Dale Carnegie’s 1936 book ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People‘ is one of the most popular self-help books ever published. It’s sold over 30 million copies and regularly features on lists of the most influential books of all time. The ideas Carnegie wrote about have become so widely adopted that they seem almost commonplace now but in the 1930’s they were ground-breaking.

Carnegie writes about “Six ways to make people like you”. These are based on a simple premise: people are much more interested in themselves than they are in us. We must therefore resist our natural urge to talk about ourselves and focus our attention on whoever we are talking to. By listening intently, encouraging others to talk and making them feel important we are able to build rapport and strengthen relationships.

This Charming Man

People who focus the attention on whoever they’re talking to are seen as charming, humble and friendly. In contrast those who dominate the conversation are seen as self-absorbed and rude. Carnegie tells us that deflecting attention onto others is a key skill for winning friends. This works in social situations and in a more formal business environment.

This advice is something that we’re now all familiar with but it is startling how so many of us fail to take this into account when writing website content. The headings found on most websites are quite telling: “About Us”, “Contact Us”, “Our Products”. We often fall into the trap of making our website copy all about us with barely a mention of our site visitors or what they’re looking to gain.

Just Ask

Understanding who your site visitors are and what information they want is vital if you want your site to perform well. The best person to speak to about this is your customers themselves. User testing tools like Peek or live chat app like Lucky Orange allow you to do this and are easy to set up. Alternatively talk to your customer services/sales team and ask them what they get asked most often. They will typically know more about potential site visitors than a copywriter will.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

For B2B focused companies having website copy which is focused on your business rather than your client’s business is particularly flawed. A good rule of thumb is to picture yourself speaking your copy aloud to a prospective customer. You wouldn’t start a business meeting by talking at length about your business without mention of who you’re meeting and what they stand to gain. If you did you probably wouldn’t be surprised if your visitors left and never returned.

A website can’t replace a conversation but that doesn’t mean you can’t write copy which makes the person you’re communicating with feel involved and valued. Focus on how you would work with them and what they can expect to gain. Show that their business is more interesting to you than your own business.

B2C Companies also have a tendency to make their websites all about them with little consideration for their users. This is easier to get away with for popular brands or those in interesting verticals. Most customers would rather read about Burberry’s history than that of their insurance provider.

What About Us?

If your site has an About Us page this is a good place to start, review each paragraph and consider it carefully. Does it give the reader an insight into how you work or just provide them with useless facts about the history of your business? Do your customers really care what your HR manager does on the weekends? Your About Us page should clearly be about you but it should written with your audience in mind. 55% of visitors spend fewer than 15 seconds on your website so you need to be concise to make each session count.

Well written website copy can have a big impact on how much how well your site performs so it’s worth revising it on a regular basis. If you’re creating copy from scratch consider creating user personas first. This will allow you to create content with your audience in mind and ensure that your copy speaks directly to them about what interests them. This way your site will win friends (and customers).

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