February 20 2020

Working Successfully with a Web Copywriter

working with a copywriterDo you see these? You know them as words. And they’re important. You need a lot of them to fill your new website and explain why you and your offerings should matter to people.

But the process of gathering the information required to write the words might be something you’ve never considered, especially if it’s the first time you’re in charge of a website rebuild for your company. To make things go smoothly when working with a web copywriter, consider these points and the rationale behind them.

Who Are You?

In the beginning of a site redesign, a copywriter will ask for your input on tone. What voice do you want to use to convey your message to readers? The more specific you can be, the better. A “friendly and trustworthy” tone leaves a lot of room for interpretation. And if our definitions are different, you may spend time spinning wheels trying to nail down the tone. “Be witty whenever possible,” “stay professional and business-like” or “have fun and get edgy” are more specific ways to describe what you want.

To go a step beyond describing the tone you want, provide your web copywriter with a few examples of websites whose tones you enjoy. Those sites can be in your industry but do not have to be. An experienced copywriter will translate the tone and recommend how it might fit with your brand and site.

In this exercise, it’s important to choose a website with a design similar to yours because that affects your approach, too. If you like the edgy one-liners and quick-hitting lead-ins on a particular website but your site is designed to carry lengthier content, there will be a disconnect.

Once you provide tone direction, your web copywriter will write a few different pages for you that will represent the approach for the full site. We want you to get a good handle on how this tone will read across various pages because there will be slight variations. Some pages are denser than others based on the products discussed and their features. And some pages lend themselves to different creative twists within your defined tone. For example, consider a personal checking page and an insurance or investments page. A checking page can be looser, more carefree. But readers want to know you’re managing serious matters like insurance and investments appropriately, so even if you opt for “fun and playful” in your tone, you’ll want to dial it down a bit on certain pages.

Sometimes referred to as a tone test, this process will have some back-and-forth. Often it’s a quick process where a copywriter can translate your desired tone on the first take. Or, the copywriter will need to tweak the first draft based on your feedback. But once you approve the tone page, a copywriter will use it as a blueprint for the remainder of your site’s pages.

Consider the Source

After tone, the most important element in establishing a good flow with your website copywriter is your source content – the material the copywriter will use to write your new pages. In the most efficient projects, source content comes from a client’s existing website. But this where it can get tricky for people. Clients often dislike their existing website so much they see no value in it. But how frequently do the nuts-and-bolts details of your products change? If we can pull enough good product details from your existing site, things will roll smoothly. A copywriter will be experienced to understand that the old tone and layout should be ignored, focusing only on the product’s features and functionality to recast the information. So, don’t automatically determine your current site is wholly unusable. After all, how long has it been serving as your online marketing tool before you decided to redesign?

If a current website lacks the quality product details a copywriter will need, he or she can work from brochures or source content questionnaires filled out by clients to explain how a product/service is used and by whom. This is a more tedious approach for both sides because of all the documents in play, but it’s a workable alternative.

Regardless of whether a web copywriter uses online content, Word documents or PDFs, source content must be supplied by a client to a copywriter. A copywriter will need to know what distinguishes your products and services from someone else’s. Your copywriter will want to avoid speaking in general terms whenever possible, or the result will be lackluster. You’re investing a lot of time and money in a new site, so let’s make it informative for readers.

A visually appealing website falls a bit flat if a customer interested in a loan, for example, can’t find specific details about borrowing limits, the range of term lengths and other important details. Once readers land on a product page, they expect the goods – here’s what you need to know, here’s how to get what you want.

When a current or prospective customer is looking at a company’s website, the last thing she or she wants to read is vague information that provides little more than confirmation a product exists. Visitors want enough details that convince them that they should do business with you, because in today’s world, they have a lot of competitive options. And the businesses that respect visitors by giving them what they need (without overwhelming them with information) are the ones they might be loyal to in the future.

Since the website copywriting phase occurs before the full site can be built in the CMS, it’s important to focus on these early stages of the process so your copywriter has the clay needed to sculpt what you want.

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posted by
Douglas Malan
Douglas Malan
Senior Writer

ZAG Interactive is a full-service digital agency in Glastonbury, CT, offering website design, development, marketing and digital strategy to clients nationwide. See current job openings.