Want to save money on the creation of your website?
Then begin with your website text and learn how to trim it down so it needs fewer pages to get your point across.
In this article I’m going to share some copywriting guidelines we gave a client that enabled her to reduce her site from an original three pages down to a single page. Single-page sites, also known as one-pagers, have become very popular with small businesses, but the tips I’m going to give here will apply even if you need lots more pages. Following these guidelines will not only make your text shorter, it will also make it far more attention-grabbing for site visitors (leading to more sales).
It’s not about you – it’s about the customer
The main belief you have to break is that your website is about telling the visitor who you are and what you do. Instead, you’ve got to think in terms of what the visitor is looking for.
They aren’t looking for the best-qualified psychologist or dentist or architect. They are looking for someone who can help them get over a breakup or fix their daughter’s crooked teeth or design a home that is energy-efficient and affordable. In other words, they are looking for a solution to a specific problem or need.
If you show that you can address their problem in the first seven seconds of their eyes alighting on your home page, they’ll continue reading and will become curious about who you are and your qualifications.
So what does that mean for your website text?
It means you spend some time on getting very clear about what you are offering and what need or problem you are addressing. When we put this together into a neat formulation, we get what’s known as a value proposition.
The value proposition
The value proposition is a short statement that describes what you are offering and the problem you are solving (though the problem might be implied rather than stated directly). It might also say who you are offering it to and what benefits it holds for the customer.
Think of the value proposition as a headline and usually also a subheading that sits right at the top of the page and gives the visitor an immediate impression of your offering.
For example, it can be tempting to start your text saying something like:
I am an editor with over 25 years’ experience editing books for both traditional publishers and independent authors. My certification by the Chartered Institute of Editors and Proofreaders (CIEP) and Professional-level membership of the SA Editors’ Guild confirm my ability to work on a wide variety of projects to the highest professional standards.
This gives a lot of information – but does it address the client’s needs? Very few authors are looking for editors certified by the CIEP, if they even know what that is. What they are looking for is someone who can help get their book into shape. So let’s try rework this as a value proposition:
Copy Editing & Manuscript Development
For authors needing text editing and writing support through all stages of the creative journey
Here’s another example of a good value proposition using a different formulation:
Is Your Child Struggling at School?
Introduce them to fun and transformative play therapy with child development expert Mary Ainsworth
This value proposition takes immediate aim at the problem by asking a question and promises a solution that will be fun and transformative. Who wouldn’t go for that?
Creating a value proposition takes a bit of work, but it will help focus your text and show you what information is non-essential and can be dumped (thus reducing the size of your site and saving money).
OK, you’ve wrestled your value proposition into some kind of shape – so what’s next?
Immediately under the value proposition you can provide a short introduction that fleshes out the value proposition a bit or gives an overview of your offerings. This can be as short as a paragraph or two. Keep it focused on the customer and their needs rather than on you and your credentials.
For an example of a simple value proposition followed by a short customer-focused intro, see www.vassenaccountants.co.za. (All websites mentioned in this article have been designed by us.)
Your products and services
Under the intro you can start giving more detailed information about your offerings. If you have a lot of detail that needs to be put on a separate Products/Services page (or several pages), you could give just the headlines and short description of each item on the Home page and then link from these to the pages where they are discussed in full (see my website www.writercoach.co.za).
If you have simpler offerings, consider reducing the product descriptions to just the essentials so it can all fit on one long page. Here’s a good example: www.jainehannath.co.za
Once the site visitor has satisfied themselves that you have what they’re looking for, they will be curious about who you are and your qualifications. This is where you can provide a brief bio about you or your company and state any qualifications or experience that is relevant. Speak about yourself as “I” or “we” rather than “he” or “she”.
More content-reduction strategies
The structuring advice I’ve just given can help you focus your text and cut unnecessary information. But what else can you do to keep things short and engaging?
Reduce excessive formality and jargon
A common mistake is to be so formal with your text it ends up reading like a CV. Your clients are real people with problems and things they need, so you want to come across as someone who understands their situation and can provide helpful solutions.
Tip: You’ll know you’re being too formal if you are just listing qualifications or you are peppering the text with jargon terms that don’t really mean very much. Take a look at this line:
We offer unprecedented levels of service excellence and pride ourselves in our fast and efficient customer service.
That’s using quite a lot of words to say not very much at all. Let’s try rephrasing it so we get more personal and concise while offering real information:
We take your feedback seriously and will respond to your enquiries within 24 hours.
Treat the visitor as a person, not as an object
Address the site visitor as “you” rather than as “the client” or “the customer”. Your website readers are people with real needs and vulnerabilities, so they want to be addressed as individuals (“you”) rather than as objects. When you make a personal connection like this it triggers an inner “yes” that makes it more likely they will buy from you.
Does the following line speak to you as a customer or does it seem a bit distant?
We strive to meet our clients’ needs for excellence in tax advice.
I think that’s wasy too formal and emphasises what the company does rather than what the client wants. Let’s rephrase so it’s more concise and personal:
We’ll help you pay less tax and grow your business.
When you rework your text to address the reader like this, you will often find that you naturally reduce vagueness, jargon and excess verbiage.
The guidelines I’ve just outlined will help you reduce the amount of text you need while also making it more appealing to the site visitor. It can be tricky getting the text and value proposition just right, so if you find yourself getting stuck, just contact us and get us to write it for you.