How the Role of an Online Content Writer Has Changed — Sort of…

Cool web design is what’s important today.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is dead.

And, since mobile-responsive websites are now favored by Google, you only need to write short content.

NOT SO FAST.

Don’t be too quick to jump onboard with the latest rumors or “expert rules” floating around the web world these days.

While in some cases, there’s an aspect of truth in these concepts…

When it comes to writing websites that WORK —

Many of the online content writing fundamentals that have worked for a couple of decades are still working now.

Thousands of websites out there are still not following the basic “best practices” that:

1) Bring in search traffic,

2) Grab the attention of prospects, and

3) Keep them on the site, eager to buy.

The great news is — you can help companies fix their sites, because you’re a web copywriter who knows the simple truths about what still works today!

Here are three examples to explain what I mean:

1. You know it’s all about the prospect, first and foremost.

Cool, new color schemes, giant photos, and funky navigation may be a designer’s dream, but if the website experience is not 100% focused on what the prospect needs or wants — none of that cool stuff matters.

Why? Because the purpose of a business website is to bring in business.

Smart businesses (and copywriters) know that, first, you need to consider your prospect…

  • Who IS the prospect?
  • What are they looking for?
  • What would make them happy?
  • How will they know when they’ve found a great solution?
  • And, how does the website fulfill that mission?

Let’s look at one simple example…

If a prospect is looking to plan a beautiful, hassle-free wedding in a Maine seaside setting, they’re looking for a Maine wedding-planning website that speaks directly to them, with messages that reinforce how they can achieve their goal.

2. You know a strong, problem-solving headline is infinitely more effective than a headline such as “Welcome” or “About Us.”

There’s a New York Times article that talks about the attention span of people today — and how it’s shorter than that of a goldfish (8 seconds for humans, 9 seconds for goldfish).

This means you have just a few seconds to explain on the website what you offer and why it’s the best solution for the person looking to solve a need or achieve a goal.

The best practice is to go back to number #1 (who the prospect is and what they need) and then write a headline that clearly delivers the solution.

So, for a wedding-planning website, instead of “Welcome” or something equally vague as a headline, it should be very specific — something along the lines of, “Relax. You’ve just found the stress-free way to plan a beautiful, romantic Maine wedding.”

Simple, right? But, you’d be astonished by how many websites don’t offer a clear, problem-solving headline like this. (Try it yourself with a variety of websites.)

3. You know people use keywords (phrases) in Google and other search engines to find what they want or need.

When those phrases are woven into a website’s content, it helps Google make the match and bring up the right web pages in search results.

To continue our wedding-planning example, it’s likely the prospect is typing any of the following phrases into Google:

  • “maine wedding planner”
  • “plan a maine wedding”
  • “wedding planner in maine”

Now, the website that shows up consistently in search results for those phrases (after ads and directory sites, such as TheKnot.com), is DestinationMaineWeddings.com.

Why? Because that website’s content weaves the most relevant search phrases into solution-oriented copy.

Sounds easy enough.

And, it is! But, so many websites don’t follow this basic principle to get search traffic.

These are just three fundamental “best practices” for web content that works today. There are many, many more.

And, that new “rule” about no longer needing long copy?

It’s poppycock!

Google actually favors web pages with 1,200-2,000 words — or even more — because people are looking for helpful content. Short content is fine for some websites, but long copy is also incredibly powerful. There’s no “one size fits all.”

Start with what you know about effective sales copywriting: focus on the prospect, include a strong headline, and weave search phrases into highly helpful content. Then you’re off to the races.

When you’re the online content writer who can help clients by discovering what’s missing from their web content and fixing those gaps — you’ll win them over and become the go-to expert for all their copywriting needs.

[Editor’s Note:  The truth is a lot of companies are disappointed in the performance of their websites, but they have no idea why their sites aren’t working as they’d hoped. They are anxious to find answers… FAST. And you can help. Pam’s program, Site Audit’s Made Simple will show you how. And when you order by November 24th, you’ll save $200. Go here for the details.]

Pam Foster

Pam Foster

As a certified SEO Copywriter and web content consultant, Pam is an expert on managing client relationships and has written multiple programs on landing and working with great clients.

One Comment

  • I just want to know how they figured out the attention span of a goldfish …

    I’m reading Steve Krug’s book “Don’t Make Me Think, Revisited.” He makes the point that web usability principles by and large don’t change despite changing technology. It’s the same with online content and copy principles. Great article Pam. Thanks.

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