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 Copywriting is Not Easy (Or Magic)

Ladies and gentleman, step right up and see for yourself: The one, the only, the magical and mystical Word-Ini in the flesh!

Never before has the world seen such a marvelous magician of such wildly wondrous wording wizardry!

Watch carefully now as he flicks his magic wand to reveal….

A fully-written landing page! Complete with a form, call-to-action, and yes, an in-line thank you message! Uncanny!

But that’s not all, folks! See him now as he reaches into his magic velveteen hat and shouts the magic word: “Abracadabra!” Watch him retrieve…what’s that?!

Why, it’s an ebook, ladies and gentleman! A 13-page ebook about the importance of SEO for your new website, fully written and accurate!

Unbelievable!

[Enter Reality Check. A blinking cursor pulses on the blank word document on the screen.]

Sorry to get your hopes up, folks, but reality has decided to butt in here for a minute.

I hate to be the one to say this, but I thought you ought to know before we get any further. Copywriting is not, in fact, magic. There’s no flicking of wands, no magic hats, no Word-Ini. Just you and the ol’ noggin.

So, as we absorb this painful truth, let’s at least get to work learning some very real, very un-magical copywriting principles, shall we? Because your work isn’t going to pull itself out of a hat anytime soon.

Know Who You’re Writing For

Before you start writing, you must know who you’re writing for. That’s half the battle right there.

Start by developing buyer personas so you know who it is you’re trying to reach, what they care about, what their challenges are, and how they prefer to receive content. Do they read the New York Times cover to cover each morning or do they absorb all their news from Buzzfeed? Do they spend their lunch breaks foraging for social followers or do they only know tweeting as a sound a bird makes?

It may sound silly and obvious, but it’s important to understand who your audience is, what drives their actions, and where they spend their time to know what kind of copy they’ll respond to.

Know your audience and write for them where they are.

Every Word Must Earn Its Place

Gone are the days when writers were paid by the word, and each sentence dragged on in painstaking detail.

Copywriting is certainly not novel or poetry writing – it’s not intended to be flowery. (Unless, of course, you’re selling flowers and you’re particularly fond of puns).

When copywriting, every word needs to earn its place. Your audience’s time is very precious, and no one likes to have their time wasted. So get to the point quickly, be succinct, and be clear.

When reading over your own work (and you should always be doing this, in addition to having someone else look at it), ask yourself if each word is adding value. If the answer is no, take it out. It’s not doing anyone any favors.

Stop With The Billy Mays Sales Pitches

The marketing master David Ogilvy once said, “Write the way you talk. Naturally.”

When you finish writing something, read it back to yourself with what we like to call “The Billy Mays” test. If all of a sudden your words sound like they’re being shouted at you by a red-faced infomercial man, you know you need to dial it back.

A couple of pointers to avoid sounding like Billy Mays:
 

  • Don’t use big “fluffy” words that carry no real meaning, ie: “supercharge.” Phrases like “supercharge your business” don’t actually mean anything in reality. In fact, I would probably worry that supercharging my business would cause some sort of electric shock, and I’d probably want to avoid it.
  • Stop waving the word FREE around like you’re offering candy to kids out of the back of your van. Yes, people like a bargain, but if FREE is shoehorned into every sentence, your reader will just get annoyed. People aren’t dumb. They get it. Your offer is free. Saying “complimentary” never hurt anyone, either.

Bottom line, talk like a human.  It may not be as exciting as shouting Abracadabra!  while pulling an ebook out of your hat, but when you start bringing in sales-qualified leads for your business, that will be the real magic moment.  

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