You’ve designed a beautiful landing page. You’ve tweaked and tested its responsiveness. You’ve spent hours on keyword research, arriving at what you believe to be a winning blend of high-traffic short-tail and conversion-friendly long-tail. In short, you’re ready for an influx of traffic… or are you? Without effective landing page copy, you risk squandering the effort it took to acquire qualified traffic.
Suspend your disbelief for a moment: you’ve hired a crack squad of producers and promoters to put on a free Beatles show, spending most of your budget in the process. The venue gradually fills up with die-hard fans, each prepared to throw down hundreds of dollars on merchandise. But when the lights go down and the band starts up, it’s not The Beatles in all their psychedelic splendour – it’s Wings. Paul McCartney, wearing a kilt, goes straight into Mull of Kintyre. They don’t even play Band on the Run. Cue a shambling exodus of dissatisfied customers; customers you’d worked hard to attract.
In other words, if search engine entries and paid ads are the posters, the landing page is the show – and the copy is the lead singer. It isn’t just there to relate factual information about a product or service (although that is its purpose at the most fundamental level); it has to provoke thought and action. You can understand the effectiveness of copy by asking yourself how well it:
• Excites curiosity and encourages people to look into the subject in more detail
• Stimulates thought, discussion or debate
• Spurs readers to do something in response (in conjunction with a compelling call-to-action)
Here are eight tips to make sure your copy is more John Legend than Milli Vanilli:
1. Use short, simple sentences.
Long sentences are sometimes difficult to decipher in printed documents; an effect exaggerated by the short attention span of web users. Too many clauses or sub-clauses can obscure the meaning of a sentence. If its structure is limited to two or occasionally three clauses, the reader will be able to move through the text more swiftly. They will also be more likely to retain more information.
Long paragraphs can similarly confuse the reader and obscure meaning. To communicate meaning clearly and simply, paragraphs should generally stay within four sentences.
2. Avoid hyperbole
On its own, the following sentence does not contain any meaningful information and, in fact, raises additional questions. If we make these claims then we must be able to support them.
This world-leading company offers unsurpassed expertise and extraordinary products in its beautiful stores.
Overuse of adjectives and superlatives reduces credibility. If adjectives are restricted to only one or two per sentence, the text becomes more informative and less sensational.
3. Remove unnecessary words
Readers need to grasp your message as quickly and effectively as possible. Consider omitting words that do not increase the reader understanding or add to the meaning of the text. For example, there is no significant difference in meaning between:
It is generally the case that DAC offices close during the Christmas period.
DAC usually closes during the Christmas period.
Read and re-read text to ensure that every word and every sentence is needed.
4. Be active
Active sentences are more quickly understood than passive sentences. This is because the agent is also the subject, and comes before the verb. Use the active rather than the passive voice unless there is a good reason not to.
Frank is holding the pen, not The pen is being held by Frank.
5. Avoid clichés
Beware of word combinations that have become clichés through overuse. “Swinging cuts,” “heated debate” and “unique opportunity” are all examples of this. Whenever you are tempted to use a stock phrase, question what it means. Consider reworking your text, either to explain the idea more clearly or simply to use more interesting language.
6. Prove it
Specific, provable examples are preferable to general statements. For example:
The company runs events and programs to increase local participation in higher education is preferable to The company is committed to developing higher education in the city and surrounding region.
Whenever claims are made to promote a particular product or service, evidence that validates the claim should be provided. However strong our statements may be, they must always be proven — either within the sentence, in the text that follows, pictorially, with data or through a quotation.
7. Use the appropriate tone
Your tone of voice should be shaped by two factors: the audience you are addressing and your particular brand guidelines.
The use of specialist language or jargon is only appropriate if you are confident that your reader will easily understand it. Be cautious of using phrases that might be very familiar only to you (i.e. idioms) and question whether your reader will readily understand them.
8. Structure your message
The combination of ‘provoke and prove’ provides a starting point for structuring your text. Ask yourself three questions before you start to write:
• Do I have something provoking to say?
• Do I have the facts to back it up?
• Can I make it relevant to my reader and prompt them to act?
If you can answer ‘yes’ to each question, you can begin.
Try to open your copy with something attention-grabbing. This will need to be substantiated and then expanded on in the information that follows. The final paragraph will often serve the purpose of an expanded call to action, letting the reader know how they can continue the conversation. Who do they call? Where can they get more information? Is there something more specific you would like them to do?
So don’t be the one-hit wonder who earns stellar click-through rates only to serve up landing page copy that is generic, disjointed or off-message. Understand what your audience needs at the point of conversion and communicate it in a way that informs, persuades and compels them to take the next step. Hit them with your best shot.
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