They reached out to me on LinkedIn: a company looking to hire writers. They claim to provide world-class content writing services. Before responding, I took a quick look at their website to learn more.
I was instantly skeptical.
Are they a “real” business? Maybe. And if so, do they really provide top-notch writing services?
I don’t think so.
If your product is writing (including web copy), you’d better make sure your own web copy is the best it can be. It’s your audition, after all.
Web copy doesn’t necessarily have to pass muster with a hard-nosed grammarian, but it does have to do its job: to persuade the reader to engage with the organization. To that end, the way it’s written matters a great deal.
I don’t consider myself the world’s foremost expert on web copy – but if a “content writing company” is making these mistakes on their web site, many other companies may be doing the same, and to their detriment.
This article isn’t intended to be an all-encompassing guide to writing effective web copy. Instead, consider it a heads-up – a few notes on what I noticed today that you might find helpful.
Under a Spell
Have you ever read something that swept you away? You were so engrossed that the world around you dissolved.
The best, most persuasive writing puts the reader under a spell. The words paint a picture and the reader disappears into it, imagining the scenario.
It’s a phenomenon that’s not exclusive to novels. It can happen with any kind of writing – and it’s from inside that spellbound state that you win over your reader. From there, you can convince them to take a particular action, including doing business with you.
Casting the Spell
How is hypnotic copy achieved? There are many techniques, but I’m focusing here on just one.
When we read text, we hear” it in our mind. A snappy, natural voice is more pleasant and spellbinding than one that sounds too formal, rambles, or speaks in clunky, too-complex sentences.
Maintaining the Spell
Awkward text breaks the spell. The reader is no longer “with” the writing. They’re back in the real world — sitting in their office, in a coffee shop, on a train — holding a device in their hand and staring at pixels.
Any decent writer of web copy can cast that spell, but maintaining it requires a higher level of awareness – an act of final tweaking, of smoothing the road before publishing. Unfortunately, a lot of writers consider web copy done without auditing it for spell-breaking potholes.
Fortunately, you can tweak your own existing copy, making it that much more effective.
Wordiness: A Common Pothole
On the writing company’s website, I noticed a lot of wordiness — something a seasoned, strategic writer would know to avoid. For example:
It is a fact that the content you put on your website, in your email marketing, or on your blog has a direct impact on your following, success, and/or sales.
When the first seeds of [company name] were originally planted, our goal was to fill a niche: to create web content for businesses and allow them to focus on value as opposed to price. Since the inception of [company name] in 2015, our reputation for professionalism and superior value has grown by way of the many testimonials of happy customers.
It’s a fact: the content you share on your website, blog, or in marketing emails has a direct impact on your success, whether it’s growing your following or increasing sales.
When the seeds of [company name] were planted in 2015, our goal was to fill a niche: to create content that allows businesses to focus on value instead of price. Since then, our reputation for professionalism and superior value has grown. Our testimonials say it all.
This company’s web copy was lengthy. Intimidating. Most readers are repelled by seemingly endless lines of dense text on a device screen. This company’s message could have been conveyed in fewer words, and that paring would simultaneously lend a more natural, informal cadence to the copy.
For example, the second paragraph of the copy begins, “When the seeds of [company name] were planted in 2015…”.
We don’t need to know that the seeds were the “first”. When you’re talking about an inception, that goes without saying. For the same reason, the word “originally” isn’t necessary.
Similarly, “the many testimonials of happy customers” is redundant. Testimonials are, by nature, positive. We can assume that the customers writing them are happy.
Contractions like “it’s” are easily digested by the brain. In the mind, they sound like ordinary conversation, keeping the reader comfortably immersed. Meanwhile, formal language like “it is” sounds odd and stilted. People just don’t talk that way.
Some people were taught that using contractions is unprofessional. However, few people today expect formality in writing, except maybe in legal documents, scholarly papers, etc.
I’m not writing this to embarrass or shame the company. For that reason, I don’t mention their name. However, it’s unfortunate that a writing company hasn’t polished its own web copy to a high shine. It made me doubt their legitimacy, and I certainly didn’t want to align myself with them professionally.
What’s the effect of your web copy on visitors? Is it captivating visitors as keenly as it could? If you imagine the copy being spoken, how does it sound? Do you trust it? Does it sweep you away, or are you easily distracted? All good questions for any type of business to ask.