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Writing words that sell

Identifying the reader and his concerns is the first step to a successful web sales pitch, according to Bryan Eisenberg, author of 'Persuasive online copywriting: how to take your words to the bank'.

"Step two is to work out the action you want them to take," he says. "Step three - and this is where sites usually fall down - is to find out what information that person needs to take that action. The only way to convey that is through words. Every link should be an imperative with an implied benefit, for example 'click here to start saving today'."

"The internet is a participatory medium," he says. "It's not like radio, TV or a print advert. The real power to choose where to go is held by the user. If you're not answering his unspoken questions, you're going to lose him. You've got to keep resonating with his needs and wants, address his concerns and propel him to take action."

His company Future Now found it could double the conversions on a job-seeking website using two words: we're hiring. It made it clear the site was recruiting directly (and wasn't an agency) and also got the message across quickly. "The reader was thinking 'I need a job, I need a job, I need a job', and when he saw 'we're hiring' we got his attention," says Eisenberg.

Although marketers often suggest using buzzwords to attract attention, Eisenberg disputes their importance. "You're better off with poor writing that addresses the concerns of the reader than good writing that doesn't," he says. "Some buzzwords do work. Everybody loves the word 'free', but only use it if it pertains to what the visitor wants and needs."

Future Now has created a customer focus calculator to check how focused a website is on the visitor's needs. "It's affectionately known as the we-we machine," says Eisenberg. "We say that people we-we all over themselves because their copy is all 'we're great, we're the best provider' and never addresses what's in it for me, the reader. It's the biggest problem across the board on every website."

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