Plain-spoken Online Conversion Rate Newsletter - covering web design, sales, marketing, copywriting, usability, SEO, relationship marketing and consumer psychology.


The Power of Being More Personal Online

He's baaaaack! It just won't do for us to go saying copywriting online is different… you gotta see the difference in action. You need concrete examples. You need comparisons. You need an angle. And you know we wouldn't dream of leaving you in the lurch. So join me - here, I've saved you a seat - while Nick Usborne graciously picks up where he left off last time in our mission to help you make your online copy high-impact.

In my last article I talked about some of the underlying reasons why copywriting online is different from copywriting for broadcast, print, direct mail and other offline media. I described online audiences as being quite different - because people online are connected, vocal and active within the online environment.

You can’t write ‘at’ people online. Instead, you have to connect ‘with’ them.

This shift in approach makes many demands on an online copywriter.

First, if you want to connect with people online, and be genuine about it, you have to ‘know’ those people a lot better than you do when you write a billboard or print ad. You have to dig deep to find out about the people with whom you want to connect.

How do you get to know them? Listen in to your customer service calls. Read customer service emails and online chat. Lurk in related newsgroups. Study the logs of your site. In short, take the time to find out what makes your audience tick. What’s important to them? How do they write? What terms and phrases do they use?

Once you have done that - once you have a close sense of the people to whom you are writing - you’ll be in a better position to write copy that truly connects with what’s important to them.

Here’s a simple starting point when you put pen to paper or keyboard to monitor…

Make it personal.

Copywriting offline is largely impersonal. But online, everything is personal. So you need to change your language.

As an example, here’s what Apple are saying on their homepage about the iMac computer:

“Four years ago we introduced the first iMac. It changed the way people use computers. It changed the way people look at technology. Some people even said it changed the world. Now, six million iMacs later, we’re doing it again.”

And here is what a couple of people said about the iMac in their reviews at

“My husband had never before turned on a computer, he has within 3 short months come farther than most, because of the ease of use of the Apple architecture. These machines are designed to be user friendly... no endless hours trying to figure out what a .dll file is anyway!”

“I have hated all things Apple for so long, and so very vocally, that it literally pains me to admit that I like the iMac. Okay, fine, I love the damn thing, stupid circular one-button mouse and all. I have even willingly stood silent as my longtime Mac-loving friends grasped hands to dance the Hubris Horah around me.”

Apple’s copy is inward-looking and self-serving. “Some people even said it changed the world.” Really? Well, maybe Steve Jobs and his family think so.

The Apple copy has a very typical, offline feel to it.

But what if we were to learn a little from what those two people at epinions wrote? Maybe we could come up with something a little more real; something that actually connects with regular buyers.

“We admit it. The new G4 iMac looks a little strange. A little like a big shaving mirror with a fat stand. But we think you’ll like it! That flat screen gives a beautiful, bright, distortion-free image. And the G4 processor is going to blast you right up into multimedia Heaven.”

We could work on that a little more. But you get the general idea. Say good-bye to that self-serving, Madison Avenue ‘ad copy’. And say hello to a more personal style that is in tune with what your customers are saying and feeling.

The same goes for your emails.

Here’s a welcome email from

“Dear Nick Usborne,

Welcome to SnapNames, helping to secure your domain.

To make changes or additions to your account please use the following username and password.”

They put my name there - but they didn’t manage to make their welcome personal.

Here’s a welcome from No name, but a lot more personal and engaging.

“Well, you've done it now. By opening a Customatix account, you've just changed the way you're going to buy athletic shoes forever. Be careful. The surgeon general reports that designing your own cool athletic shoes can be highly addictive.”

Do you have to be that casual? No, but you do have to make an effort to write in a way that better makes a personal connection.

Copywriting online IS different. You need to get to know your audience better - and you need to write to people in a way that is a whole lot more engaging and one-to-one.


Developing relationships. Connecting with folks. It's what the Internet has always done best, and you can turn it to your advantage if you take the time to understand what your copy needs to do so you can create copy that earns its keep.

Reaching for that high-impact brass ring? Then take my Number One Tip and grab yourself a copy of Nick's book, Net Words: Creating High-Impact Online Copy so you can check out his top ten online copywriting tips (plus all the other great things he has to share).


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GROK is taken from the landmark novel "Stranger in a Strange Land", by Robert A. Heinlein. It is a Martian word that implies the presence of intimate and exhaustive knowledges-serif" and understanding. Our "GROK" is a keen observer of the world around him and he takes a particular interest in the World Wide Web. The folks at Future Now like him a lot because he's taught them that "sometimes the price of clarity is the risk of insult."

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