If you take just one thing away from our time together on this blog, please, let it be this.
Write your website content in one document.
Sounds simple, yet almost everyone does the exact opposite.
This newsletter explains WHY writing your content in one document, away from your website, is crucial.
And is relevant for those who are designing a website for themselves, and those working with a web designer.
I will split this article into two parts:
Firstly, making for a smooth website delivery
In my very early years in business (think 2015/16), as a new web designer, I used to receive content from clients like this:
And this experience is a lot more common than you might think. It’s the same story I hear again and again from frustrated web designers.
I’ve even had a designer tell me they received content “Scribbled on a scrap piece of paper, and posted through their letterbox”.
I know some web designers have cracked this (especially those that are already collaborating with me 😉), but many still haven't.
The trouble is, when clients aren’t given clear instructions and boundaries, they don’t realise they are doing something wrong. It’s not the client's fault. But they do suffer.
That’s why it’s important for the web designer to set expectations early in the relationship so that the project runs smoothly. By early, I mean before money changes hands.
Solving this content headache by writing in one document is absolutely crucial for a successful outcome for both parties. It will speed up the content collection dramatically and have everyone feeling relaxed about the process instead of stressed and confused.
A happy web designer equals a happy client and vice versa.
Win-wins are always the best outcome for doing business.
Secondly, the quality of your content will suffer if it’s not produced in one document
Writing copy, either directly into your website (if you’re building it yourself) or spread out in various different documents, will have a negative impact on the overall success of your website.
Here are four reasons why:
1. Your website is one living, breathing organism. Each page must speak to the other pages, connecting your message through a web of internal links.
This is exactly why I refuse to write two or three isolated pages from a larger website. Not only will the tone be inconsistent, but the pages will also be disjointed.
To help build a cohesive website, you must write in one document.
2. You need to keep your content concise while covering your entire message.
The only way to make sure you're covering exactly the right information, without waffling or missing bits, is to properly plan your content. This can only be accomplished by writing the entire website copy inside one document.
3. If you write content inside your website building platform you will get distracted by colours, fonts, and other design elements.
This applies to both web-designers and those who are DIYing their websites. You need to absorb yourself into the pain, struggle, hopes and dreams of your ideal client. You can’t do this properly inside your website platform without getting distracted.
Building empathy and understanding is one of the core values at Gibson Copy, this can only be achieved if all of the writer's focus is on writing.
4. Your content must be properly organised.
The first thing you need to do after opening that fresh website content document is to write a list of pages at the top (your sitemap). This is such a simple thing but absolutely crucial if you’re going to avoid random, disjointed pages and disorganised content.
This also applies to making sure all headings, subheadings and sections are positioned correctly (and nothing is missing!).
In my experience as a former web designer and someone who teaches people how to write website copy, most people either send content to their web designer in dribs and drabs (unless of course, the web designer already has clear guidelines to stop this from happening) or they write (tweak) the copy directly inside the website platform.
I hope this newsletter has shown you why both of these situations are detrimental to the success of your website.
Enjoy this article?
Visit Gibson Copy to learn more about what we do.
Dr Hannah Gibson
Hold on tight — it's going to be a good one.
First off, let's set the scene.
In 2019, I wrote an article, "Five reasons copy should come before design".
At that time, I'd recently niched my services from web designer to website copywriter, and my theory of content before design was just that, a theory.
Three years later, and after helping hundreds of web designers and their clients to get a clear, compelling and results-focused website, I'm sharing my updated thoughts.
(Second edition if you like).
So, jumping straight in with a plot spoiler.
In one hundred per cent of cases, COPY SHOULD BE YOUR FIRST PRIORITY when designing a new website.
Zero "tweaking" content (urgh, hate that word)
And zero pushing any old content into the design.
This newsletter will explain exactly why your website copy should be your FIRST priority.
To be clear (and to explain why I keep using capital letters), FIRST priority is different from top priority, and I use the word 'should' because I know not every project works out like this.
You might be in the middle of a website build now, wondering if you've given enough consideration to the copy. It happens, so no judgement. I'm here to help, whatever stage you're at.
Anyway, that said, here are your top priorities when creating a new website, in no particular order:
- Website copy
- Visual branding, graphics etc.
- Technical set-up (platform choice, accessibility, speed, etc.)
- And SEO
(Feel free to add anything I've missed in the comments).
So, now to answer the why. Out of all of these priorities, why should website copywriting come first?
To answer that, we need to look at what a website IS.
A website is a 'hub' that all roads lead back to
I've been saying this for years, and nothing has changed about that.
Think of it like this; your website is the 'hub' for your business online. It should contain your entire brand message.
This basically means everything your audience needs to know about your business/product/service before they buy from you (or at least click your call-to-action anyway).
Here's where it gets a bit more complicated, so stay with me.
All of the information above MUST go onto your website.
BUT, there's a science behind exactly WHERE it needs to be placed.
If you don't follow this science, your website visitors will get bored and leave.
You can't make them dig for information. You need to get into their head and give them what they are looking for at the exact right moment they are looking for it!
I'll say that another way, it's crucial to understand the journey someone is taking through your website so that you can give them just enough information to lead them onto the next step in their journey and ultimately into your inbox.
DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE SCIENCE
That's why you need to make website copy your first priority.
There's a science behind how your content is structured, and you absolutely can not just squeeze your copy into a pre-made design.
Or "tweak" while you go if you're DIYing.
Well, I guess you can, but you certainly won't see the website results you so desperately want and need if you do that.
So I'll say it again.
Follow the process and DO NOT UNDERESTIMATE THE SCIENCE.
I'll share more in next week's newsletter.
Dr Hannah Gibson
Director at Gibson Copy
When you join my self-study course Write Your Website Copy In 5 Days, you get an advanced website copywriting template so you can follow the science behind persuasive copywriting without getting overwhelmed.
Click here to find out more Write Your Website Copy In 5 Days
I spend a huge chunk of my week reviewing website copy (usually) for small service-based businesses that are in the process of getting a new website.
I've seen every mistake in the book (easy mistakes to make when you're not a trained copywriter).
So, I decided to share them in the hope you're inspired to avoid them!
1) No headline on the homepage.
2) A 'clever' headline that confuses the reader and does nothing to show what the business does and who they help.
3) No benefit led sub-heading on the homepage (missing a huge opportunity here).
4) Not making it immediately obvious what problem the business solves.
5) Not making it immediately obvious what solution the business offers.
6) Not giving website visitors a clear, consistent and COMPELLING call-to-action throughout the copy.
7) Boring subheadings (get creative and add some intrigue, please!).
8) Not overcoming objections/clearing up common misunderstandings.
9) Boring About pages.
10) About pages that forget to highlight the businesses USP.
11) No clear and compelling call to action on the about page.
12) No FAQ page (missing a trick there!)
13) No clarity between the sections (just repeating the same boring stuff without a well-defined structure to the points raised).
14) Not using the contrast principle (using contrast between sections keeps people on the website and engaged).
15) No personality.
16) Not enough text.
17) Too much text.
18) Not splitting up long chunks of text with subheadings.
19) Boring contact pages (another huge missed opportunity to give your visitors one final push to make an enquiry).
20) Being shy with your achievements (shout loud and proud about your skills, experience and qualifications. If you don't, who else will?!)
21) Focusing on the features instead of leading with the benefits.
22) Focusing on the benefits and forgetting to cover the features!! (Remember to add "What You Get" and "How it Works" sections).
23) Introducing the homepage with bullet points. I prefer a nice meaty paragraph to really draw the reader in.
24) Technical jargon that no one understands but the business owner.
25) The wrong tone, for example, a corporate tone for a personal brand.
26) Not using contractions (you're, it's, don't) which usually read better than the full words.
27) Not repeating the call to action enough (keep sticking it in there!).
28) Not making good use of adjectives (describing words that help the reader visualise things).
29) Starting sentences with "I" or "We". It's ok to use the first person sometimes, but try switching the sentence around so you don't start it with "I" or "We".
30) Starting HEADLINES with "I" or "We" is a big NO (in my personal opinion).
31) Burying your USP on the about page. I've seen this quite a few times - the big juicy thing that differentiates your business is hidden three-quarters of the way down the about page.
32) No thought of keywords (if SEO is a priority).
33) Keyword stuffing (although, to be fair, I've only seen this a couple of times).
34) Spelling mistakes (get a proofreader).
35) Really bad grammar (doesn't need to be perfect old school or anything, but you've got to get the basics right).
36) Page headlines that are too long (you can say a lot in just a few words)
37) Forgetting to add your brand values. Not just to "tick a box" but to really show people what your business passionately believes.
38) Not showing empathy. All businesses can show a bit of empathy for their customers, admittedly some more than others.
39) Not using second-person pronouns enough (you, your, you're).
40) Sentences that are too short with not enough details in them (details sell).
41) Sentences that are too long (no one wants to read a never-ending sentence).
42) Very long paragraphs (Short paragraphs are better for mobile, and since most users are on mobile these days, it's better to write with this in mind).
Woohoo!! I made it to 42 ✍️🤩
If you enjoyed reading this, come and say hi to me on LinkedIn
Hannah Gibson, PhD
Learn to write lead generating sales copy
Owner at Gibson Copy Ltd