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Wondering how to write great copy? Here’s how it’s done.

Copywriting is harder than it looks. This will be old news to anyone who’s ever tried to forego hiring a copywriter and found themselves struggling to find words to fill a blank page (or with far too many words and no idea how to organize them). But many companies are still in the position of trying to go their own way when it comes to copy and finding themselves stuck and far behind their project deadline. Why doesn’t writing about your own company and product (something you should know inside and out) come so hard?

First off, writing great copy isn’t just talking about yourself. The best copy is functional, memorable, and engaging—in roughly that order. If you copy doesn’t do the job it’s meant for, it’s a failure no matter how witty it seems. Memorable copy helps lodge your brand in someone’s mind, whether they’re aware of it or not. And engaging copy motivates your visitors to take action, and possibly even convert others while they’re at it.

Achieving this level of copywriting isn’t impossible. In fact, many times you’ll want to aim for candor over high polish. For instance, many people who aren’t copywriters find themselves adopting a forced and overly sales-y tone when they should be more natural. Whether you’re trying to write your own copy, or simply hoping to better recognize good copy when you see it, here are 6 strategies that attract readers and improve conversion rates.

1. Go deep.

It’s fairly well-established that long-form content performs better than short-form content. While it’s not suitable for every situation, there are plenty of ways in which a deep, informative piece of writing can help address buyer hesitations or provide the thorough instruction and expertise your readers are looking for.

When should you use this strategy?

Dare we say whenever possible? No, not every page and not every piece of content needs to break the 1000-word threshold. But if you are in a position where you have plenty to say, put it out there. If you have the resources, you can test it against shorter content to see which performs better. But by and large, more words will help you attract and convert the right visitors, and will do great things for your SEO.

2. Play it straight.

Sometimes, you just need to tell it like it is. No fluff, no funny business. Your audience isn’t looking to be entertained, they just want the information they came for. So keep it simple: anything else just gets in the way.

When should you use this strategy?

We’re not necessarily talking about short-form content here: often times, the best short form content has to do more with less, meaning it has to be even more creative and catchy than long form. Instead, we’re talking about times where you need to instruct or inform. Remember: functionality is a virtue.

3. Tell a story.

When I first learned to write copy, I crawled the Internet for every piece of advice I could find. I saved screen shots of copy I liked and saved them for later reference. I downloaded all the copywriting ebooks, quizzed established copywriters for their best practices, and eventually landed an opportunity to try my hand at some actual writing. Along the way, my research helped me witness first-hand the power of a good story. And it’s something I use in my writing to this day.

When should you use this strategy?

A good story—about you, your subject, your brand—can help your readers connect with your material emotionally. It helps lower the mental barrier between themselves and you, which establishes trust. Your story gave them something to connect with. They can see where you’re coming from. A story isn’t the right tool for every situation—it’s often a roundabout way to provide basic information, and when done wrong it can sound like moralizing—but it does provide fertile ground when you’re hoping to grow an emotional connection.

4. Go against the grain.

You don’t want to become a contrarian by habit, but holding an eccentric viewpoint or offering a viable alternative to the way things are usually done can draw you some attention. Putting forward a controversial opinion can also help generate buzz around your topic, bringing in more shares and links. Just try not to make any enemies while you’re at it.

When should you use this strategy?

If you’re going to stand against conventional wisdom, you should have your facts straight. Don’t fight an uphill battle you’re likely to lose. But, if you see an angle no one else has, or if you’d like to spark a conversation, fire away.

5. Have a conversation.

I know what you’re thinking: how can my copy have a conversation with someone if they don’t have any way to respond? Won’t that be a rather one-sided conversation? You might think that, but a conversational tone is also more inviting. It can draw readers in and get them nodding their heads before they even realize it.

When should you use this strategy?

Are you trying to disarm your reader? Persuade them? Let them know you’re the everyman who’s been in their situation before, only now you know how to handle it and you’re willing to let them in on the secret? If this sounds like you, why not give it a try?

6. Paint a picture.

Put your readers where they want to be. Write aspirationally. Invite your readers to use their imaginations. Get them to picture themselves using your product, and how much easier it would make their lives, how much time they would save, how happy they would be. For instance, imagine if you never had to write your own copy again: how quickly your web project would move forward! The cost of hiring a copywriter is only marginally more than diverting internal hours to handle the job, and you could easily recoup the expense through more conversions! Doesn’t that sound amazing?

When should you use this strategy?

OK, so we’re being a bit cheeky with the above, but you get the picture, right? This kind of writing is almost exclusively persuasive. It doesn’t belong everywhere (in a tutorial, for instance), but it does work exceptionally well for promotional material.

Mix and match to write great copy.

If you think about it, most of the above strategies work alongside each other: they aren’t exclusive. You can use a story to illustrate how your controversial product works better than the conventional brands, or you can strike up a conversational tone while painting those aspirational dreamscapes. However you handle your copy, make sure your overall writing serves the reader. And if you ever feel like you need a hand writing copy for your website, we’re happy to help.

Published 02/07/17 by Laura Lynch