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The Clientside Podcast

Copywriting for Websites with Sarah Townsend

The Clientside Podcast

44 min Sarah Townsend

We're all aware of the importance and role of good content, but getting a message across clearly can be difficult, especially when you've only got seconds to grab the readers attention.

In this episode Andrew speaks to Sarah Townsend, a freelance marketing copywriter about the importance of good content, which comes first, the website or the copy and the mistakes she sees many people make when they are writing their own content.

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Andrew:
Hi, everyone. It's that time again, I'm back with another edition of the Clientside podcast. I'm your host, Andrew Armitage and the digital agency I founded called A Digital is the sponsor of the show. Thank you for joining me again as we speak through 2021. I can't believe we're hitting the halfway mark already, but I hope you're well, safe and looking forward to break over the summer months in front of us. If you've tuned into the podcast before then you'll know the format. If you're here for the first time, then welcome. It's great to have you with us today. As usual, I'm joined by fantastic guest on the show but before I introduce her, want to share a quick update about my first book, which is now available to buy on Amazon and Kindle. I spent close to the last two years writing the book, which is called Holistic Website Planning, which shares what I believe are the eight key steps to planning your next website through a process called Going the Distance to Fit for Purpose Works for people, process, technology across your business as much as it does for your marketing.

Andrew:
So do go and check that out. Head across to gothedistance.website for more details and some useful resources while you're there. So on to today's guest and our topic today, speaking of writing is all about content. Sarah Townsend has been a freelance marketing copywriter for over 20 years. And in her own book, Survival Skills for Freelancers, she shares strategies for tackling the ups and downs all freelancers face based on her own experience, backed up by research, resources, and quotes from the freelance community. The Amazon number one bestseller has been described as absolute gold, pocket business coach, warm wisdom and an instant gem, and is available exclusively on Amazon in paperback, Kindle and audio book formats. Since publishing survival skills for freelancers Sarah has been on a mission to raise awareness of the importance of mental health, wellbeing for freelancers through talks, webinars and mentoring. But today we're going to focus on content and copywriting and some of the mistakes people made when writing for the web or promoting their digital channels. So welcome to the show, Sarah. It's great to speak to you.

Sarah:
Oh, thank you for having me on. Appreciate it.

Andrew:
So, first of all, Sarah, just tell listeners a little bit about your background and what got you into copywriting and writing content.

Sarah:
Oh, yeah. So it's a bit of a long story. So I'll give you the very much the shorter potted version I fell into marketing. I'm not qualified in any way. I didn't go to university, decided not to, I share the story in my book, but I started working in marketing for a financial services company. I worked there for about three years and worked my way up to being their publications controller. So I was in charge of all their internal staff magazines as well as their external customer magazine, which at the time went to about two hundred and fifty thousand people. So it was quite a high profile project and I decided to opt for voluntary redundancy and went from being on the client side to being on the agency side. Started working at the magazine publisher that published our in-house magazine and I worked there for about three years, absolutely loved working on the agency side, and then became pregnant, 22 years ago today my daughter was born. So when she was born, I knew I didn't want to go back to work full time. I was travelling down to Bristol every day and living in Gloucester and yeah, just seemed a perfect opportunity to grasp being my own boss by the horns. And the rest is history. So this is 22 years into my freelance career.

Andrew:
Amazing. Yeah, great story. And I mean, before we talk too much about content. Have you seen sort of a real growth of of people going freelance, particularly through covid? But I mean, there seems to be yeah, there's a lot of talk around the gig economy. There's obviously sites like Fiverr, upwork, people per hour, which has been around a little bit longer. But have you seen a real increase in people going freelance over the last few years?

Sarah:
I think the industry has as a whole. I mean, certainly at the start of 2020, the statistics were that there were five million self-employed people in the UK for the first time it tipped into 5 million, and 2 million of those were freelancers and that's before covid even happened. So certainly I'm actually quite excited about hearing the statistics post-covid because I imagine they'll be out soon if they're not already. But certainly a lot of people who were considering going self-employed or who really have no choice because they've lost their job, having been furloughed and then found, there's no job to go back to. So a lot of people who've read my book have said, you know, you've given me the confidence to go self-employed. It does seem to be a trend. And it's just, it's a no brainer, because businesses are looking to hire that flexible resource as a work load, it just seems such a straightforward choice for them because they're not obviously having to pay, on the cynical side of me says they're not having to pay pensions, sick pay, holiday pay, parental leave, whatever. So, yeah, it just seems a more sensible option because businesses have all been faced with taking a kind of a reality check. Where are we now? What's going to happen if we find ourselves in this situation again? How do we deal with this? How do we prepare for this situation happening again? Hopefully it won't, but we never know. So, yeah, I think, I think there's a huge increase in the freelance community and people opting for that remote, flexible working that kind of more lifestyle way of life, although when you're actually in the thick of being a freelancer, it often doesn't feel like a lifestyle choice. You end up with less time and head space than you ever had before.

Andrew:
But I think it's about choices, isn't it? And I think a lot of companies also realise that, you know, now they've been forced into remote working situations, working with a freelancer or someone who isn't within the same space day in, day out actually might be more practical and more feasible than they thought beforehand.

Sarah:
Yeah, I think so, too. And that's an approach I hadn't really thought of. But yeah, I think you're absolutely right, because perhaps a lot of businesses that are larger with kind of big head office settings had thought previously that they couldn't possibly let their staff work remotely. And now they are familiar with that way of working and they know that they don't have to have hands on clocking in and off at the end of every day, then, yeah, it does open things up.

Andrew:
Great. Ok, so let's let's move on to the main topic for the day, which we're going to talk about, content and content is one of those difficult things, chicken or egg, when you're building a website, which which one is it which comes first, the website or the content. What's what's your view?

Sarah:
Oh OK. Well with website. Yeah, I do a lot of website copy. It's probably what I do the most of and I've worked on projects where I have literally have the website completely built with holding text in, and I've known that this particular paragraph needs twenty words and this area here needs four hundred words. Sometimes I'm working with a completely free reign where I have the complete brief. I know all the value proposition and the customer avatars and all this kind of behind the scenes information. But in terms of even the structure of the website, that has been something that I've been able to have input into. So I'd say it works both ways. It depends very much on the team that you have working with you. It's not necessarily, it's not necessary to use a copywriter, a graphic designer and a web developer from the same company. For example, if you're using a smaller agency that use a wider team, that works equally well as long as that kind of quite comfortable working together. But, yeah, I think the order totally, totally take your point. It does feel like a bit of a chicken and egg scenario, and I think it can work really well both ways. I guess the ideal scenario is when the designer, the developer and the copywriter are all working together and everybody gets a chance to have some input on what the structure of the website is going to be like.

Andrew:
There at least needs to be a conversation, even if it's not a case of getting down to the final nitty gritty and at least an understanding from each person of what the likely expectation is from the other, I suppose.

Sarah:
Yeah, absolutely. And I think there are a lot of copywriters out there who you give them a brief and say, oh, can you write a website on this? And they'll provide you with the word doc, job done. And they don't necessarily even want to get involved with the structure or involved from day one or even having any liaison with the client directly. But I'm not one of those, I like to be like, you know, both feet fast, kind of properly involved.

Andrew:
I think there's an element of that that you've got to roll your sleeves up. Otherwise, you know, from my point of view and from what I've seen, a brief isn't always what it needs to be. A brief can be quite brief, shall we say. And ultimately, if a client is writing a brief, they might understand what they need the copy to achieve for them to sell more stuff, to sell widgets, for example. But actually the mechanics of what needs to go into that at perhaps less familiar with. And that's really where I guess they're looking for your input as a copywriter, someone who's been there before and has got the experience with it, looking for that prerequisite, I suppose.

Sarah:
Yeah, and I. There is always a certain element that comes from the design side and the build side of things, but I do think that predominantly it is down to the copyrighter to interrogate on the brief and to really ask the challenging, probing questions. And yeah, really, unless you have gone through that process, how do you really know? As you say, the client often thinks they know what they need, but actually it's more what they want and what they need is something different.

Andrew:
Yes, definitely something that we've seen when it comes to website briefs as well as much as content. So where to start then? With with content? I mean, there's obviously an overall goal for what it needs to achieve. And I see from your your bio, you've done a lot of work with with B corps and companies that are B corp company, obviously they're putting purpose really at the centre of what they do. So so there's something that you can really get a hold of there and sort of write around in lots of different ways. So what is it that you really look for in terms of a copyright brief that is going to give you the best chance of delivering copy that is really accessible for them?

Sarah:
I guess that comes down to the prompting that I give the client. So I have quite an in-depth briefing form which makes them really go inside the nuts and bolts of their business. And most clients that I work with have already gone through that process. In some cases, I've helped them do the value proposition side of things and kind of come up with style guidelines and brand guidelines and that kind of thing. That's more unusual. So, yeah, I don't know. I don't ever find that process particularly difficult. I've worked with a lot of owner managed businesses and when I've had the initial pre covid, when I've had the initial face to face often or via zoom meeting to talk to the owner of the business, I guess I just instinctively, because I've been doing it for so long, I just instinctively know the questions to ask to get the information that I need. So the onus is less on the client and more on the copywriter. in my case, I think if you don't ask the right questions, it's easy for the client to think, oh, well the copywriter will need to know this, this and this, and often that is the obvious information, such as you know service types and areas in which they operate and primary call to action and that sort of thing. But actually it can often be the story behind the brand that is that is harder to get out and that that's the bit I love doing, because most of my clients will come to me and go, oh, we're trying to write our own website or we're doing it in house and it just got into a real muddle and we think we should be able to do this because it's our business. So nobody knows our business better than we do. And yeah, that is the case, but nobody knows what you should be saying and you shouldn't be saying equally important, what you shouldn't be saying on your website, better than a copywriter who knows the right questions to ask. from the purpose element. That for me tends to be something that either switches me on to a business or not. So it tends to be what I call the goosebumps moments.

Sarah:
So since I published my book, I've had less time to do the copywriting side of things because I have been doing things like training, workshops and mentoring and webinars and podcasts interviews. So I have to be super choosy about who I take on as a new client. And I'll have the discovery call with them and I'll ask them to sort of tell me the story of the business and why they're doing what they do. And yeah, if there is some higher purpose and something that is really what's driven them, that that is greater than profit or solely profit, at least, that usually gives me the goosebumps moments. And then I'm kind of like, OK, right. I'm going to really go for this one. And if I don't get the goosebumps moment, then yeah, I'll maybe refer it to someone else because I just want to work on the projects that I can do my best work for.

Andrew:
And I guess that's ultimately where, you know, the real meaty content out of a story can can come from in terms of the purpose. And it gives you lots of different directions and an angles to go on. But what I was going to say was, back to that point about writing for yourself sometimes think, yes, you might know yourself better than perhaps anybody else, sometimes too too well compared to other people. I think there's an emotive, emotional connection sometimes that's too great t sort of come between and you get lost in the moment. And certainly, certainly I think there's a lot of companies that run the risk of being so focused on themselves in that kind of scenario and not really thinking so much about. Well, what what does my audience want, you touched on empathy maps, I think, when you when you were talking earlier on, but really understanding, getting under the skin of what the audience wants, that can be sometimes quite challenging for a company because they look at themselves in almost quite a literal way. Oh, we make widgets, we do this, we deliver the other without actually almost turning it on its head and putting putting the client first, putting the customer first and really understanding what it is they're looking to get out of the content.

Sarah:
Yeah, exactly. And it's very difficult. It's difficult from a client's perspective always to know what the client, unless they've gone through that experimenting phase where they do the research and they ask the clients what the clients really, truly like at the heart of every relationship, every business relationship, what are they really getting out of dealing with that business? And it's interesting that you pick up on that point, because we talked about potentially talking about some of the common mistakes in copy and content, and that is very much one of them. You get, you still get the websites that say hello, welcome to our website, who cares?You've got three seconds to grasp someone's attention. Actually, do you really want the first thing you say to be welcome to our website?

Andrew:
I was expecting to be welcomed on your website.

Sarah:
I would argue that you should never say that. But if you can if you can literally grasp attention by instantly making it clear that you empathise with the client, you understand why they're there, you understand some of the problems that they're facing. And you as a business or business owner, have the solutions to those problems and you solve these problems creatively. But, yeah, it's very much like the businesses that come to me and say, oh, you know, oh, yeah, we've we've got our vision and our mission and our values. And we want to put them on our website. I always argue that actually. No, you don't. It's very it's very self-interested to want to to do that. Actually, clients don't often care. What they do care about is that you use a copywriter who can embed those values in everything you're saying about your business so that the values become just woven in to everything you say about the business, not these are our values. One, two, three, four, five. But actually, it comes down to that well-known show, don't tell. So if you can show, you know, rather than saying, oh, we care about customer service, we're passionate about service or whatever, just actually show the client what the experience is of dealing with you as a business without saying those words. It's it's very overused, isn't it?

Andrew:
And I guess another example which I was thinking of was sustainability. You know, it's all well and good to say, oh, one of our values might be sustainability, but actually, if it really is, it should be coming through and everything else that you're saying and you shouldn't need to spell it out in its own right.

Andrew:
Yeah, absolutely, yeah, really important point.

Andrew:
One of the challenges I think we see clients sometimes have is over the length of content and the amount of content that might be needed. And I think in reality, it's always less than than people think. I always like the phrase I forget who who's attributed to it now. But I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn't have the time. So I think it does take time to sort of really cut content down. But I think a lot of the time there can be a bit of a brain dump when it comes to content. And actually you can end up with far too much content on a web page and I've got a stat here actually from, believe it or not, 1997, from some research from usability consultant Yakup Nielsen, who simply found that people don't read content on on web pages, found that 79 percent of users scanned the pages they came across with only 16 percent reading the page word for word. And that was back in 1997. Here we are 20 some years later. We've now got mobile, which we didn't have back then. We've now got video and obviously we've got social media and things like that. So is there a sort of an optimum length to to developing content? So it becomes something very easy to scan versus, you know, this wall of words that people might feel that they need to read.

Sarah:
Yeah, I certainly would say yeah, just to address it, doing those points backwards, to address the wall of words issue, I think it's really important to have different hierarchies of headline, to have things like box outs with stats that you can easily, literally just get at a glance, particularly, as you say, particularly on mobile, responsive sites. So I wish I had the stat for that. But the number of people who view websites on mobile smartphones and tablets is so high right now. And I think you should always keep that in mind.

Andrew:
Not only are they short on screen real estate, but they're probably short on time, they're distracted. They might have a rubbish connection. There's all sorts of things that could come into reasons why they might be reading even less on a mobile device, isn't there yet.

Sarah:
So many potential challenges there? Well, when I started my business back in 99, so that was two years after your statistic. That was barely any internet back then. So those statistics must have been based on predominantly, if not 100 percent print materials. So given that if you pick up a brochure, it's usually because it's something that you want to research or you've actively chosen to to read it. That's pretty soul destroying from a digital perspective, isn't it? So, yeah, I think it's really important to always keep in mind that, no, nobody owes you their attention and really important to think about just how noisy it is out there, how much there is competing with people's attention. And it's not just your client, sorry your competitors websites that you're competing against. It's things like they might be half listening to a podcast or half watching YouTube or half watching a box set on Netflix.

Andrew:
We're all multitasking so much these days aren't we?

Sarah:
Oh, absolutely. Yeah, yeah. Or task switching as it's as it should be called effectively. Yeah. But yeah. So there's so much that we have to compete with. It's vital that we really keep the clients that the message that the client needs to get from an interaction with your website or I suppose when you're writing a blog it's slightly different because somebody has opted to read that. But still I think use devices like pull quotes, box uts, large statistics, all the different hierarchies of headings. And things like bolds, use short, punchy paragraphs. I think that's something that is even more important than ever. If you think of looking at a website on your mobile phone, how much can you actually view in one time? If you have a paragraph that, say, four or six lines, that's probably going to take up a full screen width on a mobile phone. So I always think about keeping things short and punchy and pacy and try to infuse your writing with an energy like a lightness and an energy, because it sounds weird to say that words can have that. They very much can. And yeah, if you can kind of communicate with your clients, I love this quote. I often quote this. Nelson Mandela said, if you talk to a man in a language he understands that goes to his head, and if you talk to a man in his language that goes to his heart. So we all know that the buying decisions that turn browsers into customers are made part head, but but mainly hard. So you do have to compete on emotion. You do have to make those emotional connections. And yeah, if you can if you can use your customers language, you're far more likely to make those connections quickly and intuitively without them fighting to kind of get into your head space and use your brand language.

Andrew:
Yeah, and I think the nature of how people use the web, you know, they'll dip in and dip out. And actually, if you want your your content to resonate, it's probably going to have to sustain several touch points. And I don't really like the point you raised earlier. You've got to earn that right to have people reading your content. So, you know, if you're going to rely on someone who just flashes a page up very quickly, then perhaps somebody bumps into them because they're getting off the bus or whatever they may be go back to that while say they might be watching YouTube or they might be watching TV. They're sort of sat on the phone whiletheir partners cooking tea or whatever, there'd be all sorts of different scenarios. That content really has split seconds, doesn't it, to actually resonate. And if you're going to build a brand or encourage people to buy or take some sort of action from it, it's got to engage at every opportunity. So I suppose that's where you're having some sort of editorial design, particularly around blog posts and things like that can be really powerful because not only does it you know, you've got an opportunity for great content is laid out well, I guess that's really key for that collaboration between actually what's, what the words are going to look like, what the words say and how they're then presented through through working with designers and collaborating in that way.

Sarah:
Yeah, I could not agree more. And I was just about to add that myself. So I think great engagement is very much a partnership between great copy and great design because you can have the best written copy in the world. And if the design looks like it's straight out of the nineties, you're going to lose those clients because you're not engaging them with the visual side of things. And equally, you can have great design where the client's kind of gone. OK, well, we've really invested in design and development of this website or whatever that the piece is. We're going to cut a few corners because we're pushed to the limits of our budget. We're going to write the copy ourselves because we know our business. Nobody knows our business better than we do. But actually, yes, that is the case. But nobody can get to the nitty gritty and kind of refine and articulate the things that make your business and your brand different and special and what your unique story is and share that, nobody can do that better than a professional copywriter.

Andrew:
Yes, that's opens up a really interesting point, actually, so not every company is going to have an in-house copywriter. Not every company is going to be able to work with say a freelance copywriter or an agency copywriter, but they've perhaps invested in getting this fantastic website. It's all been beautifully designed, professionally copy written, and they've got a blog on there. So what happens after that point - how can you encourage people to make sure they're adopting a particular tone of voice or a particular style of writing as they go in, perhaps creating press releases, news announcements, blog posts or even, of course, as products and services change people will go into some of those core pages and they may not return to the same or even any other copywriter who could help them with that. So do you do put like a framework in place to help people in terms of managing their copy on an ongoing basis? What's the best way to try to help people not make mistakes around that sort of thing?

Sarah:
There are different solutions to that challenge, and one of them is certainly to get the copyrighter that you're working with on the core site to create some brand guidelines, some tone of voice guidelines, sorry, the tone of voice guidelines and house style, which is a very straightforward, easy to use document that will help you or your staff if you're determined that you don't have an ongoing budget to use copywriter support, which obviously that's the ideal scenario, isn't it Just perhaps retain a copywriter for a couple of days a month. And every time you want a new piece of content created, go to your copywriter. Or content writer. But it's. Yeah, so if you can get your copy or content writer to craft some tone of voice guidelines with a plain English guide and some sort of dos and don'ts. This is how we write about our brand. This is not what, this is what we don't do. You could use a copywriter to do some training for your staff. So book perhaps a half day workshop so you can basically get some some good pointers to your key members of staff who you want to continue on with the task of running a writing blog posts or I actually, for example, I have a lot of people come to me and say, could you write four blog posts for our business every month? And I'm actually not interested in taking on that work. For starters, I'm not a big fan of research, but that's that's probably why I like the actual web copy challenge, because that's researching the brand and the.

Andrew:
Getting under the skin, aren't you, rather than just picking up stats from thin air.

Sarah:
But what you can what you can do is if like usually the people within the company know the point that they're trying to make. They know the loose sort of subject that they want to hang the hook of the blog post on. And they've got all the information just in here. So often they might struggle to format the post or to make it punchy and pacy and all those things we talked about earlier, they might struggle to put together a strong call to action or to structure it, or they might struggle with the grammar or the spelling. So I often recommend to my clients that if they want to have ongoing blog work, they actually use me to edit their blogs. So it is far more cost effective for them because it's not getting somebody to craft something up front. Basically, they'll send me a document that is probably, as you say, way too long. It's repetitive. It doesn't get to the point. It doesn't necessarily frame things from the client's perspective. But if you can turn it on its head and that's kind of one of my superpowers, I can take that document and transform it into something that is brilliant and works brilliantly for their business.

Andrew:
But ultimately they've done the research for it and they've made sure that all the key points are captured for you to then sort of re-present it in a sense.

Sarah:
Precisely that. Yeah. Yeah. So I get a lot of my clients don't call that editing necessarily. They would send me a document, say, can you work your magic on this? So that I think is is a good way of explaining what I was talking about earlier, where clients think, you know, to me I would say that's editing, but my clients wouldn't necessarily call it that. They just they like to brain dump their thoughts, send it across to me kind of unformatted and I'll work my magic on it, as they call it.

Andrew:
So, yeah. And just coming back to the point about tone of voice, I mean, there are some very well known brands that have put a tone of voice guidelines out on the web, aren't there? So, I mean, the one that stands out for me is Monzo in terms of how they've presented tone of voice around challenging. I mean, there are challenge a bank, but in terms of challenging how they speak about banking, they've got a very comprehensive guide on the web. So if you just Google Monzo tone of voice that's easily found and mailchimp of had one as well for a long, long time. And of course, places like the BBC who are upholding sort of standards, journalist standards, they've got their own guides. So for those listeners who are perhaps thinking, oh, where do I start with a tone of voice, those are for me, those are the ones that have really stood out over the years. And I think there's even style guides and brand guidelines, which very often are out there for other people to see. What other mistakes do you tend to see in copy that has been sort of put forwards either for a website or blog or perhaps other online forms of content, email marketing as well, perhaps. What sort of mistakes do you see people making? Are they are they sort of missing the point or are they not formatting it correctly? Is it then sort of lacking a story and depth to it? What are some of the other mistakes that you might come across that sort of scream out, I could really get my magic on this.

Sarah:
Yeah, well, certainly all of the above, but also the points that we already raised with some of the ones that I was going to come to. So, for example, as we already said, when the client is focused on the story from their perspective, rather than really jumping into the shoes of the client or the potential client and seeing it from where they stand, trying to make that connection with your audience, it's really helpful. If you picture one person, you're addressing one person. So your target client, you're having a direct conversation with them. And too often businesses do that whole business speak thing. They're using esoteric terms. So terms that only someone who was really in the depths of their industry would understand. And very often they use that language to make themselves sound more intelligent. And it has the opposite effect. I think it doesn't matter whether you are a B2B business to business or a B2C business to consumer business. We are all ultimately when you're copywriting, we're human to human. So you're dealing with, so if you're in a business and dealing with, say a CFO of a business, they are a human and you still have to appeal to them and appeal to their emotions and the decision making parts of their brain and their heart. So, yeah, it's all about making connections, not being too wordy to self-interested. It's not doing the whole telling what we do, benefits, not features, you know, all those kinds of think about what the product does. So, for example, I'm going to use a really terrible technical example now. But imagine if you're buying a new TV so you've got a fifty five inch TV and it's such and such a screen thing. Yeah, a terrible example that they use these terms and you think, OK, well that kind of sounds fancy, but what does that actually mean to me as a user? It means super crystal clear picture or reliable sound quality or whatever. It's it's really getting to the nitty gritty of what your product or your service actually does rather than the technical.

Andrew:
I suppose, in that kind of example, being able to make a simple comparison as well between products. Yeah, because if it's all acronyms and abbreviations, then then that's really unhelpful, not only to understand what that particular product is, but how it compares to other products as well.

Sarah:
That's a very good point. Yeah, definitely.

Andrew:
Is there anything else that you think from a from a copywriting perspective, people who are sort of going into a website project would would find useful?

Sarah:
It's quite interesting to think about the way that the site comes together when you're when you're writing it. It doesn't necessarily make sense to start with the home page when you're writing the website. So if a business is trying to write a site for themselves, it might be a good you know, we all face that blank page syndrome, you know, where you just don't know where to start. I would always recommend starting where you are the most comfortable. So from a business perspective, if you say you know your products inside out and you're trying to pull together the information that you might want to put on the website yourself, if you are determined to write it yourself or you're putting together some briefing notes or some draft copy for a copywriter to use as a basis, start where you're the most comfortable and where you have the most in-depth knowledge. And it's OK for you to provide a ton of information for your copywriter because the copywriter is trained to sift through, I mean, pages and pages of text in many cases and actually be able to work out what it's vital to include on the page. And a mistake that a lot of people make when they're writing Web copy, particularly is putting all the information out there that you could possibly think of, all the different permutations of all you know, if you have this product, you can bolt on this and then actually think about you don't want to take away the opportunity for the potential customer to pick up the phone and have a conversation. I think it depends a lot on on the size of your business, because if you're a huge business, you don't necessarily want customers to pick up the phone. So many websites now bury the phone number so deeply, don't they, the customer service number, and try to push you towards the kind of online chat. But if you're a small business, you definitely think about driving, providing the information in a way that makes most intuitive sense. And don't worry too much about what you have and haven't included, because if you're working with a copywriter, they are just attuned to what should be and shouldn't be included. And sometimes when you take out certain information that can encourage, that could be replaced with a call to action, that could be a good opportunity to say if you're looking for something that's more personalized or a bespoke solution to your problem, pick up the phone. Let's have a chat we're the experts. We're all friendly team. We're all kind of waiting for your call. And yes, sometimes actually, when the rest of the site comes together, that is the best time to attempt to write the home page, because by that stage, you're starting to get together the core messages and the information that's really important about your business.

Andrew:
And you can cherry pick then from the pages that you probably were more comfortable with that you started with, where you might have gone a little bit over. But actually you can take bits and pieces out of that to start and pad out other sections, like a home page in particular may largely be fed from those other sections rather than having its own individual copy. I'm sure it'll have its own specific sections specific to the home page. But if you're if you're pulling in product sections, if you've got the detail from a product that you've created, then I guess it makes it a lot easier then to determine where to start and where to finish in terms of including that information elsewhere on the site.

Sarah:
Yeah, definitely, and that's a very good point, because when you've got when you've got the it comes back to the Mark Twain comment, doesn't it? When you've got the in-depth copy, it's far easier to make something long into something shorter than to make something short into something long. So if you wanted to include, for example, a product overview on your home page, scroll down a little bit like the top information, kind of grabbing the client and creating that need and then going in with the benefits. But yeah, certainly if you wanted to include a summary of some of the other pages, it's much more easy to do that. I think often people really struggle because they think, OK, well, logically, the home page should be the place to start because it's the first page anybody sees. But if you're more comfortable with your team page or you're about us, you know the story of your business, then that's just as good a place to start. And it can kind of help to clarify your thinking around the structure of the rest of the site. Also, another thing with about us pages is that it's not necessarily the story from your perspective. It's important to think about what the reader is going to take from that story. So this is where we start building in the values and the mission and the vision and why the business exists and what the purpose is behind the business. So, yeah, I love writing about pages they're just super fulfilling

Andrew:
And they're probably ripe for that sort of thing as well, because I imagine if there's one page that most people get wrong, it probably is the about page. I've got no evidence to back that up but about us, I thought perhaps the clues in the name and perhaps realistically it shouldn't be so much about you, but about how you can help a particular visitor or customer or person who has a need, a problem, pain point, how you can help them solve that, essentially.

Sarah:
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah. And I think also, if you can get as much information as possible in a story sort of format onto your about page, you might find the client because we're all fundamentally quite nosy and we want to understand the humans behind the business. So if a lot of people who land on your home page, probably the first page that they choose to click on will be the about page because they want to know the story of your business. So, yeah, it's a good opportunity to to to weave in those messages about what you deliver and the problems and the pain points that you address with your products and services and how you can, yeah. How you can communicate that with your with your clients.

Andrew:
So ultimately, you know it's all about making that connection, isn't it? And we are coming up to time now, Sarah and I've loved the conversation. But speaking of connections, do you want to share your links where people can find out more about you, where you might have the book, for example? I know you mentioned it was on Amazon. I guess that's a place for people to go find it. And where else do you hang out online?

Sarah:
Yeah, certainly, so, rather than me listing off a bunch of links, I think it's probably easiest if I direct people to survivalskillsforfreelancers.com. That website is a sort of landing page for my book, so that contains a link to buy directly from Amazon. It contains a link to my copywriting website, which is just crammed full of content, probably way too much. And it also contains links to my social media. And you can email me through that as well. If you do want to connect on social, probably LinkedIn is the best place to start with. But if you do, I'd love to have a little personalised note just to say that you've listened to Andrew's podcast and then I know where you've come from.

Sarah:
Fantastic, sounds good.

Andrew:
If anybody, by the way, is boycotting Amazon and but would still like a copy of my book, just drop me a DM somewhere and I'll happily send you a copy direct.

Andrew:
Yeah, I think I think we're seeing much more of that sort of thing where where people are, you know, they're own social values and societal values are starting to have a bit of an impact, particularly post-covid, when they were all wanting to do our bit to support smaller businesses and and play our part and help people get back on their feet. Well, Sarah, I've really enjoyed the conversation today. There's been some amazing bits of advice there that I'm sure people will find really, really helpful. So thank you so much for your time. Really appreciate it. And sharing your wisdom as well.

Sarah:
I've loved talking to you. Thank you very much for having me on.

Andrew:
So thank you to my guests, Sarah Townsend, for joining me to talk all about content, that is, as she said, about making connections and ensuring you come across as authentic putting your audience first and pairing great content with great design for maximum impact. I'll add the links that Sarah shared to a website in the show, notes which you'll be able to find along with a transcript, not only for today's episode of our previous episodes by going across to our website at adigital.agency/podcast. Before I go, I'll add a quick word about our next episode, which continues the content theme. But this time for you need content in different languages. If you're planning a multilingual website, then unless you have plenty of in country resource, you're going to need to work with a translator. That brings with it a whole new set of content challenges, not only in terms of writing the content, but potentially how it's presented as well. So do join me for the next episode, which will be out on your favourite podcast up in a couple of weeks time. So I'll wrap up there. Don't forget, I'd love to hear from you. Whether that's by leaving a rating or review or by getting in touch with me, you can drop me a line to hello@theclientside.show. I'm Andrew Armitage, you've been listening to the Clientside podcast. I hope you'll join me again for the next episode. But for now, take care and see you next time.

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It's quite interesting to think about the way that the site comes together when you're when you're writing it. It doesn't necessarily make sense to start with the home page when you're writing the website. So if a business is trying to write a site for themselves, we all face that blank page syndrome, you know, where you just don't know where to start. I would always recommend starting where you are the most comfortable.

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