7 Tips for Effective Copywriting

Professional copywriters are experts in sales and human psychology. They know what makes people tick and how to connect with an audience to get them to spend their hard-earned dollars on a product or service.

They’re also very expensive. A top-tier copywriter can charge upper five-figures to write a website. And many small businesses aren’t prepared to make that kind of investment. Instead, they (or their head of marketing) will write the copy themselves. 

Fortunately, there are some quick tips that you can adopt to improve your sales copy today, whether it’s your home page, product descriptions, direct mail, or whatever else you use to communicate verbally with your customers. 

#1 Write Like You Talk

As soon as we start writing “as our businesses,” we become stilted and formal, like we’re trying to impress our high school English teachers. We replace perfectly good words like “use” with “utilize” to try to sound more professional. But all we’re really doing is making it harder for the reader to understand.

A good rule of thumb is to write your copy to a 6th to 7th grade reading level. That doesn’t mean you’re dumbing it down. The Lord of the Rings is written at a 7th grade reading level, and J.R.R. Tolkien was no slouch. 

To prevent falling into overly formal writing, write like you talk. Keep sentences short, and use contractions like “didn’t” instead of “did not.” Starting sentences with transition words like and, but, although, and instead can help the reader to follow your thoughts. 

After you’ve finished your draft, read it out loud. It should sound like part of a conversation. 

#2 Be Clear

This may be the number one rule of copywriting. Clear wins over clever every time. It’s a hard pill to swallow, especially if you take joy in being creative. But if your smart pun or turn of phrase is making it harder, not easier, to reach the reader, then it has to go. 

This means you may need to omit some pop culture references or industry jargon, especially if your audience isn’t within your industry. A B2B company may be able to get away with more “tech talk” than a B2C, for example.

#3 Remember Who the Hero Is

Hint: it’s not your business.

Potential customers aren’t on your website or reading your sales copy because they want to hear about you. They’re reading it because they want to hear how your product or service can help THEM. 

Approach your copy from the customer’s perspective. What do they want? How do you want them to feel? How does your product or service solve their problem or make them better/happier/richer? Position the reader as the hero.

#4 You’re Not Selling a Product

You’re selling a transformation. You’re selling the customer the version of themselves that they want to be. And your customer isn’t buying vitamins, for example. They’re buying a new persona as the type of person who takes a daily vitamin. 

Instead of talking about all the great features of your product, connect the buyer to the benefit they’ll receive. A list of ingredients (vitamins A, C, B12) doesn’t tell the buyer anything about how the multivitamin will improve their life. But if you instead focus on the benefits (improved skin, better immunity, increased energy), the buyer can start to see how the product helps them to become a better version of themselves.

#5 Use Active Voice

In active voice, the subject of the sentence completes the action. 

“Dan kicked the ball,” is active voice. Dan is the subject, making him the most important character in the sentence.

In passive voice, the action happens to the subject or object.

“The ball was kicked by Dan,” is passive voice. The ball is the subject, which makes it the star of the show. 

There are times when passive voice is appropriate. For example, if you don’t know who took the action, passive voice makes sense. If you come home to a broken window, you would say, “The window is broken.” You wouldn’t say, “They broke the window,” since you don’t know who “they” are.

In general, active voice keeps your writing more energetic, and usually needs fewer words. It’s easy to slip into passive voice while you’re writing. Check your work with Hemingway Editor or a similar tool to catch passive voice, check the reading level of your writing, and make sure your sentences aren’t too complicated. 

#6 Guide the Eye

The longer the text, the more help the readers will need getting down to the bottom of the page. We’ve all opened a new web page, been faced with a wall of text, and immediately fumbled for the “back” button. It’s overwhelming! 

Help out your readers. Keep paragraphs short to keep the eye moving. Separate your content with bold subheadings, so the reader can easily follow your train of thought. If a section gets longer than 300 words, try to break it down into smaller sections. 

Bold, italics, and bulleted and numbered lists can all help to break up your content while still letting the reader follow along. 

#7 Make Them an Offer They Can’t Refuse

Ever watch an infomercial where the narrator says something like, “Are you tired of always dropping your pen?” Unless you have a serious problem with pen control, the answer to that is probably a confused, “No?”

Don’t ask questions in your copy unless the answer is always a yes. “Do you want to make more sales/money?” is always a yes. But you can help people to envision life after your product without asking them questions that may not get the answers you want.

The Copy Basics

With these copywriting basics in your arsenal, do an audit of your current sales copy. See what you can tweak to make your writing more approachable and energetic. Make sure to track your conversion rates before and after you make your edits to see if your upgrades are doing the trick!