I'm impressed by the number of companies that have started taking content marketing seriously.
More businesses than ever are recognizing the value of placing helpful, informative content at the center of their marketing campaigns. And as someone who's been preaching the Content Marketing Gospel for a while now, it's gratifying to see so many businesses start to really get it.
But sometimes I wonder if we're having too much success spreading the word about the value of educational content. Because more companies lately are paying too little attention to the quality of their more conventional marketing content - in particular, their website content.
Folks, let's be clear. Anything that communicates a message to an audience is content. Any content that's meant to place your organization in a positive light with prospects, customers, or partners is content marketing. And you can't shortchange any aspect of your content, not even the so-called "promotional" stuff, if your goal is to place content at the center of your marketing efforts.
So let's talk a little about how to write for your website.
Know your stuff
Think you know your company? I'll bet you don't know it as well as you think you do. Your website should tell your audience virtually everything they need to know about your business. And you don't know all of that, not even if you're the CEO. So, start with research:
- What are all the products and services you offer? Make sure your list is comprehensive. There may be some you'd rather not promote publicly, and that's fine, but you might be surprised by how often companies simply forget to include some of what they offer.
- How would you describe the ethos of your organization? It's one thing to know what you sell, but prospects will also want to know what it's like to work with you or to buy from you. Ask your colleagues to characterize your company's culture, to tell you what they love about working there, and to describe what value they think your company delivers. Ask some clients, too, how they would characterize their experience with you.
- Who are your customers? What do you really know about the people who buy from you? What do they do? What are the things that worry, scare, annoy, and delight them? Are they mostly younger, older, or in the middle? Are they mostly women or men? A company selling products to millennial women is going to want to write its website copy in a different "voice" than one selling a business service to mostly men. The more you know about your customers, the more effectively you can communicate with them.
Don't be afraid to brag
I'm struck by the number of firms that worry their website copy will seem "too promotional". Your website's supposed to be promotional. That doesn't mean the content you regularly create for things like blog posts, eBooks, or case studies should be promotional, but the static content that talks about who you are should do a little selling.
Would you hire a job candidate whose resume said she was moderately talented, reasonably hard working, and had always done an adequate job at her previous employers? No? Then why do you think anyone would want to hire you, if even you don't think you're absolutely fantastic? Go ahead and use the superlatives that might make you cringe in other contexts. Who's the best in the country (or the world) at what you do? Who's the market leader? Who delivers peerless service every time? You do, that's who. So go ahead and say so.
Focus on a Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Your USP is the thing that's truly distinct about your company. What separates you from your competitors? Why should prospects buy from you instead of the rival across the street? It might be about the quality of your product; if so, you need to be able to describe that quality difference in a way that makes sense to people on your customers' level of knowledge, and do it for each of your products individually. It might be about your great customer service. That's fine, but there's nothing less unique than claiming to have great service; you'll need to find a way to prove it.
Or maybe it's something in that corporate ethos we talked about. A great unique selling proposition can often be discovered by exploring how people feel about working with, and for, you.
Once you know what your USP is, make sure it comes through on your homepage and throughout your site. But don't copy and paste boilerplate language on every page; your USP needs to be infused, subtly but unmistakably, throughout.
Hire a professional
Look, I'm just going to come out and say it. Unless you're a professional writer, the best advice I can give you about writing your own website copy is please don't write your own website copy. Why not? Let's count the reasons:
- Because it's time-consuming work and you have other things to do. There's a lot more content on a proper website than most people realize when they start. You'll need descriptions of every single product and service you offer; copy for your About Us page; bios of key employees; home page copy; and more. If your company offers products and services to businesses in different industries, you'll want pages for each of those industries - the list goes on and on. The more you write, the more you realize how much more you have to write. If you really have time for that, then you're not as busy as you need to be.
- Because, be honest, you're not a very good writer. Recently, I painted my living room. And when I say that, what I mean is that I hired a guy with painting experience to do it because I wanted it to look good instead of what it would have looked like if I had done it myself. I don't know how to paint living rooms. But I do know about writing, and I can tell you that it's grueling, tedious work. Website copy is not like all other copy. It's shorter (because we all have very limited attention spans now) so has to convey at lot of meaning in a few words, needs to be very scannable, and needs to direct readers to logical calls to action. If you admire certain corporate websites and think, "Heck, I could do that," it's probably because they hired a pro who made it look easy.
- Because the only thing at stake is your entire livelihood. This should go without saying, but let's say it anyway: Your website is really, you know, important. It simply cannot be plagued by typos, factual errors, and amateurish writing. It's your statement about yourself to the world and should be a workhorse for you. It needs to be great. So it should be professionally written.
There's little you'll do in marketing that's more important than your website. It's where you will drive all those prospects who are reading that great content you publish regularly. It's crucial that your website copy be clear, concise, memorable, and engaging.