Web Content 101: Copywriting and Your Business

What is Web Page Content?

When you read an article on a company’s blog, a product description, a welcome page or any other piece of text associated with that business, you are reading content, which is also sometimes called copy. (For the uninitiated, this can be a little confusing, as “copy” should actually be as fresh and original as possible for the best results!)

Beyond the obvious information-providing function of content, businesses also use it to get noticed, beat their competitors and help define the image and “feel” of their brand.

Why Do I Need Web Page Content?

Search engines are special websites that help web users find things online, and Google is by far the most popular and commonly used. Content is one of a handful of digital tools that help businesses climb up the search engine results pages in Google, putting them near the top of the list where they are more likely to be clicked.

Google uses a complicated (and mostly secret) system of calculations called an algorithm to figure out the best sites to offer as results for a particular search. Google knows that if a web user doesn’t get good quality results, they’ll likely grow frustrated and use another search method, and like any business, Google doesn’t want to lose customers. For this reason, the search engine tends to reward businesses that use well-written relevant content with higher positions in the search listings. Using “bad” content with grammatical and spelling errors is conversely punished, and can knock a business down the listing ladder. Copying content is one of the biggest errors companies make, as taking a competitor’s text and using it as your own can get you blacklisted from Google altogether!

Good content writing = better search engine placement = more customer traffic!

Is Web Page Content All I Need?

Web page content is only a piece of the overall puzzle when it comes to effectively marketing your business. It’s a great start, but don’t forget you’ll need graphic artists and IT help when it comes to assembling a website that looks and performs well.

In most cases, a content writer or copywriter is only responsible for words – that means that if you need graphics, site design, marketing or other tasks done, you’ll need additional team members.

A Feature Spotlight on WriterAccess.com

In addition to my private clientele, I’ve had the pleasure of working with the team at WriterAccess for several years now in a freelance capacity. Recently, they chose to spotlight my writing and career in a weekly writer interview segment, and I was very flattered!

writeraccess-logo

If you’d like to read the interview, in which I discuss my roots as a writer as well as the unusual niches I specialize in, you can view it here: Delany Martinez “ThatWordChick” Writer Access Interview

Thanks again, WriterAccess team! I owe you guys coffee and donuts the next time I visit Boston.

A Grateful Nod to an Amazing Sculptor

When I was a young girl of 13 or so, I had just finished fifth grade under the tutelage of a wonderful and brilliant woman by the name of Helen Vile. She taught me to open up my mind and put the first inklings of my passionate love for writing into my still-growing brain. Once a day in Mrs. Vile’s class, we’d line up and march over to a classroom across the school, where we’d trade places with a classroom of children in the grade above us, students of the infamous Mr. Deane. Our class would visit Mr. Deane for Spanish lessons, while the 6th graders would visit Mrs. Vile for English lessons.

Spanish was an ordeal, especially at that tender age. The high-energy Mr. Deane would tease and quiz and keep us constantly on edge – you didn’t attend Mr. Deane’s Spanish class so much as you endured it like a bilingual hurricane. He gestured, he spun, he would even break into song when the mood suited him, which was often. He was a one-of-a-kind act and – though I couldn’t appreciate it then – a truly incredible person.

In time, I passed Mrs. Vile’s class and moved on to the coveted sixth grade, a mere year from the nirvana-like twinklings of Junior High School in the distance. This, however, meant that for a year I needed to suffer under the puppet-strings of Deane, equally feared and respected by the 6th graders that had occupied the seats only a summer prior. I went into my first day as a 6th grader with a heavy heart and a knot in my stomach, dreading a long school year with the man who seemed to single me out for picking on in Spanish. I was invited into my school’s Gifted and Talented program, or G&T, and Mr. Deane was the educational gatekeeper, herding our young minds into some semblance of order. I had set my heels and gritted my teeth, and I glared at the flamboyant Hispanic man in the front of the room, ready to do battle for 6th grade supremacy. I was defiant at every turn, constantly sneaking Nancy Drew novels to read in the hollow of my desk, forgetting my homework and experimenting with my newly-discovered sense of sarcasm at the expense of my teacher. He bore it all with grace, sarcasm of his own and a blinding stage-worthy smile that a Broadway choreographer couldn’t outshine.

He teased me. He made fun of me in ways that today’s politically-correct classroom would try to spin into lawsuits. But he treated all of us as equals, he spoke to us as adults and we all came to learn that year that the teasing only happened when we got lazy. He knew we knew the answer, and taking the easy way out garnered you a healthy dose of Mr. Deane’s razor-sharp wit. We learned not to take the easy way out to avoid it, and that clever bastard managed to do for a roomful of 6th graders what entire school administrations can’t begin to today.

He took our SAT-level vocabulary book and painstakingly worked six or seven of our week’s words into a rewritten news article about some international event – I learned effervescent and ubiquitous alongside the political leanings of Arafat. He wrote these – god only knows with how much of his free time – and covertly taught us about the entire world while we were busy puzzling out the vocabulary words. This learning-within-learning was a signature style of Mr. Deane’s, and as a result we’d come out of the classroom each day able to hold adult-level conversations without realizing it.

He tossed us the newspaper for a lesson, instructing us to pick a profession, an apartment, and a used car out of the classified ads. He let us have it with both barrels, tearing through our faux income with taxes, insurance, loan repayments, food, utilities and unexpected expenses, little by little. He nickel and dimed us to death. He left us penniless, wide-eyed and slack jawed – but he prepared us for the realities of life, and I doubt a single one of us stumbled out of High School four years later without remembering the shock and awe of that particular day of 6th grade. He made adults into humans for us, and made us realize – even for just a moment – how much our parents truly did for us each day.

We did science – real science, not flashy add chemical A to chemical B entertainment – and we kept a dedicated journal that needed to be written in the third person. We were reporters scooping ourselves, and to this day I can close my eyes and see notebook page after notebook page, “Today, young scientists…” at the top of each.

Midway through the year, we put on an operetta. A real, true, honest-to-god operetta. Costumes, sets, props, singing and choreographed dancing. It wasn’t a drama class or an extracurricular activity, it was just another thing that happened in 6th grade. Every class of Mr. Deane’s included a mandatory Gilbert & Sullivan operetta performance, and my now-7th grade friend had already related to me the rigors associated with the previous year’s Pirates of Penzance. Facing stage fright or an alternate 20-page paper, we all suited up in pantaloons and ridiculous hats and pulled together a hell of a Ruddigore of our own. I learned how to cope with the eyes of my peers on me, speak clearly and cooperate soundlessly behind the scenes between acts. I learned why the show must go on, why sometimes bad people need to get good parts, that being upset can be just as easily turned into motivation as tears and that maybe, just maybe, Mr. Deane actually knew what the hell he was doing.

Mr. Deane probably still remembers me some 20 years later, mainly because I vexed that poor man with some of the strangest problems he’d probably ever seen in the classroom. I pried out all four of my molars with a pen cap, four days in a row, just to get out of science class. I broke my wrist and managed to lose 2 or 3 pens in my cast trying to scratch my arm. Three days before graduation, I managed to get my thumb stuck in a novelty globe pencil sharpener.

Mr. Roberto Deane – Mr. Roberto Font-Russell, Mr Roberto Font of Vermont, as I’m unsure what you go by these days – I’ve unsuccessfully tried to hunt you down to tell you how much you’ve done to make me, well…me…in that short year, and what an incredible person you were to make education a brave new world instead of towing the curriculum line. You were weird and wonderful, and I hope like hell my children have a teacher exactly like you some day. Thank you for sculpting my mind into the freelancing powerhouse it is today – I owe a debt to a lot of English teachers along the way, but it Mrs. Vile that laid the kindling, and it was your spark that lit the fire.

 

 

Learn How to Write for Money Online

ThatWordChick.com is my business site, and as such I endeavor to keep non-business-related posts elsewhere. I debated putting my Freelance Writer Guide on this site, but I was concerned that such a large chunk of information would cloud this site’s purpose – to connect with freelance writing clients and keep my portfolio visible.

I’ve now posted the entirety of my freelance writing eBook at Freelance Writer Guide for free, as I hope it will help more fledgling freelancers get into the business. I will also be posting reviews of freelance writing sites on that page, including updates on my Textbroker reviews and Freelancer reviews. Upcoming subjects also include:

  • MediaPiston Reviews
  • CloudCrowd Reviews
  • Odesk Reviews
  • Constant Content Reviews

So stay tuned, and be sure to keep the site in your reader or bookmarks. Thanks for stopping by!

-Delany M.
 ThatWordChick

ThatWordChick.com

 

Hire a Freelancer

Those who need to hire a freelancer can be looking for a number of things –  a decent product description for a retail site, a ghost-writer for a blog to drive traffic, or a creator of informative articles that give substantive content to site visitors. There are many different sites out there that will allow someone with a job to find someone seeking to work, but the prospective employer should spend his or her money wisely and investigate the benefits of each.

What Is A Freelancer?

A freelancer is an individual who typically works on their own doing various skilled tasks for a variety of employers; writers, for the purpose of this article. Occasionally, these writers will be in a writing group, team, or collective that is linked professionally, but more often they work on their own. They take care of their own tax considerations, making them a great choice for employers who only need a few things done but don’t want the hassle of filing forms. If the cumulative payments to a single freelancer reach $600 in a given year, however, the employer should request the freelancer give them a W-9 form to keep on file beyond the $600 mark.

How Do I Work With A Freelancer?

Hiring a freelancer the correct way should take a fairly routine path from discovery to project completion.

1.) The employer posts a job on a freelance for hire website, clearly defining their project, goals, time line and expectations.

2.) The employer selects a freelancer either through direct choice or by picking a winner in the bidding process that most freelancer sites offer.

3.) The employer makes initial contact with the winner, confirming they intend to do the project, and reaffirming goals and time line. Contact information, such as office phone numbers and email addresses should be shared now, in order to keep in contact throughout the project. This is the stage in the process where payment method would also be confirmed; most freelance sites have a built-in payment system, which often takes a large fee from the freelancer in return, but offers intervention services for the employer if the project goes sour.  (If the freelancer is trustworthy and can provide a portfolio or references, they would generally always prefer to be paid directly through a payment site like paypal, rather than going through the freelance website.  This is a judgment call the employer can make, based on how they feel about the freelancer’s professionalism.)

4.) The project begins, and the freelancer should give periodic updates in accordance with the goals and time line mentioned in the original job posting.

5.) The project ends, and the freelancer submits the final project for confirmation and approval. After approval, which should be done as soon as possible by the employer, the employer is expected to pay in a timely fashion.

6.) If the employer withholds pay without a reason, or does not pay in a timely fashion, the freelancer may report the employer, or place them on an industry “blacklist” to warn other freelancers. Likewise, if the freelancer does not perform their duties, the employer may review or rate them poorly on the freelance site to warn other employers not to hire them. Generally, this does not happen in the age of email, as communication is quick and simple, and problems in the process are easily avoided through communication.

What Can I Expect To Pay For A Freelancer?

The subject of payment rates can vary wildly, depending on the freelancer. Most freelancers have a favorite task – some like descriptions, others are excellent at rewriting – and can sometimes offer a slightly lower rate on methods and subjects they are most comfortable with, for obvious reasons. In general, if you are paying less than .01 a word, expressed within the industry as 1/100, you risk getting sub-par work that may have errors in grammar, flow, and even spelling.  There are many foreign copy “pools” of workers that are no better than literary sweat shops, and while they can turn out a high volume of words, very cheaply, the end results will make your business look worse, not better.

As an aside, you should, whenever possible, hire a domestic (United States Based) freelancer for copy and writing work in English. While a foreign freelancer might have a good overall grasp of the language, even certain subtle differences in phrasing will instantly tip off your customers to the fact your writer isn’t American.  When you are hiring an American freelancer, you can be sure that you are getting solid and fluent English work, written in the voice of a native speaker.  Another important note is to look for individualized interest; if the same pat or unrelated text is pasted in every bid a freelancer makes on a website, it isn’t a stretch to assume their work may also be rather generic or cut-and-paste.  Select bids that make mention of your project directly, and hire freelancers that take the time to send a private message about the project to you.

Your Business, Your Voice

You’ve worked hard to get where you are – every decision, every expense, every risk is a weight that a business owner has chosen to shoulder. Whether you’ve been a business for days, months, or years, having one is a lot like having a child – it is a persistent presence in your life, and one that needs special care and attention to grow into your desired future. When you work on building your brand, you may focus on pictures, logos, colors….but have you considered your words carefully?

The best picture, even worked over by the most brilliant photo editor in the world, may actually have a negative effect on your business if it is coupled with a poorly written, inaccurate, or even misspelled description. I see it this way – If you spend an hour dressing up but forget to put deodorant on, which do you think your date will remember: how polished you looked, or how badly you smelled?

Words are an inextricable part of any object or service being sold; even among those who “don’t read”, these carefully crafted blurbs define your business image. Ignore them at your profit’s peril!