If there is one topic all business owners should know a thing or two about, it is copywriting. Whether you are writing your own copy or hiring someone to write your copy, you need to know what matters in copywriting and what doesn’t, otherwise you’ll never know whether a page of written content will sell (in the literal or metaphorical sense) or not. I can’t teach you everything you need to know about copywriting in one post; however, I can tell you which concepts you will need to know in order to understand how copy works. The following are the 15 most important concepts related to web copywriting (in alphabetical order, of course!)
A lot of people define an advertisement as a form of communication intended to get the viewer/listener to take an action. This definition might be technically correct, but it is way too narrow from a copywriting standpoint. For a copywriter, an advertisement is any form of paid promotion that is not personal in nature that tries the viewer to either purchase a product, sign up for a service or join an organization/cause. For example, a paid-for radio spot promoting a new car is an advertisement, while a blog post is not.
An article is any published piece of non-fiction writing. You can use an article to promote a product, service or cause. Some articles are paid for by advertisers as promotional pieces; most of the time, however, articles are not written as paid advertising pieces. When an , a copywriter is responsible for writing these kinds of promotional articles. When you read a paid-for article in a newspaper, it is usually announced that the piece has been paid for and is intended as advertising.
The benefits are whatever a potential customer can expect to get out of a product or service. Your copy should use descriptive language to convey what benefits come from using your product or service, and get the reader interested in these benefits. For example, if you are advertising a bicycle that has 24 speeds but no suspension, your copy should talk about the many speed levels, but not the lack of suspension.
4. Content Marketing
Have you ever written a guest blog post as a tactic for attracting traffic to your own website? If so, you’ve done content marketing. Content marketing is any form of marketing that aims to attract customers by providing high quality information through natural communication channels. Newsletters, blog posts, articles, e-books and podcasts can all be used as forms of content marketing. In general, content marketing is seen as more “trustworthy” than conventional paid advertising, due to its inherently conversational nature.
A feature is any aspect of a product or service that you want to emphasize in your copy. For example, storage space is a feature of a computer. Good copy always emphasizes features that will appeal to the reader, such as a given product’s best or newest component. At first glance, a feature might look a lot like a benefit. However, remember that a feature is an aspect of your product, while a benefit is whatever the user gets from the feature. To go back to the bicycle example, the number of gears is a feature, while the speed is a benefit.
6. First Paragraph
The first paragraph is the most important paragraph in any piece of sales copy. The first paragraph surprises or “interrupts” the reader, gives a piece of news, informs the reader of an urgent need they may not be aware of, or tells a story. An example of a good first paragraph for a web design company’s landing page is one that tells the story of a business that was failing without a website, then suddenly turned it around upon getting a website from the company.
The headlines are, by far, the most important pieces of text in copywriting. Headlines are the short (usually 1 sentence) lines that are used to hook the reader’s attention. Headlines are often separated from other text in an article by being underlined, bold or italicized. A good headline grabs the reader’s attention and creates a sense of urgency while being specific and to-the-point. An example of a good headline is, “How to Write Headlines that get Attention and Lead to Sales.”
8. Information Points
Information points (also known as “points of information” or “quick facts”) are little bits of information a copywriter uses to intrique the reader. An information point could describe a product benefit, review a case study or provide an interesting statistic. Regardless of what its exact content is, an information point piques the reader’s interest by providing a tantalizing piece of info. Charities often use quick facts about how their aid packages fed or saved people in order to establish credibility.
A keyword is a term that users use to find your website or article. All good web copy is sprinkled with keywords that help search engines to index the site and users to find it.
In sales, an objection is any issue a customer will raise to justify not buying a product. While a salesperson can deal with objections in real time, a copywriter has to antipate and deal with them in advance. Good copy doesn’t deal with objections by referring to them direcly. Instead, it provides information that will allay customer doubts, ending objections before they are expressed verbally. You need to know what the likely objections are before you can deal with them; if you have a sales team, having them try your article out as a sales pitch may help you with this.
11. Product Description
A product description is a concise description of a product’s appearance, features and functionality. All product-promoting sales copy should include a product description that explains what the product does.
12. Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the science of getting your content as close to the top of search engine rankings as it can get. SEO relies on a combination of keyword research, meta tags, backlinks (building links to your page on other pages) and indexing to get your site as high as possible in search engine rankings. A lot of web copy is SEO-optimized; for example, many content marketers include numerous keywords in articles to get a high a search engine ranking as possible.
A trigger is any media that entices the viewer/listener to take an action. Good copy includes triggers at key sections in the ad or article. For example, after taking two or three paragraphs to explain all the benefits a product has, an article might then throw in the fact that you can get the product half-off if you buy now. The juxtposition of a benefit and a bargain is a strong buying trigger.
Simply put, typeface is the way the letters and numbers look on the page. It would be tempting to say that typeface is the same as font; however, that is not entirely accurate. Font refers specifically to the style of a complete set of characters, whereas typeface can refer to a font as well as to a handful of highly stylized characters serving an aesthetic purpose. The letters A, B and C drawn to resemble cartoon characters may be a typeface, but would not be a font.
Perhaps the most fundamental idea in copywriting is that of value. All good copy conveys the value of a product or service to the reader; it is through this means that copy sells products. Headlines, information points and product descriptions can be used to convey value. However, it is ultimately the overall impression the content makes (combined with the properties of the product itself and the reader’s personality) that create a sense of value in the reader.
If you want to know what good copywriting is all about, read the Adweek Copywriting Handbook by Joe Sugarman. It is a no-nonsense guide written by one of the field’s indisputable masters. Whether you are yourself a professional copywriter or a business owner looking to avail yourself of copywriting services, it is sure to teach your a thing or two about what makes great copy.