Learning to write online copywriting is a bit like learning to practice medicine. There are general practitioners (GPs) and then there are specialists (dermatologist, oncologist, gynecologist, etc.).
The more you hope to improve your skills within a certain niche, the greater your education will be. However, each copywriter — regardless of his/her area of expertise — starts with a foundation of proven copywriting tips that go into every page of web copy that they write.
Surprisingly, many website owners or beginner copywriters skip over the process of mastering the fundamentals in hopes of implementing advanced copywriting tactics right from the start. It never turns out well. I know from experience.
You see, over 20 years ago, when I decided to make copywriting my career, I did the exact same thing. I had written radio copy and newspaper copy for several years, but I'd never written online copy. I wasn't worried. I smugly thought that — if I could write those types of copy — I could easily create a web page masterpiece.
What. A. Disaster!
Do you remember the feeling in the pit of your gut that you got in school when your teacher handed back an assignment that was covered in red scribbles? This experience was much the same. The feedback from my client was polite, but harsh. Back in the '90s, it quickly became clear that I needed to learn to write copy specifically for the web.
Of all the pieces of copy I've read over the past 20+ years, I can honestly say that most of the failures I've spotted have been caused by an oversight or omission of something basic.
Before you attempt to write another page of online copy, let's go over 5 of my favorite copywriting tips that boost sales and conversions.
Rule #1 for online copywriting: Know your target audience
Whether you call it an avatar, a profile, or a persona, getting to know your target audience is critical to your success. Let me explain with a question I like to ask.
Can you buy me a birthday card?
Of course you can! Any person can buy someone else a birthday card. But, without knowing anything about me, your options are going to be pretty limited.
Most people would buy a card that they thought they would like. The problem here is that you don't know whether I have your same sense of humor, so buying a card that you think is funny might offend me. Picking out a card that you think is sweet might give me the wrong idea.
So, that leaves a selection of generic, ordinary cards. Yes, you accomplished the task. You bought me a birthday card. And while I'll appreciate it, it probably won't be one I'll remember or cherish because it isn't very personal to me.
It's the same with your target customers. Sure, you can write copy without knowing anything (or much) about them. You might even make some sales. But the copy won't perform at its best unless you understand who you are communicating with.
As you learn copywriting, take time to get to know your target audience. Figure out what they like, what they don't, what they respond to best, and so on. You'll stand a much better chance of making a connection … and a conversion.
This insurance agency includes a unique feature on their site that allows visitors to click and read about services that were designed specifically for them during a particular phase of life.
2. For copy that sells, use your customer's language, not yours
We're all tempted to write the way we speak. I've heard that advice my entire career. And — for the most part — I disagree. Yes, you should write in a way that allows others to connect with you (or your business), but at the same time interject words, phrases, and ideas that are specific to them.
For example, let's pretend you're creating a product description for your ecommerce website. When doing your research, read lots of product reviews from other websites, YouTube, QVC, etc. See what customers are actually saying about the product. Then pull those words and phrases and weave them into the copy you're writing.
This makes your words much more relatable because you're incorporating the shopper's exact thoughts into the copy.
3. Keep a focused message throughout the web page
It doesn't matter if you're writing a short opt-in page or a long-form sales page; if you lose focus and start to stray from your core message, your site visitors will click away.
Have you ever heard of "mise en place"? It's a French culinary term that means "everything in place." Chefs and home cooks will organize all the spices for a recipe into those cute, tiny bowls, set out the vegetables and slice/dice them as needed, start the water boiling (if required), and so on.
Only after they have gone through the mise en place process of preparing will they actually begin to cook. That way they stay focused on the overall goal and the meal comes out perfect!
4. Learn to write copy that is clear… not clever
One of my all-time favorite articles was written by the folks at Marketing Experiments years ago. The title is something like "Clarity Outperforms Cleverness Every Time." I have remembered that for at least a decade because it is so true.
The gist of the article was that, if site visitors can't quickly (within seconds) determine what your page is about, why it pertains to them, how it can solve their problem, and what they need to do next, it will not convert.
Forget the "clever" headline. Skip the cute copy. Yes, be enticing and engaging, but make clarity a priority. Apple is a pro at this.
Apple Ad transcript: All-screen design. Longest battery life ever in an iPhone. Fastest performance. Water and splash resistant. Studio-quality photos and 4K video. More secure with Face ID. The new iPhone XR. It’s a brilliant upgrade.
5. Be specific to boost sales conversions
Another mishap I frequently see on web copy is the inclusion of vague, overused language that really doesn't say much of anything.
Read this example and tell me what type of business this was written about:
With over 20 years in the industry, we have broken through barriers to achieve success beyond our wildest dreams. And when we succeed, our customers do, too! With revolutionary processes, and state-of-the-art facilities, we're capable of exceeding your expectations at every turn.
Maybe this is from a manufacturing plant? A bank? A software company? An electronics business? A telecom company? Who knows? It's just a list of one overused phrase after another with no specific information.
How about this instead?
YOUR BOTTOM LINE IS TOP OF MIND
As an integrated marketing communications firm, we operate with an
omni-channel approach, focusing on customer engagement across multiple platforms for each and every one of our clients.
Business results drive our ultimate metric of success, so whether you’re looking for digital experiences, social campaigns, advertising, PR, marketing or internal communications, we think with your bottom line in mind.
Specific, easily understood, speaks to what the company provides and what the client will receive, short, and relatable. If I managed a business that was looking for a local marketing agency, I would consider this one.
A solid foundation
When you build a house, you have to establish a firm foundation. The same applies to writing copy for any type of web page.
Taking the time to establish these 5 critical steps as you learn to write copy (or improve the performance of your copywriting skills) can give you the platform you need to build a page that entices, engages, and earns you more!