What makes great copy great? How do copywriters turn words on a page into a powerful copywriting message?
The answer is knowledge.
They know how to write copy that works.
And now, with this guide, so will you.
The Headline is Your Pitch
This is copywriting 101. People’s attention span is short, and their willingness to spend it on you is even shorter. You do not have the luxury of waiting ‘til they’ve finished your article to hook them. For many, many of your readers, the headline is what decides whether or not they keep reading.
So you have to hook them straight from your headline.
More than that, the headline has to have a purpose. I’ve lost count of the amount of headlines that are witty or play on words—“It’s all about that [product]” or something like that—that don’t actually achieve anything. They don’t convey a message or give anyone a practical reason to click. Your headline has to have a purpose, and it has to achieve it.
Some quick headline tips:
Further reading: 9 Proven Headline Formulas That Sell Like Crazy
The Benefits vs. Features Debate
It’s one of the oldest pieces of copywriting advice you’ll hear, and it’s true.
Nobody cares about what your product does. They care about what’s in it for them.
Only, some people actually do care about features.
I find this a lot when the product is very technical. For example: laptops. 8 GB of ram is an impressive spec. But if you turn that into a benefit—something like, “So fast you’ll never face lags again”—it’s no longer as impressive. What does that mean? How do you quantify such a speed?
The problem is this: for people familiar with the spec, the spec already tells them the benefit.
But if you just state the benefit, the benefit doesn’t tell them the spec.
And they want to see the spec.
So where do you draw the line? How do you decide when to focus on the spec or the benefit?
The easy answer is don’t. Do both. Write the spec and the benefit. For example:
“It’s got 8 GB of ram, which means it’s so fast you’ll never face lags again.”
For the technical minded, they have the spec, and for the benefit minded, they have the benefit.
Further reading: Are You Misunderstanding the Benefits Over Features Tactic?
Boost the Relevance of Your Content with Benefits and Features and
Does Your Copy Pass the ‘Forehead Slap’ Test?
Communication is the Bedrock of Copywriting
Copywriting is communication. Before anyone even clicks on your article or looks up at your ad, there’s been an unspoken question: “Why should I buy this?” or “How do I do this?”
Your copywriting is answering that question.
And because copywriting is communication, it follows the same rules as verbal communication.
Talk to your reader and not at them. Use words like, “you,” “your,” and, “you’re.” Ask them questions. Write the way you’d speak.
Further reading: Why a Communicative Tone is So Important in Copywriting
How to Write Like You Talk: Become a Relatable Writer
Copywriting needs to be engaging
This goes back to the part about headlines—people’s interest is limited. If you want them to sit through your writing and take the action you want them to, you need to make it as free of distractions as possible.
In other words, make your copy as engaging and easy to read as possible.
Here are some tried and tested copywriting tactics to keep your copy engaging:
Back Up Your Buzzwords
In copywriting, words have power. They mean something tangible; something emotive. And when you apply them to a product, that product is defined by that word.
Buzzwords, by contrast, are difficult to define. They could really be applied to anything.
Unless you can back them up, they’re meaningless.
That doesn’t mean you should avoid buzzwords all together. People respond to buzzwords because they mean something. Everybody wants a product that is professional, durable and reliable.
Rather than avoid buzzwords, back them up.
It’s OK to claim that something is quality-built. But you need to prove it, too. Talk about how it was designed. Was it built with expensive materials? Was it designed by renowned professionals?
As long as you can prove it, buzzwords work.
Further reading: Killer Copywriting Tools and Buzzwords
Trigger People’s Emotions
Most of the time (and yes, there’s an emphasis on “most”), people’s decisions are affected by emotions.
Doubt. Guilt. Excitement. Generosity. Love. All of them are powerful factors that drive people’s decisions.
A copywriter knows this, and uses it to his or her advantage.
For example, take this old ad from Seamless.
There’s little logical argument here. Instead, the ad draws on the primary emotion that makes people order in—laziness—and draws it out.
But, like everything discussed here, there are exceptions. Not every product is bought emotionally. Laptops, for example. Most people who buy a laptop buy one because they need one. It’s very difficult to convince someone who has a working laptop to buy one when they don’t need it.
How to Incorporate Psychology and Emotions into Your Copywriting
The secrets of powerful copy are:
Eli Landes is one of those weird writers who just can't get enough. A marketing writer by day and a fiction writer whenever he can squeeze in the time, he spends his spare time working on his novel, writing short fiction, or daydreaming (I mean, researching). His main genre is Jewish fiction, but he's been known to dabble in the weird, the absurd, and the truly dark.