Why Web Copy Means More than Just Words

Photo credit S. Miroff

Quick – look around you. What do you see? A coffee mug, a book, some papers, a picture on the wall, your calendar, pens… Just a bunch of normal, everyday stuff.

Look again. See how many objects and items have words on them. The ad copy on a box of CDs. The opening sentence of a letter. The month on the calendar. The notes on a scrap of paper.

It’s amazing how many words surround us all the time. Words are nearly omnipresent in our lives, from the features listed on the tube of toothpaste we pick up in the morning to the last sentence of the testimonial on the back of the novel we set down at night.

Words are everywhere.

All these words are there for a reason. They’re trying to reach us in some way, to give us a message. To let you know what this object is. Or which company made it. Or how great it is. Or what it does. Or what we need to do about it.

But we only notice a fraction of these words. We’re not really paying attention. We may not even realize there are words there at all. There’s so much information around us that we filter it out just to keep sane and focused. We just don’t see it.

The words might as well not even exist.

Think about it. When’s the last time you read your tube of toothpaste, or your box of blank CDs, the fine print on a package of paper clips? Someone paid good money to have “excellent performance and reliability” printed on that box of CDs, but unless someone else points the words out to you, there’s a good chance you don’t even notice.

Now imagine the web copy on your site. Not your blog; the part of your website that’s devoted to convincing your readers to buy your services. If you’re not telling your readers to go and look at that copy, it’s getting no more attention than the instructions on your toothpaste box. It might as well not be there.

And that copy is a lot more important than the features on that box of CDs. If you wing burning a playlist and you get great tunes out of it, you’re going to keep buying that product. You needed to burn CDs, grabbed any box, and these worked. End of story. The copy on the box can afford to go unnoticed.

Your web copy can’t afford the same passive indifference.

You can’t wing it. That copy is supposed to get you clients and sales. Your freelancing lifestyle depends on your copy being read. This isn’t about grabbing the first freelancer that catches your eye.

So why are you letting your readers treat your web copy with the same indifference as the copy on that box of CDs on your desk?

Don’t wait until they just happen to notice you. Get people to pay attention. Write words that grab – and hold – their eyes on your page. Market yourself with every sentence. Help your web copy get read by new clients who can’t wait to hand you money for the services you offer.

The most important part of that sentence? Get your sales copy read. You can’t afford not to.

If you need killer copy that hooks in new clients and gets them reaching for their wallet, contact us today. We write the words that get you noticed – and get you the sales.

Post by James Chartrand

James Chartrand is an expert copywriter and the owner of Men with Pens and Damn Fine Words, the game-changing writing course for business owners. She loves the color blue, her kids, Nike sneakers and ice skating.

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  1. Hi there,

    Great article, apparently urging us from writing stuff that is dealt with differently from the toothpaste label…

    The content is all, which is why literature (without pics or SEO…) does the trick, maybe. Er, gotta add to that a good advertising, plus that we want readers to ACT (not literature).

    You’re right guys ! (and read from France)

  2. Hey James,

    I like how you describe that there are words everywhere we look. It is important to write good copy on our pages it’s attracts people and people will share the work to others.

    Everyday I take time to study copywriting skills. Since this is the million dollar skill. 🙂

    Chat with you later…
    .-= Josh Garcia´s last blog ..3 Guarantee Ways To Grab Your Readers Attention With Compelling Headlines =-.

  3. You make some great points. There are numerous ways to get your copy to stand out, and online where there is information overload if you don’t make your copy stand out, easy to read, and accessible then people are just going to mosey on by.
    .-= Chris Mower´s last blog ..12 Simple Lessons in Leadership for Those Who Want to Make a Difference =-.

  4. So true. I think it’s the little words that resonate and surprise that catch our eye. It’s also a sign of speaking the language of your tribe.
    .-= J.D. Meier´s last blog ..Lessons Learned from Steve Pavlina =-.

  5. Excellent post, James!

    About 5 years ago, MarketingSherpa conducted a number of studies on online behavior. They found that prospects spend an average of 8 seconds on a web page before deciding whether to keep reading or to move on.

    I suspect we’re now closer to 4 or 5 seconds. Our attention spans have continued to diminish, and we now have less patience for copy that’s unclear or doesn’t speak to our needs and desires.

    Great copy is (and will continue to be) key!

  6. This is amazingly-relevant to the post I just wrote today as well. There is nothing more important than getting your customer’s attention.

    In the slog of marketing messages out there, you have to do something really drastic just to jerk their head out of their marketing coma for just a second.

    Once you have them you need to keep them.

    There is no more attention span. There is no more hope of getting a second chance to grab that peson. It’s now or never. Then you are clicked away to the pile of the forgotten.

    It’s time to take some drastic measures and give all of your copy it’s best chance possible, or else you are doing your small business a disservice.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire
    .-= Joshua Black | The Underdog Millionaire´s last blog ..The Single Teenie Secret That Will Make or Break Your Marketing =-.

  7. Ever wish for the days when you could throw up any words and people would find it? I worked for a website that was around before content was king, and websites were just online brochures.

    But I prefer where we’ve landed. When words have to really matter.
    .-= susan´s last blog ..A Degree in Being Creative =-.

  8. LOL the moment you pointed that out, I literally started noticing words everywhere. I actually just noticed the brand of shampoo my friend gave to me: A’kin Lavender Shampoo. lol Sounds exquisite huh? The bottle looks like crap though, but she said it’s supposed to be therapeutic. Works can actually make the bottle. Nicely put, we sometimes take words for granted.
    .-= Mici | Click On Portal´s last blog ..Iron Man 2 Brings the House Down Movie Review (w/ best lines & trailers) =-.

  9. Words. I was just thinking about that this morning. how many words do i see in a day? Read the paper, at least skim several hundred blogs, try to keep up with books and info, participate in classes, and write several blogs several times a week. I am surprised i even notice words any more. And all with one eye!
    Now i’m out of breath.
    .-= mike kirkeberg´s last blog ..How to Choose Your Anger Path =-.

  10. I notice a bit of irony in this article. It starts with ‘people don’t read’ and ends with ‘make the words better’. Shouldn’t a better solution be something that doesn’t have to deal with words in places people don’t read anyway? My toothpaste tube could have the entire works of Shakespeare and I wouldn’t notice it. WHAT you write matters but the premise of this article would be more effective if it ended in techniques to get people to notice your products.

  11. I bought a box of blank DVD’s recently, and I did read the writing. I was standing there in the supermarket looking at half a dozen different brands, types, all telling me how reliable and good they were. And somehow I had to choose which one to buy – I have no idea of what half the technical jargon is referring to. I’m not technically minded, I don’t even know what the 16x or 8x on it means.

    So which one’s did I buy? The pack that clearly told me they were 100% error free and that they recorded data, movies, video, photo’s and backup. That was what I needed. Not all the technical stuff that filled in the spaces.

    Web copy is the same. People are going to shop around until they find a site that grabs their attention and tells them what they want to know, clearly and easily. Not a site that they have to sift through and decipher to see if it’s what they want. Attention spans are not that long.

    Good post James. 🙂
    .-= Melinda | SuperWAHM´s last blog ..How to screw up a cold call and lose customers =-.

  12. A perfect story to support this article is this: A blind beggar sat collecting donations with a sign that read “I am Blind – Please Help”. He sat for hours and collected 3 or 4 coins at most. later a man changed the words on the sign and straight away the tin started to fill up with money. Later the man came back and the boy recognised his footsteps and asked him what he wrote. He replied “I only wrote the truth. I said what you said but in a different way – I wrote ‘Today is a beautiful day but i cannot see it”
    these new words reminded people that they were lucky NOT to be blind, thus envoking emotion and creating a subconscious call to action
    A great story with a powerful moral about the power of copy.
    .-= Alex´s last blog ..The Facebook Marketing Hangover =-.

  13. Its so odd, the most overlooked portion of web design is the actual content that makes up the website. In most cases it’s almost always left to the last minute in my experience. Everyone who has a website is a publisher, so think like a publisher. People buy print magazine and newspapers for the content, its the same for the web.

  14. Nice post. It does make sense to stand out in a sea of marketing messages. People market anything nowadays. Companies market their brands, freelancers market themselves, during elections the Government markets the common man and a few states even market their weather. Take Skillocracy.com, a great new website for freelancers. The website lets freelancers use their work to market themselves, which in my opinion is great and innovative since now skill can rule over a marketing drive.

  15. Interesting anecdote Alex! I’m the type of person who does research and reads the copy on the packaging. I bought this product because it said ‘This actually does work’ and lo and behold it did – who knew! It wasn’t packaged all that well but it was a product that could stand by those words and really didn’t need to pay for the expense of nicely designed packaging.

  16. Grabbing the attention FIRST – paramount. Supporting your visuals/claims with your copy – critical.

    One thing I’ve recently seen in action is how blind people are to ads on websites – out of 235 impressions, not once was a particular CJ ad clicked. So it’s not only words, per-se – it’s the medium in which they’re delivered.
    .-= Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach´s last blog ..Verizon Retreats From Plan to Offer Nexus One Service (Update2) =-.

  17. Mark W. says:

    “If you’re not telling your readers to go and look at that copy, it’s getting no more attention than the instructions on your toothpaste box. It might as well not be there.

    And that copy is a lot more important than the features on that box of CDs.”

    Very good post and reminder of the importance of words depending on the context in which they’re being used. Words used to describe the features on that box of CDs to market them was important before their purchase – not so much after the fact. Web copy is similar to a billboard in that it’s always present as a vehicle to market an item or service so you definitely want more than just words.

  18. Yes, very true. word are everywhere, around us and we listen only to featured one first as they just clicked in eyes at some useful moments.

    Ads on toothpaste, Regular accessories and others stuffs. Peoples finding many possible ways to reach others peoples via words through various mediums…
    .-= Ashish Sharma´s last blog ..Top 7 social media guides to follow on twitter =-.

  19. Very true, with the large amount of information available writing a lot just to have words on a site won’t do you any good. It needs to be catchy in way that will captivate the user’s interest on whatever is offered.
    great post and subject!


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