You have 8 seconds to catch me!

October 14, 2021 § Leave a comment

Your website copy needs to put up a good fight for my attention.

If your website copy hasn’t got my interest in 8 seconds, I’ll be off. It could be and, is most likely to be, your competitor’s copy I’ll be reading next and if they do a better job, I’ll give them more of my time.

It’s not just me who has the attention span of a flea. Data collected for online reading patterns shows that we’re all the same – your potential customers included.

Diddle around or make your copy a hard read and you lose a reader AND the chance of a sale.

Your website copy needs to:

  1. Get to the point. Visitors haven’t got time to read details like how long your business has been going before they find out what exactly it is you offer.
  2. Explain what you can do for them. Don’t bother to talk about how wonderful you think you are. Of course you think that.
  3. Be chatty, friendly and engage visitors. My blog post Let’s get chatty with the written word explains what you need to know about using the right language. Whatever your product or service is, people will seek out the techy stuff if they need to know it. Most don’t so won’t. They’re looking for a solution and just want to know if you have it.
  4. Be written so that a 12-year-old would be able to understand it. Successful web copy is usually pitched at the reading age of a 12-13-year-old. People haven’t got time to work out precisely what your copy means. You either tell them straight or they move on.
  5. Say it succinctly. Of course when you’ve hooked a reader they’ll want to make sure you know what you’re talking about and will have a look around your website for more information, maybe some customer testimonials and possibly case studies involving past work. So there is a place for lengthy copy but you’ve got to get them interested first. Your home page, the logical order of your site and the clarity of your words need to get their attention straightaway so that you can reel them in.
  6. Get it right. Nothing, nothing. nothing switches off reader interest more quickly than a mistake – in spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence flow. Visitors will be on and off a badly written page before you can say “Whoops!” And there’s no room for excuses like “anyone visiting the site will know what we mean.” Make errors on your website, aka your calling card and you’ll get prospective customers wondering where else you’ll be happy to make mistakes.

Good design has a big part to play in the success of a website and will hopefully attract attention in the first place. But the right words will make sure the content keeps that attention. You only have 8 seconds to persuade a potential customer that your website is the one they’ve been looking for. Choose your words wisely.

Let’s get chatty with the written word

October 11, 2021 § Leave a comment

The best way of getting copy read is to make it an easy read – and to make it FRIENDLY.

If you and I had a conversation about your product or service, we’d chat about it. You wouldn’t talk like a text book because you know I’d switch off pretty quickly. You’d concentrate on trying to ENGAGE me and interest me and get on with me.

However…put the same conversation into the written word and something strange tends to happen.

Instead of trying to be the reader’s friend – as you absolutely would if you were standing face-to-face with them – the written copy suddenly starts trying to impress them. We’re still talking about the same product/service but instead of chatting away, the written copy uses big words and formal language.

I’m not absolutely sure why this happens and I know I’m not alone at favouring the chatty/friendly approach because many successful companies have tone-of-voice style guides which insist that all copy should follow conversational lines.

For those companies who use posh language, perhaps it’s because they feel that conversational-type writing dumbs down their offering. Written language is a permanent record and possibly companies feel they can’t afford to make their offer seem light-hearted. In my opinion, they can’t afford for the copy NOT to seem relaxed and the company, approachable.

There’s no way you’d be able to get round to have a chat with all your prospective customers. You can get the written word to many of them. Be chatty, be friendly, put yourself in a position to make more sales.

Why write ‘your’ when you mean you’re…

October 9, 2020 § Leave a comment

Why would you do that! Why would you write your when you mean you’re? It’s a grammatical crime and it’s not too difficult a rule of the written language to get right – so get it right!!

Your = belonging to you. You’re = contraction of you are. I’m pretty sure most people know that. I’m aware that a lot of people get it wrong, though. Why? Stuff like that matters to your reputation.

Many of the potential customers of a company will have spent the seconds it takes to learn the difference between the two spellings. So imagine what they feel when they see a company telling customers: ‘Your welcome’.

Your/you’re is a particular bugbear of mine – as is: to, too and two. It annoys me when people get them wrong because we’re hardly talking the subtleties of the written language here. They are regular, everyday words that you can’t be forgiven for getting wrong.

Also, for good measure, I’ll throw in there, they’re and their. ‘Over there, they’re looking at their shopping.’ The words have different meanings, different spellings but just happen to sound the same…

If people see you making sloppy mistakes in your copy, they’ll straight away wonder what sloppy mistakes you make in your business. It’s as simple as that (and not its as simple as that!)

Now’s the time to write your book

March 30, 2020 § Leave a comment

There’s never been a better time to publish

Are you one of those individuals who’s always been meaning to write a book but never had the time?

Suddenly you have loads of time – and plenty of potential readers who also have loads of time.

Never in history has there been a more ideal moment to get going on the literary venture you’ve been thinking about for ages. And never before has it been so easy to publish.

Starting at the very beginning:

  1. ‘Everyone has a book in them, but in most cases that’s where it should stay’ Nobody’s actually sure who said that. However it’s a worthwhile saying and you need to put your words to that test when you get them down on paper.
  2. If you believe they pass, give your manuscript to a trusted friend to read, a friend who isn’t going to say what you want to hear but what you need to hear. If they feel your book is a good read, it’s time to progress to the next step.
  3. Get a professional to proofread and copyedit it. I’m not going to say much about that because it’s what I do and this blog is not a sales pitch. You need a professional because they’re good with words and can also spot what you’ve actually written not what you think you’ve written. Don’t rely on a spellcheck: there, they’re and their can all get past a spellcheck even though they have different meanings.
  4. Now you’re at the publishing stage. It’s never been easier to get published and gone are the days when you had to wait for an agent or publishing company to consider your manuscript. You can upload it instantly. In theory.

There are plenty of publishing companies to choose from: Kindle Direct Publishing, Kobo. Lulu, Smashwords, BookBaby, Blurb, Google Play Books – I could go on. But here, I would suggest, is your first real problem if, like me, you’re a writer but not a technical wizard.

Which of those are you going to choose?

I know KDP is a market leader but when I just looked at the website it’s told me I have to format my manuscript and create a cover. So if your strength is in writing, not formatting and design, will you be ok?

An author’s review of Lulu doesn’t give me much confidence either – I write my book, design the cover and upload everything. It doesn’t cost me money, but time and experience. If there are typos in it, then I wrote them and I didn’t notice them. Yes – but your readers will notice your typos.

I honestly don’t get what this Smashwords review is talking about – Smashwords (sic) web-based interface is specifically intended for the upload of files, metadata and book project management. What does that even mean?

If I were you I’d concentrate on writing your book and get someone else to do the techie stuff.

For one thing, I’ve been told that the cover is everything in the crowded world of ebooks, so I’d definitely want someone to do that. For another thing, I don’t talk ebook publishing language or feel confident formatting and uploading files. So I’d ask someone who understands to do it properly.

Bad formatting is like losing all the structure of a regular letter. So instead of seeing ‘Dear Whoever’ on one line and all the rest appearing in paragraphs starting on different lines, it will all run on into one fat chunk of text. I’m not going to risk that sort of mistake happening.

I don’t want to have spent ages and ages writing a book that I really believe in, only to trash it with a cock-handed effort at self-publishing. That is definitely a skill in its own right.

The ebookdesigner (John Amy) is one of many companies who will take the techie stuff off your hands AND design you a great cover, specific to your book. He recommends sticking with Amazon, the market leader and biggest distributor for your self-published ebook. John says that good design can make you more money simply because you come across as a professional. If money isn’t the main aim of your game, but the message is, you still need to get reader attention and the cover is integral to that.

He thinks it’s a good idea to also release a print version – something he can help you with. That makes it more accessible to ‘real book’ lovers and, again, makes you appear a more professional author. It’s also an opportunity to sell more, of course.

For the time being, just get some words down on paper/screen and see where they take you. It’s an interesting break from the TV and a welcome rest from cleaning stuff that doesn’t need cleaning or decorating walls that don’t need decorating.

Set aside an hour or two daily to write, it will add some structure to your day. And if it doesn’t come easily at the beginning, think of the Jodi Picoult quote –

You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.

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