Every day, businesses try to influence and inspire people. Websites and visuals capture a brand and their identity, but it’s copy that adds meaning. Words are everywhere and they’re trying to win us over.
We’re clever though. We may mistakenly catch ourselves putting cereal in the fridge or dispensing soap onto our toothbrush from time to time, but we know a promotion when we see one and we only have so much time for them.
When promoting a product, service or piece of marketing via site copy, blog posts or any other online setting, the words you use are important. Even when a person is actively looking for what you offer, your copy can be a hand-shaker or deal-breaker.
I’m not here to preach. Use commas and capitals however you like. If your audience latch onto emojis, by all means use them. Ideals can be waived as far as I’m concerned, just give your audience what they want and never waste their time.
There is no universal method that guarantees your copy will connect with everybody who sees it, but there are ways to improve your odds. Here are three of them.
Invest in Titles & Straps
A bad headline stops a reader before they even begin. It does nothing other than tick a box and fulfil a requirement. A good headline is the harness that encourages people to strap in. It excites and compels them to plunge into the opening line.
Being clear will always beat being clever, but when piecing together the bait for a page or article, you can lure readers by creating a knowledge gap. Use your title to reveal some insight into the content and its hidden benefits, but don’t reveal everything. Just remember to create a gap and not a gulf – you want to pique interest rather than baffle people.
Again, there’s no guaranteed formula, but one approach to this is a question headline, e.g. Does Your Copy Waste People’s Time? You do have to ask the right questions and have the answers, but they are an excellent way to entice your audience and are effective at promoting large, free marketing pieces in particular.
Keep it Simple
A lot of writing is unnecessarily complicated. In an attempt to impress people and get their attention, it’s easy to lose sight of the goal and concerns of the audience. This is particularly problematic on web pages that are asking for payment or commitment, but is an issue in articles too.
Inside speak and assumptive jargon are sure to turn readers away. It’s not a case of your visitors being stupid or not understanding your offering – it’s just better to be clear and simple. Patience is in short supply and if you’re not easy to understand your visitors won’t hang around to learn about your subtleties.
A simple way to combat complication is to distil everything to its simplest form. Don’t use a long word where a short one will do and review any language that is potentially puzzling. Respect your visitors’ time and never force them to figure things out for themselves, especially in initial straplines and sentences. Leave the mystery to novelists and screenwriters.
Never Miss (or Hide) the Point
There will always be a place for storytelling. I’ll champion the importance of stories until they file a restraining order against me. It can seduce those that need convincing, but if not well-positioned it can also get in the way of those who are already interested. More often than not, this comes as a result of indulging and losing sight of the original goal.
The common symptoms of a page suffering from a point shortage include the usual suspects, low conversions, a short average time on page and high bounce rates. Have I already mentioned that impatience is rife? We are all used to finding what we need fast, so you can’t afford to bury the crux of your message or many will never find it.
Start to remedy this by looking at yourself. What’s the problem you’re solving? What do you want your visitors to do? Next, look at your audience. Why is your visitor visiting you? What can you do to help them? All the above should be obvious at a glimpse. Don’t force visitors to figure things out, particularly on pages promoting a service or product.
The recurring theme here is time. The saving and appreciation of it, never wasting or taking up too much of it. While your offering is there to be savoured, taking the step to view it requires people to sacrifice their time. To inspire this, you need to provide an initial hit of clarity, urgency and curiosity.
It comes down to knowing your audience and giving them what they want. If yours happen to like vague titles, complex sentences and unclear messaging, please disregard all the above.