How many company websites have you visited recently where the copy (not the headline) impacted you in any way? Do you remember any words, phrases or lasting feelings?
Off the top of my head, I can’t cite one example. Given how much time I spend on a computer “surfing the net,” this is sort of unbelievable but extremely common. After some research on the subject, here are some of my conclusions and a review of the basic tips.
Web copy is often full of glaring mistakes, written in a sterile corporate vernacular, or just plain sloppy. Why is this such a widespread problem? Many reasons, but mostly, businesses don’t spend the extra time or money to really focus on the text. Who can blame them? Usually, the people hired to spend time on the text aren’t always thinking very creatively and haven’t set a working standard. As a result, web design and development take priority, and afterward, words and phrases are sprinkled over the top like black pepper over an ice cream sundae.
Context is everything, that’s why it’s difficult to talk about web copy so broadly. Companies emphasis different voices based on their services. Some stress professionalism, others want to come across as casual and fun, and many others want the middle ground. Nevertheless, here are some basic guidelines that all of them should practice:
1. Don’t write anything you wouldn’t read yourself.
It’s easy to think of the average consumer as a faceless creature, trolling the Internet looking for corporate buzzwords like “synergy” and “core competencies,” etc. The fact is, consumers are people too.
2. Be real
Even the most professional corporation is trying to attract “real people” – most of whom watch prime-time television, eat at McDonald’s when no one’s looking, and do most of their communicating in conversation, casual texting or in blurby e-mails. Confusing buzzwords and lofty speeches are for politicians and crooked car salesmen. Write your copy for decent humans.
3. Be brief. It makes you look confident.
Instead of being long-winded or wordy to impress your target market, do the opposite. Speak confidently and briefly. Bullets and spacing go a long way in this regard. Remember, most people are like you and won’t read all the text. At best, you’ll get a “glance” or even a “browse.” Use this time wisely and build your text like a children’s pop up book.
5. Be distracting
You should always treat your audience like adults. At the same time, most of us would be lying if we said we weren’t addicted to distraction much like the average toddler. Entice and intrigue. Sometimes it’s appropriate to flirt with controversy or the element of surprise. For example, a recent JLB ad reads: “Who do you think you are?” Click it and find our ad for branding. See what I mean? The real test here is whether our actual article is as clever as our banner. Gut check. Other methods involve asking a question or preparing for what you’re about to tell them. Keep your reader tracking with you as though you were face to face. Bottom line: Creativity is key even in the stuffiest of professions.
6. Tell a story
The most basic business has a story. Take the time to write your story. Literally. Find the guiding principals, dramatic turns and the journey that brought your company where it is now. Use your findings tactfully in your copy and make sure the end result of your web content takes your reader from point A to point B. A being your initial vision and B being their solution.
Taking your Web copy seriously doesn’t mean making it serious.
Some websites will need to lean on a few of the points I mentioned over others. There isn’t a formula, so be creative and concise. Most of your web visitors are there to do research or homework. Surprise them with more. Surprise yourself with the results.