“Thank God it’s Friday,” says Steve as he orders a well-deserved beer from the bar. He’s exhausted. The ice-cold beer ‘hits the spot.’ And, as he mulls over the week’s events, everything is a blur.

“Hello,” says a confident voice to his left.

Snapped out of his reverie, Steve turns to see an attractive woman taking a seat beside him.

“I’ll have a Chardonnay, please, ” the woman says to the bar man.

Then, turning to Steve, she says, “Hi, I’m Shelly.”

With full red lips, high cheek bones and straight blonde hair hanging just above her shoulders, to Steve,  Shelly is a sight for sore eyes.

“Oh, hi, Shelly. My name’s Steve. What brings you here tonight?”

“Well, I figured I deserve a wine or two after another brilliant week,” she says. “I’m the top salesperson at my company, you see — I’ve been killing it now for six months!

“Well done!” says Steve.

“I guess I’ve always been an over achiever,” Shelly ruminates. “When I was seven, I read Lord of the Rings. Can you believe it!? And, since graduating from university — with honours — I’m ready to smash that glass ceiling!” she laughs. “So, Steve, tell me, what brings you here?”

“Well, like you,” says Steve, “I reckoned I deserved a couple of drinks. I’ve been working on a big proposal and ….”

“Oh, I know about proposals. Speak to the hand! Guess how many I got over the line last month?

Steve: “Err….”

“Nine… out of ten! That’s nearly $500,000 in sales!” says Shelly seemingly stunned by her brilliance.

Steve was feeling the onset of a headache. And, suddenly, all of Shelly’s features seemed to shrink, except for her pair of big red lips gushing the sound “blah, blah, blah.”

“That’s really great, Shelly,” says Steve sculling in one gulp what was left of his beer. “Hey, it’s been nice talking, but I need an early night. I’d better go.”

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Run, Steve, run!

Of course, my characterisation of Shelly is exaggerated. I’m not sure that I’ve ever quite met anyone like her. However, having attended plenty of ‘shin-digs’ in my time, there are some people who come close.

How do you feel when trapped in a one-way conversation, one in which there seems like no escape? It’s not pleasant, is it? And, anyone with a crumb of social intelligence understands that most people — especially Kiwis — don’t react well to show offs.

With that said, how on Earth did Donald Trump become leader of the free world? The mind boggles. Anyway, I digress.

Does your website copy look like it was written by someone like Shelly? If so, in this post, I explain what you can do.

The purpose of website copy

Above all, good website copywriting should be engaging. How engaged was Steve during his ‘conversation’ with Shelly? Sure, he was keen at the start — Shelly seemed like quite a ‘catch.’ However, after enduring several minutes of ‘verbal diarrhoea,’ Steve couldn’t get away fast enough.

How to engage your audience

I hate to break it to you, but most website visitors care mostly about themselves. It’s true. Sure, they’ll want to know about a company’s values, credentials and service offerings. Ultimately, though, they’re eager to know what’s in it for them.

That’s why your website’s copy must focus on your target audience. What’s on their minds. What are their problems? How can you help? So, instead of ‘blowing your company’s trumpet,’ write about what your target audience cares about.

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” 

Shelly claimed to be her company’s top salesperson. So what? Why should Steve care? If she somehow thought that Steve would be impressed, she was wrong.

Perhaps Shelly liked Steve. Maybe she wanted him to ask her out. Well, if she was the ‘uber’ salesperson that she claimed, wouldn’t she have asked Steve some questions? And listened? The old adage “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak” makes a lot of sense.

Bringing humility to your web copy

Of course, it’s impossible to have a two-way conversation with visitors to your website. That doesn’t mean you should act like they don’t exist, though.

How well do you know your customers? In the off-line world, you can learn plenty about them by just asking questions. And, if you understand your customers, you can speak directly to them in your copy.

You might be the best at what you do, but let your customers do the bragging in the form of testimonials.

If, for example, your business targeted surfers who like to keep track of the time, which statement do you think would make an impact?

  • “We make the best watches in New Zealand.”
  • “You can surf all day while wearing an XY watch, and it will always keep the time.”

It’s obvious, aye? Rather than making a vague, unproveable claim, the second statement highlights a real benefit.

Of course, you might be the best ‘God damned’ watchmaker in the country, but let your customers do the bragging in the form of testimonials.

Your customers want to know that you ‘get’ them — you’re part of their tribe.

Where did all the humans go?

It’s crazy how many businesses switch to corporate mode when producing copy. I guess they believe doing so makes them look professional, credible. It doesn’t. Instead, writing fancy words in third person comes across as distant and fake. Your customers want to know that you ‘get’ them — you’re part of their tribe.

There’s no ‘I’ or ‘we’ in ‘customer’

Finally, when writing web copy, it’s easy to overuse ‘I’ and ‘we.’ Of course, you have to use them, just try not to use them too much — if you  don’t want to sound like Shelly, that is.

Tip: On your computer keyboard, click ‘control F’ and then search for ‘I’ and ‘me.’ If those two pronouns appear disproportionately more than ‘you,’ perhaps you have a problem.

In summary, good website copywriting should:

  • support your brand and values
  • explain how you add value
  • highlight your points of difference
  • include calls to action
  • and engage with your target audience.

So, next time you take to your keyboard, take a breath and think of your customers. Otherwise, people might think some lady with full red lips, high cheek bones and a huge ego just hacked your website. You wouldn’t want that now, would you?

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  1. Hi Andrew, Love the analogy you have on this one with Sally. It really makes me think before writing my next post. It’s always about the audience and what they can gain from reading a blog post. Benefits, benefits, benefits! But like you telling a story really helps keep them engaged along the way Thanks for your example and have a great day Andrew.

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