Making the leap online
Many mail order and traditionally ‘offline’ companies have made the shift online over recent years and as a result many marketers trained in traditional offline copywriting skills have panicked, copied their catalogue text into their website’s content management system and hoped for the best.
No prizes for guessing this isn’t the best way to get the most from your website and convert visitors into sales. You will need to invest time tweaking your copy, but its most definitely time well spent.
Know your customer and find out what they are searching for
Your target audience will depend on your industry, but do some research and discover if your online customers are in the same demographic group as your offline ones. Those on your postal database may be women in their 70’s; however your online customers maybe 50 year old males. Are they looking for the same products? Do they spend more on average? Find out using Google Analytics and customer surveys so you can tailor your copy accordingly.
Including keywords (i.e. the terms that your customers will search for) in your copy is the most important consideration when copywriting for the web, as they will be picked up by Google and improve your ranking. If you are unsure of your keywords, you can use tools as Google Analytics to see which keywords are already working as well as discovering new keywords with research tools such as Wordtracker.
To give an example, when writing product description for a leopard print toilet seat, ensure your copy contains the key search terms that the discerning niche toilet seat purchaser may type into their search bar such as ‘printed toilet seats’ and ‘animal print toilet seats’, ‘quirky bathroom accessories’ and ‘unusual toilet seats with free delivery’… you get the message.
Remember the AIDA principle
Many of the key copywriting principles will apply online– you still need to shout about your products’ features and benefits, position them effectively and ensure ordering is clear and simple. However, when copywriting for the web you have to consider links, SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and the fact that on average, it takes 25% longer to read the same text online as it does print.
The classic AIDA principle (drummed into marketing students in the first lecture at university) is still very much applicable when online copywriting:
Examples of how to achieve in traditional mail order brochures
Examples of how to achieve in an ecommerce website
|A – AttentionHow do we grab customers’ attention?||
Eye-catching envelope artwork with promotional ‘teaser’.
Google rankings, eye-catching emails with appealing subject lines.
|I – InterestHow do stimulate interest?||
Mailer letter content & design, broad product range, promotional offers
Design of website, broad product range, delivery options, promotional offers
|D – DesireHow do we persuade them to purchase?||
Good product photography, clear product features, customer testimonials
Good product photography, clear product features, website usability, FAQ’s page, customer testimonials
|A – ActionHow do we drive action and purchase?||
Easy ordering and delivery options
Easy ordering, delivery options and simple checkout process
You’re probably catching up on emails; drinking tea and having a browse on Facebook whist reading this. Your customer is more than likely multi-tasking too and won’t have time to read every single word. Don’t assume everyone will begin reading from the top of each page and consider that the majority of visitors will just ‘skim read’ your copy. Highlighting your key points is an effective way of directing potential customers to the parts of copy that interest them most.
Customers are more likely to reward you with a sale if you make things simple and organise your information with clear sub-headings and bullet points. You need to ensure your message is concise as it takes only a second for the average customer to make up their mind as to whether they want to read a web page when they land on it – first impressions count!
With this in mind, here is a summary of the 5 golden rules of online copywriting in handy bullet point format:
The 5 Golden Rules:
- Keywords, keywords, keywords – it can’t be stressed enough how important these are. Using keywords that your potential customers will be searching for in your text will help your rankings on search engines and get you found!
- Cut the waffle – Your copy and sentences should generally be 50% shorter than in your brochures and more concise.
- Write for your audience – research who your online customer is, as they may be different to your offline audience. Learn how to use Google Analytics as it is an invaluable tool!
- Bullets – Bullet points and sub headings are a great way to organise information and make it easier to read. Shout about your products’ benefits.
- Improve – Don’t just write your copy, post it on the site and then forget about it. Create a copy review schedule, regularly revisit and improve… you will get brownie points from Google for updating your site too as they use site ‘freshness’ as a ranking signal.
- Nielsen research, 1997
- Institute of Direct & Digital Marketing, 2011