Website Writing: Tips to Love
4 of 5 people hate their websites. With the strength of today’s pre-formatted templates, it’s not about graphics. And it’s no longer about features either. The culprit: website writing that sucks. So here’s a few tips to perfect your prose:
1. Know Your Story
It’s amazing how many folks can’t articulate their business vision. If you’re a business, Vision is the beginning, middle and end of your story. Mechanically, it’s a simple statement about who you help, what they get and the “secret sauce” you use to deliver value. Yes, it’s simple ~ once you get there. But simple essence requires deep thinking and shedding blinders. For example, thinking about customers first is easier said than done as you’re generally buried in day-to-day nuts and bolts. The fact is, it’s really hard to assume and maintain the customer’s viewpoint. Customer-centric planning is the opposite of doing customer service. The former is predictive and ahead of customer interaction. The latter is reactive like in customer complaints. Blue sky vs. digging trenches. Visioning is often run as a retreat to have the space to create a proactive attack strategy before getting into the heat of the battle.
Blue Sky visioning tip: position to serve your best customers. Many businesses will sell to anyone who walks through their doors. But smarter businesses define most desirable customers and special for them. You’ll lower your costs, make marketing easy and ultimately sell more. That’s a good combo.
2. Know Their Story
Great website writers know their customers’ stories. Why? Because writing in their language means a higher chance they’ll get what you’re saying. Plus, if wanna hit their “Hot Buttons” you better get inside their heads. A tip: think “persona.” A persona is a character sketch that’s really specific. It might even include a name and picture of a typical person in the class. Personas help you get specific and provide a face for your marketing folks to talk to.
Beyond personas, how do you really get to know your customer’s wants and needs? Simple. Just ask. We do this as a consulting process. It’s called a Voice of Customer Survey. You ask what turns them on. What they feel about your company. What emotions come up when thinking of your company. The compiled answers usually startle management. We all think we see the entire world before us. But business, like the world, is not flat. And other point of views as big as hemispheres are most certainly out there beyond sight. So while you might think your business is one thing, your customer may see something entirely different Strive to see what they see. When you get there, the clouds will part and you’ll bask in the warm light of success. Everyone, including you, will know when you’ve arrived. In business, their story is your story.
3. Be Transparent
These days we’re all stalk-able. It’s a two-edged sword. On the one hand, your market costs go way down and your market range expands. On the other hand, anything can, and will, be found out about you and your business. This trend will not reverse. So the sooner you embrace transparency, the sooner you’ll gain traction on the better half and manage the downside of the other.
Ten years ago, consultants were looked down up. Now, it’s accepted practice to be small, nimble and meet at coffee shops. You no longer have to look big to be big. With that in mind, why make a website that talks in the royal “we”? Yeah, you see that all the time. Faceless and trying to look large. But we all have huge antennae and amazingly sensitive BS meters. Cut the bull. Get real. Your best long-term customers will love you for it.
4. Less is More
In web writing, less is more. The goal is to be direct and simple. Really simple. Get down to basics. Use less words. Less syllables. Words that kids can read. Short sentences. Really? Yes: even single words. In website writing, grammatical fanciness is not the goal. Readability is.
In particular, you should pay most attention to the short pieces. Page names. Headers. Slogans. Short descriptions. Surfers skim on the web, so you should write for them. Put your most important stuff first. Search engines also approximate skimming by giving more weight to short formats. To win the 80/20 battle in SEO (search engine optimization), all you have to do is write smartly. That’s the 80 part. The 20 is in creating links from others’ sites (“backlinks”) and optimizing page content. The truth is, it’s getting hard and harder to game the search engines. They have all the resources in the world to perfect their search algorithms. At the same time, web engines (CMS ~ content management systems) are getting better and better at automating optimized page content, so what’s left is for you to simply write well. Know what you want to say and say it efficiently.
Finally, there’s the art of poetic style. Most specifically, consider the art of the metaphor. Writing with metaphors is like painting pictures in others’ heads. They allow you to hang complex ideas on a framework that’s easy to navigate and easy to remember. Metaphors also make language colorful and fun. Metaphors in website writing are your key to creating a masterpiece.