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4 ways you can take your website copy from good to great

Marketing

Tag Archives: communications

4 ways you can take your website copy from good to great

DMZ guest blog by: Karina Barker, DMZ EiR


As one of the DMZ’s tactical EiRs, I get the incredible job of working with founders to help them amp up their copywriting. Not only do I offer strategic advice around brand positioning, voice, content, etc., I also get to roll up my sleeves and
do the writing alongside the founders.

Over my time in this capacity, I’ve noticed several common questions emerge as startups work to articulate their value proposition. While their vision might be clear in their minds, crafting website copy that has customers sitting up and taking action can be more of a challenge.

With more than 16 years under my belt as a copywriter and communications specialist, I’ve written for every kind of organization, from government, to startups, to Fortune 500 companies. I’ve seen firsthand how small mistakes can limit your copy’s impact—and how some simple tweaks can make all the difference. Seriously!

Here are 4 tips you can use to take your website from good to great:

 

1. Nail your homepage headline and sub-headline

According to the Nielsen-Norman Group, users leave websites on average after about 10-20 seconds. That means you’ve got less than 10 seconds to make your value proposition clear and convince visitors to stay. 

Your homepage headline and sub-headline are the first things visitors will see when they land on your page. That means these are your best shot to convince a visitor to stay (and hopefully convert). 

One of the most common mistakes I see companies make is focusing their website on them

A common format you’ll see is: We offer [this service] by doing [this thing]. Or, similarly: At [company], we help [this type of person] do [this thing].

But the goal of your website isn’t to share information about you. The goal of your website is to attract and convert customers. And that means you need to turn the spotlight on your customer —and talk about them.

Take a look at this homepage headline from Wealthsimple. 


Image: Wealthsimple

They don’t say “We help you do money right.” 

Instead the headline is direct and it implies “I’m going to do money right (with Wealthsimple’s help).” That subtle shift makes the reader see themselves in the headline.

The subheading then goes on to clearly articulate the actual “thing” that Wealthsimple offers (“powerful financial tools”) and the action-packed benefits that the customer can expect to derive (“grow and manage your money”).

While Wealthsimple makes it look easy, this kind of copy can take time and work (not to mention testing). If you don’t know where to start, a great first step is “voice of customer” research. Interview your customers, survey your product testers, read your online for views and search for the words your target audience uses to talk about benefits. This gives you a foundation to begin crafting and testing your headlines.

 

2. Don’t underestimate the power of social proof

Social proof is a powerful form of persuasion. When you include social proof in your webcopy, you tap into one of humanity’s deepest desires: to belong. 

We all put a lot of value on what we see people we trust doing and supporting. When we’re trying to decide between all the different options out there, we look to see what other people are doing. In fact, 91% of consumers read reviews before making a purchasing decision.  

If you’ve ever wondered why brands are willing to pay influencers big bucks for endorsements, this is it.

Here are some ideas for how to include social proof for businesses, even if you’re just getting started:

  • List any awards or prizes that your business has received
  • Share press/media/interviews covering your company
  • Run a social media campaign (and offer incentives) to encourage users to rate or review your product 
  • Request reviews or testimonials from existing customers
  • Create case studies based on real-life clients—or if you haven’t worked with any clients yet, craft use case studies that use a character that customers will identify with. (Note: always be clear if a study is based on a hypothetical rather than real world client.)
  • Share logos of high-profile clients that you’ve worked with
  • Share the number of users you’ve reached or clients you’ve served

Certain types of social proof will be worth more to certain audiences. Think about what can do to move the needle the most, and work towards collecting and presenting that type of social proof.

 

3. Keep your calls-to-action consistent

A call-to-action (CTA) is the moment when all of the work you’ve put into the rest of your copy gets put to the test. The CTA is where you encourage visitors to take your desired action. 

In order to craft a successful CTA you need to: 

  • Know what you want a visitor to do. Sign up for a free trial? Subscribe to your newsletter? Book a call with your sales team? 
  • Make it stand out. Pick the right spot, colour, visuals to draw visitor’s eyes to your CTA.
  • Be direct. CTAs are usually imperatives that begin with an action word. “Sign Up Now,” “Learn More,” “Start Your Free Trial.” Your CTA is not the place to get too wordy. 
  • Offer incentives. Make it easy for visitors to say yes by adding a line or two below your CTA: reassure visitors (e.g. cancel any time) or offer a desirable incentive (e.g. 10% of your first order)
  • Create urgency. Make visitors take action while they’re on your site. Use time words (e.g. sign up now, grab your instant download) to create a sense of urgency or signal time constraints (e.g. limited time offer)

But one of the most common mistakes I see is a lack of consistency in your CTA copy. If you want visitors to follow through, your CTA must be crystal clear–and repeated over and over. 

You can’t possibly miss Hubspot’s CTA. Not only is it in bright orange, it’s repeated word-for-word in their header and navigation bar. Even though their CTA is a little on the longer side, you know exactly what you’re supposed to do next (“Start free or get a demo”):


Image: Hubspot

In essence, when crafting your CTA, ask: What should the user do, and why? Your CTA should work in tandem with the rest of your webcopy to drive that message home. Inconsistent messaging (or multiple, competing CTAs in close proximity) can confuse your target audience or, worse, make them lose trust in your business. 


4. Boost interest with a unique brand voice

Once you’ve nailed the technical copywriting pieces, you can take your website (and your brand) to the next level by honing your brand voice. 

While it can seem daunting, developing your brand voice doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Reflect your audience. Go back to customer profiles and reflect on the voice used by your ideal clients. Is your target audience young and sassy or mature and sophisticated? 
  • Name three characteristics of your ideal brand voice. Authoritative? Trustworthy? Quirky? Cool? Passionate? Informative? Pick three attributes that capture the essence of your business. 
  • Define the dos and don’ts of your brand voice. Once you have your three characteristics, you can get more detailed on how this translates to your copy. For example, if you pick “trustworthy” as one of your attributes, your dos and don’ts may include: 
    • Do: use honesty, direct language, be transparent, share mistakes, follow-through
    • Don’t: push the hard sell, use jargon, over promise, trash talk competitors

As you grow, you can build out your brand voice into a document to share with anyone who is handling communications for your business. And remember, as you grow and change, your brand voice may develop too. 

If you need help with your copywriting, I’d love to chat! Learn more about how DMZ’s EiRs can support your business here

Is Rewordly the savior content creators have been searching for?

Traditional news publishers are fighting an uphill battle these days.

A 24-hour news cycle, online social media platforms that regurgitate free news and a decline in advertising rates have created a hurricane of hurt for the news industry, but today’s biggest companies refuse to go down without a fight.

Media companies – like Toronto Life and Now Magazine – are looking for new ways to make money and turning to tech startups for a helping hand.

Enter: Rewordly, a Toronto-based tech startup. The company has created an AI-powered product called Readefined that lets publishers better gauge how readers engage with online stories, determine how much content users read in real-time and what multimedia aspects of a story people actually like via behaviour tracking software. These important metrics are the cornerstone for any publisher since it helps not only attract high quality sponsors but new advertising partners.

“We have a vision to truly transform– and help –  the publishing world,” says Mario Vasilescu, the company’s co-founder and CEO. “We’ve won some awards and are in discussions with Canada’s top four publishers and associations from around the world. It’s still early days, having just launched.”

A closer look at Readefined

 

Here’s how the platform works: A user signs up at Readefined and installs the company’s tracking software or downloads the official WordPress plugin.
Afterward the software starts interpreting patterns for every person that visits a publisher’s page and can even make AI-based suggestions about what writers can do to improve their content before they publish future stories.

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The company is currently in beta and working towards a mid-August launch, but for now publishers with views under 500,000 per month can sign up to use its software for only $19 per month. Companies with more readers are charged on a per view basis.

For Vasilescu, his company’s product is a way for newspapers – and content creators of all kinds – to truly understand what readers want in the digital age. No more guessing and conjecture.

Of course, the startup’s team has never worked for a newspaper, but they understand the difficulties legacy newspapers can face. Adapting to a changing industry is something Rewordly is all too familiar with. The company has undergone several pivots since it launched in 2012.

“We’ve had a winding journey. The initial product took shape while working at a management consulting company in Paris. It was really shaped by seeing how inefficiently content was managed internally and externally,” explains Vasilescu.

“As naive first-time founders, we initially built a single product that – with the benefit of hindsight – we now see was attempting to solve all of the world’s content-related issues in one behemoth of a platform. People got really excited about it, but would be totally overwhelmed using so we went back to the drawing board and created this.”

How are publishers adapting?

 

For most publishers, it’s the company’s machine learning software – which gets smarter over time as it processes different reading behaviour and content – that could provide the most return. Keeping readers online longer, more engaged and even being able to predict what will work best is crucial.

And a focus on superior engagement data couldn’t come at a better time. Online advertising is now under attack. Over $7 billion in click fraud is reported every year. Meanwhile, over 50 per cent of online users are using adblocking software and a little over one-third of traffic is fake, according to a Wall Street Journal story.

“Now is the time,” Vasilescu adds. “We’re ready to change how the publishing world works for the better. We’re excited to see what comes next.”

Is your startup prepared for a PR crisis?

The startup world is no stranger to scandal.

Silicon Valley is riddled with the remains of startups and companies forced to close their doors after falling prey to scandal. This year a series of well-known companies have landed in hot water for everything ranging from sexual harassment allegations to discrimination claims.

So, why does this keep happening in tech? The answer is fairly simple: Fast-growing businesses are more likely to prioritize product over crisis communication plans since the former provides immediate returns. It’s kinda hard to showcase the benefits of a communication crisis plan when there’s no crisis on hand.

Fortunately, there are some easy things startups can do to get ahead of any potential problems. Here are three easy steps early-stage companies can follow courtesy of Erin Richards, a former public relations officer for CBC and founder of communications firm Hype PR.

Setting Yourself Up For Success

For startups on a shoestring budget, time is a valuable resource that’s always in short supply. It’s easy to see why some would rather spend time networking instead of creating an in-depth framework for future issues that, technically, may never arrive.

As much as it might make sense to avoid all things PR related Richards believes it’s a bad idea. To combat any possible negative publicity entrepreneurs should invest in creating a strong brand before missteps occur in order to develop a trove of goodwill that can be leveraged to diffuse bad situations and grow the business.

“Most people don’t understand that public perception is a huge part of a brand narrative and story, and if those elements aren’t figured out, the media relations strategy is likely to fall flat.”

Creating long-lasting buzz isn’t an easy task, but entrepreneurs hoping to generate a positive public perception must focus their efforts on giving back to their community on a regular basis. This includes having team members volunteer to speak at conferences or community events to build good will. Local nonprofits and community organizations are always looking for guests to help teach and knowledgable experts are always in demand

Constantly Monitor Your Brand

Keeping tabs on how your brand grows and changes over time isn’t easy. It requires a lot of hard work, tons of follow-up and a keen eye that can easily differentiate between spam and important data, which is likely why most companies hire outside firms to perform this task.

Finding problems before they mushroom into bigger ones is an effective way to manage communication tragedies.

Companies need to be proactive and constantly be diligent. If they can’t afford to hire an outside team to monitor their brand they should make sure an individual is tasked with doing basic searches all the time.  Simply enlist someone on their team to monitor social media and online channels for news.

“They should have someone on the team allocated to the role of social and traditional media monitoring to ensure they are on top of any potential brand related issues that may arise,” Richards adds. “They could also look into having an independent consultant develop a PR plan and strategy that they could attempt to execute internally.”

Here are a few social media companies that startups can use to help find out if they’re being discussed online:

Twitter: Companies can use Twitter’s advanced search buttons to look for specific sentences, names and dates.

Facebook: It can be a little trickier for startups to find mentions of their brand on Facebook since many users take advantage of the social media company’s privacy settings.

Google: Getting alerts about when and if your company is mentioned online can be as simple as setting up a Google account. This platform doesn’t include social media platforms but does extend to blogs, news and websites.

Teach Your Team How to Interact With the Brand

For good or bad, founders are the de facto representative for their company. A startup can rise and fall based on the actions of a founding team member or staff. Teaching startup teams how to interact with customers online is vital, even when their “off the clock” or on their down time.

They need to remain professional at all times since now-a-days one embarrassing moment is merely a screengrab or email forward away from becoming PR nightmare.

“Once you become an entrepreneur, you become synonymous with your brand. Entrepreneurs should seek out mentors in the industry to help them network, grow and evolve and also look into how public figures they admire conduct themselves in public and in the media. Of course, there are also the obvious ones such as, watching the alcohol intake at professional events and avoiding weighing in publicly on potentially contentious issues.”