Six steps to killer web copy

7 Jul

For those who aren’t sure, web copy refers to the words on websites that sell things or gives information. 

Let’s start this one off explaining why you need words on your website

  • It’s the words that sell things and get people to take action, not just pictures.  Pictures are important too – they have impact, are entertaining and tell people more about a product, event, place etc.  But you’ll find people look for words to explain things and tell them what to do.
  • It’s great for getting found in the search engines.  Search engines scan text to provide people with useful search results.

For the moment I’m going to leave out the how people read part of writing web copy –  it’s to do with the layout of your web copy to make it easy and more interesting for people to process – but we’ll talk about that in later blogs.

Here we will look at the basic structure of web copy and what you need to cover in order to make the best connection with your reader.  I’m mainly dealing with sales, but this structure applies to anything you want to promote.   

1.  Establish your objective

You should only start thinking about your web copy when you know why you are building a website:

  • What do you want to achieve from your website? 
  • Do you want to get people to buy from the site, call you or sign up to a newsletter? 

Establishing an aim makes it far easier to write the copy.

2.  Know your reader and talk directly to them

Knowing who you’re aiming at is the first step to knowing how to get them to buy from you, sign up to something or do what it is you want them to do using your website.  Before you write a single thing, try to answer the following questions:

  • Why do people buy your products or services?
  • What advantages or benefits does it bring to your customers? That is to say, how has their life changed as a result of getting what you have to offer?
  • What is your unique selling point?  That is, what makes you better or different from your competitors?

It’s as simple as asking previous customers, or getting them to leave comments through your site.  If you’re writing for someone else, ask them why people buy from them.

3.  Become an attention seeker!

Now you need to get you reader’s attention so that when they arrive on your site they are too interested to leave.  You do this with a tempting headline that says “You need to read on”.  I’ve devoted an entire step to this one because your headline is very important!

Get your reader’s attention with a great headline – but make sure it relates to the rest of the copy and no using naughty words just for the sake of it, cheeky.

A headline isn’t “Welcome” or the title of the page (boring!).  That’s not enough.  Your intention is to use words that you know will get their interest and make it difficult for them not to read on.  Your headline is likely to be the first bit of text your site visitor will read, so it’s important to make it a good one.  Try questions or suggest a secret will be revealed and always have their desires in mind.

You can find out more about what makes a good headline in later blogs.  It’s an important – if not the most important – part of your web copy and demands further detail.

4.  What’s the problem?

So many people make the mistake of pushing the product or service before the reader has any understanding of why they might need it.  Your reader is much more likely to be interested in what you’re promoting if you can show them where it fits into their life.  You do this by identifying your reader’s problems and remind them they have them before you can offer the solution. 

This shows you have an understanding of your reader’s predicament without stating the patronising turn off, “We know how you feel.” Really?  Do you?  Demonstrate it, rather than giving them the opportunity not to believe you.  It also helps to build up a relationship of trust, which in turn makes it more likely they will buy into what you say. 

Laying out their issues makes up your first (and sometimes also second) paragraph – make it interesting as it’s the one that could stop people from reading on.

Some examples

  • If you feel like you’re living under a pile of paperwork, with endless phone calls and meetings, it can seem like there isn’t enough time in the day. 
  • Whether you’re feeling tired due to over-worked muscles, or simply can’t get a good night’s sleep, having no energy can really get you down.

Hopefully people will read this and go “Yes, that’s me!”. 

When you write your copy, always address your reader directly. It’s much more inclusive as it builds a sense of relationship. That means you shouldn’t talk about yourself using the words “We” or “Our” in sentences. Focus on using”You” and “Your” so that it sounds like you’re speaking to one reader. It’s flattering to be paid interest.

5. Lead them into temptation

It’s widely known that playing on the desires of people gets them to buy things.  People buy what they want, not what they need.  Therefore you need to make them imagine the desirable life they could have if they no longer had the problems you just identified. 

You can even use the word “Imagine”: 

  • Imagine what life would be like if you could take back some time for yourself and re-address your work/life balance.

Or perhaps:

  • Pushing yourself to the limit isn’t good for you.  How much better would you feel if you could take time out to slow down the pace and relax?

You can also show you realise that they may have tried other solutions in the past, but were never satisfied.  It makes your solution sound better. 

So, we’ve demonstrated the problems and given a picture of what life could be like without them.  Now it’s time to introduce your product.

It’s a well known sales tool that if you can make someone imagine already having that product or service, they are more likely to buy it.  Don’t simply tell your reader that they will no longer have those problems:

“You won’t feel tired any more.”

Focus on the useful features of your product and service and what advantages and benefits they will bring your reader.  It’s much more powerful to tell them what they will be able to do as a result:

“You’ll find that after a relaxing day at the Rejuvenation Spa you’ll have more energy to do the things you love and start your working week with a fresh outlook.”

Feature:  The spa is relaxing

Advantage:  You’ll start your working week with a fresh outlook.

Benefit:  You’ll have more energy to do the things you love.

Don’t forget to tell them your unique selling point – the reason why they should buy from you rather than your competitors. 

6.  It’s time to take action!

Now you must close the deal.  This is called your ‘Call to action’ – the point where you get them to do what you want them to do.  That could be to buy a product or service, contact you for more information or sign up to a newsletter or report.

This is your final opportunity to clinch the sale.  Remind them why they should get what you’re selling or promoting and tell them how simple it is to get what they want.  Don’t give them any excuses not to buy.

Make it as easy as possible for them to take the action you have persuaded them to take – place all your contact details at the bottom of your web copy so they don’t have to go looking for it.

Lamb’s final thought

Putting together good web copy takes a lot of practice.  You need to consider language, detail and your reader’s psychology among other aspects.  However, even if you follow these basic building blocks you’ll have the basis of web copy that works.


2 Responses to “Six steps to killer web copy”

  1. The Lamb July 8, 2011 at 10:07 am #

    I’m working on gettting rid of the ads. Techy stuff. Not my area…

  2. The Lamb July 8, 2011 at 2:04 pm #

    Somone just highlighted a really terrible website to me. It prompts me to add to the Six steps to killer web copy not to write too much! Only around 250 words max for a web page unless you’re writing an information site that specifically demands it. But still, keep it tight.

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