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Fixing Bad Web Site Copy

By Jon Wuebben, Professional Website Copywriter
Wednesday, May 25, 2005; 11:00am EST


Let's face it ' a lot of web pages and web sites out there could use a little improvement in the copywriting department!

From boring prose to bad sentence structure, from poor logic to inadequate copy optimization, I've seen it all. And this is what your customers are reading as they jump on to your site! If they have to sludge through bad writing, they will get a negative feeling about your product or service. Is this the impression that you want them to have? Definitely not.

The bottom line is that bad copy means fewer sales. That's how important it is. Don't discount it. And one other point - an impressive site design can never rescue poor copy.

So what's the process that a copywriter goes through when they are re-writing a site? Good question. There are lots of different methods and approaches, but here's what I look at when I first set my eyes on those broken letters and words:

1. The Copy Itself - What's written?
2. The Copy and how it relates to the design - How does it look on the page?
3. Search Engine Friendly ' Is the copy optimized?

The Copy Itself ' What's Written?

The first thing that I look at when I'm analyzing a page of copy is the copy itself. In this day and age, there really are two fundamental things that most people do when they are reading copy on a web site: First, they 'scan' read ' they don't read every word. And second, it's better comprehended when the copy is written the way people speak. Here are the other things to look for when you're analyzing the copy:

* Are bullets and lists utilized? The copy can't be in standard block paragraphs like you see in books and magazines. Remember, you're competing for their time. If they don't get the info they need fast, they'll jump to the next web site.

* Is there too much copy on the page? If you have more than 450 words per page, you have too much. How many times have you seen the never-ending Home Page as you scroll forever to find where it ends? This technique only works for those cheesy direct sales letters you see on certain sites. And they only work sometimes.

* Does the copy grab you? Is it interesting and informative? Does it address your needs? And does the copy have a rhythm to it? It should.

* Is there variety in the writing? Are all the sentences long with multiple adjectives and adverbs? The goal is to combine short sentences with a few long ones. The trick is to make the copy flow. Using fragments is not a bad thing. Quite the contrary actually. The occasional fragment or sentence that starts with 'But' or 'And' can re-capture reader interest and keep it lively. Try it out. You'll like it. And your customers will too! (See how effective it is?)

* Are Headings and Sub headings utilized? If not, get them in there fast. You gotta have them there to break up the page into digestible parts. It also helps the eye focus. There are a ton of sites out there that have absolutely NO headings or sub headings. That's a bad thing.

* Are you using AIDA? Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. I'm sure you've heard it before: Grab the reader's attention, build interest, and create a desire so they will take action. Are you closing the deal with your customer? This is the ultimate goal of any copy. Make the reader do something. Fill out a survey, submit a request, sign up for a service, or buy the product. Whatever it is, you must have a call to action in the copy.

The Copy and How it Relates to the Design - How Does it look on the page?

What good would the copy be if it was placed on the page in long lines and block paragraphs?

Not too good.

Recently, I was working on a Home Page re-write for a financial services company who was having a conversion problem. They had no issue getting people to the site. They just couldn't make them buy once they got there.

After taking a look at their site, I was struck with one startling reaction ' the copy was placed on the page like it was a college essay with no variation or eye catching design elements integrated. Clearly, it was a web site template and no customization was used at all.

Their competitors Home Pages were very different. They all employed easy to read charts, testimonials, and other design elements. And my client had none of these. Obviously, something had to change, or his conversion rate would continue to suffer. Here are some of the things you want to look for when you consider the copy and how it relates to the design:

* Is there contrast in the type of fonts, the size of fonts, and the colors that are used? Some of the most eye-catching web sites use lots of contrasting fonts, with various sizes, and complimentary colors. This can only help the copy, as it wraps it up in a great looking package and truly brings it to life. Here are three examples of great copy wrapped up in brilliant design:
http://www.omniture.com/s2/index.html
http://www.6smarketing.com/
http://www.zephoria.com/

* Is the copy broken up into readable/scanable sections? 'or is it simply placed on the page haphazardly without regard for the needs of your customer? Like my example above, you need to ensure the web page can be scanned in 30 seconds or less. Remember, we're dealing with short attention spans.

* Are the areas that you want your customer's attention drawn to clearly visible? If you're using a 'Learn More', 'Buy Now' or other clickable button, is it obvious? Make sure it stands out on the page and can't be mistaken for something else.

* Is the design simple and easy to navigate or is it cluttered? Some of the very best web sites are really very simple in appearance, even if they do have lots of content. Don't 'drown' your copy in a complex design structure or have a million different web pages on your menu. White space is important. Let the copy breathe!

Search Engine Friendly ' Is the Copy Optimized?

Of course, the grand puba of them all ' Is the copy optimized? Not the site itself (Although that is critically important), but the copy. And is it optimized the right way? We've all seen those web sites that use a keyword phrase 59 times on one page. Who exactly do they think is going to read that garbage? Exactly. No one.

And Search Engine Optimization is always a moving target. It's a complex process that must be constantly fine tuned and tweaked to keep up with the Search Engine's changes and your competitor's moves. Because you can bet that you have a few who are jockeying for that first page placement for the perfect keyword phrase. When it comes to optimizing your web site copy, here is what you need to look for:

* Above all else, keep this in mind: Copywriting for the web is a balancing act. You want to ensure you have used your keyword phrases enough times without compromising the readability of the page. If you're looking for a quick rule regarding keyword density, think 5%. More often than not, staying close to this number will get you where you need to be.

* Do your Keyword Research! Whether you use Overture (now Yahoo) or Word Tracker, be sure you take a look at the keywords people are using or the keywords you think they should be using to find you. Then jump over to the competitors web sites and view their 'Source Code'. (Go to their home page, right click, and select View Source) When you do this, you'll see their Meta Tags with the keywords they are using. These may or may not be the right ones to use. But, you should definitely take a look to see what they are using. The next step is to see where they are ranking for those keywords. Try to find them on Google or Yahoo. That will give you a good benchmark.

* Focus your Keyword Phrases. Don't use more than three keyword phrases per page. Actually, it would be better if you used one or two. And don't include every keyword phrase on every page. Break it up, and use your Services page to get specific.

* Do your Linking Research! The next step is to compare your links with what your competitors have. Here's a site to bookmark immediately: http://www.linkpopularity.com. Along with Word Tracker or Overture, it will become your new best friend. Remember, that inbound links are a very important component of the overall SEO effort. With Google, it's extremely important. One thing to know is that optimizing the copy alone won't get you the rankings you want. You have to approach the SEO copy effort holistically. And if a copywriter says they can get you higher rankings by just working on the copy alone, you may want to take your business elsewhere. It's rarely that easy. With linkpopularity.com, you simply type in your url into the link analyzer, and take a look at the results. Then do it for your competitors. Presto! You have just unlocked a great resource.

* Use Keyword Phrases in Links, Headings, and Sub headings. These are all places that you must use keyword phrases in to get higher rankings. What's that you say? No Headings and Subheadings on your web page? That's a good place to start if you're doing a copy re-write (or even starting from scratch) Also, be sure you definitely link your pages together with text links. This helps the search engines know your pages are related.

* Use Go Rank's Keyword Density Analyzer. Jump on to http://www.gorank.com/ as soon as you get the chance. They have a number of different SEO tools you can utilize for your SEO copy project. Along with Overture and Link Popularity, I use it on every client I work with. The best tool is the Keyword Density Analyzer. Use it and be amazed at what it tells you.

So there you have it! Your Website Copy makeover lesson is concluded. Hopefully, there were a few tricks or tips that you may not have known about. You'll find that if you follow the advice in this article, you will have a better looking, and an easier read site. And eventually, you'll get higher rankings for your selected keyword phrases.

Good Luck!

About the Author
Jon Wuebben is a professional Website Copywriter, SEO Copywriter and Advertising Copywriter with 10 years experience in B2B & B2C copywriting and marketing. He can be reached at (909) 437-7015, or online at http://www.CustomCopywriting.com for any copywriting project you may have or if you would like more articles or a complimentary Website Copy analysis.

Need a custom newsletter or e-zine article written? Call Jon Today at (909) 437-7015 or email jon@customcopywriting.com for a professional Website Copywriter, SEO Copywriter, or Advertising Copywriter.

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