“Holy Sh*t That’s Too Many”
102 COPYWRITING TIPS
Why have some of the copywriting tips when you can have ALL the copywriting tips?
That’s the intro.
Here are all the copywriting tips you’ll ever want or need (and some besides), organized into incredibly useful categories (way more useful than all those other inferior lists) and written by someone with more direct, hands-on experience than all those other lists (probably but definitely not certainly).
If you’re one smart cookie and would rather go through a structured guide to copywriting than a massive conglomeration of tips, click here.
Section #1: My Top 10 Copywriting Tips
This megalist is over 15,000 words long.
Realistically, you’re not going to be able to keep every tip on this list in mind as you write your copy.
But you don’t need to.
Instead, focus on these next 10. These are the core copywriting techniques that result in great copy.
You’ve probably heard the phrase, “Follow the rules like a pro until you can break them like an artist.”
Well… these are the rules.
Read them. Read them again. Read them before you write. Read them after you write. Check your work against them. Then check it again.
Here are your 10 Commandments Of Copywriting.
1. Start every project by identifying the target audience.
Imagine being asked to give a speech but you aren’t told who the audience is. You picture a room of business owners and think through what is important to them, what sort of challenges they would resonate with, what they might find humorous, etc.
Then you show up to speak and your audience is a class of 5th graders from the local elementary school.
Your speech would absolutely bomb, because it’s aimed at the wrong audience.
Knowing who you are speaking to is the first thing you need to identify as a copywriter. It will determine every part of your copy: the challenges you focus on, the benefits you emphasize, the personality you incorporate, etc.
If you don’t identify the target audience, you’ve already failed.
2. Start every project by also identifying the copy’s objective.
Just like you need to understand who you are speaking to with your writing, you also need to understand what you are trying to accomplish by speaking to them.
What do you want the reader to do after they read this copy?
Copywriting is not a passive discipline with vague goals. It’s specific and intentional and designed to get results. What those intended results are needs to be clear before you write a word, or your copy won’t be effective.
3. The goal of every line of copy is to get the next line read.
The #1 purpose of a line of copy is to get the reader to continue to the next line. If the reader does not continue reading, the message you want to tell them doesn’t matter. The points you want to make are irrelevant. And you can forget about the action you want them to take.
Copywriting should take you longer word for word than writing a blog post, especially if you’ve been writing copy for less than 10 years. It’s not a natural process for most people to be intentional with every word, phrase, and sentence.
That said, don’t over-complicate this. Being intentional is not a particularly high bar. It just means that after you write a paragraph, look back through and ask, “Does this line move the narrative forward and motivate the reader to continue reading?” If not… change it.
4. Your customers’ needs and desires are the only thing that matters.
The main mistake that most non-copywriters make is focusing on their business, brand, or subject rather than the target audience.
When you think about your business, what you care about most probably makes no difference at all to your customers.
- In most cases, they don’t care about the income or lifestyle your business affords.
- In most cases, they don’t care about the unique technology that drives your business or how you developed it.
- In most cases, they don’t care about you or your business at all.
Like all people, they care about themselves and their own needs and desires, and your business is only of interest within the specific context of meeting those needs and desires.
Your copywriting should reflect that. Everything should connect to those needs and desires, and if a piece of the message isn’t relevant to those needs and desires, it should nearly always be eliminated.
5. Write like you are speaking to a friend.
There’s something funny that happens when people try to write copy for the first time. They get really stiff and formal, and they fill their writing with meaningless jargon and vague phrases.
Good copy reads a lot like a well-spoken person talking to a friend. It has a casual, straightforward tone and gets to the point without rushing itself. It’s not trying to fill space. It’s not trying to sound like anything.
After you write a segment of copy, read it out loud and see if you cringe. Or better yet, wait a day and have someone else read it back to you out loud. If it sounds like you’re playing business, think about the main points you want to make and then imagine you are just telling those to a friend.
6. The most important element of copy is clarity.
Most copywriters and marketers like to make a big deal about persuasion and how magical persuasive copy is, but the truth is that the most important element of good copywriting is clarity.
Product/market fit is what sells things. Getting people in front of something they want or need is what sells things. The goal of the copy is simply to make it very clear to those people that the product is a great match for what they already want or need.
There’s another side to copywriting that is focused on manipulation through fear and greed, and while it’s great for making a quick buck, it will never help you build a brand or a business that people return to time after time. If you are working with a great product that customers love, you don’t need persuasion, you need clarity. You need a clear, succinct message that shows the customer why the product fits their needs or desires.
7. Include the what, why, where, who and how.
Part of clarity is covering all the details. It can be easy to forget about key piece of info while trying to craft a narrative and account for other copywriting tips.
Make sure you identify all the information that needs to be delivered ahead of time:
- What is the offer?
- Why does it matter?
- Where is it being offered?
- Who is it being offered to?
- How does it work?
Obviously, some of these won’t be relevant to certain projects. The point here is to make sure you are including all the key details that need to be covered.
Look back through your work after you’re finished and make sure you’ve included all the key details.
8. Incorporate proof and take your writing from the proof.
Proof is the true magic in copywriting. Anyone can say, “I’ll do this for you.” But if you can follow that up with data, testimonials, examples, case studies, reviews, statistics, etc., that’s where you can really make your copy persuasive.
Even better, take your writing directly from the proof.
“Honestly, in this guide, you have put out more concrete actionable steps than over 90% of the experts have in their materials.”
That’s what one writer said about my writing guide, and it is so much better than anything I could say about my own product. It also gives me some really good phrases for my copy:
“Learn the concrete, actionable steps that both myself and hundreds of my students have used to hit six-figure freelance writing income.”
Incorporate the proof into your writing whenever possible, and take your writing directly from the proof whenever you can.
9. Speak to the emotions and motivations behind the decision.
You might have heard that you should “sell the sizzle” and “focus on the benefits”. Human beings very rarely make decisions from a purely analytical standpoint. We are an emotional species and our emotions heavily dictate our behavior.
As a copywriter, your job is to understand the emotions and motivations that your target audience is experiencing and then speak to those emotions and motivations. You want to connect the specifics of what you are offering to the underlying goal propelling the reader’s decision making.
This can be as simple as talking about the benefits or it can be as complex as resonating around life roadblocks, frustrating challenges, or other pain points. Either way, think about those emotions when writing copy.
10. If you can condense or simplify it, you usually should.
“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. If you can say it with less words, you usually should. If you can say it with simpler words, you usually should.
This is why literature majors usually make terrible copywriters at first. They have spent years trying to develop a writing style that is grammatically complex and uses a more extensive vocabulary. In copywriting, you want the opposite. You want to be as simple and succinct as possible.
Section #2: Persuasive Copywriting Tips
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dive into everybody’s favorite topic: persuasion.
Persuasive techniques help us reach into people’s brains and give them a small nudge. I used the word “small” here for a reason. As we’ve discussed already, product/market fit is ultimately what sells things. As long as the pitch isn’t confusing, 70-90% of buyers are going to buy regardless of how convincing or unconvincing your pitch is.
Persuasive techniques help us reach out to that 10-30% who are a loose fit but might not be ready to buy now, might not consider the purchase a priority, or might not be convinced they are a fit.
As you go through the following tips, don’t get so hung up on the idea of persuasion that your copy starts to lose clarity or become a caricature. That’s a great way to lose that 70%+ segment of essentially guaranteed sales that you would have otherwise received.
When you get these right, on the other hand, you can get to that point as a copywriter where you aren’t just fixing bad writing, but you are also enhancing good writing and making it great.
11. Establish your authority, credibility, or investment.
Who is selling the product or service matters to customers. It’s not the main thing… but it’s still a big thing.
People want to buy from brands that are experts at what they do. They want to buy from brands that are reliable and consistent. And they want to buy from brands that are singularly passionate about what they sell.
If you can show them your authority, credibility, and deep investment in the brand, you can nudge them towards purchasing.
To establish authority:
- Mention awards, highlights and features
- Mention accomplishments that demonstrate expertise
- Mention any authoritative brands you’ve partnered with
To establish credibility:
- Highlight your social proof
- Detail customer success stories
- Cite reliability metrics
To establish your investment in the brand:
- Talk about your mission
- Talk about the problem you solve
- Talk about the passion that founded the business
You don’t need to go into all of these things (and you shouldn’t), but touching on one or two can have a large impact.
12. Tell a story.
Stories stick to us. We remember them, even when we forget everything else. Incorporating a story into your copy is pretty much always a good strategy.
They are also really persuasive.
Would you spend $30 for a tshirt? I doubt you would while browsing your local Target.
But with a story detailing the intent, manufacturing process, and customer satisfaction of these tees, you might just give it a try.
And whether or not you would personally, enough people have responded to Ugmonk’s story to turn it into a $5 million per year ecommerce business in what is typically a commodity market.
13. Get the reader nodding along.
There’s an old sales technique inspired by the Socratic Method that involves asking the listener a series of questions designed to get them to say “yes”. The idea is that by getting them to say “yes” to simple questions, it puts them in the mental state to say “yes” when you attempt to close.
We can accomplish something similar with our copy by creating a series of statements or questions that get the reader nodding.
- “There’s nothing worse than staring at a blank page.”
- “We all know that sinking feeling of pouring a bowl of cereal and then realizing we’re out of milk.”
- “Are you tired of being told what you need to do but not HOW to do it?”
Stuff like this gets the reader nodding along and sets them up to continue nodding as you get into your solution or ask them to take action.
14. Repeat the key points.
“Over the course of the discussion, the confederate either selectively repeated four pieces of information supporting the student’s choice, or four pieces of information supporting the other candidate.
Nearly 70% of the students revised their initial pick if their partner repeated information supporting the other candidate. In contrast, only 2% of the students changed their mind when their partner repeated information that supported the job applicant they favored.”
Repetition is incredibly persuasive. Numerous studies have demonstrated this psychological phenomenon, including the one referenced above.
When writing persuasive copy, identify the main points you are trying to make and then repeat them several times over the course of your pitch. But rather than simply repeating yourself word for word, repeat the main point using different wording or coming at it from a different angle.
15. Use favorable comparisons and metaphors.
As studies have repeatedly demonstrated, humans learn best through comparison. Our brains are great at comparing multiple things, tracking connections, and observing patterns.
As a result, comparisons, metaphors, and analogies make for great persuasive writing tools.
They are amazing at injecting a pre-existing set of emotions into the scenario you are presenting, even if that scenario wouldn’t normally include those emotions.
For example, check out this email from AppSumo pitching scheduling software.
Scheduling software is a decidedly unemotional topic, and in terms of software, it’s a commodity product. There are 186 appointment scheduling tools currently listed on Capterra.
To stand out, this brand chose to connect itself to a concept: the concept of being a boss.
AppSumo’s copy then ran full speed with every comparison type in the book.
In the first paragraph, they connect the concept to pop culture, referencing the “Like A Boss” song from SNL group The Lonely Island and trying to tap into the emotions of being a badass boss.
In the second paragraph, they use a metaphor “time is money” to connect the service to the emotions of saving money or making more money.
And in the third paragraph, they again use a type of metaphor – more specifically, a simile – to connect NOT having scheduling software to the supposed shame and futility of being an overworked secretary:
“You could chase down prospects and play email tag like an overworked secretary.”
Nobody who wants to be a badass boss also wants to feel like a secretary. Those two concepts and the emotions culturally connected to them are at opposite ends of a spectrum and play against each other to drive a response.
16. Use analogies to create emotional understanding
In the exact same vein as comparisons and metaphors, we have analogies.
All the same studies and findings apply, and in my opinion, good use of analogies is probably the single greatest persuasive tool on the planet.
There is no easier way to illustrate a concept than to take another concept that somebody already understands and connect it to the concept you are trying to explain. And what makes this exercise so persuasive is that just like metaphors and comparisons, you bring along all the associated emotions.
For example, I was recently trying to help Write Minds members understand the mistakes they were making during their sales calls.
The problem is that when it comes to sales, people are very entrenched in their thinking, and it’s difficult for them to step back and consider things objectively. I can tell them, “You are approaching the sale like it’s a gift they may or may not give you” but it’s just words.
This is where an analogy is helpful. I compared their attitude on the sales call to a petitioner coming before a king and begging the king to grant their petition. In this scenario, the petitioner has no leverage and no confidence. They are at the mercy of the king.
Stuff like this makes the concept more real. It bypasses the need for things to make complete sense analytically and gives the reader a chance to understand the concept emotionally. Their brain can THEN use that understanding to connect the analytical dots as well.
17. Explain the benefit in connection with the feature.
We talked earlier about speaking to the motivations behind the purchase – aka the pain point being solved or the benefit being provided.
To take this a step further, a great place to address these benefits or solutions is connected to the features of the product or service we’re selling.
Let’s go back to that Ugmonk example.
- “The tees are then enzyme washed for added softness.”
- “The garment dye process creates subtle variations of color, making each tee truly unique.”
- “Since the tees are pre-shrunk, they will fit the same on day one as day one hundred.”
Each feature (bold) is connected directly to the benefit (underlined) it provides.
Imagine if this description simply said, “The tees are then enzyme washed.” Is that good or bad? Is that a bonus or just a standard way of doing things?
“The garment dye process creates subtle variations of color.” Cool, I guess.
“The tees are pre-shrunk.” Does that mean I need to order a size up?
If the features had just been listed on their own, I really wouldn’t understand what the benefits of these relatively expensive $30 tshirts are. But by connecting each feature to it’s benefits, I have a really clear picture of what makes these tshirts so special.
18. Agitate the problem before introducing the solution.
It’s one thing to be aware of your readers’ paint points.
It’s another thing to address them.
It’s another thing entirely to intentionally agitate them.
Ramit Sethi does this really well. Look at this example from one of his sales pages:
I guarantee you that Ramit’s personal experience wasn’t this extreme. What he has done here is taken a kernel of personal experience and then used reader feedback to empathize with his target audience and expand the story for maximum agitation.
His goal here is to make the reader remember and relive every moment of self doubt, every moment of hesitation, every moment of anxiety.
When they woke up today, they may not have thought that they needed help talking to people. That need wasn’t on their priority list.
But as they read Ramit’s sales page, the emotional urgency of that need begins to be felt, and suddenly, it is a priority. Making sure they never have these feelings of helplessness again suddenly seems like a really important goal.
And now they are in a prime position to respond to Ramit’s solution.
That’s the power of agitation, and it’s especially effective when you know the problem you’re solving isn’t going to be top of mind at the moment the reader begins your copy. By agitating the problem and pulling those memories in, you can make it FEEL a lot more urgent than it actually is.
19. Create clear, vivid expectations.
Once you’ve invested some time into agitating the problem, it’s important to invest an equal amount of time in creating a picture of what life will be like with the solution.
Continuing with the same example, we see that Ramit goes much deeper than simply stating, “I’m going to solve your problem.”
Ramit “spares no expense” in creating a clear, vivid expectation for what things will be like once you say “yes” to his pitch.
Setting clear expectations is something you can do in any scenario, whether or not you are agitating the problem, in order to enhance the persuasiveness of your offer.
It’s also something you can apply to multiple elements of your pitch. In this example, Ramit is painting a picture of what life will be like after purchasing his product. In a very different example, it could look like writing copy on your own landing page explaining what people should expect if they hire your copywriting services.
In both cases, setting clear, vivid expectations enhances your pitch.
20. Anticipate and address objections, alternatives and sticking points.
This is a sales technique, and it’s one of the most powerful persuasive writing techniques you can utilize in your copywriting.
In interpersonal sales, whoever brings up the objection first, wins. If the customer says, “Hey but what about this _____?” any response is going to feel hollow, even if they have a good answer, and it will significantly lower the chance of the sale going through.
On the other hand, if the salesperson brings up, “Now you might be thinking this _____. Here’s how we solved that”, then it becomes a massive bonus toward pushing the sale through.
This concept translates to copywriting, but we have the advantage of a one-way conversation, which means all we have to do is address the objection, cover why we are better than the alternative, or downplay the sticking point at some point in our pitch.
This is another place where customer feedback is massively important, because we typically don’t want to bring up objections, alternatives, or sticking points that our leads aren’t already thinking about. We only want to cover the common ones (unless the solution is just such an over-the-top, no-brainer, smash-hit win that we can swat away all other options like flies).
Section #3: Headline Copywriting Tips
Headlines are the single most impactful line of copy on any given page. They are often the deciding factor in whether or not the page will be read at all.
If you can write amazing headlines, you can:
- Impress editors and get more guest posts and paid blog assignments
- Impress clients and get more copywriting gigs and referrals
- Impress your fellow writers and get a big ole ego boost (you know you want it)
The following tips will help you write better, more effective headlines. For further help with your headlines, read my guide: How To Write A Headline.
21. The first goal of a headline is to grab attention.
If you don’t secure the attention of the reader, nothing else really matters.
It’s over. You failed.
Remember that headline you didn’t find interesting enough to finish reading?
No, you don’t.
There are a number of things we can do to grab attention:
- Stand out visually
- Use attention-grabbing keywords
- Be concise
Attention is essential, but it’s not really an objective unto itself. Capturing attention isn’t particularly valuable if we can’t do anything with it. We need more.
And that’s where the second goal comes into play.
22. The second goal of a headline is to get them reading.
This is where things get a bit more complex.
Sometimes this is as simple as “move your eyes down a line and continue reading.”
Often, it’s more like, “Click a button, so you can continue reading.”
And in rare cases, it’s something like, “Open this envelope, so you can continue reading.”
There are a number of things we can do to get people to continue reading:
- Make a clear promise
- Create a curiosity hook
- Reference a topic the reader is interested in
- Reference a person or brand the reader is interested in
The main point here is that headlines are about grabbing attention and channeling that attention into further reading.
23. Match the headline to the content.
This one is really simple, but I’m including it early for a reason. The headline needs to match the content.
Don’t break this rule.
Clickbait doesn’t build long term brands.
24. Make a clear promise.
One of the best ways to write a headline is to make an honest promise.
This is my go-to technique for blog posts. If I can make a promise in the headline, I’ll do it every time.
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There’s nothing fancy or clever about these headlines.
They are clean, strong, reliable, and honest.
They’re the jedi of headlines.
If you follow my work, you know that I treat these headlines like a promise. When I say, “complete guide”, I’m not copying a trend. I’m going to bust my ass to deliver a complete guide, even if it requires 7 pages and 8,600 words.
I’ve used this “strategy” across multiple blogs and niches, and it turns out that making a clear, simple promise and then delivering great content works every time.
25. Create a curiosity hook.
If clear promises are the jedi of headlines, then curiosity hooks are the sith.
They are often more powerful in the short term but will be defeated by promises in the long run.
Once you’re done marveling at my absolute banger of an analogy, we’ll look at what that actually means.
Take your time.
Okay, here’s the deal. Curiosity is really fucking powerful.
“This Is The ONLY Thing Standing Between You And A Six-Figure Writing Career”
Tell me you wouldn’t click that.
Liar. You would click the living shit out of that.
Because what if the author can deliver? What if there really is just one thing between you and your goal?
You know deep down that no piece of advice can truly deliver on that promise, but you also know that people a lot dumber than you are making more money than you, and it HAS to be because they know something you don’t.
This is the power of the curiosity hook. And the problem is that usually, in order to create that hook, you need to overextend a bit.
I don’t have to go full click-bait here to disappoint you. I could make a legitimate case that “persistence” is the only thing anyone needs to hit six figures writing, but that’s not going to make you feel happy that you clicked on my link.
And while it might not be enough to drive you away immediately, with enough disappointing clicks, you are going to stop clicking on anything I send you.
And that’s why the Dark Side always loses.
26. Ask a question.
If you are feeling really lazy when writing your headline, just ask a question.
A question headline is like Luke Skywalker in the original trilogy. It’s a bit basic and a bit boring, but it gets the job done.
“How Much Do Copywriters Make? Freelance vs In-House vs Agency”
Just like the rebel forces were searching for a jedi to save them, your audience is searching for answers to specific questions. By using one of those questions as your headline, you are essentially promising to answer it in the content, which is why this technique falls into the jedi category.
Boom, stuck the landing!
DID YOU REALLY THINKG MY ANALOGY CONTINUITY WOULD BE ANYTHING LESS THAN FLAWLESS!?!?
27. Break the rules like Apple by referencing an interesting brand.
This is probably the closest thing in this section to a cheat.
I’ve always hated Apple.
Not because their products suck. Not because I had a bad experience with their customer service. Not because I don’t like their company philosophy.
I hate Apple because their audience doesn’t hold them to the same standard as competitors.
Apple can do whatever the fuck it wants, and all its customers will applaud… or at least keeping buying, no matter how inferior their hardware is or how many anti-customer decisions they make.
This is what happens when you reference an intriguing or trending brand in your headline. All bets are off. You can break all the rules and still get great results.
Imagine getting to be a jedi AND a sith at the same time.
Look at this example:
No real promise.
No real curiosity hook.
Not a question.
But it’s about Hubspot, and it leveraged interest in the Hubspot brand to drive so much attention, the author secured $100k+ in business off the back of this article.
Here’s another example:
No real promise.
No real curiosity hook.
Not a question.
But Mindy Kaling was trending like crazy at the time, and this article leveraged that attention into securing a guest post that opened doors and kickstarted the author’s rise to guest post dominance.
This will never stop working.
Go use it.
28. Focus on the most urgent information.
Remember that the first job of our headline is to grab attention.
Sometimes due to the nature of the content, a headline that summarizes the promise of the content just isn’t that attention grabbing.
A way to get around this is to identify the information in the content that is most urgently desired by the target audience and build the headline around that.
This might result in us skirting the edge of our “match the headline to the content” rule, so we need to make sure we are bending it, not breaking it.
But in some cases, it can make a big difference.
This is especially relevant for lead magnet headlines, where the friction is a bit higher and you need enough pull to get the email address. If you aren’t getting the signups you want, try changing the pitch and headline to focus on the most urgently desired piece of content in the lead magnet.
29. If you’re hoping to rank, include the exact match keyphrase.
This headline tip only applies if you are hoping to rank for a specific keyphrase in Google search, but if that is the case, it’s actually pretty important.
Include the word-for-word keyphrase somewhere in the headline, and preferably toward the front.
This SEO technique has been tested a good bit within the SEO community, and I’ve tested it as well in my own work.
Long story, short… it works.
You’ll notice I do this is in every post I’m hoping to rank.
Can you guess the target keyphrase for this post?
30. When in doubt, use a template.
When you first get into copywriting, you think everyone is so smart and knowledgeable. You are learning new stuff every day, and you marvel at the brilliance of those you are learning from.
Five years later, you realize that everything is derivative and success doesn’t come from creativity, it comes from adapting what’s been proven to work to your present scenario.
This is why templates are so great. They’re an easy reference you can turn to when you’re feeling a bit stuck or want to change things up.
If you’d like to grab the templates, enter your email below and I’ll send you my full copywriting swipe file:
Section #4: Value Proposition Copywriting Tips
A value proposition is a statement that summarizes what a business is offering, who they are offering it to, and ideally, what makes their offer special or unique.
Your value proposition is similar to an elevator pitch, but instead of 20-30 seconds in an elevator, you have less than 15 seconds to grab the attention of your website visitors and convince them to stay on your page.
The following tips will help you write better value propositions. For further help with your value propositions, read my guide: How To Write A Value Proposition.
31. Clearly define the offer.
As I talk about fairly frequently, clarity is the most important feature of good copywriting.
The most important part of writing a value proposition is clearly defining the offer. If your reader can’t immediately determine what is being offered, then who it’s for and why it’s uniquely valuable don’t really matter.
Here’s a good example.
The opening headline makes the value proposition really clear, and the offer is further explained in the supporting paragraph: Brillmark “[builds] A/B, Multivariate, and Personalization Experiments across the entire customer journey.”
32. Specify who the offer is for.
In addition to explaining the offer, it’s important to specify who it’s for.
Sometimes, you can accomplish through implication. Ideally, you want to spell it out, like in the example above:“For CRO Agencies & In-House Campaigns”.
This lets anyone from an agency or in-house team know immediately that the service being offered is specifically catered to them, and as a result, they are much more likely to take interest in reading through the rest of the pitch.
We don’t care about our offer being interesting to anyone else. Other types of people aren’t going to purchase our service anyway. We only care about how the “right” people – aka our target audience – experiences our value proposition.
33. Offer a glimpse at the offer’s unique value.
The final element we want to include in the value proposition is a glimpse into the offer’s unique value. Why is your offer better than the direct competitors or alternatives your audience is considering.
This is more important for some businesses than others. If you are a first mover in your field, offering something extremely niche or custom, or solving a problem that requires a long nurturing and education period, this becomes less relevant.
If you are in a commodity market or talking to people who are very aware of the problem they are trying to solve and actively fielding different offers for an immediate purchasing decision, then how well you communicate your unique value is probably THE most important part of your value proposition.
Going back to our previous example, Brillmark demonstrates their unique value throughout the two supplemental paragraphs:
- “years of experience”
- “over 5,000 campaigns under our belt”
- “doesn’t matter the device, application, platform, or complexity”
- “We’ll provide the technical expertise and deliver a flawless campaign at offshore prices.”
You might notice that the focus of their unique value is the team behind it and what they can do. It’s more brand-focused. This is fairly common for services businesses, as you are really selling the expertise of the talent behind the offer. For product businesses, you will likely focus on the unique value of the product itself.
34. Ask and answer the right questions.
Writing a great value proposition starts with having the right information.
First, we need to understand the offer.
- What is it?
- How does it work?
- How does it benefit the customer?
Second, we need to understand the customer.
- Who is the target customer?
- What do they look like (job role, demographic, hobbies, goals, etc)?
- What benefits/solutions/achievements are they seeking?
- What pain points, frustrations, challenges are they wanting to overcome?
Third, we are looking for anything that will help us connect the value of the offer to the needs of the customer.
- Our offer provides a benefit that they are looking for
- Our offer solves a pain point that frustrates them
- Our offer can play a pivotal role in helping them achieve a desired outcome
Ask the right questions to get the right answers. If you’d like some extra help, here’s the copywriting questionnaire I send to all my clients.
35. Try to get direct customer feedback.
Q&A is a good starting point, and in some cases, it’s all your going to have.
Ideally though, we want direct customer feedback. We want to review statements, questions, concerns, and any other type of written or verbal communication delivered by our customer base.
The best copy you’ll ever write won’t be original. It will come “straight from the horse’s mouth”.
Your customers know what they want better than you do. The goal of copywriting isn’t to be a word magician. The goal of copywriting is to write something you audience will understand and resonate with, and there’s nobody they better understand or resonate with than themselves.
36. Evaluate the competition.
If you checked out my copywriting questionnaire, you’ll notice I ask the client to list out direct competitors.
By default, they are going to send me the top brands in their space, which lets me see what is working for companies that are getting the results my client wants and who understand their industry better than I do.
Your goal isn’t to copy the competitors. Your goal is to establish a baseline for what is working and see how you can top it or favorably differentiate your own client compared to their competitors.
37. Start with this value proposition formula.
There is a simple value proposition formula that I think everyone should start with.
You probably won’t finish with this, but it’s a great starting point, because it forces you to include the things that matter most, which will help you avoid missing the forest for the trees.
I help [audience/niche] to [achieve result/solve problem] by [service/product].
It includes all the needed pieces.
And it’s a great baseline to measure against.
When you come up with something “better” – something more clever, interesting or compelling – measure it against the formula and ask, “Does this do a better job of explaining the offer and it’s unique value?”
Because ultimately that’s all that matters.
38. Experiment with different UVP formats.
A value proposition is whatever you can fit on this page:
- It could be a simple headline + subheadline
- It could be a headline + video
- It could be a headline + checklist
- It could be any combination of elements that fit on this screen
Experiment with different options and see what works best for the unique business you are focused on.
39. Brainstorm and write out 10+ variations.
Once you have:
- Asked and answered the right questions
- Established the core value proposition
- And determined your format (or a few viable formats)
… it’s time to brainstorm.
Go nuts and create 10+ unique value propositions.
They will all be saying similar things, but you want to really force yourself to create different phrasing, word choices, and emphases for each iteration.
There are a few reasons for this.
First, it’s very, very easy to get mentally locked in one direction when creating a value proposition, and you are usually going to be locked into whatever you thought of first, not what is actually best.
Forcing yourself to go in different directions will get you out of that mental rut and allow you to discover new iterations that might be better.
Second, if you are working with a client, their preferences might head in a different direction than your initial train of thought. Brainstorming numerous ideas allows them to steer the direction of the value proposition rather than simply saying, “yes/no” to a single idea.
Brainstorming can be time-consuming, but in my opinion, it’s worth it to spend extra time on the value proposition, because it’s probably the single most important statement on the entire website.
40. Run the 5-second test.
Once you’ve brainstormed all your ideas, select a winner or a handful of winners, and then continue improving them.
See if you can further improve the wording, the flow, and ultimately, the message.
Once you and your clients (if relevant) are happy with the final result, it’s time to run what I call “the 5-second test”.
Grab the first person you can find who doesn’t know what your business does. Show them the value proposition for 5 seconds and then ask them to tell you what they think your business is offering, who they are offering it to, and why they should care.
They should at least have a clear understanding of what you are offering and be able to articulate the concept back to you. If they can also identify the target audience and why that audience might be interested in your offer, even better.
If they don’t have any conceptual understanding of your offer and are only able to simply quote back the language used in the value proposition, you probably need to make some changes.
This is a quick, cheap test to run, so try to run it with 5 people if possible.
Section #5: Website Copywriting Tips
For most businesses, their online success revolves around their website, and the effectiveness of their website revolves around their website copy.
Your website is your 24/7 sales rep. It’s working around the clock to bring in money for your business, and your success will depend on whether that rep is good at their job.
The following tips will help you write better website copy. For further help, check out my insanely detailed 8,600 word guide to website copywriting.
41. Use active voice.
One of the most common mistakes copywriters make when starting out is writing in the passive voice.
There is a time and place for passive voice on websites. However, it should be used deliberately and sparingly.
You only have a limited window of time and space to get your message across. An active voice communicates your message more powerfully and succinctly.
“We cut production costs by up to 20%” is far more effective than “Production costs were cut by up to 20% using our services.”
Tight, active writing is more impactful.
Train yourself to spot the passive voice in your writing. Make sure someone is doing something in your sentences, rather than having something be done to them.
On this note: while you can use a grammar checker, don’t rely on this. They’re notoriously dicey and often miss cases of passive voice, as well as other glaring grammatical errors.
42. Consider SEO at the beginning…
You can’t write copy for a website without considering SEO.
Scratch that – you can. But you shouldn’t.
I guarantee you every client cares about where they’re going to rank on Google. If they don’t right now, it’s only a matter of time.
SEO considerations have a huge impact on how you structure your copy, and the topics you address.
Consider these points before you start typing away:
- Which keywords am I targeting for this page?
- What’s currently ranking for this keyword?
- How can I structure my page to optimize time on site? Which pages can I link to?
- Which related topics will people be interested in? Can I include these on my page?
These questions will help you plan out your copy and guide your editorial decisions. Plus, it’ll save you having to restructure or rewrite your entire site down the line when you’re not ranking.
43. …but write for people, not for Google.
As I mentioned earlier, if you’re hoping to rank, you should include the exact match keyword. But that doesn’t mean your sole focus should be on keywords.
We’ve all been on that one website that’s stuffed to the brim with keywords.
You know, like this:
Ten years ago, that would fly. But today, people are savvier and search engines are smarter. Both can spot your SEO agenda, and chances are readers will leave your website if it’s only spitting out keywords and not providing value.
The common advice out there – and one that I advocate – is this: write for people, not for search engines.
People Google things because they have a question – this is essentially what a keyword is. Rather than thinking keywords, think: what question am I hoping to answer, and am I answering it?
Figure out your target keyword before you start writing, then forget it. Focus on writing compelling and conversational copy. You can optimize for keywords after the fact.
Trust me: reverse-engineering SEO copy for creativity is a much more challenging task.
44. Don’t forget your title tag and meta description.
Before you send off your copy, spare a thought for your page title tag and meta description.
Your title tag and meta description are a preview of your content, and appear on search engine results pages like so:
There are people out there who are paid to write this copy for paid search engine ads, which look exactly like this. Your title tag and meta description are essentially organic ad listings for your page. They’re valuable and shouldn’t be ignored.
Spend time crafting the perfect meta description and title tag. These should include your page’s target keyword, powerful copy and a call to action.
Your title tag and description should also be optimized for character length, which means ~50-60 characters for a title tag and <160 characters for meta descriptions.
45. Insert numbers when appropriate.
A lot of copywriters I know hate listicles with a passion – and yet, every time a Buzzfeed post appears on their newsfeed, I guarantee it piques their interest at least a little.
Numbers are effective because our brains understand them more easily. Just think about it – which of these are you more likely to click on?
“Why our product will make you happier”
“10 reasons our product will make you happier”
Also, contrary to what the AP Style Guide tells you, research from Takipi shows that digits are more effective than writing out numbers. Use “10 reasons” or “5 benefits” rather than “ten” and “five”.
46. Tell people what to do.
If you’ve read Thinking Fast and Slow, you’ll know about the “law of least effort”. When there are several ways of achieving a goal, people will gravitate towards the least demanding course of action.
Let me paraphrase: we’re lazy.
Effort is a cost to your audience, so be direct in your website copywriting.
Want people to click on something? Write “click here”.
Want people to give their email? Spell it out: “enter your name and email below to receive free offers”.
This is even more important lower down in the funnel. When a customer is about to buy something, make the path to purchase as clear as possible. Clearly write “proceed to purchase” or “Next”. This is not the time for flowery copy.
Eliminate any excuse for them to leave the page. You’ll convert more – I promise.
47. Keep your introduction short and sharp.
Your introduction is your hook.
It should pique interest and encourage people to keep reading.
Going off my earlier point, people are lazy. If they open a web page and are hit with a wall of text, their eyes will glaze over – or worse, they’ll think it’s too much effort and leave.
In most cases, your introductory sentence should be just that.
One sentence. One hook that makes the audience want to know more.
You can go into more detail later once you’ve got them reading.
48. Make it skimmable.
Most writers focus on copy, but put any thought into the formatting.
The objective of every website is to keep a visitor on the page for as long as possible. But there’s a big challenge. Most readers will read the first line or paragraph on a page, then skim the rest.
Anticipate this in your copy and format it in a way that’s skim-friendly.
- Use headings and subheadings to break up your content
- Include bullet points and lists
- Break up paragraphs with images and videos
- Present data and information visually if possible
- Add blockquotes
One good trick is to zoom out to 50% and look at your copy. If all you can see is text, text, text and more text, it needs some formatting ASAP.
49. Focus on digestibility.
In the same vein as skimmable content, your content should be digestible. Even if you have 100 amazing and equally important features, nobody is going to pay attention to all of them.
To get meta: although there’s 102 tips in this list, I wrote at the very start that you’re not going to sit down and read them all. That’s why they’re split into sections – to make it easier to digest.
Take a leaf out of Quick Sprout’s book:
Break your copy into bite-sized chunks wherever appropriate (i.e. when listing features or product benefits).
50. Check for mistakes.
This should go without saying, but it happens to the best copywriters. You write a piece of content and you’ve got a looming deadline. You hit “publish” and figure you’ll fix up the mistakes later.
Resist this urge.
74% of web browsers pay attention to the quality of spelling and grammar on company websites. Copy that’s riddled with mistakes suggests a lack of professionalism, and can even turn some customers off your product or service entirely.
Spelling and grammatical errors can also end up in a PR disaster. The internet is a vicious place, and your typo might end up plastered all over Twitter for weeks to come.
Just take a look at this typo on Lush’s website from 2015, which has been forever immortalized on spelling and grammar mistake lists:
Don’t be that poor copywriter.
51. Pay attention to styling and design.
Design plays a major role on the readability of your copy and the effectiveness of your narrative, particularly on a website.
When you’re writing copy for a website, always take a look at the website first. Consider things like:
- Font size
- Font color
- Background color
- Line spacing
- Heading formats
- Copy alignment
- Copy placement
Imagine how the end result will appear to your customers. Does it have the effect you’re aiming for? If not, readjust.
52. Consider every page.
Every word your target audience sees is an interaction. It’s a chance to build a connection with them, drive them further along the customer journey.
If you’re writing copy for a client or a brand, take the time to do an audit of every page on their site. Leave no page unturned.
Even the simple things, like 404 pages or the ‘thank you’ page after submitting a form, are a chance to show off your brand personality and win over your customer – like Pixar:
Section #6: Email Copywriting Tips
Email remains one of the most effective marketing channels in existence. It’s relatively cheap to run and it brings in an incredible return on investment.
If you want to grow your business, email marketing is a no-brainer.
The following tips will help you write more effective emails and get a better return from your email marketing efforts.
53. Keep subject lines short and snappy.
Subject lines are the headlines of the email world. While most of the same tips for writing headlines, there’s one extra consideration for emails: length.
Research shows that short subject lines have the best open rate. Most people are reading emails on their phones, so screen real estate is limited. What might look great on a browser might be cut off on a phone – which means you’ll lose the impact of your message.
Subject lines between 6 and 10 words perform the best. However, don’t leave it up to chance.
Every email campaign client should give you the option to send a test email.
54. Be mindful of spam trigger words.
When you’re writing subject lines, the spam filter is a constant threat. As Nigerian princes become more sophisticated in their scams, so too do spam filters.
Including spam trigger words can cause your well-crafted copy to end up in the junk mail folder. What’s worse, they hurt your ability to send emails in the future.
Steer clear of trigger words, such as “free”, “discount”, “guarantee”, “win”, “rich”, “spree” and “discount”. Hubspot has an updated list of email spam trigger words, which comes in handy when writing your subject line.
55. Stick to the point.
People don’t have a lot of time, and they get a lot of emails. This isn’t the time to create dreamy copy or pepper in jargon.
Keep it simple, and get to the point.
Here’s an example of a great email marketing newsletter by InVision:
It’s straightforward and very direct. Not only is this perfect for time-poor email subscribers – the white space also helps the reader focus on the message at hand.
56. Spend time on the preview text.
Like your website meta-description, your preview text impacts how many people open your email. Your preview text and subject line should work hand in hand to encourage customers to open your email.
You’ve only got 120 characters, so use them to tease the content your audience will find most interesting.
If you don’t have preview text, it’ll just say “View Online” – the least punchy message of all.
57. Only include personalization if you’re sure it’ll work.
Any list of email copywriting tips will tell you to use name personalization to increase your open rates and create more compelling copy.
Here’s the thing. Personalization is incredibly effective when it works. However, personalization fails are a very real threat.
Here are just some that I’ve come across in my inbox:
Hey FNAME, we think you’ll love this!
Hello Jacob McMillen , your Buy 1 Free 1 voucher is expiring soon
JACOB, get a complimentary bottle of wine on your birthday
Only use personalization if:
- You’re confident in how clean the email database is.
- You’ve tested it
- You know how the content will display
- You have a fallback personalization tag (a generic name, such as “friend” or “traveler”)
58. Use “we” and “you”.
This gives your email copy more personality, especially when used together with personalization tags. Pronouns like “we” and “you” feel more inclusive and friendly. Your customer reads it and instantly thinks you are talking to them.
For example, instead of:
This Christmas, fly with American Airlines and save up to 30%.
This Christmas, fly with us and you’ll save up to 30%.
Powerful stuff, right? Addressing the reader as “you” is also more direct and inspires action, which is the perfect segway to my next point…
59. Use actionable language.
Email copy with more verbs gets a higher clickthrough rate. Words like “download”, “take”, “buy”, “shop” and “view” are direct and succinct, and compel your readers to take action.
However, this isn’t exclusively limited to verbs. Actionable language also includes copy that inspires action through creating scarcity.
Here are some examples:
- Don’t miss out on…
- Last chance for…
- Limited time only…
- X hours left…
60. Nerd out on A/B testing.
The beauty of email marketing is that you can A/B test to your heart’s delight. This takes the guesswork out of writing copy – you can literally send out two different types of copy and see which gets better results.
Some of the different things I like to test are:
- Subject line copy
- Preview text
- Call to action copy
When you’re A/B testing, focus on one thing at a time and always have a specific goal in mind. For example, you could be aiming to get data to evaluate whether using “you” in your subject line is more effective using the example I gave earlier.
61. Align your subject line with your content.
Clickthrough rate is the other major metric every brand is tracking, because ultimately if your email isn’t getting traffic onto your website, it’s pointless. That’s why getting people to open isn’t enough. You need to get them to click.
Like your headlines, your subject line is a promise. The content in your email should deliver on that promise.
If someone opens your email, that’s an indication of interest in what you have to say or need what you’re selling. Meet that need with the copy inside, preferably on the first block or header image.
62. Write your emails like you’re trying to build a brand.
The most important words in your email aren’t in the subject line or the body text.
The most important words are the “From” name.
What people associate with your name or the brand name your copy represenents will dictate how they engage with your emails over the long haul.
When certain people email me, I open the email.
The single best thing you can do to improve your emails is only send stuff worth reading and become one of “those people” that your subscribers actually look forward to hearing from.
Section #7: Ad Copywriting Tips
Advertising is one of the few marketing channels that can bring in immediate results AND scale with you as you grow.
It can be difficult (and expensive) to dial in, but once you have achieved an ad-driven funnel with a profitable return, you are basically printing money for yourself.
The following copywriting tips will help you write better, more effective ads and speed up your journey to that profitable add funnel.
63. Think about search intent.
Every product search on Google has intent behind it. Maybe the customer is trying to find the “best” or “cheapest” product, or they’re trying to solve a problem.
The key to writing impactful ads is to mirror the goal in your ad copy.
Take a look at this result for “sell my car”:
The title instantly answers the customer’s need. You need to sell your car and Carvana will buy it. To add to this, not only do they answer the question, but they’ve anticipated other questions a customer might have and addressed it in the copy. This all works together to create an ad I want to click on.
Take the time to think about the keyword and what the customer wants to know. What stage of the buyer journey are they in? What other pain points do they have and how can you address these?
This simple exercise will help you write great ad copy, every time.
64. Give them a reason to click.
By now, almost everyone in the world knows that the first results on Google are ads. Unfortunately, customers are notoriously averse to being sold to. They’ll have more reservations about clicking on a search ad because they know it’s not a genuine search result.
You’re already starting off on the back foot and you need to work harder for the click than an organic search result. The most effective way to get this is by offering a clear benefit or creating a sense of urgency.
Let’s compare two different ads below:
I searched “cheap flights to japan” on the 9th of December. ANA got my attention by creating a sense of urgency with their special fare on sale until the 15th December. I’m more inclined to click on their ad now, even though AirAsia ultimately had the cheaper price (by a mile, I might add).
Your benefit could be a free trial, an instant no-obligation quote, or a limited time offer. Review your ad and think “what benefit does a customer get from clicking on this ad?” If you can’t identify one, you need to add it in.
65. Incorporate numbers as proof.
This is the combination of two earlier points: include numbers and incorporate proof. When you’re writing ad copy, bringing these two together makes all the difference between creating ads and creating ads people want to click on.
People love numbers. Numbers work to combat uncertainty with specifics. Incorporating numbers in your ad can validate your product or service, and make your ads stand out.
If we take the earlier ANA vs. Air Asia example, ANA have included a price in their ad. I know what to expect when I click on it, which makes me more likely to do so.
Here are some great proof numbers to include:
- Number of locations or stores
- Number of happy customers
- Product price
- Years of service
However, numbers should be used with caution. If you overpromise and underdeliver, you’ll end up appearing clickbait-y, or paying for empty clicks rather than ones that convert.
While we’re at it, here’s an extra tip: use odd numbers when possible. Hubspot and Outbrain conducted a survey that showed that odd numbers have a 20% higher clickthrough rate than even numbers.
66. Front-load your copy.
Google allows advertisers to write ads up to 270 characters in length, almost double the character count of a few years ago. You get an extra headline and extra description line, which is more room to work your copywriting magic and get users to click.
While those extra characters are amazing in theory, it doesn’t quite play out that way. The way your copy is displayed depends on the type of device. You can’t guarantee every line is going to show, so you have to anticipate this in your copy.
Do the opposite of what you would in a poker game, and show your hand right from the start. Put your most compelling customer benefits in your headlines and first description line, and leave the non-essentials for the second description line.
This guarantees your ad copy will still have a strong impact, even if a customer doesn’t get the full message.
67. Remember the basics.
A lot of copywriters out there want to get creative with ads. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to flex your creative muscles. However, when it comes to writing ads, Dwight’s advice is the right one more often than not:
Simplicity works. Customers don’t have a lot of time – they want to know if you’re offering what they want, why they should choose you, and what they should do next.
Go back to the basics with these tips:
- Incorporate the keyword you’re bidding on in your copy
- Include clear benefits
- Finish off with a call to action
Stick to this formula, and you’ll get clicks.
68. Piggyback off the first organic search result.
It’s tough to churn out powerful ad copy, particularly when you have so much to say and so little room to say it. Realistically, you won’t be able to come up with incredible headlines and descriptions for every ad, every time.
It happens. That’s okay. There’s a dead simple solution to help tackle writer’s block…
Google the keyword.
Search your target keyword, and see what’s ranking already. The top organic results are already likely generating the highest clickthrough rates (or at least, very respectable ones). You know it works – take inspiration from these headlines and adapt them for your own copy.
Sometimes there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Remember: your aim is to create ad copy that drives more clicks, not to create the most original ad out there.
69. Check out the other ads.
Before writing anything (and even after), you should be doing recon on which ads are vying for your real estate.
It’s easy to assume that your competitors are in the same field as you. However, in the age of aggregators and eCommerce giants, the competitive landscape is probably far bigger than you imagined.
Knowing your competition and knowing your competition on paid ads is a completely different thing.
Let’s say you’re Nike. Your traditional competition might include other sportswear brands like Adidas and Under Armour. However, on Google, you’ve also got to worry about online stores like JD Sports and ASOS who stock your products and will steal eyeballs and clicks.
Figure out which ads you’re up against and try to differentiate from them. It could be as simple as adding “official” to your headline, or adding a USP the others don’t have.
70. Use punctuation correctly.
It’s a super boring point, but an important one. Many copywriters are tempted to forgo punctuation or throw in ‘/’s and ‘&’s to meet Google’s character count.
Remember: people don’t like being sold to, and people don’t trust brands or ads to start with. Using poor punctuation or adding is just adding fuel to the fire. It makes your ad look spammy, and will ultimately hurt your CTR.
Just take a look at these ads for basketball shoes:
Which one would you click on?
71. Tailor your display URL.
With so little space, every part of your ad matters. While your display URL isn’t going to win you copywriter of the year, it’s often neglected by copywriters – even though it has a huge impact on your clickthrough rates.
Your display URL should be clean. Stick to your website URL and include your target keyword for the best results. For example, if I’m running Serenity by Jan and targeting the keyword “candles”, my URL would be:
Another option is to go hyper local, like these florists in Brooklyn:
Section #8: Old School Copywriting Tips
The first thing you learn when you get into copywriting is that old people know best.
You aren’t a real copywriter until you’ve read [insert old book]. And forget about those modern charlatans. If you haven’t been dead for at least 30 years, you don’t know shit about copywriting in the 21st Century… and by golly, that’s a fact.
That’s why this list wouldn’t be complete without some sacred, old-school copywriting tips that you definitely clicked down to from the Table of Contents before reading anything else on this megalist (busted!).
72. Opposites attract readers.
“We have become so accustomed to hearing everyone claim that his product is the best in the world, or the cheapest, that we take all such statements with a grain of salt.” – Robert Collier
Want to lose weight by eating chocolate?
That got your attention, didn’t it?
Firstly, the good news is that you totally can. You can eat a square of chocolate every night and still lose weight.
But most of the content out there will tell you that the secret to losing weight is eating a balanced diet and exercising. Readers are conditioned to seeing this message, and they’ll ignore 90% of what’s out there because it’s the same old shit, every time.
But by linking two seemingly opposite subjects (a diet and chocolate), you jolt your audience out of their content comfort zone. They’re intrigued. You’ve got their attention.
There’s so much noise out there. Cut through it by saying something unexpected.
73. Use power words.
There’s no universal word that will instantly convince customers to click on an ad or visit your website. However, there are words that are more powerful than others when it comes to driving conversions.
If you’ve seen Dead Poets Society, you’ll remember Robin Williams’ speech.
“So avoid using the word ‘very’ because it’s lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women – and, in that endeavor, laziness will not do. It also won’t do in your essays.”
Although he’s not an old school copywriter, this quote applies to all copywriters. A single word can make all the difference in your copy, and inspire customers to take action.
Thankfully, Buffer already took the guesswork out of figuring out these power words – check out their list on the 189 most powerful words you can use in your copy, inspired by the likes of Ogilvy and the old school greats.
74. Consider your customer’s feelings.
“Before you put pen to paper, before you ring for your stenographer, decide in your own mind what effect you want to produce on your reader — what feeling you must arouse in him.” – Robert Collier
I had to Google what a stenographer was, but Robert Collier’s point is still valid. Every piece of copy you write should evoke an emotion.
Maybe you’re trying to build trust with your audience. In this case, the goal of your copy is to make them feel understood. Your copy should be focused on creating trust through facts and figures, or providing useful information in a friendly tone of voice.
On the flipside, if you’re trying to push a hard sale, the goal is to create a sense of urgency.
Take a second, and write down the emotions you want your audience to feel. Once you know the emotion you’re aiming for, you can tailor your language to achieve that outcome.
75. Write for one person.
“Good advertising is written from one person to another. When it is aimed at millions it rarely moves anyone.” – Fairfax M. Cone
You have more than one customer, but the art of great copywriting is making the user feel like that content was created for them. The more people you try to write for, the more diluted your message.
The best copy is laser-focused on a single person. When you’re writing your copy, write it with one person in mind.
It could be a customer persona, or a friend you know who fits your target audience. Write your ad, email, or copy like you’re addressing them directly. The copy that comes out will be much more impactful.
76. Replace long words with short ones.
“Make your copy straightforward to read, understand and use. Use easy words; those that are used for everyday speech. Use phrases that are not too imprecise and very understandable.” – Jay Abraham
Even though it’s an old school tip, it’s still relevant today. If someone needs a dictionary to translate your copy, or they have to open up Google, your words have lost their impact.
Copywriting is about accessibility, especially in this day and age where your audience is bombarded with content. If they can’t understand what you’re trying to say in an instant, they won’t bother trying to work it out.
Replace long words with short ones, especially in headlines and header images. Monosyllabic words land better and help you get the maximum impact from your copy in the minimum amount of time.
Here’s a great example from Shopify:
They keep it short and sharp – in one second, I know exactly what they’re trying to say. That’s far more effective than saying “Construct your business” or “Establish your business”.
77. Reframe to shoot up perceived value
“You sell on emotion, but you justify a purchase with logic.” – Joseph Sugarman
The art of pricing is worthy of an entire megalist in and of itself, yet many copywriters simply write the price that they’re given for a product.
Don’t be that copywriter.
Your goal is to convey maximum value for the minimum cost. Reframing your pricing allows you to do just that.
Look at this ad:
There were three ways this could have been written:
- $8 a day
- $56 a week
- $240 a month
The higher the cost of a product, the greater a person’s objections are to said product. By breaking the pricing down into the smallest amount, our brains are far more likely to consider the product – after all, 8 bucks a day is nothing, right?
If you’re trying to communicate savings on a product, the opposite applies. In that case, the ad above should have read “Save up to $240”.
Maximum value = maximum savings that it makes sense to write. Minimum cost = lowest logical cost you can display.
78. Compare it to something they already know.
“The mind thinks in pictures, you know. One good illustration is worth a thousand words.” – Robert Collier
Let’s stick with that car example above, because it demonstrates my next point perfectly.
Notice how they wrote “Skip the two lattes” as a secondary way to communicate the affordable pricing?
That’s a powerful mental image. It helps the audience understand the value of the product.
Humans are hardwired to compare something we don’t know to something we do know. We tend to make associations and use this to form an opinion on the value of a product or a service.
You can use this to your advantage to convey value in an extremely powerful way, like so:
This comparison gets the point across much more effectively than saying “443m worth of photos are uploaded to Instagram every 37 minutes”.
You can do this with anything:
- Compare the price of your product to a discretionary product: “for the price of a bottle of water” rather than “for $2.50 a day”
- Compare cost savings to a product your customer values, i.e. “Save $240 – that’s the price of a flight from NY to LA”
- Compare benefits to something tangible: “Shave an entire working day off your schedule” rather than “save 8 hours”
79. Write with rhythm.
“This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.” – Gary Provost
This passage above is single-handedly of the best examples of rhythm in writing.
Rhythm is important in copywriting because it acts as a kind of reading inertia. It engages your audience. It captivates them and compels them to read the next sentence. And the next.
As I mentioned earlier, the goal is to get your audience to keep reading. Rhythm helps you do that.
Maybe you’re more inclined to write short, punchy sentences, or long and detailed sentences. That’s totally fine. The main takeaway here is that you should be varying up the length of your sentences to create more engaging copy.
Do a simple exercise and read your copy out loud. We all have a natural ear for rhythm – when you verbalize it, you’ll instantly pick up on monotonous copy.
80. Respect your audience’s intelligence.
“The consumer isn’t a moron; she is your wife. You insult her intelligence if you assume that a mere slogan and a few vapid adjectives will persuade her to buy anything. She wants all the information you can give her.” – David Ogilvy
Although David Ogilvy’s advice is a bit sexist and reads like something out of Mad Men, there’s one golden nugget of wisdom here.
The consumer isn’t a moron.
They’re not going to buy ‘just anything’. Customers are savvy, and they’ll do their research. If you write in a way that insults your customer’s intelligence, you’ve lost them for life.
Don’t cover up objections or obscure information, or dangle empty promises. Talk to your customers on their level. Try to provide value with every piece of copy, and give them the information they need to make an informed decision.
Section #9: Modern Copywriting Tips
Like Thanos, I’m a firm believer in balance. If we are going to suffer through some old-school copywriting tips, we might as well suffer through some modern copywriting tips too.
Perfectly balanced… as all things should be.
81. Mimic your target audience.
When you’re writing copy, you have to tailor your tone for the audience. But sometimes it’s tricky to get into the customer’s frame of mind, especially when you’re not the audience.
This is where you can take a leaf from the ‘copy’ part of copywriting (sorry). Imitation is powerful, because it makes your audience feel like you’re on their wavelength. They instinctively trust you more, and become more open to what you have to say.
Take a look at this example from Contiki, a brand that targets 18-35 year olds:
Aside from the delicious food pics, they’re targeting young travelers by mirroring their use of phrases like “the fam dinner” and “foodie friends”. This connects with the audience, and makes them think “yep, Contiki gets me.”
Do everything you can to get an understanding of how your target audience communicates. Read blogs, follow influencers on social media and watch YouTube videos. Note down the key words and phrases they use, then repeat it back to them in your copy.
82. Bring in visual content.
While I’d love to say that nothing is as powerful as the written word, that’s not true – well, not entirely.
The written word is powerful, but sometimes your copy needs a helping hand. Infographics, well-designed charts and graphic design add to your writing, especially when you have dense information you need to get across.
Let’s take an example of the biggest websites in the world.
I can write “the largest website in the world is Google, followed by YouTube, Facebook, Baidu and Yahoo”.
Alternatively, I can show readers this:
By transforming copy into visual content, my point is clearer and more impactful.
Sometimes copywriting isn’t the best way to say what you have to say. If you’re communicating important information, lists or data, think “would an image be better at getting the point across?”
If so, hop on to Adobe Spark or Piktochart, and visualize the shit out of that copy.
83. Make cultural references…
If you look through this megalist, you’ll notice multiple instances where I’ve made references to Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, The Office and other pop culture subjects (and there’s about to be another one very soon).
Aside from the fact that I’m a lowkey pop culture nerd, making cultural references to widely loved content is a great way to make your copy relevant and engaging.
I know I keep saying this point, but it’s because it matters. When you’re writing copy, trust is key.
You want your audience to be on your side. You want them to see you like these guys:
Not these guys:
You can’t get people to convert if they don’t trust you. Making a cultural reference is a subtle way to relate to your audience and build a connection with them.
84. …but tread carefully with newsjacking.
Remember Oreo’s great ‘dunk in the dark’ tweet during the power outage at the Super Bowl XLVII?
In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, here it is again in its full glory:
Leveraging news and cultural events is powerful. But with this great power comes a hell of a lot of responsibility.
Only make cultural references and newsjack in copy if you know it’s going to land well.
There’s a huge difference between what Oreo did (make light of a technical problem) and doing what Fish&Co did just days after local riots occurred in Singapore:
Poor form, guys.
Sometimes it’s just not the time. If you’re worried your reference is in bad taste, delete it.
Remember what your mom and teachers used to say? “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say it at all.”
85. Use the rule of threes.
Our brain likes choices, but give us too many, and we instantly shut down. The paradox of choice is the reason why you can spend more time scrolling through Netflix than actually watching shows.
That’s why three choices is the sweet spot – it’s the smallest number required to make a pattern, and our minds loooooove patterns.
The rule of threes is a great way to create impactful content. It has a ton of applications in copywriting, but here are just a few examples of how it works:
- Three words in a slogan: “Just do it” or “I’m lovin’ it”.
- Three benefits for a customer: “You’ll lose weight, look great and feel more energized”
- Three points on a bulleted list
It just works.
86. Prioritize your messages.
Not every message is created equal. Regardless of whether you’re writing copy for an eBook or a display ad, you need to consider the hierarchy of your messages.
Think about the goal you want to achieve with your copy.
Which message best helps you achieve that goal? Put it first.
Put the secondary message after.
And so on, and so on.
Most people won’t make it to the end of any piece of content. Work with this, and prioritize what you want to say and the order you say it.
87. Start with more.
Get all your thoughts down. Write down every single thing you can think of. Every product benefit. Write long-winded sentences. Throw caution to the wind.
Forget about word counts. Just write it all down, because you never know where you might find a golden nugget of information or inspiration.
Once you’ve got a small novella at your disposal, move on to the step…
88. Be ruthless when you cut copy.
Cutting copy hurts, but you’ve gotta do it. After pouring out all of your creativity onto the page, you need to trim it down. The goal is to get your point across in as little words as possible.
As copywriters, we tend to overthink what we say and think customers are going to read every line. We think they’re going to read it like they would Game of Thrones. In reality, it’s more like reading a billboard while speeding down a highway.
Leave more time for editing than for writing. It’s easy to write stuff. It’s much harder to cut it down.
Your reader has two questions: “why should I care?” and “what’s in it for me?” If your copy doesn’t address one of these two points, delete it.
89. Bin the weak verbs.
Like Mimikyu wanting to be Pikachu, every non-verb aspires to be a verb. Verbs are a powerful weapon in copy if you use them well.
Pay attention to your verbs. Cut adverbs unless they’re dramatically adding to the message. While adverbs can be a huge asset in other forms of writing, they tend to slow the reader down and force them to work harder as they read, which is a negative in copywriting.
Keep an eagle eye out for verbs like “be” and “mean”. These are often words that can be trimmed to tighten up your copy.
Instead of: “You have access to a dedicated customer service team, which means you’re in good hands.”
Say: “You’re in good hands with our dedicated customer service team.”
Much more effective, right?
90. Think about WHERE someone will read your content.
Right message, right person, right time.
You’ve probably heard this more times than you can count. These are the golden rules of marketing, and you should always aim to deliver copy that lands the right message for the target audience, right when they need it.
But with so many different mediums out there, where someone reads it also makes a difference.
If you’re writing copy for a plane magazine, chances are your audience is going to be pretty bored and willing to read your copy word for word. On the other hand, if you’re writing an email newsletter, you can assume that your audience is busy and needs the basic information, fast.
Craft your message to the channel.
Section #10: Final Copywriting Tips
You didn’t need 90 copywriting tips in your life today.
And you sure as hell don’t need another 12.
But I’ll be damned if I post an article with “90” in the headline, so here’s another 12 to give me the 102 I arbitrarily selected for my bomb-ass headline.
91. Start and finish with your key point.
Remember when you had to do school speeches? I don’t know about you, but after hearing 10 speeches in a row, I could only remember the first speech, the last speech and possibly one in between.
If something’s important, say it at the beginning and repeat it at the end. Start off to introduce your argument, and wrap it up at the end to remind people of your point.
It’s basic and old school, but it’s solid advice.
92. Get someone else to read it.
As I’ve discovered firsthand, persuasive writing and an eye for grammar and spelling are fairly unrelated.
Walk outside right now and grab the first person you see. They can catch a few typos. But can they write a sales page?
Probably not (and if they can, they’ve probably made a career out of it already).
Whether you are a copywriter yourself or hiring one, it’s never a bad idea to have a copyeditor do a once-over. This service is pretty cheap, and can save you from publishing embarrassing copy that’s riddled with spelling or grammar mistakes.
However, if you’re tight on time, you can try one of these alternatives:
- Ask a buddy to do it
- Read it out loud
- Read it backwards
Don’t rely on online checkers or spellcheck to pick up grammar mistakes. At the same time, don’t listen to everything Microsoft Word or Google Docs’ spellcheck says.
93. Deliver a power punch with your call to action.
It’s only one button or one phrase, but your call to action plays a huge role in the success of your campaign.
A lot of copywriters write the CTA as an afterthought, when it really deserves to be treated with equal importance as the headline.
Your CTA determines whether your customer will convert with the action you want them to take.
Through all the jabs you’ve set up by agitating their pain points, crafting accessible copy, and using the right verbs, your CTA is your power punch that ties it all together.
When you write a CTA, you should be appealing to FOMO. In other words, you want to tap into one of these emotions in your customer:
- Panic: “If I miss out, I’ll never know if this could have changed my life!”
- Greed: “I have to have everything.”
- Comparison: “I don’t want to be the only person without this!”
- Curiosity: “Could this possibly be as amazing as they describe?”
- Pride: “I have something you don’t have.”
These emotions are what drives customers to act. Here’s how they play out in a CTA:
- Panic: “Last chance – shop now!”
- Greed: “Buy now and get X for FREE.”
- Comparison: “Join millions of others today.”
- Curiosity: “Try it free for 30 days.”
- Pride: “Take advantage of this limited offer today”
Your CTA is the sum of your hard work. Spend the time to get it right.
94. Switch up your language.
There are few things that turn audiences off like reading the same words over and over…and over. Your goal is to get audiences to trust you and view your content in a favorable light. Repeating the same words is like Gollum at Mount Doom – it keeps you from achieving that goal.
Studies have shown that readers perceive messages with a higher variety of word choices as more interesting, and they are more likely to think favorably of the brand or person behind the message.
Incorporate simple and varied word choices. Maximize the diversity of your word choices, while still keeping your content accessible.
I like to do a Ctrl+F search after writing my copy, just to check that I’m not using the same word too often or in the same paragraph.
95. Create a tone of voice guide.
Every brand has a personality and an image. Copy brings it to life.
Over time, you want your audience to get to know your brand like it’s a person – and consistency makes that happen.
Firstly, it’s totally possible to just wing it. If you’re just writing copy for your own personal brand, you don’t need a tone of voice guide.
But when you’re dealing with a client, it’s absolutely a good idea to formalize that brand personality as early as possible and set expectations.
A good tone of voice guide covers:
- Brand personality
- Brand values
- Dos and donts
- Words to use and words to avoid
- Examples of correct and incorrect tone and voice
A brand personality spectrum is a great tool to help define a brand’s tone and personality. They generally look something like this:
96. Focus on concrete outcomes.
If I gave you the choice between having $250 now or entering a competition to win $5000, which would you take?
Maybe you’d take the shot at $5k. But most people would rather take something guaranteed over a ‘chance’ at something.
When possible, avoid using words that dangle a “chance” of something happening. Speak in concrete terms and give people clear outcomes.
For example: “You’ll save up to 15 hours a week using our software” rather than “You could potentially save up to 15 hours a week with our software”.
Hit Ctrl + F.
Find every instance of “can”, “could”, “might” and “perhaps”.
Delete the ones that aren’t necessary.
It’ll tighten up your copy, and make it more persuasive.
98. Rhyme (some of the time).
“An apple a day helps you stay…healthier.”
It doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?
Rhyme isn’t just a tool for Dr Seuss. You can use it to craft memorable taglines and catch phrases that stick in your reader’s mind.
A study by the American Psychological Society showed that people found rhyming content more believable. This result came about despite the study subjects saying that rhyme had nothing to do with accuracy.
Rhyme makes content easier to read, more memorable, and can even make it more persuasive. Use it sparingly, but don’t neglect the power of a good rhyme to sell your product or service.
99. Throw out your dictionary.
For years, copywriters have been experimenting with language to try and stand out. The beauty of the internet is that it’s opened up a world of language possibilities.
Google is now a verb, Flickr and Lyft are classic misspellings that have turned into iconic brands, and the word “meme” has undergone a complete revival from Richard Dawkins’ original intended use.
Set your mind free and play with different ways to say what you have to offer. Get creative with misspellings if you’re naming a product or campaign, or think of ways to repurpose words to grab your audience’s attention.
This isn’t to say you should misspell everything, but don’t be afraid to think outside the box and mash words together. You never know what might come out.
100. Align expectations.
How many times have you started filling out a survey, only to scream out “when will this end?!” somewhere after the third page?
In the same way that you need to tell your reader what to do, you also need to manage their expectations. Not doing so results in pissed off customers who get frustrated with your brand and who don’t convert.
Have a look at this example:
When I click “Get a free analysis now”, I know exactly what I’m going to expect.
The same goes for this form:
I know exactly how many questions there are, and I’ve prepared myself for that commitment before starting.
When you tell your customer what to expect, the ones who don’t want to participate will automatically opt out. The people who do click through have a higher chance of converting.
101. Test. Measure. Improve.
Tips and best practices are helpful. When you start with the average, you’ll probably end up in a better spot than you would if you were just winging it.
But let’s be honest: if you’re only doing what everyone else is doing, you’ll get the same results as everyone else.
That’s perfectly acceptable. However, sometimes it pays to break with convention and test out something completely new.
The difference between copywriters who do this well and the ones who do a mediocre job is one simple thing: data.
Just tweaking your copy can have significant results, so try to sweat the small stuff a bit.
- “a $5 fee” vs “a small $5 fee”
- “try it free for 30 days” vs “enjoy a month on us”
- “Sale ends tonight” to “sale ends in 6 hours”
Test different ways of saying the same phrase. Track which performs well. Implement the one that performs better. Rinse. Repeat.
Always be testing.
102. Show appreciation.
One of the most accurate sayings out there is that “common courtesy is not that common.”
You’ll be surprised at how many brands don’t say thank you when a customer provides feedback, or makes a purchase.
When your customers make a purchase or give you their email, they’re in a vulnerable state of mind. They’ve just parted ways with their data or their money. They didn’t have to give you either of those, but they trusted you enough to do so.
Let them know you appreciate what they did, and make them feel good about what they just did.
Don’t take your customers for granted.
Next Steps: A Thank You Gift
As a sincere thank you for reading through this entire post reading a few points and then scrolling to the bottom, I’d like to give you my blueprint to building a successful freelance copywriting career, which you can NOT get from any other page on this site (probably but definitely not certainly).
If you wanna be the very best, like no one very was learn how I went from making $15 per article writing about carpet cleaning to earning $15k per month writing copy for interesting businesses, you should definitely grab this guide (certainly, definitely, and also probably).