Two Tips for Website Writing

By September 25, 2008blog

I was having breakfast last week with the head of a successful printing company who wanted help with his website. I looked up his site on my phone as we were talking and noticed that it had a lot of marketing speak about being “THE premier, innovative, & cost-effective solution” without any real substance to back it up. I asked him what he says to prospective clients when he meets them in person. He said, “Once someone tries us they never leave us because we bend over backwards to make sure that everything goes right with their projects. For example, one client…”

THAT’S what I recommended he write on his website! Because it is:
1. human sounding
2. has substance

Very few sites talk like a real person or with real substance. But when they do, it’s SO compelling. For some reason, marketers got the idea that speaking in a foreign language with marketing-speak generalities was a good idea. I see it in more than 90% of advertisements out there and it’s horrible because there’s no substance and nothing human about it to connect with… as a human.

David Ogilvy, the man behind the famous ad agency talked about this in Confessions of an Advertising Man that he wrote some 50 years ago. I just read it and it’s a great reminder for people writing content for ANYTHING. Advertising that sells is advertising that tells, not advertising that entertains. He said “I do not view advertising as an art form, but as a medium of information.”

Whenever I look at sites for the first time, I look for words that MEAN something to me. That give me VALUE. The more substance I read, the more I trust the site or company. I believe that most visitors do this unconsciously.

Examples:
Great Registration Forms

vs.
Better Registration Forms: We put our registration forms through hundreds of hours of user testing so your attendees can experience easier registration. (conversational and gives substance on WHY)

Electronic Payment Processing
vs.
Accept credit card payments online (eliminate technical sounding words)

My acid test for checking website copy is to ask “Would I say this to a prospect face-to-face?” If not, what WOULD I say? I write as if I am having a REAL conversation… because I am! When people go to sites they have conversations in their heads with the words on our sites.

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