4 Mistakes You're Making Right Now With Your Web Copy
Whether you’re a do-it-yourselfer or have spent years writing web copy, writing really great web copy isn’t ever just about “knowing how to write.”
Reader psychology, user behavior, design—they all play huge roles in the ways visitors interact with your page.
Great copywriters never use a semi-colon or an em dash on accident. Each sentence is strategically placed, and paragraph breaks aren’t ever designed based on rules learned in high school English class.
If you’re setting out to write your own web copy and want to choose words that convince your visitor to take action, be sure to keep these 4 mistakes in mind.
1. You aren’t using the right call to action.
Gone are the days where the easy “SUBMIT” button works like butter on a hot knife.
From a psychological perspective, words like SUBMIT, DOWNLOAD, BUY are known as friction words. They stir up negative feelings and anxieties when we see them, reminding us that we have to DO something to GET something. When we see words like this, we no longer feel like our brand is looking out for our best interests. Instead, the magic spell of words and a perfectly coiffed landing page instantly breaks the moment we see these words. Why? Because they are the harbingers of a purely transactional relationship. And no one wants to invest in a purely transactional relationship.
If you want your web visitors to trust you and invest in you, then you can’t jump ship with great copy the moment you sit down to write copy for your CTA button. This is why I’ll often spend more time on a CTA button than I do on the three sentences leading up to it. The lights in my head go off in full-alarm mode as I’m reminded that if the visitor reads NOTHING ELSE on the entire page, they’ll see this CTA button. So, I’d better do a bang up job when it comes to choosing the right words, and this is when my self-speak kicks in at full volume:
Use first-person language (after all. . . the visitor is the one clicking the button, so in essence, that button becomes “their button” the moment they see it).
Make sure your CTAs are visible and above the fold when possible (meaning, don’t make the visitor scroll down to find the magic button).
Keep your CTAs personal and relevant to the user.
Neil Patel’s landing page demonstrates this well.
The bright orange makes sure you aren’t going to miss his CTA, and then, he pulls the trick I like to call “Kindergarten Sing-Song.”
Maybe this only happened to those of us Gen Xers who grew up in the 80s, but I’ve got vivid memories of my 32 classmates chanting along in unison ALL. DAY. LONG.
Our teachers knew it then, and great marketers know it now. . . There’s a powerful persuasion that accompanies self-speak, and when we give our visitor something to read that is in THEIR OWN VOICE, we’re helping to shut off the part of their brain that is screaming, “DON’T DO THIS.”
2. You’re using WAAAAAYYYYYY too many words.
Nobody likes a long-winded conversation—in print or in voice.
We’ve all heard the stats. . . the one that says you’ve got 3 or 5 or 10 or 59 seconds to grab the attention of your reader before they scream “Sayonora!” and never look back.
Whatever the specific timeframe really happens to be, the point is pretty clear: Readers are showing up on your webpage like hunters in a forest. They want to find what they’re looking for, and they want to find it fast.
One of the biggest mistakes I see my clients make is overexplaining. The fear is that if we don’t tell the visitor everything they need to know on the web page, we’ve missed an opportunity.
The problem with this approach is that using your webpage to unload all your real estate isn’t going to allow you to build a very big city (metaphorically speaking). Blogs, case studies, landing pages, print materials, email campaigns, whitepapers, eBooks. . . this is where the real education takes place.
The job of a webpage is to nudge your visitor to the next action.
Before writing, ask yourself: What action do I want the visitor to take after visiting this page. Every word. Every em dash. Every beautifully placed ounce of invisible code. It all should drive towards that ONE action.
If you find something that veers off course, the solution is simple. Highlight that section and hit DELETE.
3. Your ABOUT US page is ABOUT YOU.
Talking about yourself without anyone realizing you’re talking about yourself is one heck of a fine art.
This is what your About Us page needs to do.
Too often, companies make the mistake of posting their mission and vision statements on the About Us page, thinking that it’s material their target audience has been dying to read.
Reality check: Your mission and vision statements are INTERNAL tools. They exist to remind the company why it exists and how it should operate. Your customer doesn’t care so much about the WORDS of your mission statement as much as the ACTIONS it elicits.
You’re committed to world peace? Great. What are you doing to achieve it? Tell me that instead.
You exist to empower women in the workforce. Terrific. Talk about how you make that happen.
Diversity and acceptance are two of your core values. Great. . . until I see zero diversity represented in your leadership bios.
How does your company live out its values?
How can I expect to benefit from engaging with your company?
What is one compelling reason why I should choose your company?
These are the things I want to know about you when I visit your webpage.
AirBnB provides a great example. They give all the critical info (when they were founded, business focus, etc.), but they do it by using words that appeal to me:
economically empower millions
passions and talents
destination. . .
One short paragraph in and I’m sold on this company. Take me on a trip, please, and Sign. Me. Up.
4. You trust your hunches.
In the midst of all the chatter about ROI, marketing metrics, and automation, I’m not sure why anyone would go on a hunch alone now-a-days, but take a look at most web copy, and it’s clear it still happens. A LOT.
I’m starting to feel a little bit blue in the face because I’ve said this over and over again, but you should never ever ever ever ever ever write copy unless you’ve done your homework first.
Even if you founded the company.
Even if you’re the marketing director for the company.
Even if everybody and their brother have told you that your intuition just knocks it out of the dadgum park (as my dad would say).
Before you ever sit down to write a single word of copy, do this first:
RESEARCH YOUR COMPETITORS.
What are they saying? What are they not saying? A quick look at their site will enable you to identify holes and to find gaps that you might be able to uniquely fill. It will also give you an idea of what web visitors are used to seeing and what industry-standard language is used from competitor to competitor. Why does this matter? Because you might be moving forward in full Albert Einstein mode, thinking you’ve come up with the world’s next solution, only to discover you’re a little late to the party. And if you do discover you’re behind the train rather than leading it, this doesn’t mean you need to rechart your course. It may just mean that you need to tighten up your messaging and find small nuances to leverage for a competitive edge.
SURVEY YOUR AUDIENCE.
I talk about this here and here. Finding out what your audience’s pain points are and using their language will help you cut through the noise faster and more effectively than if you ever just use your own words.
KILL YOUR DARLINGS.
Outline what you want to say, and then cut it in HALF. Then, once you pare it down to half, cut it down again. Visitors are looking for easy-to-read, quick-to-find information. If you find yourself needing more words to say something, consider creating a downloadable piece of content or driving your visitors to sign up for a newsletter. . . . or even creating an explainer video. This always goes back to the famous quote that no one quite knows who really said: If you want to have great writing, you’ve got to be willing to “kill your darlings.”
Wondering how your website copy stacks up? Schedule a copy review with me to discover how small tweaks can lead to big changes.
Image Source: Rob Bye