If youâ€™re going to invest time and money in creating a website, youâ€™ll want to put your most stylishly clad, well-polished business foot forward. Just as we strive to present ourselves and our staff, premises, products and services to a high professional standard in the real world, so it should also be online.
Yet often this doesnâ€™t happen.
I recently perused the website of a new adventure tourism operator and found ten grammatical and punctuation errors in their 202-word home page blurb. I was so busy mentally negotiating the non-sentences, misspellings and erroneous punctuation that I struggled to take in what they were trying to sell me. And despite all the pretty photos scrolling along the top of the screen and clear menu options, my first impression was â€śHuh?â€ť followed by â€śTheyâ€™ve really been careless with their website.â€ť
Forced to read the home page blurb a second time to try and glean some information, I cringed to note they were trying to convince me to try one of their products (a guided alpine walk) because there was a chance I â€śmight see a hobbitâ€ť <nudge, wink>.
Sigh. This clichĂ© has been trundled out by too many New Zealand adventure tourism operators trying to cash in on the success of The Lord of the Rings films. Worse than that, it tells me nothing about the true magic of this scenic walk and why I wouldnâ€™t regret paying their business to guide me on it.
Though dismayed by the scruffy and unimaginative writing on the home page, I was still curious. I clicked a few more times and had my suspicions confirmed â€“ the written content on the other web pages was as bad as that on the home page, both technically and in terms of the lack of useful information conveyed.
â€śBut,â€ť I hear you say, â€śYouâ€™re a professional editor. The average customer wonâ€™t notice or even care about the odd comma being out of place.â€ť And I agree to an extent â€“ some customers wonâ€™t notice small errors. But I guarantee that all customers will quickly sense whether they find it easy to understand the information on your site and whether it tells them what they need to know or grabs their attention. And whether they consciously understand why they find poor writing harder to take in or get excited about, it could still influence them to head to another site.
So how can you put your best business foot forward online, communication-wise?
1. Get your website proof read. If you have the budget to pay a professional, great. If not, what about asking your friend whoâ€™s studying for a Masters in Literature? Or Aunty Louise who used to be an English tutor? Ask around your friends, family, colleagues or staff and offer them a meal or gift vouchers for their trouble. Even better, get two people to proof your site. The more grammatically enlightened pairs of eyes, the better.
2. When writing for the web, you only have so much space to fit your text in. So you need to focus on what makes your companyâ€™s products or services the best. If you want to sell me a guided alpine walk, donâ€™t waffle about fictitious characters that roamed mountainous terrain in a movie shot in your region â€“ tell me about the glacially-fed lake and rare species of bird Iâ€™ll see, and the picnic lunch of local delicacies my guide will serve me.
3. If you can say what you want to say about your products and services but in half as many words, you have a better chance of getting your message across before your potential customer clicks back to their search engine and looks at another site. People are time poor, easily distracted and want everything now. So edit, edit and then edit again. (I edited this blog seven times, for example.) Grab your potential customers with perfect prose and concise descriptions that both pre-empt their questions and showcase your businessâ€™s wow factor.