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Does your website copy work? Part 1

So you're getting traffic, but not converting it into sales. Or, you're not getting traffic. Or, and this is the worst one, you have no idea whether or not your audience knows your website exists. Here, for the non-techies, and for people who are scared of words like SEO, html and metatags, are the first five of 10 easy ways to ensure that your website copy is actually working.

Google has a set of rules for the kind of web copy that attracts sticky visitors - ie visitors who arrive and stick around long enough to find out what you do, so they can give you money - and if you don't have insight into the rules, your website is just spraying and praying (expensively).

1. In other words...

Have you used synonyms in your copy?

Good web copy should include words that are related to, and synonyms for, the keyword phrases that best represent you or your organisation. I don't mean endlessly repeating the same words (and scaring your readers away); I mean assuming that different web users will use different, contextually-related words to find what they're looking for on the Internet.

Let's say you're an ad agency. Don't over-egg your web copy with the words ‘ad agency' and ‘advertising' and cross your fingers. Rather salt-and-pepper your copy with relevant related words like ‘marketing', ‘target market', ‘branding', ‘communication', ‘niche' and ‘promotion'.

Hot tip: You can use Google's superb ‘Google Sets' function to help you. It asks you for a few relevant keywords and then gives you a list of related keywords that often come up in searches.

2. To put a fine point on it...

Are your attention-grabbers explicit?

One of the characteristics of good, strong web copy is the use of specific, descriptive words instead of vague generalities. So, rather than ‘Need sales aids?' use ‘Are you looking for branded posters, sales letters, direct mail or sales brochures?' Specificity helps web users because it demonstrates relevance and makes web copy more dynamic. It also ensures that, no matter what they search for, your prospects will find you.

Hot tip: Mention your suburb, city and country on your home page and elsewhere in your website. People tend to look for suppliers and service providers close to home, and are more likely to type in ‘printing company southern suburbs Cape Town' than ‘printing company'.

3. Sorry, what?

Is there sufficient repetition of your main ideas, in different forms

Because only the gods know what web users will search for when looking for someone like you, you should use different forms, expressions and manifestations of your keywords.

Going back to the ad agency example, don't just use ‘advertising'. Use ‘ad', ‘advert', ‘advertise', ‘advertize', ‘advertisement' and so on.

Hot tip: Some people use US spelling and some people, UK or SA. Now, the web is a global medium, so even though I usually beg my clients to pick one and be consistent in their print material, the rules are different online and you'll be sure to get more hits if you use both. Disclaimer: There will be people who are too puristic to do this. That's okay; I was one for ages.

4. Good words, everywhere

Does every webpage feature a different ‘page title' of 5-15 words?

(That's the white text on the blue background on the top left-hand corner of every website and webpage you visit. It usually says, redundantly, ‘Welcome to [insert company name]'. Wow! Really? Gosh, thanks.)

So often I see websites that just repeat their company name here. This is a blatant waste of valuable web real estate, because not only does the omnipotent Google use page titles when deciding where to rank your precious content, page titles also present a golden opportunity for you to highlight a message, reiterate a position or draw attention to a unique selling point.

On my website, for example, I could've just said, ‘Tiffany Markman' or the gloriously original, ‘Welcome to Tiffany Markman's website'. Instead, the Page Title of my home page goes way beyond the call of duty with the garrulous-yet-very-effective ‘Tiffany Markman - Freelance - Copy Editor - Writer - Copywriter - Trainer - Sandton - Johannesburg - South Africa'.

Hot tip: Use the focus of the page to guide the page title in question. If you're a graphic design company, for instance, your Services page could have the title ‘[Name] - Graphic Design - Web Design - Logos - Corporate ID - Stationery - DTP - Printing - Morningside - Durban'.

5. Keep it real

Do you use meaningful, not cute or clever, page tabs (ie, not like the ones in this article)?

This is important because your tabs are what web users use to navigate their way through your site. It's what they use to make a ‘buying decision' about how long to stick around. And you only have 15 seconds or three clicks, average, before they lose interest and disappear (probably to Facebook, Twitter, MySpace or the deliciously revolting Perez Hilton's blog).

So why waste those stingy seconds on having your readers dither about what you're trying to say? For instance, don't use ‘Our Hearts and Souls' for ‘About Us'; ‘Head Honchos' for ‘Management Profiles' or ‘Our Digits' for ‘Contact Info'. Yes, there's room for cute ‘n clever words if you're a cute or clever brand, but - let me make this clear - not in your page tabs!

Hot tip: Use the page tabs people expect to see: Home, Solutions / Services / Products, Branches, About Us, Press Room / Media / News, Gallery, Contact Us. They're boring, I know, but you can hopefully wow the web user with other things (your prices, skills or service).

6. In conclusion

Start by using the five questions above to evaluate your web copy in terms of ‘stickiness'. Spend as much time and energy on it as you can spare - and if you get tangled up, you need more info or you'd like to take things up a notch, email me on .

Alternatively, wait for Part II of this series, and really revolutionise your website copy!

About Tiffany Markman

Tiffany Markman (www.tiffanymarkman.co.za) is a web copywriter and web copywriting trainer who has worked on online and electronic copy for 90 clients during the last nine years. Call her on +27 (0)82 492 1715, email or sms the word TIFFANY to 34007.

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