When we're working with clients on their Web site, they often have an idea of their message but may not know the best way to present that content in a way that engages their customers. Sometimes its the content itself that isn't compelling, other times its simply how that content is presented.
1. SOMETIMES, LESS IS MORE.
Twitter is a great model when creating a call to action. If it can't be said in 140 characters or less, it's too much. Be concise with your calls to action and use pictures which tie into the concept. Headings could be 3-5 words and you should try to keep everything on one line if at all possible with a short 2-3 lines of text giving a little more detail to the call. When you're designing elements of the Web site's copy, keep a potential layout in mind.
- Will the information be presented in side-by-side columns?
- Will the information be presented using the full width of the page?
Knowing the answer to these two questions will give you an idea of how much space you have to work with and let you gauge just how much you can and should write (keeping the aforementioned limits above in mind).
2. SEPARATE, BUT EQUAL.
This rule really has two elements: division of the content and making sure it all fits in the same space. If you want to highlight multiple products or services and you're working above the fold, divide the content into columns. As your visitor moves down the page, you can highlight certain information with a row of a different color background - a client gallery, a highlighted accomplishment, the company's social responsibility initiatives. Whatever you choose to highlight, make sure you're following rule number one and keeping it concise. For information below the fold, you don't need to follow the "Twitter rule" and be more verbose, but remain concise and keep it to a short paragraph.
In general, if you're writing a call to action in something like Microsoft Word (which is how we receive 99% of our Web site copy), when one call to action is 1 line and the other is 4 lines, the content needs some revision because nothing will line up when you present it in a Web format in columns. If it all displays in the same number of lines, there's a good chance that when it is laid out for the Web it will use an equal amount of space. If the content will be presented in a vertical format that takes advantage of the full width of the site, no changes may be necessary.
3. ENTICE YOUR CUSTOMER TO ACT.
Your landing page is often the first impression and needs to include at least one call to action, but if you can highlight multiple services or products you should. But be mindful of numbers 1 and 2. The call to action might be embedded in a video or just be a link to send the visitor to a page with more information. Regardless of how it's presented, action language needs to be used. "Try a 14-day Free Trial" is more likely to garner a response than "Read More". With headlines, you need to engage the visitor and a question is a great way to do this, but be sure to pay attention to word choice.
4. CHOOSE YOUR WORDS.
It's easy to come up with an "attention-grabber" that plays on fear. But that's not the best course of action since fear is generally negative. You don't want customers to come to you out of fear. You want them to come to you because you're an expert. Using positive language will keep readers clicking. Avoid negatives ("don't do X") and focus on drawing attention to and getting the reaction from the headlines that you want.
- Get organized
- Make a great first impression
- Spend less time doing menial tasks
Each one of these directs a specific action or aims for a particular result. If you're bouncing your ideas off a friend while you come up with the copy for your Web site, I'd recommend someone who's a parent.
It's important to make the content sound like you, especially if you're a small business or independent consultant. Customers are purchasing you as much as they are your services. Your voice should be consistent throughout the site, but more importantly it should be compelling and a call for visitors to act.