Helping Your Clients With Web Content – What to do When They Don’t Have a Clue

By Katie Daggett

(Note: This post originally appeared as a guest post on the Creative Freelancer Blog.)

Things are good. You’re designing a site for a new client. And they’re loving everything you’ve done… so far.

But, the time has come to plug in the copy. So, you send the email or make the call to your client asking them to send the copy over.

And you’re met with silence. Or, you get a pile of old brochures and some scribbled notes that would take you hours to make into usable content.

Or even worse, you get a response along the lines of, “But, we thought that was something you would do.”

The project stalls.

Finally, in a desperate attempt to get the project moving (so that you can get paid), you give in and spend hours piecing together their piecemeal copy yourself.

Hours that weren’t in the budget, and hours you likely won’t be paid for.

If you’re “lucky”. The client does have content to give you. It works. But, you know that it isn’t all it could be. You have a sinking feeling that the copy you’re plugging in won’t attract the audience, or drive the sales, that your client is expecting from their website.

So, what’s a self-respecting web developer to do?

1. Set Expectations

If you don’t have a copywriter on staff, or don’t offer copywriting as a part of your web development services, make sure that your client knows that up front. During your initial conversations, be sure they understand that they will be responsible for creating the copy, and ask how they are planning to provide it to you. Discuss content deadlines early on, so that the client knows when they will need to send final copy to you in order to launch their site on time.

2. Give them Guidance

To help your clients along, be sure to discuss in detail what content they will need to provide for each page of their website. Give them an outline, noting where headlines, subheads, sidebars, calls to action, and other components of each page will be needed. Ask them to send content to you as a single Word document (or whatever format you prefer), to avoid getting disorganized bits and pieces from several company authors, or in the form of various brochures and other marketing pieces that you are required to sort through and pull from. The more detailed the content outline you provide, the easier it will be for you to plug in the copy when the time comes. If the client is clueless, and you’re concerned about quality, you may also want to give them a copywriting guide or checklist.

3. Include Copywriting in Your Proposal

If, as often happens, the client hasn’t given a thought to copy and isn’t sure how they’re going to handle it, it’s helpful to have a network of copywriters to recommend. You can either pass your best recommendations on to the client, or, gather an estimate from a trusted copywriter and include it as part of your bid. If the cost of copywriting puts the project over budget, your client can always strike it out – but at least they are aware that the burden of providing copy is theirs.

Read the rest of this article on the HOW Creative Freelancer Blog

Stop! Before you hire a web designer, do this.

Written by Katie Daggett

Stop and consider content strategy

Here’s the problem. You know your business needs a website. Or, you need to replace an existing website that isn’t working for you.

So, the first thing you need to do is hire a web designer, right?

Not so fast.

I’m not telling you not to hire a web designer. If you want a custom site and don’t have design or programming skills, you definitely need one.

What I am saying is, before you start focusing on how your site looks, what color scheme you’re going to use and whether or not you want video, you’ll be better off having a strong  web content strategy already in place.

Sure it looks great, but …

I’m tired of seeing businesses struggle online because they focused more on how their website looks than on what it says. They hired a web designer to create a site without having given much thought to who their target audience is and what they might be looking for on their website. Then they wonder why they aren’t getting traffic, or why prospective customers are leaving their site so quickly, without engaging.

Creating a web site without a content strategy is not only a huge waste of time, it’s a waste of money. That’s why I’d rather have you think about content development now, in the beginning, than after you’ve already spent thousands on web design.

How do you do this content strategy thing?

1)    Start by defining your website goals. Think about what you want your website to do for your business in terms of driving traffic, generating leads and converting those leads into sales. Is the goal of your website to provide information, establish your brand, sell a product – or a combination of the three?

2)    Know your target audience. A good web content strategy also requires you to have clear picture of your customer. Who are they? What do they want? What problems do they face? And why they are coming to your website?

3)    Think about what your customers are looking for. Once you’ve defined your target audience, think about the questions they’ll have when they arrive at your website and how you will provide them with the answers they seek. Are they looking for information about your product or service? Details about your company? Or to learn more about issues facing their business or industry?

4)    Plan your content. After you’ve answered those questions, you can start to map out a web content outline. This includes the pages your site will have, how they will connect, and what the contents of each page will say. A good place to start in developing a web content outline is with keyword research. This will help you find the topics your target audience is looking for and help you write search engine optimized (seo) web copy that will help your business get found on line.

5)    How will you say it? At this stage, you’ll want to think about style and tone. I usually recommend keeping website content friendly and conversational, unless you are developing a white paper that is highly technical in nature. That being said, depending on your company, product and service, your content can vary widely between professional and irreverent in tone.

6)    Start writing your website content. You can also start thinking about inviting a web designer into the process.  If possible, I recommend having final website copy written before the actual design process begins. The more website copy you have completed upfront, the easier it will be for your web designer to give you exactly what you want, and avoid redesigning pages later on.

You don’t have to go it alone

If developing a website content strategy, conducting keyword research, and writing seo web copy sound overwhelming, you can hire a copywriter to craft content for you. Just as a web designer is a good partner to have when making design updates to your site, a copywriter can help you create ongoing content updates like blog posts, case studies, white papers, Slideshare presentations and webinars.

If that sounds good, get in touch. I’ll walk you through the entire process, from defining your target audience, to mapping out your website pages and even working together with you web designer/developer to setup your site.

Post by Katie Daggett

Katie Daggett - Freelance Copywriter Katie Daggett is an expert copywriter and the owner of KD Copy & Content, helping companies get found online, and convert prospects into customers, with great website content. She loves coffee, labradoodles, hanging out with her family, and exploring her new home state of Colorado (but not necessarily in that order). To learn more about the Web Content services we offer, click here.