The Conversion Chronicles, resources for improving your online conversion rates

How Knowing What NOT To Say and Show In Your Web Copy Boosts Results

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Writers spend a lot of time staring at the blinking cursor... wondering what to say.

This is especially true when copywriters start working with Internet marketers. After all, it's a new medium. Don't we have to find whole new things to say to reach the new market?

Here's the surprise...

Just as it's true in print direct marketing and poetry, economy of words can be your greatest ally.

That is, sometimes knowing what NOT to say or show when you create copy for the web is actually the greater way to get results.

Let me share a couple of ideas that illustrate what I mean...


The "B
linders and Clydesdales" Principle:

Why is it so important to leave other people's links off of your homepage? Think of the Clydesdale (Shire Horses for the Brits among you). You know Clydesdales. They're those massive horses that pull everything from old time fire engines to Budweiser beer carts.

They're powerful and large. They've got a big mop of hair hanging over each hoof. And almost always, you seem them wearing a blinder.

Blinders are the black flaps that cover part of the horse's eyes while he pulls the cart. They keep the horses focused on the road ahead. Without them, where does a distracted Clydesdale go? Your guess is as good as mine. But I'm thinking... anywhere he wants.

And it's the same with your average web surfer. They also have all the power to stay or go, move forward or away. What you, as the copywriter, are hoping is that they'll apply all that power to plowing forward through your carefully crafted promo copy.

What you desperately want, in effect, is for them to keep their eyes focused tightly on the road ahead...
following it straight to the button that says "click here to order."

Here's the thing...

Too many Internet advertisers try to create the ultimate "surfing" experience. You want to write the copy that creates the "anti-surfing" experience. As they move through your emails... your homepage...
and your online sales letters... you want their undivided attention.

And that's where the blinder analogy comes in. Links elsewhere are distractions. Remove the links, and you're that much more likely to keep the prospect's eyes staring straight ahead. Hopefully, to your order page.

The Disappearing Website

One of the great misconceptions about getting a
business onto the Internet is the idea that your
website becomes your calling card... or that it has
to impress so much that your customers will talk
about the website even when they're not logged on.

This leaves web owners so pre-occupied over the look and feel of their sites, that they miss the true
lesson. Which is that the best websites don't call
attention to themselves. Instead, they call attention
to the sales message they're meant to convey.

To paraphrase a David Ogilvy example, if your
customers look at your homepage and say "Wow, what a website!" then you're doing something wrong. But if they look and say, "Wow, what a product"... you're on the right track.

Blocking Pigeonholes

Picture yourself landing on a webpage or getting an
unexpected email in your inbox. How long does it take for you to decide to read on?

Typically, no more than a split-second. This is
because the human brain is designed to categorize
quickly, based on initial -- if partial -- information. Just a little evidence is enough to make
a decision. And then, into the pigeonhole it goes.

This one's a spam... that one is news to read
later... this website has no substance... this
other one pulls me in... and so on. It only takes a
glance. Unless, that is, you're careful about closing
off those pigeonholes very early in game.

One of the ways to do this is with a technique called

"Indirection" is to approach your reader in ways that
surprise him. To approach him in a way he doesn't
expect. Websites and ezines, for instance, are
natural places to try out indirection techniques.
Because you're often writing about the same themes over and over. And before long, it's handy to have many different inroads to the same idea.

The Golden Password Principle

In nightlife hotspots like Manhattan and Miami,
nightclub owners figured out that the harder it was
to get in, the more desirable the club. So they
started draping their doors with a velvet cord.
Patrons line up; the club bouncer looks them over. If
they pass inspection, the cord is lifted and the
patron goes inside.

In print direct response, marketers get the same
effect by selling "membership" in private clubs of
their own. The more exclusive the feel of the offer,
the more alluring it is. Research shows that the fear
of missing out and the desire to be included are
strong motivators when it comes to buying behavior.

Online, it's no different. Private access has a
powerful allure. And the technological perks of the
Web give you, the online marketer, and a few
brilliant ways to duplicate the "club membership"

Try inviting your prospects to join a club that
offers private email alerts... special interest
discussion boards and article archives...
subscription-based membership in a private website where only members can log in to pick up special reports, software downloads, new graphics, and more.

Give club membership a feel of prestige. Make it
official, with certification, a password, and the
whole enchilada. It's easy for your average online
surfer to quit a newsletter or a discussion group.
But it's harder for him to quit a full-fledged

See what I mean? I'm sure you do.
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John FordeAuthor: John Forde, Editor - The CopyWriters Round Table

John Forde is editor of the Copywriter's Roundtable, a published writer, and has been a direct mail copywriter since 1992. John currently works from an office in Paris. You can sign up for his free weekly e-letter, the Copywriter's Roundtable, at