Thursday, August 18, 2005

The 7 Deadly Web Copy Mistakes - eBay Sellers Take Note

This post features a unattributed list of Web copywriting sins. I don’t know where I found this, but I like it, so I thought I should pass it along. A lot of the rules apply to eBay selling.

If you know where this comes from, please let me know. I’d like to give it proper attribution and congratulate the author on their insights.

Also, if you know anyone else who could use this kind of weeklymarketing tune up, please send them here or have them sign up for the weekly newsletter at http://www.qualitywriter.com/blog.

Thanks.
Enjoy!

- Phil

SEVEN DEADLY WEB COPY MISTAKES

Words on the web are a different animal than words in
print. As a copywriter, I watch the trends. And YOU
need to be aware of online behavior too. That is IF
you want potential clients to read what's on your
website. Studies show a full 79% of Internet users
SCAN the page rather than read word for word. What
does that mean to you? It means whatever they DO read
had better be GOOD. Here are 7 web copy mistakes you
need to avoid.

Mistake #1: OPENING WITH FLASH

Open with a bang, but not with Flash. If you don't
know, Flash is a program by Macromedia that shows mini
movies. Graphic artists LOVE Flash animation. They
think it's pretty and high tech. Internet cruisers
hate it. They can't wait to find the "Skip Intro"
link. That's because Flash stands in between them and
the information they're hunting for. See, studies show
when folks are online they have a need to feel
"active." There are millions of pages of information
out there. And they aren't so sure yours is the best
use of their time. Flash slows them down. So trash
the Flash. And go with stronger copy instead.

Mistake #2: NO COMPELLING HEADLINES OR SUBHEADS

In print, eyes go to the picture first. Not so online.
Research shows the first thing web users see is a
headline. Now, remember what I said about scanning?
Eyes drift down the page looking for easy-to-pick-up
words. Well, the headline and subheads should
effectively tell scanners what's on the page without
having to dig into the real copy... like a quick
summary of the entire page! Headlines get the
attention. The first subhead identifies the problem of
your target audience. The next wows them with the
solution - YOU! This way scanners can gloss over the
content and get the whole story with the headlines and
subheads. Once they're hooked, they can go back and
really read your copy.


Mistake #3: OPENING WITH "WELCOME TO MY HOME PAGE"

You're wasting valuable real estate if this is your
first phrase. It may be the first and last thing a
site visitor reads. Don't forget why web users visit
you in the first place. It's all about THEM. Not you.
Something THEY need got them to your site. Figure out
what it is. Identify the benefits, or emotional
buttons in your copy. People WANT to know they're in
good hands. OR that they made a smart purchase. Do
them a favor. Convince them with benefit-laden copy.


Mistake #4: NOT BUILDING COPY AROUND KEYWORDS AND
PHRASES

Quick lesson. Keywords and phrases are what Internet
surfers type in to a search engine, like Google. The
search engine comes back with a list of related sites.
Surfers tend to click over to sites at the top of the
list. Search engines put the sites with relevant
keywords HIGHER on the list. They find those sites by
reading the copy on your web pages. Get it? So figure
out what words your target market would type in to find
you. Those are your keywords. Now build them into
your copy.

Mistake #5: NOT ENOUGH WHITE SPACE

You can guide the eye where you want it to go... if you
have a path. Don't clutter up the page with too many
confusing options. Or slow-loading graphics. Use
strategic white space to pull your reader through your
copy from start to finish. Remember, reading on a
computer screen is tiring on the eyes. In fact, online
reading is 25% slower than reading print. So make it
easier. Break up your information into bite-sized
pieces. Use short, snappy sentences. Paragraphs with
one thought and one thought only. And use bullets
liberally. You never know which is the magic one to
turn a reader into a customer. Make your copy
scan-able.

Mistake #6: BORING THE READER AWAY

Your message has a heck of a lot of competition.
People don't have to read your copy unless they want
to. YOUR job is to keep them engaged. Let me let you
in on a little secret I learned from marketing genius,
Joseph Sugarman - the purpose of copy is to get you to
read the first sentence. Then that sentence should get
you to read the NEXT sentence. And so on. And so on.
And so on.

Ever hear of the "Bucket Brigade?" This term comes
from the times before fire departments got organized.
If there was a fire, villagers lined up down the
streets. One end of the line started at the water
source. The other end was at the blaze. To put out
the fire quickly, they passed buckets of water down the
line. Briskly. Without letting up. Without slowing.
Imagine that pace when you're writing your copy. Each
sentence leading you into the next.

Mistake #7: UNDERESTIMATING THE IMPORTANCE OF COPY

Copy describes what you do and persuades the reader to
take some action. But what really makes copy
invaluable is its ability to build a lasting
relationship with your reader. Whether you're there or
not. 24/7. Good copy is friendly. Informative.
Establishes rapport. Grows trust and loyalty. It
deepens the connection between you and your audience.
Once you have that bond, you don't have to bother
convincing them how great your product or service is.
They're READY to sign up!

P.S. Amazon.com and Walmart.com have the lowest prices for
"The 7 Essential Steps to Successful eBay Marketing" (McGraw-Hill, 2005)

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