Too much about what is written about writing for the web comes down to rigid rules that can often do more harm than good. A better approach is to take a more strategic look at your web writing and go from there. IE: “Start with the end in mind.”
My recent post about How People Read on the Web certainly stirred up a lot of debate, which either means I’m a clever copywriter or good at stirring the pot. (More likely a little of both.)
The interactions I’ve had certainly show that people have strong opinions and beliefs about the topic.
So rather than try and espouse some hard and fast rules about what and what not to do, I’m going to list seven strategic options to consider when writing your web copy. (That means you have to think.)
1: Define Your Business Objectives
Let’s be frank, most websites don’t have clearly defined objectives other than the hope of getting more business. And if that’s the case then any copy they place on their sites will be equally as aimless.
As the old saying goes:” If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”
So the first task is to clearly define what you want from the website.
I’m talking tangible business metrics here that you can take to the bank. EG: “We want to increase revenue by x% by Xmas,” or “We want to increase readership by x 000 viewers by the end of the month.”
Notice how edgy you get when you say it that way. Your writing suddenly becomes accountable. Of course you’ll need to figure out how you’re going to achieve the results and that will lend a definite edge to your writing.
2: Define Your Audience.
The next essential step is to define who you are writing for. Who is your audience, who are your customers, what do they like, dislike, where do they live, how old are they, what do they drive etc.
You’re not writing to please the board of directors, you’re writing to make your customers do something. You need to understand the difference.
If you haven’t done so already, make profiles and personas of your audience. (If you said: “What’s a persona?” you shouldn’t be writing web copy.)
3: Make Sure 1 and 2 Match
That is make sure there is an alignment between what you are trying to achieve as a business and what your potential customers are interested in. If there’s no common ground, then stop and go and do something else.
4: Speak Your Customers Language
Any salesperson knows that if you want to sell somebody anything you need to speak in language that they understand. IE: Everyday language. Don’t write in PR speak, legalese or fluffy advertising speak. Too many websites do and they suffer for it. Be real.
5: Be Yourself
This is especially true these days with the explosion of social media. People want to interact with real people, not faceless companies. So be real in your writing, be honest and have a personality.
6: Provide Value
This is perhaps the most important point. People are only going to read your online copy if it has value for them. Does it entertain them, educate them, provide useful information, and offer them something they can’t get anywhere else?
It’s the classic: WIIFM What’s in it for me? question. Put yourself in your prospect's shoes and see if what’s on the website actually adds any value to your experience.
7: Ask Them to Do Something
If you want your copywriting to have power, then you must provide your readers with a “call to action,” an invitation to do something next. That could be as simple as asking them to share your page, make a comment, download something or something more complex such as asking for the sale.
Whatever it is, every single page should have a clear call to action. If it doesn’t, then you need to go back to Step 1 and start again.
Once people respond to a call to action, they have become more engaged with your website, they have invested at least a little effort into the interaction, so they are one small step closer to becoming a customer.
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