Patchwork noun. The craft of sewing in which small, mismatched pieces of cloth in different designs, colours, and textures are sewn together.
Patchwork is great for using up little offcuts of fabric.
But it’s not so great for writing a website.
Or any other brand communications, come to that.
What’s patchwork website copy?
Patchwork website copy is a name I’ve given to certain kinds of copy I’ve seen on my travels around the cybersphere.
In a LinkedIn post I wrote, I referred to an example of this copy as ‘The Frankenstein’s monster of copy’. But, aside from the monstrousness, I actually think patchwork is a better description.
Because, like patchwork, it’s a mish-mash of styles, stitched together, with no consistency, common theme or goal. And the appeal is only ever in the eye of the beholder.
Let me give you some examples.
The multiple contributors patchwork
Your website has been written by several different people, possibly all from different departments. They’ve all made their own contribution without any brief or guidance. And their copy has been applied to the website without any judgement or moderation.
As a result, the website sounds like it’s been written by several different people — all with different voices and different agendas. There’s no consistency or sense of cohesion.
Everyone is happy that they’ve had their say and have been able to contribute exactly what they wanted. And, as the website owner, you’re happy because you think you’ve covered all bases.
But, to outsiders, it sounds jumbled and incoherent.
The copied and pasted patchwork
Your website has been ‘written’ using mismatched extracts of text, copied and pasted from other brands. They might be snippets you liked — and possibly wanted to emulate — but you never bothered to change them and make them suitable for your audience.
Sometimes there’s a loose narrative that ties them awkwardly together. But if they’re put together haphazardly, the copy won’t read well.
As the website owner, you’re happy with what you’ve created because it captures exactly what you wanted. You might even think it has the perfect ‘tone of voice’ — and you didn’t even have to pay someone to write it.
The continually updated patchwork
Your website may have been professionally written in the beginning — or, at least, it was all written by the same person. But over time, it’s needed tweaking. Things have been updated. Additions have been made.
Just small things. And you didn’t want to bother asking a copywriter to do them.
The problem is that all these incremental changes have changed the flow and tone of the copy.
You probably think the website is still serving its purpose. But, to outsiders, the changes are jarring — and they stick out like little sore thumbs.
Why patchwork website copy doesn’t work
Here are some of the main reasons patchwork copy is never going to work on your website.
It doesn’t have a clear goal
When you’re writing website copy, you need to start with a clear strategy and a clear set of outcomes you want for your business. All your copy should be written with a view to achieving those outcomes.
But if your website copy is pulled together from several different sources and with no overriding strategy, there’ll be no intent behind it and you’ll struggle to achieve anything.
It doesn’t convey a clear message
Your website could be a prospect’s first interaction with your brand, so your messaging must be clear. Your prospects have to be able to understand what you do, your value proposition and your USP.
But with patchwork copy, the messaging isn’t clear, which can leave your prospects with questions and doubts.
It doesn’t talk to the right people
Your website copy should put your target audience first. It should speak to them directly, using language that’s familiar to them. And it should have clear, consistent messaging that resonates with them and keeps them engaged.
If several different people are contributing to the website copy, the likelihood is that they’ll all have their own agendas and the target audience won’t be their priority. Instead, the copy will be company-focused — all we this and we that — and the target audience won’t feel it’s talking to them.
If the copy is copied and pasted from other websites, each snippet will be talking to the readers it was originally written for — not the readers it’s supposed to be targeting now. This means that, as a whole, it won’t be talking to anyone specifically and it won’t be doing its job.
It doesn’t have a clear narrative
Good website copy needs a holistic approach that covers the whole website. It should be fluid and flow smoothly from one idea to the next. And it should read naturally and effortlessly, so the reader can focus on the message, undistracted.
Patchwork copy doesn’t do any of those things. It’s badly stitched together and awkward to read, which means the target audience has to create their own narrative and fill in the blanks as they’re reading.
It isn’t on-brand
On-brand website copy should be like a stick of seaside rock, with the same message written all the way through it. Every element should be considered and consistent, from the way it looks (formatting) to the way it sounds (tone of voice).
Consideration and consistency are vital to your brand becoming known, liked and trusted. But patchwork copy isn’t considered or consistent. It’s haphazard and random.
And, for the target audience, that’s just confusing.
It won’t convert
For website copy to be effective and convert visitors into sales, it needs to be credible. Prospects need to believe what they’re reading if you want them to buy.
Patchwork copy doesn’t make you sound credible. It makes your brand sound disjointed and unbalanced — as if all the elements aren’t working together. And this can be a big red flag to a prospect.
What to do with patchwork copy
A competent copy editor can fix your patchwork copy so it:
- Flows properly and reads well
- Has a consistent tone and style
- Has a clear narrative running through it
- Is directed towards a more suitable audience.
But this might not solve the more fundamental issues, like:
- Having no strategy or goals
- Copy that doesn’t speak to the target audience
- Having the wrong tone of voice for your brand
- Copy that doesn’t convert visitors into sales.
For that you would need to hire a copywriter who’ll start from ground zero, building effective, optimised website copy on a foundation of meticulous research and audience understanding.
Need some direction?
If you need an experienced wordsmith who can look at your copy and give you guidance on what to do next, may be I can help.
I’m Jenny Lucas, a freelance copywriter and content writer based in Leicestershire, UK.
I’m solutions-driven and one of my main talents is the ability to see things clearly and objectively.
My copy critiques start from £150 and will help put your web copy on the right track, giving you clear advice on the best course of action.
If you’d like to work with me, fill in my contact form and let’s arrange a call to discuss your needs.