All too often, I’m approached in defeatist tones by otherwise successful individuals who wonder how on earth they’re going to fill enough pages to launch even a modest five-page brochure website. This always amazes me.
On the other hand, it gives me full rein to enthuse about the possibilities a new (or re-written) website brings in its wake. For starters, it’s not every day a company is forced to look at everything it does. And if the website is to cut the mustard, everything has to present the business and its products and services in the most competitive light.
Yes, this can be daunting, but if a methodical step-by-step approach is adopted, massive dividends can result. To give an example: it often surprises people that the straightforward process of explaining what their business is all about will expose shortcomings in areas as diverse as CRM, product quality, service delivery and a dozen other things that can impact on the bottom line.
It’s at this stage where the input of an experienced website copywriter can really help clients to organize their thinking. With so many things going on regarding the design elements, it’s easy to overlook the essential areas that copywriting covers. This is where the true value of well thought-out sitemap shows itself.
Who Creates The Sitemap?
Given the strategic significance of a sitemap, who decides what should be included? Clients often leave it to designers to come up with an initial overview, simply because they have the means to map out visually what is needed. At a more mundane level, they can also estimate how the amount of work needed can be contained in a pre-set number of pages to fit the allocated budget.
Clients should consider whether abdicating responsibility for something as fundamental as a sitemap is a good idea. After all, they know their business better than their designers possibly could.
An alternative approach is to go through the business systematically with a trusted website copywriter who can provide the initial advice on what works for that particular business in terms of logical search, usability and site navigation.
It’s important the client briefs his copywriter thoroughly before having a meeting to discuss the sitemap structure. Familiarity with all aspects of the business is essential when setting out the sitemap guidelines. There’s no reason why a business-minded designer shouldn’t also be involved at this stage. After all, creating a first-class website is very much a team effort.
A Penguin or Panda Personality?
In the wake of Google’s recent algorithm updates, the requirements for effective website copywriting and SEO have changed dramatically. Until recently, on-page SEO copywriting had a major influence over Google’s rankings, especially regarding keywords.
Now, the on-page copywriting emphasis is on original, quality content that meets the search engine’s criteria of delivering on certain key phrases (or their semantic derivatives). Of even greater significance is the rise of ‘popularity’ factors as demonstrated by one-way inbound links coming from high-authority blogs or websites whose content is similar — or relevant — to the web page in question.
Although the significance of links originating from high authority and relevant sites is nothing new, the main change has been in the way high-quality, well-written content is rewarded. The days of trying to game the system with poor quality syndicated content have gone.
When it comes to providing the copywriting brief, background information or even a rough draft of the content needed, busy clients typically have difficulty in allocating enough time to keep the website creation process rolling. With a little prompting, this can usually be resolved.
An entirely different issue — and one which has become more of a problem since Google’s switch to rewarding off-page content — is persuading clients about the value of writing high quality articles, blog posts and so on.
The reluctance of clients to engage in this process is borne of a shortage of time, money and an overall lack of awareness as to how beneficial the ‘quality content’ SEO process actually is.
In difficult economic times when many companies have to justify every penny spent, reluctance to spend money on ‘jam tomorrow’ articles and blog posts is entirely understandable. Convincing clients that it will ultimately pay dividends, and also give them valuable exposure in all the right places, is comparable to the difficulties of selling media relations’ PR services. Yes, there should be a return on investment, but that can only be established four or five months down the line and many hundreds of dollars later.
If Google stays on its current path of rewarding quality content, it shouldn’t be too long before clients realize the old keyword-driven SEO is no longer effective. As with all aspects of SEO, however, there will be a time-lag between ‘old thinking’ and the new reality.
It’s important to bear in mind that strategic website copywriting is an essential part of website creation. Even more important is to realize similar copywriting skills are involved in the new-style SEO where investing in well-written, tightly-focused articles, blogs and other types of content will be rewarded with higher rankings on Google.
Mike Beeson is a highly experienced website copywriter, SEO and PR consultant. Mike’s company, Buzzwords Limited, was established more than 20 years ago and is located in Knutsford, Cheshire (south Manchester). This article is the fourth in Mike Beeson’s ‘Talk Your Client Through It’ series. The other articles are featured on Buzzwords’ Copywriting Blog.