How to Write Great Copy: The Ultimate Copywriting Guide
Many businesses that I have worked with believe on some level that copy on a page is irrelevant. Nobody reads after all, and people have no attention span.
But, let’s think about this for a second. How do you know what a company does, what they sell, and how to get hold of their products?
You go to their website and you read.
If you get there and the copy you’re reading is uninspiring, corporate and boring, what do you do? You leave!
Then you go and buy from someone who passionately gives you compelling reasons to buy from them, in your language.
Time to let go of the old writing conventions. Throw out your dictionary and let’s start writing copy that informs, inspires, motivates, and most of all, converts.
If you want to know how to write good copy for your website by creating content that not only grabs your user's attention, but also encourages them to buy, then this is the perfect guide for you.
Let’s get stuck in.
Keep it Simple
Let’s say you’re a managing director. You’ve worked hard and built your business from the ground up. Nice job!
Running a business isn’t something anyone can do. You’re probably pretty clever and have a way with words.
You want other business leaders or consumers to read your copy and get the impression that your company is professional and knows its stuff. Makes sense.
But get this. The average reading age of a British adult is 9 years old. Not only that, 1 in 20 have the literacy and numeracy levels of a 5 year old.
(For the record, the US has us beat with an average reading age of 15 years old. Ouch.)
So, let’s say that half of the adult population have a reading age of 9. That’s over 26 million people!
I can bet a fair few of those are going to be buying from your company this year.
Key takeaway: focus on creating simple, to the point copy, as it completely trumps traditional “corporate” speak.
And hey, simplicity and clarity doesn’t have to be unprofessional.
Tools of the Trade
Hopefully you’re now onboard that simplicity is key.
But you’re probably wondering how you can change your writing style. If you’re anything like me, it’s going to be tough to cut out lengthy paragraphs and flowery language.
Some enterprising people have figured that out and made some cracking tools to help you out.
Here are a few I'd definitely suggest.
This is by far my favourite.
Hemingway is a free web-based app that helps improve the grammar, sentence structure and general readability of your text.
You can write directly in Hemingway, or just use it to edit and it will give you a Grade.
The grades show you which US school grade your copy matches. Basically, anything under 10 is great.
To make your life easier, the app highlights difficult sentences and words. Sometimes it will suggest different, easier words to replace complex ones with.
I guarantee that using this app will force you to keep it simple. The upshot is that your copy will be easy to read for everyone that visits your site. Nice!
You can pay for it ($19.99/£15.20*) if you want a desktop app, but I don’t personally see the point as you don’t get any more functionality. Up to you!
This one is more about cleaning up mistakes.
It’s a free Chrome plugin (or Firefox), so there’s not much excuse to not having it.
It’ll spell check for you and let you know when your grammar is letting you down. It’ll also suggest better words and potential citations.
Let’s chuck a paid option in here to round it off.
It’s another Chrome extension, but it’ll cost you between £60 (1 year) to £210 (lifetime)*.
Can you put a price on good copy? I sure hope so, or we’ll all be out of a job.
These guys also do a desktop version, so you can use it to check everything you write, wherever you write it (not on post-its though!).
In terms of functionality, it’s pretty much the same as Grammarly and comes down to preference. Give it a go (free trial) and let me know in the comments how you find it.
*accurate at time of writing.
Writing to Sell
Ok, you know why we need good, simple copy. I’ve also given you the tools to help you out.
Now let’s dive into the nitty gritty of writing copy that SELLS.
Quick example: You’re looking for a garden hose online. You’ve found two websites that sell an almost identical hose at the same price. Let’s have a look at their copy.
Why hoses? Sshh, go with it.
Example 1: HosesRus.co.uk:
SuperHose 3000 | £30:
Flexible, kink-free hose. Durable. Money back guarantee.
· Colour: Green
· Length: 30m
· Fitting: Standard
· Material: Polyester & PVC
· Diameter: ½”
Example 2: BestHoses.com
PowerHose V6 | £30:
At 30m long, this hose will reach the end of most gardens. A Polyester & PVC design stops kinks from forming and offers superb protection from damage and weather.
The standard fitting fits most taps, but we offer a 30-day money-back guarantee if you have any problems.
If you’re looking for a great hose that won’t break the bank, the PowerHose 3000 is your hose of choice.
· Forest Green
· Versatile 30m length
· Standard fit for most taps
· Durable & Kink-Free Polyester & PVC design
· ½” diameter (high flow)
· 30-day money-back guarantee. No questions asked!
So, which fictional, identical hose are you going to buy?
My point is that people buy benefits, not specs and features. They want to know how you are going to make their lives easier, not how many gizmos your widget has.
The benefits might seem obvious to you, especially if you work with these products every day.
But put yourself in the mind of your customer and ask yourself what they want.
A hose is a hose, but if you tell a customer that the 30m length means they can get to every corner of their garden without problems, they suddenly have a reason to buy.
When you’re writing, always be thinking what value you are giving to the customer.
If your company has been around for 100 years, don’t just write “We’ve been around for 100 years”.
Let them know why that matters. For example, “With 100 years of satisfied customers under our belts, you know you’re buying from a brand you can trust”.
Key Takeaway: Tell people how your product or service is going to improve their lives. Give benefits, not features, and always consider how you are providing value.
Top Tip: Longer content is GREAT for SEO. Not only does it keep people on your page for longer (Google measures this as a ranking factor), but it also signifies to search engines that you have higher quality content and lets you use more keywords. Sweet!
Tricks of The Pros
I'm going to show you some of the tricks that pro copywriters user every day to write killer copy.
You've probably noticed that most of the sentences in this article get their own line. Is it because they're anti-social?
No it's because white space is the key to reader retention. You can blast through 2000 words in no time when you have white space between sentences.
In fact, breaking up paragraphs increase reader comprehension by up to 20%!
Not only that, but you feel good when you whip through a lengthy article in a few minutes. The sense of quick progression keeps people reading right until the end.
Top Tip: Bump up your line spacing as well, so paragraphs and lines will feel more spaced out.
This one is a bit of a cheat, because you don’t actually write anything at all.
Simply put, using graphics and pictures breaks up your text.
We know the benefits of breaking up text already.
The other great thing about graphics is that you can take a lengthy text explanation and make it much simpler to understand with a picture.
Also, other people love to link to pictures that explain concepts. That means more backlinks for you, more traffic, and happier readers!
What if I told you that hiring me would greatly increase your user traffic and sales?
“Uh huh, and every other SEO”, I hear you say.
What if I told you that hiring me helped Company X increase their traffic by 267%, resulting in £25,871 sales in a single month?
Well, that sounds a lot more convincing, doesn’t it?
Using numbers makes you more credible. Make sure the numbers are real and SPECIFIC.
Note that I didn’t say “over £25k in sales”. I gave the specific figure down to the pound. That makes the number real and tangible.
Show your visitors how good you are with hard, cold facts.
And if you can throw a company name in there as a case study, all the better.
That leads me nicely onto…
A while ago, I bought one of those water bottles that has hours written on it.
The idea is that you drink enough water every hour (as marked on the bottle), by the end of the day, you’ve drank your recommended intake of water.
Gimmicky, but it works! So much so that now four of my colleagues now have one.
And there we have the power of social proof.
Just from me saying "wow, this bottle is so useful", people have ponied up the cash to buy one for themselves.
Now, imagine if you had that power on your website?
“But I already have reviews on my site!”, I hear you cry.
If you do, great! But do they look like this?
Quite a stark difference there.
If you're going to put reviews on your site, you need to stick a formula:
1. What was it like before your product changed their lives?
2. What specific features do they love the most?
3. What is it like now they have the product curing their pain point?
If that means pruning existing reviews and going back to customers for more details, do it!
Let the customer know exactly what you want them to cover in the review, but don't be pushy about it.
Just say “it would be great if you could mention [feature x] because you’ve had so much use out of it”
You’ll reap the benefits, trust me.
Finally, full names, job titles and headshot photos all serve to make a review more credible.
What if I don't have any customers yet?
Give your product or service to a few people to try for free.
Of course, make them aware that you’ll be expecting an in-depth review for the privilege
Calls to Action (CTAs)
In the kingdom of marketing, the CTA is king.
It’s all good and well having a prospect read all your copy, but you need to give them somewhere to go at the end of it.
That’s where the CTA comes in.
You probably click on them every day. Every “Sign Up”, “Log In” and “Buy Now” is a CTA.
Depending on what you’re actually asking them to do, being specific is best.
People like to know what to expect next.
So instead of “Sign Up”, try “Click Here to Get Our Awesome Email Tips”.
You get the idea.
Always put a CTA at the bottom and top of your pages. They should have a colour that stands out compared to the rest of your site.
For example, if your site is blue, make the CTA orange - Just like Wordstream have done:
Remember, only use that colour for all your other CTAs! That’s really important.
The idea is that people will associate that colour/style with taking action. Remember, consistency is key!
A Headline Act
Headlines are your first chance to grab a reader’s attention.
In fact, you could argue it’s your only chance!
A compelling and engaging headline can makes or break a content piece, so here are a few tips that'll help you get it right.
There’s a lot of discussion about headline length.
Let’s simplify it a bit. Headlines should be under 60 characters.
Why? Because after that, Google cuts it off on the search pages.
If you want max impact from a headline, it stands to reason that being able to see the whole thing is a good start.
People respond well to emotive language.
Basically, make a big deal out of it. It might sound stupid to you, but it works.
Example: "10 Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep"
^ Zzzzz... boring.
Better Example: "10 MIND-BLOWING Sleeping Hacks"
Will these hacks actually blow your mind? Probably not, but I bet you want to read it now.
Keep it to one emotive word per title though. Don’t overdo it, or it will sound fake.
Let’s sneak some SEO in here.
If you read Daniel’s Keyword Research Tips, you’ll probably have a list of suitable keywords for your site.
Keywords are given extra weight by Google if they are in the headline, or the first 100 words of a page.
So, if you can, drop them into the title.
Make sure it sounds natural though.
If you’re not sure, read it out loud. If it sounds weird, change it.
Length Really Does Matter
Content, guys. Come on.
To put it in simple terms, long form content beats short content in rankings.
We're talking 2000 + words. Sound like a lot?
It is, and you'll need to commit a good few hours to write a blog post or landing page.
But, it’s that exact reason why it makes you stand out to both Google and your visitors.
Few bloggers or copywriters put the effort in to create really useful, in-depth content.
That means that you can smash the rankings by creating one-stop shops of content for avid Googlers.
The below graph, put together by Brian Dean, shows the dominance long form content has over short.
Pretty damning for short content.
A lot of people worry how they can squeeze that much word count into all of their pages.
You see, it’s a correlation. Long content is a by-product of quality writing.
If you are providing value to your readers, your content will naturally become longer.
Take my example of the hose selling websites earlier. Remember how much longer the product description was for the one which gave the benefits?
Key Takeaway: Write good quality content and pack it full of value and detail. Your content will get longer naturally, and Google will reward you with higher rankings!
“And this is of critical importance, as this aspect of financial regulation is vital to the compliance of your”….bleugh.
Nobody talks like that in real life. We all have a personality. Let it show!
Type like you talk and suddenly, everything gets a bit easier to read.
There’s a misconception that writing casually comes across as unprofessional.
The fact of the matter is, everyone finds generic corporate writing pretty boring.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a consumer looking to buy a pen or a c-level exec looking to buy a software suite, you want something that excites you.
Let me tell you a little story...
When working for a sales company a few years ago, one of the sales guys told me about a time that he walked into a prospect’s house and made a sale.
Pretty standard, but he told me the customer said something which stuck with him.
When the sales guy was walking down the path to the house, the customer mentioned that he turned to his wife and said:
“I don’t know what this guy is selling, but I know we’re going to buy from him”.
Something about his personality and demeanour made the customer want to listen.
Write with confidence and project your own voice. Show that there’s a human being behind the keyboard and, in time, you'll notice that more people will connect with you and your brand.
Nobody can resist a juicy story.
Or even a random anecdote, to be honest.
Humans have a natural curiosity about each other. So, being opportunist marketers, we use that to sell stuff. Despicable.
A good example of this would be a product page. You don’t really need much, just a little bit about how the product had an impact on your life.
You can do this with pretty much anything. Take Innocent Smoothies for example - they're great at this, and if they can do it with a fruit smoothie, you can do it too.
Speak to Your Customer
By that, I mean speak in their language.
We all have different moods and intents when we’re browsing. We also generally look for quite specific things.
So, when you’re writing for an audience, find out what makes them tick and what they’re interested in.
How do you do that?
Get Googling. Time to find where these people hang out.
Let’s pick notebooks for an example (the paper kind).
Reviews are a good place to start. Check this out:
So we know that these people value large notebooks with more room, good perforations, and thicker paper for heavy flow pens
Now you know that when you sell your notebooks, you need to make a big deal out of these benefits.
You can do this on review pages, Reddit, forums…anywhere people hang out to chat about stuff really.
Once you know what makes they care about, you can whip up some killer copy that’s tailored for your ideal buyer.
After that, sit back and watch the sales/enquiries roll in!
Let’s wrap this up with a quick summary of the main points.
1. Keep your writing simple and clear. Corporate fluff impresses nobody and hurts your search rankings. Don't try too hard!
2. Sell your benefits. People buy benefits, so tell them how you’re going to rock their world.
3. Be creative & engaging. Use liberal white space, graphics, specific numbers, social proof, and clear CTAs.
4. Nail your headlines. Headlines should be under 60 characters and packed full of emotive language and keywords.
5. Write quality content. The longer the better. In fact, over 2000 words if you can. Pack it with detail, and provide some genuine value to the reader.
6. Be yourself. Be funny, be witty. Be human. Don't be scared to let your personality shine through; it really helps to make a brand stand out.
7. Tell a story. Stories sell better than product information. Give your buyers a reason to trust and choose your brand over any other.
8. Give the people what they want. Find out what your customers are talking about and use their own language back at them.
Wow. All seems quite simple laid out like that, doesn’t it?
I guess that means you have no excuse not to fire out some incredible copy the next time you sit down to write for your website.
And if that still sounds like hard work, fear not, because fortunately there are pros on hand that can do it all for you...
Get in Touch!
If you would like to learn more about copywriting, SEO or one the many digital marketing services offered by Champions Digital, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us via firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, you can speak to a member of our team directly on 0845 331 30 31.