Getting your site written
Ask any web designer and they’ll tell you that, while their clients are happy to lavish plenty of time and effort on the look and feel of their shiny new site, they’ll pay almost no attention to getting the words right. This is partly because design is sexier; partly because the bulk of the design work is done by the designer, while the writing needs input from the business owner; and partly because writing is hard.
I can’t tell you how important it is to get the words right, particularly on your homepage and sales landing pages. No matter how impressive the design of your website or how effective it is from a usability point of view, poorly chosen or badly written copy is the fastest way to encourage your potential customers to click Back button rather than take the action you want.
To make sure your words are working for you, here are our top seven tips for successful copywriting.
Its’s your job
While it’s fine to hire an external copywriter, the responsibility for getting the copy right is yours alone. One test of a good copywriter is that they will ask to spend a lot of time with you to understand your business and customers before they write a single line. Either way, the process will involve a lot of your time and effort: this isn’t something you can abdicate responsibility for.
Why? Firstly, because it’s your business and – just as you’ll be heavily involved in selecting or building the product or service you sell, and you’ll be making dozens of key decisions as you develop your business – your intimate knowledge is essential to defining the message you’re presenting to your potential customers.
And second, because the quality of your copy could make the difference between profit and loss, between success and failure. This means that when you’re deciding on your priorities, copywriting should be right at the top. Because it’s so critical, you don’t expect someone else to bring the same level of commitment and knowledge to the process as you can yourself. That’s not to say you can’t or shouldn’t hire a copywriter to help polish the wording, but the bulk of the work needs to be done by you.
Know your customer
Probably the biggest mistake you’ll see in web copy is that writers have written it for themselves rather than for their target audience. Clearly, your audience isn’t you: after all, you don’t need to buy your product.
If you’ve been following the advice so far, you will have carried out a survey to help with your product development. The results of this survey will help you understand the characteristics of your audience. Not only will you learn what they’re looking for in their purchase but, if you included an open-ended questions, you’ll be familiar with the sort of language they use – and, indeed, how many of them don’t have English as a first language, which will affect the way you write your copy.
If a potential customer has a need in mind when they type their search term into Google, and they see that need reflected in the Google Ad that comes up and then reflected again in the page they arrive at when they click. They’re much more likely to buy.
What’s in it for them?
When visitors to your site read your copy and evaluate your offer, the question they’ll be asking themselves is: “What’s in it for me?” While a website is designed to be visited by many thousands of people, for each visitor the experience is a personal on. Just as with a book, the conversation is essentially one to one: you are talking directly to the reader.
Having learned something about your target audience, you need to write your copy so that this audience sees the benefit in your products compared to those of your competitors. You must present your products in terms of benefits as opposed to its features and their advantages.
What do you want them to do?
You should know what you want your customers to do, whether that’s buy a product immediately, ask for more information or sign up for a mailing list. But does your customer now? Never assume that this is obvious: make it crystal-clear what action you expect them to take, as many times as possible.
It’s essential that you have this action ”above the fold”. This means it will appear on your web page without the viewer needing to scroll down, because some may not get as fas as scrolling. The problem, of course, is that there’s a huge range of resolutions on computer screens. Gone are the days when almost everyone was using 1024×768; most new monitors are widescreen, some are as big as 30 inches, and Chromebooks with various formats and resolutions.
For most purposes, your “Buy” button or sign up area can be placed at around 500 pixels down the page and you’ll know that the vast majority of your audience will see it without scrolling. However, if you’re targeting mobile users you would need to think about placing the button higher and testing the site on multiple devices.
Keep it simple
There’s no avoiding the importance of simple clear, grammatically correct English. Irritating though it may be to many entrepreneurs, getting this right will have a direct impact in your conversion rate (how many visitors go on to buy something). Remember you’re communicating more than just a message in your copy; your words also represent your product. If you copy contains grammatical errors and spelling mistakes, that suggest to many buyers that you’re careless, so they’ve unlikely to buy from you.
Be friends with Google
Google rewards relevance. Why? Because it’s what searchers want. The more relevant Google believes your web pages to be, the better they will rank and the cheaper your advertising will be.
Google determines relevance primarily from the websites that link you (and those that you link to) and from the content on the page. At the most elementary level, it will compare the copy on the page with search phrases that the user typed in. In the dim and distant past of the early 2000s, this lead to internet marketers cramming their pages with search terms, often invisibly. Google is far too sophisticated to tolerate this sort of behaviour now, and if you try these dated techniques you will end up blacklisted. The secret to a good ranking is to write copy that your target audience will appreciate. That’s pretty much it: no black-hat techniques are required. A well-structured site will result in landing pages that are naturally closely matched to the keywords visitors have typed in. Google will see these pages as relevant and reward you accordingly.
Get your headline right
The most important line of your copy is the first one visitors see. Headlines fall into several types, including questions (“How much is peace of mind worth to you?”), calls to action (“Sign up now for free peace of mind” and direct headlines (“Free peace of mind here”) One of the most popular is the “how to” (“How to get free peace of mind in seconds”).