How to Write a Good Website Copy – Case Study

Have you ever found yourself in a situation when you weren’t happy with your current website copy and wanted to do an overhaul? Did you know where to start?

I was exactly in this situation after four years in business with my translation company. I felt that the copy that I came up with in the beginning was full of readymade phrases and industry jargon that every other translation company recycles and uses just to fill up empty space.

Where to start?

I found that in addition to writing a new website copy, I wanted to change the way I do business. After years of experience and taking on every single job that was available, I understood that to survive and thrive, I needed to focus my energy on specific areas and languages only. The dilemma was…

Focus on what I do well and perfect it or focus on skills development in the areas I did not do that well?

Both work, but I needed to choose one path. You know that time is money, and it definitely felt like I could save a lot of it by focusing on what I do well and building upon it. So, that was the path I decided to follow.

You guess what the next big question was?

What am I actually good at?

Now, if this doesn’t ring some bells, I don’t know what will. Don’t you hate it when you have to talk about yourself and how good you are at this and that? It’s somewhat embarrassing, especially for the modest ones among us. So, what did I do?

I have been subscribed to Seth Godin’s mailing list for a while now, and his short, daily stories tend to have some unknown effect on me and the way I do things: integrity, honesty, doing the right thing when no one’s watching, etc.

One day a particular post of his really struck me as something I could use in practice for the job at hand. The post was called…

Would we miss you?

The lightbulb moment! A-ha! True. I should really ask people if whatever it is I do actually has any specific value for them that they would find it hard to replace me, or would be extremely sorry if my services weren’t available any more. I wanted to learn from others if I really am any good.

With this in mind, I sat down and composed a short email to all of my clients (and used this opportunity to hook up with the ones who hadn’t been asking for my services for quite a while) with the slightly modified subject line (Would you miss us if we were gone?and a short body explaining what it was that I actually meant by such headline – to avoid any misunderstanding. And misunderstanding there were! But wait for it.

This was the email I sent:

Dear Client,

We have worked together at least once or, more probably, on a number of occasions.

Would you miss us if we were gone?

To clarify the question: we want to know which aspects of our service you find exceptional, unique, or in any other way vital to your business model?

We ask because we care. We want you to get exactly what you need, and more, while ensuring that we won’t stay out of business and become easily replaceable.

If you have time, we would like to hear if there is anything that you would specifically like to get from us in terms of service (please suggest any points for improvement).

Looking forward to hearing from you. Thank you in advance for your time and trust thus far.

Best regards,

 

The clients responded!

It would be false for me to claim now that I had expected anyone to actually take the time and write all the things they value about the services that my team (one in-house project manager and around 50 freelancers) and I had been providing over the years. But they did. (And there you have a good tip – write to your current clients from time to time, keep in touch. It’s good for both sides.)

The results came in and they were organic, objective, and insightful. I summed them up as follows:

  • Our market niche is very small – we are perceived as the Serbian language providers only. They don’t have much work for our language combination.
  • Our services are perceived as great, excellent, high quality, good quality. We are also praised for good attitude.
  • Prompt responses and responsiveness in general are the one word that would best describe us.
  • We respect deadlines.
  • We are limited in terms of the software we use – memoQ. If we had Trados, things would be better for some clients.
  • Native speakers of English are extremely important to our Serbian clients.

How different were the responses from clients in the “Western bloc” and those in the “Eastern bloc”?

I never expected this to be so obvious, but it proved again that the Anglo-American countries and, generally, countries in the Western Europe, are dreamers – they like this kind of questions, are more likely to give you a flourishing praise, and, overall, love such initiatives. In the Eastern bloc (I know the world is no longer officially divided in blocks, but there is some heritage left, eh!), the initiative was first greeted with suspicion.

One translation agency based in the Czech Republic even “attacked” me, saying “oh, so you are an agency, and all the time we thought you were a freelancer!” (I had to explain that in Serbia there is no such legal status as ‘freelancer’, and in order to work you have to register as sole-proprietor, limited company, etc.). After that, the company issued this Spartan statement: “You completed XXX projects for us in the period XX.XX.XXXX-XX.XX.XXXX and we had one complaint, that was resolved.”

Another company from the east first asked me what was happening (they kind of ignored the entire explanation of the email) and expressed their hope that things would get better and that we would continue our collaboration with mutual respect. Sigh.

It proves time and time again, that certain kind of advertisement that works in one part of the world, won’t necessarily work in another, however culturally close.

The work

Now I had the actual features. Features are the things that you or your company can do. It took me a while, but I transformed the above features into advantagesAdvantages are, obviously, all the positive things that your service or product have. It may sound like the same thing, but it is not. Below is an example of the difference and the tool for you to transform your features into advantages and, finally, into benefits for the client:

Feature (What can you do?): “I’ve never missed a deadline in my whole career as an English to Serbian translator”

Advantage (So what?): “You can have peace of mind because your translation will be delivered on time”

Benefit (And what does it mean?): “Because your translation will be delivered on time, it won’t unnecessarily delay your business goals.”

Below is an insight into some of the phrases that I coined starting from the features. Most of them never appeared in the final copy, but this is normal. You trim until you’re happy.

Focus on Serbian:

  • Your Serbian language needs are fully covered.
  • Your thoughts, exactly! In Serbian. (We transcreate your ideas, apart from translating your texts)

Focus on responsiveness:

  •  You will have the information, now. (Experience top of the class responsiveness)

Focus on timeliness/reliability:

  •  Your deadline is much alive. Rest in peace. (Bet your project we’ll meet that deadline!)
  • You will have it before you need it. (Bet your project we’ll meet that deadline!)

Focus on technology:

  •  Every format you have is good. (memoQ server allows us to work on almost any file format you may be using… and deliver in the same format, too!)

Focus on our approach when choosing language specialists:

  •  Your publication will be “native”. (You will project a professional image as only native language specialists will work on your publication)

Guided by the idea that perfection is in simplicity, my copy had to include all the above features and advantages, and communicate them clearly to the clients in the form of benefits – this approach has been reiterated in many advertising books: the client is lazy, has a very short interest span, and wants to know immediately what your product and/or service can do for him/her.

After months (really, it took me months to write this copy, partly because it actually takes time to write a meaningful, effective, and concise copy, and partly because I wasn’t 100% dedicated to it – I had other work to do) of polishing, adding and trimming, the first draft saw the light of day.

Hiring an English native copywriter

I was lucky to have met some really good copywriters while working as copywriter at Upstream in Athens. One of them – Rachel Delgado. She was all too happy to help and after reading my first draft she gave me a couple of suggestions that would make the copy sound native to the American ears. She particularly loved my CTA (Call to Action): “Invest in your business today.” I included it under every section of the copy – Home page, Translation, Transcreation, Interpreting, Copywriting.

Its importance is in the fact that I want to make sure that anyone reading the copy understands that translation, and related language services, are an investment, rather than cost.

And the winner is…

See your ideas and project expectations materialize.

You will experience first class responsiveness,* positive attitude* and our matching skillset to take your valued project from point A to point B, safely*.

Invest in your business today.

TRANSLATION

Have your documents translated by professionals*. We specialize in the Serbian, Croatian, Bosnian and Montenegrin* languages, on the one hand, and major world languages, on the other.

Well worded documents will help you build a strong image with your customers and position you as a reliable partner to the high profile pool of peer companies, individuals or investors.

Invest in your business today.

For copy on Interpreting, Transcreation, and Copywriting, please visit Bel Translations’ website and click on the relevant service. Please note that the website is not optimized for mobile devices. A bummer, I know.

*The underlined words and phrases are directly related to the results of the client survey (above).

How much does it cost to write a website copy?

As you may have deduced, it really depends. It took me months of research and writing, but is it really realistic to charge several months of work for around 600 words of text? (Please say Yes!) I guess not. I put a lot of time into this since I wanted to do it this way, it was my project, I did the survey, worked after hours and worked for free.

Good copy will cost you good money, but remember – it is an investment. If you want little text that says a lot, then it will take more time and cost more. As Madame Sévigné remarked, “Had I more time, I would have written you a shorter letter.”

Also, if your product or service is really good, it would take a lot of poor writing to stop it from shining through.

Summary

Below are the steps that I took in order to arrive at the final website copy of Bel Translations:

  1. Take a survey with your clients. Ask them what they find exceptional about your products and services.
  2. Based on the clients’ responses, you now have the featuresTransform them into advantages and then into benefits for your clients.
  3. If you are writing the copy yourself in a language that is not your native language, hire a native copywriter. Otherwise, brief the native copywriter on all aspects of your campaign/company and what you expect from them at the very start.
  4. Voila! You have your perfect copy.

Of course, in establishing strong online presence, it is not enough just to have a nice website, but all content has to be relevant, high quality, updated regularly (through blog posts, articles, etc.), with proper SEO (I still haven’t done this properly, but definitely will), etc.

If you liked this article, please share it, so that others may benefit from it. Also, a share on your part may make my star shine a bit brighter, winning me a client or two in the process. Add a comment, suggestion, whatever you think might be good. Thank you!

Are you that client? Send me an email.

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