A reason behind websites that fail is the lack of an effective direct response sales message that’s comprised of three things: it must be
1) captivating,
2) riveting and
3) engaging.

How can you incorporate those three elements? First, write to be scanned. On the Internet, people are fast-paced, click-happy and easily bored. Break your copy into small paragraphs and lace your copy with many headers with one at every two to three paragraphs.

But once you’ve captured your readers’ attention, the next step is to keep them reading the copy. Your job is to not only generate interest but also maintain it. The latter is a much harder task.

The debate about long versus short copy is an old one. While long copy is statistically proven to outperform short copy, many of my clients still say that long copy will never be read on the web, and that things online are short and fast. I fervently protest.

Sure, things are short and fast online. But there is a difference between grabbing people’s attention and holding on to it. Keeping readers riveted, hanging on to every word with an intense desire to discover what’s next, is the goal of any direct response copy.

(It sounds the same as reading a story, right? Well, it is.)

Prospects who are genuinely interested in the product you offer always want more information about it, not less. If they are not qualified, no matter how long or short the copy is they will just never buy. They won’t read 15 words, much less 1,500 words.

In my experience, short copy can often result in:

1) a lower response rate due to the lack of information;
2) a barrage of questions from confused or undecided prospects; or
3) a higher level of returns since the product failed to meet expectations.

If long copy yields poor results, it has to do with the copy and not the length. It’s too boring. It didn’t elevate the reader’s level of interest, and it failed to keep her reading.

Of course, writing long copy that engages, entices and entertains the reader is very difficult. (That’s why people hire copywriters like me.) But when it is good, then the reader hangs onto every word and becomes increasingly excited the further she reads it.

Copywriters are storytellers. If your copy tells a compelling story, people will read it. All of it. To illustrate, one day you notice a book at your local bookstore. The cover, title and cover copy pull you into the book. The opening chapter is delectable.

So, you decide to buy the book.

The book is inviting, and the story compels you to read every single page, no matter how big the book is. In fact, the book is so good that you either wish it was bigger or, once finished, are prepared to read it over once more. You just can’t put it down.

But as you read it further, you become confused and slowly begin to lose interest. The plot no longer invites you to keep reading. You drift away and find it harder to continue. Ultimately, you stop, close the book and then shelve it. Copy is no different.

With a riveting story, the reader becomes intimately involved in the plot. They see themselves in the shoes of the characters. To do this, you need what I call “UPWORDS,” which is an acronym for: “Universal picture words or relatable, descriptive sentences.”

“Universal picture words” means mental imagery that help to paint vivid pictures in the mind. Lace your copy with words that engage as many of the senses as possible, and cause prospects to easily visualize already enjoying the benefits of your offer.

“Universal” means to appeal to your audience as a whole. Readers must not only read your copy but also understand, internalize and appreciate it. Remember: different words mean different things to different people. So, use words that can help your message to be interpreted in the same way by the bulk of your readers.

For example, in an effort to explain the importance of initial consultations to their patients, surgeons use analogies, such as: “Like a dentist, I can’t give consultations to you over the phone without any x-rays of your teeth and knowing how many cavities you have.”

Similarly, use analogies, metaphors and examples, including case scenarios. In short, use a language to which prospects can relate and with which they can visualize what you’re trying to describe.

Finally, tell your readers what to do. Be active, not passive. Use action words and active verbs that paint vivid pictures in the mind, too. The more vivid the picture is, the more compelling your request will be. Don’t be afraid to pull out your Thesaurus!

For example, you’re a financial consultant. Rather than, “Poor fiscal management leads to financial woes,” say, “stop mediocre money management from sucking cash straight out of your wallet!”

People can visualize the action of “sucking” better than they can “leading.” Here’s another example. Instead of, “Let me consult you on how to maintain your balance sheet,” say, “borrow my eyes to help you keep a steady finger on your financial pulse.”

Posted by Charles Yarbrough

Charley has been working as a webmaster since 1998. Since then, he has had his hands in thousands of websites and has helped millions get online through a company he partially owns called Web Host Pro.

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