Why copywriters use screen grabs to show off their web work
You want your copy to last, to repay your investment. But all too often beautiful copy gets poured down the drain – tweaked and mangled beyond recognition so it no longer does its job. It’s a big problem on websites – how does it all go so wrong?
I’ve been thinking a lot about sustainable copy recently. That’s copy, not coffee. And maybe I am jumping on the sustainable bandwagon but I don’t think so. If you’re spending money on copy, you really want it to last. You don’t want to be throwing your precious resources down the drain. If you want to know how to invest wisely in copy, take a look at a post I wrote over on LinkedIn.
But what happens when you don’t think long-term about your copy?
I’m going to talk about web copy here, and you’ll see why.
Here’s a test. Take a look at a copywriter’s website. A copywriter whose work you love and respect. In these days of digital you’d expect their portfolio to show off glorious web successes. But what you’ll actually find in many cases are print materials and screen grabs of websites. Not a lot of live links.
Why is this? Well, some of us have a soft spot for print work – I love that moment when the first copies of a job drop through my letterbox and I can stroke the beautiful paper and snuff up the deep and glorious odour of ink. I show it off whenever I can.
I enjoy my web work too. But it’s a sad truth that most copywriters rarely use our web work to promote what we do simply because we know that unless we keep a constant eye on our clients’ websites, we stand a good chance of sending our devoted followers to website horrors that we absolutely don’t want to be associated with.
I’m not going to share any here because I respect my clients.
Even when they don’t always respect my work.
I’ve found typos, really glaring ones, on home pages that I know were perfect only a day or two before. Appalling ungrammatical and unreadable phrases too. Words that just aren’t in the client’s tone of voice. How did that happen?
I know precisely what happened. Someone panicked about SEO. They told the web designer, or Joey from Sales (who did English at university) to add key words to the home page OR GOOGLE WON’T FIND US. So they just lobbed key words in, more or less randomly.
And, sorry, designers, most of you can’t spell. And a lot of you have almost no idea of how words work, beyond the way they look on a page. (I LOVE designers who have a feel for language as well as design. You know you you are. You are my happy people.) And Joey, you may know Samuel Beckett but you can’t write copy.
Back to the horrible web pages. I’ll have thought long and hard about SEO, so Google was going to find you – I’d carefully crafted the copy to pull them in. There were long-tail phrases. Relevant content. And of course, there should be meta-descriptions, though I rarely have access to the back end so can’t put them in myself, even if I suggest them. There’s a frustration for another day, another blog.
I get sad about the mess, not just because my lovely words have been tangled and lost some of their power. But because my client – whose site this is, and who has every right to change it as much or as often as they like – hasn’t understood what the copy was doing for them. They’ve paid me for good work, and in a few moments they’ve wasted it.
I looked at ways you can make sure your copy stays fabulous in my LinkedIn post. The long and short of it is, if you invest in your copy(writer) and treat us well, you will be rewarded in (Google)heaven.