What Stephen King taught me about online copywriting

I used to love Stephen King books.  “Carrie.”  “It.” “The Stand.” As a teenager, I had them all. Heck, I even had them in hardback. Whenever I’d make a new book acquisition, I’d crawl into bed, turn on my reading lamp and faithfully turn to the introduction before chowing down the main story.

Why? Because the introduction was just as creepy, scary and weird as the rest of the book – sometimes, even more so. It warmed me up to the book’s theme and set the stage for what I’d find next.  Sure, Stephen King would go through the normal stuff every author does in an introduction. He talked about the inspiration for the book. He talked about what was going on in his life when he wrote it. He mentioned a few characters, and thanked a few people.  But, where most book authors make the first few pages a dull litany full of “thank yous” and factoids, Stephen King seamlessly folded fact and emotion into the copy.  In essence, King made a book introduction – the most mundane part of every tome – spooky. And expertly set the stage for the rest of the story, placing the reader on the edge of her seat before she reached the first chapter.

Stephen King is a master of eliciting an emotional response through his writing’s tone and feel.

Direct-response SEO copywriting is a type of storytelling. Every Web page – whether it be about industrial blenders, women’s coats or gardening shears – is there to draw the reader into a purchasing frame of mind.  If your prospect is at the consideration phase of the buying cycle, he’s looking for information, comparing features and kicking the virtual tires. If your prospect is ready to buy, she wants to purchase from a company she feels she can trust.

Read the text on your Website, and ask yourself these questions:

  • Would I feel comfortable reading this text to a prospect?
  • Would these be the words I’d use to showcase our services?
  • Does the wording sound way too formal for your “family owned, small business” atmosphere?
  • Do the words inspire trust and confidence?
  • Do you feel energized after reading the copy? Or does your site sound exactly the same as all your competitors?

Isn’t it time to erase mediocrity from your SEO content?

Your Website copy is your front-line, virtual salesperson. Never, ever be afraid to be engaging.

5 replies
  1. brianlburns
    brianlburns says:

    I always think King gets underestimated as a writer; I’m a big fan, and “On Writing” remains my favorite how-to book anywhere. Really, what makes it great is exactly what you talk about here – not especially being spooky, but having a mastery of his message (no matter what he’s talking about). It’s personal, to the point, and right-on, more often than not.

    It’s good copy.

    Reply
  2. Heather
    Heather says:

    Thank you! You just made me dig out my dog-eared copy of “On Writing” – I had forgotten how much I love that book. Yes, King does get underestimated (although you can’t argue with his commercial success!). And sure, some of his stories are a bit formula. But at the same time, that tone and feel mastery is always there.

    It *is* good copy!

    Reply
  3. Sarah
    Sarah says:

    Heather, great post. Stephen King is so commercially successful because he wrote for his readers. And he does the work for you so you don’t have to. He makes the ride effortless – and titillating – so you can just sit back (if you dare) and enjoy the book.

    Just like a good copywriter writes for the prospects and does the work for them so they have an easy and enjoyable time on the website. I love the way you break it down with some strategic questions. Thanks

    Reply

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