This may seem like a funny topic to appear on graphic design website, but it’s true, the words on your website do matter as much as the design. As a copywriter, I’m definitely partial to words. But in multiple conversations with Madison and other graphic artists like her, it’s often a complaint on both sides of the fence. No matter how you look at it, words matter. Period.
While it’s true that we live in a visual world, where beautifully curated photos and impressive videos abound, words will always carry weight. They may not be the first thing you see on a stunning website, but they are often the point where persuasion meets action.
What Difference Do Words Make?
Finish these sentences for me:
“Four score and _____.” – Abe Lincoln
““Be the change ______ see in the world.” - Ganhi
“_____ Do It.” – Nike
“Snap! _____! Pop!” – Rice Krispies
“Toto, I’ve got a feeling _____.” – Dorothy Gale, The Wizard of Oz
“If you liked it, then you should have ______” – Beyoncé (Don’t act like you don’t know it!)
We could do this all day, right? Images stick with you, yes, but so do words.
Words have the power to inspire, engage, anger, and move us in countless ways. So, if you are focusing all your efforts on what your website looks like, but not giving much thought to what it sounds like, you’re missing half of the equation!
A gorgeous website with no substance is unlikely to get you far with your ideal audience. It’s like a car with no gas. A plane with no pilot. Peanut butter with no jelly.
That’s what makes this a common complaint for designers as well as copywriters. Graphic designers know this as well. They’ll create their little hearts out, but at the end of the day, you need both powerful words and images to compel your tribe.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s talk about three ways to improve your website copy.
Hire a Copywriter
No surprise that I wrote this as my top suggestion, but hang with me. It makes sense to hire someone skilled in a specific area for a particular job. It’s the same reason I hired Mad + Dusty to create my own website. They’re much better at it!
Here are a few reasons why you should consider hiring a pro:
You’re a good writer, but you’re slow and needed elsewhere.
You’re not a good writer, and that’s evident when someone reads your site. (Speaking truth in love, people!)
You’re too close to your work, and can’t see it the way someone else does.
You have a hard time explaining what you do well, in memorable language, or without using “insider” language or jargon.
You don’t need a complete makeover, but you could use some editing and a touch up.
I have no idea where your website copy falls on that spectrum, but here’s what I will tell you. First of all, this is an investment. Unless you go through major changes, you don’t have to rewrite your website every year. Second, consider the outcome. If you invested a lot of time and money into your website, but it’s not doing its job, or no one ever tells you how great it is, there could be a big problem. Third, how many websites do you visit each week? If you don’t have anything enticing for them to show up and look at, you’re doing your organization a disadvantage.
If you’re working with talented designers like Madison and Dusty, I already know your work is important. We need it. So, let’s make sure that others take note of that when they see your site, too.
Get a Free or Cheap Outside Opinion
You know those people called friends and family? You probably know one or more of them with a keen eye and a strong love of punctuation and grammar.
Choose a couple of people who know what you do, and ask for their opinion. I’d choose a couple of folks who are either in your target market or have some sense of what you do, but don’t know it inside and out. You want an educated guess, not someone who sees it the exact same way you do. Objectivity is the name of the game.
Ask them what they like, what confuses them, or where they have to think too hard about what you’re saying. This will help you identify areas that need to be spruced up.
I recommend getting at least three opinions so you can look for commonalities. Everyone has their own opinion, and you don’t want to get stuck in making lots of tedious edits based on one person’s feedback, especially when it doesn’t speak to anyone else’s thoughts.
Barter for Better Copy
I’m a big fan of bartering. We in the solopreneur and small businesses community are quite good at it.
Maybe you have a professional service you can trade for someone writing or editing your website, such as design, photography, or accounting. Or maybe it’s a personal service like carpooling, cleaning their house, or pet-sitting for a friend. Bonus points for creativity!
The point here is that there could be something you can give, which is also something that another person wants. Bartering is mutually beneficial, so be helpful.
It’s time for an honest evaluation. Take a half hour, and give the main pages of your website a good read-through. Are you impressed, inspired, or intrigued when you read it? If you can’t wow yourself, you may not be able to woo your website’s visitors. And that’s a big problem when it comes to your sales or donations.
It’s possible that you spent all your time thinking about how your website would look, but figured that you could just throw a few paragraphs of text up on the pages and call it a day. Or, more likely, that you’d get back to that part of your site “later.” Either of these sound familiar? It’s probably time to move it back up on your To Do List.
Think about it this way. If you spend a lot of time driving people back to your website through social media, emails, conversations, handing out business cards, or relying on organic traffic, you can’t ignore your website. It’s time to up your game.
Your work probably revolves around relationships. It could be with partners and sponsors, donors, customers, and those who benefit from your mission. It’s probably also very personal. So, do your job to the best of your ability—and make sure your website does the same.
Want more website writing tips? Here are 10 mistakes you can’t afford to make.
Kristi Porter helps nonprofits and social enterprises get noticed and grow through effective marketing and communications. She also teaches solopreneurs and small businesses how to incorporate philanthropy and giving strategies. Kristi believes that cause-focused organizations are the future of business, and when they succeed, we all win.