Using this worksheet as a first step in any web development project will help prevent some of the most common (and costly) mistakes. But the value is not the worksheet itself, it’s the consulting process that goes into it and the WHY behind each element.
As a web copywriting specialist, I can honestly say that at least 70% of new prospects are looking for someone to fix the copy on existing websites.
Most “generalist” web copywriters will see and fix copy-specific issues (spelling & grammar errors, excessive filler/fluff, etc.) and this might help raise conversions or lower the bounce rate a little bit... but the problem usually runs much deeper than that.
Whether you work as a web copywriter or a website designer/developer, understanding the consulting process behind this worksheet will help build an effective website that stands on a stronger foundation. It may seem overwhelming at first, adding an “extra step of work”, but that extra step will save clients from needing to scrap everything and start over to fix a website that isn’t getting results.
Start with the architecture.
The first part of mapping out a website is the site map, sometimes shown as a mind map. A list of the web pages and the navigational structure.
That’s pretty basic. But then you should help with...
For each individual web page, there should be a Purpose. Too many DIY and “cheap” websites are built all wrong, by relying on inspiration from what someone else has on their site. Instead, focusing on page purpose encourages clients to look inward and focus on the information that they do have, and narrow the structure down to pages they need.
Eliminate the question of “what should we say on this page?” and focus instead on “how should we say that?”
“Know who, exactly, you’re writing to.”
If a customer doesn’t know who their best customer is, then it should be part of the web development/consulting process to help them figure it out! The target audience, including state of mind, often changes from one page to the next. The copy should reflect that!
Expect visitors to only glimpse at any web page.
Within 10 seconds, they will make a decision about sticking around for more. That first impression has to count, and it’s one of many reasons why copy and design work together to support functionality.
This element is especially important. Most of the “broken” websites I’ve helped fix were weak because there was just too much. Too much information, too many options, too much “clutter”, too many words... no obvious impact or next action.
People don’t have the time or patience to look for the information they’re looking for.
The concept of a call-to-action is probably drilled in your head. You have to have one, yes. But not every reader/visitor is going to take the action you want them to take. “Buy Now” or “Call for a Quote” are both actions that take commitment.
It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. The call to action is your Primary Goal, but it really helps to give alternative options. A silver prize (”Subscribe for special offers”) and a consolation prize (”Follow us on Facebook”) for prospective customers who just aren’t ready to go all the way, yet.
Yeah, I’ll use this worksheet to go through the “SEO stuff” (Meta Title, Description, and Keywords). It helps keep everything organized together in one place, and it’s easier for multiple specialists to collaborate together and support each other.
The process that goes into completing this worksheet is covered in greater detail in the Advanced Website Copywriting Course. Paying attention to these details, and understanding why they matter, is worth the extra effort during development so you can avoid the need for repairing common flaws down the road. See a sample of the worksheet here.