Words That Work in Website Copy, and Words That Don’t

At Daily Posts we produce website page copy for clients all over the world. We have web design firms who come to us and ask us to create the content for the sites that they build. We have lots of brands request a content refresh, or series of new landing pages. Some see a 100% increase in conversions after the process. Each project is unique, but there are commonalities that seem to run like ubiquitous strands through the most successful converting sites. In this piece we investigate language, format, voice, and how certain words are infused with power, capture attention and drive consumer action.

The power of a single word

The power of a single word

Website page copy is a relatively technical form of copy writing. At the same time, the words that work best are often very simple. They are words that have emotional impact. Words that engage the reader at the basest level. No, I’m not just talking about sex, although that does definitely work. I am talking about words that motivate the reader to act; that tap into the natural human tendency to be impulsive  in online environments.

The Language of Purpose

There are many choices you make when you talk online; choices made either consciously or unconsciously. With your website copy you can stamp your style on your messages. However, you need to be mindful that brand consistency is key, and that you therefore need to fit all content you produce with your brand voice. A first step therefore in your copy writing journey for any site is to work out that voice.

The right way to get your business’ message across will be different from how another business should get its across. It will also be somewhat different between your landing pages, product descriptions, and newsletters. The words you choose should be geared to the format,  tailored not only to the reader, but also to the intended purpose of the website content.

The language you choose can lead to an engaged, motivated visitor base, or can lead to high bounce rates. As the old adage goes “it’s not just what you say {that’s important}, it’s also the way that you say it!”

At Daily Posts we talk a lot about the purpose of content, and focusing on the reader. That’s because they are crucial forerunners to developing content that makes an impact. You will notice these two threads running through much of what follows. If you don’t have a handle on the purpose of the content you are writing, and the characteristics of your readership, then you might as well go straight back to the drawing board. Language choice flows from and through these literary threads.

General rules are normally over-rated, pointless, impractical, and even misleading; we don’t like them very much. However, a general rule that we do like is to ‘keep web pages simple’. Very few website visitors have either the patience or inclination to read through paragraph after paragraph of highly technical content. If the reader is doing research, or is a distinctly techie type, then technical language may be appropriate, in moderation. Generally (there’s that word again), heavy language is best reserved for your in-depth reports, whitepapers, and technical guides, not to convert your prospects.

Here are a few web page copy guidelines to review before we delve further into language:

  • The entire body of copy should use the same voice and tone. It should be authored in full by a writer, and not a re-write of other sources. Re-writing steels creativity and power from the process. When producing content, research, understand and write.
  • The writing must not be overly analytical or technical, nor should the page focus on explaining terminology in layman terms. It should be written for the level at which the visitors are interested. If you are unsure on this then do some demographic research. If there is a diverse bank of visitors, representing different levels of linguistic and technical knowledge, then write for lower levels and provide extra resources (PDFs, links to blog articles, hidden extra information) to satisfy their craving for more comprehensive understanding.
  • The way in which the content is arranged and displayed is vital. Long blocks of text are going to turn people off, whilst website content that can be read with ease will enable you to keep the reader’s attention much more easily.

Many of the rules of copy writing are straightforward, but are forgotten the moment someone starts typing. Bad habits creep in due to fatigue, exposure to other people’s bad habits, laziness; there are a plethora of reasons really. Typos, run on sentences, bad research, lack of flow, and all the other consequences of these bad habits, quickly deflect reader attention away from your content, and ultimately away from your site.

A writer must cling on to every ounce of attention a reader can muster. To do this the writer must also draw out the reader’s emotions. From a website copy perspective, impulse and desire are two key emotions to hit. These are often triggered through ‘power words’ that help to persuade the reader to feel a certain way.

These mentally and emotionally charged words are seen and heard every day; they aren’t secret.

Here are five power words that can have a great impact in website copy.

  • “Free” – who doesn’t like free stuff!
  • “You” – the only thing people prefer to read more than you is their own name. It gives the writer authority as a guide.
  • “Because” – this creates a ‘reason’, a motivation, and allows the writer to solve the age old question that readers have wired in their brains, “what’s in it for me?”
  • “Instantly” – because when results take time there’s no reason to act right away.
  • “New” – the most recent version of anything is the “interesting” version of an outdated something.

Turning Power Words into Call-To-Actions

The purpose of power words is not to stuff them into your website content whenever you have the chance. It’s to draw out that emotion, and to entice the reader to act. Ultimately power words are there to induce a conversion or engagement.

A call-to-action is crucial. Take advantage of the use of power words when crafting your call-to-action.

Not sure how? Here are some examples that use the power words from above.

  • “For a limited time, take advantage of a free one month’s supply!”
  • “You want to get good at golf but don’t know where to start – how about our free beginner’s guide?”
  • “A 7-day Disney cruise is calling your name, because you’ve earned it!”
  • “Get our detox pills and instantly see an improvement in your energy levels!”
  • “Our new WordPress themes have features that you have never seen before!”

None of these are anywhere near perfect. We can’t give away all our secrets here; but they should give you a flavour for the power that language has to inspire action. You want to lead the reader into an action. Being direct works best. You let their mental and emotional selves read through the lines, then hit them with a direct call-to-action. It really is true that “if you don’t ask you don’t get.”

Learning how to create a call-to-action that converts is absolutely vital to the productivity of your copy. Quality website content is one thing, but without a killer call-to-action it will be nothing more than an engaging read.

When creating content take time to plan.  Think about voice,  format,  audience motivations and call to actions. The quality of your content can be the defining factor in your success or failure. Don’t waste your time… Do it right or get experts to do it for you if you can’t.

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