Web based copywriting is a specific skill. A lot of it is common sense. But it also owes a great deal to traditional direct marketing principles and practices.
About web copywriting best practice
Site owners want their online content to:
1. Talk directly to the right people – their target audience – in the right way
2. Generate trust
3. Give people the details they need to make an informed buying decision
4. Endorse buyers’ decisions so they know for sure they’re doing the right thing
5. Tell people how to buy
6. Make buying simple
7. Help make the whole experience pleasurable, easy and quick
How can you achieve all this with intelligent web copywriting techniques?
7 steps to great web copywriting
1. Talking to the target audience
No matter who you’re communicating with, plain English is the bunny. Good communication is always plain and clear. No jargon, no business-speak, even if you sell business-to-business. Remember no matter who you’re selling to, they’re human beings. Not corporate entities.
‘Plain’ doesn’t mean dull. It means easy to understand without giving your reader’s brain an unnecessary work-out. In the right hands plain also means elegant, accurate and beautifully written.
Do different types of target audience respond better to different communication styles? Most of the time it’s best to use a style with a broad appeal while taking their expectations into account. But it’s subtle. People are people.
What about the tone? There’s plenty of room to add personality. A banal, magnolia tone doesn’t inspire. But emotion and humanity warms online content no end, making it much more appealing. Logic alone doesn’t do the trick. Because humans rarely buy stuff because of common sense and clear thinking, tapping into people’s emotions is always a good thing.
2. Generating trust
Who do you trust? The answer is probably honest, straightforward, open, consistent, intelligent, human, transparent businesses who don’t bullshit you. Another good reason to stick to plain English instead of blinding visitors with science.
In copywriting terms generating trust also means never trying to hide the downside of a product or service. It’s best to avoid caveats and small print altogether, weaving the information into the copy in a positive way instead. And it really helps if the Terms & Conditions and other legal stuff is short, sweet and digestible, also in plain language. Not pages and pages of impenetrable legalese.
You can build trust by making sure the copy is benefit-led rather than leading with the features. Leading with the benefits means you naturally talk from the customer’s perspective, using words like ‘you’ and ‘yours’ instead of ‘we’ and ‘ours’. Putting the focus on the reader helps make them feel cared for, with their needs and desires properly taken into account.
Repeating yourself is a sure fire way to damage trust because it makes you look flaky. Forgetting about grammar and punctuation makes you look nice but dim. And sending out murky, messy, confused messages doesn’t foster trust anywhere near as well as being crisp and succinct.
3. Giving all the details people need
Consumers want to know the personal benefits inherent in buying a product or service and, as I’ve mentioned, benefit-led copy is the best way to deliver exactly that.
It makes sense to give people what they need. When we’re happy with the information to hand we’re more likely to buy. If we still have questions, we’re not quite there yet. FAQ sections are handy for risk-aware people who need extra information before they’re happy to buy.
On the other hand, if your FAQ page is turning into a monster, either miles long or the most popular page on your site, it’s a sign you’re missing a trick. Ideally you want to cover all the top-level, sales-critical information in the main body of your site, up front, so people don’t have to search for it. FAQ should be a last resort for the detail-hungry, not a primary destination along the sales funnel.
How do you prioritise the information covered on each web page? It’s tempting to include every single tiny weeny piece of detail, covering everything you can possibly think of. But that’s just as crazy as leaving people hanging without the basic information they need. You need to prioritise the stuff that’s directly pertinent to buying decisions.
What to do with the rest? As a general rule the finer the detail, the deeper it belongs in your site. Most people want to get to the buying-critical information first, the nitty gritty later. Some people need more detail than others, so prioritising information intelligently and logically drives everyone in the right direction, no matter how detail-aware or averse they are.
And how long should a web page be? Simple. As long as it needs to be to do a proper job.
4. Confirming their decision is a good ‘un
Answering people’s questions is one good way to confirm they’ve made a good decision, which is where FAQs come in handy. They help drive buying decisions by plugging the gaps in users’ knowledge, making it absolutely clear that buying is a jolly good idea.
Saying ‘thank you’ post-sale is also cool, generating a warm glow and finishing off the sales process on an emotional high rather than leaving buyers feeling a bit flat. Every little helps.
5. Telling people how to buy
It might sound silly but making the next steps in every circumstance perfectly clear really does help improve response and conversion rates. It’s all about making visitors’ lives as simple and trouble-free as you can. If you want someone to call you, fill in a form, think carefully about the impact or implications of a situation or click through and buy, tell them so… every good web page deserves a call to action.
6. Making buying simple
To a certain extent this one’s down to the site designer and business owner. But it helps if you provide as many payment options as possible, including PayPal as well as credit and debit card options. And the simpler and faster you can make financial transactions, the better your conversion rates will be.
If you make people jump through hoops, insisting they fill in endless forms and give you all sorts of irrelevant extra data before you let them buy, you’re likely to put them off. If you’ve ever wondered why some websites offer a ‘guest customer’ facility so you can buy instantly instead of setting up an account you might never need again, it’s because consumers genuinely appreciate it.
The more consumers enjoy the buying experience, the more likely they are to come back for more. A copywriter’s role in all this? To create clear, user-friendly webform copy. By creating clear copy to describe the buying process itself. And by writing instructions people can understand.
7. Making the entire process a pleasure
When someone has been entertained, appreciated and generally treated well, they’ve experienced an enjoyable transaction. You probably use some websites more than others because you enjoy them more. It’s worth looking in detail at the sites you habitually return to, identifying exactly why you end up there so often. Then you can apply the findings back to your own site. Whatever the reason, the content will probably have something to do with the way you feel.
A copywriter’s contribution is to use words to create a whole that works much harder than the sum of the parts. To inform people simply and eloquently, to an appropriate level of detail, in language they understand and respond positively to. To bring direct marketing best practice into play for the best chance of conversion. And to help create a brand that’s attractive, accurate, fit for purpose and consistent.
Can you do it?
Do you have the marketing nous, experience and expertise to write your own site copy? Can you be creative and logical at the same time? Can you write content that’s as elegant as it is intelligent, with proper attention paid to punctuation and grammar, tone of voice and brand personality? And can you overlay the lot with direct marketing and digital marketing nous? If not, find someone who knows their professional web copywriting services onions.