Creating a Roadmap to Effective Web Copy

“When we consider a new project, we really study it—not just the surface idea, but everything about it. And when we go into that new project, we believe in it all the way. We have confidence in our ability to do it right. And we work hard to do the best possible job.”

– Walt Disney

Welcome back everyone! I hope you had an enjoyable and productive week.

Those words above from my hero, Walt Disney, are words each of us—especially as copywriters—should live by.

Really, you could equate what he’s saying to our proverbial search for the “Big Idea” in our direct mail sales letters, right? Or our attempt to identify the “core emotion” that would prompt our customers to take whatever action it is we’re trying to persuade him to take.

For Walt Disney and company it came down to what it would take to immerse his guests in a world of “make believe,” where even the impossible seemed real.

Fiction writers call it “the willing suspension of disbelief,” and if you’ve ever written any fiction and attained that level, then you know what I mean when I say you’re “in a zone” when it happens.

But for us, as commercial copywriters looking to make a buck by writing for the web, it’s a whole different ballgame.

We can’t immerse ourselves in the netherworlds of whimsical fantasy and dreams when it comes to crafting a strong call-to-action. Nor can we allow ourselves to stray too far from the core emotion that brought our prospects to our home page, landing page, micro site, or email.

For us (and at the risk of dating myself…), to quote Jack Webb on the old TV police drama, “Dragnet,” we need “just the facts, Ma’am.”

So that’s what we’re going to talk a bit about this week — creating a roadmap to getting the facts we need to write effective copy, and attaining that level of immersion that Walt sought out in all the projects he undertook.

The roadmap to understanding underlying emotions…

Okay, so over the last few weeks we’ve talked about how to identify your audience. Now we turn our attention to a set of five questions we need to ask ourselves in order to develop effective web copy. Once you know the answers to these questions, your job of writing copy will become much easier and enjoyable:

  1. What problem must be solved?
    If there wasn’t a problem to be solved, your reader wouldn’t be wasting time to see if your website offered a solution. Think of the “pain,” “problem,” or “predicament” that exists that drove your reader to your site. Keep in mind that in some cases your reader may not even be aware a particular situation exists, and it therefore becomes part of your job to point it out to him. Avoid pushing your solution upon your reader before you and he or she has established a common ground in agreeing on what problem the solution is solving.
  2. Have there been other attempts to solve the problem?
    If there have been other attempts to solve the problem, your reader is no doubt aware of them. If your product or service truly offers something new and/or unique (and if it’s worth writing a web page for, then it certainly should!), then now is the time to build your audience’s anticipation about the new solution you’re going to introduce them to.
  3. How will your prospect’s life improve/change?
    For those of you familiar with the “picture” section of a direct mail letter, this is where you start building an image of what life can be like once the pain, problem, or predicament is solved. And of course, knowing your prospect as intimately as you do, you’ll be able to put yourself squarely in his or her shoes and identify the benefits that will be realized by purchasing your solution.
  4. What is your Unique Selling Proposition?
    Now it’s time to let them know who you are and how your product or service will solve the problem and deliver on the picture you’ve just painted for them. Dig down and identify what distinguishes you and your product or service from all the other solutions out there. Why do you stand out from your competitors? (Remember … keep it friendly!)
  5. What is your call-to-action?
    This is where you tell your reader what it is you want him or her to do. Normally, this might be to click on an order link, enter contact information, pick up the phone and call, register, or opt-in. Your CTA should be stated clearly with no ambiguity. (Think: “Just the facts, Ma’am.”)

Knowing the answers to these questions will provide you with a clear roadmap to building the piece you’re working on. Next week—unless you tell me different—we’ll take a look at ways to “flesh out” your roadmap and make your readers respond.

Let me know what you think, and as always…

Good health and good writing!

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

The Professional Writers’ Alliance

At last, a professional organization that caters to the needs of direct-response industry writers. Find out how membership can change the course of your career. Learn More »

Click to Rate:
Average: 5.0
Published: August 12, 2009

3 Responses to “Creating a Roadmap to Effective Web Copy”

  1. Thanks for this useful article. What I especially like about it is it's simple, or as the article states, "just the facts" that are needed are given.

    I'm in the process of creating a new money-making website and all these tips are priceless.

    Karen Cioffi

    KarenCVAugust 16, 2009 at 11:11 am

  2. I guess I'm looking for the actual kinds of questions you would ask a client before writing any web copy. Otherwise it's a good article.

    TerrieSeptember 21, 2009 at 2:26 pm

Guest, Add a Comment
Please Note: Your comments will be seen by all visitors.

You are commenting as a guest. If you’re an AWAI Member, Login to myAWAI for easier commenting, email alerts, and more!

(If you don’t yet have an AWAI Member account, you can create one for free.)

This name will appear next to your comment.

Your email is required but will not be displayed.

Text only. Your comment may be trimmed if it exceeds 500 characters.

Type the Shadowed Word
Too hard to read? See a new image | Listen to the letters

Hint: The letters above appear as shadows and spell a real word. If you have trouble reading it, you can use the links to view a new image or listen to the letters being spoken.

(*all fields required)