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Wednesday, January 31st, 2007

An Interview With Expert Web Copywriter Scott Smith

 

It is my pleasure to introduce to you Scott Smith, partner at CopyWriting.Net and copy writing guru. Before you read any further, however, I want to give you a heads up that this is not a normal article from StepForth. This is an unedited interview written in a very personal style. In other words, this is not the normal condensed knowledge that my staff and I try to put out every week. That said, I really wanted to introduce you to Scott because I feel his copywriting skills are top of the line and either his services or his tips may help you shore up your bottom line. If you want to get in touch with Scott Smith he is best contacted by email.

What is web copywriting and why is StepForth Placement publishing an article about it? The fact is web copywriting is a perfect mate with search engine optimization and this has been the case ever since SEO became a reality. After all, as an SEO it is abundantly clear to me that getting people to your website serves no purpose unless they can be converted into sales; which is where a great copywriter comes in. An expert web copywriter like Scott Smith has the talent to change your website into a sales machine while search engine optimization services and other forms of online marketing drive the convertible viewers.

So, without further adieu, here is my unedited interview with Scott Smith. Be sure to take notes because Scott let some great tips escape in response to my questions.

Ross: “So tell me Scott, what is web copy writing?”

Scott: Just this: words power the Web and Internet. The Web is the graphical interface of the ‘Net, where we actually see what’s going on in the inky blackness of cyberspace. But when you scrape away all the flashiness of presentation, it still boils down to what is being said. Which means… WORDS. That’s what search engines read. But more importantly, that’s what human beings read.

So what is web copy writing? Writing for humans 1ST. Writing for spidering search engines always comes in as a close 2nd.

The actual process of web copy writing is much the same as print copy writing, BUT… with its own set of rules.

First thing to remember is that the reader is reading through a cold computer screen. Generally, it’s not very inviting. The world outside the computer screen is much more compelling, and oftentimes a lot more interesting. Heck, it’s most often the comfort of someone’s own home. Which means the first words on the screen – yes, the Headline – had better grab the reader by the scruff of the neck and forcefully pull them in.

Know what? Very often this is against the reader’s will… after all, as the writer you are asking – no, scratch that, you are demanding that they pay very close attention to what you have to say.

And according to studies by research sites like MarketingExperiments.com, you have less than 30 seconds to interest your reader enough for them to read on. Which means, your headline and opening salvo had better be compelling.

Most copywriters spend a great deal of time writing and rewriting their headlines. I do. Here’s a copywriter’s secret (which if you’ve been online for awhile, is not really a secret at all…): there are entire books for sale containing nothing but great headlines, as well as ‘cheat’ books of great headlines out there in circulation. We use them to jog our creativity. They are great resources when your ‘butt’s to the blade’, as my dear old Dad used to say. FYI, at this point I’ve boiled my own copywriting resource shelf down to only two books: Brian Keith Voiles outstanding ‘Ad Magic’, and Jay Abraham’s ‘Mr. X’ book. For me, these two books say it all for both print and web copy writing.

To wrap it up about web copy writing, you should know this: readers don’t read in linear fashion. Maybe this is obvious to you. After all, they can enter your site at any entry point, via any page or any link.

So how do you deal with this? Simple. Treat every page of your site as a complete entity unto itself. In other words, each page of your site is its own ‘pitch’ if it’s a sales site. If it’s an informational site, each page of your site must offer a complete piece of the puzzle per page PLUS provide an overview of your company.

Be smart. Write each page to be unique. Take the time to do this, and you will be rewarded with more readers. Better search engine positioning. More sales.

One more thing to know about your reader: they won’t read your page from top to bottom. Instead, they will skip around. First, they will read your headline and opening salvo. Then they will jump down the page. Studies show they will often head straight to your pricing, then back up to your bullet points, testimonials, your PS (post script), and then…

They may actually get around to reading your copy from top to bottom.

Don’t be frustrated by this. As you can see, the real difference between print copy writing and web copy writing is the ‘modular’ concept. As the writer, you are forced to take a modular approach to the writing. Because of the reader. And, sometimes because of the designer. A designer will do the most interesting things to your copy. After all, this is their job. And a good SEO will often take your copy and go one step further to give you a boost with the search engines.

No problem. Go modular, be as brilliant as you can be in each facet of your copy, and you cannot help but succeed.

Ross: “What is the biggest mistake you see in other people’s web copy?”

Scott: Every business has their own culture, but what I’m about to say applies to each and every one. We’ve had the privilege over the years to work with some of the largest companies and campaigns in the world, as well as with one-person shops and brand-new startups. We’ve experienced enormous success at every level, and we’ve also been in on failures. So we can speak from experience here.

This is what I see.

The biggest mistake on the web, in the web copy, is not being personal. It doesn’t matter if you are a mega-corporation, or a billionaire. And it doesn’t matter if you are a tiny little shop trying to come across as an established big business. You MUST be personal.

I’d even go so far as to say… go “belly to belly”. The Internet is such a cold medium. You have to melt the frost. Taking this step with your copy is key.

Be personal. Go belly to belly. Don’t be afraid to ‘tip your hat and reveal yourself’. We all have warts, bumps and bruises.

Then roll up your sleeves and write the very best copy you can. Plan to rough draft it without being too critical. Sleep on it. Then, plan on being very critical indeed with each module of your copy. Buff and polish every single one. Your copy is organic and alive. Write and rewrite. Write and write, and…

Web copy is never done, another wonderful difference it has from print copy writing. You can easily go back and rewrite. And you should. Testing various elements is easy. Simply test a single element at a time.

And remember to keep it personal.

>> Continue Reading this Interview

by Ross Dunn - CEO StepForth Placement Inc.


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