How a web copywriter approaches planning a website
Whether you’re considering a website update, or a complete makeover, you have many questions. “What content should I have on my website?” is a common one clients ask. Web copywriters get this question all the time.
I could answer, “It depends.” But let me try to answer the question another way.
How does a web copywriter undertake gathering, sifting, and choosing the content?
She concentrates on creating the copy an ideal prospect desires to read.
Focus on How People Read Online
(In this video, I share insights on the questions web copywriters ask to create web copy. A recent live session. Watch the 14-minute video or read the article below.)
“People don’t want to waste time or effort online. As long as we’re designing content that acknowledges that reality and helps to direct people to only the information they want, we’ll be on the right track.Nielsen Norman Group
Your boss doesn’t want to waste time or effort launching a website your prospect dislikes. Or finds useless. Or this scenario: visitor comes to once, gets frustrated, and never returns.
5 Ws and How Questions
When my fellow students and I took journalism courses at Kansas State University, we learned about the reporter’s questions: 5Ws and How. The fundamental questions you ask to get information. Our professor taught us to answer these questions in the story’s beginning paragraphs.
The six reporter’s questions are:
Let’s take an example. A healthcare convention is occurring this week. I’m writing a story about the event. Who is attending? Why are they attending? What interest would this be for the readers? What speakers are presenting? What should the reader know about the topics discussed? Will healthcare leaders present a breakthrough in medical research?
So you’re asking the five Ws and How questions to get to the heart of the story.
The Aim of Web Copywriting
But a copywriter goes beyond the information-gathering. Our purpose is to guide the reader to take a specific action. Hence, call-to-action buttons on a website.
The words we craft help visitors get answers, and obtain the services and products they desire. But presenting facts is is only a smidgeon of web copywriting. More intricate than writing short sentences, creating bullet lists, and avoiding jargon. Those are techniques. Important? Yes. But doing the techniques is not enough.
Updating a website to be useful to your customers and your company means you need to apply this business philosopy:
“Habit 2: Begin with an end in mind,” Dr. Stephen R. CoveyThe 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
Answering these 7 questions will help you clearly define the content you need and the content you don’t.
Key Questions Web Copywriters Ask
Answer these three questions first.
- Who are you writing this for?
- What are they looking for on the website?
- What does the company want?
Before you think of the answer, you may need to research, consult with your team, and rethink your plan. Better to deliberate in the beginning than reconfigure after a website launch. That’s another reason why asking these questions is essential.
1. Who are you this writing for?
Who do you want to visit, scan and (perhaps) read your website? Be specific about the ideal person you are communicating the message to. How much do they know about the products and services available? Are they new to the industry or a veteran? How much do they know about the products and services you sell? How much do they know about your company?
2. What are they looking for on the website?
Define the visitor beyond demographics – age, income, level of education or background. The data alone lacks evidence on how the visitor behaves. You want to know what are the visitors’ pains and desires.
Visitors are coming to your website because they have:
- A job they’re trying to do & the copy helps them do that job
- A pain they want to eliminate
- A puzzle they’re trying to solve
They’re motivated to seek answers for a reason. And a copywriter explores why readers are motivated. Motivation isn’t based on demographics. It’s deeper.
We need to understand the people who will be reading the copy. Then give the right message at the precise time in the visitor’s experience. It’s all about the visitor but … a copywriter’s also considering the third question:
3. What does the company want?
What do you or your company want from this web copy and why are you writing it? What do you want your visitor to do? So copywriters consider these answers too. Because company leaders want the website to help them reach their business goals..
4. What’s the role of the copywriter for web copy?
Important to know this before you start your website update. Copywriting is misnamed for a job title when writing for the web. Web copywriters do more thinking than writing. They contemplate:
- The answers to the 1st three questions
- Web design principles
- How a visitor searches
- Where the visitor is coming from before landing on the website
- How the visitor moves from page to page on the website
- Understanding the customer’s journey
- Scoping the competitors’ websites
Just to name a few :).
A copywriter is weighing what information the company wants and what information the visitor seeks.
So for me, I choose the messages most likely to engage the ideal prospect in the order in which they need to view the messages in their customer journey.
5. What’s the goal for the website?
Think about how your website will help your visitors fulfill their needs. The message needs to support the company’s goals, while also communicating the information seamlessly for a specific person.
6. What’s the goal for the page?
We have business goals for every project we do at work. Further, we need to identify the goal for the page. Do we want to the visitor to download an e-book, read a blog article, go to the product page, set up a consultation, or contact customer service?
7. What’s the purpose of the copy?
A copywriter is writing words to help the visitor manage, deal, and evaluate the information. We’re trying to create a smooth customer journey.
“Copy helps people decide to buy or not to buy,” Joanna Wiebe-BainCopyhackers
So as a web copywriter, I study how people decide to buy or not to buy online.
Essentially, a web copywriter is responsible for the visitor’s experience on the website.
Asking and answering these questions serves as start to your gameplan. With this gameplan, you are more likely to launch a website that’s useful to the visitor AND helps your company reaches its business goals.