This is the second part of the excerpt from one of our free Wednesday Webinars series. Presented by our Director of Project Management William Lindus. In our previous blog post we talked about the difference about writing for print material versus for the web. In this second part we go into more details about how to make your web copy work.
Let’s talk about how to make your web copy work. The first, and probably most important piece of advice I can give is to avoid technical jargon. This is particularly difficult for veterinarians, as you have built your education and your careers on highly technical terms, phrases, and acronyms. For example, you should use phrases like ‘chronic kidney disease’ instead of ‘chronic renal failure.’ It can be okay in some cases to use more technical terms… but make sure you back these technical terms up with phrases anyone can understand. Example: If you are writing a web page about your staff cardiologist, make sure your copy prominently discusses ‘heart health’ or similar phrases. Your web copy should be written at the same level that US Today writes, which is at about an 9th grade reading level. Be specific with the points that you make on your site. Superlatives (phrases like ‘we are the best’ are often over-used in writing), but if you can back your superlative up with a specific, your statement is no longer just fluff. Instead of saying, ‘we are the best,’ imagine how much more powerful it would sound if you said, ‘we have been voted the best veterinary practice in Anytown, USA.’
Also, remember that this copy is for your clients, and should be tailored to what they want. Make it about them! You don’t need to include your mission statement on your website. I’m sure your mission statement is great, and I’m sure it reflects who you are as a practice, but think about this: Every mission statement a veterinary practice has ever created says something about providing, ‘high quality veterinary care,’ and such phrases become meaningless to the consumer on the go. Instead, get to the point with what services you can provide your client. This next point terrifies most veterinarians: don’t be afraid to use your web copy to upsell. Most of the time when I bring up the concept of upselling to veterinarians, I’m greeted with either looks of shock or looks of fear. After all, marketing isn’t something that most veterinarians are used to. However, your website is as much a web marketing tool as it is an information source. Use this to your advantage! For example, if one of your pages is about pet vaccinations, it is a great idea to discuss the benefits of purchasing pet medications from your clinic (or through an affiliate that you trust) as opposed to through other sources. Not only are you driving revenue for your business, but you are also providing a service by keeping your clients from purchasing pet medications from risky sources.
There are a few guidelines that a good web copy writer will follow when writing for your site. These can actually be quite nuanced, but here are a few to get your feet wet. A website’s home page should have less than 100 words of content, and this content should contain the ‘value proposition’ for the site. The value proposition is your brand promise, or what your customers can expect from you. What is the end benefit that you are offering? What service do you offer? Who do you offer it to? Why is this useful? Your home page content should answer these questions in 100 words or less.
Internal pages on your website (anything that isn’t the home page, basically) have a bit more leeway. You can comfortably fit between 250-500 words of copy on a web page, although much more than this and your client’s eyes will start to gloss over. Bullet points are your friend here, as is a ‘choppy,’ easy to scan layout. Internal pages should drive your customers to some sort of action. This may be as general as turning the reader into a new client for your practice, or it may be more specific. Think back to the example from earlier about the pet medication link on a vaccination page. Headlines should be short and efficient. Stick to headlines that are less than 80 characters, and make sure your headline uses the key phrases that users may be scanning for.