TABLE OF CONTENTS
- What Is Copywriting
- Who Is a Copywriter
- Copywriting Secrets
- Build Trust With Your Audience
- Illustrate The Problem
- Just Keep It Simple
- Keep It Casual, Keep It Conversational
What Is Copywriting?
Copywriting is the act or occupation of writing text for the purpose of advertising or other forms of marketing. The product, called copy or sales copy, is written content that aims to increase brand awareness and ultimately persuade a person or group to take a particular action
Copywriting is the process of writing persuasive marketing and promotional materials that motivate people to take some form of action, such as make a purchase, click on a link, donate to a cause, or schedule a consultation.
These materials can include written promotions that are published in print or online. They can also include materials that are spoken, such as scripts used for videos or commercials.
The text in these materials is known as “copy,” hence the name “copywriting.”
You may not realize it, but copywriting is everywhere.
In fact, if you just start by looking in your mailbox, you’ll find some obvious examples of copywriting. Promotions for local restaurants, catalogs, fundraising letters from charitable organizations, or sales letters for various products and services are all forms of copywriting.
WHO IS A COPYWRITER?
A copywriter is a professional writer responsible for writing the text, or copy, used in marketing and promotional materials.
You may have heard various myths about writers, like the suggestion that writers are born with talent, and that you can’t “learn” how to write.
Or perhaps you’ve heard the opposite, that there’s no skill involved in writing and anyone can do it.
When it comes to copywriting, both of these myths are untrue.
Copywriters are professionals who have learned and practiced their craft. None of us were born knowing how to write excellent copy, but it’s definitely a skill that nearly anyone can learn with a bit of persistence.
Perhaps due to the myths about writers, copywriting has remained a somewhat exclusive profession that not many people go into.
But this actually works to your advantage as a copywriter because it means that well-trained copywriters are hard to find.
That’s the fundamental reason why AWAI was created over two decades ago — to train more professional copywriters in order to meet the growing needs of the industry.
The exclusivity of copywriters also keeps their value high.
You got to where you are today because of the power of words.
Sure, you might know the latest and greatest SEO tricks and Facebook marketing growth hacks, but none of that amounts to much if you can’t use your words to sell to people.
With them, you can make your audience the heroes of their own story, one in which they are the champions of their personal journey and you are their guide.
As their guide, it’s within your power to offer them a solution to whatever problem they’re having. That solution is your product or service.
And how do you tell your audience’s story? With effective, convincing copywriting. When carefully crafted, words bypass the logical part of their brain and speak to their core wants and needs.
It’s not enough to tell your audience what your product or service does.
- Sway them to your way of thinking.
- Persuade them that your offer will make their life better, easier, happier in some way.
- Convince them that you have the solution to the problem they’re facing.
Luckily, you’re not alone. Plenty of marketers have been in your shoes and have offered their copywriting knowledge freely so you can get back to business and get those conversions coming in.
Here are my time-tested, marketer-approved copywriting secrets that well-known experts have used to boost their on-page conversions.
1: Build Trust With Your Audience
A study done by Unbounce in 2017 shows that copy that uses words that evoke feelings of trust corresponds to a higher conversion rate, particularly in the Travel and Business Services industries.
For copywriters, this makes sense: if your copy works on your clients, it’ll work on your client’s clients (it’s bananas all the way down). Trust gives us that gut feeling that things are going to turn out great, and it’s that gut feeling that ultimately decides whether you’ll get that conversion or not.
Logic and numbers are great, but they’re really just two of many tools to get to that gut feeling of trust.
Use Trust Words
Words can be tricky things.
They often have multiple definitions, each meaning an ever so slightly different thing. They also create imagery based on a reader’s own experiences with the word.
For some, the word “authentic” could bring about imagery of certified antiques at an auction, while others might see the word and get hungry for takeout food.
Try using these words in your copy, which have been found to be associated with building trust:
The words you choose will vary somewhat depending on your industry and what you want your audience to feel. But the same holds true: words that trigger emotion get clicks and drive sales.
Great, high-converting copy puts its money where its mouth is. You can’t build something from nothing, so building trust with your audience requires a strong foundation of evidence and freebies.
A digital marketing campaign without value-added content is like a banana without a peel: things are going to go south real quick. This type of content is also essential to creating strong copy.
With value-added content like free eBooks, PDFs, and industry insight newsletters, you don’t have to tell your audience they can trust your expertise: they can see for themselves and benefit from it.
Along that same vein, the most convincing words will come from people who aren’t being paid to be convincing. Testimonials, reviews, and cold hard statistics will all add incredible weight to your copy.
Trust takes time to grow, but showing that the product or service has worked for others in the past acts as a sort of time travel hack. Potential clients can see themselves as the people in your testimonials and reviews. They can see the average percentage growth of your client’s businesses and extrapolate that to their own business’s potential success.
Good agitation is less about rubbing salt in the wound and more about connecting with your audience through a mutual understanding of the issue.
Sure, you’re going to use colorful words that may sting a bit, but it’s all to connect your audience with your solution for a big win-win.
The more a reader is convinced that you know what their problem is, the more likely it is that they’ll convert.
Use Fear Words
Fear can be destructive, but it can also be a very powerful motivator. Fear compels us to take action—as long as we can work through it.
Words that trigger fear are very effective at grabbing attention, but it’s important to avoid hyperbole. You want the fear to resonate with the reader: not crush them under its thumb.
Try using words like:
You also need to be careful not to talk down to your audience while agitating. The human ego is a very real thing, and being reminded of a mistake or failure has the potential to put a really sour taste in your reader’s mouth.
Illustrate The Problem
This is where you as a copywriter can break out your inner novelist and really shine. Instead of just telling your audience what their problem is, you can show it through setting a scene and using colorful, descriptive language.
When you create a scenario, treat it like you would a piece of fiction. There should be a main character, a beginning, a middle, and potentially an end.
Your character doesn’t have to have a name: they could exist as a stand-in for your reader. The idea is that by writing a narrative, you can create a highly detailed scenario that the reader can relate to and sometimes even place themselves into. Even though your scenario won’t match up with theirs 100%.
Plus, it’s just way more fun to read.
Personal anecdotes can also go far, as agitation doesn’t have to be a negative thing. If you or the client you’re writing for has experienced this problem personally, an anecdote about that experience can agitate in a positive way.
Who better to help with a problem than someone who’s gone through it already?
Sugarcoat With Humor
Agitation doesn’t have to be painful, and it shouldn’t always be negative. You’re looking to fire up your audience on their quest for a solution, not send them into a depression spiral.
Humor can be a good way to blunt the edge of your agitation blade. Some of the best comedy comes from painful experiences yet allows us to connect with each other on a deeper level.
3: Just Keep It Simple
People have short attention spans.
Your audience is just as likely to read the newsletter or Facebook ad that you lovingly word-crafted while sipping their coffee or mindlessly scrolling through their phone on the toilet as anything else.
You don’t have much time to grab their attention.
On average, people read at most 28% of the words on a given web page. And it doesn’t help that they have an average attention span of 8.25 seconds.
When you read a newsletter, a landing page, or a Facebook ad, what you’re really doing is skimming it for the most relevant pieces of information.
In fact, conversion rates drop dramatically for copy written at above a 6th-grade level.
Don’t Dumb It Down
Writing to a 6th-grade level doesn’t mean dumbing your copy down and patronizing your audience. Your focus on keeping your sentence lengths manageable and avoiding overly academic wording when plain language would fit better.
If your sentence takes more than one breath to read out loud, then it’s way too long. That being said, you still need to have a variety of sentence lengths. Your short sentence writing becomes dumbed down when all of your sentences are the same length.
Good copy creates a balance between long and short sentences. It’s just that with copywriting, you’re working within a narrow range.
A much, much narrower range.
Similarly, you don’t need fancy words to convey complex topics. Your word choice operates, for the most part, within the range of layman terms, but you should never forego an industry term if it really is the best choice.
Keep It Casual, Keep It Conversational
Writing your copy with a conversational tone in mind has several benefits. Besides endearing you to your audience and creating a comfortable atmosphere, being conversational has the added bonus of keeping your language from cluttering itself.
Academic writing tends to layer concepts and ideas within other concepts and ideas. It starts with an idea A, but before it gets to B, it goes into AB, ABC, and AC.
A conversational approach is much more forward.
It might start with idea A, conclude with B, then explain how it connected the dots. Like social interactions in general, a conversational approach leads with the interesting thing: the revelation of B (for Banana, of course).
Leave Out The Niche Jargon
Leave out all but the most common industry jargon, and only use it when it feels natural. What you’re shooting for here is water cooler conversation—but you’re just visiting this particular office so you need to keep things somewhat professional.
4: Write Concise, Consequential, And Concrete
Generally speaking, the fewer words it takes to convey a message the better. This is especially true when it comes to your copy.
You don’t have much time to make an impression, so make sure it counts.
Alex Quin, the CMO of award-winning advertising firm UADV, agrees. Shorter sentences convert.
I go into more detail about being Concise, Consequential, and Concrete in my article “Top 6 Copywriting Tips for High-Converting Homepages,” but here’s me practicing what I preach.
Keep It Short
Your audience doesn’t owe you their time or their attention. Keep things short and get to the point.
Give Your Words Meaning
Hyperboles are out. Real-world examples are in.
Don’t just say you’re the fastest/best/funniest/highest potassium copywriter on the market: show what that translates to in dollars, cents, hours, and minutes.
Ground Your Writing
At the end of the day, you’re asking real people to spend real money for real results. Your copy should avoid being entirely pie in the sky language and include a strong foundation of concrete language.
Think of your copy as a balloon tied to a weight: the perfect balance will allow your copy to rise up and come back down (preventing a cruel death in the upper atmosphere).
5: Spend Your Effort Where It Counts
Work smarter, not harder.
Along with finding what resonates with your audience (the content of your copy), you should also pay mind to where you resonate with your audience (the vehicle of your copy).
The nature of copy is that even great copy that doesn’t get read becomes crap copy. You need more than just your own eyeballs!
Focus On Your Headlines
David Ogily, known as the “Father of Advertising,” is famous for saying, “When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”
That’s not an overstatement. As many as five times as many people read the headline as the body text.
With this in mind, here are some headline-writing best practices:
- Use numbers and data to help your reader process information. Odd numbers are seen as more authentic
- Create a sense of urgency. Make your audience feel like they need to take action now
- Avoid passive voice. It’s, “Bananas give me potassium,” not, “Potassium was given to me by bananas.”
- Use Power Words. Get your audience to feel energized and empowered. Think action-oriented words.
A well-crafted headline will put your reader in the right frame of mind and make them open-minded to the copy that follows. Without a good headline, you’re starting off with a severe handicap.
Write With Skimming In Mind
That’s a fact of life. But on the internet, it’s a way of life.
Focus your copy on being friendly for skimming by using ample paragraph breaks and front-loading your sentences with what’s important.
Key, eye-catching words should be used at the beginning of paragraphs to hook the reader’s eyes and convince them that this part of your copy is something worth reading.
Bolding and highlighting, in moderation, can bring attention to what’s most important in your copy. This is especially important if you’re utilizing lists, as readers have a tendency to gloss over the entire thing unless explicitly drawn to key elements of that list.
You don’t want your copy to look like an overachieving student who got new highlighters for their birthday, but you also want to break up the monotony of a wall of text on the page.
6: Practice Empathy
Even in copywriting, it pays to be a good person. The relationship between a marketer and their audience should never be seen as competitive or adversarial.
A copywriter’s goal is to connect two human parties for a big win-win.
So whenever possible, treat your audience with compassion. Write your copy with empathy. Remember that there’s another human being on the other end.
Put Yourself In Their Shoes
What are your target audience’s worries and concerns? What might their reservations be? How do you address those? I pose these as questions because only you can answer them (with the proper research).
At every step of your copywriting process, you want not just to keep your target audience in mind but also pretend to be them. What competitors could they have already researched? What makes the business you’re writing for different?
You won’t have the answer every time, but asking yourself questions like these will help keep you on track to great copywriting.
Emphasize Benefits, Not Features
Features are great. They’re raw, unadulterated data after all.
But they don’t present a perfect picture and they put the burden of extrapolation onto the audience. A feature is a possible route to a solution, but not the actual solution.
Benefits, on the other hand, are clear solutions.
So are you writing features of benefits?
Features are generic. Benefits are specific to your customer.
- Feature: Our bananas are fortified with Grade-A potassium, a mineral needed for the heart and muscles to work properly.
- Benefit: Our bananas give you the energy boost you need to crush that marathon!
Ask yourself: What problem does your offer solve for your target audience?
Conversion happens when your product or service is the best solution to your reader’s problems. Your expertise on the solution should be used to extrapolate the impacts of those features so your readers can make an educated decision.
Write Like They Hate Your Copy
The burden is entirely on you as the copywriter: Your copy has everything to prove.
At every turn, your writing needs to hook and be engaging, because nobody is assigning your copy as required reading.
Focusing on your reader’s enjoyment of your copy will help ensure that they not only actually read it but also remember it and possibly even share it. It also has the added benefit of making your copy fun to write for you. This mood enhancement will bleed into other aspects of your copywriting, guaranteed.
7: Research Before You Write
High school fluff essays are a thing of the past—for you at least. Great copywriting is sexy, smart, and convincing.
But it’s also backed by quality research.
Without this due diligence to attempt to understand every variable and facet of copywriting, your copy will end up missing the mark more than it should.
Know Your Audience
The number one rule of marketing is you need to understand your audience.
You need to intimately understand their wants and needs and how your offer can provide for them. What are their challenges? Their goals? Their pain points?
Understanding your audience requires research. If you don’t understand your audience, then your messaging will be off. Then your copy will miss the mark and your product or service won’t sell.
Fair enough, but how do you do audience research?
Facebook Audience Insights is a good place to start. The platform is a goldmine of consumer information.
Start by making whatever reasonable assumptions you can about your target audience. What gender are they? What kinds of occupations do they work in? What’s their level of education?
Then, plug that information into Facebook Audience insights. It can then tell you other useful information, like what states they might live in, whether they’re urban or rural, or what magazines they read.
Google Audience insight meanwhile, doesn’t have as detailed targeting, but can also contain useful information. Particularly if you’re writing copy for PPC paid search campaigns.
Dan Lok, the Canadian Entrepreneur, and Business Mentor says, “If you take the time to do the proper research, your prospects will be very impressed. You’ll gain their trust.”
Know What You’re Selling
Your audience can smell BS and fluff from a mile away. Know your product and service inside and out so you can effectively communicate what benefits everyone.
A side effect of now knowing what you’re selling is that your copy will tend to lean hard into features rather than benefits. You won’t be able to agitate properly because you won’t have that intimate knowledge of how the solution works.
You don’t need perfect knowledge here, though. Just a working knowledge. Your job as a copywriter is to bridge the gap between problem and solution, so it’s essential that you have a working knowledge of both sides.
Keep Learning Copywriting
A good student never stops learning.
In order to be a great copywriter, you must always be learning, improving, and adapting. Copywriting will change, you can be sure of that. With each new medium, with each shift in social norms, with whatever new technology is developed.
Your job as a copywriter may never get any easier, but it’ll get more fun. The more tools you can put into your copywriter’s toolbox, the better equipped you’ll be to play around with ideas and strategies.
And then maybe you’ll be writing the next copywriting guide!
Copywriting Is Hard, But It Works
Those are just some of the tips that copywriting experts have handed down to us from the mountaintop.
They tend to work in the majority of cases, but when it comes to conversion-based copywriting, what ultimately matters is what tests better.
What gets the most clicks? The most shares? The most conversions?
These tips are a good place to start, but the world is full of unforeseen variables. Experimentation, adaptation, and experience are musts in this industry.
You could spend years developing these skills, testing out what does and doesn’t work for your business.