Wednesday, February 26, 2014

“What’s in it for me?”

Writing Compelling Website Copy

By Sue O’Shea - Director, Integrated Insight

Often times my “go-to” resource for all things website is Smashing Magazine, the online magazine for professional website designers and developers. In their article “A Quick Course on Effective Website Copywriting,” the author, Peep Laja, reminds copywriters that “the goal of Web copy (and ideally your website in general) is to get people to do something—to sign up, make a purchase, or something similar.”

Approaching copy from the “What’s in it for me?” viewpoint – the benefit visitors will receive by taking action - helps keep copy focused on the end goal. Visitors come for information and solutions to their problems. Don’t make it hard for them to find by using unnecessary lines of descriptive or flowery copy to describe your product or service. Another land mine, especially for organizations offering professional services, can be going on too long about your company, its history, and the many awards its won – all your readers really care about is how you can help them. Retail sites are discovering that giving consumers a reason to come to their sites other than to shop can create sales. By adding copy and content that offers advice on using a product, the best styles for your body type, or answers to common problems will enhance your shoppers experience and increase the odds of purchasing and returning again and again.

Another practice I try to employ is the avoidance of industry jargon and “insider terms.” It can confuse readers and make them work too hard to understand what you’re trying to communicate. I suggest asking a co-worker to act as the “jargon police” to keep the copy as lingo free as possible. Keep it simple, straight forward, and specific.

Your Home Page is your first impression. Therefore it is important it include your company’s value proposition – the primary reason a customer should buy from you.  Smashing Magazine indicates that there is no one right way to go about it, but suggests you start with the following formula and work from there:

  • Headline: What is the end-benefit you’re offering, in one short sentence. The Attention grabber.
  • Sub-headline or a two-to-three sentence paragraph: A specific explanation of what you do/offer, for whom, and why is it useful.
  • Bullet points: List the key benefits or features, but focus mostly on the benefits.
The product page is where you sell the value of your product and where the user takes action (adds to cart, signs up, makes a purchase, etc.). This is the place to drive home the benefits of your product and how your product or service will solve the issue at hand. There is always the question of how much information is too much, but an IDC (International Data Corporation) study showed that 50% of the uncompleted purchases were due to lack of information. Include as much of the product information as practical, and be sure to have a strong call to action. Studies have shown website visitors want to be led through the process, therefore the call to action must be clear and compelling. The article “Five Copywriting Errors That Can Ruin A Company’sWebsite” offers these examples:

  •  “Order now to save 15%,”
  • “Get your artist’s rendering within 24 hours,”
  • “Learn the 5 secrets to permanent weight loss.”
Call to action is further strengthened with testimonials (it worked!), credibility statements (it’s reliable!), high value (it’s worth having!) and urgency (it’s now or never!). It is recommended that your site have a primary and secondary call to action such as a down loadable white paper or case study. A potential client may not be ready to order, but they may be willing to learn more. Today’s white paper could be tomorrow’s conversion.

The above is only a short primer on compelling website copy. The two articles I referenced provide additional outlines and tips to help along the way. To quote Smashing Magazine’s contributor Peep Laja, “The best Web copy is not the one that uses sophisticated persuasion and mind manipulation techniques. The best copy provides full information about the product, its benefits, and makes it clear whether it’s the right one for the user.”

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