Web copy quality can be much better

Okay — I’m going to date myself. I was writing tradi­tional DM copy before the first Mac came along, and I started writing e-mails when text versions were the only option. Now for my gripe. Why is it that tried, true and tested DM copy isn’t covering the Web landscape? Is it because so much is now being written by non-creatives who are more focused on keywords than on how those keywords are applied? Or maybe it’s the failed premise that “old” ideas just won’t cut it on the Web? There is a lot of value in following the basic tenets of DM copy. If you don’t agree, run a few tests and you’ll see the light.

There are four things in particular that make me cringe when I see them in DM copy online. The first is going negative. “Can’t, stop, won’t, never, don’t.” The last thing you want to do is plant negatives in a customer’s mind and give them a reason to click out. Forget about being clever, and focus on the positive.

Next is yes or no questions in headlines. Good headlines are like good pickup lines. While they will never get you the date, they may buy you some time to plead your case. These questions in headlines are nonstarters because they don’t engage the user. “Do you want to buy this?” “No.” “Do you need this?” “No.” “Can we tell you about this?” “No.”

Also, talking down to customers. Getting into the head of your customer is marketing 101. Talking to them on their level sometimes gets lost along the way. Imagine yourself in a social setting with your target customer. You need to write to them in the same way you would speak with them.

Finally, run-on sentences. I get it. You’ve got a lot to say and you want to say it all at once. Unfortunately, your customers’ eyes will start rolling back in their heads as the words drone on. Keep it short. Keep it smart. And your customers will get it.

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