- By Cathy Goodwin
- Published 01/7/2009
- Writing for the Web
Effective website marketing begins with your content. But when most of us begin to write copy for our websites, we tend to focus on our own skills, message and ideas. It’s not our fault. Hundreds of books and workshops encourage us to, “Create what you love!” In reality, every professional writer learns to distrust what we love most about our ideas and our first few drafts. We’ve all done it. As a copywriter, I often develop a metaphor or come up with a clever phrase. “Wow!” I tell myself. “You’ve done it this time.” But as I write, I realize the metaphor really doesn’t work. I’m twisting everything around and losing sight of the real message my readers need to hear. And I remember the old adage: If you feel reluctant to toss it out, you probably should. Sigh. Out it goes. Two minutes later I’ve forgotten the whole thing and my copy is much more effective. The truth is, readers don’t care what we’re passionate about. They buy based on emotion. They buy faster when they’re responding to the emotion of fear. When Tim’s biography page begins, “Tim is passionate about…” readers give him credit for enthusiasm, but they want to get to the nitty-gritty: “How does his passion translate into giving me what I want? Why is he the best person to help me solve my problem?”
Readers also turn away when you ask the
m to read your mind. One client I’ll call “Jeanne” created a program I’ll call “Maximize Your Motivation.” Her website domain name and headlines were all about motivation. But Jeanne’s programs and coaching were not about motivation. She really focused on organization and time management. The benefits she offered were not consistent with the promise of motivation. “But I am the Motivation Coach,” Jeanne insisted. “I use the word in a special way. I will teach my clients how to think about motivation the way I do.” But your website visitors don’t have time to learn special definitions and special words. They bring their own meanings and their own contexts to a page. To take another example, the phrase “safe relationship” can be interpreted half a dozen ways. So I wouldn’t use that term. I would use words that readers would grab immediately. Finally, people buy what they want, not what they need (or what we marketers think they need). As a fitness expert, you might realize that children need programs to develop healthy eating and exercise routines, beginning in first grade. But if your audience consists of time-starved executives, they may be asking you for ways to lose weight and gain energy when they have little control over their schedule.
When readers ask for something, you are lucky: you have what marketers like to call “low-hanging fruit.” It’s ripe, juicy and easy to pick. Why avoid temptation?