The 5 Tenets of Effective Web Copy

In ages past, a business owner’s primary method of increasing sales was outbound marketing. If you wanted more business, you built new storefronts, hired more salesmen, visited more tradeshows, printed more advertisements, or made more cold calls.

Each of these required extensive investment to get right. Advertisments needed to be compelling, but crafting A+ newspaper ads had no correlation with your ability to effectively train salesmen or run a new store. Each point of contact needed to be perfect in and of itself, and success was not necessarily transferable.

For online businesses, this model is mostly obsolete. Inbound marketing is the name of the game and allows for a much higher return on your investment. While each inbound marketing channel is an art unto itself, you are bringing all customers to the exact same location: your website.

The Primary Point of Contact

Your website is the customer’s primary point of contact with your business. Podcasts, guest blogs, e-books, and newsletters serve to bring users to your site, but the site itself is what will define your business in the eyes of potential customers.

Your business is not represented by 10 different salesman, 30 store employees, and a tradeshow booth. For the inbound marketer’s customers, the business is the website.

It’s the look and feel of the site, the ease of navigation, the relevance of services or products, the trust indicators, and most importantly… the copy. While every factor of your site is relevant, the copy is what directly engages with the customer.

Your website’s copy is your sales team, tradeshow booth, cashiers, and advertisements combined. It’s the single most important aspect of your website. A difference of one word can affect conversions by 161%.

With so much riding on your copy, it’s absolutely crucial to get it right, so let’s take a look at the # tenets of effective web copy.

1. Address The “Why”

The first tenet of effective web copy is understanding your customer base. Why are users arriving at your landing page? If you can determine what they want, or better yet, what they need, you can very easily sell “it” to them.

Don’t mistake function for motivation. Bob isn’t looking for ecommerce software. He’s looking for a solution to the recurring problems that have limited his web store sales. “Buy the world’s fastest, most efficient ecommerce platform” won’t resonate with him. “Instantly increase sales by streamlining your customer checkout experience” will have him glued to the screen.

Why are your customers browsing your site? What are they hoping to accomplish? What are they wanting to feel? What problems are they seeking to overcome?

If you can meaningfully connect your product or service with the accomplishment of a reader’s goals, you’ve just landed yourself a new customer. Find out what your target market truly wants, and let them know your company exists to give it to them.

2. Cover Objections

Objections are the seeds of doubt that keep customers from saying, “Yes.” They’re the reasons hundreds of potential customers will view your product with longing and then exit the page.

Covering objections is a classic sales technique that has withstood the test of time. The old-school idea was that objections could work either for or against you, depending on who brought them up first during a sales pitch.

For example, if Sarah is pitching her web design services to John, John might be wondering whether simply designing a WordPress site himself would be more cost effective. Whoever brings up this objection first holds the power. If John asks Sarah, “Can’t I just build my own site on WordPress for free?” regardless of Sarah’s response, the idea that there’s a cheaper alternative will hold weight in John’s mind.

On the other hand, if Sarah brings up the objection first, saying something like, “Some people will tell you to just build a WordPress site for free, but the problem with that approach is opportunity cost. You’ll waste a significant number of hours creating an inferior product. It makes more sense to use your time building the business and let us build you a beautiful, affordable website.” By bringing up this objection first, Sarah’s answer will supercede any doubt that would have formed in John’s mind if he’d been first to address this objection.

The beauty of web copy is that it’s a one-sided conversation. Your customer can’t beat you to the punch. As long as you cover the objection in your copy, you hold the power.

The key to beating objections is understanding they’re almost always erroneous. John doesn’t actually want to build a website himself. If he did, he wouldn’t have agreed to a meeting with Sarah. When facing a significant expense, customers will always look for reasons to say, “No.” The reasons don’t even have to be rational, but they are typically predictable.

When you take the time to understand your customer, you’ll quickly discover common objections that hinder them from saying, “Yes.”

3. Keep It Scannable

Your website isn’t a brochure or magazine. It’s not a book, a pamphlet, a short story, or an encyclopedia. The nature in which web content is consumed is unlike any other form of written content.

Internet audiences tend to have incredibly short attention spans. They need to know the outline of the story before they’re willing to read the first chapter. Understand your audience has 100 alternatives only a click away. You CANNOT bury the lead. They simply won’t wait for it to “get good.

The answer is to keep your content scannable and find ways to highlight your selling points in an escalating fashion. Use short paragraphs, alternating fonts and font sizes, bullet points, bolded lines, headers, images, etc. The best copy creates a visual path for readers to navigate, giving them the goods as they scan, but enticing them to read more.

It’s really as simple as that. If you can’t scan the page quickly and end with a basic understanding of the product or service and two primary selling points, go back and try again.

4. Make Your Offer Clear & Irresistible

“Purchase our eCommerce Web Design Package and Get Your Business Online”

Is the above offer irresistible? It’s not awful, but it’s not very compelling either, particularly if the target consumer has any level of internet literacy.

The best copy in the world won’t accomplish a thing in the absence of a clear, compelling offer. Your offer to customers shouldn’t be vague or confusing. If you’re attempting to trick customers into an exaggerated offering, your business has already failed.

If your customer can’t easily understand the value being offered, he/she won’t buy your product. Furthermore, customers nowadays are educated and informed. They’ve probably already evaluated the offers from your competition. If your offer isn’t compelling, bordering on the irresistable, customers will take their business elsewhere.

One of the single greatest ways to create compelling copy is to include metrics. Metrics are the specific details that make your offer tangible in a consumer’s mind. They provide specifics which customers can take to the bank. They’re the ROI you’re offering for an investment in your service.

  1. “Select our eCommerce Package and Instantly Get Your Product Online”
  2. “With our eCommerce Package, You’re 3 Easy Steps From Online Revenue”
  3. “Begin Generating Revenue Today! 30% Off Our eCommerce Design Package”

In the 1st example, the word “Instant” provides a metric, making the offer more compelling. We are promising immediate results. In the 2nd example, we’ve adjusted our copy to resonate with the “why” (generating online revenue), and we’ve included “3 Easy Steps” as a tangible metric for what consumers can expect to accomplish using our service.

Finally, in example 3, we’ve resonated with the “why” (generate revenue), included a metric (begin today), expanded our offer with another metric (30% off), and added a Call to Action.

5. Emphasize The Call To Action

The central tenet of old-school salesmanship was “Alway be closing!” The rules for web copy are no different. The more often you close, the more often you sell.

For high-converting websites, the close looks like a Call to Action (CTA). This is the moment of decision for your readers – the point where you require on action on their part. It should be direct, clear, and uncompromising.
“Begin Generating Revenue Today!” “Buy Now!” “Call today!” “Ready for Web Success? Begin the Conversation Today.”

One of the most consistent findings in conversion optimization case studies is that prominent CTAs yield higher conversion rates. Whether it’s increasing the color contrast, enlarging the font, or enhancing the wording, an effective CTA will boost your sales dramatically.

Include a primary CTA on your page, preferably above the fold, but don’t stop there. Sprinkle CTAs at various points throughout your landing page. You don’t want to pitch past the point of a sale. It’s possible your readers will be ready to buy after only two paragraphs – make it easy for them to do so!

Your Website Is Simply A Frame For Your Copy

Ultimately, it’s the copy that sells. Customers don’t read the colors or resonate with the navigation. A great website is one that emphasizes fantastic copy.

Never invest more in your site’s design than you do in the copy. Whether you’re a copywriter, a business owner, or a web designer, use these 5 tenets of effective copywriting to ensure your websites are revenue generating machines rather than nice-looking art exhibits.