Someone once told me they didn't see the value in copywriting.
It didn't surprise me. They were just airing aloud what I imagine lots of people think.
After all, words are just words. Most of us use them everyday. And most of us write in some form everyday.
You don't have to know how to code. You don't have to be artistic. You don't need to know how to use Photoshop.
And what's more, why would you ask someone else to write about your business? Who else could possibly know more about it than you?
And that's true. The client will always know more about the ins and outs of their own business.
And often, therein lies the problem. Stemming the information overflow. Curtailing the jargon. Sticking to what's essential to the reader.
This can all get forgotten in a mass of detail about who's who, what's what, and generally how excellent your business is. (Because it probably is excellent. But there's a better way to let people know it is — which we'll come to below.)
So what is the value of copywriting?
1. It all starts with content.
"We can’t focus so much on technology that we forget the web is often, and quite gloriously, a transaction between reader and writer." - Jeffrey Zeldman.
In a society where design is finally being acknowledged as a practical, solutions-focused tenet at the centre of all business and social innovation — not simply an aesthetic shiny glaze — something else has been happening too.
More and more creatives and companies are placing importance on a design process that starts with content. (Some creative industry titans, such as Jeffrey Zeldman and John Moore Williams have been extolling the virtues of content-first design for years. See below for recommended reading on the subject.)
So instead of delivering a beautiful website to clients, with empty spaces or lorum ipsum to replace with words — those words become integral to the design itself. The words are part of the design.
But why? If the design is fantastic, does the copy really matter?
The short answer? Yes.
2. User Experience
While people may not read everything you write — in fact, they'll probably read a small proportion of what you write — that's even more reason to ensure your copy is doing a good job of leading the reader to the right places.
Your copy should be giving them the information they want at a glance; and making their experience of your website intuitive.
Most importantly, your words are there to be useful.
It's a mistake to believe that as long as the information's in there somewhere, it will get read.
Website content isn't about filler. In an age where people are dealing with content bombardment and sensory overload on a daily basis, streamlining to include only what matters to the user, is a deft art.
User experience design has become increasingly important to businesses, who understand that if their site isn't user-friendly, website users aren't stuck for choice. They'll simply move on to a competitor site within seconds.
And getting user experience right means taking into account just that — the total experience of the user. Down to the copy that explains the benefits of your product or service, to the words that tell them where clicking a button will take them. From the guiding navigation from page to page, to the error message if something doesn't go to plan.
When the words on your page are there for the benefit, clarification and delight of the user, they'll be of far more value to your bottom line.
3. Search Engine Optimisation
Factoring SEO into web copywriting is, fundamentally, an extension of the user experience.
Because, whilst yes, you're optimising for Google and other search engines — at its heart, SEO has a human-centric purpose.
Search engines exist as our means of navigating the vast web. And we use them to the extent that 'googling' has become a part of our day-to-day vocabulary.
So when we're 'optimising' the copy on a web page — if we're doing so correctly — we're simply making it easier for internet users to find information which is relevant and useful to them.
Why copywriting matters?
Ultimately yes, it's only words.
But, coupled with design, they're one half of the most important communication tool your business has.
Get them right, and they'll take you far.
Some recommended reading:
Why Content Comes First John Moore Williams
Forget Coding: Writing is Design's Unicorn Skill Katherine Schwab article on John Maeda's 2017 Design in Tech report
The Best Kept UX Secret is…Writers? Ann Buechner