Tackling a web copy rewrite takes grit and focused direction – and is often harder than writing from scratch.
As a copywriting agency, countless businesses approach us needing a content refresh. From our experiences with them, we’ve compiled the top tips to rewriting your web copy from the eyes of professional copywriters.
1. Build a tone of voice
As the most often overlooked step, a solid mission statement and tone of voice create the backbone for your content.
A tone of voice gives your writers direction and makes your content cohesive. Readers use your style to gauge if their values match with yours, and subsequently if they’d like to do business with you.
Without a clear tone of voice, your copy becomes inconsistent and forced – a big no-no in the writing world.
It is the single most important piece to define before you begin a rewrite. Read this post on how to define your tone of voice to help you get started.
2. Define your goals in a brief
Once you’ve identified ‘who you are’ with a tone of voice, decide what you’d like to achieve with your rewrite.
Are you hoping for better search engine rankings or higher conversion rates? Or are you wanting more engagement from readers or an easier-to-read site?
Keep your audience in mind – define the reaction you’re trying to drive from them, as well as what their needs, desires and problems might be. That way, you can ensure your copy directly addresses them.
This is also a great place to outline the type of language you want to use and to build a style guide. A style guide provides writers with a reference of all the key elements they can (or can’t!) add to their pieces – plus, it ensures all future copy will match what you’re rewriting now.
3. Run a content audit
A content audit – which is very different from a technical SEO audit – looks at the performance of all existing content on your site. From it, you can gauge which pieces perform the best and prioritise what you should revamp first.
You’ll also find content that may be orphaned, expired, irrelevant, and low-performing, and can make a call on whether to get rid of some of it altogether.
On top of this, a content audit should cover:
- The Google-friendliness of page titles, URLs and meta descriptions
- Broken or expired links
- Duplicate or thin content
At this point, to improve SEO performance, make a list of keywords you currently rank for as well as keywords you’d like to improve upon. Having this information allows you to keyword-optimise as you rewrite (more on that soon).
4. Start your web copy rewrite
Once all the planning is complete, it’s time to put fingers to keyboards.
Craft your headlines
Your page titles or blog post headlines deserve at least half of your effort when it comes to rewriting. As David Ogilvy puts it, “On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
Pull them in with engaging, thought-provoking and extremely clear headlines. Readers want to know what they’re in for when they land on your page. So tell them.
Headlines are a great place to inject some of the keywords you’re trying to rank for – but only if it’s natural.
For example, ‘Weight Loss Shakes Lose Weight Today’ is an obviously keyword-stuffed headline. Instead, re-word it or choose just one keyword to focus on. In this instance, go for ‘The best weight loss shakes for your body type’ or ‘Start to lose weight today with these tasty shakes’, which are more natural and intriguing.
Optimise for SEO as you go
Make sure your writers’ focus is on SEO-optimisation from the get-go. Instead of coming back to content to place keywords inside it (easily noticed and notoriously forced), add keywords as you write.
Add meta descriptions to your writers’ briefs. They’ve just written the piece, making them the best person to write a short (no longer than 160 characters) meta. Keep in mind this draws people in from search results, so it also needs to be engaging.
Put the reader first
Countless times, business copy drones on and on about the merits of the company, the ‘cutting-edge’, ‘innovative’, ‘customer-focused’ products or services they provide and the reason people should buy from them without actually giving the reader anything but the business’ word to believe.
As you rewrite, throw out content that says ‘we’ and shift the focus to ‘you’. If you’ve properly built your brief, you know what your audience’s problems, needs and wants are – use your copy to show how you solve them.
Which is better?
‘We are activity holiday specialists. Our trips have been lovingly created by local people because they offer the perfect mix of activities, people and places.’
‘We know you’ve got things you’d love to do, places you’d love to see, cultures you’d love to jump into and adventures to experience and remember forever. We’re here to help you do them, not just dream about them.’
The first one talks about the company and its products only, while the second focuses on the value for the reader.
Make it simple, clear and readable
Just as your headlines plainly state what your page is about, so too should your body copy.
This is the part of a rewrite that takes the most time. Trimming and focusing content allows for a concise, helpful user experience, but requires laser-sharp skills. Regardless of your tone of voice, removing fluff from your writing and replacing it with words that progress the reader’s journey is essential.
If it doesn’t need to be said, don’t say it. If it’s already been said, don’t say it again.
In the same sense, remove flowery language and don’t over-exaggerate your claims.
Demanding a certain word count can put a strain on writers to add filler. While you may want to give a word count target, remain flexible and ask that writers only stop when they’ve made their point – no more, no less.
5. Edit & revise… then do it again
Add editing time into your content production plan, and then allow for more. Treat your rewrite like it’s new content and wash it through your content guidelines and your (hopefully) stringent editing process twice, even three times until the copy meets your goals.
Well-crafted, rewritten content is difficult to master. If you’re looking to refresh your existing content, a copywriting agency can help transforms messy, existing pages into clear, engaging content without taxing your in-house resources.
To discover how WooContent can help you rewrite your existing web copy, get in touch today.
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