20 Killer Copywriting Tips to Make you a Better Copywriter
It’s time to unleash the pen! Sharpen it against the razor-keen edge of your wit. Dip the nib in the fresh blood of your enemies. Prepare for all-out copywriting battle.
Bloody hell. That got out of hand quickly. Let’s face it – you’re probably using a keyboard, right? Sure you are. I couldn’t even find a pen if I tried. I swear someone is stealing them. Enemies? As a copywriter, I like to think I exist in a world where I’m far more likely to create wonderful words than fearsome foes. Razor-keen wit? Sure, I’ll take that.
Of course as a copywriter, it’s also important to remember the power of an engaging tale! I might not be about to recite an epic saga of one man’s heroic struggle armed only with a pen, but if you’ve read this far, you’re interested enough to wonder where it’s all going. That’s a pretty good place to start with our killer list of 20 copywriting tips.
1) Know your audience
The most important tip is knowing where to start. Unless you understand your audience, you can’t understand how to frame your message. That heroic tale of blood and battle? It’s not likely to get you very far in crafting a B2B White Paper for eager plumbing sales representatives. Knowing your audience is the first step in knowing how to communicate with them.
2) Know your platform
You might know who you’re talking to, but are you aware what method that communication will utilise? There are huge differences between online and offline content when it comes to copywriting. The nuances are more detailed than a brief summary could expose, but in essence a piece of offline writing can expect a reader more committed to the content, where (broadly speaking) online content needs to hit hard from the start and drive pace throughout the article.
The online versus offline argument doesn’t even take into account the hundreds of traditional or digital media platform variations that exist out there. There are 2.7 million emails and 8,000 tweets sent every second. That’s the environment you have to compete with. Why not start with some sort of outrageous analogy about an epic battle or some such?
3) Understand length
Knowing your platform is a bit more complicated than just your reader’s time commitment. Social platforms in particular create a dizzying array of copy length opportunities and best-practice guides. Make sure you know what the limits are, and work to ensure the content copy you craft fits the best-practice for that platform.
4) Work with your team
If you’re a copywriter working as part of an agency or marketing department, it’s important that you understand team goals and expectations as part of your work. In some ways this is an off-shoot of ‘know your platform’, but it goes deeper to the understanding of how your words are going to interact with the work of others. In many cases that means making sure that your thoughts are lined up with those of the design team to ensure that the words you create fit the space they’re meant to populate.
5) Make it relatable
Content can sometimes struggle to be relatable, particularly in niche or technical areas. Use language and examples that makes it relatable. That might be using a comparison to illustrate a particularly complex statistic, or just sharing an anecdote about your own challenges that provides context which your audience can understand.
6) Hit hard with your headlines
I mean, I could have called this post ’20 Helpful Copywriting Tips’. Not a great place to start is it? Titles can be particularly important when it comes to the online world. You need to excite and intrigue an audience enough to make them click on your article over and above the ten million other articles appearing on their digital horizons each day.
Social data-dabblers Buzzsumo analysed 100 million headlines to offer some insight on what might perform well, and an almost-as-impressive 10 million B2B headlines to explore how that might look on LinkedIn. The point is, they matter, and there’s data out there to show you how to do it better.
7) Embrace sub-headings
Sub-headings are a powerful tool to break walls of copy into manageable chunks while also structuring articles into relevant topic areas. This is vitally important for web copy, and helps avoid the frequently discussed F-shaped reading pattern that can be the death of good content.
8) Channel consistency
When you utilise great copy, you need to make sure you also utilize consistency. I mean seriously, what continent did that first sentence even come from? If you’re working for a client, there’s a good chance they have a style guide to follow. Ask about it, follow it. It might not be your natural instinct, but consistency on following it is key. If they don’t have a style guide, make sure whichever language choices you do make remain consistent. If you’re a brand doing your own copywriting, make a style guide. Please. Do it for us copywriters. Or do it with a copywriter? Even better.
9) Focus on simple
You may want to expedite erroneous allegations made on social media to ameliorate your position, but you’re unlikely to keep your readers if you do. It’s best to say you want to prove a false statement is incorrect. If you have the choice between a complicated word and a simple word, it’s often best to keep it simple.
10) Do your research
Don’t base your copywriting on what you think you know, base it on what you can prove. Conduct your research with an open mind, and use the most trustworthy sources you can find. Drill deeper than the first result that’s thrown your way, and keep looking for the research or insight that will set your particular articles apart.
11) Check your facts
Once you’ve done your research, check your facts. It’s amazing how easily misinformation propagates on the internet. Even high-profile sites sometimes have circular chains of attribution that turn into a perpetual cycle of self-fulfilling (and factually inaccurate) prophecy. Where possible, always try and attribute, or at least identify the source of facts you utilise.
12) Don’t be afraid of personality
Personality isn’t something to subdue, it’s something to revel in. Of course we’re talking about the personality of your brand here, so don’t get mixed up and start talking about the irresistible power of cake if you’re writing for a new diet magazine. Make the voice your own, and make that voice sing.
13) Craft a narrative
Even the driest piece of B2B content needs a narrative. Craft your words and structure your content in a way that offers a natural flow of information rather than a disjointed array of facts. That means planning ahead to understand how the structure will look.
14) Use examples
If you’ve got it, flaunt it. Examples and case studies are a powerful way of selling your argument. Where possible you should include these in your articles to add some extra punch.
15) Work with imagery
Words are great. I get you. But sometimes you need to understand the power of a visual, and work to incorporate that into your writing. Visuals not only provide helpful breaks in copy, they offer a creative catalyst that can contribute to a more persuasive argument. Of course if you’re crafting a billboard poster with minimal copy, the chances are that an image is driving the message. That doesn’t mean your words are any less important. You’ve just got less space to say what you need to.
16) Engage emotions
It’s not just about the tone of voice you use, but the emotions you’re looking to engage as part of that. Emotions are powerful tools for a writer. Think about the content you’re trying to produce, think about how it appeals to the audience, then use emotional language to frame a message that resonates.
17) Amplify the benefits
If you’re writing to sell a product or service, you need to craft your words in a way that helps amplify the benefits. Try focusing on the challenges that your offer can address for the audience, then weave the benefits into your copy in a way that clearly shows the solutions they offer.
18) Read it out loud
One of the simplest and most powerful editing opportunities you have is your own voice. It’s much easier to overlook a jarring phrase or hanging sentence if you’re just reading it on a screen. Read your words aloud and give yourself that extra opportunity to highlight flaws.
19) Edit, edit, edit
I have never written an article that didn’t benefit from cutting out words. Sometimes that means taking out a whole paragraph that sounded wonderful at the time, but turns out was the content equivalent of an own goal. Sometimes that means just cutting out the odd superlative that’s tipped you over into the absurd.
20) Don’t be precious
It’s easy as a writer to be precious about your words. The trick is not to get so attached to them that you resent receiving feedback. You’re unlikely to craft perfect pieces the first time round, every time round. Be self-aware about the need to take on board constructive criticism to polish your content.