Earlier this month, WebPT’s Courtney Lefferts told you everything you need to know about designing a physical therapy website. Today, we’re going to discuss filling in that design with captivating copy, persuasive prose, and warm words that will instill confidence in your audience about you, your practice, and your services.
When done write (right), website copy can convert perusing potential patients into contacting customers. When done wrong, it can send readers running for the hills—straight to your competition, or worse, away from physical therapy all together. But, don’t worry; when it comes to content, we’ve got you covered. Here’s how to get the “write” start in website copy creation (adapted from this copyblogger article—with our own two cents and a few other resources thrown in for good measure):
1. Know your audience.
The very first step in writing copy for your website is determining who you’re writing to—and that, my dear reader, is your ideal reader (a.k.a. your ideal customer). According to Copyblogger, “describing (and visualizing) your ideal reader makes your web copy much more vivid and personal.” Essentially, you want those people who most closely resemble your ideal reader to “feel that your content is written for [them].” That doesn’t mean that other people won’t enjoy your copy or seek out your services; however, identifying—and writing for—your ideal persona will make it easier for you to write in the most interesting and persuasive ways. “Your ideal reader should become like an imaginary friend,” Copyblogger’s Henneke Duistermaat writes. “You should know your ideal reader so well that you can start a conversation with her at any time. You know when she shakes her head because you say something she doesn’t agree with. You know what makes her smile or laugh. You know the questions she asks. You [even] know how to charm and flatter her.” This type of understanding goes beyond demographics—you must also know your ideal reader’s dreams and aspirations as well as what keeps him or her up at night. To learn more about how creating an imaginary friend (a.k.a. a marketing persona) can improve your writing, check out this article.
Want further proof of the importance of knowing your audience? According to Unbounce, the company Carelogger thought its target audience wanted a diabetes tracking app that was easy to use. However, the company was wrong; its audience actually wanted an app that would help them improve their health. When Carelogger changed its headline from “Keeping tabs on your diabetes just got a lot easier” to “Maintain your optimal health by keeping tabs on your diabetes,” conversions increased by 31%. That’s a huge jump.
2. Know yourself—er, your benefits.
You already know about your skills, your company, and your services—which is great. But, it’s not enough. According to Duistermaat (and seconded by us), “nobody is interested in you, your company, or your products, because people are only interested in themselves.” As tough as that may be to swallow, it’s important to note that in order to sell your services, “you need to focus on the benefits to your readers.” That means before you can even begin writing for your website, you’ll need to get really clear about how what you offer is going to benefit your potential patients. To do so, Copyblogger recommends the following:
- Make a list of all of your service’s features; then, turn each feature into a benefit for your ideal reader.
- Write down all of the problems your services help people avoid.
- List all of the objectives you think potential patients have for seeking your services; then, formulate a response to overcome each one.
One thing to be wary of, though, is the allure of fake benefits—which, according to direct response copywriter Clayton Makepeace, kill sales copy. Take this headline for example: “Balance Blood Sugar Levels Naturally!” On first glance, it may seem beneficial. However, it doesn’t pass Makepeace’s patented “forehead slap” test. In other words, no one wakes up in the middle of the night, slaps their forehead, and exclaims, “Jeez Louise—I need to balance my blood sugar levels naturally!” That’s because, as Makepeace explains, “nobody really wants to balance their blood sugar levels.” What they do want is to “avoid the misery of blindness…cold, numb, painful limbs…amputation…and premature death that go along with diabetes.” Those are the true benefits of the service being offered.
To uncover your true benefits, you must “drill down to the real, bottom-line, rubber-meets-the-road benefit each product [or service] provides,” Makepeace writes. “The tangible, measurable, real value they bring to prospects’ lives. The value that prospects are willing to…pay for.”
3. Create your value proposition.
According to Copyblogger, a value proposition is your “conversation starter. It entices your ideal reader to learn more about you.” While the typical format consists of a headline, maybe a subheader, and a small handful of bullet points, you can use any format you’d like—as long as your value proposition clearly and succinctly states the key benefits of your services in a way that resonates with your ideal reader. Looking for a value proposition example? Here’s the one for WebPT Billing:
Subheader: Looking for a better way to bill? Pair WebPT’s web-based documentation with one of our comprehensive billing options and get paid faster.
- Reduce claim errors.
- Save money.
- Maximize your clinic’s revenue.
- Gain a partner in billing.
4. Get comfortable editing.
Once you have a first draft written—one that details your benefits, overcomes objections, and points your readers to a clear next step—it’s time to review. So, get out your proverbial red pen and start marking up your copy. Here’s what Copyblogger recommends looking out for:
- Missing features, benefits, and objectives
- Opportunities to include subheaders and bullets to improve the scannability of your pages
- Opportunities to improve the credibility or persuasiveness of your copy
- Overinflated writing that takes away from the readability of your site and your overall message
- Typos and grammatical errors
Curious as to how bad unedited copy can be? Check out this Hubspot post covering 16 of the worst copy mistakes ever. My personal favorite is an advertisement for children’s educational software that reads: “So Fun, They Won’t Even Know Their Learning.” Did you catch the mistake? This one is good, too: one company’s tagline reads, “Reliability…always upholding the highest standards for every detal.” Oops.
A great go-to editorial trick? Read your copy aloud. Doing so makes it a lot easier to catch repetitive words, problematic syntax, or sentences that fall flat.
5. SEO it—well.
Lefferts already addressed SEO in her design post, so we won’t get into too much detail here. However, we do think it’s worth noting that your readers shouldn’t be able to tell you’ve optimized your writing for SEO. As Unbounce says, “writing sales copy to rank in Google kills your creativeness, murders the beauty of your copy, and slaughters your persuasiveness.” So, “always write for your readers first; optimize for search engines later.”
The good news: if you’re writing for your ideal reader, Copyblogger says that your web pages are probably “SEO-friendly, too.” Duistermaat also recommends these tips for creating copy that’s good for your readers—and your ranking:
- Write regularly on topics in your area of expertise—that also are relevant to your ideal reader;
- Choose words and phrases that your ideal reader would use or search for; and
- Form a “broad network of [other] experts and web publishers” who you can reference in your own content via links.
Looking for an example of what not to do when it comes to SEO? Web Designer Depot offers up a horrifying example of keyword stuffing. In short, one company’s About Us page consists of two keyword-heavy sentences repeated over and over again: “We are a licensed fire suppression contractor in NYC and various local jurisdictions throughout the Metropolitan area. Below is a list of services we provide to our valued clients. We are a licensed fire suppression contractor in NYC and various local jurisdictions through the Metropolitan area. Below is a list of services we provide to our valued clients…” This probably goes without saying, but, just in case: don’t “repeat” this mistake (see what I did there?).
6. Check your work.
Do you already have a website? Are you’re wondering if your current copy is write or wrong? Here are six warning signs that your writing needs a refresher (adapted from Unbounce):
- Your copy doesn’t include “hypnotic words.” These include words such as “you” (which involves the reader); “imagine” (which helps the reader visualize what using your services would be like); and “because” (which helps trigger an automatic response in your readers by giving them a reason to do something).
- You spend too much time talking about yourself. This means you might not be dedicating enough space to explaining the benefits of your services. In other words, your audience comes away unsure of what’s in it for them.
- You go overboard on the adjectives and adverbs. Unbounce recommends deleting all instances of the words “breakthrough, innovative, and cutting-edge” because they “have lost their meaning.” Here are two more pointers when it comes to descriptors:
- Remove any adjectives that don’t add to the meaning of the sentence.
- When an adjective is appropriate, pick one that’s sensory (e.g., “stinky or rough rather than bad”), specific (e.g., “bank-grade security rather than high-grade or world-class security), or emotionally rich (e.g., “enchanting rather than nice”).
- Each page of your website can’t stand alone. You audience may show up to your site on any page at any time, which means they need to be able to quickly understand context . Unbounce recommends writing each page as if it’s a landing page, which in this case means it has a single, focused objective. Speaking of focus, be sure all of your copy is to-the-point. You want your reader to know exactly what you’re saying—and what to do next (whether that be to call and schedule an appointment or download a piece of content). That means your call to action (CTA) must be crystal clear.
- You’re speaking medicalese (legalese’s equally hard-to-understand cousin). There’s a time and a place for medical terminology—and it’s when you’re speaking to an audience that is medically proficient. If your website copy is full of medical jargon, you’re going to scare patients away. Instead, stick with simple, straightforward sentences. Now, that doesn’t mean you should dumb down your writing; it simply means you should avoid complex terminology that someone without a medical degree would have a hard time deciphering.
- It’s boring. There are plenty of ways to keep your copy interesting without resorting to an avalanche of adjectives or even stale superlatives (e.g., the best, the fastest, etc.). Instead, dabble with a well-placed literary device or two—such as intentional repetition, rhyme, or alliteration—to give your website copy a rhythm that engages your audience and helps them remember you. Just don’t overdo it, or it’ll come across as cheesy.
There you have it: our intro to successful website copy creation for PTs. Have your own words of wisdom about writing for your website? Share them in the comment section below.