As websites and electronic commerce are becoming more and more common, business owners and marketing managers are realising that quality web copy is every bit as important as impressive design. And with the ever increasing importance of search engine presence, the role of web copy has never been more critical.
But in such a relatively new field, customers are still coming to grips with what they can expect of their website copywriter. The question a lot of people are asking is, “How do I know I’ll get what I pay for?”
Before engaging a website copywriter for your next project, ask them whether they’re able to provide you with the following ten essentials…
1) Fixed Quote
A lot of website copywriters will tell you they only work on an hourly rate. They’ll cite varying requirements, rapidly changing technologies, greater incentive, the risk of customer indecision, and a host of other reasons why they can’t provide a fixed quote. But don’t be fooled. You have a right to know what the job is going to cost you. If a website copywriter won’t give you a fixed quote, think twice…
2) Contract of Works to be Completed
Just as important as a fixed quote is a signed contract. It may not be drawn up by a lawyer, but a written and signed document outlining the works to be carried out, and the cost of those works is essential. If a website copywriter is reluctant to provide a written, itemised quote including estimated number of words, you have to ask yourself why.
Always ask how long your job is going to take. If you’ve already had a go at writing your own web copy, you’ll know how time consuming it is. Never make the mistake of thinking the job will be done in a day. Granted, a professional website copywriter will be very efficient in crafting your copy, but no matter who the writer, a quality product requires time. And on top of writing time, remember that you’ll have to review and provide feedback on everything they write. In a lot of cases, it’s the review phase that takes the most time, so make sure you try to set some time aside, otherwise you’ll find yourself the bottleneck!
4) Plan of Attack
Try to get some idea from your website copywriter about how they plan to approach your project. Don’t be fooled into believing you have to hand over the dollars before they’ll reveal their plan of attack. You have a right to be comfortable with their approach before you engage their services. Will you receive individual drafts of every page, or a single draft of the entire site? What format will you receive the finished product in? How many review iterations do they anticipate?
A lot of ambitious web service providers of all types are calling themselves writers these days. They offer copywriting as a specialist service, but don’t engage a specialist to complete the work. Always ask to see samples of their previous copy. Read it thoroughly and ask yourself, “Does this copy convey benefits?”. Pretend you’re the intended audience and ask “Does this copy answer the questions I need answered before I’ll buy?”
Most copywriters’ websites will give you a very high-level overview of their business and the services they offer. Some even offer samples. But very few offer a professional biography of their writers. If you’re not happy relying on their website as your sole source of information, ask for a copy of their CV. The things you’re looking for are a professional history in writing, and preferably some tertiary education in the same.
Perhaps the best indication of a website copywriter’s ability is customer satisfaction. Don’t be afraid of asking for customer testimonials. A good website copywriter will be proud of their testimonials – so proud, in fact, that they’ll be offering them without you even asking. Look for testimonials from companies you recognise and/or can verify. Anyone can get their great-aunt write them a testimonial. Some will even write their own. If you really want to be sure, ask for contact details so you can give the customer a call and hear it straight from the horse’s mouth.
8) SEO Copy Skills
Approximately 80% of all web traffic comes through search engines, so it’s essential that your website copywriter has proven experience in SEO copy. Ask them their general approach to SEO copy. Do they normally perform the keyword analysis themselves? How do they know when they’ve used enough keywords in enough of the right places? Can they show you a high ranking site they’ve written the copy for? What steps do they take to avoid diluting the effectiveness of your primary keyword phrases? Will their SEO copy change the text links on your pages? (It should!)
9) SEO Copy at No Extra Charge!
Never be fooled into paying more for SEO copy. If you’ve already performed your keyword analysis, and you know where you want your keyword phrases used, writing of the copy should take no longer than usual. I’ll say it again… SEO copy is not an extra – it’s how web copy should be written! Do not pay extra for it! The only things you should expect to pay extra for are keyword analyses, adding the HTML code for unmarked text links, providing guidance on site structure, sourcing of inbound links to your site, etc. SEO copy by itself should cost no extra.
10) Writing Experience for Online Media
Writing for an online medium is entirely different to writing for print. Readers have different requirements and objectives, and reading conditions are very different. Make sure your website copywriter knows how to cater to these differences. Ask them to recommend a maximum page length or word count per page. The correct answer should include some comment on the trade-off between the problems of scrolling and the need for a high keyword count for SEO. Ask them whether they prefer long sentences or short (and hope to hear “short”). Ask them whether they will include lots of text links within the main body of the copy, and if so, will they appear as regular links (colored and underlined) or will they be unmarked.
Professionally written copy can mean the difference between a great looking site and a great looking site THAT EARNS YOU MONEY.
Choose your website copywriter carefully.