People aren’t idiots, but they can be lazy and easily distracted.
In the age of the Internet, our attention span is akin to that of a golden retriever puppy at the beach. If we have to put more than 5 seconds trying to understand what a webpage is on about, we’re gone. Life is too short, and Reddit has too many funny GIFs for me to spend time performing Shakespearean-level analysis on your website’s written content.
It doesn’t matter if you’re selling designer furniture, providing maintenance services, or promoting an event. There’s simply no room for ambiguity in web page copy anymore.
The internet is big. Really Big.
There are usually thousands of websites relating to a particular service/industry/product. Searchers know that in 2014, there is absolutely no reason to exert any energy to find what you’re looking for online.
If you don’t want a visitor to leave as soon as they get to your site (technically known as ‘bouncing’), then you must give them a good reason to stay. Instantly. So, how are you going to keep the punters on your page? Many excellent books have been written on the subject, and there’s certainly no one, right answer. But here are a few things to consider:
Stay out of your own way.
Extraneous detail is a conversion-killer. You’re trying to help your market understand why they should be doing business with you. Don’t distract them. We’ve all been guilty of the crime of ‘saying too much’. Much like some like the sound of their own voice, many like the look of their own type.
I try to keep this goal in mind constantly for webpage copywriting: Write for my customer, not for me. Ask yourself – “If I was looking for [product/service], what would I really want to know first?” and, “What headache would this remove from my life?” Your answers will help guide your writing; what to include, and just as importantly, what to omit.
Talk to your visitors like real people.
Develop a good understanding of the types of people looking at your site. How do they talk with those in their day-to-day life? How do you talk to your existing customers face to face? Getting into a conversational mindset will lead to more natural-sounding copy. Copywriting, at its core, is communicating with people. Tell your audience, in their words, why they should engage with you. This shouldn’t be confused with ‘dumbing down’ or ‘dressing up’ wording – being expressive is definitely encouraged. What good copy doesn’t do though, is alienate target markets through unrelatable language.
Look at your favourite products & services online – how do they communicate with you?
Copywriting for me is conveying certain emotions, showing understanding (pain points etc), and evoking real excitement in the reader. When I need inspiration for writing copy I’ll check out my favourite product websites that I’ve engaged with or bought from. One of these companies is Apple. Check out this great blog post from Kiss Metrics, who breakdown Apple’s hugely successful and respected copywriting style. Sure, Apple have a huge brand and budget. But their site copy is clear, expressive and memorable – attributes your site copy can and should have, no matter your budget.
Headline is (almost) everything.
Without a headline that resonates with the reader, any other copy is wasted effort. Most in the advertising world will know Ogilvy’s famous quote on headlines: “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
– David Ogilvy
You may have multiple headlines or sub headings. They all need to summarise the sentiment of that particular page/section. Often it pays to be direct about what you’re offering, like Campaign Monitor:
Test your headings
Get your colleagues who are unfamiliar with the client to skim just the page headings for 10 seconds, then ask them to relay back to you what the website is about. If they understand, your messaging is probably quite clear. The great thing about online copywriting is that A/B testing exists to definitively find out what works and what doesn’t. No matter how funny, clever or emotive (all great things) your copy gets, it should always be understandable. The best copy is both highly expressive and very clear in its message.
Talk to your customers through your copy!
So, it’s time to really start talking to your market with web copy. Just don’t start needlessly showing off, otherwise I’ll leave and go look at fail videos.