So many business owners struggle with writing. When it comes time to write great content for their website, they either hit writers block, or write content that only their peers would understand.
In this episode we provide the key points any business owner needs to keep in mind when writing content designed to market their produts or services on their website. We answer common questions such as:
How much should you write?
Is less more?
What about SEO?
Do people read anymore?
Why does Ernest Hemingway matter?
How can you be effective and persuasive in your writing?
How can you be like Apple in your writing?
And so much more.
Hello, and welcome back to Worry Free Marketing, a podcast. I’m your host, Matt D’Rion, with my
cohost, Chad Lane. Today, we are going to be following up on our last podcast, which was breaking
down the components to creating an effective website that sells and pays for itself. Last podcast, I
believe we talked about SEO, search engine optimization. And this podcast, we will be talking about
copy or copywriting.
So that’s the subject here, copywriting for your website. How are you doing today, Chad?
Writing words [crosstalk 00:00:38] putting them on there. Yeah.
How are you doing today?
How are you doing today?
Oh, I’m doing pretty good. Doing pretty good. I love talking about copywriting.
That’s how you got into this business, as I recall, and as you’ve mentioned before. You had started
writing for people. Some background for everyone. I had a little solopreneur marketing business going
that I started on my own. And it was just me, and I was focusing on the technology side. And you had a
consulting business going, where you were doing a lot of writing, and you were helping businesses and
nonprofits. And you ended up doing a lot of writing. So it really is something that has a lot of … You have
a lot of affinity for it. Like it’s where it all began for you. Like for me, it all began with the computer and
the internet. And for you, this business for you and us being partners begins with copywriting and
strategy, were your two things. And there you go. Anyway, we’ll have to tell the story sometime on a
separate podcast, of how we got going together as business partners.
I mean, there’s more to it. I could talk for 10 minutes about that. I mean, there’s a whole thing. But for
me, it was internet and technology. And for you, it was strategy and writing. And so today we’re going to
be talking about actually those two things and how they go into a website.
Yeah. I would say it was a major breakthrough for me personally to realize, because I had always had a
interest in writing and wanted to write novels and short stories and that sort of thing. And then it was a
major breakthrough to realize that, the heavy desire and a need with websites for well-written content.
Yeah. Hundred percent.
So one of the things that I try to look at when we pick these podcast topics is common misconceptions
or myths about the topic we’re talking about. And with copywriting specifically, and content for your
website, there is a myth that I see perpetrated by minimalist designers. They mean well, and they do
this. And then also sometimes by business owners. I think they’re parroting something they’ve heard.
But the myth is, nobody reads anymore. They say, “Well, no, that website, it’s too wordy. Nobody reads
anymore. Everybody wants everything so fast, and no one’s really going to spend any time on the
website. And I don’t want it to be so wordy. Nobody reads anymore.” And this is something that I
encounter more than half the time when we are discussing getting a website going for people. I know I
have things to say about that, but I bet you have some things to say about that also.
Well, on the opposite side, I have another myth. Yeah, the too wordy thing is an interesting thing to
discuss. And then on the other side, we touched on this a little bit on the last podcast, but getting too
creative with the content.
Right. Anyway, so I think there’s a fine balance there on writing the content for a site that’s pretty
important to discuss. On the too wordy-
Give an example of getting too creative. Give us an example of that for the listener to go, “Why getting
too creative with the content?”
A couple of my inspirations on writing content coming from Strunk & White, which is … They wrote a
book called … Gosh, what is the name of it? I just blanked on it.
Something angler, isn’t it?
Is it something angler? Is that the one I’m thinking of?
Oh my goodness. The Elements of Style.
Oh, that one.
Is what it is. And it’s a really short book. It’s about 96 pages. It’s kind of funny, it could have been
distilled down to about three lines, which was basically “simplify”. But you can’t really publish a book
with one page that just says, “Simplify.”
But that’s one line.
Right. I mean, that’s one word. Right? But that could literally be the book.
Does simplify mean write less? Does it mean-
Okay, but does that mean, “Write as little as possible on your website?” So we’ll have to talk about that.
No. It’s, “Write good volume of content. Write content that actually means something when you’re
reading it.” Don’t add superfluous language, additional syllables to make yourself seem like a larger
business than you are. I think that’s one of the most common things that I see, is the very business
speak sort of language on a site where it’s like, “We’re workshopping technological solutions to the
paradigm of the X factor.” That sort of thing, right?
Yeah, platitude after platitude after platitude, or something.
Oh my God.
It’s almost like a hyperbolic … The whole website’s just … Yeah.
It’s just like a thing, right? Like how many buzz words can we cram into one page?
And I think that, in the main, I think, the best way to prevent that is to really think heavily about who
you’re communicating to. Who is the person that’s reading this? What sort of information do they need?
And you might feel as someone … Like if you’re writing this and you’re a business owner, you might feel
like, “Well, this is remedial stuff. I’m writing just really basic stuff, and I seem to be repeating myself.”
You know? And I think you’ve got to remember that the person reading your site might be looking for a
solution that they don’t actually know what it is precisely. And you have to talk very thoroughly.
Like they have a problem [crosstalk 00:07:40].
About what it is that you do in layman’s language.
Right. The vocabulary of your profession that you use with another professional is probably considerably
different to the language that you would use with a layman.
And, typically, you’re not talking to the professionals of your field on your website.
Right. So speak to your prospects, speak to your most likely customers, meet them where they’re at,
language and verbiage wise. Don’t try to sound overly important or stuffy. Don’t attempt to sound
knowledgeable, just be knowledgeable and state what you can as simply as possible. Because that’s kind
of the difference, is attempting to sound knowledgeable rather than just being knowledgeable. And
when you attempt to sound knowledgeable, you get into platitudes or overspeak or buzz words. And
when you just say, “Look, here’s what we do,” it can be a lot better.
It’s a simple use of the English language. There’s one thing you said there about attempting to seem
knowledgeable in English. Don’t be cute with your language.
Okay. So now you’re getting into … You have some brands, like Dollar Shave Club went viral with a video
that absolutely was an attempt to be cute. And they had a hundred million views, and they ended up
getting bought for a billion dollars. And their entire brand and their entire website and everything about
them completely violates what you’re saying. And these big ones, when you get a big example like that,
tend to stick as a bright, shiny object in the mind of somebody who wants to go write. They go, “Oh, but
man, they are …” Or like another brand like Chubbies, which makes shorts for men. And they might
make stuff for women. But I know they make shorts for men. And their whole thing is this beach lifestyle
brand. But they basically just make fun of themselves while also being awesome. And they absolutely
are trying to be cute, to your point.
So here we have a couple of examples of really successful modern businesses that absolutely violate
what you say. However, that’s an apparency, because 99% of businesses can’t do that, won’t get away
with it. And it’s not-
I would say it’s 99.99% of businesses.
Right. It seems like, “Oh, this is the way to be successful.” And it’s like, “Really? Name 10 examples of
that.” And you come up with three examples. And then you say, “Name 10 examples of something that
you have bought for your house or for your business in the last three months. What have you bought?”
Well, I bought a computer, and I bought … You start naming the things you bought.
I bought a [crosstalk 00:10:33]. Can you imagine going to the Home Depot website and be like, “Hey
there, big guy, you got some renos project going?” That kind of … Or whatever, right?
Yeah. Right, right. So to your point, your chance of success with very direct, simply stated content that
provides the information the person wants is going to be higher than attempting to get ultra creative. So
how then do you overcome … Because you do have some people who are going to write, and you can
hire professional writers. We do this for clients all the time. But if someone was going to write their own
website or they were looking for a writer, how do they overcome then the idea in their own minds that
their content is dry or boring? Because they might be comparing it to ultra [crosstalk 00:11:23].
Here’s how you do it. You ready?
Here’s how you do it. Go read some fucking Hemingway. Grab some Hemingway. Now, I know the guy
blew his brains out with a shotgun. Ignore that part. Instead, read Old Man and the Sea.
Right. Or any Hemingway. There’s a reason why this author is considered really, really good. It’s because
of this factor, right? He writes at like a sixth to eighth grade level, which is kind of right where you’re
supposed to be with website content. He does not use extra words to describe things. However, he does
paint a complete picture. I think that’s a great way to get over the idea that things need to be complex
and have a lot of syllables to be effective. And the nice thing is, it’s a very … Hemingway is typically a
very short read. Just take a gander at some Hemingway, and understand how effective the English
language is when it’s used simply.
Okay. So now I want to talk about this idea that nobody reads anymore. So now we’ve covered how one
should write, which I love. And then we have this thing of how to cover, “Nobody reads anymore.” Well,
let me say something about it first, and you can chime in. Okay? So first of all, Google cannot see and it
cannot hear, it can only read. So Google is … To use an analogy that I hope no one finds offensive, it’s a
bit like a blind person reading in braille. There’s no ability to see pretty … And I guess they technically
would be deaf also. So there’s no ability to see. There’s no ability to hear. There’s only the ability to
read. Even when it comes to a photo, there’s actually a piece of code where you tell Google what it’s a
photo of. When it comes to video, [inaudible 00:13:37] a piece of code where you tell Google what it’s a
video of. And you can provide transcripts so Google knows what was said in the video.
So when Google is trying to decide where to place websites in search rankings to then bring a visitor
who’s searching for something to that website, Google reads all the content on all the pages of the
website and decides, “Okay, how relevant is this website?” And then someone makes a search and
Google says, “I want to bring this searcher to the correct website.” And, ideally, it’s one of the top, like
the very top position or one of the top positions. Now, someone might only scan your website. Someone
might look over this website for two minutes and make a decision to call you to learn more. In the case
of eCommerce and actually buying on that website, it’s probably going to be longer. They might look at
it for 10 minutes. They might look at it over the course of a month, depending on the price point.
So they might research more, right? But, ultimately, you’re writing actually for two different purposes.
The first purpose has to be the visitor and a good user experience. And then the second purpose has to
be for Google. So you want to walk this tightrope of speaking as simply as you can, as directly as you
can, painting a full picture without getting into buzzwords, while providing enough content that you
actually have more content than your competition. Enough great, unique content, while also formatting
it in such a way that your prospects hitting the website, landing on your website is able to scan over and
find what they need, and so on. Quantity can be an issue, and so you have to find ways to write lots of
content. Blog articles, flesh out pages, do what’s called chunkyfying your content. So you’re breaking it
up with space and images and whatnot.
The solution isn’t to only have like 10 words on each page so that you can “be like Apple”. And this is a
common misconception, is people they say, “Oh, well, I want a lot of negative space,” which is a Jony Ive
thing. And they say, “I want to be like Apple.” If you go to the Apple website and you go to the Apple
Watch, they have thousands of words about the Apple Watch. You can dive in and dive in and dive in
and dive in and scroll down and dive in and look at specs. They provide more content than anyone. It’s
just the way they’ve designed it as well. And so some folks they think, “Oh, I want to be like Apple.” And
I say, “If you want to be like Apple, you’re going to provide so much information that anyone researching
it will come to the conclusion that they should buy from you or talk to you, or that you’re a viable
option.” And you’ll do it using the approach that you laid out right before I brought this point up, Chad.
Right. Matt, you bring up a point there, right? And I think there’s a way to kind of see very clearly how
both of these things is done, right? How do you write simply and provide content? And how do you
think about it in these terms of simplification? And it’s this point, that the misconception that people
don’t read anymore might actually stem from the fact that it is true, that website visitors scan sites.
Typically, they read it a little bit differently than they would read the written page or a book.
And so if you’re thinking that, “Okay, good …” It’s a good way to think about it in terms of like, “Okay,
when someone comes to your site, they’re looking for something specific.” Seth Godin likens it to a
crack-addled monkey looking for a banana, right? They’re looking for something. And so the content on
your site has to be written simply enough, like I said, six to eighth grade level, that someone can scan it
and still it absorb it, right? Because you are doing a sales job while you’re with your content, in a lot of
cases. Unless you’re just writing a blog article that’s informative, you are doing a job of selling. You’re
selling that person on contacting you. You’re selling that person on downloading something. That isn’t
done by speaking gobbledygook. You have to speak very plain language.
We’re coming to the end of the podcast time, and I want to leave anyone who’s listening with this, with
something really specific, a few specific points that they can think with. So the first is, for a webpage,
when you look at the competition, especially in small business, there are a lot of like small five to seven
page websites out there. And now I hear people say like, “Oh, I only need a five-page website or …” This
kind of a thing. Even people who can afford far more. We have found that the average is about 15 pages
of content to do better than your competition, to start. And then continuing to add to it in the form of
informative articles every month, at least a couple of articles a month.
So we have this point, have about a 15-page website. Next, have the pages of your website be based
around what prospects are searching for, which you can find that on Google. We talked about that on
our SEO podcast, the last one. And then how many words per page. They should have between 300 and
500 words on every single page. But it still needs to follow what it is you talked about. But a page that
doesn’t have enough words on it will get ignored by Google. And so they need to have 300 to 500 words
per page. And I think that those three points … Would you add any more to that in terms of key
Well, the thing I was going to say, Matt, was that there are some easy tools that someone can use to
kind of determine, “Okay, am I on track here with my copywriting?” If you just Google “readability
score”, there are a lot of free tools where you can take a part of your content you’re planning on putting
on the site, and then see, “OKay, how does this add up? Is it too advanced, or what?” And most
readability scores very instantaneously will tell you, “Okay, am I writing at the correct level for the
So I think that would be something to just … As a piece of advice, that’d be something you could do.
Okay, cool. Good. So we have four pieces of actionable advice for them. Awesome. So our next podcast,
we’re going to be talking about … Basically, we decided we would do four on the subject of websites.
Our first one was on SEO. Our second one was on copywriting. Most times I do recommend owners hire
professional copywriters, hire a marketing company to do it. We have found that a few owners can
completely do it themselves. So we do you recommend that. But for those that want to do it
themselves, we’ve provided a lot of great info. And for those that are hiring someone, I think we’ve
provided what to look for.
Our next podcast will be on the subject of user experience, which touches upon both website design.
We’re going to probably smashed a few myths on the subject of design and prettiness and things like
that. And get into the user experience, and how to just deliver a great user experience. We’ll even define
what user experience is and give examples. And then the one right after that, we’ll talk about lead
generation, and how to turn your website into a lead generation machine by putting together your SEO,
your copy, and your user experience. So wanted to provide that to the people who [crosstalk 00:21:28].
[crosstalk 00:21:27]. Man, those are great topics.
Oh, yeah. They don’t suck.
No, I’m interested.
If I were me, I would subscribe to this podcast.
You would subscribe to it? Damn. You know what? If I were me, I would even probably rate the podcast.
I’d probably go give it five stars on Spotify or iTunes, and subscribe. If I were me, I would probably do
Yeah, five stars.
Yeah, that’s a good idea. All right. Well, thank you for listening. Again, please do subscribe, and feel free
to rate this podcast, if you’re getting great value out of it. And if you want to find us,