Hype vs Passion: Perfectly Judged Web Copy

Hype-filled website copy

Copywriters face a common conundrum: how do you inject copy with energy and excitement without it reading like a horrible heap of hype?

I’ve been reading around, trying to work out exactly what makes powerful copy that excites people but doesn’t turn them off with the ripe stench of fraud.

Copy that’s redolent of hype makes readers lose trust – and when trust is lost, so too are sales.

It seems that the factors that influence whether copy reads like hype or not can be easily categorised:

The Good Stuff

You can grab attention and get people thinking about your products by telling them captivating stories, or by painting a picture with words.

Powerful words also help your messages to leap from the page and smack your reader in the face. (Powerful words are difficult to quantify, because it depends very much on their context. And many ‘powerful’ words are overused – which dilutes their power. But any word that carries energy or powerful connotations in the context that you’re using them in can be considered powerful.)

Clichés will never be powerful – so avoid them.

The Bad Stuff

Energy becomes hype when you use exclamation marks too much!!! See?

Copy that has loads of energy but no evidence to reinforce claims made is prime hype material. If you want to shout about something that’s amazing, make sure you back up those claims with evidence (authentic testimonials, client names etc).

Unrealistic claims. Don’t exaggerate. If a product could theoretically make a person a million dollars in a minute, but real people had only managed to earn a hundred dollars in a week, don’t be tempted to trade on the potential power of the product. Keep it real!

How to Do More on the Web – A Few Ideas

How to Sell More on the Web:

A Thoughtful Approach to Crafting Success

This guide isn’t just about selling more on the web: it’s about achieving your goals, whatever they are.

That might mean selling tickets to your gigs, or getting donations for your charity, or building support for your big idea. Whatever you’re trying to do, the principles and ideas covered will apply to you. Just bend the suggestions until they make sense for you.

Good websites are full of people’s ideas. Anything worthwhile needs a bit of brain-space. As soon as you start thinking about your website your chances of success increase dramatically. Most websites suck and fail because they are designed and built in haste and then left to gather dust. Always view your website as an evolving work in progress.

If you get stuck, and can’t find a way to progress, email leif@kendallcopywriting.co.uk – if I can spare a few minutes I’ll think about your conundrum.

This guide should answer questions like:

  • Why doesn’t anyone visit my website?
  • Why do people come to my website, but never buy anything?
  • What can I do to create interest around my website?

Who is this for?

This guide is designed to help anyone with a website. If you’re a very experienced website creator/owner/manager then this guide might not offer anything new. But if your website doesn’t do a lot, then you might find a few useful ideas.

Success Doesn’t Have to Lead You to Evil

Selling more things, or recruiting more donors, or persuading people that your scheme is brilliant does not need to involve under-hand tactics. Success does not require evil.

If you’re offering something useful then you should let people know. This guide is all about how you can let people know.

Part 1: Thinking about Your Customers

Before you think about your website, you need to think about the people that you created it for: your customers.

  • Who are they?
  • What do they want?
  • Why do they want your products?
  • What can you offer them?
  • Where are they?
  • How can you get in front of them?

Who Are Your Customers?

If you’re going to sell anything to anybody, you’ll need to establish who wants what you’ve got. Are they:

  • Young, old, or in-between
  • Male or female
  • Organised around a niche
  • Highly web-literate or borderline Luddites
  • Pinko liberals or conservatives?

Identify your target audience. Think about who they are. Imagine you are them. Step into their shoes and consider their motivations. Ask yourself:

  • What do I want?
  • What am I trying to achieve?
  • What are my concerns?
  • What would make me happy?

Why Do Your Customers Want Your Products?

Okay, so you know what you’re offering, what it does and why people use it… or do you? Do you really know why people use your things, or engage your services?

You might think you know exactly what people are doing with your stuff, but you might be surprised to learn that people are misusing your products – or that they really just want your services for a reason other than the ones you intended.

Luckily, it’s easy enough to find out what your customers are up to. Just ask them. And you don’t need to set up a survey and harvest reams of data. Just call a few people and have a chat.

A few examples of products that have found unintended uses:


Thanks to the following for their suggestions:





Meeting Your Clients in the Middle

Your products and services might be valued for reasons other than the ones you know about. If people think about your work in different ways to you, address this in your website’s copy.

Related blog post:

Apple’s Honesty Policy

What Can You Offer Your Customers?

Are there other ways you could help your customers? Are there additional products or services that fit with your existing range? What would people like from you? How can you make people’s lives better, easier or more fulfilling?

Don’t just assume that your products and services have to stop where they are now. If there’s something more you can offer – something real, something useful and desirable – then start offering it.

Crafting Your Offer to Match Your Customers

Many businesses decide what they do, then create products and services that they think are required, then offer them for sale. Rarely do businesses ask what is required – what is wanted – and then offer it.

It’s easier to sell the thing that people want, than it is to sell the thing that you need to sell. So if you’re struggling to sell something, consider changing it until it meets people’s needs.

Again, it’s a good idea to spend time talking to your clients. And don’t make it complicated. Just pick up the phone, dial a number, say hi, ask some questions.

Related blog post:

Don’t Treat Your Website Like a Commodity

End of Part 1

That’s it for Part 1. Part 2 will look at your products and services (although really we’ve already thought about this, but in relation to how your customers think about your products and services.) Part 2 is the shortest section.

In Part 3, we’ll explore the aspects of your website that might be failing. This will cover SEO, social media and other wonderful things.

The Absence of Marketing

Oh, and did you notice that I haven’t mentioned marketing ? There’s a good reason for that. Many people in marketing are disreputable,  unlovable rogues who smarm their way through life with slick grins and thin lies. ‘Marketing’ is a word so loaded with negative connotations that I prefer to discuss ‘marketing’ without using the word.

Recent Contributions to Other Blogs

I’ve been a promiscuous blogger! Hope you enjoy the following posts:


Freelance Advisor

Freelance Supermarket

Invisible Copy – Why Your Copy Should Have a Small Ego

Short version

Good copy doesn’t attract attention to itself – it attracts attention to your products and services.

Long version

Occasionally clients expect copy to have some ‘wow’ factor. Perhaps they were expecting poetic, glorious prose. Or perhaps they were expecting copy that their clients would remark upon. Or perhaps they just expected something more sensational.

In most cases, for most organisations, copy should not draw attention to itself. Good copy does not stand out. It draws attention to your organisation, your products and your services. The best copy is like a ninja – it moves silently and people read it without even realising that they’re reading something.

So when you employ a copywriter, or write copy yourself, don’t aim for copy that is loud or spectacular. Aim for copy that communicates clear messages, sinking into the background and focussing attention on you and your offer.

Writing for the Web – A Quick Guide on What to Write and How to Write It

Also available in PDF: Writing for the Web – A Quick Guide on What to Write and How to Write It

Writing for the Web – A Quick Guide on What to Write

and How to Write It

This is a short guide on how to write for websites – designed to give you a few tips and encouraging words to get started writing.

Remember: it’s all about Participation not Perfection

Good writing on the web serves a purpose. Words can inform, inspire, entice or sell. The best web writing would not qualify as great writing in the literary sense. So don’t feel you need to pepper your writing with unusual words or poetic touches. You’ll achieve greater success if you just try to communicate with your audience.

Remembering your reader

Whenever you write, try to keep your reader at the forefront of your mind. Who are they? What do they want? Make sure your writing fulfils their needs.

If you’re writing about a product or service, remember to write about the benefits that those products or services offer. So rather than focusing on features, and writing something like:

Our chain saw blades are made of high-carbon steel

Try to highlight how the features of a product or service translate into benefits to the user or consumer, like this:

“The high-carbon steel blade keeps a sharp edge for longer – allowing you to cut faster and more safely.”

What’s the benefit of benefits?

Imagine you want to buy a lawn mower. What do you really want? Do you want a machine that cuts grass or do you want shorter grass? You really want shorter grass – the machine is just a means to an end. Remember that your readers actually want shorter grass.

Although my examples are based around very physical products, the need to give readers clear benefits applies to all kinds of companies, services and products.

What’s so special about the web?

You need to be aware of the little things that make writing for the web different to writing for print. You can’t just lift your writing from a Word document and expect it to flourish on the web.

Reading from the screen

Reading on screen can be hard on the eyes. You can make it easier:

  • Write in short, simple sentences.
  • Use headings and sub-headings to break up blocks of text.
  • Leave white space between paragraphs

Links – a web of connections

With links, pages on the web can lead visitors anywhere – giving you the power to support your claims, show your sources and share great finds. Don’t forget to add links to your writing wherever appropriate.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

Many people find things on the Internet by searching for them. Google, Yahoo and the other search engines ‘read’ the pages of your website, and direct people to your site if it contains what people are searching for.

It’s important to remember this when writing for your website. What terms might people search for your information with? Make sure you think about the words and phrases other people use when talking about your products and services. Make sure you use these words and phrases in your writing, and in headings and sub-headings.

Remember who you’re writing for

With SEO, it’s easy to get distracted with thoughts of how search engines will interpret your content. While it’s wise to understand the way search engines work, you should always write for people. Focus on what your human audience want to read. If you publish things on the web that are interesting, people will link to your writing. This is a better, more natural approach to SEO.

Getting discovered

If you want people to find your writing, you’ll need to get in front of their eyes. Write comments on other bloggers’ posts, use social media tools like Twitter and Facebook, and contribute to forums (making sure to include a link to your website in your signature) to find your audience.

Every link to your website has two values: it helps people discover your work, and it improves your website’s search engine performance.

On Writing

Be nice to your readers: use a spell checker. Also, ask a friend, relative or colleague to review your work. It’s always sensible to let your words rest overnight before re-reading, just to make sure they still make sense in the morning.

The Internet: nothing to fear

Many people worry that when they post their writing to the Internet, a stream of mean, sarcastic comments will rush to greet them. In reality, this is highly unlikely.

If you post informative content in a considerate, friendly way, you are not likely to receive anything but friendly, polite responses.

Flex your writing muscles!

I hope this brief guide has given you a few pointers to get writing. With any kind of writing, the only way to get better is to write.

Imagine that you have a writing muscle. You might not have exercised this muscle recently, but all you need to do is start writing. So start writing, and flex your writing muscles!

Key Points

  • Remember your reader – what do they want?
  • Remember your desired result – what do you want to achieve?
  • Highlight how the features of a product or service translate into benefits
  • Optimise your writing for the screen with short, simple sentences.
  • Use white space, headings and sub-headings to break up text
  • Look for ways to lead people to your website – gaining links and mentions on forums, blogs (in comments) and social networking sites
  • The best way to become a better writer is by writing. So start writing!

Credits: thanks to Premasagar Rose of Dharmafly (Ethical Social Media) for his considered editorial input, and Emma Nicol of Door 22 (Graphic Design Agency) for her astute design work.

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