Or are they just a bog-standard copywriter with a “how hard can it be?” attitude towards web copy?
Here are ten ways to check whether your website copywriter is really a website copywriter, or just a bog-standard copywriter masquerading as one.
Writing website copy involves much more than just putting some words together for a web page. The main distinctions between online copy and offline copy come down to the differences in the way people read, gather information and go through the decision-making process on the web, as opposed to offline via a catalogue, brochure or sales letter; and the extra considerations of search engine optimisation, or SEO, when writing for the web.
With websites now a major marketing strategy for most businesses, it’s no wonder that a great many copywriters are attempting to turn their hands to writing for the web. It’s just unfortunate that so many of them lack the required expertise in online marketing to write effective website copy.
So, how do you know if the website copywriter you’ve hired is really a website copywriter, or if they’re just an ordinary copywriter who’s trying to branch out into writing for the web?
Here’s a ten point checklist you can use to decide whether your web copywriter is doing their job properly, or whether you need to look elsewhere…
1. Does your copywriter discuss your website’s structure map with you?
A good website copywriter will always help you work out the most effective and efficient page structure for you new site. Or, if you have a site already, they’ll help you identify whether you need to add or remove any pages from your site, as well as identifying the pages for writing or re-writing where they can have the most impact on your results.
2. Does your copywriter research keywords for each page?
Even most offline copywriters understand the concept of keywords, or key phrases (the words people type into search engines when they’re looking for something on the web). Most copywriters will probably ask you to come up with some keywords that you think are appropriate for each page. But a real website copywriter will spend time researching the effectiveness of those keywords, and their synonyms. That way they can establish the most effective key phrases to optimise each page for.
3. Does your copywriter suggest a URL for each page?
A real website copywriter understands that search engines read the words in URLs (web addresses), so including your primary key phrase here can give your search engine optimisation a boost. They’ll also be aware of the need to separate those words with hyphens (not underscores, or plus signs, or any other type of punctuation) to enable search engines like Google to fully understand them.
4. Does your copywriter provide a suitable page title?
Your copywriter should understand that the page title (the words that appear in the bar at the top of your browser window) is probably the most important copy on each page in terms of SEO. If they do, they’ll write you an effective page title, with your primary key phrase first, any secondary key phrases after that, and your brand name last. They’ll also make sure that all your page titles conform to strict length restrictions that will make them more effective.
5. Does your copywriter provide a compelling meta description?
A real website copywriter will know that they don’t just need to write the visible copy for each page – there is some pretty important behind-the-scenes stuff that they need to write too. The meta description is just such behind-the-scenes copy – it doesn’t appear on your web page, but it does appear in the search engine results, and is critically important when it comes to getting people to click on your website, instead of your competition’s.
6. Does your copywriter provide header tags?
An expert website copywriter will understand that ‘header’ tags, such as H1, H2 and H3 tags (special code used to format headings and sub-headings on each page) are essential to optimise your web pages for search engines. They’ll know that every page should have just one ‘main’ or ‘H1’ headline, which should ideally contain the primary key phrase for that page. And they’ll also make sure that any secondary key phrases are placed within H2 and H3 tags, which are displayed as sub-headings.
7. Does your copywriter suggest keyword-rich hyperlinks?
If your website copywriter knows what they’re doing, they’ll include appropriate hyperlink suggestions within the copy for each web page. This is because Google and other search engines place special emphasis on the words contained within hyperlinks, so by including your primary and secondary key phrases in linked text, you can better optimise your pages for search engines.
8. Does your copywriter provide other formatting, like bold and lists?
Web copywriters know that web users tend to ‘skim read’ the text on a website. So it’s incredibly important for website copy to be broken up into lots of easily digestible ‘chunks’, separated by frequent sub-headings and bulleted lists. Web copy should also make it easier for the reader by formatting important information in bold and italics, so that it stands out clearly. Of course, a real website copywriter will also know that these formatting elements are given special emphasis by the search engines too, so it’s important to include key phrases in these areas as well.
9. Does your copywriter provide captions that sum up your key messages?
If your copywriter really understands how people use websites, they’ll provide captions for your photographs that sum up your main message in a few words, and preferably contain key phrases too. That’s because web users often look at photo captions before anything else on the page (a lot like the way people read the P.S. on a letter before they read anything else), so it’s a good opportunity to get your proposition across to your reader quickly.
10. Does your copywriter measure the results of their work?
Finally, if your copywriter doesn’t encourage you to use a web analytics package (like Google Analytics) and ask you for the login details, they’re probably not worth knowing. A real website copywriter will help you measure the effectiveness of your website, and will always be keen to know the impact that their work has had on your web traffic and conversion rate.