When you last made a purchase online that wasn’t planned until you stumbled across a particular website, what do you think it was that made you part with your hard-earned cash so quickly?
The pretty images?
The price (OK, maybe…)?
Think again. What did it for your wallet was almost definitely the choice of words used and the way they were structured.
Copywriting is one of the oldest elements of marketing; it’s been with us since commerce began. But, getting it right is incredibly difficult – it involves skill, experience and an ever-mindful eye on the target audience.
If you’re just getting started in the world of copywriting or have no choice but to write the words for your new business website yourself – here’s the five guiding principles by which you must be led:
1. Know your audience
A lot of website mistakes can turn audiences off, but none more so than content that is clearly of no use to them.
Think about it – they’ve spent ages trawling Google looking for an answer to a question, and then they somehow end up on your website, whose words clearly have no relation to the link they clicked.
Before you write a single word, make sure you possess a deep understanding of the audience you’re targeting and, in particular, what their main pain points are.
The most effective copywriting consistently informs the reader what’s in it for them.
2. Use lots of headings and short paragraphs
Copywriting hasn’t really changed for centuries; it’s designed to convert passers-by into paying customers.
However, it can only do that if it focuses on a clear structure and brevity. And that means using plenty of headings accompanied by short paragraphs that are free of my personal pet hate…
3. Avoid acronyms and industry-speak!
Yep – I can’t stand websites that fill each page with undefined acronyms or phrases and terminology that mean nothing to anyone but the members of the company board.
Simplicity is absolutely key when it comes to copywriting.
Write as you’d talk. If a sentence you’ve written doesn’t slide easily off the tongue – start again.
4. Use bullet points
Ignore the naysayers who will tell you that bullet points should only be found on presentations; they play a hugely important role in modern copywriting.
People generally scan web pages to find the most appropriate information for their search, and if you break up the features and benefits of a product or service into one-line bullet points, you’ll stand far more chance of capturing their attention.
5. Put all the important stuff ‘above the fold’
‘Above the fold’ is a newspaper term, which simply refers to putting the most important headlines at the top of the page where they can still be viewed once the paper is folded over on the shelf.
The same applies for web copywriting – make sure the first couple of sentences answer the audience’s question straight away and put the call-to-action in the same area (what do you want people to do when they visit the website?).
Words are powerful tools for marketers. Use my tips above, and you’ll write copy that will engage passers-by and turn strangers into loyal customers.
Mark Ellis is a freelance writer who specialises in copywriting, blogging and content marketing for businesses of all sizes. Mark’s considerable experience at director level and deep interest in personal and business success means he’s ready to comment on anything from freelance writing to workplace dynamics, technology and personal improvement.