Old copy can go bad and do bad things.
Think of all the places on your site and within your outbound emails where the copy is really old. Some of those passages of text are probably the same today as they were on the day you launched your site. The bigger your site, the bigger this problem can be.
You don’t have these kinds of problems with company brochures or catalogs. A catalog, once printed, is static; every word is printed on paper and stays the same. If there is another catalog due out in six months, the whole catalog is reviewed and updated from one end to the other.
But we never completely rewrite and republish our sites. There is no issue number 1 or issue number 10. The changes are gradual. The site evolves.
The trouble is, while this evolution takes place continually, the changes that are made to the copy are often uneven.
And an uneven evolution of the copy can lead to some bad things happening.
Often, changes are made in one area of the site but are not updated in another. A simple example: Let’s say you review your policy of offering free return shipping on all products returned within 30 days. From now on you’re going to charge for return shipping. So you update that information on your Shipping and Handling page and in your FAQ area. And you tell your customer-service people. And they quickly update those drag-and-drop blocks of text they use in their emails and live-chat systems.
But you forget one thing. You forget to update that one short sentence in the outbound email that is generated automatically by the back-end when the product is shipped. The trouble is, nobody has even looked at that email since the day it was first written. The whole thing is automated, with the appropriate words and figures dropped in on the fly.
Hopefully, you have systems in place to avoid problems like that one. That’s a mistake that just shouldn’t happen.
Evolving Tone and Voice
But what happens when the tone and voice of your text evolves in some areas, but not in others? As your business has developed over the years, you may have experimented with and developed a voice that your customers respond really well to. That new and changed voice may be in evidence on your home page, in your newsletter, and in your outbound promotional emails. In other words, there’s been a significant shift in tone across the most frequently traveled screens of your online business. These are the places that are updated most frequently and are seen most often, and they are most likely to evolve in response to your improved understanding of your audience and its needs.
An evolving voice is a good thing, especially when it results in your being able to engage your customers in a way that is more personal and effective.
But have other, less-traveled pages on your site been updated? Does the tone of your FAQ page still match the tone of your home page? Do those automated outbound emails sound like they come from the same company that sends out your promotional emails? Does the text on your shopping-cart page engage readers in the same way it does in your newsletters?
When the tone and voice of your text evolves over time, it’s likely to evolve unevenly. You’ll make updates to the most important places first. That’s a pretty natural thing to do. But don’t let the feel of the text in less-traveled areas of your site fall too far behind. Because when your online business starts to speak in several different voices, your customers will sense a disconnect. And when they do, it will likely result in a loss of comfort and trust.
Do you trust people and companies that speak in multiple tongues?
Now is the time. Spring is in the air. Dig deep throughout your site, and make sure to clean out and update those areas of text that nobody has even bothered to look at over the last 12 months.