Thursday August 24, 2017

Website Refresh: How to Update Lots of Webpage Copy Without Going Crazy

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Website updates don’t always take the form of a complete makeover. In fact, you can considerably improve the search engine optimization and conversion rates of your website with some smart page copy and structure updates.

Although not necessarily as massive of a project as a website redesign (a project involving a complete overhaul of the look and functionality of a website), website refreshes still have the potential to be an overwhelming project to complete. Typically, a refresh involves updating page structure and copy throughout a website. For a website with many pages and/or content-heavy pages, the prospect of updating the entire website can be downright panic-inducing.

To help cut down on some of this stress, we’re sharing the process we use with our clients as we conduct website copy and structure refreshes. Follow the steps below to take a smart, strategic approach to tackling this project and produce a website targeted to your audiences’ needs.

Step One: Identify the Messaging Priority of Each Page

If visitors can only take away one key message after visiting each page, what should that message be? 

By determining the most important marketing message for each page, you'll be able to develop a template for the page along with copy that better supports this message. There are likely a handful of messages you'd like your readers to remember, but considering that the average American spends nearly 11 hours a day consuming media, your chances of them all sticking are slim. 

This isn't to say that you shouldn't include other messages. They should, however, be used as secondary or supporting messages for your primary message. 

Here are a few examples of potential primary messages of pages: 

  • On a page highlighting a service you provide, you may choose to focus on the fact that your organization has access to powerful technology that allows it to do its job quicker and more accurately than competitors.
  • On a page highlighting a specific product, you may choose to emphasize the most jaw-dropping benefit of using it. If your product allows HR managers to pick out quality job candidates 50% faster than the leading recruiting product, lead with that.
  • On a company "About Us" page, you may use your company's rapid growth as a tool for telling the story of your success.

While the above mentioned primary messages should serve as a north star for your page’s messaging, you should also be considering the secondary messages that will support your key takeaway. Some examples of secondary messages may include:

  • On a service page, you may include how much money you save clients every year as a way to support the primary message of having technology that allows you to do your job more quickly and accurately. 
  • On a product page, you may include the fact that your software was developed with input from real HR professionals, allowing the software to be created with their needs in mind, to support the idea that the product helps them pick out job candidates 50% quicker.
  • On a company “About Us” page, you may include information about the experience and expertise of your employees that allowed the company to grow at such a fast rate. 

Step Two: Determine the Structure of Each Page

Once you've prioritized the message of each page, you'll want to consider the flow of your page.

There's a reason we’re considering the structure — or updated page template and placement of content — before updating page copy. When you’re considering a page from a structural point of view, you're able to visualize what types of information are placed throughout the page instead of what specific language is used. This is particularly helpful when considering the placement of images, testimonials and other supporting media that isn't just plain copy.

If you know what your template will look like, you can then write copy that fits into the page structure you want, instead of needing to update pre-written copy so that it makes sense in the context of your overall page. This is a time-saving measure that will keep you from backtracking to readjust copy to fit on your page.

Some things to consider when updating your structure include:

  • What types of information can I include that will support my main page message? Consider photos, videos, testimonials, links to additional resources like blog posts or ebooks, etc.
  • Which of these bits of information should be placed higher on the page so that visitors will see them earlier in their page visit? Your page should introduce the main takeaway first, and then introduce new supporting ideas in order of importance. That is to say, the second most important takeaway for your page should be placed far higher on the page than an interesting fact that isn't likely to sway a reader to convert.
  • How much content is on the page? A problem I've seen my own clients encounter frequently is page content overload. If you're anything like them, you have a lot of information that you consider crucial to the marketing of your product or service. Chances are, however, that some of the content you share is either not actually that important for a lead during their initial research phase (when they first are reviewing your website to see if your offering is a potential good fit), if it at all. There's likely information that is better suited to be shared during a sales conversation (like really technical details of a product) that can be removed from the page. By removing unnecessary information, your visitors will be able to more easily focus on — and remember — the main takeaway of each page.

I recommend creating a wireframe for each page template (keep in mind some pages may be able to use the same template) so you can visualize your page structure. This will help you identify issues with your proposed template update before you've put more time into putting it onto paper the web. There are a number of wireframe tools available, but I personally use Moqups.

Step Three: Update Page Copy

By the time you reach the third step — updating page copy — you'll probably have a good idea of what you want to say.

Using your wireframe as a reference, begin writing copy for each section of the page. Start at the top with the most important message and work your way down. As you write, be sure to continually ask yourself, "Does this copy support the page's goal?" If it doesn't, the copy needs to be nixed. 

As you write, keep in mind the amount of space you've allocated to each section. Many people get tripped up when writing web copy because there isn't a physical barrier – like the edge of a sheet of paper – that forces them to limit the length of their copy. While your wireframe only serves as a rough visualization, you should do your best to stay true to the amount of space originally intended. Remember, we aren't looking to overload readers with information. We want them to leave with a clear understanding of the most important message the page shares. 

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you to consult Google Analytics and other SEO tools at your disposal to ensure that you are incorporating the right keywords into your copy —without going overboard. While it’s important to get the message right, it’s just as important to make sure that you’re doing what you can to make sure your pages show up in relevant search results. 

Once you've completed these three steps, you'll be ready to work with your web designer to update the page templates on your website and get the copy and additional media loaded in. Hopefully organizing the process as outlined above will allow you to reduce the stress and back-and-forth that is commonly associated with completing a large website refresh.

Written by Brittney Lane

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