You’re a business owner, not an English professor. How are you supposed to tell if the writing on your website is driving away potential customers? People don’t tend to tell you when the writing on your website is bad. They just don’t buy your stuff. Here are five litmus tests you can use to tell if the copy on your website is full of suck.
1. Numerous Grammar and Spelling Mistakes
Grammar and spelling aren’t minor things that people don’t pay attention to. When I was working in customer service at a smallish company, a woman called to complain that our website had a spelling error and it had actually prompted her to not buy our product. Mind you, this person was really taking things to the extreme, but there are actually numerous studies out there that prove that she was totally right.
Numerous spelling and grammar mistakes are also a sign that the writer of the website copy did a slapdash job in other areas. Most websites with numerous mistakes of this nature require a total rewrite.
2. Search Engines Aren’t Listing Your Website as High as You Want
There are two reasons that your website isn’t being listed in the top results for your key search terms; code problems and website copy. A web designer will be able to tell you if there are coding problems and a writer who is familiar with the practice of search engine optimization (SEO) can rewrite your pages to include more of your key terms in a way that flows naturally. Sometimes the freshness of content can be an issue, making an option like a blog very attractive to a business that is looking to improve their search engine standings.
3. Your Website Copy is Riddled With Jargon
There are two types of jargon. There is industry jargon that your clients will understand and be on board with, and there’s the kind that nobody but you can understand. My most frequent offenders for this type of issue have been businesses that specialize in software and programming, but it could happen anywhere.
4. Your Website Page Word Count is Over 600
While there are no hard and fast rules about word count on a website, you start losing people from top-level pages if they get too wordy. Wordy pages generally mean unclear pages. Say what you have to say in as few words as possible and people will be more likely to understand you. Obviously, you may have to go over 600 words on pages where you offer technical details or troubleshooting, but people are more tolerant of a longer word count where it is necessary. Just don’t do it on pages where you are trying to sell something.
5. Your family member/neighbour/best friend in the whole world wrote it.
Unless this person is a professional writer by trade, I hate to break this to you, but there’s a good chance their work just isn’t up to snuff. Be prepared for a total rewrite. If you wrote it yourself, it could go one of two ways. Either it’s awesome because you have writing talent and a complete understanding of your own business, or it’s not because your writing skills aren’t great and you don’t have the necessary distance from your subject to do a good job.
Do you want me to honestly tell you if your website copy sucks and how it sucks? I’ll give you a free, no-holds-barred evaluation of your website if you contact me with your website address. I’ll even let you know if I see some issues with usability and other stuff that would usually be out of the realm of a writer. You can then take my evaluation and do with it what you will, or have me quote on writing website copy that works.
Photo by Jim Champion: Flickr