“You can have everything in life you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want” (Zig Ziglar)
CONSTRUCTING YOUR WEB COPY
The purpose of web copy is to generate leads, customers, sales, and consequently profits for a website. (Web copy should not be confused with web content, which is simply words written for the web for the purpose of informing, communicating, entertaining, or edifying the reader). Web Copy is essentially another form of direct-response advertising (direct mail sales letters and TV infomercials are examples of direct-response advertising), although different media sometimes require different techniques to obtain the same results.
Direct-response advertising compels the audience to respond in some way or take action of some kind. It tells the audience to do something specific during or at the end of an ad.
The AIDA principle
The four fundamentals of writing good copy are summed up in the time-honored AIDA principle:
A – capture the audience’s attention
I – get the audience’s interest
D – build desire (for your offer)
A – induce action
Benefits and features:
Features are the attributes, properties or characteristics of your product or service. Benefits, on the other hand, are what you can do, what you can have, or what you can be because of those features. PEOPLE BUY BENEFITS – NOT FEATURES!
When writing copy that sells, keep your eye firmly on the benefits. The best way to distinguish benefits from features is with the following exercise: Begin by stating the feature, then follow it up with the sentence “what that means to you is…” or the phrase “which means that you can…”
Feature: Intel’s new microprocessor for mobile PCs has a speed of 2 gigahertz
benefit: which means that you can play online games wherever you go
The Unique Selling Proposition
One of the cornerstones of writing sales-pulling copy is the uniques selling proposition (USP), the thing that sets you, your product/service, or your business apart from every other competitor in a favorable way. It’s the competitive advantage that you proclaim to your prospects, customers, or clients.
example: Avis Rent a Car: “We’re number two. We try harder.”
More than just slogans, this USP convey the idea that no other company, product or service compares with theirs.
A USP positions your offering as being different from, and consequently more valuable than, your competitors’ offering. It distinguishes your product or service from everyone else’s, and in a world that;s flooded with products or services of every kind, creating a strong USP is absolutely imperative. It gives your reader a specific and compelling reason to buy from you instead of your competitors.
One way to develop a USP is by starting with the words “Unlike most of its competitors…”, then filling in the blanks about what differentiates you or your product offering from those of others.Another way to develop a USP is to highlight a feature or benefit that ONLY your product or service contains.
A USP can even be used as a headline or as an underlying theme or branding mechanism for all copywriting.
MAKING AN IMPRESSION: THE FIRST PARAGRAPH
The first paragraph is crucial because it is where readers are likely to stop reading if you don’t provide them with sufficient reason to continue. ideally, it should immediately demonstrate that there are desirable rewards for reading on.
One device that some leading copywriters use is to ask a question that will grip the readers’ interest and compel them to continue reading.
THE OFFER YOU CAN’T REFUSE
The offer is the very heart of your copy. It is the reason the copy is being written. When writing copy for offline consumption, once you have captures the attention of your readers you need to present your offer as soon as possible to let them know what you are selling and what kind of deal you’ll be making. When writing web copy for direct-response offers, that’s not necessarily the case. Particularly, when writing editorial-style web copy, you must be careful not to uncover your hidden selling too soon. If you do, you will remove all doubt that your editorial is actually an ad in disguise.
Whether you are writing copy for on- or offline use, your offer needs to be clear concise, and above all irresistible.
Your offer must align with your target audience’s desires and needs and must appeal to their emotions.
What motivates people to buy? Steven Reiss, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Ohio State University, in his book “Who am I? The 16 basic desires that motivate our actions and define our personalities”, describes his theory of human motivation. Reiss discovered that these 16 desires – power, independence, curiosity, acceptance, order, saving, honor, idealism, social contact, family, status, vengeance, romance, eating, physical exercise, and tranquility – motivate all human behavior. Other studies add the desire to belong, security, integrity, consistency, ownership, exclusivity, safety, admiration, and acknowledgement. All of these complex human desires can be grouped into two basic human needs: the desire to gain pleasure and avoid pain.
You need to focus entirely on your reader. One of the best ways to pull your reader into your copy is by weaving the words you, your, or yourself throughout. This gets your readers involved in what you are saying and makes them feel as though you are writing to them.
Your offer must summarize the key benefits and advantages of the product or service you’re selling. This is effectively done through bullet points – to make the copy more readable and inviting.
TESTIMONIALS: IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU
Testimonials add credibility because they are the actual words of real people, not actors or spokespeople. They can be quite disarming because your readers are able to identify with other people’s experiences with your product or service.
The best testimonials are the ones that are specific and, preferably, quantifiable.
“With the ABC product, I lost 10 pounds in 9 days without dieting”
TAKING ABOUT THE MONEY: HOW TO INTRODUCE PRICE
First and most important, you must never introduce the price until you’ve stated the offer. If you do, the majority of your readers might click away before ever learning the more salient points of your offer. Second, when you do introduce the price, equate it with a ridiculously minor purchase, or reduce it to a daily cost.
Example (a book about how to write news releases):
“Bottom line is, for a few bucks more than the price of a movie for two (with popcorn), you can get your hands on the secrets that would mean truckloads of hot leads…”
Example (shopping cart service that costs $29 per month):
For just $1 a day, you can now automate your:
– order processing
– e-mail marketing
This tactic, known as equating also can be used when you are conveying a time frame in your web copy. For example, “in the time it takes you to brew a cup of coffee, yo’re done with your marketing for the day”.
KEEP ON SELLING: WRITING THE ORDER FORM
The order form features the following components:
– check box (an involvement device that compels prospects to agree to the sale the moment they click on the check box)
– summary of offer, bonuses, and guarantee
– assurance of secure ordering
– how the product or service will be delivered – and when
– testimonial as reinforcement of purchase
THE MONEY-BACK GUARANTEE: A DEAL MAKER
Frequently, the sale is clinched on the promise of a money-back guarantee. This is where you eliminate the buyer risk, thus removing any remaining obstacles standing in the way of sale.
Simply stating “Money-back guarantee” is an ineffective use of a guarantee, however. You have to craft the guarantee as compellingly as possible so as not to waste this prime opportunity for closing the sale. A common template for creating a guarantee is as follows:
“Do this (whatever you’re asking them to do), and if you don’t (achieve the result you’re claiming they-ll get), then simply give us a call, and we will cheerfully refund your entire purchase price”.
For example: take the ABC system for a test drive. If you don’t triple your sales in 60 days, then return it for a full refund.
By removing the risk, you make it easier for the prospect to say yes. It is a well-documented fact in direct marketing that the number of people who will take up on a compelling offer significantly outnumber those who will ask for a refund.
Best example ever:
“Try the Memory Foam mattress pas now, risk-free. If it doesn’t give you the most restful sleep you’ve ever had, or if, for any reason, you’re not completely satisfied with it, just let us know within 30 days and we will issues a non-hassle refund, and even send you a Merchandise Return Label so that you can send the mattress pad back to us at no cost to you – we-ll pay for the shipping. In the unlikely event that you would be less then thrilled with your new Memory Foam mattress pad, should you decide to request a refund, the 2 Memory Foam pillows are yours to keep and enjoy as our gift just for taking us op on this offer.”
A strong guarantee conveys conviction, which has the power to persuade your prospect. It is sometimes possible to construct a guarantee that is so compelling that it could be the reason why someone chooses your product or service over your competitors’. In fact, guarantee could be so powerful that you might also consider it as your headline.
THE CLOSE: SIGNING ON THE DOTTED LINE
“Delay is the enemy of sale”. In writing web copy, your close needs to remove all obstacles that stand in the way of the reader taking action on the offer. The way to do it is by first making the offer and then injecting a sense of urgency in taking action on the offer.
Injecting urgency simply means giving the reader a reason to act now. You can employ one or more of the following:
– a free gift/ bonus or a discount or reduced price if the reader responds on or before a certain date in the near future
– a time limit on an offer
– a limited supply
– a notification that prices are going up soon
The close should also emphasize what the reader gains by responding quickly or loses by delaying action.
Call to Action
The call to action (CTA) is part of the close. Here, you must tell your reader exactly what to do. Some marketers miss this important step. Even if it’s obvious to you what the reader ought to do next, you must direct them to do it. Always use action verbs in the CTA:
“Click on the Download button to start your 30-day free trial”
GET A CALLING CARD: THE OPT-IN MECHANISM
We all know that most visitors to websites don’t become buyers on their first visit. Maybe not even on the first several visits. What you want to do is find out how to reach them again.
The best way to do this is with an opt-in mechanism (a tool to get a reader to agree to accept your e-mailed information and correspondence).
HOW TO CONSTRUCT A RIVETING HEADLINE:
Step 1: Write 30 to 50 headline before you decide on the one you’re going to use.
Step 2: Step back from the headline for a day and read it again with a fresh perspective.
Step 3″ Ask yourself: “How can this headline be better?”, “Is this the best possible headline for my objective, my target audience, and my product or service?”
The most important element of a website is the first screen, and the most important elements of the first screen is the headline. Therefore, you must give it the attention it deserves.
What’s in a Headline?
Your headline should convey a benefit of interest to your target audience. It must answer the reader’s unspoken question, “What’s in it for me?” As we’ve learned, there are two basic approaches to answering that question, and each stems from one of two basic human needs: (1) to gain pleasure or (2) to avoid pain.
You can appeal to the human need to gain pleasure by pointing out how the readers can attain or accomplish something – or gain, save, take advantage, or profit – by using your product or service. More particularly, your headline can demonstrate how your product or service will meet your readers’ needs or solve their problems.
Examples of headlines with appeals based on pleasure:
– the secret to making people like you
– how to win friends and influence people
– play guitar in seven days or your money back
Alternatively, you can appeal to the human need to avoid pain by showing how readers can reduce or eliminate undesirable things such as discomfort, embarrassment, loss, illness, mistakes, poverty, or boredom.
Examples of famous headlines that play on that need:
– do you make these mistakes in english?
– do you do any of these 10 embarrassing things?
All of these successful headlines are compelling. They not only capture the attention of prospective buyers, they also make an immediate connection with them. They give the reader a good reason to read on.
The building blocks of winning web headlines
Headlines are the starting point of successful web copy. If your headline fails to capture the attention of the reader, it doesn’t matter how good your body copy is because your reader won’t ever get there.
A successful headline engages or involves the reader by:
– offering a strong, compelling promise
– highlighting benefits to the reader
– explaining exactly what the offer is
– appealing to the emotions
– using specifics
– arousing curiosity
– calling out to a specific target audience
– making an announcement
– asking a question
– beginning with the words “how to”
Building Block 1.
Web headlines differ from advertising headlines because a web headline doesn’t always explain what the offer is. Instead, it wraps the offer in an editorial cushion. Like the body copy, the headline should not read like an ad; rather it should read like an editorial.
advertorial (advertising + editorial)
Building Block 2.
When writing a headline that highlights benefits, remember that there are obvious benefits as well as hidden ones. An obvious benefit is one that is immediately apparent. Even then, the obvious must be articulated in a way that conveys value.
Instead of writing a bland headline like “Save 20 percent on all your purchases”, do the following:
“Discover how to give yourself a 20 percent pay raise – without having to squeeze a single cent from your boss”
A hidden benefit is one that is not immediately apparent and, at first glance, may not seem to be a reason for buying your product or service.
e.g. “A tax-deductible vacation in Las Vegas” is a hidden benefit of attending a seminar in Las Vegas.
Building Block 3.
According to master copywriter and marketer Ted Nicholas, an ad headline draws 28 percent more attention if framed in quotation marks! The ad appears much more important because the impression that someone is being quoted adds credibility, which in turn makes it more riveting and more likely to be read.
Building Block 4.
Whenever possible, use the imperative voice in your headline. The imperative voice is a grammatical mood that influences the behavior of another or expresses a command.
Ex: Land a better job
put an end to migraines
The imperative voice commands, leads or empowers your prospect to do something. It starts with an action verb (such as blast, impress, improve, cerate); it assumes the subject is you and ends with the object of the action. If your verb is blast, the question is, blast what? And the answer is, your competition. The headline is: Blast your competition. If your action verb is impress, the question is, impress whom? Answer, your friends. The headline is: Impress your friends.
CHOOSING YOUR WORDS: TIPS, TERMS, AND CONCEPTS
Once you’ve written your copy, it is vital that you pay attention to how readable that copy is. Short sentences and simple words make your copy more inviting.
Microsoft Word has a tool that displays information about the reading level of the document, including readability scores.
A score of 7.0 means that a seventh grader can understand the document. When writing copy aim for a score of seventh- or eighth-grade-level comprehension.
Words to avoid in your web copy
Don’t use euphemisms in an effort to avoid words that may offend or suggest something unpleasant. Doing so will insult the intelligence of your audience. While you think you are trying to spare your readers’ feelings and sensibilities, using euphemisms may backfire and cause readers to be more offended than if you had just been straightforward. For example, don’t call overweight people “metabolically challenged” or people who suffer from hair loss “follicularly challenged” or poor people “economic underachievers”.
Don’t use buzzwords (important sounding words or phrases used primarily to impress laypersons) if the buzzwords don’t play an integral part in your selling proposition. Don’t use buzzwords just to show people that you’re cool or to impress them with your vocabulary.
Don’t use corporatespeak. The way you write web copy is distinctly different from the way you would write a corporate communication or even a literary or journalistic work.
The words “We are committed to your success”, don’t mean anything to people anymore. It’s tired, it’s boring, and it doesn’t convey tangible benefits.
Don’t use cliches. They diminish the value of your writing. Cliches make your writing look terribly dated, which in turn may affect how your readers view your offer. If you are behind the times, what does that say about your product or service?
Don’t use tentative adjectives. These are words like pretty as in “pretty good”, very as in “very impressive”, or quite as in “quite wonderful”. Such words rob your writing of conviction.
Do communicate. We’ve all heard the Internet referred to as the information superhighway. In fact, it’s practically a cliche. But information is distinctly different from communication. The internet is filled with people who can inundate you with all kind of information; the person who has the ability to communicate is the one who will rise above the clutter and the noise – and actually be heard or read.
Sidney J. Harris said “The two words “information” and “communication” are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.” In marketing, you want to use words that communicate, words that will create interest, trigger enthusiasm, and motivate people to action. Words that will “get through”.
Words to use in your web copy:
Attention-Grabbing Words: affordable, bottom line, breakthrough, buy, challenging, compromise, concept, crucial, daring, danger, destiny, eager, easy, economic needs, effective, energy, envision, excitement, expert, explain, favorable, find out, focus, forecast, formula, fundamentals, funny, gaining, gallery, generic, get, giant, good-looking, growth, happy, heritage, high tech, hopeless, hurry, idea, imagination, innovative, just in time, keep in touch, kidding, launching, lively, lucky, luxury, masterpiece, naked, new, nostalgic, novel, obsession, opportunities, overrated, perspective, portfolio, promising, remarkable, revolution, rewards, rich, right now, save, security, show me, skill, smart, speed up, spotlight, stop, stubborn, surefire, survival, technology, tell, test-drive, ultimate, underpriced, unlock, willpower, word-of-mouth, young.
DOs and DON’Ts of WEB COPYWRITING
Do give a compelling promise early in the body copy that the material viewers are about to read is worth their while. For example:
“Be sure to read every word of this because the secret ingredient for tunning you small business enterprise into a mega-success story is hidden in this article.”
Another technique is to reveal a little-known fact anecdote, or case study at the beginning, followed by a statement like this:
“If you think that’s interesting, wait ’til you read what I’ve discovered.”
In your introductory paragraphs , tell your readers what you are going to say with a compelling promise. In the body copy, deliver on the promise, and, in a concluding paragraph, remind them of what you just revealed. This boosts your credibility for delivering on a promise and paves the way toward making your reader welcome your offer.
Do establish early in the copy who is writing the piece and why the audience should believe the writer.
Do write in the first person. Whenever possible, remove the words we or our from your web copy and replace them with I.
By speaking in the first person, it is as though one person is talking to another. “We” and “our” sound more corporate, less intimate and friendly. You can’t use this technique all of the time, but do use it when it’s appropriate.
Do use a drop letter (also called a drop cap) when starting your body copy. A drop letter is an oversized (often bold and ornamental) first letter of the first sentence of your body copy.
Tests have proven that starting your body copy with a drop cap increases readership because it draws readers’ eyes to it, thereby leading them to start reading the body copy instead of clicking away.
Do use multiple pricing structures. Always remember that people fall into different price categories.
QUOTE: The value of any merchandise is what someone is willing to pay for it!
People also gravitate to different income promises: If you run a headline that reads, “How to use website metrics to boost your conversion rates to 10%, 20% – even 30%”, you’re likely to get more responses than if your headline reads “How to use website metrics to boost your conversion rate to 30%”. Why? Because a broader spectrum of the audience can relate to – and believe – the three levels of improvement. Some people would have trouble believing anyone could get 30 percent conversion rate, but might readily believe that 10 or 20 percent is possible.
Do call attention to the flaws or shortcomings of your product or service, but only if you can turn those flaws and shortcomings into benefits. When you admit the drawbacks of your product or service, you immediately increase your credibility. People think you are really up front and honest about the not-so-good aspects of your product, not just touting (definition:Attempt to persuade people of the merits of (someone or something)) the good things about it.
e.g. “we’re number two. we try harder.”
“we’re not cheap, but we’re the best”
Do ask an opening question. When you open the first paragraph of your web copy with a question, it increases your chances of getting your readers to read on.
Your opening question must be relevant and important and must speak to the needs of your audience. When crafted skillfully, questions point to the result or benefit of your product or service.
Do craft text links that are engaging and highly clickable.
It takes more than a vague click here to compel readers to click through to the target destination. In order for the text link to be highly clickable, it must either convey a benefit or employ an embedded command
“Click here to find your million-dollar domain name.”
“Give it a try, risk-free” is more clickable than “click here to order”
Do use phrases that take the edge off the act of purchasing and make it look easy and that convey a benefit:
Submit your online reservation
click here to get your name in the news
This enhances the editorial approach to writing web copy. If you can avoid using words like “buy now” or “order” inside your editorial web copy, do it.
THE LONG AND SHORT OF IT: HOW LONG SHOULD WEB COPY BE?
How long should web copy be? “Web copy should be like the length of a woman’s skirt – long enough to cover the subject, but short enough to be interesting.”
“Web copy should be as long as it takes to make the sale. Period.”
Book: Ogilvy on Advertising, David Ogilvy
As a rule, the higher the price of what you are selling, the longer the web copy should be. (example: 13 pages to make a $2.500 sale)
When you learn the principles of writing long direct-response web copy, you will be able to write short web copy easily.
“It can’t be too long, only too boring.” (John Caples)
HOW WELL DOES YOUR WEBSITE SELL?
Selling Quotient (SQ) is the predictor of a website’s sales performance based on its web copy.
This formula allows you to grade your web copy on a scale of 1 to 100. The real beauty in the formula is that even if your website scores low, you will know exactly how to fix it.
Formula for Mathematically Measuring the Selling Quotient of Web Copy
Does the first screen give the web visitor a compelling reason – in 5 seconds or less – why he should stay and read on?
Note: Did you make sure that the logo, company name, header, graphics, and other nonselling features did not take up a sizable chunk of the first screen?
Does the headline stop readers dead in their tracks?
Does the headline read like and interesting editorial – instead of an ad?
Does the headline incorporate a compelling promise or point to a benefit that’s important to the target audience?
Does the headline call out to the target audience?
Does the headline cause the reader to read the subheadline and/or the first paragraph of the web copy?
Is this the best possible headline for the objective?
Is this the best possible headline for the target audience?
Is this the best possible headline for the product or service?
Does the headline do one or more of the following:
– appeal to the emotions?
– use specifics?
– arouse curiosity?
– make an announcement?
– ask a question?
– begin with the words how to?
FIRST PARAGRAPH or OPENING STATEMENT
Does the first paragraph cause the reader to read the second paragraph?
Does the opening paragraph ask a compelling question that breaks preoccupation, grabs attention, and points to the result or benefit of the product or service?
STYLE AND FORMATTING
Is the web copy written in a conversational style? Does it use contractions, colloquialisms, and easy-to-read language instead of corporatespeak?
Is it scannable? Does it do the following:
– use bulleted lists to summarize content?
– highlight (bold, italicize, underline) selected keywords to help scanners move through the web copy?
– have meaningful subheads (versus amusing or clever ones)?
– present one idea per paragraph?
– use the inverted-pyramid style of writing (key points and conclusions presented first, followed by less important matters and background material)?
– break paragraphs into two to four sentences?
– incorporate interesting stories or case studies, significant facts, quotes, or statistics set off in boxes?
Is the body copy written in editorial (versus advertising) style?
Does the body copy lead readers down the intended sales path?
Was emotion injected into the body copy? Is the body copy built on proven emotional drivers such as anger, exclusivity, fear, greed, guilt, and curiosity?
Do all the parts of the body copy compel the reader to read from start to finish? Did you employ the questions “What’s in it for me?” and “Who cares?” and “So what?” after writing each sentence – and remove all sentences or phrases that don’t satisfy those questions?
Does the body copy employ the linear path – with minimal distractions and minimal clickable links that don’t support the sales process?
Does it use psychological devices that motivate prospects to buy? Have rational words been replaced with emotional words wherever possible?
Does the body copy answer the question “Will this product really work for me if I use it?” with an unequivocal “Yes!”? Were all possible sales objections addressed?
Is the writer’s of the website’s information identified early in the body copy? Are reasons given for why the readers should believe the writer?
Does the web copy convince readers that no other product or service can compare to the one that’s being sold on the website?
OFFER, TESTIMONIALS, BULLETS, PRICE, GUARANTEE, BONUSES and CLOSE
Is the offer crafted in an irresistible manner? Does it establish a unique selling proposition – and is that USP featured prominently on the web page?
Does the web copy employ the use of testimonials? Are the testimonials strategically placed in areas where they reinforce the selling arguments?
Does the web copy employ mouthwatering bullets? Do the bullets first state the benefit that readers will receive, followed up with either (1) a brief scenario of how their life will change when they get that benefit or (2) an injection of emotion, drama, or intrigue that elevates the desirability of that benefit?
Are free bonuses or gifts offered as an incentive to buy?
Does the close summarize the offer, employ a persuasive call to action, and inject a sense of urgency by giving compelling reasons to act now? Is the close written in a style that assumes the sale?
Does the web copy convince the reader that the product or service is worth the price?
Does the product or service being offered have a guarantee that removes the risk from the purchase?
Is there a mechanism to capture the web visitor’s contact information? Does the opt-in offer feature an irresistible and easy way to compel the target audience to give up their contact information?
Does the web design layout and graphics support the web copy?
Does the order form include the following essential components:
– check box
– summary of offer, bonuses, and guarantee
– assurance of secure ordering
– how the product or service will be delivered – and when
– testimonial as reinforcement of purchase
“It is not your customers’s job to remember you. It is your obligation and responsibility to make sure they don’t have the chance to forget you.” (Patricia Fripp)