Whether hiring or contracting a specialist web copywriter to work on your company website, you may be in for frustrating times ahead. With the rules of SEO changing, more brands are looking to content optimisation and careful keyword research to stay ahead of competitors, and that’s where web copywriting becomes an essential part of the web development process. A good web copywriter will charge you a one off fee that will deliver a staggering return on your investment over time.
So, what do you need to know before hiring a web copywriter?
1. They may not know what you’re talking about
Just like in any other aspect of business, there are the pure professionals who know enough about their own trade to know a bit about your trade. That’s the SEO copywriter you need, because the industry is full of novices. Your web copywriter may have no understanding at all about HTML or design principles. They may struggle to understand your industry and customers.
How to avoid the problem: When choosing a web copywriter to work with, be sure to ask them about their experience in your industry and their research process.
2. Skills and services vary from writer to writer
A web copywriter may supply you with everything from keyword research, to title and description tag content, to internal linking suggestions to H tag mark-up…or they may supply you with some well written words on a page. Most copywriters have done their training in traditional media when writing for the web has very specific and unique technical skills. Google will use the structure of the copy on your page to help dictate your place in search results – print copy is almost useless on the web.
How to avoid the problem: When hiring a freelance web copywriter or a contract business, be sure to get a full list of the services they provide. Make sure technical services are included.
3. A writer is not a copywriter
Copywriting is a skill taught in a marketing or advertising degree; while great copy is an art, it’s not a purely creative pursuit. Copywriting is about translating the features of a client’s product or service into benefits that the customer can clearly understand and instantly desire. It’s about doing all that in a voice that the customer trusts and with branding elements that he can identify with….it’s not about flowery writing. A good copywriter will use writing flair to engage the reader but mostly the focus should be on converting traffic into sales.
How to avoid the problem: Ask for samples of their work and read them with an open mind. By the end of the story, do you want to buy the product? Do you feel educated, excited and can you see why you need it? If not, move on.
4. What to keep in mind with website design
Your design team may never have worked with a web copywriter before either. Surprisingly few web designers have a solid understanding of on-page SEO principles. A copywriter will likely ask you for at least two paragraphs of space on each page (often more as Google gives preference to 300 or more well written words). They will be working with H-tags so when deciding on fonts and sizes, it’s best to opt for subtler where possible. Heading 1 can be a feature but H2 should be no more than two points larger than the paragraph text. H3 should appear no more than one point larger, or even just as bold. You should also choose fonts for H4-H6 as some copywriters will use the whole hierarchy.
They will also likely require links to be embedded through the text. For this reason, making links (both unread and read) bright, stand out colours will make the page look cluttered and messy. If possible use just a shade darker than the text colour or at least something not too distracting.
If you’re going with a clean, minimalist design, it might be worthwhile talking to your web copywriter in advance to discuss maximum characters that can be placed in H tags. Nothing looks worse than a H2 that goes for three lines! You may also wish to opt for “click here to read more” buttons.
Your copywriter will also likely want a call to action or method of contact on each and every page (or at least a funnel through the text that leads to a conversion). If you don’t discuss design-friendly buttons to use, you may find yourself with messy H2 tags or contact forms at the bottom of every page. Ask in advance how the CTA will work and if necessary design a button that won’t ruin the look and feel of the page.
How to avoid the problem: Hire a great web designer with on-page SEO skills. If that’s not possible, have the copywriter and web team meet to discuss design strategy. If you’re hiring a freelance copywriter, you will need to pay for this meeting.
5. The copywriting process
Again, the process will vary between contractors but generally, once the job is quoted and signed off, your copywriter will send you a creative brief to complete. The copywriter then does keyword research and makes recommendations based on how strong your website is, your online marketing plans, budget and how competitive your niche is (note, they don’t just pick the obvious keywords). Once the keywords are agreed upon, the copywriter will write up a sample page (usually home) and get your feedback on tone and voice.
S/he will then write the rest of the website and include some anchor text based internal linking, meta tags, description tags, image recommendations and calls to action. You can then usually make 1-2 rounds of edits. You will then be provided with the content in Word (or other word processor) format. You will also receive a spreadsheet with the keywords allocated to every page on the site – this is to help you with internal linking. It is then up to you to use a program like Wordpad to strip any nasty codes and upload the content.
Depending on the size of the job, the process usually takes about a week per five pages of content but again, this will vary.
How to avoid problems: Giving prompt feedback, understanding that your keywords will be strategically placed in copy and being honest with your web copywriter will help avoid any issues.
Working with a web copywriter is usually a financially rewarding experience. Every time that copy brings in a new buyer, you’ll see more return on your investment but only if you invest in the right web copywriter from the start!
photo credit: Ed Yourdon