On occasion, small business owners who are not professional writers must write copy for their websites: an inevitable job hazard. Though your business, and you, are likely of another field altogether, and you may feel concerned your writing doesn’t properly emulate you or do what you want it to, you still have to do it.
You may ask: can’t I just have a nice looking website? Sorry, not anymore. In order for your business to be noticed by Google, it’s got to be abundantly and constantly updated with content.
There is actually a circle of life for websites: more new content drives traffic to your site, keeps your current audience coming back for more, and encourages social sharing (which brings in new traffic. See the circle taking shape?).
Basically unless you can outsource all the writing- and between the content and the blogging, it’s a lot- if you want to succeed, you just have to write.
This three-part guide will help you navigate the process in two drafts: the first draft that is long on ideas if short on correctness or razor-sharp focus, and the second draft when you, a now seasoned(ish) writer, hunker down and pay attention to the various details that make web copy smart, fun, and easy to read.
It’s a short hop from Draft #1 to Draft #2, and here’s how to do it:
I. Writing the Copy: the first draft
- Write down the long tail keywords you will be working with.
- Take a moment to visualize yourself as the burning hot amazing small business owner you are. (No, come on, now. Do it for real). Meditate, breathe, strike a power pose and go. [If you have not seen Amy Cuddy’s TED talk on power posing, take the time to enjoy this wonderful lecture.]
- Allow yourself to write the worst possible copy you can. Aim to write absolute shit. (Yes, I’m serious.) In this process, in granting yourself such an allowance, you’re releasing the stranglehold of pressure on yourself that you-must-write-well-or-else. Letting go opens up the unconscious mind’s channels. For extra help: cover the computer screen.
- Walk away from your computer: mow the lawn. Jog. Bake black bean brownies* (if that sounds disgusting, just trust. They’ll blow your mind).
- Return to computer and laugh at how cute your shitty first draft is! That time away (see previous point) will give you the clarity and distance necessary for you to see where the viable ideas inside of the first draft are.
- Rewrite the copy. Yes, the whole thing! Copy and paste will cost more time and feel choppy. *Tip: when you rewrite, it’s best you do it without looking at the original. Draft one made your unconscious thoughts conscious, which means with the gunk out of the way, you now have much more control over organizing your first thoughts.
- Curse how easygoing #6 sounds. This draft will still need work. But it’s also infinitely better than the first draft, isn’t it?
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II. Fixing the Bugs: the second draft
*If this sounds easier than it looks, that’s because it sounds easier than it looks. Fixing the bugs can be challenging. However, it’s entirely doable. Remember, you’re awesome. You’re capable. If you recognize that you need help, as most of us do, you’ll benefit from others’ insights and feedback.
- Make sure your content has a logical architecture:
- Who/what/where/when/why/how (front load each page with inventory so the reader knows within seconds what your business is and why she wants it)
- Problem – Solution – Call to Action
- Be interesting
- Dynamic verbs
- Educated/user-friendly language (no jargon unless your audience is industry insiders)
- Unique language- avoid idioms or tired phrases
(ex: think outside of the box, tried and true)
- Authoritative, professional, warm tone
- Varied sentence lengths (long sentences mixed with short sentences)
- Lean shark-like sentences: cut every unnecessary word
- Make sure your content is 100% unique (never duplicated or borrowed, not even from another area of your own site)
- Cite any sources you use for research or stats
- Ensure the copy is 100% error free *Tip: read it aloud
- Share with a posse* (If you do not have a posse, we are happy to put you in touch with others who are in similar situations as yourself and would be glad for a fellow writer with whom to share work)
- Well-written musical copy that employs all of the tips above
- Page Layout
- Bullet points
- Bold & Italics
- (NEVER USE ALL CAPS BECAUSE PEOPLE FEEL LIKE YOU’RE SHOUTING AT THEM EVEN IF YOU’RE BEING COMPLETELY CHARMING)
- Short paragraphs
- Keep it clean- too much of a good thing is hard to read
Here is something I know to be true: the more you write, the more you come to know your voice, how you lay out your ideas and your strengths and weaknesses. Get to know the writer you, and in time you two will work together well.
Here is some additional insight on formatting your content.