Lockdown: a chance to tackle your website?

If, like many small businesses, you’ve had to slow down or close your doors while we navigate our way through the next few months, now could be the perfect time to give your website a little TLC.

It’s not something we get round to very often, but looking at your website from the perspective of a first-time visitor can be surprisingly insightful.

Years of tweaking content and adding sections can interrupt the flow of your messaging, so, why not take some time to find out what’s working well, and what can be improved?

But before I start, I’d like to make a small disclaimer:


Stressed mum working from home with toddler.

I know that for many small business owners, being in lockdown is NOT the best time to make grand plans for the future, take up a new hobby or learn new skills.

For most of us, it’s all about survival.

Juggling work commitments alongside childcare, homeschooling, cabin fever, isolation and endless Zoom meetings – while maintaining some semblance of normality – is quite enough to be getting on with, thank you.

BUT, if you do find yourself with time on your hands, here are five ways you could improve the content on your website, while we wait for normal service to resume.


First up, why does good content matter?

The most important question to keep in mind when you write content for your website is:

Who are you writing for?

Every reader is a potential customer, a returning customer, someone who’s looking for information or advice.

The best content grabs their attention, uses language that resonates with them, and solves their problems.

It takes them on an effortless journey from first click to taking action (whether that’s booking an appointment or buying your product or service).

A website shouldn’t be a vanity project – somewhere to just show off and brag about your business.

Because, quite frankly (brace yourself):

Your customers don’t really care about you.

They just want to find the information or product that they’re looking for, and be on their merry way.

So give it to them.

Don’t make them work too hard (because they simply won’t bother)

It might seem counter-intuitive, but looking after your customer first, answering their questions and enabling them to find information quickly, is the key to good SEO.

Google recognises useful websites and rewards them with a higher ranking.

If people come back to your site regularly, share your content or make the journey from landing page to checkout quickly and easily, you’ll soon see the pay off in ranking.

A higher ranking means more traffic.

And more traffic means and more sales.

So, look after your customers with good, interesting, useful content, and everyone’s a winner.


1. Write a killer headline

If the opening header on your homepage says ‘Welcome to my website’, ‘Hi, thanks for visiting’, or any other generic stream of nothing-words, it needs to change. Now.

This is the most important sentence on your whole site, for two reasons:

  1. It tells readers that they’ve come to the right place (and why they should stick around), and
  2. It helps Google (and other search engines) to understand what content is on that page, so it will rank better.
Man browsing the internet on his mobile phone.


What do people type into the search bar when they’re looking for your products or services? (Hint: it’s not ‘welcome to my website’).

Have a think about what your business’ USP is.

  • What do most customers come to you for?
  • What problems do you solve?
  • Why are you better than your competitors?

You need to dig down and find out the most compelling thing about your business (from your customers’ perspective) and shout about it.

Within seconds, visitors need to understand:

  1. Who you are
  2. What you do – or more precisely, how you can help solve their problems

If it’s not immediately clear, they’ll simply click away.

You have around 2.5 seconds to seal the deal, so use a strong attention-grabbing headline, followed by a short paragraph summarising what you do. Give people a reason to read on.

 Here are some good examples:


Dropbox: Focus on the work that matters.


Evernote: Your notes. Organised. Effortless.


Monzo: Banking made easy.


PayPal: The easy way to pay is right here.

Notice something else they have in common? A prominent call to action (CTA). Tell people who you are, what you can do to help, and a way to take you up on the offer.


2. Break up your content

Remember, people have come to your website looking for information, to buy a product or book a service.

They do NOT want to wade through reams of waffle, however well written it may be.

People only read about 20% of the content you write, so make it easy for them to get to the bit they’re interested in.

How? By breaking it up into manageable chunks.

  1. Use short paragraphs (maximum 3-4 lines)
  2. Add headings and sub-heads for easy navigation
  3. If a graph or image can explain your point more clearly, use them
  4. Make use of video – it can increase engagement and conversion
  5. Use bullet points or numbered lists, like this one

Content needs to be scannable, so people can quickly find what they’re looking for.

But don’t worry. Chances are, if you answer their question well and can lead them to other parts of your website for more information, they will stick around and read on.


3. Put your customer first

i.e. Don’t waffle on about yourself.

You’d be surprised how many businesses make this mistake – they’re so keen to get their message across and tell everyone how brilliant they are.

But, back up a bit there, eager beaver.

Remember why you’re writing all this content.

Who’s it for again?

Exactly. Someone who is looking for specific information, or a product or service to solve their problem.

– They’re looking for a reliable plumber who’ll come out in an emergency
– They want to know how to get red wine out of a white rug
– They’re wondering whether they should switch car insurance providers
– They thinking about hiring a graphic designer to create some flyers

It’s unlikely they’re looking for a detailed account of your company history (unless, of course you’re Apple).

So, how should you tackle such enquiries?

All the content on your website (not just your homepage) should talk directly to the reader – about their problems, and how you can solve them.

Do a quick tally of how many times you use the words ‘we/us/me’ on your homepage page, and then count how many times you use the word ‘you’.

If the word ‘you’ doesn’t appear three times for every ‘we/us/me’, you need to rephrase a few sentences.

Remember, people don’t really care about you or your business.

They only care what you can do for them.

4. Highlight your best products/services

If most of your customers come to your site looking for a particular product or service, don’t hide it away in a long list of options.

Remember, you’ve got just a few seconds to convince someone they’ve come to the right place.

So, if you know what your best-selling product is, or that most people come book an appointment online, make this the first thing they see when they click on your homepage.

You can worry about up-selling and cross-selling later. For now, you just want to give people what they want, so they don’t go elsewhere.

Having your most popular products/services on your homepage will help customers to make a decision about what to buy, too.

Your website’s job is to help people get from A (their question or problem) to B (your solution) as easily as possible.

If people have to search too hard, they’ll just click elsewhere.


Mailchimp: Using clear language and clean design to show their main product offerings.


5. Make it easy for people to contact you

Some businesses deliberately hide their contact details, in a bid to stop people complaining, which is a really bad idea.

Not only will disgruntled customers take to social media to vent instead (and damage your brand), but listening to customers’ complaints and dealing with them effectively will actually boost your reputation.

It’ll also give you useful insight into what customers might be struggling with.

But, aside from this, a lot of people just come to your website so they can send you an email or call you to ask about opening times or product details.

It’s so easy to do, too. Just stick your email address or phone number in the navigation bar at the top, and you’re done.

That was easy, wasn’t it! 

Why is SEO Important?

A few people have asked me recently about the value of SEO and whether it really is that important for your business. How much of an impact will optimising your website content actually have, and what are the “golden rules” of SEO for someone just getting started?

Well, the first thing to remember is this: everything you’ve learned about keywords is probably wrong! Back in the early days, Google ranking was all about keywords. If you’re a gardener and your site mentions gardening over and over again, you’d expect to rank higher than your less repetitive competitors. But these days it’s not that simple.

It pains me when a client who has asked me to quote for optimising their website comes back a few days later saying (and I am quoting here), “sorry, we’ve found a company in India that can do it for £9.”

There are so many reasons why that is a bad idea: Firstly, the reason these companies are so cheap is because they will literally stuff your page with keywords. The content is useless to the visitor as it makes no sense and, more importantly, you WILL get penalised for using such tactics.

Search engines are constantly evolving to make sure that websites are playing fairly with one another. Google’s update in 2011 changed the face of SEO overnight and has been catching keyword cheats out ever since. Using sophisticated algorithms, Panda determines the quality of websites based on content and user experience.

If your site doesn’t meet the quality requirements, has a high bounce rate or too much advertising (amongst other things), your site will automatically be sent to the bottom of the list. So, the primary thing you need to know about SEO is this: make your content relevant to visitors and make sure it’s good quality.

These days, emphasis (quite rightly!) is on the quality of the writing and relevance of the content rather than keywords. It’s vital to remember that you are not just writing to please Google’s social media channels play a key role in generating traffic too, so if you want your site to be easily found and shared, good SEO copywriting is essential.

When writing web content, think about your own search habits. What do you look for in a good website? Content. Good, interesting, useable content.

If your site has a high readership, lots of traffic, a low bounce rate, people liking your content and sharing it with friends, you will see your ranking improve over time. Plus, if you add grammatically correct, well-researched content regularly, your site will gain credibility from Google for being an active provider or relevant, quality, user-friendly content.

Think of your website as you would any other business. What makes a shop or hairdressing salon more successful than their competitors? Look at the list below and apply each point to a local shop or service you use:

  • Provide good, sound advice
  • Show authority in their field in order to build up trust
  • Popular with other people in your peer group
  • Friendly, welcoming and personable
  • Able to offer recommendations of other relevant goods and services
  • An easy to find, uncluttered shop/office

Now apply them to your website. How does it measure up? Do you provide your customers with relevant content that will be useful to them? Do you back up your claims with evidence? Do people share your content and recommend you? Is your site easy to find and navigate with clear signposting? Do you offer other services and give advice?

Of course, keywords and key phrases are still important; they are at the heart of all Internet searches. Visitors will quickly scan your page for the keywords they typed, before assessing the relevance of your content. Make sure you validate their search quickly and satisfactorily by conducting thorough keyword research and giving customers what they want.

Always keep your customer in mind. There is no substitute for good, well-written content.

And please, don’t be lured into the trap of keyword stuffing or paying next to nothing for a quick fix: it is a false economy, which could hurt your business reputation in the long run.



Who are you trying to impress?

I was doing a bit of a Spring clean this morning, and came across a 20-page brochure from 2010: The Art of Long Copy. It was the results supplement of a competition in association with Campaign magazine, whereby ad agencies and in-house teams submit adverts in order to show that long copy is still alive and kicking.

Obviously, as a copywriter this caught my attention. I love nothing more than reading a well written, entertaining tube ad or billboard, so I delved in to find out who the big hitters were (albeit 2 years ago).

It struck me a few finalists in, that although some of the adverts were truly spectacular, gripping, thought-provoking and had me in awe, a significant proportion of them (winners included) were, well, pretentious and confusing.

Only on reading the idea behind the artwork was I enlightened enough to utter a half-hearted “aaaah”. But surely that defeats the objective, doesn’t it?

After all, commuters rammed onto crowded tube trains who dutifully oblige to read the adverts aren’t privy to the clever science behind them. They will presumably get to the end, shrug and walk away unenlightened.

You may not be too concerned by that. But you should be.

Whatever happened to the principles of great copywriting that we should all be following? Primarily, “know your audience”. Although I’ll concede that in the main these finalists had directed their advertising to the London commuter, using tube map imagery and recognisable Londoner language, some of them were so immersed in their own brand, they failed even to deliver a comprehensive message.

The Zurich ad for example, focusses all of its attention on a comical story about a violinist being hit on the head with a fish. The main message is that stranger things have happened. Whilst this is entertaining, it does not tell the reader that a) this is a TRUE story, or that b) to avoid the same thing happening to you, you should take out Zurich insurance.

Nowhere does the ad mention that they are an insurance company – they are arrogant enough to assume we already know this. In addition, the strapline “because change happenz” doesn’t seem to link with the story at all.

In short, the reader has done as you’ve asked and read your advert to the end, only to feel a little short changed afterwards. What’s the moral of the story? Why are you telling me about a fish landing on someone’s head?

One of the crucial questions to keep at the front of your mind when writing copy is, “so what?” or “why should I care?” Your tube commuter audience is a range of individuals, each expecting you to answer that for them. Don’t make them search too hard for the answer, because guaranteed, they won’t bother.

You have to guide potential customers through your advertising, hold their hand, tell them what you want them to do next, and make it easy for them to take action.

Everyone’s in a hurry these days, we are bombarded with advertising everywhere we go. If your advertising tries to be too clever, it will turn off prospects and could lose you sales.

Likewise, the Ocado advert leaves me scratching my head. OK, so it’s the periodic table, I get that. But what has that got to do with getting your groceries delivered? Where’s the message? Where are the benefits? What do you want the reader to do?

After browsing the brochure, I couldn’t help but feel slightly frustrated. Is it me, or have some of the messages been lost somewhere along the way, and been replaced with a smug in joke known only to other agency creatives?

Of course, some brands have always been a bit elitist in their advertising style – deliberately excluding people who aren’t in the know. But it’s good to remember what our objectives are when we’re coming up with new material, otherwise we risk disappointing ROI, at the very least.

Having said all of this, I did feel that some of the ads were very clever. Clever in a way that commuters would get, smile at and remember. But these ads didn’t win, and that makes me sad.

The CoppaFeel.org advert, in my opinion, fulfilled the brief perfectly: It spoke to YOU, the commuter, it refers to other commuters you’re sharing your journey with, it makes you laugh and it leaves you thinking. The creative execution too is both daring and eye catching.

The Specsavers ad too deserves a nod. Like all Specsavers ads, it’s entertaining, easy to relate to and has a clear message.

It’s advertising like this that makes me excited to be working in such a creative and experimental industry.

Whilst researching for this blog, I found many more shortlisted adverts online. Why not take a look and see what you think? The great thing about adverts is that they get us talking. In that way at least, they have done their work.



Direct marketers are all-round heroes

I worked in various direct marketing roles for just over eleven years. Starting off as a marketing assistant (specialising in copywriting, of course), I gradually acquired the necessary skills and grew in confidence until I emerged a fully-fledged direct marketing manager, complete with my own executive (or Daniel-san, as I referred to her).

What always struck me (and still does), is that more than any other industry I know of, marketers are expected to be experts in every conceivable skill set:

They need to be proficient number crunchers – adept at recognising patterns in data,  calculating budgets and squeezing every last drop of funding out of a campaign. They need to be great communicators– building relationships with suppliers and being shrewd enough to cut a good deal with them.

Additionally, of course, they need to be able to critique print design and understand customer journeys and user experience (UX) website design. On top of all this, they will also be tasked with writing copy – persuading customers to take action and bring in more revenue for the business – and then there’s results analysis!

Phew, not much then!

Obviously, not all organisations expect so much from each member of their marketing team. some businesses recognise the importance of splitting departments and placing various people in the right, specialised role. But not all companies have that luxury.

It’s all too common to see stressed-out marketing professionals scratching their heads as they try to write new website content whilst simultaneously negotiating a printer contract and drilling down into data to understand customer behaviour.

If I ruled the world, things would be different. Companies would play to people’s strengths so that individuals are given the opportunity to develop in whichever direction they are most proficient at. Of course, I’m biased. That’s exactly what I did. After a decade of plate spinning, I took a deep breath and specialised in copywriting. And I haven’t looked back since.

I have full respect for all the marketers who continue to try to do everything, and I know that for many this is exactly the reason they chose marketing as a profession. To these people I doff my cap in absolute admiration. But if you’re one of the frazzled workers, desperate to see the light at the end of the tunnel, my advice would be this:

Choose whichever aspect of marketing you love the most and become an expert in it. Whether it’s design, data, planning, controlling budgets, negotiating contracts, writing copy or strategising – there’s plenty to choose from!

Once you’ve specialised, you’ll be able to drill down to the granular detail you’ve always strived for (but haven’t found enough hours in the day for). You’ll hone your skills and deepen your knowledge, discovering a clarity other marketers will envy. You’ll earn the new-found respect of your peers and bring something truly valuable and unique to the boardroom table.

Gone will be the days of delivering yet another presentation with bleary-eyed exhaustion. From now on, you’ll enjoy the self-assurance which comes from perfectly mastering an aspect of the marketing mix.



Anyone can write marketing copy, right?

This is one of the most common misconceptions associated with copywriting, especially within companies using in-house marketers to handle everything from budgeting, strategy, managing suppliers, reporting and creative execution.

How many marketing managers have you heard groaning at the thought of writing a whole direct mail pack, when they have more important things to do such as the end of year financial report?

Let’s look at things realistically!

The truth is, very few people have the ability (or the time, or even the desire) to switch hats from being a financial wizard to a creative genius, so why do we continually think that they can?

These days, everyone knows that if you want a beautifully designed leaflet, you need to ask a designer to help you out. You could of course test out your skills on a Mac and produce something half decent, but it would probably leave most art directors cold and without the magic polish that a designer adds, your leaflet will lack that professional touch, and response may suffer.

Likewise, you might know your piston from your crank shaft when it comes to car engines, but how many stories have you heard about a friend-of-a-friend who had a tinker under the bonnet and ended up making matters a whole lot worse?

The same applies to copywriting: Yes, you know the main selling points of your product or service, and who better to inspire passion in a brand than you? But when it comes to weaving a subtle marketing message within a limited space, or teasing out responses from cold prospects, do you feel confident you could choose the right words?

It pains me to hear the overused mantra that creative sits at the bottom of the list when it comes to key performers within marketing campaigns. Whilst it is true that you have to target the right audience at the right time with the right offer, it’s a scandal to target them with only half of a convincing argument, surely?

With response across many industries dipping in recent years as companies scrap over customers, you could find yourself asking whether more people would have taken up your offer if you’d put forward a better case.

So yes, copywriting is an important aspect of marketing.

But the difference between ordinary copy and great copy is immense. For starters, you need to be able to grab the attention of a potential customer often when he or she isn’t in the mood to be sold to. You need to be able to write concise, snappy sentences which sum up an idea in just a few words.

You need the subtlety and cunning of a magician. You need to make people stop in their tracks and take notice. Then you need them to read on. And then you need them to take action.

Of course, it’s not rocket science, and many businesses will survive just fine without a wordsmith, thank you very much. But as the world keeps turning, competition gets fiercer and businesses are pressured to hit impossible sales targets, why not see what a carefully crafted message could really do to boost your business? I think you might be pleasantly surprised.