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How to Write Great Copy: A Step-by-Step Guide

Guide to Writing Copy Like a Pro

Are you wanting to write copy, but don’t know where to start?


Here you will find everything you need to know about writing great copy.


Let’s start with the basics.


What is copy?


Copy is the text found in any publication written for the consumption of an audience.


Copy and content are often confused, though they can overlap at times.


Copy is mainly used to sell the reader a viewpoint, whereas content focuses more on informing the reader.


That is why almost all successful marketing is built on the foundation of great copy.


Copywriting has been around a very long time with the first printed advertisement for a prayer book being allegedly produced in 1477 during the Babylonian times.


Since then, copywriting has substantially evolved, particularly in the last 50 years with the dawn of the technological era.


There are two main types of copy — print and digital.


Print copy is found in newspapers, magazines, books, posters, flyers, billboards, product packaging, and so on.


Digital copy (which is the focal point of this post) is used in websites, articles, blogs, ebooks, social media, emails, apps, etc.


Copywriting has many different types which depend on the intention of the copy.


Great copy is usually written as a combination of a few types, as they often coincide and go hand-in-hand.

  • Sales: this has the main purpose of selling an offer to the customer and is usually found in advertisements and product descriptions.
  • SEO: search engine optimization focuses on writing copy that will rank high on search engine results and is usually used in web content and product descriptions.
  • Technical: By using technical terms, expertise, and a precise tone, this one concentrates more on facts over flavor as a method to sell.
  • Creative: this is the fun one that relies on humor, intelligence, and storytelling to produce gripping headlines, catchy slogans, and clever ads.

Understanding these different types of copywriting and being able to use them effectively will form the base from which a successful copywriter can launch their career.


So, without further ado, let’s dive into it!


The rest of this post will guide you through the 7 essential steps needed to write winning copy.

1. Know your audience

audience

One of the first questions you need to ask yourself is:


“Who am I writing for?”


Answering this important question lays the foundation of your copy as it affects every single decision you make.


If you find out who you are writing for, you can also figure out how to directly and effectively write to that specific audience.


To answer this question, you need to learn who your target audience is.


Simply put, a target audience is a group of potential customers.


They are the people that might consider purchasing your offer, and it is your job to convince them to make that purchase.


So, it is very important to accurately identify your target audience.


The next question you need to ask yourself is:


“What do they want, and why do they want it?”


An extremely helpful tool is a keyword generator.


You can use a keyword generator to determine exactly what your audience is asking for.


Here is a list of the most popular keyword generators:

As a copywriter, you can then answer their questions in your copy as a way to draw the customers in.


Catering your copy to an entire audience can be quite overwhelming.


Though they are a group, they are also individuals, and you might go insane trying to connect with every single person.


Like with every group, there are trends.


You need to discover the main identifiers of your audience and put them together to form your ideal customer avatar.


Like in a video-game, an avatar is a profile that is not real but merely represents a particular person.


So, transferring this over to business, a customer avatar is a profile that isn’t attached to a specific person but rather represents the greater personality of your customer base.


This is extremely helpful for copywriters as they can write their copy as if they are speaking to a specific person.


For example:

Chanel, a luxury brand that offers a range of products, from cosmetics and perfume to fashion and accessories.


As one of the leading companies in its market, it has a very defined customer avatar:

  • Female
  • Age: 25-35
  • Has a very high socio-economical status
  • Has a luxurious lifestyle with an interest in fashion and style

Isn't this so much easier to work with?


With this distinct customer avatar, Chanel’s copywriters have a very precise understanding of who they are addressing and can use this to connect directly to their main audience.


Creating your own customer avatar can be tricky, so take advantage of the countless resources that can be found on the internet.

2. Find the perfect angle

Find the perfect angle

Now that you have gotten to know your audience and have found an individual customer avatar, you can use this knowledge to choose the most effective angle.


Like taking a selfie, you need to find the perfect angle that will show off the most desirable parts of your offer.


This is usually the one that the audience can relate to the most.

People have all sorts of copy thrown at them throughout the day.


So, to be successful, you should discover an entirely new approach that the reader will find refreshing and surprising.


Try looking at your copy from many different perspectives.


For example:

  • You could be the expert, the omniscient, that the reader can look up to for guidance, establishing credibility.
  • You could also be an amateur like them, learning all the steps with them, relating to the struggles of being a beginner.
  • You could take a more logical and fact-based approach if this suits your audience better.

Researching your competitors can be useful, as you can get a grasp on the copy that is already out there and then try to do something completely different.


Another important technique to hook in your audience is to solve problems that they don’t know they have yet.


You want your reader to react with, “I hadn’t thought about that, but it makes it so much sense!


Whether you are selling them an offer or informing them of updated news, they need to realize the value of the new information you just gave them, stimulating them to act upon it.


Here are 7 examples of successful and effective marketing angles to help spark some inspiration.


But remember to not take these examples as they are, but to spin them in a unique way that fascinates your reader.

3. Start with a punchy headline

Instagram

The headline is going to be the first thing that any reader sees.


That is why it is a vital part of hooking your reader in.


In fact, 8 out of 10 people read headlines but only 2 out of 10 people will read the rest.


There are very subtle changes in your headline that make a great sub-conscious impact on the reader.


You can use the 4 U’s to turn your headline into an attention-grabbing machine:

  • Unique:

Your headline should be entirely original.


By typing your headline into Google between double quotations — “Headline” — you should get an indication of whether or not someone thought of it first.


Using sound devices such as alliteration can facilitate a free-flowing headline, bringing a brilliant ring to your riveting headline.


Simplicity is also your friend though.


You don’t want your information to get lost in your crazy ideas.

  • Urgent:

It is important to incorporate intriguing words that express an urgency to your headline.


One way this is achieved is by using forceful words such as need and must, as well as powerful adjectives such as essential, perfect, best, and effective.


Another way to use eye-catching and impressive statements.


For example:


How I Made A $20,000 Sale From Just One Lead


Who doesn’t want to know how to earn $20,000?


As long as the copy backs it up, using these compelling phrases can get readers clicking faster than you can say “success!

  • Ultra-specific:

Integrating keywords into your headline is crucial.


This lets your reader know immediately what your copy is about and whether it is what they are looking for.


Write the body of your copy first, and then pick out the significant and recurring words to use in your headline.


This will make sure your headline relates to your copy.

  • Useful:

Why would someone read something if they aren’t getting anything from it?


Exactly, they won’t.


That’s why including words that indicate accessible information is very important.


The reader needs to instantly feel like your copy will give them everything they need.


You can find more information on the different ways to indicate the intention of your article, thus showing its use.


You can apply the 4 U’s to your copywriting as well.


There are also some great tools to help you such as headline analyzers.


Read this to find out the 7 best headline analyzer tools and how to use them.

4. Focus on the format

Focus on the format

People have become very lazy when it comes to consuming content.


There needs to be minimum effort involved.


The easier your copy is to read, the more likely people are going to read it.


All you need to do is apply these very simple tricks, and your readability will increase tenfold:

  • Keep sentences short and sweet, particularly at the beginning — this stops the reader from getting lost in a sea of words.
  • Use white space to create some breathing room — this prevents the copy from feeling cramped and overcrowded.
  • Choose a large font size — this makes the text easy on the eyes.
  • Spice up the text styles — using italics, bold, and underlining can help emphasize the main points.
  • Make use of your headings and subheadings — these are a skimmers’ dream as it helps them get maximum information in minimum time.
  • Use active voice — this tends to be a bit shorter and easier to understand

Even though this isn’t focused too much on the writing part of copywriting, it indirectly affects the content of your copy.

5. Use the appropriate tone

Use the appropriate tone

This is a copywriter’s worst nightmare!


You never want something as controllable as tone to get in your way of writing the perfect copy.


Your tone is affected by diction (word choice).


Here are the essential tips on diction to master the ideal tone:

5.1. Keep your language simple

You don’t want your reader reaching for a dictionary every sentence.


And, you don’t want to be reaching for your thesaurus every other word either.


As mentioned before — minimal effort.


Emails written at a third-grade level received 36% more lift than the emails written at the college reading level.


Remember, your copy doesn’t need to be some literary masterpiece.


That’s not its purpose.


Its purpose is to convey a clear and simple message accessible to anyone and everyone who might be interested.


So, remember to use the simplest word when you can.


It just makes everyone’s life easier.

5.2. Use powerful words

Though you want your words to be easy to understand, you also want your words to be effective.


You need to focus on powerful words to help your copy sell.


The top 5 most persuasive words in the English language are:

  • You
  • Free
  • Because
  • Instantly
  • New

Strong adjectives and adverbs can also contribute vivid imagery for the reader to engage with.


By incorporating these words into your diction, you build a more persuasive tone.

5.3. Keep the conversation going

Having a conversation with your reader is crucial to creating a connection with them.

This makes the reader feel like you are speaking directly to them.


The first step to this is by writing in second-person narration.


To write in the second person, the pronoun “you” is used to address the reader personally.


Using conversational phrases can also help in forming a more chatty and less formal tone.


Things like contractions, exclamations, rhetorical questions, common expressions, and idioms are used to accomplish this.


Learning how to engage with your audience with conversation is a crucial skill that can significantly improve your reader engagement.

6. Tell the honest truth

truth

Though it is important to use persuasive and exciting language, it is equally important to not exaggerate to the point of deception.


Your copy should be rooted in truth above all else.


Staying brutally honest will also increase your credibility, confirming you as a trustworthy source.


When your customer trusts you, they are more likely to buy from you.


As much as you try to create the best offer you can, there are going to be some holes that you might try to throw a blanket over and pretend aren’t there.


But, ultimately, your customer will inevitably fall into your nicely-covered hole and blame you for not letting them know it was there.


As counter-intuitive as it may sound, always own up to your weaknesses.


To get an understanding of your weaknesses you can do complete a SWOT analysis.


Not only will this force you to be aware of your weakness, but it might also encourage you to fix them.


This doesn’t mean you should go shout your downfalls across the town for everyone to hear, but rather be more strategic in the way that you handle them.


For example:


The Think Small campaign for Volkswagen in the 1950s.

Volkwagen

This revolutionary campaign made the impossible possible by selling a german-made car to an American audience soon after the Second World War.


At the time, car advertisements focused on glorifying fast, impressive, exquisitely charming, ego-boosting machines.


It was a market that the simple, slow Volkwagen did not fit into.


But, instead of trying to trick the customer into believing it was something it was not, it embraced its weakness and turned into the quality that separated them from the rest.

Using a humorous tone, Volkswagen was incredibly honest about its product’s flaws, going as far as to label it as “America’s slowest fastback”.


But, this wasn’t the key to Volkwagen’s success.


The key was to then follow upits weakness with its greatest strength— the real reason it was different from the rest.


Though the car is a little outdated, the marketing strategy is not.


This risky, yet genius, approach is still applicable today and shows the importance of sticking to the truth.

7. Spur a call-to-action

call-to-action

Like nudging a horse along with the spur of your boot, you need to lead the customer in the direction that ultimately results in a sale.


A call-to-action is a marketing strategy that usually comes into play towards the end of the sales funnel where the prospect is encouraged to act by revealing the pathway to purchase an offer, join the email list, become a member, etc.


Here are some of the best call-to-action strategies:

  • Start with a powerful verb: the first word needs to command them to take action.
  • Use an eye-catching design: you need to catch the reader’s attention and draw them into the call.
  • Keep it as simple as possible: the easier it is to understand and use, the more people will act.
  • Make it irresistible: whether you use FOMO or a once-in-a-lifetime offer, ensure it is something they can’t say no to.
  • Have more than one: the more, the better, so use bonuses or extra calls-to-action to gain even more customers.

To get a better idea of how to create an effective call-to-action, here are 39 call-to-action examples.

8. Avoid errors at all costs

Posting

We all understand the embarrassment of using “your” instead of “you’re”.


Spelling and grammatical errors can be fatal if they’re found in your copy.


74% of web users pay attention to spelling and grammar on company websites, and 59% of web users won’t even do business with a company if there are obvious spelling or grammar mistakes.


Even if your grammar and spelling skills are in tip-top shape, a grammatical faux pas is bound to slip through the cracks eventually.


One of the most crucial tools to have by your side as a copywriter is a spelling and grammar checker.


Grammarly is probably the most popular free writing app that checks your grammar and spelling, offers advice on fluency and conciseness, and can help you establish the right tone and register.


Scribens is also a very quick and easy-to-use tool that can pick out all those nitty-gritty errors.


Though these tools are extremely helpful, they aren’t perfect, and even they can let a mistake slip by here and there.


So, another essential tip is to proofread and edit your work.


And, when you have done that at least 3 times, get someone else to do it, then another.


The more eyes on your copy, the less chance of errors getting away from you.

9. Conclusion

Copywriting is one of the most essential aspects of marketing and plays a crucial role in the success of any business.


So, good copywriting is in high demand in every industry.


As a copywriter, you have the power to make or break a marketing campaign.


Don’t let that pressure get to you — take it in your stride!


You don’t need to be an expert writer to write great copy.


All you need to do is follow these 7 steps and remember to center every decision you make around how to effectively draw the reader into your copy.


Do this, and you will be a pro copywriter in no time!

These articles may also be of interest to you:  


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