The One Word Every Prospect Craves
It’s arguably the most important word in the copywriter’s arsenal. It ranks right at the top with words like “free,” “new” and “savings.”
I’m talking about “you.”
“You” is the word that gets your prospect’s attention and keeps them involved. As Herschell Gordon Lewis says in <I>The Art of Writing Copy,</I> “Unless the reader regards himself as the target of your message, benefit can’t exist. Benefit demands a ‘We/You’ relationship.”
While the “We” in the “We/You” relationship is important, it’s better implied than communicated literally. If your goal is to put prospects first, then it’s best to have the “you’s” far exceed the “we’s.”
It’s the “you’s” that matter to prospects. They’re your workhorse for communicating your message and include all derivatives such as “your,” “yours,” “yourself,” “you’re,” and “you’ll.”
What makes “you” so powerful? For one thing, it addresses your readers directly. In effect, it says “Hey you,” which is much harder to ignore than “Hey somebody.”
Say “Hey you” in a crowded room and a lot of heads will turn. Say “Hey somebody” and a few heads might turn.
While your copy won’t actually say “Hey you,” it can clearly identify to whom you’re talking. Once you have your audience’s attention, use “you” to help keep it.
Why does “you” get and hold attention? For one thing, it’s personal. It’s used in personal conversation every day. What do you think? How was your weekend? You’ll be glad to know …
When people say these things to you, they’re bound to get your attention and involvement. After all, they’re interested in your opinion. They’re interested in the things you do. They have something to tell you that will make you happy.
That’s the goal of you-oriented copy. Address your audience directly, personally and in terms of their interests. Be conversational and “you” will pop up in the copy naturally.
It was mentioned earlier that “you” is a workhorse. A classic example is contained in “The Do-It-Yourself Direct Mail Handbook” by Murray Raphel and Ken Erdman. They highlight a “Newsweek” magazine subscription letter used for nearly two decades.
The subscription letter was written by direct mail expert Ed McLean, who used “you” nearly 30 times on the first page alone. More than 100 million copies of the letter were mailed, a testament to its effectiveness.
Try counting the “you’s” (and “you” derivatives) in your copy. Compare them with the number of “we’s” and first-person derivatives. If the “you’s” don’t outnumber the “we’s,” consider reworking your copy.
Can you overdo “you”? Yes.
If you load your copy with “you’s” but forget the benefits, your message will have a phony ring.
“You” can’t save you if there’s nothing meaningful to offer your audience. Likewise, it will help put you over the top if there is.
Website Copywriter Tips: Web Copy 101
<b>You already know how to create great web copy. Just remember your childhood nursery rhymes. As silly as it sounds, “3 Blind Mice” will show you the way.</b>
For some reason, “3 Blind Mice” paid me a visit. As I heard the 100th replay, it hit me – this would make great web copy. As a matter of fact, this simple little ditty contains 10 elements of Web Copy 101. In case you’ve forgotten, here’s how it goes.
“3 Blind Mice; 3 Blind Mice.
See how they run; see how they run.
They all ran up to the farmer’s wife;
She cut off their tails with a carving knife
Have you ever seen such a sight in your life
As 3 Blind Mice?”
<i>Let’s see how this children’s nursery rhyme is a model of Web Copy 101.</i>
<b>Web Copy 101 #1, 2, 3 …3 Blind Mice (title or heading)</b>
1) Try singing “A trio of visually impaired rodents, A trio of visually impaired rodents.” Catchy? Formal writing doesn’t sell. Write the way people speak and you will be heard. The title does something else for this song.
2) If you had to choose between songs entitled “Cows,” “Ducks,” or “3 Blind Mice,” which one would you choose? The title in all web copy has to grab the attention the reader. There’s more.
3) This alluring title makes the content clear right away. How many times do you stumble on a website only to find you’re not sure what they are selling or how it relates to you? Be sure your web copy uses the title or headline to set the table for the visitor.
Web Copy 101 #4 …3 Blind Mice, 3 Blind Mice (first line)
4) This song is going to be about little rodents, not geese. Does the first line of your web copy highlight what you offer, or at least whom your site is for? Good web copy is not mystery writing. Instead it says, “We’re here to sell you something and here’s why you need it today.”
<b>Web Copy 101 #5, 6 … See how they run, See how they run</b>
5) Repetition is the key to any message track and a staple of effective web copy. From a psychological point of view it lets your message become familiar and safe. From a search engine point of view repetition builds your keyword density and raises your search results. From a net reader perspective repetition in your web copy reinforces your message for the superficial reader who is scanning your site quickly. Repetition works on many levels. Let me say that again – repetition works on many levels.
6) The invitation to watch how the mice run around is also a clever way to involve the readers by getting them to do something. Does your site invite some kind of reader activity in the body of the web copy?
<b>Web Copy 101 #7 … They all ran up to the farmer’s wife; she cut off their tails with a carving knife</b>
7) A good way to stitch your ideas together and build more active involvement in your copy is to use pronouns (they, she). By forcing the readers to build connections between previous and current information pronouns keep your site visitors more engaged.
<b>Web Copy 101 #8 … Have you ever seen such a sight in your life?</b>
8) Do you know the best way to keep someone interested in what you are writing? What is 3 times 3? If you thought “nine” you proved my point. If you thought “eight” try night school. If you thought anything at all, you demonstrated the power of questions to generate reader participation. Everybody loves and needs to answer questions. Does your web copy provide thought provoking questions that get your reader thinking and involved?
<b>Web Copy 101 #9, 10 … As 3 Blind Mice</b>
9) Brilliant web copy. More repetition. Plus, the story ends where it started. One of the advantages of writing with search engines in mind is that keyword focus helps you stay on topic. The glancing reader needs this controlling idea to get the essence of why they need what you have, now. Is your site’s central idea consistently expressed all the way through your web copy?
10) True, the song is written for children, but notice the use of short, crisp sentences to tell the tale. How are you telling your tale? You want your web copy to be clear, smart and direct.
I hope they get stuck in your head – the 10 lessons that is, not the lyrics. By the way, no animals were hurt during the writing of the article about web copy 101.
The Secret Power of Words
If the best way of communicating with prospects and existing customers was through sign language, we’d all have to learn to sign. Or if the best method of communication proved to be some kind of mutually understandable code, we’d all have to learn that code in order to say anything. Thankfully, our communication process is much more simple…or is it?
A sales person has the benefit of meeting his prospect face to face, and will be able gauge his pitch according to visible response signs displayed by his prospect. An experienced salesman will instinctively know from the facial expressions and body language of his prospect, whether he’s hitting the right buttons. This is usually indicated by the prospect’s head nodding up and down combined simultaneously with a beaming smile and wide-eyed appreciation.
A telesales person has much less to go on. They can only judge response to their sales pitch through the prospect’s answers to questions and the actual tone of their voice. Most telesales people find their job easier when they try to imagine the look on their prospect’s faces while they’re talking to them. But, the deciding factor will almost always come down to the tone of voice deployed by both parties.
The Internet and Direct Mail Marketer have no such advantages over their prospects. They can’t see them and they can’t hear them. Their only weapon in their armory of sales pitches is their written word.
How we communicate through our written words holds the absolute key to successful selling online and offline. Whether it’s a sales letter, an email or ad, the written words must convincingly convey the sales message directly into the prospect’s mind. But first, you have to get your prospects to actually read your message, and usually this very first hurdle will claim many, many casualties.
Getting someone to read your sales pitch will almost certainly depend on your headline. Your headline is your introduction. Your ‘hello’, your ‘hey you’ and your ‘listen up’. If your headline doesn’t grab the attention of your prospect within two seconds, it’s goodbye and farewell.
Other important aspects of a ‘killer’ sales message are sub-headings. Sub-headings are generally used to maintain interest throughout the copy. But they’re also included for the benefit of prospects that first scan your message before deciding to read it in full. To some degree, they’re almost as important as the headline itself.
Then there’s the body copy. It’s here that your copywriting talents and skills should really shine through. Here you have the opportunity to use any words in the English language to describe and explain in fine detail, the benefits and features of your product or service on offer. And the English language is positively rich in adjectives, so there can be no excuse.
But the real secret to creating captivating copy is to use ‘sense’ words. That is, words that arouse the senses. Touch, see, smell, taste and listen is what we instinctively do every day. They represent our human survival mechanisms and for the most part, we trust them. Other mammals rely on them totally.
When you use sense words in conjunction with emotionally fuelled trigger words, you can elicit all kinds of responses, which can be carefully channeled into the heart of your message for maximum impact. Harnessing words for profit in this way is a skill, and it’s a skill that every online and offline marketer needs to fully comprehend.
Learning to write outstanding and emotionally charged sales copy is not an essential requirement for business success, but recognizing the effectiveness is.
Never underestimate the secret power of words.
Website Copywriter Tips: Web Copy Sabotage
<b>How does your personality affect your web copy? Whether you mean to or not, your site reflects you in ways you might not notice: sometimes good, sometimes bad. While personality peccadilloes can be endearing in social situations, minor personality flaws can cause web copy sabotage.</b> So before you get out your keyboard, get out a mirror.
Why not see if any of these 3 personality traits are seeping into the design and copy of your web site?
<b>Web Copy Sabotage #1: Insecure people create timid sites</b>
Most people are insecure in certain situations as they vary their image to gain the favour of others. Nothing kills web copy faster than trying to be a people pleaser. Insecure people create timid sites that try to be all things to all people. Instead of declaring, “Here’s who I am,” insecure web copy tentatively pleads, “I can be whatever you want; hope you find something you like.” How forgettable and phony is that? Secure people on the other hand have learned to get real.
Some people like them; others don’t. Their web copy stands out because their authors stand up. Their web copy is memorable because it is authentic. Does your web copy take a stand or does it sit on the sidelines wanting to be liked? Is your web copy real or real phony?
<b>Web Copy Sabotage #2: Proud people produce narcissistic sites</b>
While timid web copy aims overly outward, narcissistic web copy looks too far in the other direction. Business owners have a justifiable pride in their business. Sorry to say this pride can lead to web copy sabotage.</p>
<li>Many owners lost in their delight often boast, “Look what I can do,” instead of proclaiming, “Look what you get.”</li>
<li>Their web copy tends to focus on features instead of real customer benefits. It highlights trained staff rather than peace of mind.</li>
Missing are empathy and impact. Nothing kills internet rapport like a one-sided, relationship. Does your web copy brag about you or resonate with strangers?
<b>Web Copy Sabotage #3: Anxious people make nervous sites</b>
Nervous sites are the most common form of web copy sabotage. They don’t gaze outward or inward; they look nowhere, all hurried and patchy. The visuals are the first give-away:
<li>a little red here and a dash of purple there</li>
<li>a touch of bold with a smidgen of underlining</li>
<li>a bevy of random quotations</li>
<li>a frenzy of isolated graphics</li>
Where’s the rhyme? Where’s the reason? Where is the message? The web copy reads more like a digital ransom note than a calm presentation of a distinctive value proposition.
The sad part is this kind of web copy sabotage is that it frequently betrays an honest business person who is just not comfortable about expressing his business. This web copy unfairly depicts sleaze and incredulity.
Sometimes the anxiety is driven by a specific learning style. A number of individuals are more comfortable with trees than a forest, preferring details to the big picture. That’s too bad because site visitors usually crave the big picture before they invest their care and clicks. What image does your web copy convey – calm or chaos?
<b>Web Copy Sabotage: What can you do about it?</b>
So you’re not perfect. Everybody is a bit insecure, a tad proud and slightly anxious. The trick is to keep these failings from invading your web copy. So what can you do to prevent web copy sabotage?
Your human shortcomings might populate your site because you are just too close to the data to detect your demons creeping up the keyboard.
You’ve got to get some distance. First have a third party who’s not a family member play site doctor, looking for symptoms of insecurity, pride, and anxiety in your site design and copy.
There’s nothing like conducting your own foible check to be sure you parked your sabotaging issues at the curb, not in your web copy. Here are 3 questions to ask:
<li>What exactly does my site stand for?</li>
<li>How do my visitors see themselves?</li>
<li>How have I organized my design and copy? </li>
If these tactics don’t help you improve your web copy, you could either see a qualified psychiatrist or hire – you know – a handy copywriter.
Top 10 SEO Copywriting
What would happen if…? I’m a person to always ask that question. I love testing and tracking to see what factors can improve or worsen a situation. So, it was only natural for me to track the moves of a little experiment I did involving SEO copywriting recently. I’ll gladly share my findings with you.
Before I do, however, I want to make a couple of things very clear. The outcome of this experiment will not be the same for every keyphrase on every page of every site. There are too many unknown factors at play in the overall SEO equation. Not to mention, all keyphrases are not the same, and all sites are not the same. In addition, this experiment takes no account of link popularity, which is a huge factor in achieving high rankings. With that said, let me show you how I took the home page of one of my sites – that didn’t even rank in the top 50 – and caused it to rank in the top 10.
First of all, I’m not a big fan of checking rankings on a regular basis. I don’t run ranking reports for all my sites to be sure they are all in the positions I want them in for every given keyphrase. I’ll do it from time to time just to satisfy my own occasional curiosity. This experiment began when I noticed the home page of one of my sites was ranking highly for a keyphrase that didn’t seem to appear anywhere in the text. Upon further investigation, I saw that the keyphrase was included in the ALT tags (a.k.a. image attribute tags) and that it was also included in the title tag.
I knew ALT tags previously carried a lot of weight with the engines, but had been downgraded in importance because site owners had badly abused the tag. Had ALT tags been reinstated in their level of importance? I decided to find out.
Keyword #1 was currently in the ALT tags and the title tag, so I decided to eliminate the keyword in the title tag. This would let me see if the ALT tags alone could hold the position in the search engine results pages (SERPs). To make things more interesting, I also decided to research and find a keyword that was a little more competitive and insert it into the title tag. On the same day I removed Keyword #1 from the title tag, I inserted Keyword #2. My home page was not ranked in the top 50 at that time for Keyword #2.
A few days later, the Googlebot came by and boosted my home page to position #18 for Keyword #2. Not bad! The page fell one spot (from #17 to #18) for Keyword #1 since the removal of the phrase from the title tag.
Keep in mind, these are not the most competitive keywords ever known. They each got between 100 to 200 searches a day. Also, the home page of this particular site had been (and still is) well ranked for years for other keyphrases and had a positive legacy with Google.
Five days later, Keyword #2 was moved up three notches to a ranking of #14 while Keyword #1 stayed the same. Things remained in their status quo for roughly 10 days and then began to shift again. Keyword #1, the original that was previously in both the ALT tags and the title tag, vanished completely. It was not found in the top 50. Keyword #2, that was only found in the title tag and nowhere else, dropped to position #25.
Four days later, Keyword #2 was back up in the rankings and was now at #16. To see if I could improve rankings further, I began to make small tweaks to the page attributes. I added Keyword #2 to the ALT tags (taking the places where Keyword #1 had once been), and I also added Keyword #2 to the body copy. The keyphrase was added to one, bold sub-headline and at three places within the body copy: none of which were above the fold. It was not added to any primary headlines that used <H> tags, and no keyword density formula was followed for the body copy. No other pages on my site used this term as anchor text in links pointing to the home page. That gave the page keyword placement in the:
· Title tag
· ALT tags
· Body copy
Seven days later, the home page hit the top 10 for Keyword #2!
So, what does all this mean? Simple. There is no single primary factor in search engine rankings. It takes balance, testing and tracking to find out what works for your particular pages. Your best bet is to do exactly what I did… begin one step at a time and track your progress. Did something cause a positive movement? Keep it. If something causes a negative shift, take it out.
I’m not finished with this page yet. I’ll keep trying different things from time to time just to see what happens. Maybe I’ll add anchor text links from the internal pages to the home page. I might try writing articles with keyword-rich anchor text links to help boost the rankings more. There are many acceptable practices I can implement for this page (or any page) that will allow me to observe the shifts in ranking. As the old saying goes, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” A diversified approach to SEO copywriting that includes tags, copy and links is always a wise start down the road to top 10 rankings.