This is the basic mantra all copywriters need to maintain through their lives. As I sit here now I can hear the moans of “duhhhh” coming from a thousand aspiring copywriters around the globe who are reading this.
It’s not a joke, but you would be right that it seems to be simple common sense. The problem that many of us face is the challenge in remembering that. As hectic schedules fill our lives, many often lose track of the fundamentals.
Old or new, here are 10 copywriting tips to keep your going.
1. Know the Science
Speaking of fundamentals, the first thing to keep in mind is the science behind the art. Copy should be catchy, attractive, immersive, and so on, but there are tried and proven stages that work effectively:
Offer Actionable Steps
To create a relatable experience, you first need to voice out what the issue is. Interest rises once the reader realizes that you or others are facing the same things. From there, you can offer a solution that solves the problem.
The next thing is to build credibility, which demonstrates how the solution was effective. This is where research and data proves invaluable. Remember that data is a tool and can be approached in different ways – look for the angle that supports your solution.
Once you’ve proven the solution works, you’ll be free to share what can be done next to make this happen. From that point on, the ones that have stayed will likely be your next leads in the sale.
With such a deluge of information, your copy needs to capture attention in the shortest period of time possible. Flooding your potential customer base with facts, data, and other concrete reasons to buy simply is not enough.
You likely have heard people referring to some novels or stories as “soul-stirring”. This means that it invokes strong emotional responses. Making use of powerful keywords are what helps you achieve that effect.
Coming from a background in traditional print media, this was something that took me a while to realize. Understanding the different ways people consume varying media formats is important. What works for one medium may not for another.
In the print space, copywriters are responsible for creating content to convert potential customers into buyers. How the companies extended the reach of that copy is out of the copywriter’s scope.
For the web, it’s a little more complicated. The question you want to ask yourself here is how effective do you want your web copy to be.
The role of extending the reach of web copy falls to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) experts. However, crafting SEO-friendly web copy can make a big difference to the overall impact any campaign makes.
Understanding SEO Basics
Search engines look for specific things in content so that it can make the right recommendations for those looking for something. SEO is a separate discipline from copywriting, but you can leverage on basic SEO knowledge to create effective web copy.
The key to making this work is structure.
Build your effective copy right at the top since this is what your potential customers will be looking at when they arrive at the page. However, aside from that, extend your content downwards.
Think of it as the summary followed by a detailed story that goes much deeper. The copy delivered earlier is intended for your human audience, while the extended copy is what helps search engines understand and recommend your content.
4. Research Extensively
Embellish, flourish, touch-up – all of these words are iconic to copywriters and their content. You need to be able to pull a rabbit out of your hat at any time. This means a heck of a lot of time spent on research and continuous learning.
Some may cite this as experience, but that won’t introduce new concepts to an outdated mind. At the very least, remember that your copy needs to be anchored in fact – even if those facts have been specifically chosen to support what you’re trying to sell.
5. Know Your Audience
Writing long, complex sentences is something all of us are sometimes guilty of. The same goes to those who sometimes inject rare or otherwise bombastic words (see what I did there?).
The adage of knowing your audience is true for all writers – with no exemption for copywriters. Even if you’re writing for a general audience, remember that not all may be as skilled a wordsmith as you.
If you’re trying to sell something, the surest way to lose that sale is by confusing or distracting your prey. Do you really want them to wander off because you’re not being “clear”?
Keep your copy simple and effective.
6. Have an Alternative Copy Ready
This is something you’ll generally learn with experience, but even then, not many will do it. The thing is that most clients are always sold on the premise of something new, fresh, different, or otherwise somehow more effective.
While that may sound great in principle, more often than not it is extremely challenging to get them to accept something new. That’s where your “Plan B” comes in to save the day – mimicking tried and true hallmarks of their business.
Remember that this rejection isn’t a reflection of you or your abilities as a copywriter. The larger the business, the more traditional they tend to be. It can be extremely difficult to convince a marketing manager that a real change would work better.
Millions of dollars could be riding on his or her shoulders.
This may not be the greatest advice or tip where copywriting is concerned, but for the newbies out there – you’ll thank me later.
7. Focus on the Headline
Again going back to the topic of content explosion, many people today simply skim headlines. You have a very limited space in which to pull the reader in to read the rest of your pitch.
As with most content, copy is the same and you should craft your headline after your content is done. This helps in a few ways, such as by not distracting you as the copywriter, and ensuring that it matches the copy.
Bring those powerful keywords I spoke of earlier fully into play and build an irresistible proposition.
Compare these two headlines for example:
Access Any Media Stream with this Simple Tool
Brand X VPN Will Help You Unblock Geo-locked Content
Admittedly, the first line is a little clickbaity and not suitable for all brands. The distinction though, is in the different emotions each example can inspire. Consider carefully what emotions you want to evoke in your title.
8. Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
Copywriting isn’t about creating a market where none exists. That isn’t something your words alone can do in a single instance. That’s why wheels already exist – Needs and Wants.
People will buy things they need or want. Writing copy for the former isn’t really that difficult. For the latter, you have to understand that desire can’t be created with copy. Things that people want already have their market – your role is to stoke it into an unimaginable flame.
9. Stay Positive
This doesn’t apply to you (although it helps), but keep in mind that you need to use positive terms in your copy. Even if you can’t always do that throughout, at the very least resist using negative terms when you’re writing.
The key difference in positive and negative phrasing is putting a better light even on less than stellar circumstances. Positive phrasing is a lot easier to digest,is often more direct, and works far better expressively.
Positive phrasing – Enjoy a pain-free experience with Product X.
10. Read Your Copy Out Loud
Once you’ve built your perfect masterpiece, read it out loud. What looks great on paper and sounds great in your mind may not go so well on the ears. Simply put, we sometimes write stupid things. Reading them out loud calls those things more vividly to the fore.
It can be easy to forget that the words we put to paper are consumed by real people. When you write something down, it may come across very differently when verbalized. Be very aware of the effect this may cause on your audience.
Copywriting is a combination of art and science. Knowing the science behind writing effective copy is the foundation, while the bells and whistles on top are your art. You can’t have one without the other.
By keeping a few rules in mind, you can be producing effective copy instinctively. Once you have that down to pat, you can churn out impressive copy at speeds many will be aghast at. If you’re still having problems, learn from what influences you.
Think of your most recent purchases that you made because of an ad and reflect on them. If it worked on you, it means the copywriter did something right, yes?
Timothy Shim is a writer, editor, and tech geek. Starting his career in the field of Information Technology, he rapidly found his way into print and has since worked with International, regional and domestic media titles including ComputerWorld, PC.com, Business Today, and The Asian Banker. His expertise lies in the field of technology from both consumer as well as enterprise points of view.