The Vanguard View: Insight for Association Websites

6 Warning Signs Your Association’s Website Copy Needs Help

Posted by Chris Bonney on Wed, Aug 30, 2017

    

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In a world where the Web can make you feel as vulnerable as it does powerful, your association's website copy – the words on the page – is gratefully something you can control with ease. So why is it that so many associations still have challenges creating Web pages that generate interest and engagement?

There are several reasons, of course, like while intentions are good, many association staffers – with deadlines looming – may not have the time to proof, edit and fine-tune web pages as needed. Or maybe they’re just not familiar with web writing best practices. Or maybe they’ve been given copy from another department and just don’t feel the authority to make changes. Whatever the case, it’s important to begin thinking beyond the obstacles and start realizing that your website words matter. Big time. Read the warning signs below to help you determine if your site needs more help than you imagined.

Warning Sign #1: You’re not talking to anyone

Are your web pages written with an audience in mind? Have you developed personas and scenarios for your site visitors? If you’re not writing for an audience, your copy may be too generic to entice anyone to read more. Sure, you’re About Us page will be speaking to a larger audience, but what about more specific pages like your publications page? Is it members only? Does your site data tell you it’s your older members who are interested in publications? These two pieces of information alone could steer the tone and voice of your copy, ensuring you’re reaching your core audience in a way they can appreciate.

Warning Sign #2: You’ve got waaay too many words

It’s a 20-year old secret that users don’t read web pages, they scan.  So, if you’ve got page after page full of multiple paragraphs, you may be losing users quickly. A great resources to learn more about cutting down your text count is the book, “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug. The book instructs you to write your web copy and then cut it in half. Once you’re done cutting it in half, cut it in half again. According to the Nielsen Norman Group, “On the average Web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely.”

Warning Sign #3: You’re speaking in code

Associations tend to develop their own language full of acronyms and jargon. If your website highlights words the general public doesn't know, it’s best to avoid them, especially on your home page. You want first-time visitors to understand what you’re about. A confused user is a gone user. Below is an actual navigation bar of an association. This is exactly what not to do.

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Warning Sign # 4: Your words are old

This one is obvious, but rarely remedied. Most good content management systems will offer the ability to publish content and unpublish content on a given date. Part of your content workflow should be to have dates in mind for how long content should live on your site. Or at least have a schedule to review content for age. A site inventory should be done every year to 18 months to ensure your organization has a handle on what is out there. Keep in mind, Google will continue to serve up your old pages with maybe more relevance than a newer page that you’re hoping your members might actually find. Avoid copy rot.

Warning Sign #5: You’re not asking for anything

Sure, some pages are merely informational, but some are asking for a sale. And even for those that are only providing information, don’t you want people to read them? According to Copyblogger, “on average, 8 out of 10 people will read headline copy, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest.” Are your page headers alluring or boring? Also, if you want a user to take an action, go beyond just adding a submit button. Use a proven copywriting formula to ensure you’re walking users down the path to your sale. And “sale” doesn’t have to mean purchase. It can mean any action (even a click to another page). Understand when you’re creating a page the action you want a user to take.

Warning Sign #6: You’re not thinking mobile

We get it - you’re under pressure to showcase a lot on your site. Things like crucial advocacy updates, late-breaking industry news, or the need to boost registrations for the annual conference, but amid all the urgency make sure you're considering the mobile experience when you craft your copy. It’s an app-driven world. Take a look at your favorite app and then your association’s home page. If you’re immediately struck by the volume of words and a plethora of other elements on your home page as compared to the app – it’s time to pare it down.

In closing

Don’t underestimate how important it is to get your website copy right. As you can see, there is much to consider with repercussions to inaction.

As a bonus: Here’s a 30-minute, on-demand webinar to help your team better manage your content flow. View here.

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Topics: copywriting, association website design, content management system, content

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