Reading is the primary activity folks engage in on the internet. Some may click, some may register, some may purchase, some may send an inquiry, far too many will take a hike. But everyone who lands on your Web site has to read it (or have it read to them).
Speaking post-modernly, I have to admit that folks "read" in lots of ways. They "read" images, colors, style, look/feel ... you get the idea. But in a very practical way - in one of the easiest ways you can manage - people read words. Those words must be relevant, persuasive and laid out so folks can find them. And they must be suited to the medium - I swear to you, Toto, this place isn't Kansas!
I'm warning you up front. This is my most blatantly self-serving, promotional article to date. But I'm betting even a seriously jaded, cynical, grumpy reader will find something of value within.
After all, opportunity is only ever what you make of it!
You have spent a great deal of time and hard-earned money to get people to come to your site. What will they do when they get there? That depends on what they read.
You can string words together until you're blue in the ... ah ... tips of your fingers, but if they aren't the words that matter, you're wasting time and money. On top of that, those no-matter words fail to persuade, so you won't be rolling in nearly as much dough as you could.
The key to everything you do in cyberspace is relevance. Understand what your audience wants and what they really need to "hear." They aren't necessarily the things you think they want. Which is why we are so fond of saying, "Speak to the dog in the language of the dog about what matters to the heart of the dog!" This is one of the goldenest pieces of advice I have. You simply can't communicate it if you don't get it.
Want to know the real kicker in all this? Relevant mediocre writing always out-performs irrelevant but technically competent writing. So much for me being a sanctimonious stick-in-the-mud about grammar, you say? Well, just imagine the effect of competent writing that is also relevant!
Only when you have tapped the gold mine of relevance are you in a position to "speak" to your audience persuasively.
You speak persuasively when you acknowledge that not everyone approaches the decision to buy in exactly the same way. This involves understanding how words and phrases appeal to the different personality types that make up your audience. For example, "logical" means a lot to the Dr Spock's of the world, who could really care less about "what others have to say." Then there's Uncle Fred who deep down cares about getting "only the best." The words you choose have to "feel" right - on the same site, you need to speak effectively to the Dr Spocks and the Uncle Freds out there.
You speak persuasively when you employ language that captures the interest of your audience and motivates them to continue deeper into your site. The keywords and trigger words your visitor absolutely needs to see must be woven effectively into the copy and paired with calls to action that persuade her to take the next step. The style of your writing must communicate enthusiasm as well as generate an experience of empathy. There are many ways to accomplish this ... here are a few basic techniques that work extremely well:
Frosting: replace ordinary words with compelling, unexpected (but highly appropriate) words
Being Monet: remove the "black" words; write impressionistically
Suessing: using words that are not real words, yet the reader intuitively understands their meaning (of course I know "goldenest" and "post-modernly" aren't real words!)
Franking: taking a different perspective or vantage point, writing as if your subject were an iceberg (a big chunk of it is out of sight!).
Pump Up Your Verbs: don't use a noun when a verb will serve you better
You speak persuasively when you answer the questions your visitors are asking, right when and where they are asking them. This includes Point of Action assurances and textual hyperlinks. And never forget that you speak persuasively when you promote benefits over features (from a rewrite for Volvo):
Double-filtered cab air system [feature] lets you breathe fresh and easy, even in dusty conditions [benefit].
Improved noise insulation [feature] effectively blocks out external noise, keeping you alert and focused [benefit].
It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing. So, you take your relevant, persuasive writing and present it so folks can read it. Being able to read it relies on being able to find it - and on wanting to read it once it's been found. This is where you need to pay attention to layout techniques that promote scannability and skimmability in this screen-based medium. The techniques you choose could include:
Short text blocks
Around here, we talk about copy being "visually available." You may well have put the important copy your visitor needs to see on your site, but that doesn't mean he'll actually see it. And if he doesn't see it, it's effectively not there. Don't let that happen!
X-Arcade makes a video-game controller. Here's a snippet of copy from their old home page:
Play Thousands Of Arcade Classics On Your PC
Relive your favorite classic arcade games, like Ms. Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Robotron, Galaga, Donkey Kong and Street Fighter! The X-Arcade Kit includes all the hardware and software you need to play thousands of arcade classics on your PC for free!
Never Purchase Another Arcade Controller Again
The X-Arcade separates itself from the crowd with the video game industry's first lifetime warranty, indestructible parts and support for any video game system or PC. These great benefits will ensure the X-Arcade is the last joystick you will ever need to buy!
Here's their new copy:
Relive Thousands of Arcade Classics
X-Arcade is a line of bulletproof industrial quality game controllers and gaming products that inject the ultimate arcade experience into your PC, MAC or game console...
Install your X-Arcade and instantly relive those adrenaline-pumped moments in the arcade, battering the joystick, pounding the buttons, grinding your teeth, and tasting the thrill as you make your mark as the game's top scorer. Your X-Arcade Kit arrives stuffed with all the hardware and software you need to play thousands of arcade classics on your PC.
The only thing missing is a place to drop in your quarters...
Built like a friggin' tank!
Flimsy plastic is swell for Tupperware and skirt hangers, but shouldn't you be demanding MORE from your game controller?
Every molecule of your X-Arcade product is constructed with industrial grade materials, no dollar store plastic. It literally feels like an arcade game machine.
Volvo manufactures and sells some cool cars ... also some honkin' big construction equipment. Here's the former copy for Volvo Wheel Loaders:
Powered by the Volvo D4D high performance, low emission engine, this all-rounder provides high rimpull, excellent penetration and fast acceleration in whatever you do. With its superb low RPM performance, the Volvo engine responds immediately to the operator's commands, making your operation more productive.
Rimpull? Here's the rewrite.
MOVE IT -- WITH EASE, SPEED & COMFORT
It's our job to help you do yours -- no matter how big. And the full line of Volvo Wheel Loaders is always up to the task. Whether you move rock, earth, timber, sand or snow, a wide range of Volvo Wheel Loaders and attachment options are available to help you conquer the elements.
Dig deeper in this section to find the perfect Volvo Wheel Loader for your operation ...
Climb into the cab of a Volvo Wheel Loader and get to work. Along with unmatched production and power, Volvo Wheel Loaders help you move it -- with ease, speed, cost-efficiency and comfort.
See why these "afters" work better? If yes, then yipee! If you're a little uncertain, then I've got a proposition for you. Join us in our brand new digs as we present our first on-site Persuasive Online Copywriting Seminar and Workshop. Our goal for this seminar? To make sure you return to your office enthused and able to implement the techniques that will work for you.
Hey, business doesn't have to be dull and ordinary. In fact, it really shouldn't be. When have lack-luster presentations and restatements of the obvious ever got you juiced? Your online copy makes a huge difference in the blackness of that bottom line. So start slamming some joy sticks and conquering some serious earth-moving. Better still, let's do it together!