Updated: Nov 26, 2022
By Copy Writes Copy
Is the ‘cost-of-living crisis making you rethink the future of your small business, and possibly close the doors for the final time?
Or is the current struggle making you more determined than ever to keep up the fight, deal with the knocks, knuckle down and continue to serve your valued customers, no matter what?
If the answer to the last question is ‘Yes’, which we really hope it is, then it’s time to up your game. And one of the best ways to start 'upping of your game', is to improve the way you’re delivering your core message in the content you produce.
Writing better words on your website
Creating engaging blogs and articles (if you’re writing any at all)
Sending customers more effective and more engaging emails and newsletters
Writing words on your leaflets and other hard copy, that actually get results
And one of the best ways of improving all of these things, plus a lot more, is by hiring a decent copywriter.
But copywriters are expensive.
Agreed. Copywriters can be expensive. And this current cost-of-living crisis has had and continues to have, a deep impact on small business budgets, so the last thing you want to do is spend money on a copywriter, especially when you can write perfectly well yourself.
Can I do my own copywriting?
Of course, as long as you can write, and know how to use the internet, basic, yet effective copywriting shouldn’t be a problem.
But, before we let you in on some copywriting secrets for small businesses, we should just say, copywriting is a learned skill, and a good copywriter can have a real, measurable and positive effect on your business, particularly when it comes your SEO strategy, but more about that later.
For now, we’ve put together A Helpful List of 3 Small Business Copywriting Skills, that any small business owner can do to get the edge over competitors and start getting some search engine traction.
1. Research like a copywriter
Before writing any copy, you need to get to know more about your customers or typical website visitors, so that you can write your copy as though you’re talking directly to the people most likely to engage.
What time do they eat?
No one knows your business the way you do. You might know the correct wiper blade for a Vauxhall Corsa, or the best way to frost a wedding cake, or how to retrieve data from a wet hard drive. But, do you know what time your ideal customer eats dinner?
Sounds crazy, but research like this is a huge part of what a copywriter does. A copywriter needs to understand your customers so they can write your content in a way that engages the people you want to engage.
In practice, this means using the right tone of voice, the right words and phrasing, and also choosing a text format that would most appeal and be likely to be read by your typical/ideal customer.
How can I get to know about my ideal customer?
There are various and effective ways to get to know more about your ideal customer, including:
Looking at what your competitors are doing
If your competitors are doing much better than you, it’s likely they’ve already carried out some customer research, and are creating content carefully aimed at that ideal customer – which is also your ideal customer.
So, check out what your main competitors are up to. Look at the language they’re using, the tone of voice, and the specific keywords (more on keywords later) or phrases, all of which should help you identify your target customer.
Your competitors aren’t perfect, so when researching, look into what they might be doing wrong too, such as where they're not engaging, or where the tone of voice is all wrong. And once you’ve done this research, capitalise on their mistakes.
Downloading a buyer persona template
A buyer persona is a detailed breakdown of your ideal customer. It lists things such as their job, career paths, age, income, fears, goals and challenges, and their preferred websites and social media platforms etc.
There are various ways in which to gather data for a buyer persona, whether it’s via real-life surveys, online surveys, emails marketing or website and social media analytics etc.
But, as a busy business owner, finding out the right questions to ask is going to be a hassle, so we’d recommend downloading some of the free buyer persona templates available online, such as these from Hub Spot.
It doesn’t need to be a huge document asking everything from their shoe size to their marital status and medical history, but don’t be afraid to ask your customers a few relevant questions.
When you ask in the right way, you’ll be surprised how eager people are to provide the answers you need, which in turn allows you to create better targeted campaigns across all your marketing output.
For a little more information on identifying your ideal customer, check out this blog from Audience OPs.
2. Write like a copywriter
You know how to write. You write emails, letters and reports all day long, and there was even that time you wrote a speech for the works summer do, so why should copywriting be difficult or any different?
If you feel this way, try it – write a paragraph of a maximum of three lines about what your business does, but, before rushing ahead, we’re going to need:
An effective heading that tells us at a glance why we should read the paragraph
The addition of relevant shorttail and longtail keywords, used sparingly without stuffing
A tone of voice that matches your brand and speaks in the language of your ideal customer
An effective CTA (call to action).
If all that isn’t a problem, you’re already a copywriter, and you never even knew it. If on the other hand, the instructions filled you with dread, welcome to the complex world of copywriting.
It doesn’t have to be difficult…
Of course, copywriting can be difficult, frustrating and mind-numbing at times, but for an amateur copywriter writing their own website or emails etc., the difficulty usually comes because they’re trying too hard.
This could mean one or a combination of two things, including:
1. They're imitating others
We all want to produce great words, but if we’re not already copywriters, the first thing we tend to do is imitate others (usually badly) rather than simply being ourselves and writing as we would speak.
This method of writing copy not only reads bad, it takes a lot longer than simply writing in your own style, you start drifting into plagiarism (which is no good for SEO) and lastly, you’re better than that.
Most visitors to your website aren’t interested in big words or laborious, poetic paragraphs – they simply want to know what you can do for them, how quick you can do it, and how cheap you can do it - and the best way to give them that information, is to write as close to the way you speak as possible.
We say ‘as close to the way you speak’, because there are a lot phrases and words we might use in real life that don’t read well when written down. So just keep things simple and conversational, but to the point.
2. They're trying to say everything
Your website is an ongoing project, even when you go live. So, anything you miss out first-time round can be added at a later date, such as when you realise customers keep asking for the same information.
Trying to say everything is a big problem most first-time web copywriters face, but the truth is, you’ll never be able to give every bit of information the customer needs, so get the basics down, which are:
Who you are and what you do
How you help people with what you do
How much you charge or how you price
How people get in touch
All the other stuff, important as it may be, is padding which you can put in later. Your main priority is getting your website finished to a reasonable standard, with easy-to-read, engaging copy that gives people what they need.
And don’t forget editing…
What’s wrong with this sentence?
‘We can offer you guidance.’
Or this sentence:
‘We offer a delivery option for when you’re a bag of sand short of a job.’
Or this one:
‘Please get in touch.’
A good copywriter can’t look at a sentence without deconstructing. So let’s quickly deconstruct:
‘We can offer you guidance.’ It doesn’t show authority. If we want guidance from someone, we need to believe they’re confident in the guidance they give. Get rid of the ‘can’ and ‘you’ and write - ‘We offer guidance’.
‘We offer a delivery option for when you’re a bag of sand short of a job.’ This is either comedy genius (which can work well on a website) or just offensive. Unintentional humour shows a lack of thought and hints that it may carry on into the service you provide?
‘Please get in touch.’ This is weak and hands the customer the power. You’re offering the service, not begging for the business. Get rid of the ‘please’ and just say ‘Get in touch’.
Now trawl through your website , and brutal. Look at every bit of content, read it aloud and ask yourself –
Does it sound right?
Is the message confused?
Is it necessary?
A copywriter skilled in editing is like a sculptor, carefully chipping away at sentences and paragraphs until perfection reveals itself. So sculpt your content and don’t be afraid to ‘kill your darlings’.
3. SEO like a Copywriter
SEO, when done right, can transform your small business and leave your competitors choking on your search engine dust. OK, we’re using a little artistic license, but knowing the basics of SEO does give you a competitive advantage.
What is SEO?
SEO or search engine optimisation, is getting search engines to like your website and ranking it high, so you don’t have to pay advertising fees.
Imagine you’re a barber. You have a beautiful website showing all your great services, such as traditional wet shaves, beard sculpting and the best fades this side of planet earth.
You’ve spent over a thousand pounds on this site, getting every little detail to look just right. But, when you type the name of your barbers into Google or any other search engine, it’s nowhere to be seen.
How do I get my small business higher up the search engine rankings?
Firstly, let’s look at what the search engine looks for in order to decide where it’s going to rank you. Generally speaking, it looks for web pages that provide:
Informative answers to user's questions
Relevance to the questions asked
Good quality (helpful) content
A great UX (user experience)
The Amazing 99!
Ok, this bit is usually a bit technical, so we’ve done the impossible and reduced it to an amazing 99 words.
To begin the ranking process a search engine uses spiders (aka bots) to crawl your site grabbing all the information they can. If your content is mostly fluff about the wonderfulness of your business and doesn’t have anything helpful, then the spiders will just crawl on by. But for those sites that do have something interesting and worthwhile to the visitor, the spider takes that information and puts it into an index where an algorithm is used to work out if your site will answer a user’s question, such as – Why is wet shaving better than a dry shaving?
And done… But if you’d like something slightly more comprehensive, get over to moz.com and check out their beginners guide to SEO.
Do I need a Copywriter for SEO?
Not necessarily, but a copywriter skilled in all aspects of SEO copywriting will save you a lot of time and money in the long run. But fear not, you can do it yourself, and quite effectively.
Here are 3 DIY SEO tips to help your small business meet the search engine spider's criteria and start moving up the ranks.
1. Find relevant keywords: Finding keywords relevant to your business can be tricky. But with a little research on sites like Google’s Keyword Planner, you can pick out a few and add them to your website content. But add in a way that becomes almost invisible. Search engines aren’t keen on ‘keyword stuffing’.
2. Ask questions in your headings: As well as keywords, there are also key phrases. Use your ideal customer research and internet tools like Ubersuggest, to work out what questions they might type into the internet and use those questions as headings, such as: ‘What’s the best way to get a wet suit on?’ Or ‘How can I check my gutters aren’t blocked?’
But, as a word of warning, if you use questions as headings, makes sure you answer the question they ask.
3. Make sure your content is original: It’s easy to go round the internet stealing ideas and worse still, stealing content. Search engines find out if you’re copying and pasting from other sites and penalise you for it and also, it’s unethical. Use your own imagination and write content your competitors will want to steal from you.
4. Don’t let page-speed let you down: Search engine spiders check page-loading speed, and if yours is slow, you will struggle to rank high. Remember… if pages take longer than 3 seconds to load, most users move on.
There are quite a few online tools that will, amongst other things analyse your page-loading speed, like this tool from Semrush You will have to pay a subscription but, like hiring a copywriter, the return on the investment will be worth the money.
Does a small business need a Copywriter?
No. A small business can function perfectly well without hiring a copywriter. Follow some of the tips in this blog, watch some of the thousands of how-to videos online and you’ll get your website up to scratch and that marketing campaign off to a great start.
But if you are going it alone, here are some things to consider:
Have you got the time?
You might run a pub or restaurant, a car mechanics or a florist, whatever small business you have, you know the commitment involved, and how vital your free time is - do you really want to spend it updating that service description or checking to see how your SEO strategy’s performing?
Being the ‘Jack of all trades’ isn’t always the cheaper option
Most small business owners become the ‘Jack of all trades’ and often it’s the right approach. But think about the skill involved in your trade - can anyone do it even if they haven’t put in the hours you’ve put in?
Copywriters write. They love words and their job is to put them together to help businesses like yours. Hiring a copywriter gives you the opportunity to put more time into what you do, whilst someone else tells your customers how well you do it.
SEO isn’t easy
As we’ve already said, you can do your own SEO copywriting, but to do it well takes skill and experience. You have to dedicate a lot of time to honing that skill and keeping an eye on search engine algorithm updates and keyword changes.
Google updates its algorithm several times a year, so what helped you rank six months ago may be the thing that puts you back today. You can see more on the latest update here
A copywriter skilled in SEO will always be on top of algorithm updates and will regularly carry out checks to see how your site is performing and tweaking the copy when needed.
Looking for a small business copywriter?
Contact Copy Writes Copy by tapping this link