Website Copywriter Tips: Write Web Copy for People not Technology
<b>Every website copywriter faces a trap – Search Enginitis. Writing web copy with technology makes sense, but writing web copy for people makes the sale. Here are two ways to connect with people across broadband and create web copy that sells.</b>
Your website looks great: solid words, easy navigation, graphics just so, and maybe even a bit of flash with some multimedia. But customers are not buying.
<b>The Technology Trap</b>
You wonder if it’s the web copy itself. How can that be? You remembered the two key mantras of powerful web copy – “write for the search engines” and “write for the medium.”
Your web copy used appropriate keywords to help search engines find you and traffic is up. Surely, customers enjoy reading your content because your web copy is laid out with the internet in mind using:
Customers might be reading your words, but they still are not buying your product.
<b>Chances are your web copy has been optimized for technology not people.</b>
Even on the internet, selling is still about connecting to people. Selling on the internet means writing web copy for people not technology. So how do you press the flesh across broadband? Start where brick and mortar relationships do – trust. Why not become the trusted provider in your marketspace? Your web copy can use words to raise your credibility in at least 25 different ways.
<b>Here are two ways to craft web copy for people not technology:</b>
<li>write the way customers speak </li>
<li> replace your pitch with a theme.</li>
<b>Write Web Copy for People not Technology Step 1:</b>
Write the way people speak. People instinctively trust strangers who speak like them.
If you find this article useful, how would you tell someone? Are you really going to say, “I read an unusually amazing web copy article that fundamentally increased my sagging sales”? Not likely.
Weak web copy, not everyday people, uses too many modifiers. “Amazing,” “fundamentally,” and “sagging” weaken trust. How’s your site for modifiers?
Give your web copy the finger test.
You might not want fingerprints on your screen, so I suggest printing a copy of your homepage content.
<li>put your baby finger on the first modifier you can find.</li>
<li>put your ring finger on the next adjective or adverb. </li>
<li>repeat until you run out of modifiers or fingers.</li>
If your page is a handful, you’ve got too many modifiers and your web copy is hype heavy, not trustworthy. In addition to giving readers web copy that matches how they speak, it helps to give them time to get to know you.
<b>Write Web Copy for People not Technology Step 2:</b>
Replace your pitch with a theme. Customers need time before they trust.
They will get used to your site in tiny steps, so hold off selling; buy some time with thematic web copy. Have a theme for your site, introducing your offer only after your customer feels comfortable. Themes are a subtle form of repetition because they continually reinforce a single concept. Repeated exposure to an idea usually makes it familiar and safe. Remember the first time you used instant messaging or the family car – not so scary now.
<b>Let’s say your site sells dental floss.</b>
Here’s how your web copy might handle it. Instead of listing the benefits of DentaThread, you could tie the presentation together under the central idea “Some people have nothing to smile about.”
<li>The opening section could point out how the discomfort of Gingivitis wipes the grin off a person’s face.</li>
<li>Another segment of the web copy would show how ugly cavities make someone too self- conscious to smile.</li>
<li>Yet another piece would reveal how the high cost of root canal causes an individual to frown.</li>
In this way, the web copy offers three versions of one idea to help the site grow on the visitor: one idea, three versions. Does your homepage have a theme? How many chances does your web copy give visitors to get comfortable with you?
In this article, I tried to use the two key elements a good web copywriter uses to write for people not technology:
<li>the language of my readers</li>
<li>a central idea, trust</li>
Did it work? Did my web copy help? If yes, I guess I proved my point. If no, I have 23 more ideas to go.
Website Translation and Localization: DIY Guide
Expanding businesses into other countries means that you will be conveying your messages to people who speak other languages. What’s more, your audience may have cultural background other than yours — and it does matter.
Surprisingly many people think that creating, say, a website in a foreign language means just to translate the existing English version. Good translation by all means is very important. But what about putting your message into the context of the particular culture, which is native to your new audience?
This process is called “website localization”. It is like “tuning” your website (both content and design) into unison with mentality of other people — the prospective visitors.
Here I won’t describe the part of web site localization which deals with programming; this issue itself is complex enough. I will focus on writing content for your website and its further translation.
What part of this work you can do yourself? Probably not all of it, but quite a lot. Here is a step-by-step guide to help you in the process.
<b>Step Zero: Remember: Your Website is Not for You.</b>
It is for VISITORS. So it is logical to consider what THEY think such websites should look like. It is their points of view that matter, not yours. When you memorize this axiom, go to
<b>Step One: Learn!</b>
Self-education is useful in itself; besides, this knowledge is going to save you money and bring profit later. Learn as much as you can about your prospective audience. The more, the better.
It’s a rather time-consuming but exciting process. I hope you will manage, as Ancient Romans used to say, “Miscere utile dulci” (to mingle the useful with the pleasant). You will find out plenty of interesting things about another culture. Customs and traditions, rules of etiquette and moral principles, stereotypes, superstitions and lots of other stuff for you to consider when addressing people from a country other than yours.
You can find plenty of information in the Internet. Search Groups as well. Show your interest in other culture, and almost any native will appreciate it and help you as an expert. In addition, you will make good friends with great people.
Travelers’ guides can be an excellent source of information; they will help you avoid costly mistakes not only during a trip abroad. Just one example. You must have seen websites with pictures showing people gesticulate. Note that any gesture which is quite OK in the USA may be misunderstood somewhere else. By the way, do you know what the “OK” gesture means in some Asian countries? Demand for money, that’s what. In Tunisia it will be interpreted as a threat to kill; in Arab countries — “go to h…” In France it means just “zero” or “nothing.” In Denmark or Italy it can be taken as an insult; and so is in Brazil, Guatemala and Paraguay — here it is considered very obscene. So, you’d better make pictures of your website “culture-neutral”.
The farther in, the deeper… What is considered rude, impudent, offensive, or impolite in this culture? What is respected, valued, venerated? What traits of character are appreciated most? What are the favorite colors and what are they associated with? What are the most noticeable differences between your culture and this one?
Don’t be surprised if points of view on what is beautiful and what is ugly will also differ from yours. When you come to the conclusion that your text won’t do and the design probably needs changing as well, go to
<b>Step Two: Analyze!</b>
Turn your findings into tips for writing another text. “Don’ts” here are of much more important than “Do’s”
Realize how you shouldn’t write. Learn what won’t work. Find out what to avoid in graphics and website design.
When arranging content and graphics, it is very important to know whether the audience reads left-to-right, right-to-left or vertically.
<b>Step Three: Write for your audience.</b>
What to begin with when writing for a person from another culture? Put on his shoes first. Well, that’s second. First, take off your own shoes. I mean don’t be a representative of your own culture — just for a short time you’ll be writing the content.
<li>Avoid jokes, slang, idioms, proverbs and sayings. They are YOURS, not theirs. Allusions to books they probably haven’t read, quotations, however familiar they are to you — all that won’t work.</li>
<li>Be cautious with metaphors and similes (comparisons). Pretty clear and familiar to YOU, for others they might be not so obvious.</li>
<li>Symbols can mean something very different in other cultures. If you can’t do without one, find out what it means THERE.</li>
<li>Abbreviations and acronyms are tricky, too – they may be unknown to your audience.</li>
<li>You will have to explain stuff you think to be trivial. Not everybody in the world knows what is eBay, Paypal, or Amazon. Celebrities’ fame isn’t worldwide, either. Big companies and brands may be unknown on the other side of the globe.</li>
<b>Step Four: Find a RIGHT translator</b>
If you can, get a well-educated native speaker of a language you are going to have your text translated into (it is called “target language”)
The reason is that nobody can ever say: “I have learned this language” — only “I have been learning”. We all have been learning our mother tongues since birth. That is why native speakers have an advantage. The larger the translator’s vocabulary, the better your message will be expressed. Besides, a native speaker often has precious knowledge on the culture — it’s precisely what you need for website localization– and will help you in the process.
<b>Step Five: Bring it to Perfection</b>
How to check the end result? Ask somebody from this culture to proofread the text before launching the website.
Encourage feedback when your website is launched. Correct mistakes, if any, at once. Improve your website all the time.
Getting your messages understood in other languages and cultures is a tricky task. It takes plenty of effort — but it will pay. Not only will you make profit and avoid bitter losses caused by misunderstanding. As a bonus you will get deeper undestanding of people whose languages, cultures and even ways of thinking are different. This understanding is the key factor of your success in doing business or communicating with these people.
Good luck to you! Success be to your efforts!
What Does It Take To Succeed As An Independent Copywriter?
In looking back on the nearly four dozen aspiring copywriters I’ve trained and mentored over the years and asking which personal qualities posed challenges and roadblocks and which enable beginners to carve out a lasting niche for themselves, I have zeroed in on four key skill areas. To build and sustain a copywriting or marketing consulting business, you need to be or become good in these four competencies:
1. Writing. To develop persuasive written materials, you must learn to meld creativity, which involves being able to put forth fresh ideas, concepts, phrasings and images, with proven formats – structures for sales letters, brochures, press releases, home pages and so on that embody techniques that work.
If you learn only the latter, your work comes across sounding formulaic and hollow. It can attract clients and produce results, but only to a limited extent. Perceptive clients will notice that your projects tend to come out much the same. They’ll conclude that you’re either still in the apprenticeship phase of mastery or that you lack the problem-solving skill they need to get the kinds of results they crave.
And on the other hand, if you depend too heavily on creativity, you fail to use the little devices, turns of phrase, formatting tools and finishing touches that help improve response. I see this weakness in a lot of my beginning students – which is fine, because any halfway decent copywriting training course, whether live or canned, can remedy this shortcoming.
To achieve the ideal balance between creativity and the tricks of the trade on your own, you’d need great instincts and loads of practice. Top-notch mentoring, with frequent feedback from an experienced master, is a surer and faster route to finding your feet as a copywriter.
2. Pleasing clients. I’ve seen people who have no trouble with #1 flounder or become miserable because of this essential factor. Again it’s necessary to strike a balance, this time between doing great work and making sure that the person or company paying your fee is satisfied.
Without knowing how to please clients, you can turn out terrific copy and have clients refuse to pay, or pay up but never come back. It’s crucial to be able to listen to the client’s goals, to keep those goals in mind while shaping the work, to explain what you’ve done and why, and to talk through differences in perception so that the two sides eventually see eye to eye.
This skill did not – does not – come naturally to me. I have learned this painfully and repeatedly, by overlooking or forgetting it, analyzing what went wrong and resolving to do better in the future. Sometimes the error here is in accepting projects where the client’s expectations are at odds with the way you think things should be done. Sometimes there’s not enough communication with the client and education of the client away from what you see as wrongheaded ideas.
While this factor still goes awry for me a few times every year, most of my projects go well because I attract plenty of clients who love the way I do things and respect my opinion where it differs from theirs. If you build a strong enough reputation, clients tend to listen to you – though not always.
On the other hand, I’ve seen plenty of beginning copywriters as well as colleagues with years of experience struggle with the opposite side of this balancing act. They know how to please clients but in doing so, they make themselves unhappy.
For your own sanity, you need to be able to set firm boundaries – ground rules, policies and things to say when clients become unreasonable in their demands. If they demand rewrite after rewrite, insist that their ignorant ideas are superior to what you know, expect you to chitchat endlessly whenever they feel like calling or otherwise drive you nuts, you must be able to head off these problems, negotiate solutions and disengage.
Having trusted colleagues to discuss problems with, an online or in-person peer group or a coach help immeasurably in finding your way with pleasing clients.
3. Business skills. How much should you charge? How many clients do you need, and how can you find them? What if your sure-fire marketing tactics fail to bring in clients, or bring in more than you can handle? What if clients who say they loved what you did don’t pay?
No one is born knowing any of this stuff. With guidance from people who are running or have run a successful business, you can learn key business skills. If you’ve run any other kind of business before turning to copywriting or have watched successful entrepreneurs up close, you’ll probably find this skill area easy.
Years of membership in the New England Women Business Owners organization and my prior experience as a freelance writer for national magazines taught me how to be tough with clients when needed, charge what I’m worth, keep on trying when I felt I was on the right track, regroup when necessary and avoid dumb business decisions most of the time.
One of the most common business challenges I’ve seen for aspiring copywriters involves money issues. Charge too little, and you may be working very hard, have loyal clients and yet not be earning enough to sustain yourself (or your family) over time. A support group or mentor can help you battle the inner demons that keep you from raising your rates, whereupon almost always you discover that the best clients don’t mind paying more, and you feel happier about the business.
The second most common business challenge involves perseverance. If something doesn’t work out the way you’d hoped, do you retreat in hurt and disappointment, or do you simply try something else? I’ve watched a couple of people jump into the copywriting business with supreme enthusiasm and then brood obsessively over every minor reversal. Unfortunately, this type of person isn’t suited to self-employment. If you give up or feel overwhelmed easily, then you may be better off working on salary for an employer.
4. Discipline. To earn a living writing copy for others, you must be able to manage deadlines and details. By deadlines, I mean not only the obvious point that if you’ve promised that a project would be finished by June 30, it must be, but also the less obvious point that you need to be able to complete top-notch work in a reasonable amount of time.
If you can reach excellence only painstakingly or through a slow process of repeated drafts, you may not be able to make it in the business. Few clients are willing to pay enough for a web site, or be patient enough, to let you treat their project as if you were Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel.
Another personality type that has trouble with discipline is a Crisis Cathy – someone who masterfully and continually creates emergencies, problems and roadblocks so that things never get done, but with seemingly legitimate excuses. Family members may put up with this kind of behavior, but clients generally won’t, especially if it rears its head more than once.
As for details, you must have the discipline to proofread, check facts and get things like names and numbers right. I’ve seen a couple of writers who can’t spell or use proper grammer become fabulously successful nevertheless, but I do not recommend this. Where clients are concerned, it’s a much bigger handicap than these blithe spirits will admit. Most clients do not take well to carelessness on your part. When you deliver work containing mistakes, they consider it disrespectful and unprofessional.
So there you have it. These four competencies are roughly equal in importance for success as an independent copywriter or marketing consultant, I believe. Do you measure up? Are you willing to work on developing the qualities you don’t have?