The Right Words Matter

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Most of us probably don’t think twice about the exact words that appear on our website, our landing pages, our emails and ads. But ask any copywriter whether or not words matter, and they’ll tell you they do. Of course they do.

The right words and phrases can make a difference at every stage of the conversion funnel. Whether a prospective customer is only just being exposed to your brand for the first time, or they are in the final stages of research before they commit to your product or your competitor’s, the right piece of copy can make or break the sale.

The best writers seem to have an uncanny ability to find the right word to express the exact sentiment they want to represent at any time. They have a strong knowledge of the English language (or any other language) and investigate the intricacies in the meanings of each and every word.

That’s because there are countless different ways to phrase something. And that matters in marketing.

Does your company offer “one-to-one support” or “personalized service”? Some people may claim that it doesn’t matter, since both of those could potentially mean the same thing. But if you test one versus the other, you are likely to find that one of them two phrases outperforms.

3 Ways to Examine Your Words

Many people assume there is just one way to understand and choose which words we use. In fact, there are three distinct lenses with which your marketing team should look at word choice:

  1. Meanings – this is the most common understanding. Does the word mean what we are trying to say?
     
  2. Association – the second way to understand and interpret words is to consider groups of words together. Will people associate this word or phrase with something else that they have seen or heard in the past? Does it have the right connotation? What emotional feeling is provoked by this word vs. an alternative?
     
  3. Sound – sometimes a word just doesn’t look right. Even if it means the right thing, it might not sound right. This is a valid concern. When choosing words for your marketing materials, read them out loud. This simple act will clue you into problems with certain phrasing and may make it easier to simplify phrasing and readability for consumers.

Words, Words Everywhere

The average ecommerce website contains something like 10,000 words. The average email contains approximately 500. The average online advertisement contains roughly 10.

All of those facts are 100% made up. But the truth is, marketers of all stripes use lots and lots of words. One can argue we often use too many words, and that consumers are not interested in reading.

But the more we pay attention to the details, the more we can connect with potential customers. Good copywriters learned this long ago, and that’s why they are in such demand.

If you want to see for yourself, run a test. Take the headline on your homepage, or the subject line of your email, or the call to action on your sales page, and have someone re-write it. Send half of your prospects to the old version, and half to the new version. Odds are the performance will vary between the two.

And that’s because the words we use matter.

How to Write Copy People Will Read

Creating pages on your site? Drafting an email to send to potential customers? Anytime you’re writing something that you want people to read, remember this simple bit of wisdom – they don’t want to read it.

And if they don’t want to read it, any excuse they can find not to read it will be enough. So while you might be extremely interested in what you’re writing, and you know that if they just read it their lives will be better, you can’t expect them to feel the same way.

So how do you ensure more people read your copy?

  1. Short paragraphs, nothing more than 4 lines of text
  2. Bullet points or numbered lists, no more than 4 or 5 at a time, with short simple phrases
  3. Buzz words that will grab people’s attention like “Free” and “Easy”
  4. Bolded and colored words that draw in the eye of someone who is scanning
  5. Less is more

See, I try to follow my own advice with this post!

If you’re interested, check out the 10 C’s of Online Copywriting.

The 10 Cs of Online Copywriting

Let’s talk copywriting. More specifically, let’s talk copywriting for the web.

The old dogs of advertising and copywriting know their stuff, and they know it well. But writing for the web is a different beast, and though you may need to employ many of the old tricks, there are also some new ways to pay attention to.

  1. Concise – keep it short, and keep it simple. I don’t have a lot of time to read what you’ve got to say so get the point and let me move on.

  2. Clear – you have very little time to get someone’s attention, and even less time to keep it. Make sure I know what you’re talking about in the first few seconds of reading.

  3. Creative – this applies with any kind of copywriting, but people on the web are much more apt to read what you’ve got to say if it’s interesting.

  4. Captivating –once you’ve got my attention, keep it, building on your creativity (above). Use bullet points, numbered lists, and other techniques to highlight key words and phrases to keep my interest.

  5. Casual – formality, for the most part, has no place on the web. It’s a naturally informal medium, and you should communicate the way people expect you to, or risk throwing them off.

  6. Catchy – similar to most other forms of advertising and copywriting, keep your wording and your headlines catchy. Leave a lasting impression so that I know who you are and what you’re marketing.

  7. Colorful – literally, full of colors. I don’t mean use colorful language, I mean highlight key terms, use color to draw my attention, and fill your text with hyperlinks.

  8. Cheerful – the web is upbeat for the most part (don’t mind the comments on YouTube). I’m a firm believer in marketing in a positive way instead of a negative one, and you should play off of someone’s likelihood to be in a good mood when they come across your emails, website, or ads.

  9. Current – search engines, social networks, and repeat visitors all have one thing in common. They like it better when everything is up to date, and more, updated frequently. Write, publish, and then write again. That’s the name of the game.

  10. Careful – this is true of all copywriting, and not any more important online. But it is important to understand and appreciate the web as a marketing channel, and don’t be any more careless or sloppy just because it’s the internet and you can always change it later.

Got any more C’s? I’d love to see them in the comments!