Plain Thoughts Blog

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The hunt for great web marketing copy

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By peterurban - January 16th, 2009

Writing website and marketing copy for an online audience can be tricky. I am always on the lookout for website copy and design that “works.” The problem is, when I read something I like, I often struggle to articulate exactly what qualities and formula cause me to like it in the first place. This is likely because different strategies work for different messages, and each company in order to stand out must come up with its own unique “flavour” of web copy that helps their website stand out amidst the competition.

I figure, though, that there must be some basic know-how for web marketing copy that don’t come simply from practice and meticulous revision. Over the next few weeks I’d like to explore the web in search of online marketing copy dos and don’ts to share with you.

To begin, simply Google-ing “how to write web marketing copy” (yeah, I’m original) comes up with tons of great hits, both from blogs and from actual web-writing sites. One that caught my attention was the article “The Disgustingly Simple Rule for Web Writing That’s Awfully Hard to Swallow” that I found at www.copyblogger.com.

The point of the article is that web content needs to be “simple, succinct, and scannable,” because web browsers have high standards for use-ability and interface, and very little patience for clunky web design. The author encourages simplicity, arguing that web copywriters should economize on every word and phrase. No space or time can be wasted!

I completely agree, but part of the article’s reasoning for this emphasis on minimalism I take issue with: that online copy is somehow anti-intellectual. When it comes to web 2.0 marketing, I think “anti-intellectual” is an incredibly out-dated and unfitting sentiment. Many web 2.0 browsers are clever professionals with fast-paced jobs and, accordingly, fast-paced demands. I maintain that the “keep it simple” maxim stands for web copy, but this new body of online professionals demand something more from web copy. Its the something more I find difficult to describe, whether its a particularly well-tailored message, or perhaps even the voice of the copy (by which I mean, its personalized sound and feel).

So, I don’t think “clear and concise” is the whole story, nor would I agree that web copy is in any way “anti-intellectual.” Next week, I want to look at some successful web copy and try to pin down some more precise “dos.”

In the meantime, do you have any ideas about what the “magic formula” entails?

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