After years in the business of writing words, our copywriting team has learned some hard lessons about writing.

 

We’ve collectively built, and crushed, our worst writing habits. And now we have strong opinions about what makes great copy.

 

Instead of just screenshotting hilariously bad writing examples and sending them to our team Slack, we compiled our best secrets and habits for better writing.

 

Mr. Happy Crack: Unforgettable, but in the bad way.

 

First: what is copywriting?

 

Copy is just text. But the term usually refers to text in marketing contexts, like the words on billboards, the back of shampoo bottles, scripts for radio commercials, and anywhere else you can think of.

 

Oh, and on websites!

 

Writing really, really good copy is both an art and a science. You need a good sense of style, but you also need to understand the psychology of your audience. Your words need move people to action.

 

That’s what the best copywriters do: they create words that get their audience to do something, without the audience ever noticing they’ve been convinced.

 

ABC Copywriting has a genius, “power of twos” (more below!) copywriting campaign on their site.

 

Sound like what you’re looking to do?

 

Whether you’re writing “About the Team” pages, ad copy, calls to action, or text for landing pages, keep these industry-approved tips in mind.

 

STARTING FROM SCRATCH: TOOLS FOR WRITING AMAZING COPY

 

Benefits over everything

 

There are two types of content in product or service copywriting: features and benefits.

 

Let’s say you’re writing a piece of sales copy on your product. Your product is a 3D camera that makes virtual reality walkthroughs of homes, which you sell to Realtors.

 

Christine Cowern's site is full of benefit-focused copy

Christine Cowern’s site is all benefits, all the time; although they’re often subtle.

 

You might write:

 

  • High-def 4k resolution
  • Generates 360 degree views of homes
  • Automatically creates industry-standard floorplans
  • Embeddable video walkthroughs

 

These are all features.

 

They convey what your product is and what it does, but it won’t sell it. Why?

 

Because you’re missing the real reason a Realtor is looking at the camera in the first place: To create video walkthroughs of their sellers’ homes.

 

They don’t really care about your company or what you do. They want to know whether they can use your product to sell more homes.

 

One week, one website. The benefit is clear and practically irresistible.

 

Features don’t explain whether your product will help them. Benefits do.

 

Use your copy to explain to your audience, “what does this do for me?”

 

You instead might write:

 

  • Buyers can see every single detail of the space with 4k resolution. No open house required
  • Generate fully-immersive 3D tours that help buyers feel like they’re really there
  • Save time and money with automatically created industry-standard floorplans
  • Quickly embed easy-to-use video walkthroughs on your site or social media

 

See the difference?

 

Features are facts. Benefits are reasons why your product or service makes your readers’ lives easier. Give them the benefits, based on the features, and your copy is well on its way.

 

Write like you talk

 

This piece of advice is from Shannon, our Content Team Lead. (Her exact words were: “Don’t be a catfish!”)

 

She says, “Be consistent between how you write and how you interact with your clients. You don’t want to meet a client and have them be, like, ‘Uhhh, who is this? You seemed so cool on the Internet!’”

 

 

Path real estate "Delivering Results" copy that sounds like who they really are

Path Real Estate writes like they talk – and they sound friendly, approachable, and fun to work with.

 

If you write how you talk, your written voice will resonate with the same people that your real voice will resonate with.

 

You won’t put off the people that would really like you in person. And you won’t bring in people that aren’t your kind of people – you’ll be consistent online and off.

 

Since your potential clients are looking or a trustworthy agent, voice consistency is a subtle way to prove that you’re honest.

 

There are other bonuses, too:

 

Writing how you talk means you can avoid those stare-at-a-blank-screen-completely-uninspired moments that we’ve all had. Throw it all on to a page like you’re talking to a client.

 

Just don’t forget to edit!

 

Be bold

 

Copywriting isn’t literature, and it’s not PR. It’s short, purposeful, and impactful. It’s meant to jar a reader into action.

 

How can you do that without being bold?

 

Don’t be afraid to do something “out there”. Negative sentiments are effective. Short statements are effective.

 

Don’t limit yourself to stuffy, boring professionalism. Let your freak flag fly!

 

For example:

 

This ad, by Miami Ad School, is probably my favourite of all time.

 

Some people – lots of people – would balk at publishing an ad that winks at eating pets.

 

But this copy is perfect. It’s memorable, it sends a strong message, and (bonus!) look at those clear benefits! Look at the stakes of not using Vodaphone! You need this product!

 

The best copy is bold.

 

So don’t stifle yourself in the writing phase. Anything that doesn’t work or pushes the envelope too much can be edited out later.

 

Focus on creating something memorable, and you’ll end up with more powerful copy.

 

Use twos

 

Once I started thinking about the power of twos, I started seeing it everywhere. Literally everywhere. Bus ads, billboards, headlines, magazine ads…

 

(Have you seen two-some copy anywhere? Let us know in the comments!)

 

It only took one quick Google search to find these examples:

 

 

 

The power of twos: Put two opposing ideas next to each other, and you’ll have a punchy message.

 

Let’s go back to writing about Matterp— uhh— the 3D home camera that you sell to Realtors.

 

If you wanted to create two-able copy, start by brainstorming short, quippable features and benefits:

 

  • High resolution
  • Easy to use
  • It’s just really cool advanced tech

 

And then add a second phrase to reinforce the first:

 

  • High resolution, higher home bids
  • Easy to use, hard to ignore
  • “It’s just really cool advanced tech.”

Our competitors

 

Okay, so the last one isn’t my best work. That’s okay, that’s what brainstorming is for!

 

Either way, you can easily craft strong copy by using twos.

 

Don’t write it yourself

 

This is a piece of advice from Max, one of our in-house copywriters, that I wholeheartedly agree with.

 

He says “Know when a testimonial covers enough ground. Why not have someone else say how great you are, instead of yourself?”

 

The Heinrich Team has peppered testimonials all over their site, which props up their copy with social proof

The Heinrich Team has peppered testimonials all over their site, which props up their copy with social proof

 

There is so much power in social proof. Who is a potential client more likely to believe: you, or one of your previous clients?

 

We recently wrote a piece on the power of testimonials, so we won’t go into it again. But testimonials are an amazing way to sell your work and your product without having to write a thing.

 

FIX WHAT’S THERE: EDITING FOR STRONGER COPY

 

Kill your darlings

 

“Kill your darlings” has been attributed to Oscar Wilde, William Faulkner, Anton Chekov, Allen Ginsberg…. and more. So I’m hardly the first writer to repeat it.

 

But it’s a great strategy to streamline sticky parts of your writing:

 

Get rid of the words and phrases you’re too attached to.

 

omit needless words graphic

Cut out your babies, and your writing will be better for it.

 

It’s hard. Believe me. It’s hard to even recognize that your attachment to a sentence is greater than its purpose.

 

But your copy will be so, so much better for it.

 

Your writing isn’t for you – it’s for your reader.

 

If you’ve written a phrase or word that you just love… take a good look at it. What is it doing?

 

Is it helpful? Does it add to what I’m saying? Does it benefit the text by being there?

 

No? Kill it.

 

Less is more

 

This goes hand-in-hand with “Kill your darlings”, but they’re not totally the same.

 

After you’ve eliminated the phrases you’re too attached to, get rid of a little more.

 

Coco Chanel once said, “Before leaving the house, a lady should look in the mirror and remove one accessory.”

 

Now, I’m not really the sort of person to over-accessorize. I mean, one of my earrings fell out in August, and instead of putting another one in I’ve stuck with the lopsided look.

 

But this advice applies clearly to writing: once you think your writing is good to go, take one more thing out.

 

Sometimes, you need to take out more than just one thing… like, all of it.

 

You might find you have too many fabulous, useful, delicious adjectives cluttering up an otherwise clear message. Maybe you’re repeating the same thing a few too many times. Maybe you just need one more go at it.

 

Clarity and brevity are paramount. Edit ruthlessly.

 

Rewrite all of your headlines and titles

 

Okay, you’re not going to like this one. Coming up with a great title is a rush-inducing copywriter win. I feel you.

 

But re-write them anyway.

 

Go Wylde’s headings are clear, descriptive, and targeted to their audience.

 

When writing, if you started with the headings and titles, I guarantee you that they need a re-write.

 

Some of the worst headline sins:

  • Too clever or witty
  • Benefit-less
  • Audience-less
  • Pointless (not everything needs a heading!)

 

Look at the following:

 

White Glove Service with a Smile

Our client service program helps with every step of your real estate journey. From legal documents to moving help to everything in between, we’re here to help you.”

 

While the title looks like it makes a bold statement, it really doesn’t say anything at all.

 

It’s clever, but it’s not as effective as it could be.

 

Max, our self-professed “recovering clever copywriter”, says, “Not every part of your real estate process needs to be termed™. Don’t trademark every part of your process® with what YOU think sells. Chances are you’re going to outsmart your client, which stops them from converting. Be clear.”

 

Benefits-focused text, no headline required.

 

Instead, look at this benefits-focused, not-clever-at-all headline:

 

Call us anytime, for any reason

Our client service program helps with every step of your real estate journey. From legal documents to moving help to everything in between, we’re here to help you.”

 

Simple. Useful. Effective. Benefits-focused. All about your client.

 

That’s what the best headlines should be. So take a good look at yours and see how you could make them better. If you can’t, get rid of them altogether.

 

Take out words, add in pictures

 

This is the saddest reality for copywriters everywhere: nobody wants to read.

 

Or, maybe more accurately, we can communicate more effectively with visuals than text alone.

 

When you’re editing, go through your text and ask yourself, could this be better communicated by a picture? Does this need to be said? Would a visual represent this better?

 

Clever colours conveys a deeper message - and causes the reader to look at the message more closely - than text alone.

Clever colours conveys a deeper message – and causes the reader to look at the message more closely – than text alone.

 

Many times, you’ll find the answer is “yes”.

 

Pairing your words with imagery is the most effective change you can make to your copywriting.

 

 

Too much for you? That’s okay, we’ve spent years becoming better copywriters. Let us do the heavy lifting for you. Get a quote today!

- Christina Anto, Copywriter, Content Strategist

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