I think that by now everyone pretty much agrees that words are an important part of your website and your online marketing campaign. While a picture may be worth a thousand words, sometimes just a few words can provide the right mental picture your audience needs in order to make that final buying decision.

For many business owners, writing can be a daunting task. Sure we know our products and services inside and out and putting what we know into words is easy enough, but that's about as far as it gets.

Is that enough to sell? Sure.

Could more be done to sell better? You bet!

Copywriting can be very technical for what is considered a creative field. Once you start factoring in personalities, personas and temperments, copywriters find that it's not just about typing a bunch of words on the page, but strategically using words to speak to many different people in many different situations.

Yeah, that can get exhausting.

And in the midst of all that you actually have to sell the product or service that you offer. Again, putting your knowledge to paper (or the screen) is one thing, but "selling" is entirely different.

How to copywrite to sell

There are many processes in copywriting that are powerful and effective. I'm going to provide one that I have found fairly easy to implement, yet extremely effective. In fact, when followed, it can actually make copywriting about your products or services easier, because it helps you focus on specific, important aspects of what your visitors need to read and understand.

Instead of just writing whatever you can about your products or services, which for some can be monotonous and boring or lead to a lack creativity, this format helps you stay tuned into the writing process and makes the end result smoother and more focused. You'll find that is flexible, extremely adaptable and helps you stay on-point, meeting your visitor's information needs while moving them through the selling process.

Step 1: Expose need (the problem)

The first thing to do is to spell out the need or the problem that your visitors have. This need is what drove them to your site to begin with and while most of your visitors already know this (some don't), it is important to spell out the need on the page. Doing this sets the stage for your readers and invests them in finding the right solution.

But many readers are looking for something without fully understanding or knowing that there is any real problem. They could be filling a want, but by exposing the need you've just turned a casual peruser into a definite shopper. Stating the problem and spelling it out in vivid language is crucial to getting visitors invested into your content, and therefore the solution which you'll provide next. Once the reader fully understands the problems, they are more likely to continue reading as you next present the solution.

Example: Every year millions of dollars worth of goods or services are being sold through your competitors who are doing more than you to achieve top rankings on the search engines.

Example: Uncomfortable or improperly fitted bedding on your child's crib or bed can cause your baby to lose essential hours of sleep every day or possibly expose them to additional night-time risks.

Step 2: Sympathize and demonstrate importance (the solution)

Next you have to provide your readers with the solution. This is your a chance to provide information about your products or services. But you don't want to just throw info about your products at them, you want to show that you sympathize with your audience, that you understand their situation, and that you have a solution that will help.

It's surprising how often people are willing to live with whatever problems stand in their way, so you also need to express how important your solution is to them. The more they feel like you truly care (and you do, which is why you sell what you sell) the easier it will be to convince them that you are the one to provide the solution for them. Speak to them on their level, show that you've been in that position or understand the hardship they face.

Example: Nobody wants to waste money on ineffective marketing campaigns that bring little ROI. Search Engine Optimization has proven to be more cost effective and deliver more customers than traditional forms of advertising.

Example: Selecting the right bedding for your baby is essential to ensure they get the proper amount of sleep throughout the night, and gives you peace of mind that they are sleeping soundly and comfortably.

Step 3: Tie need to benefit , WIIFM (the benefits)

Now that you've outlined the problem and demonstrated the importance of finding a solution, it's time to illustrate the benefit that your product or service provides. This is classic example of providing the WIIFM (What's In It For Me) principle. Ultimately, that's what everybody needs to know; Yes, I have a problem. Yes, it's important to correct the problem. But really, what good is it to me?

It all comes down to the benefits. Don't just tell your visitors what you do or provide, but express the benefits of what you do. Don't just rattle off specifications, explain what those specifications mean to them. You may know what "100% cotton" or a "tough plastic outer casing" means, but the reader may not. They need to be told that 100% cotton keeps you warm, dry and comfortable in all weather and that the tough outer shell means it won't break when dropped. These things mean more to the reader than just the basic description.

Example: We perform a detailed website analysis that helps us identify website performance issues that, once corrected, will not only bring in more targeted traffic to your site but will also improve overall conversion rates. This will have the effect of not only getting more sales from bigger traffic numbers, but you'll see sales growing exponentially as traffic numbers increase.

Example: Our selection of baby sheets, blankets and quilts are 100% chemical free which we guarantee will not irritate your baby's skin. Each is sized to fit standard crib and beds perfectly in order to keep your baby safe, warm and comfortable for a long, peaceful night of sleep.

Step 4: Justify and give call to action (the action)

Once you've laid everything out for your readers it's now time to move them to the sale. You'll find that just presenting the information above is not enough and many people will still balk at making the purchase. Remember, there are always outside forces working against the sale. Finances are tight, the spouse won't approve, not sure if now is the right time, etc. You can overcome this by justifying the action you want the reader to take.

For many, all they need is the final "reason." Use that reason to tell them how having their problem solved is better for them than not having it solved. You can also justify in terms of comparing costs of your product/service to something else. An example of this would be, "costs less than your cable TV bill" or "with our expert knowledge at your fingertips you'll never have to worry again." The more you can appeal to their emotions the more justified the reader will feel in committing to it.

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Example: Every day your little one faces a number of unknown dangers. Whether it's a sharp corner of a table, an unsafe toy, or him/her just being overly adventurous. It's impossible to watch over your baby twenty four hours a day which is why when it comes to bed time, you want to be sure that both you and your baby can sleep soundly through the night. View our products below and feel free to contact us if you have any questions about sizing, styles or whatever else.

How much text is too much or too little?

One of the questions that I am often asked is how much text do you need in order to sell. Well, the answer to that is only as much as is required. There is no magic number of words. It all depends.

What you want to do though is to format your writing so it sells with as few words as possible, while providing as much information as possible for those readers that require more lengthy product/service descriptions.

And doing that is not quite as hard as it sounds. In fact, the entire sales process can be wrapped up in a single four sentence paragraph. That can be your first paragraph or your only paragraph, depending on your needs.

If you need more than a paragraph then the same four steps can be worked into four paragraphs or more. Again, it all depends on what you are selling and how much information needs to be provided. You can even take this a step further by using all four steps in the first paragraph, and then go through the four steps again throughout the rest of the content only expanding on each point as necessary. This allows you to sell to the quick readers with the first paragraph and sell (again) to the visitors who like to consume as much information as possible.

However you develop your content you want to make sure that you are speaking to your readers on their level. This four step process helps you to provide information more from the visitor's point of view rather than your own. The more you give the visitor what they came for, rather than what you want to feed them, the better opportunity you have to capture them not just as a single purchase customer, but a customer for life.

January 16, 2008

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.


Thanks for the post! I'm always looking for more resources, and this one definetely earns a bookmark. I may be linking to this post in my future blog posts. Thanks!

You raise some very good points for selling via the written word.

However, I noted a few instances of usage/grammar errors that detract from your valuable advise and point out how even small mistakes can ruin good copy:

1. "...once corrected, will not only bring in more targeted traffic to your site will improve overall conversion rates

1a. You left out a word between 'your' and 'site' Did you mean, 'it also'?

2. "...which we guarantee will not irritate your babies skin".

2a. 'Babies' is the plural form. The rest of your copy referred to the singular 'baby'. Did you mean 'baby's' skin?

Every day your little one faces a number of unknown dangers. Whether it's a sharp corner of a table, an unsafe toy, or them just being overly adventurous

3. You mixed 'little one' (singular) with the plural ('them' just being overly adventurous)

Most small business owners don't have the luxury of a proof reader, and may not take the time to review the copy before posting it. Copy mistakes can detract from even the most professional offer. They can give the impression of poor follow through and may cause the reader to question whether the company is detailed enough for their business

This is a tricky one. See so many sales pages, that i am sick of it, quite frankly. the thing is, though this is excellent advice, some people still cannot use it to their benefit.

it's becoming a problem, i think. the thing that 's supposed to attract your reader, could push him away. one needs to be careful.

Great post. To the point.

>>How much text is too much or too little?
Paul Myers published an excellent article about this topic in his
newsletter TalkBizNews.

He allowed me to reprint that at my blog and you can find it here:
How long should my newsletter or article be?

A great post containing some good advise. Copy writing is one of my weak areas and I'm always on the look out for any tips and advise to help improve the quality of content I can provide. Thanks.

Stoney, great article! I've submitted it to our readers at

RE: Daniele's comments - ditto! However, she could have said:

You have valuable advice for website owners and care about their success. But did you know that most educated web site visitors will click off of a site after observing typos or grammar errors, because poor copy indicates that you don't REALLY care? Well-written, personable, and correct text puts your best foot forward, shows that you are professional and gives the viewer confidence in what you have to "sell".

No one wants to put hours of effort into a message, just to see people "click away" from it. As a professional language consultant with over 40 years experience, I can help you with the finer points. Whether you are looking for an experienced copy-writer or just an extra pair of eyes to look over your shoulder and see if you haven't missed something, I can help. Before you say "No, I'd rather do it myself", why not drop me a line and put me to the challenge. First time - free trial! Then you decide. My business is your business!

Thanks for the notes on the typos. Both my proofreader and I missed them. It happens.

Stoney, GREAT article. I like how you actually used examples instead of strictly telling what to do. I'll be sure to show it to our copywriters at work.

nice post you have here. it is really exhausting to think of how you create a copy that different people can relate into. each copy writing have different target such as visitors, and sale. By knowing what your customers need and using the given tips above you can create a killer content that sells.

I enjoyed reading your great post. The ideas and insights are very worth reading. Thanks for the valuable information and insights you have shared here.

Great post!
This is the first time that i have seen someone actually go through the steps to show how great copy is integrated into the whole. Awesome job! Keep up the great work


Hi Stoney,
Greetings for the New Year from India!

The Four steps make undisputed sense, whether it is talking or writing.

I wish to know about linking.
For example, how do I get linked to this site?

My knowledge about 'links' in the www is a small fraction of my knowledge about 'links' in human relationships.

Have a fabulous weekend.
Have a Magical New Year, 2009.
Share my love with your five kids too.

Best regards,
Dr. Ashok Koparday

January 10, 2009

Do You Have To Look Like Harrison Ford to be successful in Marketing?

I mean nothing mean about comments by Lorena Bowser posted on January 18, 2008
" _ _ _As a professional language consultant with over 40 years, experience I can help you with the finer points. _ _ _"

As an expert, I respect another's expertise.

I was about to say, "I do not like Stoney deGyter's face as I see it in the picture displayed above. However, if I get something of value from his experience, StoneydeGyter impresses me as a man of substance. I will stick around to seek more.

There is more to Laurena's post than grammer. Lorena has wonderfully signed off her comments leaving a bait.

"_ _ _ why not drop me a line and put me to the challenge. First time - free trial! Then you decide. My business is your business!_ _ _"

Honestly, this line is terrific. My question to Laurena,
"How do I put you to challenge?"

Dr. Ashok Koparday

January 10, 2009


You deserve better. You deserve more responses than you may actually be receiving.

I work for the largest wealth mgt firm in the world and intimately understand the importance of "connecting" with people. You have a gift and people will benefit from knowing you -but only if you can connect.

Example. When I did the following search on Google. http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=how+to+sell+ice+to+an+eskimo%3F&aq=f&oq=

Your hit (solution) was by far the best and most informative. However, the most attractive hit on the page of search results was 9th, "Imagine being so good at sales that you could effortlessly sell ice to eskimos", because it exposed my need in the first line - caught my eye (but after drilling down, did not deserve my attention, like yours).

Again... you deserve better. Please make an adjustment so your page ranks higher on such a search, because your work deserves more responses. You've earned it.

Good luck my friend! Anything you can throw my way that may help me would be appreciated.


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