Say More With Less (How to Write Engaging Website Copy)

man reading a guide to seo for storybrand websites on his phone

If you are like most business owners, you own a product you love and you are proud of it.

You know people will become loyal customers for life—if they will only try your product. And so you talk it up and down and give lots of testimonials and 150 reasons why this product or service is the next best thing since sliced bread.

Blogs, email sequences, website copy (FYI, “copy” is another way of saying “content” or “words”). Words, words, words. —All in an effort to get your potential customer to realize their need for your product or service.

Meanwhile, people are leaving your site in droves. Leaving your emails unopened. Leaving your blogs unread.

Why?

As someone who is both a therapist and an Executive Coach, I listen to a lot of people. Do you know what the vast majority of them do in terms of their communication?

They ramble.

They use 1000 words, where 100 would do.

And, honestly, when I’m listening to a client in a therapy session, this is just fine. Even in a coaching session, it’s not a problem, other than time = money. But in advertising and communication about your product? Not good.

Instead of reading 100 words, your web viewers have to wade through 1000 while they try to figure out what you’re saying. This requires your readers’ brains to burn more calories to get your meaning.

The problem is, our brains don’t want to burn calories. So they check out.

Which means those 1000 words you wrote aren’t getting through to your readers and aren’t helping you sell your product.

My question to you is this: Can you say more in your website copy with less?

Keep what you need, get rid of the rest

I think the “say more with less” idea can take a lesson from simple minimalism. Basically, it says: keep what you need, get rid of what you don’t.

Erik Deckers, in his blog post Fewer Words, Greater Impact: How to Write Like a Minimalist, wrote:

“One myth people have about minimalism is that it means going without. A minimalist washes dishes by hand instead of using a dishwasher. A minimalist owns four dishes, instead of 12 full place settings, plus a set of China. A minimalist has very little furniture, and their rooms are nearly empty.

“That’s not minimalism. That’s spartan living. There’s a difference.

“A minimalist doesn’t have very much stuff, but they make sure that what they have does the most and is the best they get.

“Just like a minimalist chooses the things that mean the most to him or her, minimalist writers choose the best words laden with the deepest, richest meaning they can find.”

What I am encouraging you to do here in reference to your business, website copy and email sequences is to use the best words (and fewest) you can find.

For a website, we can narrow that down to three things:

1. What is the problem your product or service solves?

2. How does it solve that problem?

3. How does it make your customers’ lives better?

I feel like (perhaps due to SEO) everyone has created so much blah, blah blah in their marketing. We are tired of it. This is what has created (or at least contributed to) skimming.

According to High-Level Marketing: “A popular rumor floating around is that blog posts & web pages need to be at least 300 words long to appeal to search engines. This is not true.”

High-Level Marketing gives a list of 14 things which are important for SEO, but excessive word length is not one of them.

When my kids were little, I used to play this game with them (which drove them CRAZY). I used to ask them to tell me about the movie they had just seen or a dream they had in 2-3 sentences.

I think this came about because years prior to me having children, I was trapped once by a 12-year-old who spent forty-five minutes telling me the plot of a movie. He never took a breath, but just kept talking. I was miserable and felt trapped.

I would never listen that long for a product.

There is this rude, impatient person inside me who is saying: Get to the point!

I don’t think I’m so different from most people.

So how do we get to the “less”?

Edit. Trim. Remove.

Stephen King, in his book On Writing, says between draft one and two, you should remove about 10% of your writing. This is a good rule for copy-writing as well.

With your website copy, you should remove close to 50%.

Remove (and replace) long gangly sentences with shorter ones. Get rid of larger words. Remove extemporaneous “that’s,” “very’s,” “like’s.”

If I were to go back and edit the previous sentence, I’d get rid of “extemporaneous.” I can say exactly the same thing by just saying “remove the …” It doesn’t change the meaning and it makes the sentence more readable. Just because you may possess a good vocabulary, doesn’t mean your reader does.

Having a good vocabulary or proving your intelligence has nothing to do with purchasing your product or service. It doesn’t make people more likely to buy. It makes them more likely to check out.

Here’s another tip: When you read through your writing, whether website copy, an email sequence or blog, look for superfluous and verbose words to remove.

Again, if I were to trim the last sentence I would get rid of both “superfluous” and “verbose” and I would replace them with ”extra.” I don’t need to be redundant—both words mean “extra.”

Another way to remove copy is to get rid of “weak” words.

Neil Patel, in his article Words You Need to Edit Out of Your Blogpost, says there are some weak words, such as “very/really”, “Think/believe/feel” “better/ almost” “amazing”, “maybe/perhaps/always” and “just/ literally” He also advises against the passive voice of “is/am/are/was.”

I literally struggle with this all the time. I think it is almost (well, perhaps always) a way to get really cumbersome in your efforts to be awesome. In the end, using these words just maybe takes your message from better to bad.  : )

Rambling is a copywriting sin

A couple of days ago, I was in a company working with one of the employees who spent an hour telling me something which could have been expressed in 15 minutes.

I let him ramble, partly, because I needed to be able to use his own behavior to illustrate to him how he talks on and on and on. I know most people would not be able to follow his train of thought without a huge effort on their part. Even I was pretty tired listening to all this.

This is what we do in our marketing efforts and in our website copy. We get lost in what we’re saying and go on and on. And, in the process, we lose our readers (and their business).

In one sentence, what does your product do?

In my therapy practice: I help people overcome trauma.

In my coaching practice: I help executives/companies realize their greatness.

At ClearBrand: we help people implement StoryBrand correctly so they make more money.

What does your company do? In one sentence.

It’s difficult to get it trimmed down, but the clarity is enormously useful to your clients.

It is important to be brief.

Our businesses are too important to risk losing people with our boring monologues. Your customers will leave your website without buying. They’ll put your emails in the trash. They won’t buy from you.

But when you say more with less, people stick with you and understand what you do. They give you the opportunity to talk to them. And they buy from you.

In Brief

If you look at the word count of this blog, I’ve already topped well over 1000 words.

How could I say this in less than 100?

People’s time and attention are valuable. If you truly want to serve them:

  • Be clear
  • Be concise
  • Show them how you can serve them in your website copy and email sequences
  • Make it easy for them to buy from you

 

Keep them engaged, but don’t blah blah blah them. That’s it.

To your success,

Miriam

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