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?

A Quick Easy Secret Copywriting Tip Anyone Can Use

Go look at your Web site’s home page in a new window. Or, pull out your company brochure.

It’s OK, I’ll wait.

Read the first two or three paragraphs.

Do they pull you in? Make you want to read more? Or, is the best opening sentence buried?

Here’s an example, from the completely fictional Wow Wow Web Design company.

After the initial consultation phase of your project, Wow Wow Web Design will create your web site using professional design tools. There are people who will offer to produce graphics for you at highly discounted rates. However, the quality of their design may be poor.

A badly designed web site can have a negative impact on your site’s effectiveness and the money you earn from it. Whether you need a big web site or a small one, we can provide all your design needs.

Easy copywriting tip

What’s the tip?  Look at the paragraph again.

The best sentence is buried at the beginning of the second paragraph.  Move that up and see how much better it reads. Now it’s telling you right away how bad website design could hurt your business.  Once you recognize a problem, you’ll want to know how to fix it.

A badly designed web site can have a negative impact on your site’s effectiveness and the money you earn from it.

After the initial consultation phase of your project, Wow Wow Web Design will create your web site using professional design tools. There are people who will offer to produce graphics for you at highly discounted rates. However, the quality of their design may be poor.

Whether you need a big web site or a small one, we can provide all your design needs.

There are several other things wrong with this copy. Do you know what they are?

Find out here.

Image: spekulator

What a Giant Squid Can Teach the New York Times About Publishing

giant squidThere’s a big fuss about the NY Times’s decision to start charging for access to its Web site.  Many people, including me, are upset.

We started out paying for the paper (through a subscription or newsstand), then it went on the web, the price dropped, and now we’ve been trained to expect it for free.

The paper version is losing money – and so the online version must earn extra in order to cover the costs of printing and distributing the dead-tree paper. The bandwidth isn’t the problem.  The paper and distribution is the problem.

Build a Community

The giant squids I’m talking about aren’t actual squids; it’s the nickname for the leaders of Squidoo (an online free publishing platform).  Squidoo gives people the chance to share their passions, make money for charity, or run a business – for free.  You make a page, called a lens, and connect to  selected affiliate sites or your own.  If someone buys something,  you make money.  Or, it goes to your favorite charity. There’s a community to answer questions, show you the ropes, and welcome you.

Add Free Prizes

Squidoo has “free prizes” – badges for people with great lenses, awards for best lens in different categories, and angels who bless lenses they like.  They’re called Giant Squids, Squid Angels, and Squid Greeters.  They get extra options and first crack at new tools for building lenses.

How about a badge system for newspaper readers to reward and highlight frequent viewers or commenters?  Articles with more comments or comments by higher level people would be worth more to advertisers.

Reward Extra Effort

What if the paid version had no ads?  Or, if visitors got points for viewing ads (and credit toward access).  The more people “paid” to view the ad, the more the Times could charge the advertiser.

More points could get more prestige (and more incentive to return and see ads). Different point levels could entitle readers to extra services or goodies, such as access to restaurant reviews before they’re published, or inside tips on sales, or rights to free Kindle access.

What if they gave stuff away, but in a way that brought people in?  Grew their tribe, encouraged communities of New York Times readers generally.  They could if they wanted to.  And, their readers would embrace them (rather than crying foul).

What are you doing in your business to build a community?  What’s working?  What fell flat?  Share your experiences in the comments.

Image:  wikimedia

How to Use Social Media to Market Your Business

Social media is a great way to quietly market your business.  You can use it to make connections, build partnerships, find clients  you never would have met otherwise (because they live on the far side of the world), and even make fast friends.

However, there are right ways and wrong ways to use it.

Social Media Icons

Social Media Icons (Photo credit:

My use of the word “quietly” in the first sentence may seem a bit odd, but it was used deliberately.  Many businesses use social media as an excuse to shout.  They start accounts and use them to loudly proclaim how great they are.

It’s a tool, not a soapbox.  Here are five ways to build relationships , create trust, and grow your business.

1. Join forums

Look for groups that match your business and your target audience.  For instance, if you sell gardening supplies, hang out in gardening forums and groups.

2.  Read the rules

Each group is likely to have slightly different rules of the road.  Some let you add a signature line,  others allow links to your site, still others permit a mini-bio.

Find out what you’re allowed to do to promote  yourself.

LinkedIn, for instance, allows you to send articles to members of groups you join.  You can also include your blog feed in your profile.

3.  Make friends

The best way to build a reputation is to make friends.  Don’t shout, but be helpful.  If someone asks for opinions on their web site design, post your review and point out what’s good (or not so good) about the site.  This establishes your credibility and expertise.

Treat the other forum members like people, not targets.  They’re there to learn, share ideas, and get opinions, not for a sales pitch.

4. Start a blog

If you don’t already have one, start a blog.  Most web site hosts have a control panel with a tool called Fantastico that lets you install WordPress (blogging software) fairly easily.  Here’s a video from Hostgator (my web host)  with more instructions on how to install WordPress.

Blog posts get indexed faster than Web sites, and show up in Google alerts.  I wrote a post about the biggest mistake advertisers make and a local paper linked to it only a few hours later — leading to a big spike in my blog’s traffic.

5. Write on other sites

Not just guest posts, but there are large sites that allow you to post (sometimes, they’ll even promote your post for you).  For example, BuzzFeed will let you post on their site, as will Forbes.  I knew about Forbes, but not BuzzFeed. Here’s a list from Neil Patel with more big sites that can drive traffic. Make sure, of course, to choose sites that are relevant to your business.  Commenting on IMDb might be fun for me, but I wouldn’t expect it to drive traffic here.

6. Link to other blogs

Add blogs you like to your blogroll.  Comment on the blogs  you like.  Don’t just say “great post.” add to the conversation.

Use another blogger’s post as a starting point for your own.  Expand on something they said, or take it in a different direction.  If you’re a food blogger and you see a post about great BBQ, write one about the biscuits that go with it.  Or, rate your own local BBQ joints and link to the other blogger’s post.

What other ways are you using social media for  your business?  Have you had great luck with Twitter?  Is your Facebook page critical to your marketing strategy?  Share your experiences in the comments.

Image: clix

5 Quick Ways to Give Your Web Site a Lift

1) Know your audience

You wouldn’t talk to stockbrokers the same way you talk to teenagers. Discuss things they care about, in their language. Stockbrokers are obsessed with money; teenagers are obsessed with, well, other teenagers.

2) Invite interaction

If you sell products, make it easy to review and comment on them. If you have services, invite testimonials. Have lots of ways to contact you (prominently displayed). Don’t make people hunt for it.

3) Cut the friction

The site should be easy to use. If you cover particular topics on your blog, list them. If you have more than one niche, list those too.

4) Use internal links

Point visitors to other relevant content on your site or blog – encourage people to spend more time with you. The more great stuff they see, the more trust and credibility you build up.

5) Share

You don’t have to tell everyone what kind of toothpaste you like, but do tell us something about yourself, your background, and what brought you to start your company or your blog. If it’s a blog, put your picture on it. If it’s a web site, put your happy customers’ pictures on it.

Make your “About” page personal. It should read like a story about an interesting person, not a corporate bio written in the third person. You’re a small business, not a faceless corporation, it’s about you and your relationships with your customers.

Psst. Special free email ebook tomorrow.

Photo: Ivan Petrov