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Website content… How to engage, persuade and convert

How long does it take to make an impression on your website visitor? I don't want to depress you or anything but... 5 seconds.

Yep, you have 5 seconds. The average internet user has the attention span of a gnat. An impatient, peevish gnat with better things to do.

In those 5 seconds they're looking for any excuse whatsoever to leave your website - itching like a bear in spring to hit the back button. The fact is, they're being constantly distracted...

... by other things. And some of those things will be your competitors' websites.

So how do you engage your reader in those crucial 5 seconds? Well, there's one magic word.

YOU

It's all about you (well... them, actually)

Forget about your business philosophy, your high-end clients, the awards you've won and all that hard-won experience. There is only one thing that interests your reader. Themselves.

Make it all about them, not you. Write - and talk - to just one reader. Address them directly with the words `you' and `your'. Imagine you're having a conversation with a customer over a cup of coffee. You wouldn't go on about yourself, would you?

Be friendly, ask the odd question. And give your reader some benefits.

What's that? Benefits you say? Yes, benefits.... not features.

Features vs benefits

It's probably easier if I give you an example. Here's some copy for a Philips hand blender that I nicked off the internet.

The Philips HR1363 hand blender offers a 600W motor, double action stainless steel blade, turbo button, anti-splash guard and detachable plastic handle. It features a 0.5 litre beaker with lid and soft-touch trip and buttons.

Do we care? No we do not. Because it's all features. So I rewrote it to include some real-life benefits. Here 'tis...

The Philips HR1363 hand blender allows you to chop, puree and blend with ease. Its powerful 600W motor, double action blades and anti-splash guard mean you can prepare delicious, healthy food in seconds with no splashes or mess.

See what I mean? It's the same blender - but now it makes life easier and healthier. It saves you time and hassle. And it stops you splattering food all over the kitchen.

OK, you probably don't sell blenders... But the principles are the same. Stand directly in your customer's shoes. Why do they need you? What's worrying them? Understanding their needs, concerns, objections and preconceptions will build trust. Show you can help. If your website visitor has a particular need, provide for it. If they have a problem, solve it.

Now, here's something else you might find interesting...

The F-shape

Back in 2006, a Danish user-experience researcher called Jakob Nielsen carried out an evidence-based study on web users. He got 232 people to read thousands of websites, eye-tracking each of them to discover how they scanned the pages. This is what he found…

Squint a bit and focus on the red areas. You’ll see that web content is scanned in the shape of an F.

Why is this important? Actually, it's crucial. Put your most sellable benefits in the first two short, snappy paragraphs and your reader will notice them. Then allow for the vertical downward scan with bullet points.

If every page of your content mirrors the F-shape, casual internet browsers will feel instantly comfortable when they land anywhere on your website. They’ll think `Hey, this stuff is really easy to read’. Even if it isn't.

In short, they’ll stick around. And once casual visitors hang around onsite for longer than 30 seconds, they’re significantly more likely to convert to customers. Provided you do one more thing...

Calls to action

Why waste time writing kick-ass content if you don't tell your visitor what to do next? Fail to include a call to action and they won't take action. Make it difficult to contact you and they won't get in touch.

Try and include 2 on each page and wherever possible, put the first one `above the fold'. Keep your CTAs clear, simple and consistent per page - otherwise you'll confuse your visitor. Most importantly, make them very... very... VISIBLE!

That's it for now. But I'm following my own advice - so if you want some help with your content, or you'd like a free website consultation, here's what to do next...