Website Copy Checklist

By Karen Scharf, small business marketing consultant, Modern Images Communications

I love using checklists for all of my projects. I have a checklist for new clients; a checklist for installing Wordpress; several checklists for search engine optimization (SEO); a checklist for Can-Spam; a checklist for video marketing; and on; and on. And, while the overall system I use for my copywriting projects is rather complex, I have a simple checklist that I use to review the completed copy before I publish it to the Web or send it to the printer.

Here are the basic steps I use to review Web copy before publishing it online (the steps are slightly different for direct mail copy):

1. Keywords
I start by reviewing my keyword integration. Keyword plays a major role in SEO, but it does not mean that flooding your page with a deluge of keywords is enough to drive traffic and generate sales. The keywords must be integrated into effective copy in order for the page to get properly indexed by search engine crawlers.

2. Headline
Next, I look at the headline. You'll want to make sure your headline contains your keywords. But, it also must be effective enough to spark attention. Your headline should cover the following basics:

  • Does it stir up the curiosity of your target market?
  • Is it simple enough to be easily understood?
  • Does it entail a proof of promise?
  • Can it trigger the emotion you expected from customers?

Your headline is extremely important—not only for search engines, but also for sales. In less than three seconds, your reader will decide whether or not he wants to stay on your Web site. Your headline must give him a reason to stick around, read more, and eventually make a purchase.

3. Appearance
Once I've reviewed the headline text, I look at the overall appearance. You want to make sure you're using Web-safe fonts (LINK TO DOWNLOAD), and that your line breaks are in a logical order. Use a big, bold font, but don't get too crazy so that it looks like spam. If you're using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), make sure your line heights work well for your entire font family. And lastly, choose a color that is in high contrast to the Web page background.

4. Features and Benefits
Then I scan my copy for Features and Benefits. You want to strike a nice balance between the two. While most copywriters tout the advantages of using only benefits in your copy, I like to add in a few features as well. In my opinion, it makes the copy seem less spammy. Of course, you'll want to consider your target market before deciding what your own balance should be. Personally, my own testing has shown that if I am writing for a B-2-B sale, I need to include more features in my copy—perhaps a 50/50 balance. And if I'm writing for a consumer sale, I use more benefits; a 60/40 mix, or even 70/30.

5. 1-to-1
My fifth step is to verify that I am speaking 1-to-1, directly to my reader. Your copy is going to be much more effective if you speak directly to a single person as you write. If you feel as if you're writing to the masses, that will be reflected in your Web site copy, and the reader will not be left with the feeling that "yes, this is for me!"

And along that same line, the next step I take is trying to ascertain how enthusiastic my reader will be after reading the copy. Even if you're writing for B-2-B sales, you want to create that “wow” factor, and trigger the buying emotion of your prospects. If your Web site copy exudes with positive energy, that same upbeat and positive ambiance will be reciprocated with the same level of enthusiasm by your reader. And when that happens, a sale is more likely to happen.

6. Scannability
Then I check the "scannability" of my copy. You'll want to use subheadings throughout your page (also great for SEO purposes), and break up your paragraphs into no more than four sentences. Use bullet points and numbered lists wherever possible. Make sure your reader can breeze through the page and get the entire message without having to read it word-for-word.

7. “You” Orientation
I make sure my copy is "You" oriented. You want to use the words “You” and “Your” at least three times more often than the words “I,” “Me,” “My,” “Mine,” or “Ours.” Simply count up the occurrences of each word and make sure it's at least a 3-to-1 ratio. Then make any edits as necessary.

8. Offer
I do one final gut-check on my offer. Remember, you want your offer to be irresistible, so that might mean adding extras such as bonuses and other freebies that would push your prospects over the edge and compel them to make a purchase. You also want to make sure that you've included a reason to make that purchase right now, such as a discount or an expiration date.

9. Testimonials
Then I verify that I've included my testimonials. I hate to admit, on more than one occasion, I've forgotten to add in my testimonials to my page layout. You can also include case studies; before and after pictures; success stories; or anything else that will allow your reader to conjure up images of the results they can expect for themselves.

10. P.S.
And finally, if this is a consumer sales letter-type page, I make sure I add a P.S. Many readers will scroll to the bottom of the page before coming back and reading the rest of the copy. So, your P.S. needs to grab your reader just like your headline did. (I generally don't use a P.S. on a B-2-B Web site. I like to include a closing point or an end remark instead.)

After running through my final checklist, I'm ready to publish my copy online. And now, you will be too.

---Source: Duct Tape Marketing Newsletter ( Karen Scharf is a small business marketing consultant for Modern Images Communications (

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