8/20/2013 4:39:00 PM Lively Web Copy Makes for a Lively Small Business
by Anita Cohen Williams and Dave Thomas SCORE Counselors
Question: I have decided to take the plunge and get a new website designed for my business. But, I'm unsure what constitutes good, effective content for a web site, plus I'm just not a writer. What can SCORE suggest for making my web content shine?
Answer: Even in today's high-impact, visual-driven marketplace, words still matter. And the words with the potential to have the greatest effect on your small business-both positive and negative-are on your website.
Website copy differs from brochures and other documents in several ways. Because visitors' attention spans are usually limited, you have to grab and hold their interest with clear, crisp content. Get to the point quickly-whether you're describing products or services, or listing your qualifications. Effective sites often provide a concise description, and then give visitors the option to click on a more detailed description.
The information should be presented in "bite-sized" sections, not long text-heavy paragraphs. Try to keep sentences short, but not to the point where your pages talk down to your visitors. Hyperlinks to other sections of your site or elsewhere on the Web are fine in moderation, but should be limited to avoid having the viewer jumping around so that the continuity of your information gets lost. Also avoid jargon or terms that customers and newcomers to your industry may be unfamiliar with.
And though your website is designed to promote your business, focus on your customers' needs and what they're looking for. A strong push to sell, sell, sell is off-putting. Instead of a high-tech ad hyping your qualifications, products or services make your website a resource for customers in need. Think about the kinds of questions customers would have when searching for a business like yours, and address them in your content.
And don't forget SEO (Search Engine Optimization), those keywords and phrases that Internet search engines look for that allow your site to come up in natural search. Be diligent and do your research. Including key words and phrases increases the likelihood your website will appear on the results page.
If you feel you are challenged with the written word, you can always hire a professional writer. However, be aware that all writers and genre are not created equal. Just because a writer has published work to their credit does not mean that they can write web copy, or for that matter, ad copy. Do your due diligence; check them out, get references and ask for writing samples that you can check out on the web.
If you are going to tackle writing your own web copy, an article, "How To Write SEO Web Copy That Sells," by James Ranka on http://copywriter31.hubpages.com/ gives advice for learning how to craft effective web copy.
And don't think that once you've uploaded your site that nothing more needs to be done. It's important to periodically review and update your web copy. Even the most brilliant writing gets stale, especially if the information is out of date. Make sure your content stays in step with things your customers are looking for, changes in your business, or advances in your industry.
If you write a blog for your small business, many of these tips apply as well. Announcements about your business are fine if they are limited. But, remember to avoid that push to sell. Rather focus on the kinds of things customers are interested in. Make the posts only as long as they need to be, linking to longer, more detailed information on your website.
Rely on your SCORE counselor for guidance. SCORE is a national resource for small business and Northern Arizona SCORE counselors have access and avenues for getting you started on the right foot.
Just an hour over the hill - the September Business Planning Workshop is for you. Scheduled for 5 Wednesdays September 25-October 23 from 6-8:30 p.m., Adult Center, 1280 East Rosser St. $90 for two people from the same business. Go to http://northernarizona.score.org/localworkshops. Questions? Call Richard Eason at 928-778-7438 email: email@example.com