Your website represents your recruitment business hundreds or thousands of times a day. Is it representing you well, or is it telling uncomfortable truths about how you felt when you were writing it?
Poor copy loses you clients and candidates you didn’t know you had. They come, they read and - if they don’t like what they see - they leave. What makes them leave? Perhaps they’ve noticed one of these deadly sins lurking in your copy:
You spent a lot of money on your website. The more you wanted from your web designers, the bigger the bill became. By the time it was finished, it looked great – but the budget was burned out. It still needed content, so you did all you could do: you wrote it yourself. Unfortunately you’re no more a professional copywriter than a professional web designer, so the finished content doesn’t quite measure up to your slick new design.
Solution: Resist the temptation to blow the whole budget on web design and set aside some for professional copywriting. Too late? If you’ve no choice but to write your own copy, read on...
If the last thing you can remember writing was a caffeine-fuelled college essay at 4am over a decade ago, you might find yourself lapsing into a formal style. That’s acceptable in the depths of academia - but not on your recruitment website. Aiming for authoritative can quickly arrive at stuffy.
Solution: Read what you’ve written aloud. Does it sound like something you would be comfortable saying to a client or candidate over the phone? If the answer is no, go back and edit it until it does.
In copywriting, less is more. Which is easier to read?
“Established in 1991 and based in Uxbridge and offering recruitment services across the London area, XYZ Recruitment is a specialised financial recruitment agency that has been providing a proactive, innovative, and effective service to the financial sector for over 10 years.”
“XYZ Recruitment is a specialised financial recruitment agency. We’ve been serving the London financial sector with proactive recruitment services for over 10 years.”
Solution: When you’re finished, re-read what you wrote and consider whether there’s a more concise way to covey the same information. If your sentences span more than 2 lines, it’s time to turn some of those commas into full stops.
Lust & Envy
You’ve seen some copy you love. It’s witty, it’s funny, and it’s got style. You want your website to read just like it, so you try to inject the same humour and fun into your copy. When you’re finished, it just doesn’t have the same impact though. Why? Chances are they had a professional writer do theirs.
Solution: If in doubt, keep it simple. People visit recruitment websites for information over entertainment, so resist the temptation to use ambitious technique unless you’re a pro.
“Our firm's reputation for providing quality service reflects the high standards we demand of ourselves. Our high standards, responsive service and specialized staff spell the difference between our firm and the rest.”
Earlier this year, some of Reddit’s users noticed that pasting this piece of copy into Google turned up thousands of exact matches (it still does - try it). These companies got lazy. They needed content, discovered that writing was hard work, and duplicated it. They thought nobody would notice – but people did notice, and it was embarrassing.
Google noticed too. Google is designed to detect and penalise websites that use duplicate content by sending them towards the back of search result pages. For a recruitment agency, this can be deadly: your recruitment website already has millions of competitors, so you need every chance you’ve got to push towards the top of search results.
Solution: Never use stock copy, and never pinch copy from another website. Search engines will silently punish you for it and, if someone notices, it’s going to get embarrassing.
“I’ve been looking at this copy for hours! I’m sick of it! It’ll have to do.” This is a frustration that every writer knows.
Solution: Step away from the keyboard and make a cup of tea. Sleep on it. Come back with fresh eyes and tidy it up some more. Once you feel like there’s nothing more you can do, ask a friend or colleague to proofread it for you. Ask for their feedback and then edit it again. Continue the process until you’re looking at something you’re proud to put on your website, because it’s got to stand in front of more candidates and clients than any of your recruiters.
Ailsa is a technical writer and solutions engineer working at Instructure in London.