Do I Need to Hire a Copywriter for my Website?

Do I Need to Hire a Copywriter for my Website?

Budget is always a factor in business, and the DIY approach is always tempting–particularly when it comes to things that seem at first to be inconsequential, or that require no special tools or knowledge to produce. But is this the case with your web content? Are words really a corner you can get away with cutting?

Every website has text (known as ‘copy’). It’s a mandatory of the medium; even a site created entirely from images and videos (such as The Perrier Mansion) need a little text to tell viewers what to do, and help them out if their browsers can’t load all the bells and whistles.

The text on your website is also important because that’s the component that search engines use to determine what your site is about so that it can direct relevant traffic your way.

Your words tell your story. Explain your service. Describe your product. So why are there so many professional-looking websites without professional-looking copy?

I don’t need a copywriter because I’m a native English speaker, and can read and write just fine, thank you.

This is the justification I’ve personally seen more often than any. I understand where it comes from; most high school students are forced to take English courses right up until graduation, and most ‘Information-era’ communication is written anyhow, so years of emails and text messages have proven that you’re capable of conveying ideas through writing.

What this justification most often fails to take to mind is how highly specialized a skill copywriting can be.

I could fill an entire post with a tirade on the how most English programs in the Canadian and American education systems are more geared towards cultural enrichment and proving your comprehension than towards learning how to write in a full array of contexts.

In fact, web copywriting has a number of extremely specialized tools, many of which are completely unique. While this site isn’t the right context in which to discuss the differences between writing a novel, writing a website, and writing a book report, the point-of-fact is that copywriting for a website is a unique beast that requires specialized training.

Site DesignI have a well-designed visual website. The copy just isn’t that important.

This is similar to saying, “The words in my book aren’t important because I have a really nice cover.” While your design is extremely important, its main job is essentially to convince your visitors to stay and read the copy.

The copy is what guides your visitors around the site, helping them get where they need to be. Copy is what sells your products, describes your services, and tells your visitors who you are.

What’s more, the copy is essentially the voice of your brand; if your copy comes across as confusing, unprofessional, rife with spelling and grammar issues, or just unappealing in general, then the visitors will project these things onto your products, your services, and your brand as a whole.

math blackboard 450 300My product or industry is complicated, and I know it far better than a third-party writer.

Highly technical or complicated items often require a particular level of finesse when translating the ideas to web copy. Professionals with an exceptional level of understanding can offer some great insights–but these insights are often completely unaccessible to the outside world. Attempts to ‘dumb it down’ can often seem condescending, which can be an even bigger turn-off than if a visitor didn’t understand in the first place.

A good writer will learn all there is to know about your product or industry, no matter how complicated it is. They can then break the concepts down in common language, using analogies and examples for clarity, doing so with a complete understanding of a layman’s perspective (having just recently been a layman themselves).

Even if your service is geared towards knowledgeable professionals, the concepts discussed thus far still apply; web copy still needs to utilize a number of specialized tools, taking into consideration conversion paths, SEO practices, brand voice, and so forth.

Apple Disco 400 300My product or industry is fun, simple, and appealing. It should sell itself.

And what about your competitors? Are their products selling themselves? If so, then how do you plan on standing out? Why would someone come to you in the first place? A high-desirability product can be a double-edged sword; a product that sells itself for you will sell itself for just about anyone.

To keep a sustainable business, you need repeat customers, which means people are going to have to remember where they got this great product of yours. If your product speaks for itself, your business still needs to get a word in edge-wise.

Good copywriting, solid branding, and a demonstrated understanding of your target demographic are all factors in brand recognition–and the more visitors recognize your brand, the more likely it is that they’ll return to you you for more.

Camera 300 450My website isn’t going to have much copy or content.

The less you have, the more important each word becomes. There is a writing term called “The economy of language” that refers to saying as much as you can in as little space as possible. There is a famous six-word story (commonly attributed to Hemingway, though it likely predates him) that illustrates how much power a handful of words can be when carefully crafted.

Any copy that you have serves a purpose. Some website concepts call for a much more minimalistic approach, but the copy on these sites still serve the same purpose as on any other site. The less space you have for this copy, the more your copy will need to employ this ‘economy of language’–and, therefore, the more difficult it is to have that copy do everything it ought to be doing.

Conclusion: If You’re Asking If You Need A Writer, You Probably Do. If You Never Considered Needing One, You Definitely Do.

There are some exceptions to the rule, and just how involved your copywriter needs to be isn’t cut-and-dry. It’s entirely possible that you simply need someone to tighten up the copy you’ve written yourself, making sure it’s doing what it sets out to do, double-check it for SEO, and make sure that it works within the context of the page. It’s also possible that you’ll need your web copy completely rebuilt from the ground up.

However, unless you’ve either taken a web copywriting course or have extensively researched and practiced the subject, your website could probably use a writer, and would likely suffer without one.

Wait… aren’t you a copywriter?

Well, yes. But I’m not telling you to hire me. I’m telling you to keep this in mind, no matter where you go or what you do.

There’s a wide spectrum of copywriters out there, freelance and otherwise. I can’t speak for the quality of all of them, but there are quite a few on the market with a wealth of experience. I would strongly recommend you find one you like, and have them at least take a look at your web copy.

Do you have any reasons for skipping the copywriter not covered in this post? Do you think I’m full of crap, and want to contest any of my points? Leave a comment below!

William Hull
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