The Blog Library
The 7-Minute Website Writing Makeover
Here’s what I want you to do –
(and if we were doing this in a workshop, I’d totally make this a race):
1) Go to your website (or blogsite, or info page).
2) Take a piece of notebook paper and draw a line down the middle, creating two columns.
3) On the left column, write down all the general or abstract phrases you see on your website. (Look for sentences like “photography is fun,” “family is important.” May include nice-but-abstract words like: memories, moments, precious, time, timeless, classic, etc.)
4) In the right column, write down a specific, concrete example you could use instead.
“I like bread,” becomes “I’m addicted to raisin pumpernickel!”
“We’re going to have a lot of fun,” becomes “We’re going to slide down slides, dance at sunset, and spend time relishing your dearest ones.”
“You’ll receive beautiful prints” becomes “Your memories don’t do you as much good when they’re tucked in a box – why not display them on your wall so that every morning in the craziness over breakfast and “where is my backpack” and “Mom, he’s pinching me!” you can take a moment to breathe in deeply and remember exactly why you love your blessed life so much?”
and so forth.
Don’t overthink – set a timer for seven minutes and see how many generalities you can spot and transform before the buzzer sounds.
These two columns are now your killer website makeover cheat sheet. With it, you can make your website more vivid, memorable, and action-inducing.
There are three huge reasons why doing this exercise is profitable (literally and figuratively):
#1: Concrete words help people vividly imagine, whereas generalities are easy to pass by.
“Capturing moments” sounds sweet, but requires extra work on my part to imagine what that actually looks like. It’s easier for me to breeze right on by, and look instead for concrete info that I readily understand (like your pricing).
But the photographer who transforms ‘moments’ into “watermelon picnics, snow cone contests, and other luscious together-time” creates beautiful, vivid pictures in my mind. Suddenly I’m picturing gingham blankets and dripping chins, summer sun and lazy hours. I’m wondering what a snow cone contest might entail. I’m laughing about the last fun thing I did with my family. In short, I’m engaging with what you wrote. I can’t help myself.
#2: People remember concrete words (e.g. “watermelon picnic”) substantially better than abstract words (“moment”).
Some fundamentals of human memory: The more you can mentally engage someone, get them to imagine what you’re talking about, and connect your words with their own experiences, the more likely you are to stand out in their memory.
I can easily engage, imagine, and connect with “watermelon picnics, snow cone contests, and other luscious together-time,” but not so much with “capturing moments.”
Well worth taking seven minutes to make the swap, right?
#3: Concrete specifics pack more emotional + action-inducing power than generalities.
Psychologists Nisbett and Ross offered this – unhappy 🙁 – example of why concrete specifics are more impactful than general statements. Compare your reaction to these two sentences: “Jack was injured by a semitrailer that rolled over on his car and crushed his legs.” vs. “Jack sustained injuries in an auto accident.”
To paraphrase Nisbett and Ross, when semitrailers roll over on people and crush them, it is time to take action – whether to reinforce passenger compartments, crack down on speed violations, or at least decide to wear your own seat belt. In contrast, when someone “sustains injuries in an auto accident,” it’s just one of those unfortunate things that sometimes happen.
(Sorry for the icky example, but I appreciated how dramatically it made the point.)
Although not on the same scale as car accidents –
Using concrete wording on your website gives people reason to take action, whereas generalities are just “nice.”
If your target client is a mom whose kids just went back to school, and she’s struggling to spend quality time with them and misses family-filled summer days, describing your photo session as “a time to reclaim family space, to bond over s’mores, to capture the flag, to whisper jokes that will make you laugh ’til you snort, and bind all those memories together in a beautiful album that withstands everyday browsing” gives her reasons to leap into action far beyond the promise to simply “capture memories.”
Capturing memories would be nice, but so would buying a new washer and dryer or getting Johnny new braces. What exactly does she get out of this? How does it relate to her life and concerns right now? Be specific.
Let’s look at some specific examples of the power of replacing general wording with concrete goodness:
General + Yawnworthy:
“I love to laugh, hang out with my dog, and watch TV.”
Specific + Salesworthy:
“On weekends you’ll find me snuggled up with my labradoodle, Strawberry, catching up on Modern Family.”
Breaking it down:
“on weekends” = this phrase implies “in my free time” or “when I want to relax”
“snuggled up with” = shows that you’re affectionate, loving, caring
“with my labradoodle” = I don’t own dogs personally, but if I’ve learned one thing, people are CRAZY about their dogs, and quadruple jackpot bonus points if you happen to have the same breed as someone else. I once posted a shoot I did with some Swiss Mountain Dog puppies and suddenly comments and emails came pouring in about mountain dogs, oh I have one too and aren’t they the best ever?!? I was kinda sorry to say um, no, they don’t belong to me. If they had, I would have bonded instantly. Dang.
“catching up on Modern Family” = shows, rather than tells, that you like to laugh and enjoy watching TV.
(By the way, if you haven’t read this post on Your Founding Myth, you should go do that. It goes into greater depth about how to use an “bio” section to your strategic advantage.)
Your session info page:
“My sessions last 2 hours.”
“You will have 2 hours to play tag, tell jokes, host a tickle fight, and snuggle close while I transform that playtime into art for your home.”
Okay, so your sessions last two hours. That just sounds like a long time (*cough,* especially to the husbands, *cough cough*). Consider showing them what you’ll use that time for!
(Pssst…be sure you read this post about taking “I” and “me” out of your writing, it’ll give your web copy additional oomph!)
Your products page:
“We offer prints, canvas gallery wraps, and albums.”
Once your images are ready, you can send prints to grandma, redecorate your living room, or have me put together some sturdy albums to place by your children’s bedside.”
Remember that women tend to think of products in terms of their end use, so describing specific uses gives you a leg up on your sales session right from the get-go. Sweet.
Make sure the details you’re giving speak to your target client. If you love Modern Family, but your Target Client has never heard of it, then you might not gain as much by adding that.
But if your target client is someone who will say “Ohmygosh, did you see the Snorkels episode!?” then you’ve created a connection that makes you stand far apart from anyone else. One more reason to know exactly who your target client is. For help getting to know them, check this out.
Note that adding specifics often lengthens the text. Normally it’s a good idea to shorten, rather than lengthen text on websites, so be judicious about using this technique. Like all writing techniques, it can be detrimental when used in excess.
To keep it short, you can try making just the last thing in a list specific:
Instead of “playing, snuggling, and laughing,” try
“playing, snuggling, and snorting at Dad’s bad jokes.”
One specific example can help them imagine others.
As you use your cheat sheet to revise your site remember:
Specific stories sell.
Go forth and fix! Let me know how it goes in the comments.
Want another simple, foolproof tool for pulling more people into your words?
Hustle over and download the free sample chapter for Irresistible Words. You’ll learn the key to writing blog posts in less time, with a result more potential clients will love!
Thanks for the article! So much helpful advice, and I think you just kept me from ordering a ton of promotional “capturing timeless memories” postcards, haha.
Although I have to say that I find the word “snort” incredibly off-putting in any kind of copy, but then again that just goes to proove that I’m not your target audience!
🙂 Indeed. It’ll grab some and not others….gotta know who you’re talking to! My own website doesn’t use that kind of language, but as you can see, my blog does.
“Great post, Jenika” vs. “That was a thought-provoking blog post that inspired me to channel my inner Walt Whitman and jot down some poetic copy for my website and blog.” I can DO this! 🙂
Terri, that was probably one of the best comments I’ve ever read anywhere, ever. Hahaha, brilliant!!!
This is a great article with some really solid makeover advice. Thank you. 7 minutes is well worth it!
Wow. The copy on my site is in DIRE need of an overhaul. Thanks for tips. Looks like I have some writing to do.
Thanks for the article. I’ve come to realize I had way too many generalized phrases on my website. Thanks for the blog!
This is so helpful! I don’t consider myself a good writer at all so writing for my website has always been a struggle for me. But these tips will really help!
I just came across your blog, and I’m really glad I did. I really need to re-word my website and this has just given me push to do it, so thank you!
Awesome, Joanna! So good to hear – don’t forget to take before and after screenshots so you can high-five yourself for the success. 😀 I’d love to see it when you’re done!!!!
Oh my gosh… I listened to your presentation today, and came home and have spent two hours reading about all the things I’m doing wrong, and I love you for it! I seriously didn’t know I was ALLOWED to do half these things. I’ve been struggling to “sound like a business” instead of writing in a way that comes more naturally to me. My “must fix” list is already two pages long, thank you!
Hello, lovely!! Thanks for such an awesome comment and I hope that you rock it out (and send me a link when it’s done)!! I can’t wait to see what you do. Thanks for being the Ninja of Laptop cords today, you were a marvelous help and I so appreciate it. 🙂 I hope our paths cross again soon!!
Oh wow, this is SUCH SUCH good advice, Jenika! Just came across your blog today from Modern Tog and I’m loving it! I am in the middle of rebranding and designing my logo, website and marketing materials, and have been really struggling to come up with something fresh that doesn’t include the age-old ‘capturing moments’ guff. Thank you for this. What particularly stood out for me was explaining what happens within the 2 hours of a portrait shoot – often clients I think are a bit nervous/unsure beforehand, so it’s another way of reassuring them that it’s gonna be fun, rather than awkward/weird etc. THANKYOU This is going to be so helpful. xx
Hey, just listened to the podcast on the photobiz and loved it love your blog as well lots of useful information. keep up the good work and i’m certainly gonna try and implement some of this great information. As i’m terrible at writing posts.
Thanks for the article on language! I’m a photographer and writer and I really appreciate it!
I love all this info! So much great advice. Thanks, Jenika!