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Chicago Freelance Copywriter

Tag: engaging copy

Out With The Old, In With The New

out-with-the-old-in-with-the-newThink about the last two years. A lot has happened in your business. You probably have new services, new staff members, and new customers. So why do you have the same website copy?

You want your website copy to help your business, not hurt it. So right now, take the time to go through it and make notes of the following:

What do you offer?

Do you still offer all the services on your site ? Do you offer any new ones that are not on your site? If someone comes to your site and reads about your offerings, can they understand exactly why your business is worth their time and money?

Do you have the same customers?

Think about those people who hire you day in and day out. Does the copy speak to them? Or does it speak to a customer that used to hire you? Have you updated your copy since the recession hit? Things are different now, make sure your content reflects that.

Do you have a hook and a call to action?

Don’t try to pass old, stale copy by such a web savvy society. It’s not going to work. Updated content with a nod to the times we’re in will represent you and your company in a better light.

Keep your content fresh to attract smart customers who can tell the difference.

How often do you update your web copy?





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How to Master the Writing Process in 5 Simple Steps

how-to-master-the-writing-process-in-5-simple-stepsThe writing process is an important tool to master.  Having a guide to follow makes writing feel less daunting and more manageable.

Do you have a press release or newsletter you’ve been meaning to write for weeks or perhaps months? Do you blame it on being lazy, but really, you just have no idea where to start (plus, maybe you’re a little bit lazy)?

So where to begin? I’m going to break this down into five steps.

Brainstorming

The first step doesn’t even require you to write! You’re welcome. This step is simply to identify the message you want to get across and the best way to accomplish that. Is it an announcement about your company? That would work best in newsletter form, or perhaps a press release. Is it a musing on a new development in your industry? That works best as a blog post.

Once you know your message and your format, it’s time to write a topic sentence. You remember those from 7th grade, right? Write down once sentence that encapsulates the main idea you’re trying to get across. A lot of times, you can repurpose this for your headline.

An example: when thinking about this blog post, my topic sentence was:

To provide an informative, useful, and easy to follow guide to the writing process.

Writing

So now it’s time to do the writing. I always think of this time as rough draft time. It takes the pressure off. Another trick I use? I am not allowed to stop until my first draft is done. No coffee breaks, no phone calls, no email, and no bathroom breaks (unless it’s a true emergency).

I suggest you start the process by organizing your thoughts. Use headers as a guide.

An example: I knew my five steps before starting this post. It helped me corral my thoughts and be more effective.  Plus I write faster when I already know my main points and structure.

Revisions

This is where you’re going to spend the most of your time. Writing is time consuming, but revisions are legendary. So where to begin?

This is the time to take a good, hard look at what you’ve produced. Is part of it funny but the rest professional? That is going to confuse readers. Did you use jargon but forget to define it? Is it too long and nobody will get through it without losing interest? Is it too short and you didn’t get your point across? Do what you need to do in order to rework it, even rewriting parts if necessary.

An example: See the paragraph directly above this? Where I ask 4 questions in a row? It used to be 7. Way too many. I took some out and reworked the others to include everything I wanted to say.

Editing

The difference between revisions and editing is now you’re not changing the content, you’re perfecting your grammar, syntax, and word choice.

This is the stage where reading out loud to yourself is extremely helpful. You’ll catch weird flow, and if you use the same word too many times. You may even catch a stray comma that doesn’t belong.

Occasionally during this stage I’ll print out what I’m working on and read it off-screen. That’s usually for longer pieces, but it can be effective for catching mistakes.

And anyone who has previously read my posts knows I’m a huge proponent of the 24/48 hour rule. What is that you ask?

After I’m done pre-writing, writing, revising, and editing, I sit on my post. Not literally, but I close my word doc and I don’t open it for 24 hours. At that time I read the post again. If necessary, I rinse and repeat steps revising and editing.

If I’ve got the time, I wait another 24 hours and rinse and repeat again.

An example: I caught 2 grammar mistakes by reading out loud.  I used to instead of too.  And the second is too embarrassing to share.

The Finale

Congrats! You get to put all that hard work into the world for everyone to read. Or perhaps just 2-3 people, depending on who it’s going to.

If it’s a blog post, format it to the blog.

If it’s a newsletter, drop it into whatever e-mail marketing tool you use. MailChimp, Constant Contact, whoever.

If it’s a press release, make sure you know how those are supposed to be formatted and then submit it.

An example: You’re reading this, aren’t you?

This 5 step process is the one I use and the one I advocate. Is it too much for you? Did I just scare the bejesus out of you with too many steps? Do you have a process you use that works for you? I’d love to hear about it.





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The Secret to Writing Online Copy

The-Secret-to-Writing-Online-CopyThink about the last book you read. Unless you’re into picture books, it probably had long blocks of text. Now imagine those same blocks of text on the web. Did you just shudder?

Writing for the web is much different than print. I like to think of it as the difference between what you expect picking up a book vs. a magazine. There’s a reason there is only one New Yorker.

The secret to writing online copy that is commanding and effective is knowing the tricks:

– Split it up. Avoid large blocks of text. Break up your message with lists, bullets, headers, white space, pictures, videos, etc. The easier your content is on the eye, the longer your visitors will stay.

– Keep it short. Unless you have the storytelling talent of Dooce, the rule is to use as few words as possible. If you need to explain something in detail, link to it. That way people will be able to find the information they need without their eyes starting to bleed.

– Only make promises you can keep. There is so much content on the web that makes ridiculous promises. Use engaging, compelling headlines, but make sure you deliver.

– SEO Optimize. Write for the web in a smart way. Use keywords whenever possible, incorporating them in a discreetly.

– Tell a story. Since there is so much content out there, one great way to hold attention spans is to tell a story. It’s not always appropriate, but when used, it’s very effective.

What are your tricks for writing for the web? Do you have a formula that works for you?





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5-steps-to-turn-visitors-into-paying-customers

Fact: It is easier to grow your business by increasing your conversion rates than by increasing your website traffic.

You want to focus on turning the eyes you have into paying customers rather than procuring more and more eyes.  Your landing page better rock.

What is a landing page?: A landing page is a page on a website that traffic goes to in order to take action.

The purpose of a landing page: To persuade visitors to take action on your offer.

In order to market your business effectively and make as many sales as possible, your landing page better be hot, hot, hot. And it better contain copy that sells.

If you are a business with a marketing budget that includes Google Adwords, banner ads, PPC (pay-per-click) etc., a landing page is incredibly important. Instead of directing traffic from these clicks to your home page, you should be directing them towards a landing page, or basically a sales pitch.

Now, in all fairness, most small businesses don’t have the ad budget to be paying for banner ads that run across CNN and Google. So my best advice is to treat every page of your website as a landing page.

Which means every page of your website needs to sell. It needs to have the copy that drives customers to action.  Your copy needs to show every visitor why they NEED your service/product. If they can’t have what you’re selling, they will suffer.

Next question. How to accomplish this? I’m going to admit it’s not easy. It takes persuasive writing. It takes understanding what your customers are really looking for. It takes a lot of trial and error. But in the end, if you nail that landing page, your conversion rates go up.

And now the part where the actual advice starts rather than me pontificating some more.

Here are 5 steps towards writing a landing page/home page that gets you results:

1. Provide a clear understanding of what you do

When visitors leave your home page, they should know what you do, how you can help them, and why you are better than the rest.

2. Provide a call to action

This means having clear, concise language where you tell your visitor exactly what to do. If we are not talking about a traditional landing page, but instead your home page, a call to action may be inappropriate. But make sure there is a call to action on another page of your website. If your home page does #1 really well, visitors are going to click on other parts of your site. Make sure the page(s) where you explain your services have a clear call to action on them. For me, just titling my services page Hire Me rather than Services is an instant call to action. Additionally, buttons are a great idea. If you can add a paypal button to the bottom of your sales pitch, you will grab a few impulse buyers. Here’s a great example of button usage.

3. Write in a clear and persuasive tone

Don’t fret about being witty or showcasing your personality (that should all be saved for your blog), but focus on writing copy that is easy to digest. I would go so far as to say, run it past an 8-year-old and make sure they understand what you’re saying. And please, not a smart 8-year-old, a really average one.

4. Place your important points in the first three sentences of your page

Don’t waste time with an introduction. Get to it.

5. Make it about your customers, not about you

An example:

I am a social media writer who specializes in blog posts, newsletters, press releases, and website content.

vs.

I help small businesses take their sales to the next level through focused, customized copywriting.

It goes from selling what I do, to selling how I can help you.

My last piece of advice? It’s a work in progress. Play around, test ideas, and while I would say the written word is 75% of an effective landing page, make sure the design works with it too.





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How To Write Engaging Copy For Your Website

how-to-writing-engaging-copy-for-your-websiteExpert copy writing has the power to raise your website from average to extraordinary. Strong words will draw in readers, converting them from random visitors to customers.

A large part of my business is re-writing static website copy and taking it from drab to fab. My job is to draw in new customers and expertly describe a company’s goals, products, services, and philosophy. A few days ago one of my clients pointed out that I’ve been harping on about how important social media is for small businesses without once mentioning the foundation which all of that is built upon: the static website. It’s time to remedy that error.

Your website can be beautifully designed and offer amazing products or services, but if it doesn’t connect with your readers, it can hold back your growth.

So how do you know if your copy is any good? If it elevates your products and helps make a sale? How do you know if it Wows?

Below are traits of good copy writing, in my opinion. This is by no means the be all and end all of website copy writing, but if you keep these qualities in mind while reviewing your website copy, you should have a good idea of where you stand.

Intent

When writing copy, make sure to consider what the intended outcome is. If you don’t know what you want to achieve with your words, then you can’t tailor them to clearly express your objectives and achieve your end goals.

To achieve effective writing, consider the following: Who are your customers? What can you offer them? What have they come to you for?

Tone

Copy can come across in a variety of ways: conversational, professional, authoritative, etc. Make sure it is consistent across the board. Switching tones throughout the site will be off putting to readers and can lead potential customers to feel hesitant about your site.

This also applies to the narrative mode you choose — either write using the informal (I, me, we, our) or the formal way, using only the company name. Do not switch back and forth or your readers will feel like they are getting virtual whiplash.

Transparent

Do not hide your message behind clever words and riddles. You want your message to be as clear, upfront, and brief as possible. You do not have your readers’ attention for an unlimited amount of time. Waste no words.

Helpful

What is on your site should not solely be about selling your product or service.  It also needs to help your readers decide if you are what they are looking for. This means you have to really think about what your readers want to hear from you and what will cause them to purchase your product or service. You may think 1,000 words on your professional past is interesting and will help sell your business, but what will your readers think?

Engaging

Keep the attention span from waning by using techniques to engage your readers. This can include breaking up text with white space, pictures, bullet points etc. Keeping the tone conversational is an effective strategy, as is peppering your copy with questions posed at your reader. You do want your copy to engage, don’t you?

Call To Action

Don’t assume readers will hire you or buy your product without holding their hand. Simply talking about your amazing service is not enough, you have to have a visual call to action: install a buy button on the side or a scroll bar with your products visually displayed. Make it easy to purchase so the customer doesn’t have to do the work.

Evolving Copy

This strays from the topic of the static website, but it’s worth mentioning that more people will read your static copy if you also have evolving copy (aka a blog). The more new content you have, the more interesting your website becomes, and the more readers you will attract.

There is obviously no magic formula to producing perfect website copy. If you ignore all that is above, keep in mind this last rule:

Write For Your Customer

Write with your ideal customer in the back of your mind at all times. Write so that they will find your content easy to read, engaging, and persuasive.

What do you think? Did I give a good start on the benchmarks of effective website copy? Did I miss anything you consider to be extremely important? Please leave a comment and let me know what you think.

p.s. I have a guest post up at Design*Sponge today on using a blog to grow your business.  Check it out.





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