It was January 2009, a balmy summer Buenos Aires afternoon, when someone I’d pitched my writing services to responded with, “Do you have a website where I can see your work? What about a blog?”
Um. I didn’t. I mean, it hadn’t even crossed my mind. Plus, I was a great writer …couldn’t she tell how awesome I was, like, automatically?
But I panicked and quickly set up a basic cookie cutter template blog. But by then, it was too late: my prospect had moved on to someone who came off as more professional and thus desirable because she had an impressive website. Sadpanda.
Think about it:
- It’s 99.9% likely that you have competition up the wazoo shooting for your ideal clients.
- These days (and even back in 2009), it’s not just about approaching them first but also about approaching them best. Making the best impression.
That is what’ll make you stand out from the competition (and make them irrelevant).
And what does “making the best impression” mean?
How the hell do you stand out from the competition?
Well, it’s not like having a new potential friend over to your house one afternoon, where you can woo them with organic loose leaf Earl Grey paired with gluten-free cookies. Nope. Everyone and their grandmother’s online now. So…
You’ve gotta do it quickly and with laser-sharp focus to grab their attention and hold it before they remember to walk the dog …and click away.
You’ve gotta show that you are who they’ve been looking for all along, whether they’re conscious of it or not.
And you’ve got about 3 seconds.
And how do you get your ideal peeps’ attention and then keep their eyeballs from glazing over?
It’s a two-pronged approach:
Great design + great copy = the winning combo.
Design is what’ll make them go, “HOLY SH*TBALLS” and pull them in to check things out. It’s what can make you instantly memorable. Think of Marie Forleo, The Middle Finger Project, or Danielle LaPorte’s websites and I bet you can picture them. Sure, their copy is like a magnet for your soul (sh*t just got real!), but 99% of the time what you picture first is the distinctive design. It’s what initially intrigues you to begin with.
Copy is what will keep them around, because you have to say something engaging to captivate people. It’s the second half of the equation to turn your visitors into customers.
So let’s dive deeper into what makes for great design + copy.
Some basics of design that helps convert your visitors into subscribers and customers:
- Tell people what to do: use visuals (images) to lead people through your site. Put them in your sidebar or homepage, for instance, and use them to take people where you want them to go: your services, freebie — whatever you wanna highlight.
- Stick to familiar layouts: e.g., keep your navigation (a.k.a. menu bar) horizontal or vertical. People by default know that your Contact page will be in the navigation, right? (Right.) So they’ll go there to reach you. Shocking layouts tend to drive people away, true story.
- Use visuals that support your copy: such as big & bold call-to-action (CTA) buttons telling people to sign up to your list or buy your stuff.
- Declutter: keep it simple & clean so your CTAs jump out.
- Responsive design: web design that’s attractive and functional on phones and tablets. Give your visitors a user-friendly experience so they don’t click away in exasperation.
- Use attractive, readable typography (i.e., fonts): this can make or break a site (um, ever see a site that uses Comic Sans? EEK.).
- Use 3-5 colors that appeal to your ideal peeps & convey your message well: don’t choose them randomly or just because they’re your favorite!
I’ve gathered wisdom from some professional copywriters, two of whom I’ve hired, myself! Behold: some basics of copy that converts:
Filter every word on your website with this question: “Why should the reader care about this?”
– Courtney Johnston, The Rule Breaker’s Club. Click here for Courtney’s 5 Copywriting Cheat Sheets
If you want your copy to convert like crazy, the single most important thing to speak to are your people’s EMOTIONS — information is not enough! Be super specific when you describe their emotions to make them “feel it” and you can only win!
– Hannah Mang. If you want to learn how to write with personality to attract the perfect clients for YOU, sign up here and check out her freebook.
Copy that converts has to have a sense of YOU. YES, you have to identify with a particular problem and offer a solution, but people only opt in or buy if they like you – so show them who you are!
– Jamie Jensen, Hot Copy. Refine your copy skills with Jamie’s three free trainings and get access to her Hot Copy Champagne Room here.
Make your pages readable on screen: use good headings and subheadings, short paragraphs, bullet points and lots of white space. It doesn’t matter how awesome your offer is, if people don’t read it, your webpage won’t convert.
– Tanja Gardner. Click here for Tanja’s guide to writing web pages that people actually read.
Sure there’s some “formula” to it: create bold headlines; know your customers and their “pain points”, and have a call to action … but if you don’t truly care about what you do, and you’re not telling authentic stories that inspire and educate, then you’re just another salesy Joe on the interwebs. Be real and be passionate. Write your heart out; that converts.
The best web copy out there sounds as if the writer is speaking directly to you. So when writing your website content, ask yourself, “Is this how I would say it if I was speaking one-on-one with my (prospective) client in real life?”
– Nell Casey, Melbourne small business copywriter who writes about how to grow your business through great content.