Google’s latest algorithm update, Hummingbird, appears to put less emphasis on matching keywords and more emphasis on understanding what a user hopes to obtain in their search results. What does that mean for internet marketers? It means writing clear, concise, compelling web copy that converts your target audience into buyers.
How do you create that kind of copy? Here are a few suggestions to help you out.
1. Know your audience Great advertising works because it uses language that resonates with the target audience. It’s important you understand who your audience is, and how to speak to them.
As we all know, attention spans are frighteningly short online.You’ve got to connect with your prospect right away. The best way to do this is to learn everything you can about them. All the basic demographic information, such as age, sex, education, marital status, etc.
Once you have that info, it’s time to dig a little deeper. Visit online forums, read blogs — especially the comments, and monitor Facebook and Twitter conversations. Pay attention to the language your target audience uses. Find out what their hopes and fears are. This information will help you craft your marketing message.
2. Keep it simple
Web copy does not have to be complicated to be effective. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Keep things simple. Use short words. And short sentences. One trick to doing this is to cut out adverbs. Use sub-headings and bullet points to break up the text and make it easier to read.
3. Tell a story
People buy for emotional reasons and then justify the purchase with logic. If you can tell a story that touches someone’s emotions, you’ll have a better chance of making the sale. This is why charities often tell the story of someone in need, rather than relying on dry statistics to solicit donations. You can also use a story to sell a product. Use words that touch on the problem that keeps your prospect up at night. If your product has the solution, your words can speak to the feeling that’s already there. Make them care enough to take action and buy your product.
People can always block out sales pitches. But everyone loves a good story. Social psychologists Melanie Green and Timothy Brock conducted research into the power of persuasion and found the following tactics work well:
- Detailed imagery: Detailed descriptions paint a picture, making it easier for the reader to put themselves in a particular place, or to feel a particular emotion.
- Suspense: A good mystery novel reels you in and keeps you reading all the way to the end. Apply that same technique to your web copy. Make a strong promise to the reader in your headline and reinforce it with sub-heads, so they keep reading to find out what you’re offering.
- Metaphors and irony: Metaphors are a copywriter’s friend because they can paint word pictures, lower sales resistance, gently demonstrate superiority over competitors and build a feeling of trust in your prospects.
- Modeling: If you want someone to take a desired action (buying your product), you can “model” the action with a story. People tend to imagine themselves as the main character in a transformation tale. According to research, it makes the action easier to understand.
4. Build credibility
While storytelling appeals to a person’s emotions, they still need to justify their purchase. Your web copy must build credibility for your company and its products. Testimonials are a useful tools, but they’re not always believed. Case studies, on the other hand, are more persuasive since you can explain the problem a customer had, and how your product or service solved that problem. Statistics, research data and other credible sources also help to prove what you say.
Don’t be afraid to mention drawbacks to your product or service, either. Consumers are savvy. Even if you don’t mention problems, it doesn’t mean your visitors aren’t thinking about them. Get ahead of the game by pointing out one or two minor weaknesses in your copy. Your prospects will appreciate your honesty, and may be more willing to buy as a result.
5. Use active voice
Copy that is written in the active voice is more powerful than the passive voice, since it conveys action. It’s also easy to understand and more interesting to read, as you can see below:
Active voice: “We generate real results with email marketing.”
Passive voice: “Email marketing provided by our company can generate real results.”
Active voice sentences can also begin with a verb, as in a command. For example, "Learn how email marketing generates real results."
Either of these examples will work, depending on what you want to emphasize — the results, or the act of learning. The active voice makes the message clearer, since you avoid long, convoluted sentences that bury the subject and verb.
6. Incorporate Scarcity and Urgency
One of the most powerful copywriting tips is to make things scarce, so people have to act quickly or the offer will be gone. Limited time offers, or limiting the amount of product available, can motivate people to buy who otherwise might think twice.
7. Get readers to say yes
“Are you tired of spending money on bottled water?”
“Have no time to learn QuickBooks for your accounting needs?”
Asking questions in your copy that make visitors say, “Yes,” draws instant attention, and makes them more receptive to your eventual offer. If you want your copy to convert, try to open with statements your target audience agrees with. Getting a prospect to identify with you makes it easier for you to persuade them to complete your conversion goal.
Gloria Rand is an SEO Copywriter & Social Media Consultant, who specializes in helping small businesses achieve online visibility, profits and sales. You can view her last article for SEMrush here: "Why Your Business Blog Needs SEO."