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“HIDDEN” COPY ON YOUR WEB SITE

Copywriting Opportunities That Fall Between the Cracks

To separate yourself from your competition, your site should tell a compelling story with your own, unique voice. Since your story is constantly evolving, it’s a good idea to review your site every 3 – 6 months and see if your copy is still fresh. Like Chinese takeout lurking behind the milk, “hidden” copy can get moldy far from the light of day.

So, what is this “hidden” copy? Maybe you read over your home page occasionally, but when was the last time you completed your own contact form? Bought something from your own store? Signed up for your own newsletter? Each of these interactions generates a dialog with your visitors. This is the copy that you can’t easily see.

What’s the conversation that you’re having with your visitors when you’re not around? What text greets visitors after they’ve completed your contact form? What’s the tone of your autoresponder? What does the email confirmation say after someone has placed an order?

These are perfect opportunities to strengthen the relationship between you and your customer. You can choose to hold this conversation in your own voice, or in the all-purpose, generic, default text written by a programmer who created this form years ago. I work with programmers regularly and I can tell you that they are talented…at programming. However, they are not copywriters anymore than I’m a swimsuit model. (So I’ve learned…the hard way.)

Take some time today and do the following:

  • Test your contact forms. Try submitting your forms without completing the required fields. What does the “form error” page say? How would you say the same thing? Then try submitting the form correctly. Review the “thank you” page with the same questions in mind. If you have an autoresponder, be sure to look at that as well.
  • Don’t forget about your other online forms. Do you have an “Email This Article to a Friend” form? A “Recommend This Site” form? When was the last time you read the “marketing message” that gets sent with these emails?
  • Buy something from the online store. Was the process confusing? Could it be made clearer through better copy? What did the email receipt say? If it reads like every other receipt you’ve ever received, maybe you can make it stand out with your own voice.
  • Sign up for your email newsletter…again. You may need to get a free email account at Yahoo! or Hotmail, or you can unsubscribe then resubscribe using your current email address. “Listen” to the voice in the confirmation and welcome messages. Is this your voice? Purposely go to a missing page on your site. You can do this by going to www.yourdomain.com/asdf. What does this 404 error message say? Could you say it better?
  • Rewrite ALL of this “hidden” copy in your own voice. If you don’t say “Greetings and salutations!” in person, don’t say it in an autoresponder.

Your copy is how your visitors come to know you. Whether your “hidden” copy has become stale, irrelevant, or was never appropriate, it’s time to make it consistent with the rest of your site, and to say it in your own voice.

If you have any questions or comments about this article, please contact us.

–Rich Brooks

President, flyte new media

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