October 1, 2009
Writing an effective web copy begins with an understanding of what the goals of your website are. Are you trying to get your visitors to purchase something or have them sign up for your newsletter? Remember you are trying to get someone whom you can’t see and have never met take a step towards building a relationship with you or your company.
1. Create a customer profile—Who is exactly your target audience?
- Are they young, middle aged or senior?
- Are they primarily male or female?
- Are they financially secure or budget-minded?
- What gets him or her excited?
- What are his or her most pressing concerns?
2. Create a Unique Selling Position (USP) — Find out what are the needs and desires of your visitors. Brainstorm a list of topics that might interest your target audience. Then based on these evidences, propose a statement of 2–3 sentences that explains why you are different from everybody else. This is the unique factor that sets you apart from your competition. Make this the first thing your visitor sees when they arrive on your home page.
3. Focus on benefits — Most web users want to find the information about the product or service they need as fast as possible. If they land on your site, they want to know how they will benefit from buying your product or subscribing to your e-zine. You will need to answer that question as clearly and concisely as possible or you will lose that visitor.
4. Use headlines — Provide a summary of your information by clearly communicating the main purpose of your copy. Use informative headings and subheadings with a paragraph of 4–5 lines that supports them. You only have a few seconds to grab your visitors’ attention. Most will simply scan for the information they are seeking.
5. Use bulleted or numbered lists, boldface or colored font to emphasize the points you wish to make.
6. Include links within the text to direct visitors to other pages of your site for more in-depth information. Effective navigation also helps visitors easily find the main sections of your site.
7. Write in an informal or personal style — It is your own unique way of differentiating your presence from other small businesses in a similar niche. It doesn’t have to be too elaborate or super-creative. You simply provide a style that gets the attention of your visitors.
8. Keep your sentences simple — You are not writing to impress. You are writing to communicate. Make it easy for a 13-year-old to understand why you want to sell your product or service.
Don’t use large words but opt for strong verbs over weak ones. Use the active voice instead of a passive one, i.e. instead of “a good score was achieved by the team”…say “the team scored a season high”. Speak “to” but not “at” your visitor. Keep your sentences short and snappy. Sometimes straight-forwardness is all it takes to bring results in the shortest time.
9. Include searchable keywords — Use targeted keywords in your web copy that will allow the search engines to find your site. Include these keywords in your meta tags, links and file names.
10. Eliminate the fluff — Don’t waffle on in your writing. You will only bore your visitors and they will click elsewhere. Try to remove filler sentences that contain phrases like “for those of you” and “all of you”.
11. Proof-read your web copy — Errors in your web copy give the impression of being unprofessional or sloppy. Read the copy aloud to yourself or get someone else to proof-read it. Often they will find more errors because they are more objective.
Use the spell checker but don’t rely on it. Often it doesn’t pick up grammatical or vocabulary errors. Print a copy of your content. It’s easier to find such errors on a hard copy this way.
12. Take a break — Revise your web copy after taking a break from it for several hours or a few days. This allows you to see it from a different viewpoint. You may find a better way to say something to further improve your copy.
13. Use images sparingly — Images should only be used if they relate and support your web content. If not, they will only distract the visitor from reading your web copy. Too many images will slow down the time it takes for your visitor to load your site in their browser.
Writing an effective web copy is the key to converting visitors into buyers. Getting thousands of visitors to your website doesn’t guarantee sales. The types of words you use and how you combine and string them together is absolutely crucial to pressing the hot buttons of someone who would finally say, “Yes, I MUST get it!” Once you achieve this, your website will become very profitable.