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November 22, 2010

In Defense of the Copywriter – A SPN Exclusive Article

Of course I’m going to defend the importance of copywriters. It’s not just my job, but my passion. Ken’s article was enlightening because it forced me to think further about the role of copywriters and re-evaluate their contribution to the success or otherwise of commercial websites, and it’s always healthy to check out alternative views.

There was plenty to digest in both the article and in the heated comments that followed its publication. Copywriters were quick to jump on the anti-Ken bandwagon, criticize his spelling, and overall crucify him for his DIY/shortcut approach to preparing online content.

And while there were elements of truth in his article, and he picked up three new clients, imagine how many customers he might have attracted if he’d written about the positives a copywriter can add to a website.

There are so many appallingly written websites on the net that there’s plenty of work for us all. Here’s five ways a specialist online copywriter can make a difference:

1) Experience. Good copywriters not only know how to write in perfect English, they also know how the web works, how to prepare sales copy, the importance of keywords and how to use them. Choosing the right copywriter from the hundreds of “experts” on the internet depends entirely on the expectations you have for your site. Just as websites range from high-tech interactive, gaming and multimedia to simple information brochures and basic e-commerce sites, copywriters come in all shapes and sizes. Their skill set will vary according to their experience, background, personal education and knowledge, so do your research, ask to speak to recent clients and don’t rely on their online testimonials or Google reviews.

2) Eye for detail. When I started out as a website copywriter five years ago I deliberately typed misspelled words into Google. Phrases included: “Stationary and Website Design”, “Accomodation”, “Pubic Relations” and my favourite “Copywrite 2005”. Bingo, a business was born. No-one is perfect, myself included, and it seemed cruel to make money from people’s mistakes. But once I’d diplomatically pointed out the errors I picked up work. From there on in I had to rely purely on skill! A half decent copywriter can pick a typo a block away and want to do something about it. Don’t risk alienating potential clients and customers by leaving errors or incomprehensible copy on your website. While perfect spelling might not be high on your list of priorities for your website, poor grammar and spelling could be interfering with your messages.

Speed. Once you’ve decided to go online it’s likely you want it all done yesterday. Here’s where a professional copywriter can make a difference to the time it takes to get you up and running. A quick turnaround in content preparation will have you connecting with customers sooner than if you tried to do it yourself. Don’t waste time agonizing over sentence structure, checking the thesaurus and reworking copy.

4) Value for money. The price for copywriting varies wildly from the overpriced and overhyped writers to the bargain basement offerings from developing nations. There is a happy medium that doesn’t charge exorbitant rates for original and unique copy. The bulk of copywriters fall into this category. We just want to make a decent living doing what we do best. Overinflated prices for poor work won’t lead to word of mouth recommendations, repeat work or referrals. Going offshore might save a few dollars but it’s unlikely to be original, will need serious editing by a professional, and fail to resonate with your target market because it has not been written by a local.

5) It’s hard to promote yourself. Unless you’re Donald Trump then talking about yourself doesn’t come easy to most people. Writing about yourself is even more challenging. A professional copywriter can take an external view of your business, analyze your competition and then create copy that positions your online presence in a positive, objective way. They will write about aspects of your business that you take for granted, including points of difference, unique selling propositions, customer service and your personal commitment and passion. As a business owner you intuitively know it is all there, but a copywriter will expand upon it, highlight the good bits and minimize the negatives.

Taking shortcuts or a cheapskate approach to copywriting is akin to DIY graphic design and SEO. It shows. Getting it right the first time not only saves time and money but the end product will look polished and professional, and word perfect.

Nikki Cripps is a Sydney based copywriter who writes exclusively for small business websites. She’s been a journalist, public relations consultant and writer for almost 20 years. She is the owner and operator of