Website Visitors: Copy and Content Must Meet Their Needs

Guest Post by Irene Watson

I have been on so many author websites lately that take me nowhere or give me no reason to stay any longer than 5 seconds, let alone buy the book.  Many of the sites are put together by the author that has more success in writing a book than creating a website, or put together by wannabe web-developers that come across as experts.  So, I decided to address a few pointers today that I see missing on many of the sites.

Suggestions on how to quickly evaluate and improve your own website.

1. First Mental Image.  This is content that is at the top of your site, under the banner, but above the fold.  There needs to be a headline (see #2) and copy to give that first picture of what your site is about.  As well, there should be some type of picture.  Viewers will stop at pictures.  Some authors are able to incorporate the first mental image into the banner but it is tricky.  You can choose the perspective for the most effective message.

Be sure you create a colorful and vivid mental image.  Avoid using black and white words.

2.  Headlines.  Headlines are critical and take number one place along with first mental image.  They are short but grab the visitor’s attention because they are relevant to her or his needs.  Repeat, the word is “needs.”   The reason people come to your site is because they need something.

Headlines, and sub-headlines, also provide enough information for the visitor to skim the content and decide if they want to read more of your copy.  This organization takes place in the mind of the visitor and you have to be sure it’s clear to them.   David Ogilvy, author of “Ogilvy on Advertising” and well-known advertising guru said “If you haven’t done some selling in your headline, you have wasted 80 percent of your client’s money.”   Please don’t turn away 80% of your potential readers!

And speaking of headlines, be sure you use heading formatting.  Google and other search engines are programmed to pick those up as being important. 

3. WIIFM.  Often referred to as a favorite radio station, what’s in it for me?, we must always speak to the visitor on what matters to them.  As I mentioned above, the visitor is on your site because of her or his needs.  Does your site, especially the first landing page, provide enough content (information) to have them follow the scent trail?

4. Scent Trail.  Yes, no different than a dog following a scent trail, your visitors will also follow a trail.  This is where your longtail keywords and hyperlinks that include keywords are of utmost importance.  Both will lead your visitor to relevant content. As well, keywords should be in your headlines and subheadlines.  These same keywords should also be in the first and last paragraph of your copy.

5.  We-We Syndrome.  Self-centeredness doesn’t have a place in the content of your website.  Don’t use your own name, your book name, or “we” too many times otherwise it will not be potential reader-focused copy.  One of my business teachers, Roy Williams, asks, “Are you wewe-ing all over yourself?”  You can find out if you are by using the WeWe Monitor.

6.  Action Words.   Develop your content using verbs and an active voice. Your call-to-action must have a verb.  Bryan Eisenberg gives us  unwritten internet rules that apply to hyperlinks.

7.  Readability.  Your copy must be formatted for maximum skimming and scanning.  Difference between the two?   According to Merriam Webster:

  •         Skim  to read, study, or examine superficially and rapidly; to glance through (as a book) for the chief ideas or the plot;
  •         Scanto glance from point to point of often hastily, casually, or in search of a particular item <scan the want ads looking for a job>.

To help your visitors skim or scan be sure your content easy to read, is direct, and conversational.  They should include:

Headlines – fit on one line but define the message on your page.
Subheadings – continuation of the heading and visually separating information.
Bolding – use for significant and crucial information. (Test by reading them as the only text on the page. Do they hold a message?)
Bullets – pull out anything out of a paragraph than can be listed and situate them with bullets.

8. Credibility. Aside from a killer “about me” page can you substantiate your claims? Does the visitors to your site have immediate trust in you because of your credibility?  Do they feel confident in you first before they establish if your book will fill their need?  These are questions to ask yourself.

Bottom Line: Does your copy and content on your landing page persuade your visitor to follow the scent trail?

I’d love to hear your comments.

Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews  of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity  and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.


Posted on May 8, 2011, in Publicity & Writing, Social Media, Writing & Publishing. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Could you provide your readers with some sample author websites that meet your guidelines?

  2. Many thanks Irene. This editorial was most stimulating and helpful.

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