Copyright 1999 by Debra Koontz Traverso.
The intent of most Web sites is to capture visitors' attention and subtly convince them to part with their money. Why then, do most Web sites read like a tome or an egocentric tribute to their creator, rather than like a highly effective marketing piece?
You can turn your Web site into a location that adds value to your visitors and supports your image, while simultaneously developing future sales. You will need an understanding of journalistic writing and direct marketing techniques, both of which have proven their effectiveness for decades.
Can your Web site pass this test of top ten items for effective writing?
1. Include your address and phone number (or tell where to find them) on the home page.
2. Use short paragraphs.
3. Tighten your writing.
4. Speak in terms of benefits, not features.
For example, don't say: "We offer a list of A, a directory of B, and a group of C to choose from." These are features. Instead say, "With A you will become thinner, with B you will get richer, and with C your love life will improve ten-fold." These are benefits.
You will notice that on the home page to this site, I state immediately how you will benefit from the information it contains: "On this site you will find proven tips and strategies for developing a killer business image and proven marketing program." It worked so well (no doubt without your even being aware that it worked) that you stayed with the site and have continued clicking for more information.
5. Write in the journalistic inverted pyramid style.
Because most of your pages will require visitors to scroll, you might lose them at any time. Thus, you should put the vital information you want to impart at the top.
6. Try a clever lead (first paragraph) to grab attention.
7. Put numbers in perspective.
The classic examples of numbers presented visually include the distance around the world, or from the earth to the moon, or height in relation to the World Trade Center. But you have thousands of options for building pictures out of numbers; your only limitations are your imagination and ability to calculate numbers.
8. Give away your good advice.
You probably have noticed that this site is associated with a book of the same name, "Outsmarting Goliath." If the site talked only about the features of the book, what would be the point? You could pick up the book at a local bookstore and review it more thoroughly anyway. So, go beyond the book and offer tips and strategies at this site that will not only get you excited about the book, but that will also give you ideas that you can immediately apply to your business. The article you're reading now, for example, is not included in the book.
And finally, remember that your charm, sincerity, incredible good looks and impressive eye contact mean nothing over the web. Your message alone must provide the charm, sincerity and rapport; it stands a better chance of doing that if it's wrapped in genuinely helpful information. You decide: has this article provided you with helpful information?
Keep titles and headlines short, pithy and explanatory. Study headlines in your local newspaper for ideas. Be sure to include either a verb or a suggestion of action. For example, compare this standard title, "How to Compete With Bigger Companies and Win" with the intrigue the title of my book "Outsmarting Goliath" provides. Fewer words, yet more impact.
Also, notice the headline to this article: "Tweak Your Web Site Using Words, Not Money." I would guess that this headline had an emotional appeal for you: the suggestion that you can make great improvements without spending a lot of your hard-earned money.
10. Word choice
So choose powerful words and phrases. Telling your visitors that your site is "informative" doesn't generate anticipation as much as saying that it "unlocks the secrets of" or "stirs the imagination" or "gives you an insider's grasp" or "keeps you ahead of the game" or provides details that "you ought to know about."
Sure, these phrases work against item 3 in which I told you to tighten your writing. But sometimes the effort to tighten can also eliminate the interest. If you're stuck between "boring and fewer words," and "interesting but too many words," then either choose different power words or opt for "interesting with more words."
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