How to Write Good Web Content

Austin L. Church
March 20, 2017
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Many freelancers, creatives, and consultants package up their products and services with dry or technical descriptions. You may come up with messaging that is factually accurate, but that's not how to write good web content.Why do we make our businesses sound less interesting than we are?It could be we’re trying to prove our mettle to colleagues: “You can tell by my precise explanations that I know my stuff. Only an expert could talk the way I do.”But I think the deeper reason is that we watch what other people in our niche are doing, we assume that they know what they’re doing, and we follow their lead.From my perspective as a marketing consultant and copywriter, playing copycat is risky. Never assume that the people you’re imitating have already achieved the results you want.They may be clueless, and you have just walked voluntarily into a blind leading the blind scenario.

Don’t watch your colleagues. Listen to your clients.

Your clients don’t think in terms of engaging you to design a strategy or perform a service. They’re preoccupied with a problem, and they want it to go away.By the time you arrive on the scene, they aren’t looking for a “marketing expert” to “provide copywriting services” or “boutique web design and development agency” to “offer award-winning solutions for small and medium-sized businesses.”The client has a thorn in her foot. While you’re blathering on about being a one-stop shop for her entire digital marketing mix, she is still in pain.For example, one of my clients was missing contact form submissions. His email service provider was sending them straight to his Spam folder. He wasn’t thinking, “I need web development solutions.” He was thinking, “This is annoying. Some of these form submissions are from potential clients. Why does this keep happening? Who can make these emails go to my inbox?”The fact is, most of my clients don’t know what copywriting and content marketing are, so they aren’t shopping for either. They confuse “copywriting” with “copyright.” Content marketing is, what, the marketing of contentment? You make people satisfied? Is that some kind of cover for selling drugs?I could describe ad nauseam all the fabulous branding and blogging and marketing acrobatics my team can perform while walking a tightrope, while juggling knives, while wearing purple unitards.And they would just blink at me, nod politely, and go on expressing themselves this way:“I want new customers. I don’t want to have to go find them all the time. I want them to come to me. Is that something that you can help with?”[caption id="attachment_2270" align="aligncenter" width="1024"]

how to write good web content

Photo Credit: Kristina Flour via Unsplash[/caption]

Shut up and remove the thorn.

Prospects and clients need us to connect the dots for them.We all know to craft our messaging, strengthen our positioning, and customize our service offerings so that they resonate with our target audiences.But most of us don’t do it. Most of us don’t sell what people are buying. With that said, I want to leave you with a simple takeaway:Make it easy for your would-be clients to connect the dots between their problems and your services.

  • Don’t watch your colleagues. Listen to your clients.
  • Don’t describe what you do. Instead, talk about common problems that you see and how you can make them go away.
  • Don’t describe features. Talk about the other often unforeseen benefits that spring up once those problems have vacated the premises.
  • Don’t describe the value you create. Talk about ways that you help clients make more money: “By doing X, we can achieve Y.” Y should have a dollar sign attached to it.

By all means add a “Services” page to your website. Describe what you do as clearly and succinctly as possible. Sometimes there’s no way around rather dry and technical descriptions of specific services.Just be sure that your high-level messaging and conversations with prospects and discovery sessions with clients emphasize their pains and goals, not descriptions of your services.

How to Write Good Web Content

Here are some practical ways you can liven up your messaging, along with examples from less about yourself and more about the customer’s situation.

For example: “Get new customers and become a thought leader without the usual time suck.”

Talk about your customer’s pains.

For example: “Maybe you’ve got a decent website, but you’re not sure what to do with it next. Maybe you want to share your expertise and get your name out there, but you don't have the time to sit down and write.”

Talk about your customer’s dreams.

For example: “You’re busy, and you want the benefits of content marketing without the workload and time suck. We’d love to take you through our process, which is unusual but effective…”

Talk about the available remedies for those pains.

Several examples:

“Storytelling: We will help you develop your voice and/or your company’s one-of-a-kind story.”

“Stalking: We’ll define your audience: their wants, needs, and peculiarities.”

“Sleuthing: We’ll identify the topics and pieces of flagship content that attract your target audience.”

Share stories, anecdotes, illustrations. Make the customer the hero in the story.

We’d love to position you as a thought leader.

We’d love to get you some more SEO and Google juice.

We’d love to help you get new customers.

Sprinkle in metaphorical language.

For example: “Of course, there’s a bunch of other cool stuff that we can do together, but we’ll turn off the firehouse for now.”

Use shorter sentences.

We’ll nail down the content calendar. We’ll write and promote your stuff. We will work with you to strengthen the aspects of your branding that deserve special emphasis.

Use more action verbs than passive-voiced and linking verbs.

For example:

Passive Voice: Your target audience will be attracted to your content once we identify the topics.

Active Voice: We’ll identify the topics and pieces of flagship content that attract your target audience.

Focus on how you make people's lives better.

How you make people’s lives better is interesting. Maintaining focus on that is how you write good web content. You may just need to look a little harder to find the right language.Be the vanquisher of aggravations. Be the harbinger of smiles. Be the bearer of glad tidings of profit.And that's it for now.If you found value in this blog post, please sign up for my weekly newsletter. I’ll send helpful freelancing tips your way.