Let’s be honest – it’s the word that sells. You can spend tens of thousands of dollars on e-mail marketing campaigns, Google Ads, Facebook Ads, banners, or huge billboards in the city center. But the fact of the matter is simple – it is all pointless without an excellent copy. It’s up to you whether you become “Just a writer” or “What a great copywriter!” Now it’s time to tell the difference.
Anyone can write. However, in order to write engaging and interesting content that sells, you have to be well-prepared, trained, and, above all, keep in mind some of the basic rules and commandments of copywriting. A copywriter is not just a writer. They write to sell. That’s the main, and in fact, the only purpose of the copywriter’s work. Let us examine some of those rules and see how to apply them in everyday life.
Commandment 1: There are no boring subjects
Have you ever thought, “How can I sell that? There’s nothing to write about!“? Well, you’re mistaken; most probably, there IS something to write about, but you haven’t found it yet. If you want to be a great copywriter, you have to approach every subject and every company with an open mind. If you’re struggling with a given subject, ask yourself a couple of questions:
- How does this company help people?
- How does it change their lives?
- How can I present it from a different perspective?
- What has driven the owners to do this for a living?
It’s also beneficial to be familiar with how their competitors are communicating. Of course, not to copy their work or style, but to see a larger picture. Do some analysis of the competition, find out what they write about and how. Maybe then, you will come up with a great idea! In fact, that’s all you need.
One of the solutions is to think of the related content. If you write for a scaffolding company, a good idea may be to write about the highest buildings in the world. Or the most complicated construction projects ever executed. Or, if you want to create content for a health and safety company, would a comic with examples of accidents be an interesting concept? An open mind is your best friend when writing a copy!
Commandment 2: Write about benefits instead of advantages
Benefits and advantages are two completely different things. Let’s consider a simple example, two sentences:
Sentence A: Our unique glass protection coating is very strong.
Sentence B: We have developed a glass protection coating that guarantees four years of continuous protection to your shower, so it looks brand new without all of the tedious scrubbing.
I think you get the picture. Telling people that something is “unique” and “very strong” says nothing. It may look good to your customer or to a boss unfamiliar with copywriting, but that’s it. We read about concrete benefits in sentence B: 4 years of continuous protection, the shower looks brand new, and no scrubbing is needed. These are the benefits expected by your customers. They buy glass coating in order to have a nice-looking shower and clean glass, not because the layer is “very strong”.
You have to think like your customer. What would make YOU buy this product? Because it’s strong, or because it will help you in keeping your shower stall clean? The answer is obvious.
Commandment 3: Drop weasel words
Weasel words are statements without any support. They are vague generalizations, just unnecessarily filling up the space. Here are a couple of examples:
“It is said”, “researches say”, “people think”, “some say”, “evidence suggests”, “it’s commonly known”, and so on.
What is the problem with weasel words? They mean nothing. There is nothing to support your statement. “It is said” – but where? “Researches say” – give me a source! “Evidence suggests” – what evidence? Drop, forget, and never use weasel words. If you say that “it is said”, tell your audience where exactly. If “researches say” – share a source. If “evidence suggests” – explain what evidence.
Here’s an example of how it should be done, considering what we talked about above:
“As researchers reveal, traditional radiological imaging misses signals indicating cancer in about 30% of cases.” Great sentence, but how do you know it is true? You have two options:
- Put a number or a symbol at the end of this sentence, and then at the bottom of the text, the same number/symbol and add a footnote with the link to the research.
- Put a hyperlink directly in the sentence.
It’s a simple thing that changes everything. You earn credibility and trust among your potential customers and show them that you have an eye for detail. This is valuable no matter what you do or try to sell.
Commandment 4: CTA is your best friend
A call to action (CTA) is one of the most important parts of almost every copy. Why? People tend to do things more willingly if you simply tell them to. And all the big players understand that very well. Just consider some big companies’ slogans:
Nike: Just do it!
Skittles: Taste the rainbow
Apple: Think different (no longer in use but still working!)
Ford: Go further
Mazda: Drive Together
Netflix: See what’s next
All of those CTAs are short, catchy, and clear. You have no doubt about what to do. The instruction is short and simple. And this is what makes up a great CTA.
Of course, CTA is by no means limited to the company’s slogans. It can and should be used on the website and landing pages, on business cards, and in every blog post and commercial. One of the great examples of using CTA in a commercial derives from the Polish market. In 2002, a telecom company called ERA (currently T-Mobile) made an entire commercial with nothing but CTAs:
(turn English subtitles on!)
But not any CTAs! Strangely, they had almost (one exception) nothing to do with the company’s offer:
Search for kindness in people. Set yourself a big goal. Keep off the grass. Believe in love at first sight. Never laugh at someone else’s dreams. Make yourself a cool hairstyle. Don’t be fooled by appearances. Have rules. Break the rules. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Do not ever lose contact with your children. Watch fewer ads. Don’t blame yourself if you do not know yet what to do with your life. Judge people by their hearts, not wallets. Call mum.
Who would not agree with that? This is what made this ad special. And you know what? Even after many years, people in Poland still recognize that commercial and remember the company behind it, even though it no longer exists. And no wonder, because it’s simply great. Not one word of the company’s offer, no prices, no cellphones – 100% effective. Unbelievable, isn’t it?
But let’s go back to our subject. Here are some great examples of versatile CTAs:
Subscribe now, join us now, give it a try, apply here, send it to me now, start a free trial, check it now, discover now, get 30 days free, shop now, let’s do this, get started, watch the video, I’m in.
The message is short, clear, and doesn’t give you time to think – in almost every CTA shown, we use the word “now” because this is what you expect from your audience. To complete certain actions NOW, not in three weeks.
Commandment 5: Write the way people read
This is particularly important when you write for web purposes. It turns out that most people read in one recurrent way. It’s commonly called F-Shaped Pattern. It’s called this way because the pattern created by the heat map recalls the letter F. It shows the way the reader’s eyes go while reading an article. There are two most important places where most people focus their attention. Take a look at the following graphics:
People usually concentrate on the title, lead, first to the third paragraph, and the first headline. Does this mean that people do not read longer texts? No. It tells us where they focus their ATTENTION. So you have to get them interested here. If you don’t – all is lost; they will leave your website.
So, all of the most important data, news, offers, and proposals have to be introduced swiftly. No one will read for several minutes to find out at the end that the given offer is completely unsuitable for them. You must draw their attention and interest them within your title, lead, and first two paragraphs. Okay, the first heading as well, but that’s your last chance!
Commandment 6: Keep SEO in mind
If you write longer texts, you should always remember about SEO. Establish what keywords should be included in your texts and in what quantity. The general rule is this – the longer the text is, the more keywords you need to include.
Of course, you must always remember to keep your texts readable. That is more important than the number of keywords. Texts can never be overfilled with keywords because no one’s going to read them. Consider keywords as directions that show which way you should go while writing, and what subjects need to be covered. Also, pay attention to the headlines – usually, it is best to put keywords in them, but never at the cost of losing the sense.
And what about the length of an article? I’m one of many experts supporting the thesis that you should think first about QUALITY and later about quantity. Google indeed values longer texts, let’s say, about 1,000 words. Some experts may even say 2,000 words. But remember, there is no point in stretching the article to the limits of common sense just to get “optimal SEO length”. Your focus should be on writing well-prepared and subject-exhausting texts. And SEO will come its way.
There are many more rules and guidelines for great copywriting, but it’s impossible to fit all of them in one article. Just remember one golden rule: Write something your audience will want to read.