Writing a Website that Sings!By: Meredith Pond
If your online sales have taken a dip lately, your product or service isn't necessarily to blame. Even the best products and services can be hidden in obscurity when covered by a blanket of bad website copy. So what can you do to make sure your copy sings the praises of not only your product, but your business smarts and credibility as well?
First of all, you need to start with the basics. Begin by printing out all pages of your web copy. Then, grab a red pen and go to work. Read carefully through each sentence of your copy, correcting any mistakes in spelling, grammar, or punctuation. If you don't feel you have the expertise to find all those common little mistakes, have someone else do it for you. Unless you have a degree in English, you're likely to miss something.
Now, some of you might be taking this advice with a grain of salt, thinking that most people don't notice or concern themselves with grammatical errors in your web copy. It's true that some people won't notice or won't care, but savvy, intelligent people (which your customers likely are) will notice, and those little mistakes can quickly add up to a gaping hole in your credibility. Don't insult your customers' intelligence by assuming they won't notice these mistakes.
After you've made it all the way through your copy, and are satisfied that your grammar is absolute perfection, read it again. Better yet, have someone else read it. The value in this is simple. If there's a sentence or paragraph that doesn't make perfect sense or fully explain what you're trying to say, you're less likely to notice it than someone who really needs the information. You already know everything you're trying to explain to others, so clarity is not as big an issue for you as for someone who knows nothing about your business. So, ask a friend, relative, or neighbor to read your copy carefully and point out anything that isn't perfectly clear. If you're going to be successful, your potential customers need to have a clear picture of what you're offering.
Next, consider the length of your copy and how it's distributed. Do you have all your information on one l-o-n-g page? Does your main "overview" page include minute details that people don't really need, at least at first? Copy that is too long, boring, or hard to navigate is perhaps the worst enemy of online success.
Sure, you might have a lot of information to give potential customers, but do you have to do it all at once? Of course not. Your main introductory page, for instance, should give a basic overview of your product and its major benefits. On this page, include links to pages where more detail can be found, such as testimonials, ordering info, and features you want to mention but aren't important enough to list on the main page.
If your pages must be long, be sure to use lots of headlines and bold text to highlight your main points. When faced with a long page to read, many people will skip down to those parts which look more important, so make sure they stand out. Also, include a link to your order page near the top, middle, and bottom of each page. A customer who decides to buy after your first paragraph doesn't want to scroll all the way to the bottom to find out how to order. Placing order links throughout your copy will help you capitalize on buyer impulses, which is just as important on the Web as it is in the supermarket.
Overall, be sure your copy is professional, credible, easy to read, and simple to navigate. I can't tell you how frustrated customers become when they have to search your site for 5 to 10 minutes to find what they're looking for. With this in mind, keep your copy straightforward, and separate pages into logical categories. When doing so, be sure to provide links to those pages to help people find their way around.
© Copyright 2002, Meredith Pond
The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.