One of the hardest things to achieve as a web copywriter is getting the tone of the work right. Often, a freelance copywriter will produce a piece of work they think is absolutely perfect, only to have it rejected by the client because the ‘tone’ is wrong. Affronted by this rejection, the web copywriter scratches their head, wondering what they did wrong…
Perhaps a closer look at what tone actually is could help. The tone of a piece is the ‘voice’ that the copy has. For example – in a blog the tone of the writing is loose, conversational and fluid (we hope!) More of a stream of consciousness, it still maintains its syntax and grammatical integrity whilst coming across as relaxed and approachable. Which is why you can add comments on a blog. That loose, conversational tone encourages interaction.
Read the brief carefully
Now take the other end of the spectrum – search engine optimisation (SEO) copywriting. The first thing any SEO copywriter should do is to read the brief carefully. A good brief from a client will give the web copywriter indications as to who the content is aimed at, whether it’s a landing page that encourages the visitor to delve deeper into the website or if it is a more journalistic-based article destined for a content page.
Identify the client’s tone
Once the web copywriter has read the brief carefully, the next step is to examine the client’s current pages. From this you will be able to determine the tone your work should take. An article about SEO will have a more formal tone than a sales pitch for an interior design company for example, because it has to engage with the right kind of readership.
If you have to convey a different message in your writing, then the tone of the piece has to adapt accordingly. SEO copywriting also has to perk up the interest of the ‘spiders’ that crawl across billions of Internet pages, looking for the most attractive candidates for their listings. A blog style tone would not work in this case. A more formal, ‘business meeting’ tone would be required.
Keep the colloquialisms and flowery narrative for your fiction work. Remember that the people you are talking to via your web copywriting are looking at your client’s business, not how good your poetic prose is. A professional, slightly more formal approach is a far better option than trying to make your copy sound too ‘chummy’ and overly friendly.
Finally, beware humour.
What may be hysterically funny to you may draw a complete blank from your client and from their customers. Unless your client specifies a light-humoured approach, keep the jokes for the pub.