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Copy that: The art of language on an agent's website

A website can play an important role in an agent's business. It can be a glimpse into their niche, a tool to establish credibility, the place to kickstart a booking. But one of the more overlooked aspects of a website is also one of the most important: the text.

Enter Emily Matras. Matrasa, a veteran writer, marketer and former Global Institute for Travel Entrepreneurs marketing associate, this month launched a business aimed at travel professionals called Bon Vivant Copy. In addition to offering copywriting services for websites, newsletters and other marketing assets, Matras is building up a blog of free resources tailored to agents who want to learn more.

To Matras, a website is a "huge opportunity," especially for home-based agents. They don't have to pay rent or maintain a physical office. Instead, "they just need a website."

"When you put the phrase like that, 'just need a website,' it doesn't sound like a big deal," she said. "But your website today is your travel agent storefront, so you need to make sure the copy and design are working together to attract the right kinds of clients, and then convert those web visitors when they land on the page."

Text, and the way it is arranged, can go a long way to doing just that. To that end, Matras offered some important factors for agents to keep in mind when writing website copy: Target the kind of clients you want to attract, make your website easy to read and tell visitors what to do next on each page.

One of the most common issues agents face when they're writing their websites is experiencing a paralysis of sorts over having to write about themselves, Matras said. "It might be helpful for them to remember that your website isn't really about you," she said. Instead, "It's about your clients."

Agents are likely in one of two situations. Either they are trying to attract clients like the ones they already have, or they're going after a different subset of clients altogether.

In the first case, Matras suggested agents review their client testimonials and make a list of common messages and phrases that their ideal clients use frequently. "Use that to guide your website, and you can even weave those exact phrases that your clients used into your web copy," she said. That often helps in getting over the hurdle of writing about oneself.

Agents going after a new type of client need not despair, even though they don't have testimonials to review. Instead, they should employ a tactic Matras calls "spying on your prospects." Visit places like Facebook groups where the intended clientele post, and look at how users write and interact with each other. Much like mining a testimonial, agents can pick up on common messages and phrases. Even something like Amazon book reviews could be useful (for instance, it wouldn't be odd for an adventure traveler to read books on the subject).

Readability is also key with a website. Matras said copy should be organized under headlines and subheadlines instead of as a block of text, which can overwhelm readers.

"You only have seconds to capture someone's attention, which is why you need to make your website copy easy to read and easy to scan," she said.

Finally, Matras advised that every page on an agent's website include a call to action telling readers what to do next. In most cases, that could take the form of an invitation to make an appointment for a free consultation, with a button that could be used to contact the agent.

"Telling people what to do isn't bossy. It's just smart marketing when it comes to copy on your website, because it's so easy to get overwhelmed online," Matras said. "We need a bit of hand-holding as web visitors so that we can figure out what you want us to do next."

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