This post was written by TCCS member, Kerrie Brooks
It’s not as scary as you think. Just follow these handy steps.
You’ve been asked to quote copy for a 40+ page website. Great.
You submit your proposal and get the job.
While it will line your pockets and look great in your portfolio, the prospect of actually writing that much copy can be pretty damn scary. Where do you even start?
That was definitely my reaction when a similar job landed in my inbox for the first time.
But before you let big website copy anxiety get the better of you, read this post. It’s not a ‘Mission: Impossible’ task. Just follow these steps and tips.
Step 1: Dive deep into that discovery stage
Like any copy job, the key to success lies in the quality of your discovery stage.
The more you know about the business you’re writing for, the less intimidating the thought of filling 40+ pages with credible copy will be.
My discovery process begins will a telephone or Zoom call with the client to get the basics. I then send them a detailed questionnaire that I tailor for each client.
Once they send it back, I book a face-to-face discovery session with them to fill in any gaps.
Make sure the key stakeholders are all there (if it’s a big company). This helps you get a feel for them and suss out the company vibe. You’ll also get some great little snippets or phrases to inject into your copy.
Step 2: Give your client some homework
It’s not always possible to get into the ins and out of every service or product in the discovery session. That’s why I set my clients a bit of homework.
With a big website, a large chunk of the pages often focus on products and/or services. And this is where you can come unstuck (or stuck for words) if you don’t have the right company-specific information.
To crush this roadblock, I get key employees in the company to do a brain dump. I give them prompts such as:
- “What is X service?”
- “What does it involve?”
- “Give me facts and specifics.”
- “How do you do it better than anyone else?”
But (and this is a big but), make sure you have a single point of contact you deal with who is going to chase them up. And then chase them up.
Now is also a great time for them to start collecting testimonials.
Step 3: Set up your copy deck
While they’re busy gathering the information you’ve asked for, it’s time to set up your copy deck. If you don’t already have the TCCS copy deck template, get it. It’s amazing.
Once you’ve entered the navigation and set up the relevant page headers, you’ll feel a whole lot calmer. Or at least like you’ve made a good start.
Make sure you ask the client if their website design has been completed or is still in progress. This will help you set out each page with the correct number of headings and sections. You can also add the word count if they have one.
If you’ve got free reign, don’t worry about formatting the pages yet. That will come as you start writing.
Step 4: Do your keyword research
Website copy isn’t working its hardest unless you’re optimising for search.
If the client isn’t providing you with keywords for each page, now’s the time to get busy with Google and SEO tools (I love Mangools and SEMrush) to find the best keywords with the right intent for each page. The TCCS Keyword Planner makes it super easy.
If keyword research is over your head, or you find it as exciting as watching cricket, outsource it. That’s what I do for a lot of my big projects (thanks to one of the lovely beasts who always helps me out).
Once you’ve agreed on the keywords with your client (most of them won’t have a clue and will go with whatever you suggest), add your keywords and synonyms to each page in your copy deck.
Step 5: Populate your copy deck
Hopefully you now have all the information you need from across the business and through your research. Now comes the satisfying part: putting it all in your copy deck.
This simply involves copying and pasting each bit of information onto the relevant page. Sometimes you might paste the same stuff into a few pages.
Whoop! You’re no longer staring at a blank page. And you’ve already got a decent word count. It may not be the finalised copy, but you now have the words you need to get started all in the right place.
Honestly, this stage makes me feel 100% less stressed.
Step 6: Get samples signed off
I know many people send clients a skeleton draft, which can be a great way to work. But I do things a little differently, especially for 40+ page websites.
I create a few sample pages across the site and send them to the client to review. I usually include the About page and a service or product page.
Not only does this save you from working through the entire deck to make it presentable, but it also gives you an idea straight up whether they like your copy and approach. If they don’t, now’s the time to get that feedback.
There’s nothing worse than going the whole hog only for them to tell you it sucks and you need to start again.
Step 7: Start writing and set stages
There’s no hard and fast rule on where to start writing for a big website.
I usually do the About page and then see where my creative mood takes me.
I might get stuck into the service or product pages on some jobs. Or I might do the most fun and interesting pages, such as the team profiles or other brand pages.
(The latter is good, as it gets you into the flow and makes you feel like you’re making good headway.)
To avoid overwhelm (“Only 40 pages to go. Eek!”), break the pages into sections and make a plan to complete X sections a day. I find it’s a good idea to spend a few days on the job, and then a day or so doing other projects or admin.
This gives your brain a break and helps you avoid ‘big website’ fatigue.
Once you’ve written copy for all the pages, go through and optimise them all with your keywords.
And now your first draft is done and ready to send to the client.
High page count. Low stress.
Big websites can seem overwhelming. But when you have a good process in place, the beast becomes much easier to wrangle. And remember that you don’t have to go it alone. Call in some TCCS subs if you need to, or ask an oldie for advice.
Over to you
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About Kerrie Brooks
Kerrie Brooks is a creative UX and SEO copywriter, storyteller and brand clarifier. Over the past 16+ years, she’s written for brands and agencies big and small around the globe.
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