How Compelling Is Your Website’s Copy? A Simple, 4-Step Checklist

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While most of us spend a lot of time fussing over the design of our website–making sure the color will create the right emotion or the call-to-action button is positioned effectively–we often neglect the copy.

We figure we’ll hire someone to write that. And cross our fingers that he or she knows how to seduce a reader.

Yet if you not only knew what strong copy looked like, but even could write a few lines of persuasive copy yourself, then you could potentially bring more value to your clients.

It could certainly help you write better copy for your own site…persuading visitors to become subscribers or even clients.

So how can you tell if your copy is compelling? Use this 4-point checklist.

Compelling Web Copy Is Useful

Think about it: whenever you jump on Google you are looking for something. You want a solution. Answers to a problem. You want a practical formula.

  • How do I invest in a 529 college savings plan?
  • Where is the best place to eat when visiting Singapore?
  • How do you seal a tubeless wheelbarrow tire?

Useful web content will answer that question. It will announce that it can answer that question in the headline–and then deliver on that answer in the body copy.

This is why “How-to,” lists or “Why” headlines work so well. You are signalling to the reader that you can show him how to do something.

Here are some examples to help you generate ideas:

 Compelling Web Copy Is Urgent

When someone reads your web copy they should feel a little bit of pain if they don’t act. You should paint a picture of the undesirable outcome that will occur if they don’t follow your advice.

Urgency appeals to the self-interest of your reader. He doesn’t want to suffer the outcome–so he’s willing to do what ever it takes.

Can you see urgency in these examples?

  • The #1 Conversion Mistake Most Websites Make
  • 6 Reasons Search Engine Traffic Will Flee Your Website
  • The 100% Avoidable Reason People Say “No” To Your Online Offer

Compelling Web Copy Is Ultra-Specific

Imagine you are reading a page of web copy. Your were intrigued by the headline which said “How to Generate Trust with Your Landing Page.” But the body copy is limp.

It’s never very clear how to generate trust. The writer doesn’t even offer any bullet points. Just a handful of paragraphs about why trust is important.

Let’s amp that post up. For starters, we can increase the curiosity and credibility factor of the headline by being specific: 10 Idiot-Proof Ways to Generate Trust with Your Landing Page Copy.

Now we’ve got ourselves a winner. The number  (10) alone tells us that we are going to get some very specific and practical advice. It sounds like the writer has done his homework. The “Idiot-Proof” phrase, too, adds a sense of simplicity (anybody can do this) but also a little bit of urgency. The reader is given the impression that he better check out the article to see if he’s an idiot.

But you don’t stop being specific with the headline. In the body copy you need to give detailed instructions. Throw in some statistics. And include a step-by-step process that anyone can follow.

Compelling Web Copy Is Unique

Finally, your web copy needs to be unique. You could write the most specific, useful and urgent copy you’ve ever written in your entire life and it still fall flat if it is not original.

Take the recent Panda update for an example.

There was–and still is–a lot of advice being churned out. Naturally it’s getting harder and harder to create something totally unique. At first blog posts about Panda were pretty broad. Now, all the posts are narrow in focus, isolating one element of the update.

For example:

Each post after the March 8 date, which was closest to the Panda rollout, needed to approach the subject at a different angle.

Uniqueness doesn’t come easy. But it’s pursuit is satisfying. And when you reach originality in something you write–it’s rewarding.

So the question is, what can you as a web writer or blogger do to write a post that stands out? That’s original? And will be shared broadly?

Spotting great copy is a skill that takes a while to develop. Writing it takes even longer. But hopefully this 4-step checklist will help you get started.

Let me know if you have any questions.

Demian Farnworth is a freelance writer who hustles the finer points of web writing at The CopyBot. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

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