Web Page Writing Tip: Your Customers Are Chickens
As you well know by now, I learn a lot about writing for the natural health market from watching my animals here on the farm. Well, here’s a lesson for web writing taken right from my nice little flock of chickens.
You can find more invaluable insights into writing for the web in Nick Usborne’s Million Dollar Secrets to Online Copywriting course. I turn to it again and again as I write.
Nick is probably one of the longest-running copywriters on the web. But what he offers is more than just a lot of years of experience. He also offers keen insight into how people think and behave. And he’s a fantastic teacher.
I highly recommend you get a copy of his course for yourself.
Around midday I let my chickens out after most of them are done laying. (We don’t like easter egg hunts every afternoon.) Inevitably, one hen hangs behind to do her business in the quiet of the recently vacated coop.
But the quiet does not last for long. As soon as she has laid her egg, she lets out a triumphant/shocked cackle announcing her deed/discovery.
From the other side of the yard, wherever the flock has found some good scratching, the rooster turns towards the coop and lets out an answering call. And then for the next five or ten minutes, a game of chicken Marco Polo ensues. The hen tries to reunite with the rest of the flock by calling out to the rooster and navigating according to his response . . .
Hen, cackling desperately: “Where are you?!”
Rooster, in a slightly panicked, hiccupping sort of call: “Over here!”
“Where are you?!”
Listening to this, watching the hen walking tentatively towards the sound of the rooster, craning her neck as she looks from side to side, you begin to understand where the Chicken Little story came from. This whole episode lingers on the edge of panic. The hen is desperate to find the flock. But she is at the same time ready to turn and sprint back to the coop at the slightest hint of danger. And the rooster seems equally flustered . . .
Finally she gets to the latest foraging spot and peace returns to the yard.
Well, despite our bigger brains, us humans act much like these chickens when it comes to surfing the web. And key to getting traffic to stay on your website – and ultimately convert – is to get your visitors to stop panicking . . . relax . . . and start scratching around contentedly.
What do I mean by this?
People are busy, eager to get their task done on the internet. When they do a search on Google and choose a page from the search results to visit, they really don’t want to waste any time. They’re only going to spend about 3 seconds scanning your first web page to figure out if it’s where they want to be. If it’s not, they’ll click away.
Just like the scatter-brained hen, your web visitors are letting out a constant stream of cackling in their mind of “Is this the right place?!”
Your job is to let out a constant reassurance – just like friend Rooster: “Yes, you’re on the right track. Keep going.”
So what can you do on your website to make sure they feel like they’ve come to the right spot?
I just had a good hour-long interview with Scott Kincaid and Tom Cherry from Usability Sciences about usability issues. Usability Sciences works with companies large and small to make sure their websites are visitor-friendly. Many of their pointers were about assuring visitors that they will find what they are looking for on your website.
Chicken Little Reassurance Step 1:
The first, most important thing is to make sure you know who your visitors are. Look at your web analytics and see what search terms visitors are using when they come to your site. Look at your website’s internal search data and see what people are looking for and where they leave.
Then go a little deeper. Have someone outside of your business test your site.
Usability Science has a whole systematized way for doing this – and 30 years experience in getting at how well your site is working for visitors.
But Kincaid says that even if you don’t use expert help, you can still get a lot of valuable insights just by getting an opinion on your website from someone outside of your business. Ask your jogging partner or your neighbor. Have them visit your site in your presence and give them a task to do. Have them tell you what words they’re looking for and what words confuse them when they first come onto the home page.
Can they easily find the right route – page click to page click – that gets them to where they want to go? Are they finding the information they need? What barriers come up as they try to get through your site?
Your analytics and this third-party opinion should give you a clear picture of who your visitor is, what language they’re expecting and what they’re hoping to accomplish on your website.
Now you need to assure them that they can get their task accomplished easily on your site.
Chicken Little Reassurance Step 2:
Start with the home page. “The home page design can be an enormous factor toward the success of the site,” Kincaid said. “This is the starting point for visitors’ browsing, searching and really aligning their personal needs with the mission of the site.”
- Make sure you identify you website – what your company is about in a brief phrase or tagline on the top left hand side of each page. This is the spot where people look first when they come to a website and this is the primo spot to let them know they’re in the right spot.
- Provide clear options for next steps for what they can do from your home page. And make them action-oriented directives. Most websites have the directive “Shop” and some have a clear option, “Learn”. But if your visitors are coming to a more specific landing page or your website is more narrowly focused, make these directives more specific: “Find the best multivitamin for you” or ” See how magnesium can make a difference in your health.
- Double-check your language throughout your text: Are you using words that your prospects are using? This is more than good for SEO. Are you explaining terms and using accessible language so your prospects feel comfortable on your site?
- Use bullets and bolded subheads to make it easy for visitors to scan through your page and figure out what your website is about.
Keep these four points in mind throughout your website.
Chicken Little Reassurance Step 3
Look for different ways to assure shoppers that it’s okay to shop here.
- Do you have testimonials or reviews posted demonstrating that other people have been happy buying from you?
- Do you have customer service contact info posted prominently so people can get questions answered, returns processed easily, etc.?
- Do you have icons that indicate you’re a safe shopping site like BBBonline?
- Do you offer a clear guarantee and return policy?
Put these three steps into play and your panicked chickens – ehem, I mean visitors – will be scratching contentedly on your site.
If you’d like some copywriting help in making your website user-friendly . . . and keeping your flock of visitors from scattering . . . please consider my services. You can contact me at Sarah@healthwriterclachar.com. I look forward to hearing from you.
Again, I highly recommend Nick’s course on writing for the web to give you more specifics on copywriting for good usability.
You can find out more about what’s working on nutrition company websites by reading my latest Nutrition Business Journal article on ecommerce in NBJ’s May 2009 Direct Selling issue. Go to www.nutritionbusinessjournal.com to subscribe.