, you’ll need to plan out your pages, and what should be on them. To help you, I’ve written a list of the most common website pages, and what you generally expect to find on them.
Above the fold content (usually a big headline + short description to immediately explain to visitors what you do and whether you’re for them)
Homepage supporting copy (this can include a lot of things: more detailed description of what you do, a short blurb about you, introductions to your products or services, etc)
Information about your business, how it helps your clients, and why they should trust you. It also helps to sometimes include personal information so that you seem like a normal person instead of just a random face on a screen.
Information about who should contact you, for what purposes, and how.
For products or services with high price points, you generally want to have a sales page. Which means you’ll need sales-page copy. If you’ve never written a sales page before, I suggest you do some heavy research, or hire it out to a professional.
Products + Services Pages
When you sell products online, customers want to read the short description about the product features or what it can solve for them.
Same goes for services. You should explain what you provide, what they’ll get out of it, and how it will benefit them.
A portfolio piece is not very effective without a description about the project, your contribution to it, and how successful it was because of your hard work. Be prepared to provide this info in your website content.
Hire Me Pages
This page is kind of like a sales page, only for you. You need to explain what you can help your clients with, what your process is, and how they can get started.
Condensed about blurb (for blog sidebars). Call to Actions for your sidebar content (like optin forms or free downloads).
If you’re planning on hosting a blog on your site, you should be prepared with 3–5 blog posts published when you launch so that people have something to read when they visit you. Also, you need to make sure that they’re quality posts your audience will want to read.
Start Here Pages
These pages should be a general overview of your business, your work, and the most important things to check out on your site. Don’t just pull the same content you used on your about page or services page—this needs to be completely custom (and summarized) content.
These could be about specific topics you’re trying to educate on, FAQ pages to answer your clients’ questions, or even resources pages with your affiliate links. No matter what the purpose, you should have compelling website content on them.
Now that you know what to put on some of them, let me give you a few pointers.
- Each internal page of your website should have a minimum of 300 words (in order to get the best results when Google crawls your site—aka so you get a better ranking in the search engines)
- Every single page on your site should have a call-to-action that eventually leads to purchasing your products or services. For instance, your about page should link directly to your Hire Me or Contact page.
- People will not come to your site the first time and decide to make big purchases on the spot. If your products or services are more than $100, they’ll typically take 2–5 visits before purchasing. Be sure to take this into account and include content that will help convince them that you’re trustworthy, provide high value, and worth the cost.
- All of your copy needs to be error free. When it’s not, people tend to lose faith in your abilities. We all may be human, but we also all judge others. I love using Hemingway Editor for checking grammar (it’s free)!
Alright ya’ll, that was a long one. But hopefully it’s helped do a few things: clear up some misconceptions, explain how the website content process works, and give you an idea of what you should be doing before the start of your next web design project.
Want tips for any other pages I didn’t list above? Ask me in the comments and I’ll point you in the right direction!