People Aren’t Reading Your Web Copy? It’s Not Them, It’s YOU

People Aren’t Reading Your Web Copy? It’s Not Them, It’s YOU
Kate Headen Waddell - Wed Apr 08, 2009 @ 03:57AM
Comments: 19

I have been hearing the same complaint for a long tiYour website is your calling cardme now: people don’t read anymore. Especially on the web.

As a professional writer, I found this information more than a little alarming. So I did a little research and found out what I suspected all along – people do read, but only if they want to. So how do you make them want to?

Understanding how people read web copy

The truth is people DO read web copy. And marketing brochures, and even white papers (12 whole PAGES!?!?!?!?), and they do so eagerly if you make it worth their while. They just don’t read them the same way they read – say – Wuthering Heights or even the newspaper.

News flash! When someone lays eyes on your website, they know you are trying to sell them something. The question they immediately try to answer is: Do I want to buy it? Your copy needs to help them answer “maybe” as quickly as possible. (“Yes” comes a bit later.)

If you make it hard for readers to instantly see what’s in it for them to read further – guess what? They won’t.

So what’s the secret to web copy that gets read?

Your website is only the first step in the sales cycle. Try to think of it as getting a date with an attractive stranger you meet at a cocktail party. Try to be something you're not and they will see right through you. Talk too much and you turn them off. Propose marriage and they run away screaming.

The purpose of the website is to grab their attention, pique their interest, and let them know how to get more if they want it. (You do have links to case studies, press releases, solution briefs, and white paper registration – right?)

Make your heads and subheads work for you – Leave clever word play for journalists, and the suspense-building for novelists. Titles and subtitles are the first things web cruisers read, and they use this information to make a snap decision about whether to read more. Your title needs to lay it all on the line; don’t be subtle. Subheads need to clearly point readers to places in your copy where they will want to stop and stay awhile.

Be clear - PLEASE, I am begging you, do not start out your conversation with your customers by saying "we are dedicated to achieving maximum effectiveness by providing state of the art implementation of IT with leading-edge technology that enables businesses to achieve faster ROI." What do you do and why do you do it? Tell them.

Keep it short – Web copy should be 3-4 short paragraphs. Fewer on the home page. If they want more they will keep digging. Just make sure you have more available (case studies, white papers, solution briefs) when they want it.

For an example, try the following:

Kiss IT downtime goodbye

Stop annoying your employees and driving away customers

Paragraph 1 (Paint a picture of the pain your prospect is experiencing)

Guaranteed 99.999% uptime

Paragraph 2 (Introduce your company’s offering and how it eases the pain)

Paragraph 3 (Back it up with some proof of expertise, figures, qualifications, examples,  etc.)

Want to read more? Find out how great .0001% downtime feels for one of our clients.

Ready to experience it for yourself? Contact us for a free consultation.

Ready to learn more about great web writing?

For more in-depth information on writing copy for the web (including tips and tricks on SEO web optimization), stay tuned to this feed, or register with the site to be first in line for Savvy B2B Marketing guides as they come out.

Comments: 19


1. Jamie Wallace  |  my website   |   Wed Apr 08, 2009 @ 06:51AM

Great tips, Kate. I feel smarter already.
Another trick for "testing" your heads and subheads is to read ONLY those lines (no other content) and see if you still get the gist of the message. If a reader glances at a page and takes away nothing more than those few nuggets of content, he should still have a basic, "ambient" idea of what you're saying.

Great post. Thanks!

2. Sarah Mitchell  |  my website   |   Sun May 03, 2009 @ 08:55PM

Thanks again for the great advice. Savvy B2B is becoming my "go to" place when I have a question about writing copy.

3. Rudy Chou  |  my website   |   Fri Sep 16, 2011 @ 04:45PM

It takes practice and discipline but content organization is a must. Write an outline of main topics and then a paragraph supporting those topics. Refine the topic headings as the headline and subheads.

Always re-read and take out extra content.

4. Alexandra Hopkins   |   Sun Sep 18, 2011 @ 04:27PM

Thanks! For SEO purposes, I'm being pushed to write more than a few paragraphs on a page because "Google likes content." Your minimalist approach on some pages with the links you suggest to longer pieces may solve the problem -- giving the entire website content without overwhelming the reader with page length.

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