Simple or Complicated? Which Works Best in Copywriting for Websites?

Image thanks to Rohan Baumann

When you’re writing copy for your website should you write simply and plainly? Or is it better to show off your mastery of industry jargon and use plenty of insider buzzwords?

In response to a post about writing great headlines, Zachariah wanted to know if you wrote a song, and couldn’t think of a title, would it be better to call it something like “greatest song ever” or give it a title that was more eloquent? Would that stand out more than a title that’s easy to read?

Should you show off your writing skills on your website?

It’s an easy trap, especially if you’re a writer and have a large vocabulary. You want to show off all those big words you worked so very hard to learn. All of them. From antidisestablishmentarianism to syzygy (that’s when three celestial objects are aligned) and Zoroastrian.

Adapt to your audience

For one thing, it’s best not to talk to surfers the way you’d talk to brain surgeons. “Dude, that’s one gnarly aneurysm.”

However, even if your audience is brain surgeons, they’re still people. Your headline and the words you use have to be easy to grasp and digest quickly.

Using long words or jargon or even puns, can make it harder for your readers to understand what you’re saying. If they can’t understand you, they won’t keep reading.  Instead, they’ll leave your landing page or your website and go look elsewhere for the information they want.

Speak to them directly

Don’t make it about you and your company.  Talk to your audience.  Use words such as “you” and ‘your” more than you use words like “we” and “our.”  Use a conversational tone (generally), and show sympathy for their problems.

Keep it simple

Going back to Zach’s imaginary song, it will get more listeners with a title like “I Gotta Be Me!” than it would with a name such as “Melodic Ruminations on a Theme of Personal Development and Growth.”

Make it easy as ABC, 1-2-3. Even if it’s hard. Reading it aloud can help.  If it’s hard to say, it’s probably hard to read.  Try it on a child. If she doesn’t understand you, go back to the drawing board.

What website copywriting tips do you have for keeping things simple? How do you overcome the “curse” of a large vocabulary?

Calls to Action: The Super-Easy Copywriting Trick You Need to Know

We’d all like to get more orders from our Web sites.

But sometimes, a great product and lots of traffic isn’t enough. It can be pretty frustrating to watch people come to your site or your landing page, and not buy anything. The reason may be that your website is missing something essential: a call to action.

Luckily, there’s a way to fix that. It’s easy, it’s quick, and it jolts people into doing exactly what you want.

Lights! Camera! Action!

Everyone knows what that clapboard in the picture means (even if you’re not in the movie business). It means “go.” In its simplest form, a “call to action” is doing the same thing. It’s asking someone to do something. You’ve probably seen them on lots of web pages. They use words like “call,” “buy,” or “download.”

Writing a call to action is simple

You start with an action word, like “sign up” or “start,” then you tell your readers to do something. Here are a few examples:

  • Get your copy of Write an Ebook in an Hour
  • Click this link for your free sample

Make it urgent

A sense of urgency will increase response. Years ago, a company sent out a mailing with an error. The letter should have said, “respond by Thursday, May 19”. Instead it read, “respond by Thursday.” The error drove sales up by 39%.

If you’re writing a call to action for a webinar, or a series of consultations, stress a deadline or a limited number of places.

Add a bonus

  • Register by Tuesday and receive a free bonus book.
  • Donate $50 and get a t-shirt

Stand out

Make sure your buttons, calls to action, or text is clearly visible. It should pop out against the rest of the page. Use a contrasting color, with lots of white space around it. Don’t crowd the button with lots of other text or graphics. You want people to find it and click on it.

Make it easy

The more steps, the fewer responses. Tell people exactly what will happen: they’ll download an e-book, get directed to a video, or register for a breakfast forum.

Be clear

Too many options can be confusing. 30-day trial, view demo, buy now. Create a clear path: step one, step two, step three.

Test, test, test

This is especially easy on the web. Try different wording, such as “subscribe” vs. “sign me up.”

You can also test buttons against text links, different colors, or different placement on the page. See which link gets the most clicks.

Write calls to action for all your marketing materials. Watch what happens.

Photo: Bart Groenhulzen

Try This Timeless Copywriting Technique

jodiIt’s easy to get distracted by the latest bright and shiny technology.  We gawp at Buzzfeed, get entranced by SnapChat, and twitter away hours on social media.  But sometimes, the best way to advertise isn’t the latest idea, but one of the oldest.  Personalization has been used in direct marketing since the last century, but it still works (both online and off).

A true marketing personalization story

An advertiser with an unprofitable campaign was desperate. The ads for his business books were attractive, but the books weren’t selling. A colleague suggested adding the buyer’s name in gilt lettering on each book. The ads went out again (virtually unchanged, except for a note about adding the name). They sold hundreds of thousands of books.

Another company offered small memo books to customers and prospects as gifts. The results were poor until they used the same personalization idea.  They sent letters saying “a book with your name is waiting for you.” All the prospect had to do was to fill out and mail a simple form. Nearly everyone who received the letter returned the form.

When everyone knows your name

These examples are from Scientific Advertising (published in 1920, you can download it from the link), but the personalization copywriting technique it used is still effective.

Amazon greets me by name when I login. Online grocer FreshDirect does the same thing (and just had me fill out a brief survey asking what kinds of foods I enjoy most).

Address your letter or email directly to the person receiving it. Treat your customers and prospects like people (instead of account numbers). They’ll love you for it. They might even put YOUR name in lights.

If you can’t wait, click this link for instant gratification.

Thanks to Deb Ng for pointing out the site.

5 Top Secrets of Ninja Copywriters

nikon ninja imageMany small businesses don’t know what they are, but successful copywriters have been using these copywriting secrets and tricks for years.

If you learn them and use them, you’ll be light-years ahead of your competitors. You don’t even have to get ninja training (unless you want to).

1. Promise something

It’s got to be something people want (and want badly) or a solution to a problem that’s got them tearing their hair out. Promise you can fix it (then explain how).

2. Make the customer the star

Don’t fill your blog or your ads with your 10 years of experience or the high-tech equipment you use. Instead, tell people what they will get.

If you create TV ads or Web video, skip the technical details of the shooting and editing process. Instead, focus on how even small businesses can use video on local TV or YouTube to make a big splash. Then highlight how well your other customers have done using your service.  Put the focus on what they accomplished (with your help, of course), rather than everything you did.

3. Appeal to their emotions

The classic appeals are “fear” and “greed.” People are afraid of making the wrong choices. In fact, they’re more afraid of losing something than they are motivated by gaining. Nobody wants to look bad to the boss, or lose their jobs. Greed works with fear, as people are afraid of losing what they have, and want more.

Emotions don’t have to be negative. You can also make a social connection and build trust. Be helpful. Offer free information. Reply to comments on your blog.

4. Be logical

Show the results that your clients get. Highlight the time or money they saved (be specific). Include testimonials from satisfied customers. Having someone else blow your horn is far more effective (and believable) than doing it yourself.

5. Use a P.S.

It’s one of the top places people look (after the headlines). Use it in marketing letters to repeat an important benefit or emphasize a deadline.

Photo:  striatic

Seven Easy Ways to Write Great Headlines That Convert


newspaper headline image There are times when the perfect headline jumps out of your brain and types itself out on the page.

Other times, it’s like slogging through molasses (no progress, and your brain feels like it’s bogged down in something sticky).

What do you do when inspiration fails to strike?  A recent post on Copyblogger got me thinking about ways to write great headlines that convert (sometimes without even really writing at all). Wouldn’t it be great to have tips on how to write great headlines? Stuff that you could just rework a bit and still get great results?

Here are some ways to easily write great headlines, without doing a lot of work.

1) Let Google do the work for you

Try searching for your topic on Google.  See what ads or sponsored links pop up.  This can be a great source of ideas.  Plus, they’re already search-engine friendly.  Check the number of results to see how popular the topic/wording is. Or, type something into the address bar (the one on the very top, where the URL is).  See what the suggestions are.

2) Swipe ideas from banner ads

Someone else has paid for those banner ads to come up on relevant sites.  See what headlines they’re using, and adapt them.

3) Look at magazine covers

This works especially well with women’s magazines. They’ve been using attention-grabbing headlines for years.  Copyblogger particularly recommends Cosmopolitan, and I agree. You don’t even have to leave your desk; you can check out the latest covers at  Plus, if you’re a guy, nobody has to see you picking up Cosmo!

Don’t use the headlines directly, but modify them to fit. For instance, here’s a sample headline from a magazine: “Five Words That Get the Truth Out of Men.” That won’t work as is, but you can change it to “Five Words That Get Clients to Pay Overdue Bills.”

4) Use a formula

There are formulas for this.  Direct marketers have been using them for years (because they work).

a) Set up a contradiction

“Earn Money While You Sleep”

b) Promise information
“How to Avoid the Biggest Mistake You Can Make When Buying a Camera”

c) Answer questions or objections

“10 Things You Should Know Before You Hire a Web Developer”

5) Look at newsletters you get from other people

I just got one titled: “Write a Profitable E-book in One Hour”

(This makes a promise, offers success, and sets up a seeming contradiction).

6) Keep a “swipe” file

Tear out ads from magazines, save direct marketing letters, print out ads you see online, and scribble down headlines from TV or a blog.  Keep them all in a big folder (virtual or actual) and pull them out when you need inspiration. Keep a small notebook with you to jot them down.

7) Don’t try

Sometimes trying too hard or thinking too much can freeze your brain.  Step away from the computer or the paper and go do something else.  Send an email to a client, take a walk, get coffee.  I often find I get great ideas walking down the street.

Oh, and if you think the headline in the paper is far-fetched, a few days ago I saw a cat chasing a dog the size of a Labrador.   This is a tough town.

Photo:plenty of ants