I recently read a magazine article describing the profession of copywriting as “sexy.” After giggling for half a second, it dawned on me that “sexy” was just the right word to use. Copywriters, through the power of the written word, are responsible for “seducing” their audience. They have the fun, yet daunting, task of generating interest and then developing that interest to lead to some sort of fruitful relationship, not unlike the dating world. And, just like the dating game, the rules have changed.
The more information that technology makes readily available to consumers, the less time these consumers have to spend on any one particular product, service or idea. The attention span of the average web user has steadily decreased as the barrage of online information continues to overwhelm human senses. With this in mind, the web copywriter must truly embrace the concept of “less is more.” Relevance and credibility are still important principles to keep in mind when writing content, but Web 2.0 consumers now want relevance and credibility…in cliff notes format. A great example of this trend is the micro-blogging phenom, Twitter. Twitter’s popularity and success is a smack-in-the-face realization that web users’ tolerance for information has been Mini-Me-ed down to 140 characters!
With that said, here are some key guidelines for downsizing a seven-course meal of content into a snack-size bar without losing the essentials:
1. Listen to data: Conduct A/B testing on different versions of headlines to determine which works best.
2. Waste not, fluff not: Don’t make claims you can’t support. Consumers can smell a phony sales pitch a mile away!
3. Forget “short and sweet”: Just keep it short. Jargon, hype, gimmicks are all unnecessary sugar-coating. Give them what they want to know.
4. Know your audience: This one seems obvious, but is worth repeating. Write copy that speaks in a voice that your target market, not only understands, but listens to.
5. Format for easy reading: Use headlines, sub headlines, short paragraphs, lists, and an eighth-grade reading level. Have your 13-year-old read the copy. If he/she doesn’t “get it” by the time their attention is lost to a new YouTube video, it’s time to rewrite!