The 7 Deadly Sins of Writing Website Copy

People who visit web sites are not in it for the long haul. They have the hunger of a lion and the attention span of a goldfish. According to this article from Jason Nielsen’s Alertbox, only 16% of visitors read web sites word-for-word.

You need to use simple language and get straight to the point to have any hope of converting them from scanners to clickers.

Here are the 7 ways people fail at writing killer website copy and how to avoid falling into the same traps.

1. IGNORANCE. Know your reader.

Do you talk the same way with your best friend as you do with your mother-in-law, or a policeman, or your dog? No, you don’t. That would be crazy.

We naturally alter our speech to accommodate different people and situations. Otherwise, we wouldn’t get our message across, or in some cases, we might offend the people we’re trying to communicate with and ruin the relationship. It’s exactly the same with writing.

You have to write copy that is appealing to your reader, whoever they happen to be.

Once you know who you’re writing for, ask yourself these questions:

  • What are their demographics? (age, gender, education, income, etc.)
  • What are they looking for?
  • What problem are they seeking a solution to?
  • What do they like and dislike?
  • What are their motivations?
  • What are their goals in life?

Having a solid understanding of what makes your readers tick is the first essential step in writing persuasive web content. It will enable you to establish a bond that inspires trust and leads to active engagement.

2. EGO. It’s not about you, it’s about THEM.

Yes, it’s tempting to talk about your company, how great your product is, how it took years to develop the skills you needed to render a service at this level… but nobody cares.

It’s a hard pill to swallow, but the truth is, people are only interested in themselves.

If you want to sell a product, don’t write about the product itself. Write about how the product will benefit the customer. People don’t buy a Rolex because of its excellent craftsmanship – they buy it because it’s a status statement. They buy it because when people see it on their wrist, it’s an immediate indication of wealth and success. So when writing marketing copy for a Rolex, you would focus on the benefits of wearing an internationally recognized status symbol, rather than the technical specs of the watch.

Do your homework. Create a complete list of features and specs, then translate them into the actual benefits your costumers will experience when using the product or service. Feature these benefits in your web copy, and you’re on your way to converting visitors.

3. USELESSNESS. Solve a problem.

Nobody just buys things for the sake of spending money. Everybody has a problem to solve.

If somebody is surfing the web looking for a new jacket, guess what? Their problem is that they don’t have a cool new jacket, and if you sell jackets, it’s your job to offer an attractive solution to their problem. That solution might be a low price, appealing style, high quality materials, unbreakable zippers, you name it. Find your unique solution to your customer’s problem and write about how that solution will benefit the customer.

4. BABBLING. Keep it simple, punchy and clear.

It’s a fast paced world out there, and it’s even faster on the web. You have less than a few seconds to convince a visitor to your web site to stick around before they’re on to the next page. Check out this article from Marketing Donut for more on first impressions.

Whatever you do, don’t be boring.

Use brief sentences and engaging verbs to spark the interest of your reader, but don’t be too aggressive either. The days of locking viewers into an advertisement are over. If you come off as desperate or spammy, they’ll just close the browser window or move on to something else. Keep it light, conversational, and transparent. Peak their interest by offering something undeniably beneficial to them, not by trying to trick them into buying something through a gimmicky marketing ploy.

5. DESPERATION. Use keywords and links, but don’t be annoying.

Want to show up in search results? Use the same keywords and phrases your potential customers would use to search for a product like yours. Pepper them in your copy, but don’t go crazy. Overusing keywords is obvious and annoying, and worst of all, it makes you look desperate. Don’t do it. They might help your rank in search results, but use too many and your visitors will see your site, get nauseous, and leave immediately.

Once a reader makes it to your website, you want to keep them there. Using internal links to other pages on your site is not only good for SEO, but also keeps them in your territory if they still need convincing to take action.

6. SHYNESS. Create a powerful call to action.

It happens all the time. People go through the trouble to make a great case for their product or service then forget the whole point of their endeavor – to actually sell it.

After you demonstrate the specific benefits of your product or service to your readers, it’s time to call them to action. Paint a positive picture of what life will be like for your customer after they buy, and show them what they’ll be missing out on if they don’t. Then look them dead in the eye (metaphorically speaking) and ask for the sale.

7. SLOPPINESS. Don’t publish until you edit.

The last thing you need is to lose a sale because you misspelled “By Now.” Sloppy grammar, spelling mistakes, or an ambiguous message can ruin your chances of convincing your readers to trust you. You need to be clear and professional, even if you’re writing in a casual style. Keeping it conversational does not mean ignoring the rules of writing. Edit your copy, then click publish.

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