All posts by Kristine M. Smith

5 Rules of Effective Website Copy

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.

Rule #1

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.

Rule #2

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…

“Got milk?”

“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.

Rule #3

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.

Rule #5

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.

 

 

 

Swiped from My Other Blog… Why Writers Write

Robert Louis Stevenson was a magnificent writer. He wrote many treasures, including “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde” and “Treasure Island”.

Most people don’t know that Stevenson barely survived childhood. He grew up sickly in 19th century Edinburgh. He couldn’t go outside to play with his peers.

Fortunately, his parents had means so young Robert was attended by a nurse. One day, as dusk settled upon Edinburgh, he sat in a chair staring out the window. He wasn’t reading or doing anything, just staring as the lamplighters came by to ignite the street lights.

Finally, his nurse asked him: “Robert, what are you doing?”

“I’m just watching that fellow punch holes in the darkness.”

Why do good writers write? 

To punch holes in the darkness.

P.S. Thank you,  Congressman Denny Heck, for bringing this story to my attention. It’s illuminating (pun intended)!

An Abbrevated Excerpt from One of My “Almost Famous” Blog Posts

Because the information you’ll find below is germane to my clients and prospective clients, and because you may not be subscribed to “Almost Famous” I’m excerpting here another blog post that I wrote last month. (Sorry, I can’t get spaces to appear between paragraphs. I guess the cut-and-paste command doesn’t let me re-format the paragraphs after the fact.  I can see the spaces between paragraphs in the preview, but they don’t appear in the published version. GRRR! )

Best Marketing Book I’ve Ever Read REVEALED!

I’m reading what I consider the best marketing book ever — and I don’t make the claim lightly.
I’ve read an abundance of marketing books but this one takes all the guesswork out of the process. It’s called GET CLIENTS NOW! by C.J. Hayden. I’m devouring every word the first time through and am implementing it. It’s very, very good.  Because of all I’ve learned from Hayden’s book, I anticipate that I’ll be able to fill my pipeline (reliably get 20 hours of work per week, which is all I want so I can network and write, on- and off-line, the other 20 hours/week). Hooray!
I’ll be casting my net into new waters with bigger fish and getting away from appealing to bargain-basement shoppers who want to hire me to write stellar copy for next to nothing price-wise. (These are usually start-ups who don’t recognize the true value/ROI of compelling, converting copy.)
What I’ve learned from long experience (lots of it hard-won experience) is this: Do business with the individuals you know who have serious, dedicated passion for the ways in which they can serve you. You’ll get the best deals at the best prices — prices that will reliably serve you (without gouging you) for as long as you’re in business.
Best of all, the costs are often deductible as a part of doing business; you can write them off when tax time comes around. So there’s no downside to hiring a professional, as far as I can tell.
Cut costs where cutting costs won’t hurt your bottom line. Doing so will leave you enough to pay for the professional services that  increase your bottom line. Make sense?

Social Media Isn’t About Selling!

Earlier today I posted the 100,000 viewers gif from my other blog. Since then, 200+ more people have come and gone (and I hope subscribed), so I feel secure that people are getting value from the virtual time they spend with me.

I want to use this blog (Word Whisperer) to impart wisdom to business owners and entrepreneurs as much as I can. I want you to get something out of it because we’re all busy and I don’t want to waste anyone’s rare, spare time. So I’m wondering what kinds of questions I can answer for you from a copywriter’s or small business owner’s perspective.

Yesterday I posted my 10-30 second elevator speech/commercial. Today–and until I hear back from you about what you want to know–I’ll cover a few things about creating compelling, converting copy, in case any of you are writing your own marketing or social media materials.

Memorize This: “Social Media Isn’t About Selling!”

Hear me loud and clear on this one. An occasional “shout out” on social media about your product, service or cause (especially if something truly noteworthy and beyond-the-norm is happening in your realm) isn’t going to cause people to run screaming for the exits, but unless your blog, Facebook page, and Twitter feeds are MOSTLY (98% or more) dedicated to getting readers to know, like and trust you aside from what you do for a living and what you hope to compel them to do for your bottom line, you’ll be shooting yourself in the foot.

Social media was developed to create relationships (fond bonds) and  to share valuable, helpful information. Clueless business owners, entrepreneurs and corporations looked over the social media landscape (as they did decades earlier during the advent of the Internet) and smelled potential additional “target audiences” and $$$$,  so they started pushing their products, services and causes the way it worked back when TV, radio and magazines were the primary outlets for advertisers.  Back then, the copy was one-sided (B2C, Business to Consumer) and designed to get the biggest bang for the advertising buck. “Lots of you have this problem; we have the solution. Buy now.”

It doesn’t work that way in social media. People are inundated with thousands of advertisements every day– on TV, radio, at the mall, in the movies, and driving along the boulevards and streets where they live, work and play. And guess what? Just like you, most people have programmed themselves to ignore B2C ads.

If you’re doing the same thing within social media circles that you’re successfully (or hope-fully) doing elsewhere  because it’s FREE to do it here, STOP IT!  What visitors to social media sites–including your blog–expect to find is valuable information; fun, entertaining moments; and a person: YOU!  People do business with people they know, like and trust. Presuming you’re likeable and transparent to begin with (anyone following me probably is!), your job on social media is to be YOU.  (You aren’t always selling, are you?  If you are, get a life!  People love to buy but they hate being sold to!)

Social media is your chance to “kick your shoes off” and “set a spell” with the people who want to get to know you better. (I know “set” is wrong but The Beverly Hillbillies’ theme song is playing in my head as  write this, and I can’t over-ride it just to prove I’m a  Grammar Nazi!)

Read Likeable Social Media by Dave Kerpen for a primer on how to do it right. Then do it. Otherwise, your social media efforts will work against you. If you spend a lot of time on social media, shooting yourself in the foot is beyond easy to do: just push what you offer without reprieve.

Bang! Ow-ee!

 

 

 

My Newest Book “Settle For Best” is on KINDLE Now…

My newest title is on Kindle now. The good news is that you don’t have to own a Kindle to get it; Amazon has a FREE Kindle reader that you can download.  Follow the URL below to order the Kindle edition:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Ddigital-text&field-keywords=Settle%20For%20Best

But just a heads up. From February 1st to 5th in the U.S. and from February 2 to February 4th in the UK, you’ll be able to get the Kindle version for just .99 the first day, $1.99 the second day, $2.99 the third day, and so on until it reaches its regular price of $5.99, so if you can wait that long, please write these dates on your calendar right now and start your countdown–eighteen days to go!!

My 30-Second Elevator Speech/Commercial

I’ve added my 30-second elevator speech/commercial. You’ll find it under the Hire a Pro radio button.

The first paragraph you’ll read there is my 10-second response when someone asks, “What do you do for a living?”

This is a good example of a combined 10-second/30-second spiel. If you haven’t written one for yourself, do it today, or connect with me so I can do it for you.

Your 10-30-second elevator speech is the first thing you’ll need when you start networking and letting people know who you are and what you do, so don’t wait to get it done!

Read Get Clients Now! by C.J. Hayden, implement what you learn there, and let me help you with the written/public-facing aspects of your marketing campaign and materials.

Don’t entrust the copy you send to your target audience to amateurs. If people aren’t immediately engaged with and impressed by what you present to them, they won’t remain and will rarely return to see if your materials and the information you provide got any better.

Bottom Line: Hire a pro from the get-go. It’s too risky not to!

Let’s talk.

Let’s Get Social!

Breaking news…

As I type this blog entry, my power partner Lisa (check out her site at TacomaComputerTutor.com) is working in the background, under the cover of darkness, surreptitiously moving heaven and earth (or more precisely, fingers and keyboard) at warp factor wow to get more eye candy for your peepers. So hang in there; subscribe and keep coming back. (Lisa put additional widgets on this site yesterday so you can connect with me in more ways than one easily enough. The subscribe radio button is the first one you see in the upper left-hand corner beneath the SEARCH field. You probably know what the other ones are: FB, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google +1, Pinterest and heaven only knows what else.)

And the best is yet to be: a page about my existing books (and a future title) in their various incarnations (soft cover or Kindle) with links to take you to the places where you can buy or pre-order them for yourself or as gifts for loved ones; and another page about the topics I can speak on with some degree of authority.  Other pages  will be along shortly, too.

After this site is completely rolled out, it will up to me to keep you engaged and informed (which is the scary part). Such a responsibility!

In other news…

Yesterday I completed a $450 project in a single day–hooray–after a week or more or financial famine. Last night I kicked off (minutely, just 100 minutes’ worth) the ghostwriting project I’ll be tackling for the next several weeks. Right now I’m on page three (or maybe the top or middle of page four). It is slated to be a $7500 project but  may not end up that way because I write faster than most writers (after decades of honing the craft). I estimated that a 35,000-word manuscript will take around three and a half weeks (at 20 hours/10,000 words per week/500 words per hour) but I think I’ll be able to deliver it sooner, so it might only be about $6000. We’ll see. I know the claimant (my client) will want to offer his insights and tweaks as we go along, so it might take the full time we’ve slated for it.  As a work in progress, one just never knows!  All I know for sure is that I’m enjoying it immensely. Not being able to claim it or put my name on it will be hard. I think it has the potential to sail pretty far up the charts and become “high profile”–perhaps even a bestseller. I sure hope so for my client’s sake and for any future work he may want to send my way if this title does go to the top in its niche! We’ll see!

One thing that I always try to do as a business owner and copywriting pro is underpromise and over-deliver. As a result, I’ve never missed a deadline or had to charge a dime more than I’ve told a client the price would be. I’d much rather give money back than have to ask for more–and so far (in seven years) I have only had to give money back; I’ve never had to ask for more unless the scope or parameters of a project changed to include more work.  So my “estimator” abilities are pretty good…

What else?  Are you curious about anything? What brought you to this page? (I didn’t twist your arm that hard, did I?)

Let me know what you want to hear or learn about. Engage!  Social media is SOCIAL, a two-way street.  And to get the ball rolling, tell me about the story (or book) that is in you that needs to come out. I’m all eyes!  (I’m only “all ears” when I’m with you on the phone.)

OR… alternately…

Let’s do something creative together. Maybe write a many-author poem. I’ll write the first line and you write the second one, then we’ll have someone else write the third one for a total of eight lines. That might be fun. Or not. Only one way to find out!

Here’s the first line:

When I woke up this morning…

(No cheating! “You were on my mind” has already been taken :)!)

If that one is too tough, you start one and I’ll write the next line…

Your turn!

 

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year, Awesome New Website!

Drum Roll, Please!

I am so stoked about this new website I can hardly stand it. I want to thank Lisa Twining Taylor for looking over literally hundreds of templates and then trying out several of them with my copy and photos in them before settling on this one as the best avenue for  getting the word out about what I do.

Lisa has the patience of Job and is really learning her way around WordPress sites at warp speed. (Her persistence and the way she can pick up technical skills astounds me: I am primarily right-brained so people with well-developed left brains are a constant surprise and wonder to me .) If you need a WP site designed for the way you want or need to  do business, make Lisa your go-to gal, for sure. I’m putting my own reputation behind hers–right here right now–so if you trust my integrity and judgment, rest assured that you can trust her to do something equally great for you!

My other websites are  substandard affairs at best. For starters, they’re static and non-responsive. Kristinemsmith.biz ( my first-ever, Vistaprint-based site–the one I chose the template for and populated with my own copy) allows just five pages and only so many words per page before it starts misbehaving or requires more money for additional pages. Copywritercopywriting.net is SEO-based and was written at a time when I was straitjacketed by earlier SEO protocols that required keywords to appear in certain spots frequently-enough to be “seen” and ranked by search engines. (This was prior to last year’s Hummigbird algorithm roll-out, which makes SEO-based articles a lot more fun to write these days). Imagine what a time I had writing to the keyword phrase “copywriter copywriting”, which is the term my web developer  insisted on  using for the Home/Landing Page!  UGH!  I never liked what I came up with and think it probably drove people away. It would not have been my first choice for a home page but I usually defer to the experts.

That said, writing to that key phrase put me at #1 globally within a month. So … yes, you may ask if I’m able to retire as the result of being at the top of Page One results under “copywriter copywriting”? Or you may simply wonder if (or assume that) I’m rolling in dough because of it. All I have to say about your wondrous assumption is, “From your positively-wondrous brain to God’s ears!”  Except that I love what I do so  much, why would I ever retire until my faculties start to falter and I become a fumbler? I’m not going anywhere as long as I can hold up my end of the deal!

One thing Lisa noticed when she was working on this new site was that I’m darned easy to find on the ‘Net!  She says I’m so involved in all the ways I’m supposed to be (blogs, social media, articles, interviews, videos and more) that I’m in great shape “organically.”  She says she’s going to set up my Author/Authority Profile Google thingy so Google will place my photo and a brief bio into its search engine results when people look for any subject matter that I’ve written (or will ever write) that has my my byline on it.  (That will be interesting. I don’t even remember how many things I have written with my name on the byline on the ‘Net. I can’t wait to find out!) God bless her for offering! Because I looked over the directions to make this happen, planning to do it myself, and I ran screaming for the exits!  It’s a horrendous number of steps and a wee bit of programming (I think) to make it happen and “Dammit, Jim, I’m a writer not a …” whoever it is that does that kind of stuff! (This is why I have power partners: I write for them, they do left-brained stuff for me.)

Anyway, I’m glad you found me and my new site and blog. Please tell me how you found me so I can keep doing it reliably!  And please, please, please subscribe to this site (or bookmark it) so you can find it again. Now that I have you, I don’t want to lose you!!!

Happy New Year!

P.S. I’ll be slowly transferring some of my writing-related blog posts from almostfamousbydesfault.blogspot.com to this site. I’ll leave all (or most) DeForest Kelley and Star Trek-related posts at that site, as it’s well-named for the practice–and it has drawn (as of this writing) almost 100,000 views since it debuted several years ago, so I don’t want to let it (and them) go. Don’t know what I’ll do with the rest of the posts that are there–delete, move to an eclectic blog, or what… Only time will tell.

One frequently-active blog is probably plenty. Y’all are BUSY and so am I.  So I don’t want to add to the static. Instead, I want to help punch holes in the darkness. How can I help you?  Can I answer a question (beyond the FAQs I’ve already answered), offer insights, give you a hand with anything? Let me know and I’ll see what I can do to “Make it so!”