You might have the best designed website in the world, a ton of traffic every day, and promote the best, most desirable products to your visitors, but it’s all for nothing if your website copy isn’t up to scratch.
You don’t have to be a professional copywriter in order to write effective copy. You can learn the basics of writing better copy now. You’ll be surprised at what a difference applying even the most basic copywriting techniques to your writing will make to your conversions.
What is copywriting?
Most people think copywriting is about selling. But copywriting is really about persuasion. As Ian Atkinson said in his book Copy.righter (which I highly recommend):
“Copywriting is persuading someone to do what you want them to do, just using the power of the written word.”
So, you could think of copywriters as professional persuaders (although of course, much of the time, a copywriters job is to persuade people to buy something).
Copywriters use the power of the written word in:
- Case Studies
- And more…
As an affiliate (or anyone running a website), you probably do at least half of the above on a regular basis. Why? Because you are trying to persuade your website visitors, or email subscribers to buy the product you are promoting.
Images and pretty designs alone won’t sell your product. And a product can’t sell itself. But words can.
So get your notebook at the ready, and let’s get down to lesson one.
Step One: Understand that no one cares about you
Sorry to break it to you, but your readers don’t care about you. They only care about themselves. The only thing your reader is thinking when they land on your site or see the product you’re promoting is:
“What’s in it for me?”
This is important. So put your ego away, stop writing what you want to write and start writing what your reader wants to hear.
A copywriter I once knew told me one of the most important things he had learned as a copywriter was the following:
“Don’t tell me about your grass seed; tell me about my lawn.”
This has also become one of my favourite golden nuggets of copywriting knowledge. In fact, it’s probably a favourite among a lot of copywriters. And for good reason.
Your reader doesn’t really want to hear about you or your product. What they really want to hear about is what it will do for them.
Here’s a real life example:
Urgh. Does the description on the left tell the customer anything at all that is specifically related to them?
Compare it to the one on the right. This tells the customer – nay, it guarantees the customer – exactly what the product will do for their lawn. Which is to make it lush and green. Not only that but it will do it for them super fast. Specifically, in just under 14 days.
This product description tells the customer exactly what they want to hear.
Don’t tell me about your grass seed. Tell me about my lawn.
Step Two: Take the ‘So What?’ test
You’ll have heard this one before. But I’m going to say it anyway.
People don’t buy features. They buy benefits.
Here is the difference between the two:
Feature: This hybrid car reduces gas consumption
Benefit: This car saves you money
Not sure if what you’ve written is a benefit? Give your copy the ‘So What’ test.
If your reader can still ask “so what?” without sounding like an idiot, you haven’t yet sold them the benefit of your product.
Here’s how the ‘So What’ test would go:
You: The Super Slim diet pill binds up to 800 times it’s own weight in fat.
Your Customer: So what?
You: That means it traps fat from your food and stops your body from absorbing it.
Your Customer: So what?
You: It means you can reduce your fat intake, lose weight, and still enjoy your favourite foods!
If, at this point, your customer is still able to ask ‘so what?’, they are clearly an idiot and you should cut your losses and wait for someone with some more sense to come along.
The benefits of a product aren’t always obvious and sometimes you have to dig deep to reveal the true benefit of a product. That’s why the ‘So what?’ test is so effective in helping you uncovering that buried treasure that will enable you to really sell to your customer.
Step Three: Learn these basic copywriting techniques
Let’s whizz through the nuts and bolts of copywriting. These techniques are guaranteed to improve your copy immediately.
This is the term used to describe the concise writing style used by copywriters. It’s best summed up with the following:
Never use five words when one will do.
‘Wordy’ copy is hard to read, often sounds pretentious, lacks power and won’t hold your reader’s attention. And don’t try to impress your reader with fancy wordsmithery. Complexity is not a sign of intelligence. Keep your writing short and simple, and write in easy to understand, plain English.
Here is an excellent example of exceedingly unnecessary wordy copy:
“… was conceptualised to address a glaring lacuna in the developments pace of the workflow software applications segment”
And here’s what that pompous gobbledegook actually means:
“There was a gap in the market”
It’s hard to believe, but this example is absolutely real. In fact, it was a Golden Bull Award Winner, the yearly awards given out by the Plain English Campaign to highlight the worst examples of plain English.
Always call a spade a spade. Never describe it as a long-handled implement for digging holes in the ground.
Use Simple Words:
Avoid unnecessary phrases:
Ditch non essential words:
Here’s another one of my favourite ‘golden nuggets’:
The word ‘that’ can be removed from most sentences without changing the meaning of the sentence.
This is a really simple and effective way to tighten your copy.
Here are some examples:
“Did you know
“More nitrogen means
that your cells can build more protein”
You won’t believe how many times you use the word ‘that’ in your writing – you’ll start seeing it strewn all over the place from now on, I guarantee!
‘Then’ and ‘of’ are also non essential words
that you can often remove too.
Write in the active voice:
The passive voice describes something being done to someone or something, like this:
“Your query will be addressed by a customer service representative soon”
Sounds pretty impersonal, doesn’t it?
But when you write in the active voice, you speak directly to your reader, making it much more personal, like this:
“Our customer service representative will call or email you soon”
The active voice keeps your copy tight and the meaning clear.
How to structure your copy:
Your copy should be visually enticing. If it’s laid out in an ugly manner, no one will want to read it. Here’s how to structure your copy nicely.
- Short sentences are powerful and add impact (20-25 words max)
- Short paragraphs require less concentration and are more appealing to read (5-6 lines max)
- Break up your copy with headings and subheading
- Bullet points (like these) can be easily read at a glance
How not to structure your copy:
Here’s a little gem I found on a website advertising chalet holidays in Scotland.
That first rambling paragraph is made up of one whopping 91 word long sentence, closely followed by another lengthy sentence of 79 words in the second paragraph. The copy on this page is difficult to follow and isn’t very visually appealing. If only the owners of this website knew about tight copy!
The English poet Robert Southey summed it all up rather well with this lovely little quote:
Step four: Realise it’s all about you
“But you said in lesson one that no one cares about me?”
I did. And it’s still true.
The single, most powerful word you can use in your copy is ‘YOU’.
What does the reader want to hear about?
When you use the words ‘you’, ‘your’ and ‘yours’, you speak directly to your reader – to their interests and their needs.
You make it all about them.
Which is how you get their attention and keep it.
Unless your copy is about your reader, your sales will suffer.
Here are couple of examples. The ones on the left are real examples taken from a real website. The ones on the right have been revised to make them copy friendly.
The example on the left doesn’t mention ‘you’ (the customer) once. It could be talking to anyone. It’s certainly not talking to the customer. It won’t hold the reader’s attention for long, because it’s not about them.
The version on the right talks directly to the customer about their wants and needs. This version is much more likely to make them sit up and pay attention to what you have to say.
Here’s another from the same website:
Who is the one on the left actually talking to? Can you see how impersonal and unfriendly copy sounds when it doesn’t speak to the reader? The customer doesn’t care that this product is ‘for people wishing to regain their energy, alertness and vibrancy’. What they want to hear is that it will help them increase their energy and alertness.
And if you’re wondering why I chose to leave out the word ‘vibrancy’ from the version on the right, it’s because it means exactly the same thing as ‘energy’. That’s another copywriting no no. Don’t try to be clever with your words. Keep it simple. Remember, good copywriting doesn’t use a single unnecessary word. Or multiple words that mean the same thing.
Step Five: Use power words
Good copywriting all comes down to the power of the words you use.
There are certain strong words (like the ones highlighted here) that have been proven to instantly get people’s attention and easily convince them to take action.
Unleash these winning words throughout your sentences to instantly make them more powerful and improve your copy.
So there you have it. Five incredibly simple steps to writing better copy. Of course, this was just a whistlestop tour of the very basics of copywriting. There’s plenty more to learn about the craft but you absolutely cannot go wrong with these easy peasy steps.
Start using them in your writing now and you’ll instantly improve your copy, and your ability to persuade your readers to buy.
If you want to learn more about writing better copy, I highly recommend the following books and blogs:
Write to Sell: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Better Copy by Andy Maslen
Copy.righter by Ian Atkinson