Writing awesome copy can sometimes seem like an arcane art – a kind of mysterious marketing alchemy. Some copywriting is amazing and makes you feel even more amazing; other copy just feels totally phoned in.
For as long as I’ve been interested in copy, I’ve seen some great work, and some not-so-great work. I’ve noticed that the not-so-great work tends to fall into one or more of the traps that I mention here, so let’s dive right in…
Sin #1: No Value Proposition at the Start, No Call-to-Action at the End
Remember the core reason your reader is reading your copy in the first place. What are they expecting to see from you and what action are you requesting from them? It’s important to remember these practicalities within your copy. What can you offer that will catch the reader’s attention? Put that front and centre. If you kick off with your most valuable promise your reader is bound to sit up and take notice. Dig deep and really try and pinpoint your value proposition and unique selling points.
If you don’t know which of your products or services are your most popular or valuable in the eyes of your average buyer, a little market research and outreach to previous customers can go a long way. Many copywriters also swear by using the active voice in their copy to make their text feel more engaging and urgent.
When it comes to the end, don’t forget a concise call to action that directly suggests the action you want them to take. “Click here” and “Buy Now,” though functional, are a little lazy. Some better examples include “Start scheduling,” “Claim your 10% Off Voucher,” and “Supercharge your website traffic”; which you may notice all mention the practical outcome of the action.
Sin #2: Not Focusing on Customer Concerns
It’s all well and good talking about what you can do for people, but you’re missing a trick if you forget the concerns, worries and problems that brought the reader to you in the first place. Soothe and explain away any uncertainties that typically surround your average purchase, and offer reassurance and guidance as to how working with you works.
Never market by playing on insecurities, and avoid sounding condescending at all costs. Remember the problem you are solving for them, and how much better they will feel for working with you. This one ties in well with sins #6 and #7 by the way!
Sin #3: Rambling on Without Checking Whether your Message is Appropriate
If you’re writing copy, you have to have a clear idea of what needs saying and who to. Remember this at all times when writing your copy; focus on the problems you solve, the benefits you provide, and the relevance of the information you’re sharing. The one place where people tend to let it all hang out is on the “about” page of their website. Though it’s understandable that you’re passionate about your life story, your average customer will probably be on your site strictly for business.
Now that doesn’t mean your copy has to be stuffy and boring, but avoid rambling and use thorough market research to keep a laser-like focus on the reasons your clients appreciate you and the issues that you solve for your audience.
If in doubt, edit with a hatchet rather than a butter knife.
Sin #4: Not Checking That Your Text is Appropriate to the Design or Function
This one seems a bit of a mouthful, but it’s surprisingly simple. You have to remember the practicalities surrounding the copy you are writing. Is there a design element at play where the copy needs to fit a certain space? What kind of language and tone would be most appropriate to the audience and what it is you’re offering? What purpose will the text serve? Where will it be published? It’s all well and good writing in a “salesy” way, but if your job is to inform rather than persuade, you may be barking up the wrong tree. Likewise, if you write a lengthy essay but the text is intended to go on a small flyer, it’s just not going to be relevant from a design or copy perspective.
Sin #5: Forgetting to Use Formatting to Keep the Reader’s Interest
Unless they’re reading a novel, most people are put off by huge swathes of text. This is doubly true of that text is on a computer or device screen, and triply so if they’re being sold something. I understand that there are topics out there that need a bit more explanation when writing copy, but fight the temptation to slap it all in a long, dry paragraph. Cut explanations and processes down into sections, and use subheadings and bullet points to highlight areas of interest and to keep people interested.
Don’t forget Sin #3 and avoid long rambly copy at all costs, regardless of how immaculately it’s formatted.
Sin #6: Not Painting a Crystal Clear Picture of What to Expect from You
It’s essential to remember the practicalities of what the reader should expect from completing the desired action (whether that’s a purchase, downloading a lead magnet, signing up to a mini-ecourse, or what have you). Let the reader make absolutely no assumptions about what happens next.
This is especially crucial if your field isn’t well understood, or uses very similar language to a different field. For example, not a lot of people outside of marketing circles know what a copywriter does, and the term “copywriting” can often be confused with “copyrighting,” much to the chagrin of copywriters everywhere. Therefore I’ve made absolutely certain that my website refers to sales communications and online content writing, as well as detailing how I create text for people who have marketing requirements.
Sin #7: Not Considering the Psychology Inherent in Marketing
No matter how much we like to think we’re logical and infallible creatures, we really aren’t. Marketing psychology is a favourite topic of mine (because I’m weird like that), and evolutionary psychology has a large part to play in appealing to others and generally marketing to the mind.
Emotion plays a massive part in even the most rational of purchases, so remember to check your copy for how it will make people feel; reassure the reader that they’d be making the right decision by working with you; and adding an aspect of exclusivity (or time-sensitivity) can’t hurt either.
So that’s all of the sins! Avoiding these 7 nasties will surely set your copy up to avoid the marketing nether-realms.