Write Good Copy, Don’t Copy Good Writing.
Originality isn’t something you can find in a Google search. It isn’t something that can be learned by reading Top Ten lists or 7 Habits of successful writers. Originality, in how it pertains to writing copy, comes from knowing every minute detail of your product and figuring out how to relay that information in a way that will make people just as excited about it as you are. It means writing in a way that is true to yourself, your brand, and your overall mission. It means understanding your customer and knowing how to talk to them. It does not mean stuffing a bunch of fluffy words into paragraph-long sentences just to cover more space on the page. And it most definitely doesn’t mean finding a really cool site and copying what you see. If you are trying to copy someone else’s originality, it will never sound as good as the original. It’s like buying the Honey O’s bag of cereal instead of Honey Nut Cheerios. They’ll always get too soggy in the milk, and your kids will hate you.
Copywriting on the web used to be mostly focused on stuffing as many keywords as possible into your writing without being detected by Google for keyword stuffing. The end result was writing that sounded like a jumbled mess. Today, with more sophisticated SEO and more savvy online shoppers, copy must be focused on building relationships with customers rather than tricking a search engine. It’s about building relationships and trust between your brand and your customers. You want your copy to convey your passion for your product so the company sees it through your eyes. If you have a passion for quilts made from ugly holiday sweaters, your copy needs to convey that to potential customers. You want people to read about your ugly sweater quilts, talk about them, share them on social media, and eventually buy them. It’s all about generating interest and buzz.
Kelton Reid, of Copyblogger, wrote a great guide to writing good copy. In it, he likens writing good copy to writing good advertising. He references the well-known ad man David Ogilvy, who said that good advertising should sell the product without drawing attention to itself. Kelton argues the exact same tenant applies to copywriting. The content doesn’t need to be flashy and stylish; it just needs to communicate to the customer and convey your message clearly.
Mr. Reid not only has great tips, but also references great writers throughout history from William Shakespeare to E.B. White. I encourage you to read his article in full, whether you are writing copy, writing essays for school, or just want to become a better writer, but here is a short summary (in my own words) of some of his points to give you a sneak peek.
Writing Good Copy
# 1 Make your Headline pop
It’s the first thing that draws attention to your work. If it sucks, you lose your audience from the start.
# 2 Don’t use cutesy spelling
It’s just as easy to write “tonight” as “tonite”. Don’t use short-hand or Twitter lingo in your copy. Save the OMGs LOLs WTFs and SMHs for texting.
# 3 Put down the thesaurus
Don’t try to incorporate big words just to have them in your copy. Write in ordinary language that clearly conveys your point.
# 4 Know your audience and put them first
The word “you” is very powerful. Use it.
# 5 Use clear & concise language.
Don’t add unnecessary words. Don’t make exaggerated claims. Use nouns and verbs, and keep the adjectives to a minimum.
# 6 Plan and Edit
This means using an outline or any other method to organize your thoughts. Once you write, revise, revise, revise. No one’s first draft is perfect. Don’t be afraid to edit and improve.