Your website: who is the audience you are writing for?

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France
47° 34' 54.6528" N, 2° 39' 31.2876" E

The web has been selling products and services for enough time now for it no longer to be considered a nascent industry. We take it as perfectly natural that a site is promoting something, with some form of sale often being a site’s principle aim. In recent years, attention has been increasingly focussed upon the language used in websites, and upon how this language can be honed to increase the chances of a sale.

Many of us with British origins may understandably find this sort of perspective awkward; after all, we are renown for our reserve and for not discussing financial matters up front, and on the home page. Many people find that being a website proprietor changes that.

The need to consider your website’s impact is driven by a couple of basic factors: there are always alternatives to what your site sells and your visitors don’t have much time available before they hit the back button and move on elsewhere. Honing your site’s language is – arguably – the single most important priority that you should be attending to.

Most of this linguistic honing is a matter of perspective. On the one hand, you can go into detail about your ‘widget’ having X and Y ‘features’, which does well at describing the widget from your point of view. On the other hand, the same ‘widget’ could be equally well described in terms of the ‘benefits’ that would accrue to your visitor if they went ahead and purchased it. Small difference, you might think, but it’s not: it’s a major step in bringing the decision closer to your visitor since they can begin to see how the purchase would benefit them.

The same goes for the gites that you are advertising. It’s easier for you to describe what you know best, the splendid facilities, the enchanting location, the proximity to tourist resorts, etc. But these same ‘features’ can be recaste as ‘benefits’ with only a small change in perspective, so that readers can more easily put themselves into the picture that you’re words are trying to paint.

The phrase ‘private location’, for example, can be turned into ‘a location which guarantees your privacy’ or ‘located so that your sleep won’t be disturbed’. Only a few minutes spent checking your existing text will tell if you have employed this formula. “Is my site’s text written for an audience that’s not just me?” is a good question to ask yourself.

There are plenty of web-based resources that address the process of writing (copy) for the web. Google for “web copy” and browse some of the sites that come up. If you want to follow this up in greater detail, I recommend Maria Veloso’s book Web Copy That Sells. Although written for an American audience, it is highly regarded and will act as a good starting point. Happy writing!