5 Rules of Effective Website Copy
Today I’m sharing copy writing pointers, tips and tricks with those of you who feel you can’t afford a professional copywriter right now but don’t want to be shooting yourself in the foot as you’re writing your own marketing materials and other copy.
Don’t use ten dollar words where two-dollar words will do.
Your marketing materials shouldn’t resemble academic treatises. Remember: your target audience isn’t 100% college professors (unless it is).
You’re writing to decades-old natives and to newly-arrived immigrants; to people who have completed six years of schooling and to college graduates.
Never talk down to your target audience, but don’t use words that are so unfamiliar that people fall through the cracks or are forced to carry a dictionary to discover what the heck it is you want to share with them. Examples: Get rid of “purchase”; instead, use “buy” or “get” or “Enjoy”. Get rid of “However”; use “But”.
Which leads me to rule number two.
Remember what your English teacher taught you about the rules of grammar and sentence structure, but ignore them as often as you can so you stay connected.
You learned “Never start or end a sentence with a preposition” (and, but; with, of). Great! Sound advice–much of the time. (When you’re in school. When you’re going to be tested as to how well you learned the lessons you were taught.)
In the copy writing realm, remember a new rule: Every time your reader reaches the end of a sentence and sees the period, he or she has permission to leave. But you don’t want them to leave. And if they do leave, you have lost whatever traction you had up to that point. So don’t write the way your teacher said you should!
Did you notice what I did there? You had permission to leave after every period in the paragraph above. But you didn’t. Why? Because your mind cannot leave when the first word in the next sentence is and or but or if or so. So why would you ever routinely give your readers/visitors permission to leave before they get to your action line, the line that reads, “Download your free report now,” or “Let’s talk,” or “Find out more at…”
You want your copy to perform like a tractor beam on Star Trek. So… “Make it so!”
Send your Grammar Nazi packing…
“Me and … Bobby McGee/Mrs. Jones/My Shadow”
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
“Kick your shoes off. Set a spell.”
These familiar ditties are connectors. They’re familiar. They create a feeling of comfort. They reassure you that the speaker is friendly so you relax.
Your website isn’t about you. (It isn’t.) It isn’t about you!
Your website is about what you can do for the visitors who drop in.
How many websites have you seen where the powers-that-be (usually the business owner) has directed his or her writer to make the copy all about the business: how long they’ve been in business, their rigorous training, awards they’ve won, blah, blah, blah. That stuff can go on the About Us page. The rest of the site should be visitor-centric, not business-centric.
Remember this prophetic phrase when writing your own website copy: People don’t care how much you know (or do) until they know how much you care. Visitors to your site want to know how well you “get” them, which of their pain points you can send packing.
Whenever you appear to visitors to be going to extremes to try to qualify yourself or sell, sell, sell, you look desperate. Consider how you’d feel if you walked into a department store and immediately had a salesperson on you like a leech, saying “We’re great! We’re dependable! We’ve been in business for years! Take a look at this!” without even bothering to find out why you walked in the door.
Rule #4 The home page of your website should feel like coming home. Be sure it’s relational. If this sounds like a repeat of rules 1-4, yeah, it kinda is. My goal here is to get you to get off any high horse you think you may need to be riding in order to impress someone. Just be yourself. Don’t write to impress–write to express!
When you write copy, write to a single imaginary person in your target audience as if you’re sitting across the table from him or her exchanging pearls of hard-won wisdom over coffee . Don’t orate–relate. If I can convince you to do just this much right , you’ll be light years ahead of the game and your competition will begin to envy you.
Keep your copy active, present tense and energizing as much as you can. Do whatever you can using your words to raise the vibrational level of your visitors. If this tip sounds New Age-y to you , go ahead and look up vibrational fields to learn how they influence (for good and for ill) the people within your spheres of influence. There’s plenty of science behind it.
You know people who “light up the room” when they walk in. If your words aren’t lighting up the pages they’re on, you’re leaving money on the table.
Raise your visitors’ energy levels and light up their lives and they’ll be back–usually with friends in tow.