10 Steps to Optimizing Copy and Content

  |  February 25, 2011   |  Comments

Boring headlines? Using "we" to much? Copy hard to read? Here are some valuable tips to improve your site.

If we could spend only a few minutes working together to optimize your website, we'd still get results starting with a process. When evaluating and improving any type of content or copy, there is a quick 10-step process you can use.

1. Headlines. Why are headlines first? They are the critical attention-getters that allow your visitor to determine if the page is relevant to her needs in just a few seconds. Readers of your pages scan the headlines and sub-headlines (headers and sub-headers) to grok the content on a page and decide if they want to read more of your copy. Headlines aid in the visual task of scanning and skimming, which helps your visitors organize the information you present. Worded appropriately, they encourage your visitors to go deeper into your persuasive copy. David Ogilvy would say, "If you haven't done some selling in your headline, you have wasted 80 percent of your client's money."

2. First mental image. This is usually a combination of your headline and how it ties into your first few sentences of copy along with your first picture (if you have one in the paragraph). I've written several posts that illustrate the power of a good first mental image.

A strong mental image is achieved by choosing the best copy perspective for your message.

3. WIIFM. Everybody's favorite radio station – what's in it for me? Are you speaking to the reader about what matters to them? And are you speaking their language? Different personality preferences have different ways of engaging with your content and making decisions. This is where (and why) using personas to decide your content strategy can be so valuable in improving your conversion rate.

4. Check for "we-we." If you use your own name or "we" too many times in your copy you'll end up sounding self-centered rather than customer-focused. Face it: you're not Denny Crane. So use the "we-we" or customer focus calculator I developed to see how self-centered vs. customer-focused your copy is. You can also read this post to better understand how to measure your "we-we." I've had many people tell me that they boosted their conversion rate by improving their "we-we" score and creating more customer-focused copy.

5. Remove the black words. Eliminate the black words. Avoid words that do not contribute toward a more vivid or colorful mental image.

6. Reformatting for readability. Your online copy must be formatted to make it easy to digest online. You want to maximize skimming and scanning to an important R from "The 5 Rs of Search Engine Marketing."

7. Improve your verbs. Your copy can always be improved by pumping up your verbs and writing in active not passive voice. You can change a couple of settings in Microsoft Word to check for passive voice.

8. Wording in links and calls to action. Usability guru Jakob Nielsen recently wrote about his research about the importance of keywords in your hyperlinks. Read here to learn how to write more persuasive hyperlinks and calls to action so you don't sound like a "more-on."

9. Words exist in other places than just your copy. Don't forget to evaluate and test the wording in your images, Flash, video, and audio content. One former client changed the words on the Flash banner on his home page and reduced abandonment by more than 28 percent. In fact, I am seeing a trend where people are spending less time on product pages and are looking for videos that summarize all the details on the page instead.

10. When all else fails – use the "sucking wind" checklist:

  1. Do you offer a clear and valuable message?
  2. Have you established trust and credibility?
  3. Have you answered all the main objectives?
  4. Have you addressed the emotional "ownership" of the sale?
  5. Have you substantiated your claims?
  6. Have you made the next steps clear?
  7. Could you have said the same thing in one-third of the words?

Improving your copywriting is just one of the many efforts you need to continually improve to keep your goals on target.


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Bryan Eisenberg

Bryan Eisenberg is coauthor of the Wall Street Journal, Amazon, BusinessWeek, and New York Times bestselling books "Call to Action," "Waiting For Your Cat to Bark?," and "Always Be Testing." Bryan is a professional marketing speaker and has keynoted conferences globally such as SES, Shop.org, Direct Marketing Association, MarketingSherpa, Econsultancy, Webcom, SEM Konferansen Norway, the Canadian Marketing Association, and others. In 2010, Bryan was named a winner of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation's Rising Stars Awards, which recognizes the most talented professionals 40 years of age or younger in the field of direct/interactive marketing. He is also cofounder and chairman emeritus of the Web Analytics Association. Bryan serves as an advisory board member of SES Conference & Expo, the eMetrics Marketing Optimization Summit, and several venture capital backed companies. He works with his coauthor and brother Jeffrey Eisenberg. You can find them at BryanEisenberg.com.

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