Net Words was one of the very first books written to help professional copywriters make the switch from traditional media to writing copy for the web.
The content draws on experience I had writing for some of the largest and most progressive sites on the web at that time.
While several years have passed since I wrote the book, most of the advice is evergreen in its nature and still applies equally well today.
"Nick Usborne gets it! All the great programming in the world won't help you if you can't express yourself online. It's about the words, dummy."
Seth Godin, author of Permission Marketing, and Tribes
"I hope that everyone who writes online will read this book. We could all learn from it. Usborne will make you think. And he'll remind you of some basics that so many of us tend to forget when we write: be personal, keep it simple, be specific."
Emanuel Rosen, author of The Anatomy of Buzz
"It's the ONLY business book besides Ogilvy on Advertising I've ever bothered to buy for someone."
Anne Holland, MarketingSherpa.com
"Initially, I got teased around the office a lot because it's obvious how much my copywriting style has changed since I read Networds. Yet, the teasing didn't last too long because we started seeing dramatic results. Now everyone wants to borrow my copy of the book."
Jared Spool, Founding Principal, User Interface Engineering
"This is an invaluable book for those involved in web content. It is highly readable and very practical. Nick Usborne knows his stuff. He is a professional, and every page of Net Words is full of clear, crisp ideas."
Gerry McGovern, author of 'Content Critical'
"The best book I've seen on writing for the Web."
Dr. Ralph Wilson, Web Marketing Today
"Nick practices what he preaches. His book is as clear and honest
and personal as what he prescribes for online copywriting."
Debbie Weil, WordBiz.com
Or keep reading for the full text of the Introduction to Net Words...
Net Words - the Introduction
Nobody is paying close enough attention to the words on ecommerce sites. This is a shame, as great copy can address some of the most pressing challenges facing your business online.
What can you do to make your business online work harder? How can you make more sales, keep more customers and better insulate yourself from the competition? And how can you move forward and make immediate improvements to your online business without running the risk of making some horrendous, high-tech, doomed-to-failure investment?
One answer to these and other key questions has been staring us in the face since the first commercial sites sprung up on the Web. Work harder on the words - the words on your site, in your emails, in your newsletters and in your customer service correspondence.
Ask any direct marketer about the power of words. They'll tell you how changing just a single phrase or word in a sales letter can significantly impact the response rate achieved. Ask the writers of TV commercials and print ads for newspapers and magazines. The world of offline commerce understands only too well the impact of words. But this isn't the case online. The attention of business people online is focused on the technologies that deliver the messages, but they are not working hard enough on the messages themselves.
One of the ironies here is that the environment itself - the Internet - is all about text. It always has been. It started as brief conversations between the technically savvy. The Net - and then the Web - has always been about connecting with other individuals, connecting and sharing. Even today, in the hopeful world of broadband and wireless, people talk with one another through their keyboards far more frequently than they go to a commerce-enabled Web site. Over 350 million people around the world are online to share words, and only occasionally to go shopping. Everyone except for those who are doing business online knows that the Web is about words. Words are its lifeblood and its pulse.
The trouble is, this simple truth is intolerable to every software designer, 'solution' provider, financial analyst, venture capitalist and elitist pundit on the planet. Where's the glamour in words? How can you invest in them? How can you own them? Where's the upswing? Where's the glory? And how can something as revolutionary as the Internet be dominated by something as mundane, as old and as ordinary as words?
What's important to business online right now is to start showing some strong results. And while great copy online can't cure all your ills, it can certainly make a big difference.
- Good writing can differentiate your business from its many competitors online.
- Good writing can increase sales from your site, improving conversion rates where they matter most.
- Good writing can increase customer loyalty by making sure your personalization efforts really are personal.
- Good writing can bring your customer service to life, connecting with customers much more effectively.
- Good writing can make your name and message stand out in an area that is becoming increasingly busy - your customers' email inboxes.
Each chapter in this book will give you some immediate recommendations that you can apply to your business online, for a very nominal investment of time and money.
That's the good news.
The bad news is that there are number of barriers to getting great copy written for your online business. It's no accident that you don't have a copywriter among your senior online managers. It's no accident that when the site development group sits around the table, nobody says, 'Hang on, we can't get started without the writer."
Until now, writers have not been included as key players in the Web site or business development process. As a result, other participants in the process have come to believe that words don't play a very important role. So there's some history to get past, some convictions and assumptions at which to chip away. As a result of their exclusion from the development of the early online businesses, there is a significant lack of great copywriters with deep online expertise and experience. And those copywriters that have been hurriedly drafted in from their duties as advertisement and brochure writers often don't understand the unique demands of writing for commerce online.
(The term 'copywriter' is used quite deliberately. Copywriters are the people who use words to encourage customer actions and make commerce work. And that's what this book is about. Using words to do business online.)
Who should read this book? Two groups. The first and primary group includes anyone doing business online who is looking to increase sales, improve customer loyalty or find ways to differentiate themselves from their dozens of competitors. The second group includes the people from development groups, advertising agencies and marketing consultancy groups who need a better understanding of how copy works online, and how to make it work harder. And, of course, everyone is hoping to write great copy on the Web.
Examples have been taken from a number of sites and email programs to illustrate a variety of points being made in this book. At the time of writing, the text was as it appears in this book. Since that time, a number of the examples used will have been updated or changed.
Finally, when this book suggests that a particular site or email is flawed in some way, no disrespect is meant to its creators. Goodness knows it's been tough enough getting it right online in the early years. Mistakes are a good thing. They are the trail of crumbs that help those who follow get it right (and then make their own mistakes further along the way). The various examples on these pages have been chosen not to praise some and denigrate others, but simply to illustrate the points this book is trying to communicate.