“Advertising is based on one thing: happiness. And do you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of a road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is OK. You are OK.”
These are the words of Don Draper, Mad Men’s resident cool guy and advertising genius.
Draper may not know relationship fidelity, but he does know the mind of the consumer. And he knows how to use the right words to get inside of that mind. Maximizing your website’s selling potential is all about purposeful copy that worms its way into the brain.
Many businesses go all in on their website design, while neglecting the important copy that does the real work of persuading potential clients to convert. We’ve seen an unfortunate amount of websites that look beautiful and function intuitively, but are covered in poorly-written text that belies the quality of the business.
Copy shouldn’t just sound good; it needs to persuade readers with proven psychological techniques. Since you can’t set up live pitch meetings with each one of your potential customers, treat your website copy as a conversation with anyone considering your business. These words are the first they’ll hear from you; make them count.
Use the tips below to make your website content work hard for you.
1. Headlines & Subheads
The headline and subhead are the first (and sometimes only) on-page text that a potential customer reads. Think of the way you scan a newspaper – you read the headlines and subheads looking for something that interests you or grabs your attention. Internet users do the same thing when visiting websites.
Your headline should be unique, specific and urgent. Consider these two headline options for a hair salon:
A. Expert Styles at a Great Price.
B. Is Your Hair a Hot Mess? We’ll Just Make it Hot.
Option B is unique, attention-grabbing and communicates the personality of the salon. Option A is generic and boring – but neither is necessarily better.
When it comes to copy that sells, the devil is in the data. You’ll only know which one is better through testing. Use A/B or multivariate testing to try out two versions of a headline to see which one sells more. You never know; the one you thought was boring could turn out to be more effective.
2. Benefits Not Features
When we business owners moonlight as copywriters, we tend to brag about the features of our services or products, describing the many capabilities for days without coming up for air.
And that’s great that we all believe in ourselves, but guess what? The customer doesn’t care.
It is the job of well written copy to talk to customers about how the product will make their lives better. If I’m thinking of buying a blender, I couldn’t care less about the motor’s speed. But I do want to know that it’ll make smoothie-making (and my life) a breeze by annihilating frozen fruit in 10 seconds flat. What’s more, I’ll feel better, be more attractive to the opposite sex, and overall a more powerful (some might say omnipotent) being.
See the difference? Start with the customer in mind, you can’t go wrong.
3. Keep Them Reading
The goal of all good copywriting: keep ’em reading.
According to a Nielsen study, internet users read only about 20% of the text on a given page. Logic would follow that the number goes up or down depending on the quality of the text. That first conversation you have with a potential customer is life or death and it won’t work if they walk away after the first few sentences.
Refer back to Step 1 to remind yourself about how to get them reading in the first place.
Make your copy a slippery sales slide that propels readers forward (we call it “grease” here in the office). One of the types of copy grease is a conversational tone. Talk to your website visitors as you’d talk to a potential client in person. The type of formal, salesman-esque language we see on so many sites is a major turn-off.
Instead, create intimacy with your potential clients by speaking directly to them (use “you” and “we” not “people” and “they”) and their needs. Ask questions, use colloquialisms, and a bit of humor, just as you would in a face-to-face conversation
4. Short & Simple
Your homepage is not a dissertation.
Put away the 10-cent vocabulary words and drawn-out monologues.
Brevity is the Soul of Wit (and profit).
5. The Art of Persuasion
(Mad Men fans, read this section in Don Draper’s voice)
Actions are motivated by emotion and desire: sex, power, fear, money, happiness. You must subtly communicate how your product or service will contribute to the acquisition what they want, like we did in the example headline.
Take-Away-Selling is the art of making your potential new customer qualify themselves to you. Your product is the best and you know it. Therefore, you don’t really need them – essentially you’re playing hard to get.
Talk about who wouldn’t like your product, making it clear that it’s not for those who are lazy, uninformed, or unconcerned with achieving greater happiness. The most effective way to sell is to seem like you’re not trying too hard to sell.
6. Give Copy the Spotlight
After you’ve taken serious care to craft well-written copy for your website, please god, make sure people can actually read it. Your site’s graphic design should serve to showcase the text, not distract from it. Remember, the homepage text is your first conversation with a potential client. You don’t want your words drowned out by background noise.
To make text stands out, use high-contrast backgrounds and take caution when overlaying text on top of an image. Oftentimes, certain areas of the image look great behind black text, but make lighter text disappear. Keep that in mind when choosing an image and font color.
Go a step further by using clever design to direct people’s eyes to important text. For example, a sharp letter (a V, N or M for instance) in your company’s logo could point to an important bit of text. Every element on the page should have a job to do, including images and graphics.
By this point, you should be itching to read through your own website with fresh eyes. Use these pointers to grade yourself. If your website isn’t converting visitors the way you want it to, it could be your copy.