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! 

10 things I learned at CopyCon 2019

The Professional Copywriters Network (ProCopywriters) holds a conference every year for copywriters old and new. It’s always lovely to meet fellow writers, talk about new ideas and – as our host, David McGuire put it – be in a room full of people who don’t think you’re an expert in copyright law. Hurrah!

The day was packed with excellent speakers and breakout sessions. Richard Shotton, author of The Choice Factory, gave us a fascinating talk about behavioural science and how unconscious biases influence our decision-making. The highlight for me was this video, showing how we really can’t resist the force of peer pressure.



Anyway, here’s my top 10 takeaways from the CopyCon 2019:

1. Use review sites to research your customers

In an ideal world, we’d conduct interviews with customers before writing a single word of copy. We’d find out what their pain points are with our products, or what they love about our services. But in reality, that’s not always possible. Clients have limited budgets, limited time and often limited resources.

So, what do you do when you need feedback about a brand or product? You go online! Head to Amazon and read customer reviews. They’re packed with opinions that people might not tell you to your face, and you’ll quickly start to see common phrases that you can use. It’s genius, and just one of many great tips given to us by Joanna Weibe from Copyhackers.

This copy saw a 49% increase in paid conversions.

2. Get your interviews transcribed

Another great hack from Joanna… Rather than interview your clients while frantically scribbling notes, hold your meeting on Zoom video. Ask them all kinds of things about why they started the business, etc. Then (and this is my takeaway!), rather than spend hours listening to audio, hitting pause and typing everything up, word for word – go somewhere like rev.com and get the whole conversation transcribed.

That way, you’ll end up with a whole document that you can mine for gold. You’re looking for key phrases and ideas that you can use in your writing. And, when people talk freely about the business they’re passionate about, that’s when the magic happens.


3. Listen to sales calls

If you’re trying to pull together a customer journey, or a series of marketing messages, it can be tricky to know where to start (and, usually, the flow of information is controlled by what the business wants to sell first).

But, if you listen to calls, you can identify key areas that the customer considers important. Record the topics that people want to talk about, in the order that they come up. Stick everything in an excel spreadsheet, and once you’ve plotted all the calls, you might find that deciding which message to send customers first becomes much clearer. 

Remember, it’s our job to give customers the information they need to buy our products or services. If you’re getting a lot of enquiries about a particular sticking point, it’s probably best to address it head on.


4. Turn weaknesses into strengths

OK, so we’ve all heard this one before, usually just before you go for a job interview. But, bear with me. The Pratfall Effect is the idea that imperfections make you (or your brand) more likeable. Believe it or not, if you spill your coffee at the end of an outstanding interview, it’s more likely to boost your chances. Unless you run off swearing, presumably.

There’s been a lot of research conducted into this theory, but how can we use it effectively in our marketing without damaging the brand? Richard Shotton gave us some great examples which, if you’re trying to sell something that people have reservations about, can be really effective.

VW have a long history of turning their weaknesses into strengths.

So, someone thought the slope was too hard, did they? Excellent, that’ll make it a great challenge for the more adventurous among us!

Hans Brinker Budget Hotel have created a whole brand out of bad reviews. It must work, because I looked them up on Trivago and they’re the 6th most popular hostel in Amsterdam.

The golden rule is, don’t hide your flaws (people will soon discover them, anyway). Work out what your core strengths are, and turn weaknesses on their heads to reinforce the strength.


5. The importance of ease

We’re all busy. We all have good intentions to reply to an email, sign up for a service or renew a subscription. But life gets in the way sometimes. The easier you make it for customers to buy your products/sign up to your service, the better.

If you can take out sections of your journey to simplify the process, then go ahead. The experiment below by Bergman & Rogers shows just how much more effective a sign up is, when you remove the steps – version 1 is the standard sign up, version 2 asks people to reply to a text message with the word ‘start’ and the last version (with 97% take up) automatically signed customers up. They just had to text ‘stop’ if they didn’t want it.



The only reservation I have with this idea, is to make sure your audience is fully aware that your service will automatically renew before it happens. Nobody wants a repeat of when U2 sent their new album to everyone on iTunes and we couldn’t delete it!


6. Confirmation bias

If we hold a particular opinion, we more readily accept information that backs up what we think. We dismiss, or form counter-arguments, for things that we disagree with. But, what if we’re distracted at the time?

It turns out, we can be manipulated when we’re not paying attention. Listening to a convincing argument while watching a silent movie will make us MORE inclined to believe what’s being said, because our brains are too busy looking at the screen to generate a counter argument.

So, by playing classical music over your ad, or dressing up your message with stunning graphics, you can distract people enough to not question your authority. Which is a bit disconcerting, but useful to know if you’re in the business of changing opinions.


7. Keep a beginner’s mind

UX copywriter Laura Parker reminded us not to forget what it’s like to be a new user. All too often, we tend to slip into ‘work speak’. We talk to colleagues about new functionality or adding new products to our range. We talk about them so much that words and phrases feel clear and familiar.

It’s important to remember that our users have a different understanding of our products. They have different expectations of our apps. Try to keep information clear and relevant to them and don’t expect them to make a mental leap to where you are.

Don’t bombard users with all the information at once. Offer help that’s relevant to the part of the journey they’re in at the moment and guide them through the process. Use simple language and avoid jargon.

And, while we’re at it, don’t mess about with user’s expectations, either. We expect menus in the top right-hand corner, we expect calls to action at the bottom, usually in the form of a button. If you defer too far from that, you’ll confuse the user and may lose them.


8. Accessibility is key

Many of us suffer from some kind of user anxiety from time to time. We download an app, struggle to understand it and then delete it, sometimes within minutes of opening it.

But living with anxiety, autism or visual impairment can dramatically affect the way you process information. These ads from the Home Office are a handy reminder of a few of the things we should keep in mind when designing.



We should consider how we speak to users, too. It’s common to say ‘simply download this…’ when, to some people, it might not be so simple. Likewise, saying ‘just £9.99’ isn’t always appropriate. £9.99 may be quite a lot for someone to spend on your product.

The bottom line is, keep your user at the front of your mind, consider the challenges that they may have and help them to get the most from your app.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) are more than happy to check your website’s accessibility for you.



9. Take a walk on the wild side

Harry Kapur from Velocity Partners told us all about having ‘skin in the game’. If you’re trying to persuade your clients to take risks with their marketing, it’s a lot more effective if you can actually walk the walk.

Successful content marketers should do the same for their own businesses as they recommend to others. Live and breathe products and systems until you know them inside out, and it’ll give you the edge.

Obviously, it’s not always practical to open a hair salon or a publish a magazine just to understand the struggles that your clients are going through, but the more you can immerse yourself in their world, the more powerful your copy will be.

Make it feel real and acknowledge that no product is perfect. Research for opinions and emotions, not just facts. And remember:


“The only way to make something interesting
is to be genuinely interested in it.”


10. What’s the future for voice search?

Kelvin Newman from Brighton SEO ran a great, practical session on search engine optimisation. There are lots of useful tools out there to help us with keyword research (or ‘search queries’, as they should be called. They’re real people’s questions, after all).

But the thing that really stood out to me was, OK we can optimise our websites to appear higher up in Google results pages, but when it comes to voice activated searches (on our smart speakers at home), there’s only ever one answer. So, if we’re not number one, then where does that leave us…? 

I asked Alexa, but she just said, ‘sorry, I don’t know that one’.

But there we have it, my highlights from a fantastic day at the Barbican. I hope to see many of you again next year! But in the meantime, I’ll leave you with something Harry Kapur said that resonated with me. When someone says ‘customers are just people’, tell them:

“No. They’re angry mums. They’re stressed CEOs. They’re people struggling with anxiety.”

Keep your customers at the forefront of your mind and you can’t go far wrong.