Author: Jennifer Ruthe, Charity Copywriting Expert

Whether you’ve got a brand new website or are working with a platform that’s been around for ages, now more than ever, you need to make sure that your copy counts. If Forbes is right, you have just seven seconds to make a good impression. That means your words have got to work really hard. But where to begin?

What comes first, the copy or design?

One of the tricky things when developing a new website is deciding when you’re going to factor in your copy. Do you write the words first, or wait until you have a wireframe to drop them into? Both. You are going to need an idea of your design in order to know how many words you’re looking at. Similarly, the shape and length of your copy is going to influence page layout. The key is planning. Before you begin, you need to know the aim, structure and key message for each page – not to mention the amount of space available. Placeholder text can help map your spread. Then you can put in rough titles and key information points, using this as a base to develop your final website copy.

DO: Use rough copy to map out the spread, structure and key messages in each page.

DON’T: Paste reems of text into every available space. It will distort your design and take ages to edit!

Write to be read

People are scanning when they visit your website, so you need to be thinking quick-access text. Break your copy down into digestible sections. Say YES to headings, sub-headings, bullet points, infographics and photos. Remember, less is always more - so keep your sentences short and accessible. This is not the place to be using tonnes of jargon or acronyms. You need to catch people’s interest and reel them in.

DO: Use short sentences, bullet points and infographics.

DON’T: Scare people off with reems of text and jargon.

Make sure your call to action is clear

As with any piece of text, you need to be clear on your audience, purpose and function. Look at each page and ask yourself why it exists, how you want readers to feel, and what action they should take. The clearer your target, the easier it will be to direct your words towards it. If you need people to donate, ask them to donate. And once they hit your payment page, be sure to keep it Simple, Savvy & Secure!

DO: Decide what you want from each page and use your words to steer people towards it.

DON’T: Be afraid to DELETE surplus information.

Optimise your copy

Of course you want people to visit your site. But don’t go so overboard with keywords and phrases that you stop sounding human. Choose your keywords carefully (more on that later) and sprinkle in just enough to let Google know you’re there. Build them into headings, sub-headings and alt text if you can. My advice is to know your keywords from the start, but don’t worry about them in your early drafts - it will interrupt your flow. Get your copy written. When you’re done you can go through each section and weave in keyword phrases.

DO: Work keywords and phrases into your headings, sub-headings and alt text.

DON’T: Use so many you ruin your good work!