1) The very first thing to consider is what you want your website to achieve for you. This is a fundamental point, but very few of my copywriting clients have thought about it before we speak, and most need a few additional days to mull it over. It’s a point well worth meditating on, because websites can and do have radically different purposes, and purpose is always more powerful when you’re explicitly aware of it.
For example, I’ve written copy and content for website owners who:
- Just want their website to rank as high as possible on Google, beating a particular competitor.
- Want to sell products and services, either directly or through affiliate marketing.
- Seek to become better known in a particular geographic area.
- Would like to establish themselves as authorities in a certain domain of expertise.
- Want to share information and experiences about a topic under-represented on the web and in print media.
- Are trying to raise money for charity.
- Would like to inspire and uplift, making people’s lives better.
- Desire to educate the web-browsing public.
- Are looking to build an interactive online community.
- Would like to appeal to potential employees or franchisees.
- …and more.
The main thing to realise is that each of these purposes demands a slightly different copywriting approach. By the way, it’s perfectly okay if you have different purposes in mind for different pages on your site. I like to think of each page as a mini website in its own right. After all, how many times do you ever sit down and read an entire website? Your customers won’t either.
2) What sort of tone do you want your web copy to set? Another way of putting this is to imagine how you want the visitors to your site to feel as they navigate its pages. Some answers from my past and present clients include:
- A sense of expertise: we really know our stuff.
- The feeling that we understand the customer’s worries and want to solve them.
- That we’re friendly, and great communicators.
- We can help customers give their guests an amazing night out they won’t find elsewhere.
- This business is different from all the rest.
- Get on board with us and you’re likely to make a serious financial profit.
- We’re based in a particular country or local area (one near you, dear reader).
Imagine you’re in an elevator with the archetypal cigar-chomping Hollywood producer. Try and describe the way you’d like your customers to feel in one sentence. That’s what you need to tell your copywriter.
3) Who are your major competitors? This one’s really good fun. Draw up a list of your three top rivals, then critique their online presence. You’ll be able to find lots of things you don’t like, and plenty of ideas you can build on (although nobody needs to pinch another copywriter’s ideas wholesale – that’s just admitting defeat).
There’s way more to establishing a purposeful online presence than I have room to discuss here, but addressing these three points will get you off to a flying start. This is true whether you’re working with a professional copywriter or would like to do the job yourself. If you do intend to hire a pro, thinking through the above areas in advance will help you find one who’s a good fit.