layout-salespage-readability

Basic Structure and Readability – Fundamentals of copywriting Part 4

Reading Time: About 9 minutes

Authors note: This post belongs to a multi part series called the fundamentals of copywriting , and it holds the most value when the entire series is read in order, starting with part 1 Understanding the product .

 

Welcome back,

In the last lesson we went over some of what makes a compelling headline more powerful. This time we’re going to look at the layout and readability of our copy.

Making your copy easy to read, and with a certain cognitive flow, will keep more people glued to your words and engaged with your message. And the longer people stay engaged with your message, the better chance we have to bring them closer to the sale.

 

The actual structure of your copy will vary, depending on where it’s being used.

For example: Online; the layout of email is different from a full sales page, which is different from a lead magnet opt-in page. And offline there’s even more differences.

But many of the same readability elements still apply.

Most of what we’ll talk about today will relate to the online world. Because even though I began copywriting 20+ years ago in the offline world, I understand and accept that these days most people are interested in online copy. So that’s what we’re going to focus on for now.

 

And with that short intro, let’s dive right in and talk about the basic layout and readability of our copy…

 

To begin with… As we talked about in part 3 – Writing Winning Headlines – we already know that our headline is what draws people into our copy. So it should be obvious that our headline goes near the beginning of our message.

(I say “near” the beginning, because sometimes we’ll use a pre-headline that flows into the main headline. But the headline should always be prominent, near the top of the page)

 

So our headline goes at the top and it should be designed to attract maximum attention.

To do this we always want to make it larger than the rest of the copy… It also helps when we make it a different color, like Red, or a different font, or bold. Or a combination of all these things.

 

Once we have our headline in place, the next few lines of copy are critical for the success of our piece.

The headline sets the expectations for our audience, and the opening (also called the “Lede” in some writing circles) sets the pace for building interest with our audience.

Simply put, our headline calls out to our target audience and says “Hey, this is for you”, and the lede says “here’s what it’s all about”

 

I’ve often noticed (through heatmap tracking and other metrics) that on average around 80% of your audience won’t make it past the headline before clicking away from your page. And for the people that do stick around, about half of them drop off after reading the lede.

That’s why it’s important to quickly get their attention with the headline, and then quickly gain their interest with the lede.

Because if we can pull people into the actual body of our copy, that means they’re becoming engaged with our message. And that’s what we want.

All of this is only possible when we first understand the unique hook in our offer, and intimately understand our target market. And that’s why it’s important to go through this series of lessons in order. Starting with Understanding the product and Defining our target audience.

 

Then, the body of our offer will be loaded with benefits, empathy, proof elements and guarantees. And ideally it will tell our visitors a story of better future, for them. All of this culminates with a call to action (the action we want our audience to take)

Of course everyone of these elements is important, and they all deserve our full attention. But each one could take a day to talk about, all on its own. And since this is a five minute post on the basic fundamentals of copy, we’re going to keep things brief and quickly paced for now.

 

With that in mind, let’s talk about what people see when they first land on our page.

 

Our headline pulled them in… Our lede gained some interest…

At this point many people will quickly skim or scan the entire page before deciding how much time to give you. They’re looking for ease of reading (if your page looks like one big block of hard to read text, most people will quickly lose interest)

And they’re also looking to see if your page holds enough value to be worthy of their time.

This is where subheadlines, bullet points and whitespace become our best friends…

 

Subheads, Bullet Points, and White-space for Readability

 

Sub-headlines are just like regular headlines scattered throughout your copy.

Ideally, each of your sub-heads should stand out (you can make it bold, or a different font or color, etc.) so it catches your readers attention, (just like the main headline).

And, the sub-headline should give a compelling explanation of what that particular section of copy is about.

The idea is… when someone skims your copy, and they see a sub-headline, it should get them to think, “hey, this is interesting,” and it should compel them to STOP and read the next few lines of copy.

If you can get them to do that a couple times, then many people will go back and read your entire page. Because now they believe it’s worth their time.

One great way to come up with subheads is to go back to your left-over headlines from the previous lesson (remember we talked about writing many headlines before deciding on the best one) Then see if you can use some of the second best headlines for your subheadings.

 

Bullet Points are another great way to break up large blocks of text on your page, and they also help draw attention to selling points of our offer.

Bullet points can be comprised of…

  • Powerful benefits of our offer (they can even resemble mini headlines)
  • Proof elements (a list of guarantees or third party endorsements)
  • Fascinations (for info products we can hint at what’s inside – See page 24 for details…)
  • What our offer is not (Not another “me too” product… no muss… no fuss… no hard work… no BS…)

Basically we want our bullets to be selling points. And they should hit fast and hard (like a bullet)

 

 

Another thing that helps with readability (especially on the web) is white-space

^^^Note: this is a sub-headline telling you what this next section is about^^^

White space just means leaving a bit of blank space between sentences, and paragraphs, so when someone skims your page it doesn’t look like one huge page of “hard to read” text.

Offline we can use longer sentences, bigger paragraphs, and tighter formatting.

But online, we’re reading the words on a back-lit screen, which automatically puts more strain on our eyes. And that alone is enough to warrant different formatting.

When someone lands on our page, or opens our email, if they see big blocks of text that look like it will take a lot of effort to focus on… many people will immediately click away or hit delete, without ever giving your copy a chance to prove itself.

So we need to use shorter sentences, and break up the paragraphs with more whitespace and subheads. This type of format is easy to look at, and there’s lots of resting places along the page which makes it easy for you to take a breath, without losing your place.

 

“Do you see how that section I just wrote is broken up for easier reading. It has a subheadline in a different color, a couple bold words, different length sentences (all of them fairly short), and whitespace makes it easier to look at and read”

 

Now here’s how those same words might look if I didn’t have concern for you, my reader…

 

 

Another thing that helps with readability (especially on the web) is white-space
^^^Note: this is a sub-headline telling you what this next section is about^^^

White space just means leaving a bit of blank space between sentences, and paragraphs, so when someone skims your page it doesn’t look like one huge page of “hard to read” text. Offline, we can use longer sentences, bigger paragraphs, and tighter formatting. But online, we’re reading the words on a back-lit screen, which automatically puts more strain on our eyes. And that alone is enough to warrant different formatting.

When someone lands on our page, or opens our email, if they see big blocks of text that look like it will take a lot of effort to focus on… many people will immediately click away, or hit delete without ever giving your copy a chance to prove itself. So we need to use shorter sentences, and break up the paragraphs with more whitespace and subheads. This type of format is easy to look at, and there’s lots of resting places along the page which makes it easy for you to take a breath, without losing your place.

 

^^^ Can you see the difference it makes for readability?^^^

And the more words you have on the page, the bigger the difference whitespace makes!

 

Another thing we need to consider is the “clarity and flow” of our copy. I’m mentioning it here because clarity and flow have a lot to do with the overall readability of your page. (It’s less of a visual element, and more of a psychological principle)

 

Clarity basically means to stick with one (1) main idea throughout your copy. People landed on your copy for a reason (you called out to them and it resonated with the story they were already telling themselves) and once you get their attention, don’t blow it by rambling off into multiple directions.

If you’re selling vacation rentals… show people the beauty of the scenery, and the charm of the native people. But don’t start talking about the stock market (unless you can directly tie it into a benefit of your vacation property?)

In other words… Pick a reason for your copy, and then stay on point. Because the people who respond to your headline are expecting it. And if you don’t give it to them… they’ll leave.

 

Flow of copy basically means that you start with your opening, and finish with the close. And everything in between should bring your audience smoothly from the beginning to the end.

Your headline and lede are your opening. Your body copy is the story that sells the offer. And your call to action is the close. If you open a loop at the beginning of your copy, you need to close the loop by the end.

Of course there are ways to leave the loop open and use that as your call to action “bait”.

But that’s a fairly sophisticated technique which requires some advanced copy skills. And since your reading this series on “basic fundamentals of copywriting ” , you’re probably better off sticking with the bacic fundamentals for now. And you can always build on your skills as time and experience moves you forward on your journey.

 

Using Images is another great way to break up the page, while also adding eye catching interest to your story.
I personally don’t use a lot of images in my own copy. But that’s just my own personal style (I like to let my words do most of the talking) However, I always try to add at least one or two pictures whenever possible, because I do understand the power they possess.

Images will always draw our eyes away from the text, so use them wisely.

And I can’t stress this next part enough… “MAKE SURE ANY IMAGES YOU USE ARE RELATED TO THE OVERALL MESSAGE”

(I recently saw a sales page for a professional service provider, and right in the middle of the page was a picture of this guy holding a fish. I’m guessing he was trying to show his personality on the page? But the picture had nothing to do with what he was selling. So it was just a confusing distraction that broke any trance the sales copy might have started).

So use images… Just make sure they relate to the overall story you’re telling.

 


OK, we’re going to wrap this one up here so we can all get back to work…

In this post we talked about making your copy easier to read and follow.

We went over the basics like having your headline at the beginning, and opening your copy with an interesting lede…

… Then we touched on the importance of making your copy easy to look at and read, using…

 

Subheadlines

  • Bullet points
  • Bullet points
  • Bullet points

… Shorter paragraphs and white space…

…Clarity and flow in your copy.

 

By now (if you followed this series of lessons in order) you should be starting to see how your copy is about more than just throwing words at your audience.

It’s about salesmanship. And it’s about presenting your offer in way that makes it easier for people to buy what you’re selling.


We have just a couple more chapters to go before we wrap up this series on the basic fundamentals of copywriting.

The next time we meet we’ll talk about some formulas and checklists you can use to make sure your copy is tight, and on point.

So right now I’m going to let you digest everything we’ve covered up to this point. And I look forward to seeing you in our next session…

 

Until next time,
Here’s to writing more compelling copy… more often…

All the best,
SAR

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