There comes a time during every online conversation when, after you have listened intently to what your site visitors have to say, it is your turn to speak.
A visitor arrives on your website. This is your moment. What are you going to say with your web content? What message can you deliver to keep them on your site longer?
Remember, your site visitors are one click away from leaving your website. All they have to do is click the Back button.
Since you have a business website, you want your visitors to take some kind of action — sign up for your newsletter, download your white paper, or register for a webinar.
Your ultimate goal is to persuade them to buy your product or service. But before they reach that stage, there is something else you must do first.
Your mission, should you choose to accept it …
Your primary goal immediately after your ideal customer arrives on your website is to get him to read your content. If your web content doesn’t get read, it is dead.
That may seem like an impossible mission, given that people will likely read only about 20 percent of the words on a web page during an average visit. Based on research by Jakob Nielsen, online readers scan web pages more than they read them word for word.
People do read web content, however, if it engages them. And a big part of engagement is being relevant. The previous lesson discussed ways to listen actively to discover what matters to your readers.
But there is more to it than just gathering a bunch of facts about your ideal customer. A part of the craft of writing engaging web content is knowing how to use techniques of persuasion.
Meet the web copywriter — your secret agent of persuasion
No, I’m not referring to covert interrogation techniques used by a shadowy government operative. Nor am I referring to brainwashing tactics that will make your visitors unwitting assassins on a mission to eliminate your competitors.
Although that would be really cool. If only writing web content could be so exciting. Sigh.
But, alas, we live in the real world that requires a more mundane approach to crafting web content that gets results in a business context.
Even so, when you hear the word “copywriting,” you may think of shady selling tactics that fly under the radar of people’s better judgment.
Copywriters may be perceived as trying to get people to do something against their will, like buying a product they don’t really need.
But that is a common misconception. Copywriting is simply the art of persuading people to take action.
The copywriter seeks to answer the main question in the reader’s mind: “What’s in it for me?” One of the fundamental rules of doing this is to focus on the benefits of your offer.
Emphasize the benefits, not the features
Once again you should take a customer-centric approach to engaging web content.
Features are what a product or service does. Benefits are what a product or service does for the customer.
Identifying and communicating benefits that are important to the reader establishes that crucial emotional connection needed to get him to read your content or accept your offer.
If you write only about the features of something, you are using a product-focused or company-focused approach. If you write about benefits, you are focusing on your reader. Understanding this idea is key to making a good first impression.
How to make a good first impression
They say that clothes make the man. This is just another way of saying that first impressions count.
I agree with this in principle, but in practice how first impressions are made on a website depends on more than just appearance. Let me explain.
You see, on the web substance matters more than style when it comes to wooing your visitors to read more or to close the deal.
For all their faults, online readers are sophisticated. They can see right through superficiality and vain attempts to get their attention with fancy design or clever words. The one thing they want more than anything else is authenticity.
When visitors arrive on your website, they want to know immediately what’s in it for them. If your website shows even a hint of not being relevant, they leave. If they suspect you are not a credible source of information, they leave.
The best way to make a good first impression on your website is to present a value proposition that is relevant and authentic to your visitors.
Engage your readers with a strong value proposition
One of the most common mistakes I find on websites is a missing or weak value proposition. A strong value proposition is key to getting people to engage with your website.
Your value proposition is your best chance of expressing what you have to offer clearly and succinctly. Once your visitors get it, they are hooked. The longer they engage with your website, the better your chance of converting them to customers.
A value proposition is your core marketing message. This message tells your website visitors what makes you valuable and why they should buy from you and not from others.
Given the importance of having a value proposition, how do you identify your unique value?
Once you’ve done the hard work of identifying the benefits that your product or service provides, identifying your value proposition is pretty easy. Your value proposition is simply a collection of benefits.
All you need do is make a list of the benefits, prioritize them, then choose the most important ones related to your offer. And voila, your value proposition is defined.
Now you need to make sure it written clearly. I will cover that topic in the next lesson.
As always, should you or any of your web team be caught or killed for writing crappy content, the Web Content Doctor will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This blog post will self-destruct in five seconds. Gook luck, reader.
Image (author’s collection): Holy man in Varanasi, India.