updated: September 23rd, 2009 / Ross Johnson / 9 Comments

Effective Web Copy

I am often frustrated with how little attention is put into the messaging on most websites. It seems that you run into two scenarios when faced with web copy. The first is that the website owner has the writing done internally and then edited professionally, and the second is that their is a professional advertising/marketing agency that writes the web copy because budget permits it (however most of the time the copy is better suited for print than the web).

The result of either of these situations is poor and uninspiring web copy. The messaging does not compel you to read it nor does it inspire you to learn any more about the product/service/offering. The worst offenders for what ever reason tend to be web design companies themselves. If I see another “We create beautiful sites based on web standards blah blah blah” headline I just might crack.

Effective web copy must be short, to the point, and focus on the benefits that you are offering the user. It needs to be presented in a way that takes little effort to read/scan, and should immediately give you the option to jump to the next stage of the conversion funnel. From attention to interest, interest to desire, or desire to action, etc…

If you can’t stare at the screen for 10 – 15 seconds and immediately be able to describe the unique value of your product/service than your web copy has failed. Keep in mind that the communication of the unique value will always come from the copy and not the design. A design might tell you something about the quality, attitude, or brand of the site but a design will never tell you that “The unique materials make North Face clothing the strongest and warmest gear with out extra weight or bulk.”

Lets look at a web design company that does it well. WebpageFX has extremely well crafted messaging in their flash header. Despite some potential usability issues, when you do find the good messaging it is very clear, compelling, and professional. Try click on the little circles in the bottom left hand corner and watch the simple clear messages and how they are enhanced by design but not replaced by it.

You understand the benefits of complex services very quickly, including mobile web, analytics, etc…

This could even be done with out flash and still be effective because the simple clear messages work so well. So when in doubt try and simplify what you are saying and really focus on making the value and the benefit clear.

9 thoughts Effective Web Copy

  1. Pingback: » Effective Web Copy

  2. I think there has to be more focus on the person than the products and services. Check out hubspot’s article on inbound marketing.

    Two people to watch right now are David Scott and Gary V. They’re delivering great advice about brand and personas for your business.

    I’ve have a visual example of effective web copy that I posted yesterday on my blog.

  3. Pingback: Effective bWeb/b Copy | Presa .Net

  4. Hilarious that you made two common and horrible errors yourself in the first few sentences of this article. Why bother reading all of it when you have no more credibility? Maybe you should have had this edited ‘professional’ …

  5. Ahhh yes….If you can’t look past a few typo’s on a casual blog post then you are going to miss out on a lot of valuable insight.

    Don’t read my blog posts because you think I do/don’t have some level of “credibility” that can be lost by missed editing.

    Read it because the content of the post will either make you think (and either agree, or call me an idiot and disagree), teach you a tip, or provide some other worthwhile experience.

    If your that hung up on the editing of posts you might want to stick to blogs written by English professors 😛

    ross
  6. Patrick, you sound like you’re about 15 years old.

    Anyways, on that topic, I agree fully with Ross. I’ve found very many typos in these posts. But I look completely past them, due to the really, really useful and insightful content they provide. I have learned far more from this blog, with all it’s typos, than I have from many sites (put together) where the spelling is perfect.

    And, i’m sure many people would agree with that.

    Oh, and on that last note about “Credibility”, Patrick, go have a look at Ross’s company’s website (found by clicking on the link at the top of this page, and if you can’t find it, get off the internet), and through their portfolio. 🙂

    Allan
  7. @Andrew – Very good point, I agree in a lot of ways. However I must counter that it also will depend on the TYPE of user that is reading the copy. I have posted about it before and their are some personality types that don’t care to read “It will make your career soar!” Rather they are more interested in the HOW and WHY. Engineers tend to have this personality type.

    But I do agree no matter how you shape it on some level it should tie back to the person. Great feedback.

    @Allen – Thanks for the support and glad you are able to learn despite my grammatical challenges 😉

    ross
  8. Focus might be on the potential visitors. The maim goal of any web site is to attack its tudget audience. Without traffic no site is estimated as professional.

  9. Hi – I think you’re absolutely right. Copy is regularly an after-thought in the web development process, which is weird considering that people generally get information from websites by reading the copy!

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