The Fundamentals of Copywriting

Polly Michelle CunananCopywritingLeave a Comment

THE FUNDAMENTALS OF COPYWRITING

How do I write thee? Let me count thy ways…

Indeed, there are a thousand and one ways to write about a topic. But in copywriting, the most important consideration is that the copy must achieve an objective — a sale, a subscription, newsletter sign-up, sharing a link on a social media account, among others.

Copyblogger defines copywriting as “the art and science of strategically delivering words (whether written or spoken) that get people to take some form of action.”1 This objective to convince people to do something, to take a specific step is what sets copywriting apart from any other type of writing activity.

Neville Medhora, curator of KopywritingKourse provides an insight on what makes a good copywriter: “They are a keen studier of the human psychology behind purchase decisions.”2 In effect, this means that copywriters are basically marketers who make their pitch through the written word.

copywriting compelling writer copywriter

With most businesses now moving their ‘wares’ on the world wide web, the demand for copywriters is enormous. In order to stand out, businesses need to have compelling copy that will make people online to sit up and take notice, and ultimately to take action or sell a product, idea or what-have-you.

Digital entrepreneur Jeff Bullas underscores that “every business, regardless of its size, needs killer copy to power it… in the digital space, where customers and competition are everywhere you look, copy takes on even greater significance.”

Hence, in order to be able to compete with all the businesses big and small that have digital presence, small ethical business owners must take note of the following fundamentals:

Have an objective. Stick to it.

Before writing anything, take stock of your business goal. Then determine how the specific write-up that you need to do fall in the scheme of things. What you want to achieve with your copy? What is the point that you want to drive at? What action do you want your reader to take

Remember that a copywriter must always have a target. You must keep this in mind in terms of the structure and flow of your writing so that you will avoid putting in extraneous copy that will only confuse your reader. Keeping your objective in mind will make you conscious of ensuring that your call-to-action is integrated in every part of your write-up.

writer copywriter australian copywriting

Focus on your message.

The rule of thumb is one article, one message. Even if you have a 500- or a thousand-word article, it should only contain one core message. The rest of the write-up should simply serve as an elaboration of said message. Or as sub-messages in support of your main message.

It is vital that the flow of your writing always point to your main message which you can say in different ways but ideally, always with the same result.

Know your audience.

There are writers who say that in order for your articles to be understood, picture yourself writing for a fifth grader. While this may be true for news and similar types of writing, this should not be the case for copywriters.3

Instead of simplifying your copy to the level of a school grader, take the time to really get to know your audience and talk to them through your copy.

Take this copy from Apple4 as an example:

Macbook
Light. Years ahead.

It is talking to a group of audience interested on the latest Apple Macbook. It presents the two best features of the product in a simplified form that resonates with the audience — the weight and the innovations in the product that make it ahead of the competition.

copywriter writer copywriting

Write short but compelling copy.

In copywriting, the shorter copy, the better.

According to the Nielsen Norman Group, “the average [web]page visit lasts a little less than a minute.” Their research further show that the first ten seconds are critical because this is the point when a user decides to stay or leave a page.5 In practical terms, readers cannot read the entire content of a page in this amount of time. Hence, it is important that whatever is on the page must be attention-grabbing.

This is where the need for compelling headlines come in. Copyblogger notes that according to the advice of some of the best copywriters, “you should spend half the time it takes to write a piece of persuasive content on the headline.”6

Great copywriters oftentimes spend a lot of time thinking about the headline to the point that they obsess over it. Master copywriter Gene Schwartz is known to “spend an entire week on the first 50 words of a sales piece — from the headline to the opening paragraph”.7

It must also be noted that the transition must be seamless from the headline to the first paragraph and the succeeding ones. Because these are the parts where you convince the reader to take your call-to-action. This is where they decide whether to buy your product, take your advice, sign up for a newsletter etc.

headline headings copywriting copywriter

Packaging is important.

Aside from an impactful copy, it is essential for a copywriter to know how to package an information in the best way possible.

Packaging an information can be done in two different types:

Using just the text

Going back to the previous example from Apple:

Macbook
Light. Years ahead.

We see here how the copy was actually able to condense all the features of the product in just three words. The lightness in weight is a given but all the innovations and specifications are summarized by the words “Years ahead.” Now, the user who had his or her interest piqued by the simple copy will follow the links on the Apple website and click on the longer copy that details the product’s description.

Using text with visuals, audio and video

A true-blue copywriter does not simply think about the text or the copy he or she provides. The copywriter considers everything, including the visuals, audio and video. He or she determines the arrangement of all of these elements on a page for maximum impact. The visuals can be in different forms — a photo, a postcard, an infographic, a cartoon etc.

copywriting copy web design

Make sure your copy is searchable.

As a copywriter, it is not enough that you write good copy. This is because it is not good copy if it cannot be found on the world wide web.

Remember that the premise of this article is that copywriting is the key to marketing your ethical business in the digital space.

As such, it pays to understand how to make your copy searchable. JeffBullas.com gives budding copywriters a tip. According to the website, a copywriter should make it easy for Google to determine how to classify your content. This is very simple. Just type the subject matter of your article on the Google search bar. When the results appear, a related search box can also be found at the bottom. Weave in some of the phrases on this box into your write-up in order for Google’s algorithm to easily find you and rank your content at the top of search results.[ Press, Matt. “11 Mind-Blowing Copywriting Hacks To Improve Your Website.” http://www.jeffbullas.com/2016/05/04/11-mind-blowing-copywriting-hacks-improve-website/.]

Alternatively, the website Answer the Public8 provides great insights for marketers on the context for search queries on Google and Bing. Simply type in your article topic on the search bar and it will give you data and visualisations of related searches, top search questions and related words — a goldmine for copywriters and marketers.

Show 8 footnotes

  1. Copyblogger. “Copywriting 101.” http://www.copyblogger.com/copywriting-101/
  2. Medhora, Neville. “How To Become A Copywriter (with No Experience).” http://kopywritingkourse.com/how-to-become-a-copywriter/.
  3. Feldman, Barry. “Write Now: Beginner Copywriting Tips for Effective Online Marketing.” http://www.socialmediatoday.com/content/write-now-beginner-copywriting-tips-effective-online-marketing.
  4. Apple official website. http://www.apple.com/.
  5. Nielsen, Jakob. “How Long Do Users Stay on Web Pages?” https://www.nngroup.com/articles/how-long-do-users-stay-on-web-pages/. 12 September 2011.
  6. Copyblogger. “Copywriting 101 – How to Craft Compelling Copy.” http://copyblogger.com. 2016.
  7. ibid.
  8. Answer the Public official website. http://answerthepublic.com/.

Polly Michelle Cunanan

Contributor at The Social Copywriter
Polly Michelle Cunanan is a results-driven media and communication expert with over 15 years of experience and proven track record in working with the Philippine Government and donor agencies such as the USAID, World Bank, UN-FAO, ADB, European Union (EU) and media. Political communication, messaging and campaigns are among her expertise. She spearheaded the communication program on the Bangsamoro peace process which led to a conducive environment for the signing of the historic Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. She is a graduate of BA Broadcast Communication from the University of the Philippines and has completed the academic requirements for MA Communication Research from the same university. She is an incoming UK Chevening scholar set to undertake MA Political Communication at Cardiff University.
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