The goal of a “regular” text is to inform or entertain. The goal of web copy is to get people to do something — like to sign up. Here are tips for writing great copy.
What makes copy good?
The right answer of course is, that it makes money. But we won’t know that in advance. So we have to evaluate the words in the copy to figure out if it sucks or rocks.
Key characteristics of great copy:
- Communicates value. Your copy should make people feel that they’re paying $20 to get $50 back – plain obvious value. (Without overpromising and hype).
- Clear. You have sentences that make sense, not confusion.
- Credible. If people don’t believe in what you write, it’s gonna be very difficult to sell. No superlatives, lots of specifics. Ample proof.
- Interesting to read. Boring copy that makes it hard to continue, reading is the #1 killer of conversions. You want people to read, and making it interesting will help a ton.
- Jargon-free. Forget buzzwords, the newest office lingo and fancy-sounding technical terms. Nobody wants to read about leveraging integrated assets.
- As long as needed, but not longer. Copy should address all important aspects of the product, answer all questions that might come up. However, don’t confuse length with depth. Eliminate every sentence and paragraph that’s not absolutely needed.
Selling probability = Pain x Claim x Gain x (Old Brain)3
First you need to understand that people are brains. We read and process information using our brains. Brains consist of three parts: new brain (neocortex), minbrain, and old brain. All perform very different functions and even have different cell structures.
The decision making part is the old brain. Here’s the formula for talking to the old brain:
- Identify the prospect’s pain and make sure they acknowledge the pain before you start to sell them anything (asking for their email is selling too). Then, you’ve got to differentiate your claims from your competitors. The strongest claim is the one that eliminates the strongest pain.
- Next, you have to show convincing proof to back the claims up. The “Old Brain” is resistant to new ideas and concepts, so your proof must be very convincing. Show tangible evidence, data, before & after comparisons, testimonials, and case studies.
- In order to reach the old brain, you need to start with a “grabber”—something that really gets the attention (“if you’re selling fire extinguishers, start with fire”, like advertising guru Ogilvy said).
How to apply it to your copy:
- Start with a grabber—something that evokes emotion.
- Address the pain from the get-go.
- Are your claims different from the competition?
- Add proof to your claims in all possible formats (testimonials, media mentions, social proof, scientific proof, etc).
Your grabber is your headline
Writing good headlines is going to be key. It should state a benefit that your audience wants really bad. The bigger the emotional response, the better.
Writing compelling headlines is more art than science. There are 3 formulas for crafting headlines that typically yield good results. Use one of these as your starting point.
Here are the formulas for writing headlines along with examples for each:
Headline formula #1: Say what it is
The brain is a questioning organ. Whenever we see something new, our brain asks ‘what is it?”. This formula addresses this fundamental question.
Example: Discover 13 Ways to Increase Conversions
Headline formula #2: Say what you get
This formula is a benefit oriented statement that sums up what you get when you sign up.
Example: Boost your conversions 200%!
Headline formula #3: Say what you’re able to do (with it)
This is where the headline makes it clear what you’re able to accomplish if you sign up.
Example: Retire at 45 and travel the world while your peers work every waking hour
When pondering a headline, see if you can answer ‘yes’ to both of these questions.
- Imagine your website would be just your headline and a call to action (sign up, learn more, call now etc). Would anyone take action based on that headline?
- Would you use the exact wording of your headline in a conversation with your friend where you explain the product/service?
Yes there are always exceptions, but use this as a guideline to get you on the right path.
Once you’re done writing your headline candidates, read them outloud. If they sound unnatural or “nothing an actual person would ever say”, revise.
Avoid jargon and blandvertising
The goal of the copy is to connect with the reader, and guide them towards an action. This is best achieved when you use simple language, write like real humans talk.
Don’t use hype and jargon. Using complicated, fancy words does not make you seem any smarter or your solution any better—it just turns everybody off. Who wants to read something that doesn’t feel like it’s written for them? If you wouldn’t use a phrase on your website in a conversation with a customer, then don’t use it. In addition to fancy words, avoid meaningless phrases. What do “on-demand marketing software”, “integrated solutions”, or “flexible platform” really mean anyway?
Or useless phrases like “changing the way X is done”, “paradigm shifting …”, or “exceeding customer expectations”—stop the nonsense. These bland phrases have long lost any meaning, and you will just waste precious attention time. You can see a list of the top 100 most overused buzzwords and marketing speak in press releases here.
Another thing to avoid—superlatives and hype. Saying things like “the best”, “world leader”, “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity” will just ruin your integrity. People don’t believe such claims anyway (even if they’re true).
What to do instead? Be specific.
Specific is believable, specific is attractive, specific is convincing. Don’t be vague, be specific.
“We have the best coffee in the world” vs “Our estate earned the ‘world’s best coffee’ title at the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s Roasters Guild for the third year in a row.” Which claim is more believable?
You can use a superlative if you back it up.
It Has to Be About Them
The decision making part of human brain is fairly primitive, and mostly concerned with survival. So your copy should be entirely about the reader.
If your copy is about you (your product, your company) and not the prospect (his problems, his life), you will fail. Make it about them. Too many companies start by stating “our company was founded…”, “we offer …”, or something especially useless like “welcome to your website”.
Instead of saying “we specialize in dog training”, say “train your dog in two weeks”—move the focus from you to the benefit they will receive. People care about themselves—not you—and whether your website can be helpful in some way.
If you write your landing page copy keeping these principles in mind, you’re well on your way to high conversions.