Writing website copy for the right place in the buying cycle

Writing website copy for the right place in the buying cycleMuch as you have to admire the sheer good sense of the evergreen rules of advertising copywriting, we need to ask ourselves if contemporary website copy (as opposed to content, which is different again) should be a little more discriminatory when we sell our wares online.

I was interested to read this article recently by Phil Frost on Web Marketing Today … especially where he says “Your site must grab the prospects’ attention and convince them to buy from you instead of the other available options.”

Of course, Phil is right. But wait a minute…

These days writing website copy isn’t that simple

Needless to say Phil gives some good basic advice, and I agree with it wholeheartedly.

But in my view, these days composing website copy that works is more complex.

Especially (but not exclusively) for a search-dependent business you need to write website copy according to where in the buying cycle the readers are likely to be. And that isn’t always at a point where traditional sales writing techniques are appropriate.

Websites are not just sales vehicles

Perhaps that’s where some web-based businesses get it wrong: they look upon their website as just another advertising medium.

But business websites are so much more than that. They are – and/or need to be – a fund of information for prospects and customers. They need to cater for everyone from the most casual tire-kicker to the hottest of prospects … and not all in the same place.

To work effectively, a website needs to attract a prospect according to where he or she is in the buying cycle to a landing page that’s hooked to their original search, grab his/her attention in a way that’s appropriate for where s/he is in that buying cycle, and then gently lead him/her to the next levels.

Too heavy too soon spooks them – and you lose them

In recent months I have had the honour to work with a search expert, Matt Lambert, and have learned more from him and his colleagues about writing for web-based sales copy than I learned in 900 years of writing ads of the linear nature.

There are hundreds of useful points of subtlety I could share here on how to write website copy that works in this dimension, all learned from Matt, but there is one overall pointer that really is worth emphasizing…

Don’t just sell with website copy: help to buy, too

It’s a frightening thought, but it’s true: if you lean on prospects too early in your website copy – spring the call to action on them too soon – you run a very real risk of sending them running off towards your nearest competitor who does  understand how to write for them at each stage of the buying cycle.

If your website has been breathed on by an expert like Matt you will know at which point in the buying cycle which readers land where.

You can then write the copy for the appropriate landing page so you help those readers on to the next stage of the buying process (which you hope will be from your company).

And that means you can adjust appropriately the words you use in your text.

If not selling copy, what?

We all know that web-based communication is about information, and that’s what you need to bear in mind.

Not the information you  want to convey, necessarily, but the information readers want to know at whatever stage of the buying cycle they find themselves in.

And that means writing words that, OK – don’t show your products or services in a bad light, of course – but that show readers how you are expert enough, and magnanimous enough, to give them accurate and unbiased facts about what they are seeking.

Providing pure information as website copy to support a sales-orientated site is useful in a number of ways, e.g.:

It answers the questions readers have in their minds (and you know what those are likely to be if you have the right research to use).

It guides readers to the next level of the buying cycle because it helps them to figure out what they want and need.

It reassures readers that you are experts in your field and that they can trust you, especially because you’re not trying to pressurize them into buying from you.

So when does the sales copy come in?

In my view – and I would be interested to know Phil’s view on this – the more traditional approach to sales copy is valuable later in the buying cycle  when readers are comfortable that they are about to make the right choice.

Of course I’m not suggesting that we abandon sales-driven website copy: merely that we use it in harness with the more factual information which can – ironically – help sell our products and services almost as much as the former type.

What do you think?

Does selling via a website require only the proven ad copy techniques that have been around for a long time?

Or does it need a blend of that along with more informational writing to help people buy?

Please share your views!


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  1. […] today often we’re looking at very different things that our message must achieve according to where in the buying cycle customers and prospects are when they receive it, so we need to refine our message […]