6 things small businesses do wrong when writing their own web copy
When you’re running a small business on a limited budget, you’ve often got to roll up your sleeves and do a bit of DIY. And for many business owners, that means writing your own web copy.
After all, you can string a decent sentence together. And no one knows more about your business than you. So writing compelling marketing copy for your small business website should be pretty simple, right?
Be warned, fellow small business owners – there is a lot more to writing good web copy than simply being a good writer.
With that in mind, here are six of the biggest mistakes small business owners make when writing their own website copy:
1. Focusing too much on themselves
It’s time for a hard truth, folks: most customers don’t care about you at all. They only care about what you can do for them.
That long-winded origin story on your ‘About’ page? Nobody’s reading it.
Those descriptions of the different services you provide? Useless unless you highlight how those services actually benefit a customer.
To write effective copy for your small business site, you need to put yourselves in the shoes of your customers:
- Who are they?
- What do they need?
- How do you meet these needs?
- What reasons might they have for not buying from you? How can you counteract these reasons?
Instead of just telling customers what you do, your web copy needs to show potential customers how you can help them.
2. Not highlighting their unique selling points
Every business has at least one thing that differentiates them everyone else in the field.
Maybe you’re the cheapest? Or the fastest?
Have you got the best customer service? Or a stack of industry awards?
Maybe you’ve got more experience than anyone else, or perhaps you’re the new kid on the block with an innovative way of doing things?
No matter what sort of business you have, there’s bound to be something you offer that nobody else does. In marketing-speak, this is your ‘unique selling point’, or USP – the thing that differentiates you from others in the eyes of your customers.
Sometimes it can be hard to find your USP. But once you’ve got it, you have to flaunt it like there’s no tomorrow. And that means promoting the crap out of it on your website.
So before you write the copy for your small business site, take some time to identify your USPs. (And if you get stuck, consider hiring a copywriter or other marketing professional to help.)
3. Too much industry jargon
Every sector has its own language – the special terms, acronyms and bits of jargon that you use to communicate quickly with your peers.
But that’s rarely the same language your customers speak.
If you’re a plumber who promotes ‘ballcock adjustment’ in your website copy, you’re only going to confuse customers (and amuse dirty-minded schoolboys).
But if your website says you ‘fix toilets that won’t stop flushing’ instead, customers can instantly understand how you can help.
The lesson: stick to plain English on your website. And if you’re not sure your customers will understand a term, get rid of it.
4. Not thinking about SEO
Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a must for any small business website. Essentially, it means using the same keywords and phrases in your web copy that a customer would use when searching for your product or service in Google.
There are plenty of resources out there to get you started with SEO, but here are two key bits of advice from a copywriter’s point of view:
- When choosing SEO keywords, think about your target customers and the sort of search terms they use. Are they more likely to google ‘faulty ballcock’ or ’toilet won’t stop flushing’? Tools like Google’s Keyword Planner can help here, but there’s no substitute for actually understanding your customers.
- Balancing Google’s needs with the needs of your human visitors is often the trickiest part of SEO copywriting. But you never, ever want to sacrifice readability for the sake of SEO. If you have to choose between squeezing in another keyword or making a sentence read clearly, always go for readability.
5. No call to action
Good web copy ends with a call to action – a short, snappy statement that encourages the customer to do something. It might be to contact you for a quote, sign up to your mailing list, or go the whole hog and place an order for your product.
Calls to action work – that’s why you’ll find one at the bottom of this post, and on every page of my website
But a lot of small business websites leave out this crucial step. Instead, the page text just peters out without prompting the reader to do anything at all.
That’s not good for business. When writing your web copy, think about what you want the customer to do on each page. Then end your page with a compelling call to action to make it happen.
6. Skipping the proofread
It amazes me how many small business websites have glaring errors that could have been fixed by a simple proofread.
It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in – misspelled words, incorrect punctuation, mangled grammar and silly typos are never a good look for your business.
So before uploading your web copy, get someone with a good knowledge of grammar and punctuation to check it for you, even if you’re a grammar expert yourself. (I know from experience that it can be very difficult to pick up errors in your own writing.)
And if you don’t know anyone suitable, hire a professional – it’s very affordable, and goes a long way towards maintaining your business’s reputation.
Struggling with copy for your small business website?
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