The Guide To Writing High Converting Copy


The Complete Guide To Writing Copy That Converts

Anyone can write copy. But writing copy that gets your reader to take action is less easy. And writing copy to fit blog posts, social media updates, advertisements, and email newsletters all takes a slightly different approach.

What is the trick to writing copy that converts readers into doers? And–for those of you crunched for time–can you reuse the copywriting principles for these different content sources?

This is your complete guide to writing copy that actually converts.

Headlines

Let’s start with headlines. If you can get your headlines in order, much of your other copywriting will follow more easily.

Writing headline copy seems deceptively simple. Headlines, after all, are just a few words. In reality, though, headlines have to carry more weight than most of your other copy because they are the key method you’ll use to get readers’ attention. How to you write headlines that convert?

  1. Clarity. Your headlines should be about clarity. You are not trying to trick your reader. No puns, no cleverness, no wittiness. Your headline should make perfect sense whether a person reads the rest of the content or not.

  2. Appeal to self-interest. Your reader is looking for something that benefits her. Your headline should promise true benefits.

  3. Avoid negativity. Negativity in headlines confuses people, and they won’t know what you’re actually writing about. Find a way to write headlines that doesn’t rely on negative words or phrasing.

  4. Emotional hook. Your headline should hook your reader by making a promise, hinting at intrigue, or suggesting that the reader is missing out on something.

  5. Length. There is no real agreement on whether shorter or longer headlines are the best for converting, but try to avoid extremely short headlines. Long headlines give you the opportunity to use techniques 1-4 above, while short headlines tend to lean towards the vague and witty.

Headlines take work; you will probably not hit on the perfect headline for your post the first time around. Headline masters over at Upworthy revealed that one of the tricks they use to create headlines the pull people in isn’t a trick at all. They write 25 headlines for every post! That’s hard work. Why do it?

Because your first few headlines won’t be very good. When you are desperate to hit 25 headlines, you’ll start thinking outside of the box. Once you have 25, you’ll know immediately which is the keeper (and chances are very good it won’t be the first few).

Practice writing headlines. And remember: headlines are meant to sell directly to your reader. That’s it.

Blog Posts

You are not required to be Hemingway in order to write a great blog post, but you should have an idea of what blog copy ought to contain in order for it to fare well in a crowded blogosphere. Your blog content is the cornerstone of your inbound marketing plan.

  1. Post length. While not everyone can write 2,000+ word blog posts, it’s a good idea to aim for at least 800 words, or even 1,600 words. As search engines evolve, long-form content is seeing some benefit. This is only if you have something to say, mind you. The best blog post is the one that stops when the information is complete. If you only have enough information for 400 words, reconsider the post topic.

  2. Post layout. The appearance of your copy matters. Write shorter paragraphs of 2-3 sentences. Use headings and subheadings. Use bullet and numbered lists. It’s all about creating visual whitespace which is easier for the reader, as well as adapting your content for those who are not reading it all, but are scanning it. Your headings and subheadings should be as informative as headlines, and not witty or clever. If you can’t get the gist of your blog post as you scan it, then rework the post.

  3. Consider your audience. Whether you choose to bury the lede and hint around and reveal the big conclusion at the end, or whether you state your case at the start and then prove it through the rest of the post is entirely up to your audience. How do they read? Are they reading only the first part of the post, or do they read all the way to the end?

  4. Call-to-action. Every blog post you write should have a call-to-action (CTA). Whether it’s as simple as giving readers the chance to sign up for your email newsletter or inviting them to participate in the comments, or something more involved such as offering a free ebook or an opportunity to purchase, you must give your readers a chance to act. If your post copy is fantastic and you’ve hooked your reader, what a shame to not tap into that moment of enthusiasm with a CTA. Always give your reader a chance to do something at the end of your blog posts.

  5. Write in your niche. All copy that you write for your blog should be copy that belongs. Be sure that you are always writing in the specific niche, for your specific audience, each and every time.

Social Media

Each social network has a different way of presenting the content you create for it. While there is a heavy push for visual imagery on all of the networks, great copywriting still plays a vital role.

  1. Use your headlines. A network like Twitter has character limitations. It is a good place to use your finely crafted headlines to your advantage. If you’ve written good headlines, you’ll have some of your Twitter copy ready to go when you are sharing blog posts.

  2. Write mini-blog posts. Social networks like Google+ and Facebook let you write more. When sharing links to your blog posts, consider writing a short stand-alone summary type of post, particularly for Google+ content that gets picked up by a Google search. The same rules apply: clear, scannable content that get the message across well enough that people want to read more. In this case, they read your link.

  3. Your timing is important. Social media news feeds are fleeting. You’ll want to know when your audience is most likely to read your social media content, and each network has analytics that can help you determine this. The most amazing copy that is never seen in a feed is in the same boat as bad copy no one reads.

  4. Care about relationships. The copy you write for social media must put people and relationship before selling. Social media is about trust and being genuine, and if you write copy that is always about the hard sell, you’ll feel a backlash. Write copy that is helpful, humorous, or inspiring. Have conversations with the people who respond to your updates. Draw people to your brand that way. They’ll be more willing to buy when you gently offer them the opportunity later.

  5. Understand the lingo. Be familiar with the network you are using. Don’t abuse hashtags or misunderstand direct messages. Spend time learning what users of that network expect to see. You can’t communicate in a foreign language until you learn it, and each network has its own culture.

  6. Post for a reason. The copy you create for your social updates isn’t meant to flood the world. It should have a reason, and above all, that reason should be to be helpful to people and make their lives better. Whether that is by curating and sharing the content of other’s or writing your own, your social updates should never feel automated or spammy.

Remember this key quality of social media: you will share the same content more than once, most likely. That means that you may have the opportunity to write about the same link or topic in more than one way. If this is the case, do a bit of testing and see what works best for you. Do your fans like short copy or long copy? Do they insist on images? Do they prefer mornings or evenings?

Your social followers will be a huge help in finetuning your copy if you make note on how they respond.

Email

Writing copy for an email is made up of three components:

  • Subject lines. Convince the reader to open your email.

  • Headlines in the body. Convince the reader to click through to your site.

  • Excerpts / Body copy. Convince reader to dig deeper or accept the CTA.

Email is about open rates, conversions, and driving traffic. You are competing for attention in that most sacred place: the email inbox.

  1. Treat subjects like headlines. Your email subject line should follow the same guidelines as your headlines. The same principles apply. Try to keep your email subject lines in about the 50 to 70-character range so it isn’t truncated in the inbox.

  2. The first sentence matters. It would be easy to ignore that tiny copy at the top of the email, but that is important copy! The first sentence of an email shows up in the inbox of some email programs, and that is going to either help convince the reader to open the email or delete it. Treat the first sentence of your email as a secondary headline.

  3. Simple is better. While gorgeously designed graphic emails would seem to be more powerful, text or pared-down emails actually perform very well. They seem less pushy, load faster on mobile devices (where most people now consume email), and almost seem like a personal email instead of a marketing email. As always, whether your copy is plain text or surrounding by graphics, provide plenty of white space for readers who scan copy.

  4. Consider the email length. Short copy, in an email, is powerful. If you aren’t emailing an entire blog post or article, 200-300 words is ideal in an email.

  5. Understand excerpts. Excerpts of blog posts or other content back on your site will certainly drive people to your site. You’ll see a traffic increase every time your email goes out. On the other hand, some readers don’t want to leave their email inbox to read more. Excerpts of copy are great if you have intrigue or curiosity going for you, but if it is sales or informative content, you may want copy that can stand alone and provide a link for more information.

Email copy is important; as a marketing tool, email is a huge driver of traffic to your blog and your landing pages. It is the best way to convert readers into customers.

Landing Pages

Landing pages are those pages on your site where you’ve directed a specific subset of your audience, whether via email, social media offers, or a guest-blogging bio. Because you know how people found your landing page, you have a pretty good idea of what they are looking for.

Landing page copy is tightly focused, and must have several qualities if you want it to succeed:

  1. A repeated CTA. Your landing page has only one CTA, but you repeat it throughout the page. Your copy is tightly focused on that one call to action. All copy points to it.

  2. A risk-free CTA. The CTA itself is its own copywriting masterpiece, whether it’s the particular wording on a button or the language surrounding it. The copy should provide a risk-free way for the reader to take action. It should tell them clearly what to do (“click the button”) and make it easy. And it should encourage them to act now.

  3. Excellent headlines. The headlines on your landing page should contain about 6-12 words, and be written last. The headline is as specific as the rest of the copy, focusing solely on those readers most likely to convert.

  4. The psychology of conversion. Your copy will need to tap into the psychology of what makes people act. Unbounce has created a fantastic guide on both understanding this as well as a system for creating copy that taps into it.

Copyhackers is a great site that often discusses landing page optimization and copywriting best practices. If you’re unsure about landing page copy, definitely head over their and grab any (or all) of their free copywriting worksheets.

Ads

Ad copy is an art form in the post Mad Men age, which probably explains the rise in popularity of David Ogilvy and his classic advertising advice. Copyblogger has done a good job summing up Ogilvy’s advice on what it takes to write ad copy that sells instead of annoys.

  1. You should have tested. If you are writing advertising copy, you’re paying for its placement. You should have been doing robust testing to see what ad copy performs well and be tweaking that systematically. If you are starting out, you should have a testing system in place.

  2. You should have researched. Your copy won’t work, no matter how wonderful it is, if you didn’t take time to find out who you are writing it for and what they need. Your copy must speak to real needs.

  3. Headlines are crucial. Once again, headlines have to pull an unfair share of the load. The same rules apply for ad copy as they do elsewhere. According to Ogilvy, the headline is 80% of the battle!

  4. Be clear, not tricky. Your copy must be clear. Your goal isn’t to trick people into buying (they’ll be angry later). Your goal isn’t to show others how creative you are. Instead, write copy that explains what the product or service will do, and why it matters to that person. Explain to people why they should buy.

  5. Be personable. Don’t talk down to people, or use shock to sell. Again, when the sales moment is gone, you’ll have an upset customer in the long run.

Ad copy is notoriously difficult to write if you don’t know your own product (and, in turn, your audience) very well. Start by understanding what it is you are selling, who you are selling to, and why they want it. From there, you write your copy.

The More You Write, The Better Your Copy

The best advice is to start. Then make an improvement the next time. And keep doing that. In the back of your mind, whether writing a headline or crafting a social media update, ask this one question:

Would I click on this?

Keep working on it until the answer is an honest “yes.” You might not get your copy perfect the first time out of the gate, but you will get better at it as you write more regularly and practice good habits. Copyblogger has some of the best get-started copywriting resources available (for free) online, and you might consider checking them out.

What are your favorite copywriting tips and tricks? Leave a comment below!

About The Author: Julie R. Neidlinger is a writer, artist, and pilot from North Dakota. She has been blogging since 2002 at her Lone Prairie blog, and works as a freelance writer and visual artist.

The Guide To Writing High Converting Copy