Words power the web. They start as written words and flow into videos, visuals and audio. The better your words are, the bigger impact they'll make. Polishing your copywriting skills is something you need to factor in to your schedule.
Types of Copywriting
You need to use the right copywriting skills for the right place. For example, if you learn copywriting skills for sales pages you might struggle to translate that into blog posts beyond a great headline and a call to action. Email copywriting has a different goal to sales page copywriting. Email copy is all about getting the link clicked, and sales page copy writing is about leading the reader through a journey to get the buy button clicked. A subtle, yet important difference when it comes to making your words work.
Then there's website copy. Website copy isn't the same style on every page. Home page copy is different to about page copy and that again differs from the services page copy. You'll find specialists in all these areas and more.
Copywriting isn't about selling
Some small business owners believe that copywriting is the equivalent of going to a cocktail party and screaming “Buy my product!” to every person you meet. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Copywriting is about so much more than selling your product, services or program.
Copywriting is about serving your audience. You can use persuasive copy to address your customers’ concerns, help them make smart buying decisions, and offer solutions to their need. Copywriting is about educating your customer. Because the best customer is an educated customer.
Now that you have an understanding of some of the important terminology involved in copywriting and how you can make the most of those elements, here are some more tips to help you craft great copy.
Since the sales copy you write is to promote your own products, it’s easy to make the mistake of talking about yourself in your copy too much. The problem is, your potential customer doesn’t really care about you. They care about themselves, they want solutions to their problems and they want to know what you can do for them. You need to focus on your customer first.
A lot of sales copy is too focused on the business who is doing the selling:
“We sell this…”
“We’re great at this…”
“We believe in customer satisfaction…”
It’s simple enough to change wording around to focus more on “you” and how you can help your potential customer. Turn it around and write things like this instead:
“Are you looking for…”
“If you need reliable…”
“Your satisfaction is guaranteed…”
Go through your copy and change many of the “we” to “you” and rewrite your copy based on the change in focus. When you’re done, you’ll see how much more of a connection you can make with your reader. In most cases you’ll be saying essentially the same thing (ex. Saying, “We believe in customer satisfaction” is pretty much the same as, “Your satisfaction is guaranteed”), but the focus is on your potential customer.
Can you see what’s wrong with the following copywriting example?
“The biggest and best e-book that will make you the happiest person on your block.”
Here’s the problem: Outside of the fact that it’ pretty over-the-top with its claims, that sentence above is pretty meaningless. Nobody really cares if an ebook is the biggest and this sentence really doesn’t say anything about why it’s the best. Also, the word happiest is kind of meaningless. We all want to be happy, but if we are unhappy right now we have specific problems we need to have solved. Telling someone they’re going to be happy doesn’t answer much for them. They want to know HOW you’re going to make them happy and how you’ll make their specific problems go away.
The real problem with the sentence above is that it’s filled with adjectives that don’t give specifics. Adjectives describe nouns and they don’t provide readers with good information. Make sure you answer these questions in your copy:
- How are you the best
- What makes you great
- How do you care for your customer
That’s what people want to know. If you use too many adjectives, it ends up sounding like too much hype and the meaningfulness is lost.
That doesn’t mean you can’t use adjectives in your copy. Of course, you’re still going to use them, but your copy should be able to stand on it’s own without all the extra words.
If you want to see if your copy can stand up on its own, pick a couple paragraphs from your website or your entire page and remove all the adjectives. Does it still sound compelling? Is it selling your product?
If not, it’s probably time to start working on being specific and we’ll talk about that next.
I talked about this briefly when we wrote about headlines. Let’s get into this more and really understand how being specific can help you sell more of your product.
Instead of saying you ARE the best, say WHY you are the best. Instead of saying you’re fast; explain how fast and in what specific ways. Let’s say, if you are a printing service and you provide fast printing, tell them on average how much time you need to finish a project. If you aren’t willing to say how quickly you can complete a project, then you’re probably not that quick and shouldn’t be using that angle.
When we’re talking about copy, we’re giving people as much detailed information as possible so people can make an informed decision about a product, newsletter, or whatever our call to action is.
Have you ever been to a website and thought about buying a product, but you weren’t 100% sure it had the features/benefits you needed? It happens all the time. A lot of product-sellers think they can slap up a picture and add a few words and watch the sales roll in. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
You simply can’t give too much information about your product. Yes, you can be too wordy and put your reader to sleep, but if you’re giving people information that they need to make a buying decision, there is no such thing as too much information. You want them to have all their questions answered and get them to buy.
Another good way to be specific is to quantify things. If you have an ebook, that has 37 ways to reduce your cholesterol, tell them there are 37 ways. Don’t say there are “plenty of ways” or “this ebook is packed with ideas to help you lower your cholesterol”. A specific number like 37 as opposed to a round number like 30 also tends to generate a better response. It’s not completely clear why this occurs, but it’s likely because round numbers might seem made up or estimated, but when you say 37 it puts a specific picture in their mind.
Look at things you’ve written for your business. Where can you be more specific? What can you quantify?
As you continue with your business, there will be people that tell you that proper grammar is very important to maintain a professional image. This section is to remind you worrying about grammar is a form of procrastination, and it will stop you from getting started.
Websites visitors may even take the time to email and tell you about the spelling and grammar mistakes that completely outrage them. I have ones that correct my British English spelling to American English spelling because my version is wrong. Don’t let this worry you too much. Correct the spelling and if the grammar is outrageous, fix it – I'm not advocating being sloppy. But if English isn't your first language, or your grammar isn't perfect don't let that stop you. You will improve as you write more.
The most important thing about copywriting is to sound natural and to relate to your target audience appropriately. Write the way you speak. Oh, and you don't speak grammatically correct. Nope.
Naturally, if your audience is PHD students studying literature, then you might have to have a more formal tone and pay more attention to more grammar rules. If you’re audience is race-car enthusiasts or those interested in fashion trends, you might be more relaxed in your writing and speak more casually, you might even want to use an emoji or three.
Most fields are going to be more casual, so you want to create a friendly and real image with your copy. It’s okay to start sometimes sentences with “and” and “but” now and then because it’s how we speak and when you write how you speak, it’s how you relate to your audience. It’s okay to end a sentence with a preposition because, again, that’s how we speak.
Look at your copy and see how formal or informal you are. Can you see how you could make it sound more friendly, appealing and create a connection with your reader? If you’re too formal, you might just lose your audience all together. You don’t want to sound uneducated but you want to be natural. Most of your grammar is going to be correct, but there are some rules you don’t necessarily have to worry about for the sake of readability.
Final Note: If you’re going to have someone proofread your copy, whether it’s a friend, virtual assistant or professional proofreader, make sure they understand what you are looking for; that your spelling is correct, the language flows well and the copy sounds intelligent but friendly.
Write in short sentences to make things easy to read. Break up long paragraphs to ease eye-strain. Again, it’s okay to break grammar rules – especially with paragraph formatting because reading long paragraphs can be fatiguing. This is particularly true online and where people are reading on a screen. Don’t tire your potential customer out before they read the 3rd paragraph.
You can also bullet points, as we mentioned earlier, and these may include incomplete sentences. Luckily that is actually acceptable in grammar rules! The key is to make it easy to read.
Don’t use complicated language and make the level appropriate for your target audience. The average reading level of the general public is quite low. If you feel a more advanced word is more appropriate always define the word, in case your readers don’t know what it means.
It’s easy to get excited about your content and when crafting your website design, it can be tempting to include so many things. Add photos to accentuate the copy, but don’t allow them to take over. Pictures are important in creating visuals, but it’s your words that will make your website resonate.
On the Internet, keeping it simple is especially important. Web surfers only give you a few seconds before they decide to click away and never to come back to your website again. If you don’t grab attention or you confuse them with a busy website, they are more likely to make that decision to leave.
Here are some important tips for your website layouts:
- Keep your website navigation to a minimum. Create sub-categories to your website sections if necessary to minimize menu distractions.
- If you’re selling your own product on a particular page, it’s usually best to remove all banners or graphics going to outside pages.
- Keep your page header or logo simple and small. Don’t let it take over the whole “above-the-fold” space on your website. “Above-the-fold” simply means the space on your web page a visitor can see without scrolling down with her mouse.
A logo or page header can help with branding and can convey a more professional image, but it doesn’t have to be huge to do that. Most of the above-the-fold space should be reserved for selling your product.
Review your web pages and promotional copy and try to view it from the eyes of someone who is unfamiliar with you, your company or your product. Are you immediately able to receive the intended marketing message or are their other distractions on the page? Try to clean things up and then ask others for honest feedback.
Note about Sales Letters aka Sales Pages:
If you’ve been online any amount of time, you’ve probably seen web pages called “sales letters”. They’re the long scrolling pages with a headline, information about the product and a call-to-action.
The types of pages are very effective when selling one product at a time. The reasons they are effective are because:
- They have no distractions. There’s no navigation (except maybe on the bottom), flashing banners or anything to keep attention away from the product.
- Everything is in one place. The reader doesn’t have to click around, trying to find the information they need.
- It includes everything your visitor needs to know to make a decision about buying your product.
Notes on Opt-In Pages:
In addition to sales letters selling individual products, you’ve probably come across what’s called an “Opt-In Page”. It is similar to a sales letter in that there are no distractions and navigation, but the purpose of this page is to get them sign up for a mailing list or opt-in for more information on a product, etc.
These are highly effective in building your mailing list and can have extremely high conversion rates. They’re perfect for promoting on your business card, in a forum or email signature or anywhere you want to draw people in with your free information to sell to them later.
Earlier, we told you how important it is to provide as much information about your product or service, so that your customer can make an informed buying decision. We still stand by that, but we want you to also be as succinct (using only as many words as necessary) in your copy as possible.
There’s a difference between summarizing your offer and just repeating yourself over and over again. Although it’s true that detail is what really sells your product, you want to make sure your copy is succinct and receives proper editing attention.
Go through your copy and make sure that you’re not being repetitive or adding extra information your potential customer doesn’t need. If you start out with really long copy, go over it over and over again, until you’ve fine-tuned it into a well-oiled selling machine. It’s not the length that can be a problem, but the message you are sending with your copy.
Pros & Cons of Improving Your Copy
Time spent on developing your copywriting skills will increase your website traffic over time. You will only improve when you write. So, write write write.