Writers are, on the whole, horrible people. They borrow money with no intention of paying it back, are insanely jealous, and always ask you to read their stuff yet bristle when you don’t tell them every word is genius. Why would you want to pay one of these lecherous creatures good money — he’ll just spend it on absinthe, anyway — to write for your website?
Thankfully, you don’t have to. Keep the following rules in mind, and you can create compelling content for your site that whips visitors into a frenzy and puts your best foot forward, all while eliminating the ugly middleman.
Here’s how to do it, using a fictitious 24-hour laundromat business as an example.
Rule #1: Don’t bury the lead!
Your audience has an average attention span of a goldfish. A sad but true state of affairs. Prioritizing your messaging means not wasting the user’s time or your precious website real estate with superfluous content fluff. And while you can’t wait to tell your website visitors how you first became fascinated with dirty clothes as a child, zooming down the laundry chute at your grandmother’s house, that reminiscence doesn’t belong anywhere except buried on your “About Us” page.
Most visitors are going to arrive at your site on the Home page, which should shout out your main business differentiator, that thing that makes you devastatingly better than the competition. For your laundromat, suppose it’s the fact that, instead of rigging your dryers to always leave clothes slightly damp, yours are powerful enough to dry a wet wooly mammoth. That’s what you need to communicate in no uncertain terms on your Home page.
Rule #2: Give ‘em benefits
A common mistake people make when writing website copy is focusing only on features of their product or service. While features are important, they only tap into the logical part of your reader’s brain. When your content paints a picture of how those features ultimately become benefits is when your audience starts to get emotionally involved.
Back to your laundromat and your non-tampered-with dryers. The feature of your dryers is that they get clothes nice and crispy in but a single pass. But that’s not the benefit to your customers. The benefit is what not having to endure multiple dryer cycles means to them, whether it’s squirreling away some extra coin or simply reveling in newfound free time. Don’t just say why your laundromat is awesome. Take it one step further and explain why that awesomeness translates into something tangibly great for your customers.
Rule #3: Break things up
The Web is a different beast for readers. They don’t want to wrap themselves up in your prose and drift off into exposition land. No, they want information, pronto. And they scan, always searching for the relevant bits so they can make that critical decision of whether to stay on your website or just bail and watch Netflix®.
Your job is to keep things interesting enough for visitors to stick around. Do that by breaking your content into chunks. Use short, pithy headlines. Don’t’ say, “Our dryers are better than our competitors’ because they actually dry your clothes.” Instead, say, “Our dryers can dry a wet wooly mammoth.” Bulleted lists work best for communicating features and benefits in a scannable format, like this:
- Go live your life, thanks to our new drop-off service.
- Help save the planet with our new, energy-efficient washers.
- Catch up on your cable TV viewing in our clean and comfy laundry lounge.
In short, structure your content so that a reader’s eyes are pulled across and down the page. Scanning eyes like diversity, so give it to ‘em.
Rule #4: Have fun with it
Content is a great vehicle for injecting personality. If you’re a clever sort, you can even mix in some mirth. Just keep it appropriate for your business and don’t go overboard. For your laundromat’s new VIP service, you might write something like, “We’ll wash your clothes when you become too important to do it yourself.” Use your best judgment. If you lack good judgment, don’t roll the comedy dice.
Bringing it together
When you think your content is ready for prime time, read it aloud. Doing this tells you whether you’ve written in a nice conversational style (you want this), or a robot-like style (terrible, horrible). Once your copy is as good as you can make it, have an honest friend — one who’ll say your rear end does, indeed, look fat in those jeans — take their red editing pen to it. Finally, spellcheck the entire thing before it goes live.
That’s it. Simple, right? The ball’s now in your court. With these rules in mind, go out there and write your own high-quality, compelling website content. Just stay off the absinthe.