So, anyone who knows me knows I’m incredibly passionate about copyright enforcement. I’ve written about this topic for WeddingIQ here and here and here and here, coached numerous business owners on how to protect their copyright, and sent countless DMCA notifications and shutdown notices over the years. (Seriously, the number is way over 500 by now. I’m a freaking warrior when it comes to protecting my intellectual property.)
In the spirit of generosity, however, I thought I’d offer a 12-step program for recovering website thieves, one that might help them to write their own, at least semi-original website text. (Of course, I hope it will also be beneficial to honest businesspeople who wouldn’t dream of poaching someone else’s work, but have trouble coming up with their own copy.) Now, there’s no excuse for stealing someone else’s written work, because you’ll know how to do it yourself.
1. Decide what text your website really needs. From an SEO perspective, text is invaluable for obvious reasons; the primary one being that text is what gets picked up by search engines. Beautiful, graphic-heavy sites are visually appealing, but words are even more important when it comes to driving traffic to your website. That said, the first step is to decide what kind of text will be most beneficial to your particular business. At a bare minimum, you need to have some introductory text on your homepage, an “About” page with your biography/resume/”story,” a page detailing your services or products, and a “Contact” page so people know how to reach you.
2. Decide if you want to get more advanced. Many great websites go on to have a “Frequently Asked Questions” page, detailed pricing information, and value-adds like original articles or other resources. If you’re not the world’s strongest writer, or you’re relatively new to the industry, you might stick with a more bare-bones site to start, but knowing what kinds of embellishments you’d like to add later is smart from a planning perspective.
3. Analyze your brand. Seriously consider whom you’re trying to reach with your website. Who is your target client? Start by thinking in more general terms: their age and other demographics, their education level, their career, their style and aesthetics, where they like to shop, what kind of car they drive, how they spend their free time, their values and priorities, etc. Then consider their wedding: how it looks, what kind of budget they have, where they get their inspiration, what other kinds of vendors they’re using, which services are most important to them. Once you have a crystal-clear image of whom you’re trying to attract, you then have a barometer for everything you create on your site: will they like it, will it make you stand out from your competitors, and will it motivate them to contact you?
4. Start at the beginning. The text on your homepage is your prospective clients’ first impression of your company. At a minimum, it should explain the gist of what you do (what service or product you offer), give a glimpse into your style, and identify where you’re located. With crisp, concise text and carefully selected imagery, you can welcome your target client beginning with their first glance at your site.
5. Introduce yourself. Your “about” page is so important because it’s your opportunity to directly connect with your dream client. Of course, you’ll probably want to include the standard “résumé” facts (your experience, years in business, awards and accolades), but smart business owners also choose to get personal. Let your own authentic voice and your passion for what you do really shine through in this section, because that’s what makes you unique. I have to say, the page of my site that it bothers me most to see plagiarized is my bio page, because thieves aren’t just stealing from me, they’re also missing out on the chance to be real with their clients – and let me tell you, when a client likes and identifies with your own personal story, they’re that much more likely to fall in love with your work. Why take that away from yourself?
6. Describe what you do. Your “services” page is the place to outline what you provide to your clients, including any packages or special offers. There’s an ongoing debate about whether to list your pricing on your website (I fall firmly into the camp of YES YES A MILLION TIMES YES), but if you’re going to do it, your services page is the place.
7. Answer your clients’ questions before they ask. Even a simple FAQ page is a great way to address clients’ concerns and to minimize some of the back-and-forth emailing that gets in the way of a meeting or contract. Think about what questions really do come up often among your customers – this will vary by service category, but might include things like price range, payment schedule, arrival time, equipment or gear provided, setup requirements, etc.
8. Let people know how to reach you. A clearly presented “contact” page should include your email address, phone number, mailing address (or at least a general geographic location if you don’t want to share your address) and links to your social media accounts. You might also include an inquiry form, but be sure to have an alternate means of contacting you, as forms do not always work. Trust me: businesses always look more legit when they share traditional contact information in addition to a web form.
9. Have a friend or associate check it. Ask one of your colleagues or friends to read the entirety of your site and provide honest feedback on your text and layout. Have them test the links, submit the contact form, click through to your social media, and ensure that all the images display correctly.
10. Have someone else check it. (No, seriously.) I can promise that plenty of people you might think of asking to look over your site will just take a quick glance and tell you it’s great. That’s why it’s important to get a second – or third, or fourth – opinion. Even better, try to get someone who falls into your target market to look at it and let you know if it’s appealing.
11. Make your message consistent across other platforms. Once you’re ready to launch your new site, take a look at your social media accounts and any online ads and directory listings to ensure the tone, language and overall message are consistent with your new website text. You want your fans, followers and prospective customers to find you trustworthy and credible, and presenting yourself in a consistent manner goes a long way toward achieving that.
12. Protect your work. It’s important to know that registering your website’s text and/or images are not necessary (as you owned the copyright as soon as you created it), but it does provide some added protection if you wanted to file suit against an infringing party. You can find out more at the United States Copyright Office. Additionally, you should make time in your schedule to periodically monitor the web for other sites that have stolen your content, as this is damaging to your site’s search engine rankings (and is just an intolerably crummy thing for someone to do to you!). You can invest in an automated reporting service like Copysentry, or do your own manual searches on a site like Copyscape. Honestly, though, you can get just as accurate results by creating a text file with key phrases from your site and then occasionally copying and pasting those into Google, to see what sites pop up.
So there you have it…12 steps to original, relevant text for your website, so you never have to steal again. Doesn’t it feel good to empower yourself and take control of your site?
(Have you been plagiarized? Remember that WeddingIQ offers free copyright coaching to anyone whose website text or images have been stolen! Contact us if we can help!)