Twitter Updates

    Monday, March 23, 2009

    Are You Asking the Right Questions About Your Website?

    Went to a great presentation by Merry Bruns on Saturday called "Looking Professional on the Web: Maximize your Web Site Impact."

    While the facility Ms. Bruns was presenting at gave her the worst of all technological support (they wouldn't let her use her own Mac, instead having her use one of their old and s-l-o-w laptops for her demonstration), she conveyed gobs of top-notch content about, well, content.

    A sampling of a few key takeaways for copywriters (and, perhaps more importantly, for the businessowners they write for):

    1. Why are people coming to my website?
    This is perhaps THE MOST important question a website owner can ask him/herself.

    According to a recent Pew Center study (link forthcoming), people use the Internet to DO things, not to be confronted with verbiage. They want to buy something, learn something, schedule something, give something, write something.

    You get the idea. If you're a book seller, they're coming to find a book. If you're a babysitter, they coming to find recommendations, your rates and availability. If you're a copywriter(!), they're coming because they need content/copy.

    >>RULE OF THUMB: Design and write your site so you give first visual priority to immediately helping your reader DO what they want to DO.

    2. What should I put on my commercial/corporate website?
    This is, come to think of it, very similar to point 1.

    But important things need repetition, right?

    So, what should you put on your site? Drumroll, please....

    What your reader wants!

    This is not rocket science. Or brain surgery. Or rocket surgery, for that matter.

    The prime real estate on your business website is not about ego stroking, internal affairs, or what makes the suits (or middle managers) happy--it's 100% about what your clients want to know and see.

    If business owners would get this one simple rule down, their website would finally start doing what they want it to--sell product!

    >>RULE OF THUMB: If your reader won't find it immediately helpful and useful, it doesn't belong on your website (at least on the homepage).

    3. What kind of language should I use to connect with my readers?
    Once you know what your readers want to know and do, priority numero uno is helping them do it.

    And you do that with direct, clear language.

    Do they come to your website looking for HR solutions? Feature a link or button that says: "Discover the top 3 HR mistakes offices make" (might take them to a short article that ends with a killer call to action). Do they come wanting to buy event tickets? Feature a link with a "Buy your tix in 30 seconds!" call to action (leads them to your fancy schmancy in-n-out ticket purchasing app).

    How do you use language to do this?

    Easy. Use the imperative mood--that's grammarese for "tell them what to do!" All your copy should move people. That's all your copy.

    Don't inform; command! Tell them to complete specific actions. Call them to action!

    >>RULE OF THUMB: Don't tell them what you do. Tell them what to do.

    4. What will people do when they come to my site?
    The harsh reality is that they'll do whatever they want. Including leaving it.

    While not as true with print media, Web-use is driven by active choice.

    When people see your site, they immediately start making decisions: Do I want to stay here? Does this site help me do what I want to do? Am I yawning? Do I want to go to the competition's site?

    Your success on the web depends 100% (yes, 100%!) on how your content and design team up to answer your visitors' questions directly and helpfully.

    >>RULE OF THUMB: Don't talk to yourself on your web site; engage your customers and you'll get their business.

    P.S. For more great content-related tips, check out Ms. Bruns' s article called The Six Rules of Web Writing.

    No comments: