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«Return to Blog List Why Bad Websites Happen to Good Companies, Part 10: Not Hiring a Writer to Get Clear, Crisp, Compelling Copy

There’s a myth in website design that “no one reads the copy.” It’s not entirely true. While most of the people who visit your website will not read most of the copy, the few visitors who are really interested in what you have to offer will. If they’re really interested, they’re your best prospects. And even casual visitors scan your content (quickly), looking for a reason to get interested. If they don’t find it, of course, they’re gone.

Unless you have too much business (I don’t know anyone in that position right now), how can you afford to communicate with website visitors with anything less than clear, crisp, and compelling copy?

Building a great website requires several different skill sets

People tend to think of website design as either a technology project (for which they need a programmer or coder) or design project (for which they need a web designer). There is no doubt that both of those characterizations are partially true, and that people with those skill sets are critical to producing a great—or even adequate—website. But no matter how great it looks or how well it works, without clearly communicated and compelling messages, the site will yield disappointing results (you’d like some results, right?).

Many people pride themselves on their ability to write well. But writing for distracted and non-commital website visitors is a skill few people possess. In addition to being clear and compelling, a web writer must be concise. Using too many words to express a thought chases away all of your casual visitors and all but the most determined of your best prospects. A writer who can develop strong messages and write clear, compelling, and concise website copy should be on your speed dial.

You are not the best example of someone in your market

You’re an expert in your field. Few of your website visitors know a tenth of what you know about your products and services. Because of your expertise, you will make assumptions about what’s important to talk about on your site that won’t match up with what your visitors want or need to know. Website content should be organized and written for your visitors, not for you. It might be more elementary than you would write, but it’s important to communicate with your visitors in a way that helps them quickly understand what you offer. If they understand, they’re more likely to take action.

If a website visitor doesn’t take action, you’ve probably lost them

A skilled web writer can organize your content (information architecture) as part of creating a strategy for moving visitors toward action. That action might be registering for an email newsletter, downloading a whitepaper, or placing an order. For non-profit organizations, it might be making a donation or volunteering. Most people do not arrive at your website with the intention of placing an order or taking the next step toward becoming a customer. If they do so, it’s because the information on the site convinced them. If they’re not convinced, the likelihood that they’ll return to check you out again is small.

A good web writer is good at organizing and delivering copy that convinces people to act. As Elvis Presley once sang, “a little less talk and a little more action.”

A caveat: blogging is different than “writing for the web”

Beyond the ability to write clearly, writing blog posts does not require the same skills described above. Blogging is more of a conversation, a chance for people to get a sense of who you are and what you think. If you’re a bit wordy, no problem. If you want to talk about things only experts in your field will fully grasp, go for it. Lots of successful bloggers cannot write copy that leads website visitors to take action other than leaving a comment. That’s OK because that’s not the goal of (most) blog posts. Just don’t assume that, because someone has a blog and writes “on the web”, that they can write “for the web.”

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