Last week, we looked at the basics of landing pages. If you don’t have the skills in house to create effective landing pages, you need to find a great copywriter. There are a number of different kinds of copywriters available in every town, but only some are your best bet if you are looking for someone to create a landing page. Here is a short guide to the kind of web writers you may encounter and which one to choose.
The styrofoam sandwich writer
For most businesses, the marketing people are expected to “know the product” well enough to write the copy for the company website. “If they can write a proposal,” the thought goes, “they can write for the Web.”
This is where most of our tasteless, odorless copy comes from, the kind of writing that only a brochure writer could be proud. The copy is squeaky clean, “squeaky as a Styrofoam sandwich,” as novelist and lover of words Tom Robbins says.
And it doesn’t get read.
Safe writers don’t write for any one visitor; they try to please all of them. In the process, they avoid being too specific, too colorful or too persuasive. They fear saying the wrong thing, looking unprofessional or leaving something out.
Hire these safe writers when you’re not concerned about bounce rates, conversion rates and results in general. They will generally let you bully-edit them into creating the self-aggrandizing copy designed to make your business look good, not to solve a visitor’s problem.
The “SEO substituter”
The great challenge of this age is that each page must communicate well with the keyword-infatuated search engines as well as the problem-focused human visitor. Often, your Search Engine Optimizer (SEO) will simply take the copy you have on a page and substitute keywords wherever they can.
As a result, you end up with headlines like, “How Sheboigan Real Estate Home owners sell their Sheboigan Real Estate Home.”
It works for the search engine, and it will generate traffic. If search traffic is the most important purpose of your site, these writers have the tools to improve your ranking. However, you can expect high bounce rates because readers won’t like the copy.
The frustrated novelist
Storytelling is one of the most powerful ways to engage readers, and fiction writers love stories. These writers generally want to start with a premise, build upon that premise and then knock it out of the park with a big climax or a surprise ending.
This is good for “warm” prospects, perhaps visitors from your email list. They’ve developed a level of trust with you and are more likely to read.
For “cold” visitors, the story and payoff may evolve too slowly. Their payoff needs to be at the top. People will read engaging copy, but many visitors are searching websites to solve their problem. They aren’t going to read for entertainment.
The Soviet-era propagandist
Too many copywriters (and business owners) put great stock in slogans and tag lines. It’s a symptom of our television ad upbringing. A truly great slogan can get someone interested in reading your content, but if the content can’t deliver it won’t matter.
They’re used over and over, imploring us to “experience the difference” or assuring us that they are “the leader” in their industry. We don’t want a “difference;” we want a solution. We won’t believe that you’re the “leader” without proof.
Like propaganda, slogans only work when repeated over and over and over. If you’re not spending millions on advertising, you’ll never achieve the kind of frequency you need to make creative slogans and tag lines stick.
If you don’t have such a budget, save the money you have. It’s fine to have a great tag line, but pay a persuasive copywriter to deliver the goods in your content.
The persuasive writer understands the importance of a headline that promises a payoff for the reader. They understand:
- How to make copy easy to scan
- How to present benefits
- When to mention price
- When to insert calls to action
They are somewhat more difficult to find as they are well paid or making a living with their own sites. You may be able to find some undiscovered talent. You may want to consider using a journalist as they are trained not to “bury the lead.” They don’t place the payoff deep in the copy as a creative novelist will. Yet, they also know when to use stories and metaphors to make their point.
Persuasive copywriters give themselves away by asking questions like “what do you want the reader to do” and “how is the site performing now?”
They also don’t tolerate clients who think they’re persuasive writers, too. Correct the errors in their copy, but don’t mess with their mojo.
Most importantly, they are focused on results. Treat them well, and they’ll make you rich.
Here are some things you may find with persuasive copywriters:
- They may give brand and image a back seat.
- Their copy will generally be more aggressive than you are used to.
- They will focus on the most valuable segments of your audience and blatantly ignore the rest.
If you don’t have a stomach for approaches like this you will be tempted to edit them. If you do, your investment will likely be wasted. You may be better off with one of the other choices.
While I’ve had a bit of fun with the world of copywriters, please don’t let my funning let you think that the talents of all kinds of writers aren’t valuable. In general, I’d say pay your copywriters well and let them do their work.
What other kind of copywriters do you encounter?