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Humans are very visual creatures. We like novel, shiny things. We really like a sexy website. And once our appetite for pretty is satiated, we meander away looking for some more eye candy.
That is, unless the words on the screen command our attention. Then the sex appeal fades into the background and we engage our minds and, if we’re lucky, our hearts.
Kind of like dating, no?
Tragically, in the opinion of this web copywriter, most websites are just about the sex.
They grab your attention visually, maybe even engage you long enough to make you click a link or two. Then, about 10 seconds into the conversation, they exclaim (right at the moment you’re about to walk the other way): “Hey! You were just staring at my chest, weren’t you?!”
Well, duh. Yes.
Would you like people to do more than watch your website, uh, walk away?
Then you need a website that says something more than “Look at me! Look at me!” You need words with a message.
And all those good things that fuel a long term relationship (or at least make you want to stay for breakfast).
The modern Internet has made creating a professional looking website very accessible. (Thank you, WordPress.)
Though many companies do invest thousands, even tens of thousands, of dollars in bad-ass looking sites that do all kinds of cool tricks. That’s okay; sometimes you have to pay for functionality, especially if that functionality serves the unique value proposition of the company.
(Not that we’re even close to getting this part right most of the time. Jakob Nielsen, I’m afraid, is going to lose the last bit of hair he has left fighting the usability battle I’m afraid.)
But even if your website sucks in terms of usability and maybe even appearance, chances are your web copy–the content that is supposed to give substance to your offering–sucks even more.
If your website is missing ANY of the following elements, then indeed, you’re just looking for a little action and not a real relationship:
1. Unique value proposition (UVP)
This should guide every last letter of copy on a website; yet almost NO business has nailed this one down.
If you can’t define exactly what it is that makes your product or service worth pulling out the credit card for, why the hell should your website visitors try to figure that out for you? If you’re avoiding this exercise, you’re not invested in your web presence. Don’t expect your target market to be either.
Like the hot chick standing at the bar, a great looking website is only as interesting as its personality. Sure, you’ll get a nice buzz off the sex appeal, but then what?
I don’t care how dull or homogeneous or downright uninteresting your product or service is, good copywriting goes beyond the triteness of features and creates magnetism.
A blue widget becomes THE blue widget if the web copy tells a good story about how it is made, the people who make the widget, or simply the vision behind it all.
If your web copy doesn’t articulate with brutal honesty and clarity what your business stands for, then your visitors will assume you stand for nothing.
Don’t like that? Too bad.
In today’s overcrowded virtual marketplace, no one is going to take the time to “get you.” Either you’re a stand-up kind of guy, or you’re not.
So speak clearly and stop shuffling your feet. It makes it seem as if you’re hiding something. Got nothing to hide? Good. Then SAY something about who you are (and not who you sorta kinda think you should/could/might be).
4. Respect for your visitors
Even if you’re not sure she’s going to put out they’re going to buy or otherwise convert right away, do the right thing and show some respect.
That means talk to your visitors like they’re human beings with a lot of things to do and probably far too much stuff cluttering their brains. Some of your visitors are having a bad day. Some have dated guys like you before and weren’t terribly impressed.
And some just want instant gratification–a fix for whatever ails them RIGHT NOW. So don’t drone on and on about yourself. It’s rude and quite frankly, no one cares what you had for lunch or what sorority you were part of or who you married or WHATEVER.
5. The ability to be a good host
If you want a relationship instead of a one-nighter, you’ll need to hone your ability to make people feel comfortable. Show people around the place and do it with pride.
In web copywriting terms, this could be a crisp call to action, a headline that extends more than a canned “welcome,” or a case study demonstrating how others have found their experience with you to be helpful and satisfying.
Keep your head up and look me in the eye while you’re at it. Don’t hide important details. Give out your phone number. Tell them your name. Give out enough information to make people realize that you plan to stick around a while, even if things aren’t always perfect.
Truly, I could go on and on here. There is honestly so much MISSING from website copy and content these days I’m sure us web copywriters will have enough work to keep us busy for multiple lifetimes.
It’s ironic too given how “social” we’ve all become online. Maybe it’s time though to lend a little depth to the come-on. A little grit to the conversation if you will.
Without that, a website is just a pretty face.
What do you think?