I do site reviews. Needless to say, I see a lot of Web copy. One thing that always befuddles me is the lack of focus many site pages have. It's as if the writer assumes the site visitor will read the copy and automatically know what to do next. The fact is you have to know what action you want visitors to take before you get them to take that action. That means knowing what the preferred action you want visitors to take is, before you write the copy.
Think About It
Before you pen one word (for the Web or any other marketing medium), stop and think. "After reading this copy, what - specifically - do I want my site visitors to do?" Maybe you want them to click deeper into the site. Perhaps you want them to buy right then and there. It could be that you'd like them to call to discuss your product or service. Make a donation. Subscribe. Download. There are thousands of possible actions. Give some consideration to the question above and choose the action you most want your visitors to take.
Signposts Point the Way
The next step is to include signposts along the way so your visitors understand what they're supposed to do once they've read your copy. Leaving verbal clues helps prepare your visitors to take action once the time comes.
For instance, if you run a software site that offers a free trial download, you can prepare your visitors to get the trial version all throughout your copy by mentioning "free download" or "free trial." Your copy might read:
Email Lock software allows you to send emails and attachments securely through encrypted channels. With the free download, you'll discover just how easy it is to protect your messages and attachments from spying eyes. It's ultra-easy to use. You'll send emails just as you always have, and your recipients won't know anything has changed, either. The free trial version is fully functional and allows you to experience all the flexibility and simplicity of sending safe and encrypted emails and attachments.
What's happening as your site visitors read? They see phrases like, "With the free download, you'll discover…" OK, where's the download button? Then they read, "The free trial version is fully functional…" Wonderful! I want it! How do I download the free trial?
They begin looking for ways to take the action you want them to take. So tell them how!
Ready? And… Action!
Your job is just like a movie director's job. The director has to motivate and encourage his actors. He tells them why their characters are so important to the film. The director helps the actors understand the emotions involved with the parts they are playing. Then, once he has them all primed, he calls for action.
That's what you should do in your copy. Guide your visitors. Lead and nudge them in the right direction. Show them signposts that point to the action you want them to take. Then call for them to take that action.
Once you give your copy focus, once you define a goal for the copy and an action for your visitors, you'll find it easier to write copy that converts.