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How to Brief a Website Copywriter

Honestly, this feels a little meta already: this is an article, on a website, helping you to write better articles for your website. However, if the prospect of producing hundreds, if not thousands, of pages of high-quality website text leaves you with a looming existential crisis, then please read on.

What copywriters need from you to produce extraordinary content for your next website project.

Copywriters can make a huge positive difference to website content, but hiring one to write all of your text, from scratch, can get pricey.

This article explores how to hire the right copywriter for your next website project. How to get them on board, and write content to represent your business, fit in with your website agency and make a significant difference to the success of your project. Getting the briefing process right will save you time and money in the long term. So, if you’re planning the content for your website, read on for how to get the most from your website copywriter.

Selecting the Right Copywriter(s)

Finding someone to write for you is an important task, so don’t be afraid to go on a few dates before committing to anything. Get a feeling for the type of writing style you like and start to chat with writers who reflect that. You may even end up choosing a few to produce your work. The three things you need to know before you start:

All good copywriters should give you the basics – this includes keyword use, references, citations and clear and concise language.
All good copywriters should be able to follow your instruction – don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, and feedback if you wish to make changes.
All copywriters are different – search for a writer that you ‘click’ with, and whose style of writing reflects your brand and voice. This might be different for various projects, products or channels (for example, a great social media writer might not be the right choice for your white papers – although they might be!)
Check out their work, read it and see it in action – words come to life when they are on a billboard, a web page or in a brochure. Review your copywriter’s skills in the live environment.

Where Do I Meet a Copywriter?

As with most great relationships, there are some seriously good online options these days. Broadly you’ll be looking at one of three ways to find your match:

Agency – an agency will have scale and offer you a formal work contract. You usually have the option of getting a quote for a one-off job. But you may want to consider setting up retainer as well as a price per unit. This is especially useful if you are considering Content Marketing. There is lots of expertise available through an agency, and likely a relationship manager, that can lift some of the planning efforts for you.
Individual – lots of writers now have their own websites, and you can get in touch directly. This offers a lot of flexibility and a good way of building a long-term relationship. Scale may be challenging, though. Start with a local Google Search and see who pops-up.
Online Marketplace – the Amazon of services! An almost infinite choice of writers from around the world can be found, and you can brief as many or as few as you like. You can create your own agency in a way, scaling up and down as you need. The challenge is often finding the wheat amongst the chaff. It can be super affordable, as well.

Now You’ve Found Your Copywriter, What’s Next?

Be as clear with them as possible. I cannot stress this enough. Copywriters want to get work right for you but find it tricky to read your mind. This might be the first time they are writing about the subject you’re asking for, so try and share as much of what’s in your brain as possible. If you want something included, make sure you put that in the brief. If you’re briefing lots of writers, it might be worth creating a template to make sure you’re giving consistent information.

Getting your brief right for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is essential. Keywords help people searching for your products or services to find your website. Google and other search engines rank pages based on several factors like quality and links, but keywords remain important. Choose them carefully and give your copywriter three or four to include throughout the piece. Use your analytics software to find out what keywords to use, or you can use AI systems like Clearscope to make this process even easier. Keep an eye on performance and keep your keyword lists updated regularly – search terms can change frequently.

Other Things to Consider When Briefing your Copywriter

Now you have all the basics of successfully briefing a copywriter clear, here are a few other more nuanced considerations.

There are two main ways of getting your copywriter started on your brief:

Give them the whole job to write from scratch.
Or, ask them to re-write your work.

There are pros and cons to both. Starting from scratch gives you a new perspective and approach, whilst getting your ideas on paper will ensure the writer gets a good sense of your tone and style. Some clients choose to record a voice memo and share that – it’s a surprisingly good way of dumping out all your knowledge for your writer!

Other subtleties that can get lost in a brief, but are absolutely worth thinking about:

Humour – do you want it? It can be a great way to connect to your audience, but not right for all channels/topics.
Subtext – this is sort of related to your ‘call to action’. Subtext allows a writer to steer a reader in a certain direction – towards a sale, or to register for a call back by alluding to a bigger issue or problem that needs to be solved. What is the underlying message, that isn’t perhaps being spoken about explicitly?
Emotion – what is the driving emotion behind your copy? Are you passionate, determined, professional, expert or authoritative? This will help to create a very distinct voice to your piece.

To deliver top-drawer, engaging and sales-focused copy, a copywriter needs to know as much as possible about your business, products and audience. But it’s more than that. The tone of voice, or character that speaks to your audience and makes the copy pop should be in sync with your brand and other communication channels. And, of course, not forgetting, writing the content so that Google likes it and ranks you.

Getting yourself ready and knowing how to brief and feedback is critical to getting the results you want. So, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want and find a writer who really ‘gets it’.

Originally published here.

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