9 Step Guide to Pricing and Rewriting Website Content

There are tons of ‘how to write copy’ guides on the internet, and hundreds of blogs dedicated to the subject. But when it comes to pricing, it’s a bit of a content desert. Especially when it comes to how much you should charge to rewrite the copy for an existing website.

I’m going to break it down so you’ve got a guide to the planning and process from start to finish. You’ll be able to quote according to your estimates and save the thing running over creating an expensive fright for yourself or your client down the track.

Sound good? Read on!

How Should I Determine the Price?

I’m not going to lie to you, pricing to rewrite the content for a website can be painful, and it’s not an exact science. Rather than give you a ‘how to’, consider the 9 steps below as a guide to what the process will look like from start to finish.

You need to get clear on what to include in your proposal, estimate time to allocate for each task and then work out a price.  If you don’t do this up front you might not ask for enough money, and you’ll end up broke, resentful and stressed out about taking on the project.

Not all the steps may be required for your project, but it’s important to understand each one and whether it’s necessary. The truth is, every content writer does things differently. You’ll need to figure out what your client needs and what suits your style and approach.

Hang on, won’t it be easier to just write new content from scratch?

It’s true, rewriting pages of monotonous drivel into clear, converting copy can be much more difficult than writing from a blank slate.

But if you’re thinking, ‘I’m just going to delete copy from the old pages and rewrite onto the new ones’, stop!

Sit down, put your feet up and get your chops around this crucial point: rewriting might be a pain, but for long-standing websites with good traffic, deleting everything and starting again can mess with a site’s search engine optimisation (SEO) and Google search rankings.  

Big time.

There’s no point writing fabulous content for a site no one can find.

SEO and Content Marketing Can’t Live Without Each Other

There is no such thing as SEO without content.  

Bold statement.  

Yes, but true.

SEO and content marketing go together like peanut butter and jelly. They work together in harmony and complement each other beautifully.

Think about it like this.

Content marketing creates and distributes optimized and consistent content to attract and engage a target audience.  SEO increases a web page’s visibility within organic search results.

They need each other. More than ever on a website rewrite project.

SEO creates demands. Content fulfils those demands. So before you do anything, find out what the SEO data is demanding.

Maybe your client’s web designer and marketing team take care of SEO, and they’ve provided you with specific guidelines for pages that have already been identified through a detailed inventory and audit.

If that’s the case, fantastic. Price it as a simple content creation project.  

However, if they don’t have the necessary SEO skills or resources, you’ll need to take a holistic approach and wear both hats for the project. You can do it.

Ok, ready for those steps I promised? Let’s go.

1. Develop a detailed brief (around 2 hours)

Wait, what’s a brief again?  Hubspot can teach you about that.

You can’t nail a rewrite without a detailed understanding of your client’s business and goals. You need to make sure you really understand what they hope to achieve, and they need to understand the scope of the project.

A detailed brief gets everyone to connect with one vision, and more importantly, it determines the direction of the project.

Wherever possible do the brief over the phone or a video call, you get more detailed and specific answers this way.  

Some points to think about when writing a brief:

  • Is the site architecture changing?
  • Is there a brand guideline or tone of voice document? If not, get some sample marketing materials.
  • What does the client want to achieve from the site?
  • What is the target audience? What are their needs, wants, desires and problems?
  • What reaction do they want from customers when they visit the site?
  • What information and insights can you gain about their competitors?
  • What’s the deadline for the copy – obvious question but easily overlooked.  
  • How many revisions do they need to see – one, two or three or more?

When briefing, explain the importance of content for SEO – clients often have no clue that their image-heavy, minimal-text site is doing them no favours. Best practice indicates 300 words per page is about right, but the most important consideration is the effectiveness of the message being conveyed in the content, and whether it’s addressing the right keywords.  

Take control of your project and recommend word counts and revisions yourself. Be explicit about price changes for extra revisions and additions.  If you don’t, you will find yourself struggling to stay in profit on the project, with your time eaten up by endless revisions, feedback and client discussions.

The devil is in the details!  Get as much information as possible on the brief so you can present an accurate quote to the client.

Tip:  During the briefing process, get your client to ask every member of their team to email 3 words they would use to describe the company.  Put them in a spreadsheet, order them by number of times people used each word.  It’s a great way to understand the tone and feel of a company, and you’ll be able to work the words into the copy.  

2. Conduct a Content Inventory and Content Audit (anywhere from 2 to 10 days)

Truth is, this part will take as long as it takes, and might be lengthy.  You need to estimate your hours based on the size of the site and how deep down the rabbit hole your briefing objectives send you. Give yourself plenty of time as this will be what informs all your writing further down the track.

Let’s assume for the purposes of this guide that you are wearing both SEO and content hats for the project. If you attempt to rewrite any website without the content inventory and content audit you’ll end up in a spaghetti mess.

The depth of the audit and inventory will depend on how much SEO your client needs you to do.  

The content audit will clarify the SEO demands and the new content will fulfil them. The audit will also reveal how well the current content is performing in terms of SEO and traffic.  

The content inventory will help you figure out which content needs to be kept as is and which needs improving, removing or consolidating.

Content Insight have some great templates and tools for both audits and inventories. Their Content Analysis Tool (CAT) can make inventories a breeze. It crawls a site and returns a rich set of data about every page which includes:

  • All page URLs and the files associated with them
  • File type
  • Image, video, and document links
  • Metadata (title, description, keywords)
  • Google Analytics data
  • H1 text
  • Links in and links out
  • A screenshot of the page
  • Word count

The CAT presents your data in an easy-to-use dashboard that allows you to easily:

  • View, sort, and filter completed job data
  • Re-run a crawl and compare the results to an earlier report
  • View and save images and documents
  • Add your own columns and tags as well as notes to each page
  • Export data for offline analysis

Getting clean, complete data and then analysing it correctly is essential.  Things can go horribly wrong when web content audits are not done properly or overlooked. If this is not your strength, call in an expert to help, or subcontract this part out.

Once the inventory is complete move onto the audit. If done correctly, the audit should help you answer questions about the current content of your client’s site. You should include:

  • Checking that page titles, URL’s, meta descriptions and image tags are all Google friendly
  • Exposing broken or expired links
  • Highlighting duplicate and/or thin content that can be consolidated and improved
  • Showing the highest performing pages; most visited, shared, commented on etc
  • Which topics the audience most connects with
  • Bounce rate and average time on page
  • Showing which content has overstayed its welcome

When you’re staring at the mountains of data your content audit will generate it’s easy to get lost. Make sure you have determined what your audit should focus on.  

Stay focused!

If the objective of the website rewrite was to improve customer experience, focus on that in the audit. If it was to improve content performance, focus on that.  

Remember that brief you did? It’s going to remind you of the objective. Use it.

You can head to Content Insight again if you need tools and direction for your audit.

3. Competitor Audit (2-4 hours)

Now you’ll go deeper down the rabbit hole by conducting an audit of the client’s competitor sites.  

It’s a similar process to your client’s site content audit, but there a few metrics you won’t have access to such as average time on page, bounce and conversion rates.  

No matter.  

For this step, you just want to know what the competitors are doing right that your client might not be. For instance, if a competitor’s site ranks for a keyword that’s highly relevant to your client’s business (and your client’s website doesn’t), that’s an opportunity to exploit when you rewrite their content.

4. Create a content map (anywhere from 5 hours to 2 days, depending on the amount of content you’re going to be mapping)

Your newly narrowed SEO focus has made its demand. Now let’s look and see what your content will do to fulfil that demand.

A website needs to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time.

Your content map is the visual tool to help you do just that. There are lots of great free content mapping tools and templates out there, I’d recommend Hubspot as a starting point.

The content map will be your point of direction when you begin writing.  It’s there to keep you focused on the type of content you need to create for the characteristics (or buyer persona) of the people who will be consuming it.  

Will the content connect with the people consuming it? Does it meet the objectives of the website rewrite? You will need to show your client that you are aligning their new content to the buyer.

Although it’s not one of the core steps here, creating buyer personas is the best way to make sure you connect with the client’s audience, so don’t overlook it. There could be multiple personas for each type of customer and knowing what they are will inform the content map as much as your audit and inventory do.

If your client doesn’t have buyer personas set out already, and you need some guidance to create them, Hubspot can help you out.

If there are any web development requirements for the site, your content map will also help to guide those by identifying the types of content the site will host.  This could include videos, additional static pages, photo galleries, case studies and interactive elements.

Make sure to estimate time on this task as accurately as you can, based on the needs identified in the brief.

5. Finally! Write the damn thing (allow more time than the content map but less time than the audit and inventory)

This is the fun part!

Look over your brief again and follow that content map.

Here are some pointers to keep in mind while writing:

  • What content did you decide to keep?
  • What information is missing?
  • What do you want the site’s content to achieve?
  • What is the tone of the language?
  • What keywords are ranking and what should the site be ranking for?
  • Make sure you include meta descriptions, title tags and image tags for each piece

Now write……

Take a break, have a coffee, stay off Facebook, come back, start again. You know the drill. And remember, you can’t charge for procrastination!

I’ll mention this again in step 7, but when estimating time for writing, don’t forget to factor in time for revisions and client feedback. Most website content projects need at least a couple of rounds, those with many people involved can require many more.  

6. Polish and shine! (2-4 hours)

Once you’re written all that great content, it’s so important to step away for a while (overnight is ideal). Come back with fresh eyes and run through this quick checklist before you present the content to your client:

  • Are the titles & meta descriptions engaging?
  • Is every sentence necessary/strong enough?
  • Is the tone consistent throughout?
  • Does the content flow (should feel like a story)
  • Does it stand out against the competition?
  • Any SEO improvements to strengthen the content?

7. Present to the client

Every brain cell has been squeezed of every last ounce of writing juice.  You have invested a lot of time and energy into this, but it’s time to let go and send it off to the client.

Go on, press send, you can do it.

Have a glass of wine (not a core step but it probably should be).

8. Revision Time (4-6 hours for each round)

Keep it tight. If you stated two revisions then stick to your guns. Send each version to the client and work in their feedback. If it looks like there are going to be extra rounds of revisions, alert the client early and remind them there is a charge for additional revisions.

If you have followed this guide and conducted each step thoroughly, revisions and changes should not be a headache.

Once revisions have been made and the final content has been proof read, it’s ready to be signed off.

9. Sign it off

Whatever you do, make sure you get the client to sign off on final content delivery. If this step is overlooked it can leave the door open for clients to come back with ‘we are not happy with this or this’ at a later date.

Get it signed off so any future changes can be requoted as part of a new project.

If the project has gone well and you know the client is thrilled, take the opportunity at sign off to grab a testimonial from them.

What did we learn about pricing and rewriting website content?

Hopefully lots!

The pricing process is complex and dynamic. Remember there is no one-size-fits-all solution here. Website rewrites can take many forms. It all depends on the client’s business goals.  

Do you have any tools or tips for rewriting existing website content?