Improve Your Copywriting Skills …
7 Ways to Improve the Copy on the Next Web Page You Write
Whenever you sit down to write a Web page – whether it’s a home page, a sales page, a subscription page, or an information page – there are seven steps you can take to ensure that your copy is the best it can be.
Define the purpose of the page.
This may sound obvious, but too few online copywriters and marketers sit down and establish a clear, clean purpose for a Web page.
All too often, Web pages are created as “content dumps.” Some boss somewhere decides he or she wants a page on some topic, the under-boss passes along the request plus some background information from an old brochure, and the writer is asked to write the page.
Not a smart way to do it.
Far better to sit down for 10 minutes with others involved in the project and ask the simple question, “What is the primary purpose of this page?” Or, to put it another way, “What is it we want this page to achieve?”
Is its purpose to …
- close a sale?
- secure a subscription or registration?
- help people find a particular product or service page on your site?
- invite participation?
- pre-sell a product or service and then move the reader forward to a sales page?
- educate the reader and then direct him or her forward to one of your main category pages?
Write down the answer, in 10 words or less, and pin it to the wall in front of you.
Now you know what your page needs to do.
Understand your audience
Who will be coming to this page? Kids? Retired people? Who are they? Where do they live? How much money do they have?
And, broadly speaking, what is their interest in coming to your site? Are they there to learn? Or are they looking for a new car? Insurance? Garden furniture?
Based on their even knowing about your site, you can get a pretty good idea about who is coming there and what their general interest is.
So here’s the question: “Who are these guys?”
Write down your answer on that same sheet of paper.
Get clarity on your visitors’ expectations.
Now we are getting more granular. We want to know why these people are coming to this page specifically. What do they want? What are they hoping for? What are their expectations?
There are clues and trails you can follow when trying to identify the specific purpose someone has in mind when coming to a page.
First, ask yourself where they came from. A link from the home page? So what did the link say? What is the exact wording? That link text will give you a very clear idea as to your page visitor’s expectations. In fact, the link text will largely set that person’s expectations.
The same is true of someone arriving via a search engine. To find your page, they typed a few words into the search engine’s search field. What phrase did they use? Again, those words give you a strong clue as to the visitor’s expectations.
Maybe they came via a link in an email. What expectations did the email build up and set? What was the promise?
Follow these trails and do your best to determine the visitor’s expectations.
This is vital.
You will always maximize the effectiveness of a Web page by getting as close as you can to matching the visitor’s expectations.
Remember, those expectations are set immediately before the visitor arrives on the page.
This means your headline and opening text has to be a direct and immediate match with what that person is hoping to find.
Don’t waste time or words. Match your reader’s expectations immediately.
Get to the meat faster.
The Web is not the place to write clever introductory text. It’s not the place to do some grand scene-setting.
Determine your reader’s expectations and get to the “meat” of your message immediately. No meandering. No fluff. Just get out of the way and let them do what they came there to do.
That action might be to read an article. Or sign up for a newsletter. Or compare three different laptop computers. It doesn’t matter. Whatever it is that they want, give it to them immediately.
Write only as much as you need to.
As copywriters, we are often told how much copy to write. We need to fit a certain format, fill a page, or write enough text to fit in an 8-page letter.
The Web isn’t like that. A page can have two lines of text or a thousand lines of text. There is no fixed length.
The tendency online is to write more than is really necessary.
Don’t do that.
Go back to your notes, confirm what it is your visitor wants to do, and write only enough to enable them to meet their goal.
Write enough to get the job done, but not a word more.
Tell people what to do.
Again, this sounds obvious. But there are a zillion pages online that are beautifully written, but then sag and sputter at the end.
If your reader takes no action after reading the page, you have failed. You need them to do something.
Hopefully, if you have done a good writing job, the link they click will correspond exactly to the expectations they had before they arrived at your site.
For instance, before arriving at your page, they might have been thinking, “I need an insurance quote for my new home.”
The best outcome for you is when they click on a link on your page that says, “Get an insurance quote for your home.”
It’s only by securing an action that you can succeed in matching their expectations.
Tell them the next step.
Some expectations are more complex. Maybe someone was thinking, “I want a new digital camera, but I would like to check out my options.”
They then arrive on your page, which includes a digital camera comparison chart.
Good job so far.
You have helped them compare cameras. But they aren’t ready to buy. So what’s next?
Well, people who compare cameras are at different stages. Some are almost ready to buy, others are still early on in the research process.
So how do you get them to take an action?
You provide options.
For those who are early on in their search, offer a free downloadable guide to choosing digital cameras.
For those who are ready to buy, provide a link to the sales page for each camera.
Be aware of the options your readers might find attractive, and offer them.
The Place Where People DO Things
All of these points are focused on understanding the visitor and getting him or her to do something.
That’s what the Web is. It’s a place where people DO things.
And you need to write accordingly.
Know your visitors. Know what they want. And help them achieve their goals.
[Ed. Note: Thanks to the web, the demand for freelance copywriters has skyrocketed in the last few years. So all this week we’ll focus on finding the best paying jobs, and writing web copy that sells. Nick Usborne, often referred to as THE expert of online copywriting, will be giving you the inside scoop … so stay tuned!]
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