In a nutshell, your website copy stinks.
And, when I say “your” I’m talking about the collective you. Don’t worry, I’m not going to make any one of you stand up in the front of the class and pull your site apart.
Word by word.
That’s just wrong. I’d rather not be that elementary school teacher who always singled some unfortunate kid out because she read one too many poorly written book reports and couldn’t take it anymore. Although, can you imagine what reading an endless amount of terrible essays about Tom Sawyer could do to a person?
Now, replace the part about terrible school essays with website copy and take a moment to ponder its effect on a potential customer.
Suddenly, we’re dealing with people who don’t have to read what you’ve written to pay the rent. They can run for the hills as fast as it takes to click a button.
And, that’s exactly what they’re doing.
You’re fighting a losing battle
You’ve only got a few seconds to draw people in once they land on your site. Statistics show that as of 2012 the average person has an attention span of 8 seconds. Goldfish make it to 9. Our ability to stay focused on one thing has devolved to the point that we’re comparing ourselves with pets that get flushed down the toilet after they end up in that big fish bowl in the sky.
This is not good. In fact, it’s more than not good. It’s a disaster for those businesses that don’t make their website content and design a priority.
Stack the deck in your favor
Within all of this doom and gloom, there’s a bright spot. Write compelling copy and put it where it needs to be on your site.
Easier said than done. I know. Here are a few things you can do to make your copy start pulling its own weight on your site.
1) Clearly articulate the why
As soon as someone lands on your site, make sure they know exactly why they are there. Your header should have a tagline with an indication of what you do and for whom. With an 8 second window, the last thing you want is for people to be left guessing.
Create headlines that signify to the reader what differentiates your business from the competition and how it can provide value. Then, continue on with subheads and copy that reiterate your value proposition.
To help you do this, answer these questions:
What is the best attribute of my business? or Why would someone choose my business over another one?
How does my service or business solve a problem for my customers?
What are the benefits to someone using my service or product?
Who is my target customer?
2) Leave the jargon speak to Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory
No one wants to sift through a bunch of technical terms just to try and understand what you are selling. You can be professional without being boring and unintelligible to everyone who hasn’t gotten a PhD in quantitative physics.
Be direct and steer clear of the cliches. You don’t get extra brownie points for cleverness if your audience has no idea what you’re trying to say.
3) Make every word count
There’s only so much real estate on any given landing page, whether that’s your homepage, short form sales page or even an About page. Think about what you need that page to do for you. Sell a product. Gather emails for a newsletter. Whatever it is, each word along with the elements on the page have to be providing value in some way and inspiring people to your call to action.
Cut the crap from your copy. If it doesn’t instruct, inspire or motivate, it needs to go.
4) Content drives design
Know what your message is, how you want to articulate it and all the moving parts that go along with it before you even think about putting your website together. For instance, to make a good decision on a coherent navigation structure you’ll need to know how you want the features and benefits of your services or products framed.
Great website copy works in tandem with great design. Remember the goldfish? Website bells and whistles might appeal to our lizard brains for a few seconds but poor writing and an unclear message will turn people off as soon as they realize why they stopped tapping the keyboard.
The elephant in the room
I realize I haven’t said anything about SEO. It’s important but so is coming up with copy that resonates with your audience. It’s all well and good to get people hopping on your site because all the keywords are in place but if your writing stinks and makes people want to leave before they’ve taken any action, all the SEO in the world isn’t going to help you.
Write compelling copy first, optimize second. Then, test it out and go from there.
How happy are you with your website copy? More importantly, what do your customers think?