Today I’ve decided to throw caution to the wind and shine the spotlight on a real bugbear of mine – badly written websites.
Having spent many years toiling as a marketer for large corporates, I am well versed in the high standards a large budget can dictate. When I started consulting for small businesses a few years ago, I was regularly disappointed to find that they often set the standard bar disappointingly low.
On reflection it was easy to see why. When money is no object, you can either a) employ the best or b) outsource to the best. Small owner-operators do not have this luxury. They are often forced to be ‘Jacks-of-all-trades’. Whilst I won’t go as far as to say this necessarily results in ‘master-of-none’ status, I am afraid it does often reveal glaring weaknesses that can have a profoundly negative effect on commercial results.
These days everyone thinks they can ‘do’ marketing. To a certain extent they are right – the world of digital marketing is much more accessible than its traditional predecessor, but being able to go through the motions is not the same as being good at it. I believe the tide will turn; lots of companies are realising that they are not getting the ROI that they desire, and maybe there is value in investing in expert support after all.
But if you are intent on doing it yourself, please ensure that you’re getting the fundamentals right. One of the first areas to examine is your company website. After all, it should be the desired destination for most of your digital efforts and often represents a prospect’s first significant interaction with your brand. There are some great off-the-shelf website packages available these days, that enable you to create a fresh, modern-looking site, with minimal design investment. Select your template, add your logo, insert a few photos and hey presto, you have a great looking site.
Where lots of small businesses fall down though, is the written content. Some of the startups I see have great ideas, a visually pleasing and well-functioning site, but it just falls apart with the copy. The words are clunky, with grammatical errors and a turn of phrase as grating as fingers across a blackboard.
Writing has become like driving. Everyone thinks they are good at it. Most people can do it, to a certain extent, but not everyone can do it really well. Inexcusable apostrophe disasters aside, common content errors include copy that is monotonous and dreary, or verbose and flowery, or simply clunky and jarring. All of these contribute to a negative visitor experience.
Time and time again I’ve seen this with small businesses and the problem is, once you’ve got your website and you’re happy with it, it’s hard for anyone else to tell you it is badly written. Are you really qualified to judge whether your copy cuts the mustard?
“I could sharpen your website copy for you” is a line I’ve used often with clients where we are delivering significant increases in traffic to their websites via social media marketing, but the conversion rate remains depressingly low.
As a small business owner, it’s extremely hard to be objective about your pride and joy. But you need to take the emotion out of it. A badly written website will hamper your commercial prospects. Personally, if I log on to a website with grammatical errors and tedious copy, I tend to traverse elsewhere. For if said business owner can’t be bothered to invest in getting their content just-so, how can I really have confidence in their attention to my overall customer experience?
Freelance copywriters do not charge the earth. Sure, if you go to a massive agency, they’ll mark up their offering astronomically (you can bet the writer will get a mere fraction of that), but if you hunt around you will find some talented scribes, who will take pleasure in penning you some killer copy for a modest sum. Check out our competitive copywriting rates here – I can guarantee they’ll be less than you think.
One of the reasons big businesses are so successful is that they continually optimise performance by matching individual’s key skills with business requirements. There are many business areas where the small operator can get by with a fairly meagre modicum of talent. Writing isn’t one of those areas though, so if you’re not a natural scribe, please call in the professionals.