Web copy truism – nobody cares about you

When it comes to writing selling copy for web, there are few truer statements than this headline. All readers care about is themselves. They’re thinking “what’s in it for me?”, “what can this thing do for me?” and “why should I be interested in this?” – they absolutely couldn’t care less about you or how great you think you are.

Sorry, but it’s true… and I’ll prove it.

Say you’re speculatively looking online for a new car, and you arrive on the website of your local approved dealership. Would you be more interested in reading about the benefits of the car, the price and how easy the payment plan is, or would you prefer to read about the year the dealership was formed, how many cars they’ve got in stock and what the dealer principle has to say for himself? I’m betting you’d be far more interested in the former, as that is the kind of information you’d need to make a buying decision. The vanity copy doesn’t serve any purpose other than to inflate the ego of whoever it’s about, and it can often prove to be completely counterproductive. The example here is cars, but it applies to almost every single product and service out there.

There’s a place for this sort of copy – usually an “About” or “Company History” page that suitably forewarns the reader that they’re entering an area where you’re going to talk about yourself. It can be quite important in the right place, but if it appears anywhere else in any notable volume you’re wasting a valuable opportunity and risking the reader being turned off.

Vanity copy comes in different forms. Here are a couple of the most common;

  • Overdoing the self-promotion: When copy gushes vanity it looks like it’s masking some shortcomings. Think about it… if the product is any good why aren’t they talking about it? In certain examples this can come across as a case of “doth protest too much”, setting alarm bells ringing with some readers.
  • Irrelevant and self-indulgent blog entries: I’ve seen articles written by MDs about the following; how they made a loaf of bread last night; a funny-looking cloud they saw; their new car; and any number of pointless topics that have no place whatsoever on a company website. Are these topics of any interest to the average customer? No. Will they result in a potential customer looking elsewhere? Yes.

Avoiding vanity copy is an incredibly basic process. Just think about the fundamentals of sales copy – crafting a persuasive hook, pushing the USPs, closing down with a succinct call-to-action – at no stage does it require you to start blowing your own trumpet and going off-topic talking about yourself.

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