Monday, November 22, 2010

Site Visitors Don't Care About You. Sorry.

“What’s In It For Me?”
That’s All Site Visitors Want To Know

As a site designer, SEO, copywriter or some other someone working in the web world, chances are you have clients – clients who have objectives.

Umm, they don't care about you.
Some want to sell something, or lots of different things. Some want opt-ins for a FREE special report. Others want visitors to subscribe to their insightful newsletters or fill out a form. These are the objectives of the site owner – your client and person with the checkbook.

Naturally, these clients want their sites to meet their objectives. If the client is selling a vitamin supplement, her objective is to sell more jars of the product. If the author of a newsletter on precious metals publishes an “insider’s report,” he wants more subscribers.

If the site is soliciting donations, the objective is obvious – more donors, repeat donors, generous donors. Therefore, the site copy on the home page and landing pages is usually written to meet the objectives of the site owner and not the site visitor.

And the fact is, the objectives of site owners and visitors are distinct and, at times, even contradictory. The fact is that site visitors don’t give a whit about your clients, their web sites, their problems or their clever turn of a phrase. They want the answer to one very simple question:

What’s in it for me?

Let’s look at a couple of examples of site text with snarky, visitor comments inserted:

Acme Pest Control is a family-owned business (who cares, I got bugs) with deep roots in the Tri-City Area. (I said I don’t care. Bugs are eating my house.) We offer a variety of services to manage your pest problems (Can you get rid of my bugs?) safely, effectively and completely. (Umm, okay.)

We offer the latest in pest control technology (Huh?) and we guarantee our work. (OK, that part’s good.)

Out technicians are trained in the latest pest control technology, they’re certified and they’re friendly. (I don’t care if he looks like Quasimodo, I just want somebody so get rid of termites. Now.)

That little snippet of text is all about Acme Pest Control and closing another sale. Naturally, that’s the company’s objective, but it’s not necessarily the site visitor’s objective, which is to find a solution to a termite problem.

So, posture the text to meet the objectives of the visitor, NOT the site owner.

Got bug problems? (Why, yes, yes I do.) Want to get rid of them today? (That’d be great?) Want to keep your family and pets safe? (Well, of course. I hadn’t even thought of that.)

Tired of calling around trying to find a solution to your pest problems? (Oh, man, I’m so tired. Can you help?) We solve all of your pest problems quickly, safely and now. (How do I reach you?) You want to solve a pest problem, call us at (123) 555-1234. (I’m dialing, I’m dialing!)

We’ll be there today to help you. Guaranteed. (“Hello, Acme Pest Control…”)

In this case, the site text isn’t about the company (your client) it’s all about the visitor – solving their problems and serving their needs.

Unfortunately, even gigantic, global conglomerates use site text that’s designed to meet their global conglomerate objectives, not the objectives of the site visitor. I’ll bet you 99.9% of all 122 million web sites are designed to meet the site owner’s objectives. And that’s why so many sites crash and burn.

It’s blunt but true: site visitors don’t care about you, your site, your corporate history or you cool new headquarters. Those are the objectives of the site owners – to brag a little bit and “sell” the site visitor.

Forget selling. Provide solutions in your site text, focus on the visitors objectives not your objectives or the client’s objectives (this may take a little explanation and diplomacy on your part) but the results will be there in higher conversion ratios.

Don’t design a site to meet the site owner’s objectives. They’re different from the objectives of site visitors. Instead, write copy the simplifies achieving visitor’s goals and the site will convert, the client will make money and parades will be scheduled in you honor.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Five Can’t Miss Web Writing Tips

Writing for the web is a little different from writing for the local newspaper or writing your autobiography. Different things are important to both search engine spiders and to site visitors.

As a web writer, you have less than 10 seconds (6.4 seconds according to one study) to capture the attention of a site visitor before s/he bounces – that is, leaves without exploring the site further. So, your headlines better be attention grabbers. And remember, not all visitors will enter a site through the home page. Almost any site page can be the entry way in to a site so each page has to have an attention grabbing something – headline, picture, chart – something that keeps the visitor on site.

So, in no particular order, if you’re writing for the web, take these tips to heart.

1. Write like you talk. Even the best web writers miss this one.

You don’t say “I will go in to the kitchen to cook supper.” Too stiff. Instead, you and everyone else would say, “I’ll go cook up something for supper.” More casual.

Use contractions to make your writing more engaging and “listenable.” Getting rid of that stiff ‘writers’ tone is easy if you just say the words in your head and type what comes out, i.e. write like you talk.

2. Feed the beast, aka search engines. Your web writing not only has to maintain the interest of human eyeballs, it also has to appeal to search engine spiders. So, some of the ways to do this include:

- using keywords in headers (but no header stuffing, please. All things in moderation.)

- embed text links to other site pages to provide spiders with a clear path to all pages of
   your client’s site

- keep keyword density to no more than 5%, i.e. within every 100 words of text use five
   keywords. Work them in naturally so that humans don’t find the text awkward.

- make sure on-site and HTML keywords synch up. If it doesn’t make sense to a spider
  (dumber than dirt) you won’t be indexed, or properly indexed, within the search engine
   taxonomy (sorting system).

3. Use a lot of bullet points (see #2 above). Think about it. You don’t read big chunks of text on line. Bullet lists of everything from product specs to service features are more easily scanned than detailed, paragraphs of product descriptions.

4. Don’t use abbreviations. When describing a place, spell out the state name. Not NY but New York. Same with lbs, in, km, etc. Bots aren’t real good at figuring out abbreviations, though they are getting better.

5. Every word you write is sales text. If you’re writing a piece on using a hearing aid, you sell the concept of a hearing aid purchase. Cars, health insurance, divorce mediation – whatever the topic, you’re selling something in a subtle way.

This is also true of site text. Typically, you’ll write an About Us page, a Contact page and other “administrative” pages within a web site. Don’t waste these opportunities to sell the product, service or company. For example, which is better:

Contact Us:

XYZ Manufacturing
123 main Street
Anywhere, Vermont, 12345

((802) 555-1234


At XYZ Industries, we’re here to help you in any way we can. You can reach us in different ways so getting answers to your questions or placing an order is a call or click away.

At XYZ, you’re always first in line.

XYZ Manufacturing
123 main Street
Anywhere, Vermont, 12345

((802) 555-1234

Web writers take note. It takes a good storyteller to keep a reader on site. So tell your clients’ stories. Keep it casual, cut the hyperbole and engage your reader like an old friend.

Why? Because that’s what you want your readers to become – old friends.