Why your website text is NOT about your business

No, it’s not a typo.

It’s not about you

You lose count, don’t you, of the number of websites you see that talk all about the company concerned, when it started, what it prides itself on, and all manner of other “we-wee” words.

how to write good business website text by Suzan St Maur on HTWB

It starts on the “home page” with a lot of information your customers don’t need yet, if at all.

Then you go to the “about us” page and there’s more information that’s not relevant to what your customers are looking for (do they really care where the founder went to college in the 1950s?).

Next we go to “products / services” and read a whole lot more about the details of what the company does, without telling us why those services are important or what they can do for us.

“FAQ” pages are a good laugh, too. More often than not they consist of some thinly-disguised prompts for yet more information about the company itself, and maybe a bit more irrelevant stuff about products and services.

Eventually we have “meet the team” where we see badly lit, amateurish photos of key personnel accompanied by details of their experience, education, hobbies, favourite vacation venues, etc. (Not how any of these benefit the company’s customers today.)

“Testimonials” are another area of entertainment, too, when they make you cringe as they’re so bland, boring, and exactly the same as everyone else’s boring testimonials. Some are so bad you’d think the website owner had made them up.

Finally we get to the “contact us” page and are faced with a long list of questions **asterisked** because they are compulsory, so scaring off many readers who – despite the latest European directives and rulings on data security – don’t like to think of Company X knowing their inside leg measurement.

And don’t forget the “blog” … in a truly bad site there will be only two or three posts, all at least three years old.

Oh, and another thing: a “video.” Because video is a) very cheap to make and b) fashionable, website owners are squinting through their IPhones and making ditzy little movies of themselves or the boss peering over the viewfinder, hair all nicely backlit with a plant growing out of one ear, talking in a strangled, squeaky voice for at least five minutes of drivel.

Now I know some people think these painfully amateurish videos are “honest, because they are so obviously home-made.” Do you want your readers and customers to think your whole business is honest (OK, sure) – but home-made? Shot by an amateur with camera shake that’s right off the Richter scale?

So what IS your business website text all about?

It’s all about “what’s in it for me, your customer.”

Even if your website isn’t selling anything, you still – presumably – want people to read it / listen / watch your video etc. and stay around for a while.

Human nature being what it is, however, unless you provide readers with a damned good reason or three to continue reading / listening / watching, they will go look at another site. (Probably your competitor’s.)

Achieving this is not rocket science, however. It’s merely a matter of removing yourself from the subjective, “we-wee” orientation that comes naturally to all of us, and roleplay yourself into your customers’ perspective.

As any well-trained sales person will tell you, people are not impressed by features … at least not until they are very familiar with the benefits that are in it for them, and delivered to them by your company. As I always say in my country-girl Canadian way, “features smell: benefits sell.” It’s not romantic and only vaguely poetic but it’s true.

And of course, it’s the benefits that answer the customers’ question, “what’s in it for me?”

So, put aside all the elements of your business that make you proud, that have kept you up several nights in a row, that have nearly bankrupted you – I know, it hurts – and see your business as a prospective customer does. Then, write your text accordingly.

The home page

Use the home page to assure readers that they’ve come to the right place. Quickly. There are various urban legends about how many seconds it takes before a reader will click on somewhere else if not attracted by your site, and all estimates are very short.

Remind readers why they’re here, too, e.g. if you’re looking for the highest quality carpets and curtains at sensible prices in the XXXtown region, you have arrived.

Then back that up with a little about the company, but only enough to establish your credibility.

Then, shut up, after a line that says something e.g. without further ado, let us show you how our individual products and services work for you – (and they click on to the products/services.)

Products / services

Website owners often leave this almost to the last item on the tool bar, which strikes me as a bit foolish, because in many cases this is what the reader has come to look for in the first place before getting into “about us” or “FAQ.”

Use enough words to explain the products/services and how they benefit you the reader, with features listed afterwards, preferably in bullet points. If there is a lot of technical feature information, only use the key points here and include a PDF download with the details. That way the technically minded can read it at their leisure but the non-techies don’t have to wade through it all.

Make sure there is a strong call to action on this page, repeated a couple of times if it’s a long page. Don’t confuse readers with a lot of different names and contact options – pick one or at the most two at this stage, BUT make sure there is the opportunity there for them to click straight through to your business and not have to fiddle about on the contact page if they’re ready to buy/enquire further now.

About us

This is where your storytelling techniques (or those of your copywriter!) come in.

Rather than dwell on how the company was set up or how long it has been operating, try to find a more “human” angle – maybe a very short little story, but always keeping the ultimate benefit in mind.

E.g. the founder was fed up with poor quality services available elsewhere, wanted to set up a service that was good enough for her friends and family without charging silly money, has now been doing just that for hundreds of customers and still offers you (customer) the same value that inspired her XX years ago… etc.

Why website text is NOT about you or your business

Meet the team

If the business is quite small with three or fewer staff you can incorporate this in with the “about us” information. However with a larger crowd it’s a good idea to separate them off so you keep each individual section of the site fairly light and easily digestible in content.

Whatever you do, do NOT use people’s vacation or wedding photos: invest in a professional to come to your premises and “shoot” each person properly with decent lighting. Bad, unprofessional photos make you and the company look unprofessional.

Keep the accompanying text short and sweet and focus the business element on how the person helps customers, not just what they do. By all means help readers get to know the individuals a bit by sharing their hobbies and family information but keep it short and if possible, interesting. Everyone these days likes cycling, relaxing with friends, and watching TV…

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Rather than repeat everything here, check out this article – Your FAQ Page: how to make it help sell your business.

To sum up, though … try to use real FAQs. Fake ones stick out like the clich├ęd sore thumb, no matter how sneaky you think they are.

Testimonials

Once again, rather than repeat everything here … have a read of these articles:

Good testimonials: how to make them write themselves

How to get a good testimonial – 10 Quick Tips

Contact us page

Try to keep this as simple and uncluttered as possible.

Often there is quite a lot of information you need to convey including a variety of contact options, mailing address, etc. so do put yourself in the hands of a good website designer who can lay it out so it’s easy to follow and find what the reader wants.

Blog

If you have a blog option, either use it or dump it altogether. There’s nothing that looks more unprofessional and just plain neglected than a couple of dusty old blog posts dating back to 2013.

For more information on how to write good blog posts and/or what you can write about, if you need some inspiration, check out the articles in this section.

You may also like to have a look at my recent book, How To Write Brilliant Business Blogs, available on all the Amazons.

Video

This one is simple. Create its content just as you do for the written version, focusing on benefits.

For much more information on how to make good, professional-but-not-expensive video for websites and other online applications, check out this series of articles/tutorials here.

And what’s the most important thing to remember?

Your business website is NOT about you

…it’s about how your business benefits your customers. Keep this in mind whatever you write for your website and you won’t go far wrong.

How does your business website stack up in this regard? Please share!

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