Your Customers are Human Beings
Always remember that a person will be looking at your site. Most likely, there are no automated robots out there surfing the internet looking for things to buy. Although, there are automated clicking robots that commit fraud and their creators should be taken out and shot.
How do you write a great message for humans? There are great resources you can use, such as Net Words, The Online Copywriter’s Handbook and Persuasive Online Copywriting.
The Copywriting Bible
Those books are excellent introductions to copywriting. If you are looking for an intensive book about copywriting and advertising, Tested Advertising Methods by John Caples is a great resource. Caples is one of the best copywriters in the world and this is his encyclopedia of advertising knowledge. Although the book is rather dated, referring to print ads, but it is great resource if you are writing sales copy.
An Example of Bad Copywriting
After reading those books, you will be able to easily identify poor copywriting. Here is an example of awful copywriting:
We here at ABC123 Corporation know what it is to be successful. In fact, we sometimes forget that very long, long, long ago we weren't the premiere information distribution technology enhancement resource agency facilitator. Times have changed though, and now we are. We are....
The Essentials of Web Copywriting
• Don’t use corporate speak and vary your writing style.
• Don’t pretend to be anyone else, just be yourself.
• Write as if you are having a conversation with your reader.
• Make your point right away.
• Don’t try to impress the reader with jargon.
• Always use shorter text.
• Break up your text with header, subheaders, bullets, and other devices to break up text.
• Always emphasize the benefits before you discuss the features, unless your product is very technical.
• Learn to write for the various sales processes and different personality types.
Write to a Single Person
You should always try to sell your information. When your copy connects with a person and draws them into your site, your sales process will become dramatically easier. The difficulty is that you do not know who is on the other side of the screen.
Remember that people will typically distrust something they don’t know. However, if the reader gets a feeling that the information was written specifically for them, they will not want to leave it.
Give the Reader a Call to Action
There are quite striking sites out there that include no call to action. You should always steer the user in the direction you want. Keep in mind, excessive colored, highlighted, or flashing text, or other techniques, will only distract people away from your call to action. There are sales techniques that play off the emotions associated with a certain color. However, most product and informational pages need to be easy to use. Random or misplaced bright colors throughout web pages should be avoided as it is way too obvious what you want the user to do.
One colored item on the entire page is a much more successful technique. People will do what you want them to do without even thinking about it. It is a simple, effective concept that is best explained in books such as The Big Red Fez and Don't Make Me Think.
Page Layout Mistakes
If you start promoting a product to the side of a page, you may find your sales sluggish. If you actively promote it on every page, you will see your sales increase.
Content Should Flow
Smaller sentences and shorter paragraphs with familiar language make the writing easily flow. Also, when text is set with a line height (the area of the text and space above or below it) of at least 120% of the text height, it is very pleasing to the eyes. It is also easier if there is maximum contrast between your text and your background.
Don’t Forget the Up Sell
When you go to McDonald’s you will inevitably be asked, "Would you like fries with that." Major corporations have learned that it is far easier to sell to an existing customer than it is to find a new one. If a person contacts you or purchases something from you, send them a thank you page.
Offering small, but free, gifts will make them trust you more easily. If you make them feel secure with their decision you can strengthen your bond with them. You can also try to sell them an additional product. Your Thank You page does not need to generate revenue in order to be a success. If the user merely subscribes to your mailing list, you are increasing your exposure for free. You could even refer them to other journals that are cross promoting you.
One possibility is that you offer links to companies that you are affiliated with. These links could be discount offers that appear as gifts, but they can make you money. For example, there is an office supply store that offers, post sale, a 5% discount just for adding their site to your favorites list. The sky is the limit.
Always Keep the User in Mind
It is important that you continually concentrate on how your product or service benefits the user. Using "we" in place of "you" is more endearing to the user. If you make it easy for a user to see the benefits of their action, to see how you can help them, then your rate of conversion will increase.
Techies may be attracted to features, but this order typically appeals to the general population:
1. Always address your audience first
2. List the benefits second
3. Describe your features. (Keep in mind techie audiences may respond better to features before benefits.)
Have a Conversation with the User
Write as if you are having a conversation with an individual and not with a company. Insincerity or attempts to falsely “fluff” the reader will not go over well. People can see that coming and you will lose their trust. The internet began as a non-commercial entity and certain etiquettes (or netiquettes) have evolved to dictate how we behave online. When you step outside of these principles, you not only prevent conversion, you risk offending your users.
When all other things are equal, people will buy from someone they trust or who strikes them as honest and real. Many successful blogs are casual or even funny, with feedback turned on. This helps present the site as a personal conversation.
Use Feedback Loops
There are valuable websites, like Epinions and Planet Feedback, which show customers what other are saying about you. Google Groups, MSN Groups, and weblogs are other forums where customers can find service and product complaints. Perhaps the most valuable feature of Amazon is the user reviews where they list how many people recommended the product over another product. Customers may find you simply based on a book review you submit, if it is one they feel is honest and real.
You should always be honest and if you are not the best, then you should work on improving. Look through search results to see what others are saying about you.
Customer interaction is successful when it is user driven, not corporate driven. There may be times when you go astray, all of us have, but you will go far if you use an honest approach. If you work into the conversation with your users, treat them as human beings, you will finally end any ranting and raving within the feedback. It may even help others begin to believe in you. There is a fascinating book, The ClueTrain Manifesto (which is free online), that discusses how markets are conversions. Keep in mind, if you are not a very good writer, you may want to hire a professional copywriter.
Explaining Quality Content
There are countless sources that will tell you that you must create large volumes of quality content. However, very few of those sources will tell give you a legitimate definition of quality content. The enormous social network that is the internet can make it difficult to spread your message further and faster than your competition. You don’t need to have many more pages than your competitors, if you have created a better idea.
The web was created to provide useful information for free. When your business model is aligned with this principle, you have a much better chance of great success.
There are plenty of SEOs that withhold their secrets in order to make a profit, but if one site gave away free SEO techniques in an effort to help others, the site’s syndicated network would grow. Prospective customers will find the site just through references in topic forums. If you help other people, it will help you and you will feel good about having helped others.
Play on Your Strengths
If you tend to be a comic, then your content should reflect that. If you are greatly studious and thorough, your content should reflect that. Don't be somebody who you aren't online.