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For a year now, John has been writing a check for $500.00 every month to his web developer. He expected that his website would be designed, coded and written.

How are things going?

His customers keep asking “What’s wrong with your website?” They hate it. It won’t load (at least not quickly), it doesn’t tell them how he can solve their problem, it’s ugly, and they can’t find anything they need.

Yep. $500 smackaroos per month. Six thousand dollars for the year.

And he has to start over.

Sometimes being frugal isn’t the smartest financial move.

Much of your success depends on a website that works. One that loads quickly, looks good, is easy to navigate  – and – above all, tells the customer you understand their real problems and shares how you can solve them. You also need your organic search to work so clients can find you through search engines.

Sometimes business owners end up telling their web designers, “I’ll just use the stuff from my brochure.” The thought of having to create web content is overwhelming. They are confused by what each page should talk about and how the web copy needs to be written. But they are shortchanging their customers and their company.

Why web copy costs what it does.

Investing in good web copy is smart – and ultimately cheaper! People sometimes ask me why the words on a page cost so much. After all, they’re just words, right?

Fact is – they’re much more than that. The words you present to your customers are your business, in action. People are spending less time reading and more time quickly scanning, and search engines read your pages for categorization and ranking information. Every single word counts more than ever.

Good copywriting involves more than tossing some sentences down on paper. Behind every project is a lot of work, research and multiple writing skills. You may not realize it, but a good web writer should have SEO writing expertise, marketing writing expertise and – depending on the type of business – technical writing skills as well.

On top of the time, skills, reliability, experience, good copywriters deliver, they continually participate in ongoing education. Even if your writer has mastered the skills, they know that there are always new things to learn, new methods to use, new channels, etc.  While many of the principles of marketing and marketing writing stay the same, there are constant changes to web writing and social media content.

What goes into writing solid and engaging web content?

Your writer needs to do competitor research. They need to understand buyer personas, their buying process and emotional state. They must precisely define a company’s differentiators and marketing message. They need to understand your overall marketing strategy and branding so they can create or use the proper ‘voice.’ They will also need to do keyword & SEO analysis, and much more.

In social media projects, for example, a copywriter needs to understand where your target audience is hanging out online, what they’re saying and doing, and the best ways to reach and engage with them.

In fact, research is one of the biggest chunks of time invested in good copywriting. Where are the clients? What are they saying? What are they reacting to? What elicits a positive or negative reaction? What are the competitors saying and doing? What differentiates your business from the competition, and how can that be clearly communicated? Are there industry trends you can stay in front of – so you can be seen as a thought leader?

A good copywriter needs to become a mini-expert in your field – able to communicate about your business in language that engages your current and prospective customers.

Web writing is science and art – combined.

We’ve already talked about the science of good web writing. The art/creative part of it is far more difficult to quantify and explain because it all happens inside your head.

I think the best description of the creative process I’ve ever seen was in a book by James Webb Young called A Technique for Producing Ideas. While originally written in the 1940’s, it still applies to the most cutting-edge creative person today. After all, the brain still functions the same way when creating something new.

Once your copywriter has all of the info, they need to turn it all into communications that “sing.” When we hear the “singing,” we know we’ve got it! But what happens in between?

The first step in the creative process is chewing on the information. Your writer will use all of the information like pieces in a puzzle – turning each piece backwards and forwards, then looking at it all from different angles. That’s when the ideas start flowing.

Once we get to this stage, the notes of phrases and draft sentences get captured on the screen, page, white board – whatever happens to be available. Sometimes these ideas can be pretty out there – but they are just notes to work from, so we capture everything. We usually end up confusing ourselves at this point with too much information and ideas. This is when its time to let our brains go to work again.

We need to let the info simmer like a pot of soup. This is the brain working to assemble the pieces in the best possible way. It may be while gardening, ironing or in the shower (where most of my “a-ha” moments happen). That’s when it’s time to put the first draft together.

Then we edit. Edit some more. Then we do the second draft and maybe even a third before we even let the client see it.

That is what goes into writing for the web, for direct mail, for social media. That’s why good copywriting costs what it does. And why investing upfront will save you heartache and money in the long run.