If you were to pull apart this article, lining up each tip one after another, as in a long list of bullet points, you'd find more than four tips here — thus the title "4+". Perhaps I should have called this article "4 groups of tips," but that feels too wordy. In any case, keep these tips in mind when writing web content to increase your chances of turning browsers into buyers.
Tip 1: Speak with, not at, your customers.
Use the word “you” throughout your web content. Liberally. I’ve read hundreds and hundreds of sites that sound like this:
We serve our clients by developing high technology products.
We meet the needs of our clients.
Does that sound like your web copy?
Please! Change it! Immediately!
Think about your audience. Think about one reader, one possible customer, on your website. When your copy reads like that, when it says, "We serve our clients by…," it sounds as if you're telling a disinterested reader what you do. And prospective customers are by no means disinterested!
Plus, web content like that is boring. It doesn't involve your readers at all.
TALK to and involve potential customers throughout your site by using the word "you." Tell them (without the caps):
We serve YOU by developing high technology products that meet YOUR business objectives.
You can, and should, use this principle everywhere, even in the content on your “Services” page. Tell readers what you can, and will, do for them.
We at XYZ Web Design will mold and shape your idea…. Then, we’ll create a unique design that builds your brand, resulting in a complete website that’s a perfect fit for your company.
Tip 2: Use headlines. Present information in small chunks. Choose "real people" words. Cut the fat.
(That's four tips right there, in a single headline.)
Web content readers have short attention spans, which is why web content writers often advise using lots of headlines and writing in short, punchy sentences. (Save the flowery, wordy prose for your next poem or novel.)
Break your copy into short paragraphs too, with perhaps only three to five sentences each. If something "looks" hard to read, such as a dense wall of text, then (goes the thinking), it probably is hard to read.
Also, if you’re confronted with a choice between a $1 word and a 25-cent word, use the 25-cent word. After all, why say "utilize" when you mean use? Why say "loquacious" when you mean talkative? As copywriter Bob Bly once said, "I've never had anyone tell me that a piece was too easy to read" (my paraphrase).
Read through your copy and cut every unnecessary word, too. It’s easy to get carried away with adjectives and adverbs, but they add fat instead of muscle.
Look at this sentence: “We’ll do a very high quality job at a really great affordable price, and we'll do it very quickly, too.” See anything wrong with it? It's flabby — "very high quality job" and "really great affordable price" and "very quickly." To fix it, simply remove adjectives and adverbs. Once trimmed, the sentence reads like this: “We’ll do a quality job at an affordable price.”
Substitute "damn" every time you're inclined to write "very"; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should. ~~Mark Twain
Tip 3: Make your content all about benefits, benefits, benefits!
Tell your potential customers about the benefits of your product or service, not just the features. As the founder of Kodak said, "We don't sell film, we sell memories." If you're selling a ladies hat, don't tell prospects only about the wide rim and mesh material. Tell them how the wide rim will reduce the chance of skin cancer, and how the mesh will keep them cool on the hottest day. Benefits sell—not features.
Here’s how to uncover the benefits of your products or services. Get a piece of paper, and create two columns by drawing a line down the middle. Label the left column "What I offer" and the right column "Benefits." Then, list the products and services you offer, and the associated benefits.
If you’re a web developer, for example, you might offer customized database design, Internet marketing services, and ecommerce-capable sites. But those aren't benefits. Benefits are what your customers will GET–how their lives or businesses will be different, better--when they purchase those services.
What will a customized database design DO for your customers? Tell them. Tell readers how, with such services, they'll be able to collect registration data and analyze it to make informed business decisions. Tell them how your Internet marketing services will drive targeted customers to their site—and increase sales. And, tell them how an ecommerce-capable site will increase sales by more than 50 percent because people often prefer to pay online.
Tip 4: A few other things you should know. . . .
Use bulleted lists to break up long copy.
- It’s easy to read.
- And draws the eye down the page.
Also, try to keep your most important copy on the first half of the page. Many readers won't bother to scroll down, so they may miss the good stuff you want them to see if you place it at the bottom of a long page.
Write conversationally. If your web copy sounds like a legal tome, the only readers you'll connect with are legal eagles.
Don’t count on your spell checker two catch you’re miss steaks. But don’t let it rule your copy, either. Word (my program of choice) hates the way I write so I just ignore its advice most of the time.
Oh, and spell check hates fragments, too. Like this. And this.
But you know what? That’s how real people talk, and it's key to creating conversational yet professional web copy that draws in prospects and makes them feel as if you're speaking right to them, one on one, which, if you're approaching the task of web writing with the right mindset, you'll find that you actually are!
Images courtesy of: Officeman from Stockimages, Read texts, Benefits, and Buy button from Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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