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Web Copy That Sells: The Revolutionary Formula for Creating Killer Copy That Grabs Their Attention and Compels Them to Buy
Introduction to Second Edition
I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.
The subtitle of this second edition of Web Copy That Sells is The Revolutionary Formula for Creating Killer Copy That Grabs Their Attention and Compels Them to Buy. The formula refers to the same one referred to in the first edition—a five- step blueprint or a template that anyone could easily use to create web copy that has a high likelihood of selling. But as with most formulas that do succeed at facilitating and simplifying the process of accomplishing a specific task, the end result may not always be as successful.
For instance, major motion picture studios have a formula that they follow when releasing a movie to the public. An entire marketing machinery consisting of movie trailer showings, publicity appearances by the stars of the movie, advertising, a glittering movie premiere, and a host of other promotional activities are put into motion months in advance of the movie’s release. The formula makes the movie likely to become a box office hit. However, if the movie turns out to be not as popular with the moviegoing public as the studio executives had anticipated, box office sales will be disappointing.
Likewise, when someone uses the five- step formula for writing killer copy, the resulting copy and the sales it generates sometimes prove disappointing. That’s because the effectiveness of a sales proposition depends on several variables, not the least of which is the marketer’s (or copywriter’s) ability to decide how to distill an entire sales proposition into the formula’s framework. Decisions need to be made, and oftentimes the decisions a marketer or copywriter makes highlight a weaker point and ignore the most salient attributes of the product or service. Web copy that is built on such a poor foundation, therefore, has very little chance of selling, even when it follows the formula.
In this second edition, I’ve presented the remedy to all but eliminate the disappointing results that might come from the use of the formula. While the five- step formula remains the blueprint for writing web copy, I’m also presenting a heretofore unpublicized principle that I call the Trifecta Neuro- Affective Principle™.When utilized in any selling situation either on or off the web, this principle changes your prospects’ minds in favor of your product or service and accelerates their decision to buy what you’re selling.
In the context of the formula, the Trifecta Neuro- Affective Principle eliminates the need for you to make decisions about which points of your sales proposition to include or exclude because the principal triggers are predetermined for you. Proper implementation of the principle virtually guarantees successful results from the use of the formula and also dramatically shortens the need for superfluous words and long- scrolling copy that characterized early forms of copy on the web.
This comes at such an opportune time because the current landscape of Web 2.0 tends to favor short, succinct, digestible bites of copy, for which I coined the term cyber bite. Cyber bites have the power not only to create a sales- advancing impact on people but also potentially to become memes (a term coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976, derived from the words mime and mimic, representing cultural ideas that are passed from one individual to another in a manner analogous to the propagation of biological genes) that get transmitted verbally and virally, thereby creating significant buzz for any product or service.
The expanded material in this second edition makes this book not just for online marketers and copywriters but for anyone who sells anything—either on or off the web.
Web copy refers to the words on a website, in an e- mail, or in other online marketing communications that cause prospects to do what you want them to do—pick up the phone, register, subscribe, or buy your product or service.
The World Wide Web is no longer in its infancy and the age of Web 2.0 is already upon us, yet I find that most people who do business on the Internet are still in the dark as far as selling on the web is concerned. The fact is, most companies, business enterprises, and entrepreneurs who are selling products and services on the Internet are still conducting marketing and sales operations online the way they do business in the brick- and- mortar world. They’re still taking marketing principles that work well in the offline world and trying to force them to work on the web. And they still don’t realize that many principles that are effective in print, on the radio, on billboards, in direct mail, and via other types of offline advertising simply do not translate well on the web. In fact, they can even kill sales.
Most of all, they still make the common mistake that most website owners, Internet entrepreneurs, and online companies make: They drive traffic to their website before making sure they have web copy that sells.
Words are the true currency of the web. The single most important ingredient in a commercial website is web copy. Words make the sale, and no amount of cool graphics, interactive bells and whistles, cutting- edge design, or sophisticated e- commerce infrastructure could ever compare to the selling ability of compelling web copy.
Because selling on the web is text driven, nothing happens until someone writes the words that get people to click, sign up, read, register, order, subscribe, or buy whatever you’re selling. According to a four- year study, conducted by Stanford University and the Poynter Institute for Media Studies and published in 2000, of the habits of Internet news readers on normally scrolling screens, “the first thing people look at on a webpage tends to be text.” The Poynter Institute’s more recent EyeTrack ’07 study conducted in July 2007, which had 600 participants from 18 to 60 years old, corroborates the same.
I’ve sold everything from books to software to stock- picking services, franchises, self- improvement programs, career development products, handcrafted gifts and art pieces, consumable products, membership clubs, weight loss products, tax- saving programs, seminars, consulting services, and more on the web, and in the process I’ve learned that both the five- step blueprint, and the other principles and devices revealed in this book can help any website owner take a casual website visitor and turn that surfer into a prospect and, subsequently, into a customer—all through the sheer power of words.
Jakob Nielsen, one of the top usability engineers for the web and author of Designing Web Usability (Peachpit Press, 1999) and other books, wrote:
Words are usually the main moneymakers on a website. Better writing is probably the single most important improvement you can make to your site.
For this reason, if you have a website (or plan to create one) that sells a product or service, you need to hire a web copywriter—or learn the craft of web copywriting yourself. This brings me to the reason for this book. When I wrote the first edition in 2004, I was motivated by the fact that every time I surfed the Internet I came across countless websites that were so poorly written that I couldn’t imagine them generating a single sale. Some of those websites offered excellent products and services, but they utilized weak web copy that didn’t do justice to the products and services. Several years have passed since the publication of that first edition, and I’m dumbfounded that most companies and individuals doing business on the web still haven’t discovered how to use the power of words to sell effectively via their websites. It’s a shame, because the web provides an incredible channel for marketing virtually anything to anybody in any part of the world.
Adding to the challenge facing website owners and Internet entrepreneurs is the fact that there is a scarcity of web copywriting specialists equipped to take on the unique challenge of web communication and online selling. This situation is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future because even with the increasing numbers of professional writers transitioning into web copywriting, the numbers of e- commerce websites that need professional web copywriting are increasing at an even faster pace. Consequently, even if you’re a website owner, Internet entrepreneur, or online company that could find good web copywriters and could afford to pay their standard rates of $125 to $235 per hour, chances are that the good ones would be too busy to take on your project.
My solution—and my reason for writing this book—is to teach you the principles of web copywriting so you can write web copy yourself. Whether you are a businessperson writing your own copy or a writer entering the business or transitioning from other kinds of advertising copywriting, my goal is to teach you how to take your writing skills and apply them to web writing. Writing web copy that converts prospects into customers is a discipline all its own. It’s a highly specialized genre of writing that combines marketing wherewithal with a deep understanding of the Internet’s unique culture, mind- set, psychology, and language.
Additionally, this revised edition redefines web copy in the context of the continually evolving commercial landscape of the Internet and establishes updated rules for communicating successfully in what is being called Web 2.0—the second generation of web- based communities and applications, including but not limited to the following forms of online communications:
. Video (such as YouTube, Yahoo! Video, and iFilm)
. Social networks (such as MySpace, Facebook, and LinkedIn)
. Viral communications
Furthermore, this new edition includes copywriting principles not only for direct- response types of websites (which was the central focus of the first edition) but also for corporations, advertising agencies, business- to- business markets, catalog- style businesses, and newbies who want to grow their online businesses with killer web copy. With Internet advertising revenues exceeding $21 billion in 2007 (source: Internet Advertising Bureau), due emphasis has also been given to strategies for writing short- form ads.
What most online businesspeople and some professional copywriters don’t realize is that web copywriting is distinctly different from any other kind of advertising copywriting and offline marketing communications. It is also quite different from writing content for the web. Of course, it also bears some similarities to all of these. Additionally, web copy encompasses more than just words in cyberspace. It’s a way of communicating on the web that takes into account the ever- changing lifestyles and preferences of the Internet buying population. Sometimes that includes the use of graphic depictions of words to better communicate ideas and change people’s minds in favor of your product or ser-vice (see Chapter 6). The trends that are in a constant state of flux necessitate continuing education on how people are willing to consume marketing messages, as will be shown in the discussion of the YouTube revolution in Chapter 11.
In this second edition, it is also my objective to provide the newest strategies, techniques, devices, and tools for writing copy in a market that has become immune and unresponsive to the marketing strategies that were effective four or more years ago. Most of the general web copywriting rules that I presented in the first edition have remained the same, but the delivery and execution have changed with the times.
Who needs this book? You do, if you are
. An Internet marketer, entrepreneur, or website owner who sells (or plans to sell) a product or service online via your own e- commerce website
. A marketing professional who is in charge of your company’s online sales operations (an advertising, marketing, or brand manager)
. An advertising professional who plans, approves, or executes Internet marketing campaigns or writes advertising copy on behalf of clients
. A writer who is tired of being underpaid and barely earning a living—and who wants to transition to the lucrative specialty of web copywriting
. A webmaster who wants to learn the skill of web copywriting in order to expand the services you provide your clients
. An aspiring online entrepreneur who is seeking the most cost- efficient way to start a successful online business using a simple web copywriting formula
. Someone with moderate- to- good writing skills who wants to become a highly paid professional writer in one of the hottest, most in- demand fields in today’s marketplace
Whether or not you aspire to become a professional web copywriter, you can apply the principles presented in this book to any website, incorporate them into your marketing communications (e- mail, online advertising, newsletters, online video, audio, etc.), and generate measurably increased sales and profits.
Although the web copywriting principles I present herein are largely derived from direct- response types of web copy, they can be adapted to virtually all copywriting applications on the web. Whether your goal is to write web copy for branding purposes, generate leads, build a mailing list, generate more sales, obtain repeat customers, ensure customer satisfaction, or improve customer retention, you will benefit from the principles revealed in this book because they will sharpen the edges of your marketing messages, making them more effective.
I’ve been writing advertising copy since 1977 and specializing in web copywriting since 1996, and this gives me a broader perspective of the craft than most people have. Yet I “stand on the shoulders of giants,” learning from those who came before me—masters of influence like Robert Cialdini and marketing legends like Rosser Reeves, Victor Schwab, Robert Collier, and Eugene Schwartz—whose powerful concepts I’ve battle- tested and fine- tuned for the web.
WHAT THIS BOOK WILL DO FOR YOU?
When I encountered the World Wide Web in 1996, I already had 19 years of copywriting experience under my belt, but I soon discovered that writing copy for the web was a highly specialized craft. There was a multitude of things to learn—and unlearn. It’s my goal to teach you the things I’ve learned and help you avoid some of the errors I made.
As you go through the book, here are some of the lessons and tools you’ll find:
. Chapter 1 introduces you to the three fundamental rules for writing web copy that appeals to the unique predisposition of the Internet population, and reveals a technique that will give you the mind- set of a killer web copywriter in five hours or less.
. Chapter 2 discusses the five simple questions (about your product or service) that, when answered, make your web copy practically write itself.
. Chapter 3 reveals the formula for measuring the selling quotient of your copy, showing you how to evaluate your copy’s selling ability and how to get an immediate boost in your response rate.
. In Chapter 4 you’ll discover the amazing power of e- mail marketing, how to write attention- grabbing e- mail copy, and new ways of rising above the overcrowded e- mail jungle.
. The most powerful psychological principles underlying web copy that sells are explored in Chapter 5, which offers devices, strategies, tactics, and tips that can make any website sizzle with sales activity.
. Chapter 6 reveals the Trifecta Neuro- Affective Principle, which features the three principal triggers that you need to employ to change your prospects’ minds in favor of your product or service, and to accelerate their decision to buy.
. The most important involvement devices that dramatically increase the “stickiness” of your website—and make website visitors more likely to buy what you’re selling—are discussed in Chapter 7.
. In Chapter 8, I show you how to write compelling online ads, newsletters (or e- zines), autoresponder messages, and other marketing communications that can propel your online business to uncharted heights.
. Chapter 9 shows you how to write killer copy for the lucrative business- to- business (B2B) market.
. Chapter 10 provides the essential guidelines for creating a two- to three- minute online video that gets high Google rankings and generates sales, while offering a glimpse of how to craft effective marketing messages and gain visibility, sales, and even fame by learning the social dynamics of Web 2.0 such as video- sharing sites, blogs, social networking sites, and podcast directories.
. After you’ve learned the craft of web copywriting, Chapter 11 reveals the four- step foolproof secret to success in all your copywriting endeavors and the latest breakthrough methods for driving traffic to your website.
You simply can’t model successful websites and expect to succeed on the web. You need to model the process through which the success is attained, not the outcome of that process. For this reason, we examine the steps, the psychology, and the philosophies that are considered in writing successful web copy rather than modeling the web copy itself and trying to adapt it where it isn’t appropriate. Instead of simply presenting blueprints or power words and phrases, I’ll demonstrate how to acquire the mind- set with which to view websites, e- mail, and all other marketing communications so that you, too, can write web copy that sells.
Very few people truly understand the complexities of communicating on the Internet. However, by the time you finish reading this book, you’ll know more about web copywriting than 99 percent of the population. More important, you will be able to parlay that specialized knowledge into a six- figure income in the field of web copywriting or dramatically increase the sales of your website.
Excerpted from WEB COPY THAT SELLS, 2nd EDITION by Maria Veloso. Copyright © 2009 by Maria Veloso. Published by AMACOM Books, a division of American Management Association, New York, NY. Used with permission.
All rights reserved. http://www.amacombooks.org.
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