10 Copywriting Tips You Think You Know (But You’re So Very Wrong)

copywriting tips

Copywriting is the focal point of conversion rate optimization. It’s the glue that holds the conversion funnel together.

Without copywriting, your business has… well, nothing.

Unfortunately, most people (and dare I say most copywriters) are just awful at writing copy. They can tell you all the right principles and even write a fantastic blog post on the best copywriting tips, yet when it comes to actually writing the copy, all that knowledge goes out the window.

So that’s what brings us together… today.

We’ve already discussed the psychology of persuasive writing, but in this post we’re going to focus on some incredibly practical and insanely important copywriting tips that most everyone can recite in their sleep yet somehow rarely make it the published landing page.

You can’t afford to get these wrong.

1. Take Your Readers Through A Narrative

They say that good storytellers make the best salespeople, and that’s not a hard concept to believe.

We all know those people – the people who have a way with words and make anything they’re talking about interesting. When you hear someone telling a story (and telling it well), it’s easy to feel like you’re a part of it. We get sucked into the flow of words, thoughts, and ideas.

The psychological term for this phenomenon is called “neural coupling“, and it describes how the listener’s brain patterns tend to mirror that of the speaker during communication. This coupling occurs when the listener is engaged with the flow of communication and breaks when they get distracted or are unable to comprehend what’s being communicated to them.

Now, notice this point didn’t read “tell a story”.

Storytelling has a place in marketing, but when we’re writing copy for a website landing page, telling a story in the traditional sense isn’t always the best use our limited space.

Instead of story, think narrative.

A narrative is an account of connected events, with connected being the key word here. It’s very, VERY important that every piece of copy on your landing page is connected.

Many landing pages I see today consist of a bunch of copy segments that cover a range of topics and hit on everything the site owner thought would be important to cover. In the worst cases, the site owner selected a WordPress template and then hired a copywriter to fill in the text spots.

There is no flow. There is no connection. There is no chance to create that neural coupling effect with the reader.

Instead of creating multiple segments, think through the journey you want to take your readers on. Where are they when they land on your page? Where do you want them to be when they get to your final Call to Action (CTA)?

To help you get started, here’s the narrative template I like to use with many of my clients:

  1. Open with your value proposition to let the reader know exactly what you’re offering.
  2. Hit on the core problems your product/service is designed to solve.
  3. Transition into the way your product/service solves those problems.
  4. Hit on all the key benefits that go along with using your product/service.
  5. Paint a picture for the reader of their lives with your solution.
  6. Call the reader to take action.

Connecting your landing page in a narrative flow will go a long way in engaging readers with your message.

2. Simplify & Condense Whenever Possible

“The most valuable of all talents is that of never using two words when one will do.”

– Thomas Jefferson

You have a limited amount of space and time to communicate your value and capture your reader’s’ interest.

55% of visitors spend less than 15 seconds viewing a landing page before deciding to leave. It’s incredibly important that you effectively communicate your core value proposition within that brief window.

You already know the importance of a great value proposition, but this condensed approach shouldn’t end after the fold. Each segment of your landing page needs to be treated as though you have an extra 15 seconds to compel the reader forward to the next section.

At no point do you the luxury of babbling. At no point can you take the reader for granted.

Every word on a landing page needs to be optimized. Every sentence needs to be intentional, clear, and concise, from the opening headline to the closing CTA.

This does NOT mean your page should be brief. It’s important that you say everything you need to say. It simply means that you should communicate everything you need to communicate in as few words as possible. Every segment needs to be the optimal version of itself.

3. Keep The Visual In Mind

When writing the copy for a landing page, it’s important to remember that the copy will be viewed within the context of a visual design.

Reading a landing page is not at all like reading a letter, a blog post, or even an email. Images, video, visual design elements, and even interactive features can be a big part of the user experience. The copy is still THE most important element, but it will be viewed in the context of the page’s design.

It’s important that you keep this visual experience in mind when writing the copy.

In other words, NO WALLS OF TEXT.

  • Utilize headings and subheadings.
  • Keep paragraphs to 2-3 sentences.
  • Use bullets and numbers.
  • Use proper spacing and kerning.
  • Make sure there is plenty of “white space”.

In other words, don’t do this…

Visual elements like those I just recommended allow the eye to easily track from point to point without distraction. While the copy is king, it needs to play nice with the design to ensure its narrative is easy to read, follow, and comprehend.

This is why I always recommend my next point…

4. Collaborate With The Designer

When creating a new landing page, you should always have your copywriter and designer work together from the beginning. This should be standard practice for ANYONE hiring a copywriter… and yet, in my experience as a freelance copywriter, it’s very rare.

Too often, copywriting is viewed as a “fill in the gaps” activity that occurs after the website design is finalized.

This is a massive mistake. The purpose of the copy is NOT to fit the design. The purpose of the design is to highlight and facilitate the copy. If your copywriter is filling in lorem ipsum text blocks, you are seriously hampering their ability to create a compelling narrative.

At the same time, copywriters (especially beginning or intermediate copywriters) can be a bit text heavy and ignorant of how to create copy segments that are compatible with modern design, resulting in the problems I mentioned in Point #3.

This is why I always recommend that clients have their copywriters and designers collaborate on landing pages simultaneously. When the two work together, the copy can be highlighted without compromising the visual design.

5. Write With Personality

Look, have you ever talked with someone who has no personality?

Yeah, that’s what it feels like to read formal copywriting.

If you are anything like everyone I’ve ever known, you will nod your head sagely and agree with this point. You probably even have a blog post on your site with this exact copywriting tip proudly displayed in a list similar to this.

This seems to be one of those points that is widely understood yet somehow flies right out the window the moment fingers hit keyboards.

The reality is that most people struggle getting thoughts to paper. By the time they are able to articulate what they’re trying to say, there’s no mental capacity left for personality or nuance, and as a result, the copy comes out sounding formal and stale.

Or worse, it’s nothing more than a paragraph full of buzz words…

Write copy like you are speaking directly to your target audience. How do they speak? How do they like to be spoken to? If you are talking to doctors, your copy might need to be academic or a bit more formal, but if you are speaking to patients on behalf of doctors, your copy shouldn’t sound like a medical conference presentation.

If you struggle with this, either hire a copywriter, pay for tone-focused editing, or write, write, write until you don’t have to think so much in order to translate your thoughts to words on a page.

6. Write Multiple Drafts

Remember in high school when you had to submit a 1st draft and then a 2nd draft and then a 3rd draft?

There was actually a reason for that, and the reason is that your 1st draft usually sucks.

Don’t believe me? Maybe you’ll believe Ernest Hemingway:

'The first draft of anything is shit.' - Ernest Hemingway Click to Tweet

So yeah, stop settling for your first draft like a chump and start taking advantage of the revision process. Even better, create multiple versions of your most important talking points and then get 3rd party feedback on the variations.

And ultimately, you really don’t need to guess perfectly with your copy. The ideal copywriting strategy is to write multiple versions, each optimized around a different conversion hypothesis, and then A/B test them with real site visitors.

7. Prioritize Clarity Over Cleverness

If you were super into Mad Men, you probably suck at digital copywriting.

Clever copy doesn’t convert. Clear, compelling copy converts (say that 5 times fast).

Your goal as a copywriter is to clearly communicate the value of the offer, the problems it solves, and the benefits of using it to the intended user. If you can be clear and clever, that’s fine, but only one of those will pay you back for the time you spent writing it.

8. Focus On The Emotions Behind The Decision

“Sell the sizzle” and “be emotional” are pretty stereotypical copywriting tips, and while they are not universally applicable, they tend to be correct more often than not.

Human beings very rarely make decisions from a purely analytical standpoint. We are an emotional species and our emotions heavily dictate our behavior.

There are two primary ways in which emotions affect our decision-making:

  1. Immediate emotions
  2. Anticipated emotions

Immediate emotions are those experienced in the moment the decision is being made. These can be related to the decision itself or they can be the result of other external stimuli.

For example, if you get in a big argument with your spouse, leave angry, and then begin evaluating a purchasing decision, that anger is an immediate emotion effecting your decision-making.

Anticipated emotions are the emotions someone anticipates experiencing as a result of a given decision.

For example, if you are debating whether to purchase a new SaaS product, and you are thinking about all the time it could save you, the associated emotions are anticipated emotions.

When you are writing your copy, it’s important to think through any consistent immediate emotions that might surround your visitors’ journey to you. What motivated them to click that add or search for that keyphrase, and how might that give you a read on their immediate emotional state?

Even more importantly, how can you resonate with the problems your readers are facing and then help them genuinely imagine a positive future with your product?

This is what your copy should be focused on.

9. Write To One Person

One of the biggest mistakes businesses make with their copy is trying to communicate to everyone at once. It’s been quite surprising to me how often a business owner will come to me to write copy, and when I ask them, “Who is your target audience?” they reply, “Everyone”.

Here’s a secret. “Everyone” is NOT your target audience. In fact, The more people you are trying to fit into the same sales pitch, the less effective it will be.

The best copywriting is written to a single reader. It’s focused on a specific customer profile and the interests, needs, and aspirations that come along with that profile.

If you don’t already have that profile defined, all you have to do is go talk to your customers.

A great example comes from Sujan Patel, who spent hours upon hours reviewing customer support logs and talking directly with the customers themselves. The onboarding improvements that came from those conversations resulted in an incredible 250% lift in conversions for his business.

Write your copy to someone specific instead of using a catch-all mentality.

10. Break The Rules & Test The Results

General rules and best practices are great. When you start with what works on average, you will probably end up in a better spot than if you were to just winging it.

That said, if you do what everyone else is doing, you’ll get the results everyone else is getting. Sometimes, it’s beneficial to break the rules and try something new.

But the difference between strategic rule breaking and “winging it” is data. You should always be A/B testing your copywriting, but if you are going to break away from best practices, you absolutely need to begin A/B testing your content.

The difference between strategic rule breaking and “winging it” is data. Click to Tweet

Conclusion

Okay… my sermon is delivered, and now I’m washing my hands of this.

You can’t afford to get these wrong.

Whether you write your own copy or bring in outside help, it’s critically important that you follow all 10 of today’s tips when creating your landing pages and conversion funnels.

Obviously, there are many more important tips for great copy, and I’d love to hear your favorites. Let me know your #1 copywriting tip in the comments.

 

Jacob McMillen is a freelance copywriter and the content manager for Conversion Sciences. He enjoys boosting conversion rates for a living and pretending to think in his spare time. Follow him on Twitter @jmcmillen89 … if you dare.

  • Great post man, I love the images exp the punch in the face lol. Also content is on point, keep it up.