How to Write Copy That Sells (Anything):Tips You Can Use Today


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Table of Contents

Let’s get one thing straight: If it’s not selling something, it’s not copy.

Any word or phrase you put in front of your audience sells some form of information at some form of a price to your readers, whether that’s their trust, time, effort, attention, clicks, or actual dollars.

This means that all of your copy—your home page, social posts, blogs, landing pages, product descriptions, mission statement—should always be selling.

But is it?

In this post, I’m going to use the five C’s formula to help you make sure it is. That means clear, concise, credible, compelling, and call to action(y).

But not just with five tips. No no. I’m coming at you with 25 tips and 72 examples so you can have what it really takes to write copy that sells. We’ll cover

Language and formatting tips to help you make clear points.
Easy grammatical fixes that result in concise but value-packed messaging.

Destructive mistakes and must-haves for true credibility.
Creative ideas and exercises to compel your readers.

Some tips may feel contradictory. But it all depends on what type of content you’re working with, where it lives in cyberspace, and what your purpose is. So just keep that in mind!

1. Make it easy to read

Copy that sells isn’t impressive. It’s easy. Your reader shouldn’t have to stop reading to make sense of what you’re saying, even if just for a nanosecond. The more your copy flows, the longer you’ll keep their attention and the easier it will be for them to get the important points you’re making.

Take a look at this public school’s copy, targeting public high schoolers and their parents.

We provide a multifaceted educational program to our students, using the most effective pedagogical approaches that intertwine progressive thinking skills, vocational events, and modular courses as deemed important by the educators and community.”

Now take a look at Harvard Business School copy, targeting [really] smart college grads:

See what I mean?

Note: Readable doesn’t necessarily mean removing fancy words. As long as you’re using terms your audience is familiar with, they’ll be able to move along. Which brings us to our next point. 

2. Use keywords (not just for SEO)

Although showing up on the first page of Google is a selling point in and of itself, you should also be using keywords everywhere—not just SEO copywriting. Remember, these are the words and phrases your audience is using. When you speak their language (and not yours), your copy will clearly convey the value of your offerings in a way that resonates with them.

For example, if you’re a web design/SEO provider for small business owners, this landing page copy will not sell:

We optimize all our websites for Google search using keyword-targeted metadata, lazy loading, and minified CSS.

These keywords would be easy reads if your clients were web design/SEO agencies looking to outsource their own. But for the small business owner audience, this is a better sell:

We make technical optimizations to speed up your website and use keyword-targeted content to help you rank higher on Google.

Keywords = their jargon, not yours.

3. Write FABulously

Did I just come up with the cheesiest thing ever? Yes. But do I secretly like it? Also yes. Copy that sells should always be answering these two questions: What’s in it for me and how do I know I’ll get it? And the key to this is writing with features and benefits in mind. Aka FABulously.

You know to use it in your product or pricing page copy:

But you can also use it in your blog posts:

And email subject lines:

4. Address objections directly

Feature-benefit copy may sell your reader on actions that move them through your funnel, but as they move closer to the actual dollar sale, they’re going to be putting more careful thought into their decision. Questions change from “what’s in it for me?” to “but what if…?” These objections (conscious or not) are barriers to selling. And while some aspects of your copy will organically speak to them, you should also directly addresses them somewhere.

Not only does this type of copy demonstrate transparency and an understanding of the customer, but it’s also a way to reinforce your features and benefits and show your subject matter expertise.

But in the name of being concise (which is our next section), reserve this copy for an FAQ section at the bottom of your landing pages with expandable sections, or its own blog post or page.

Image source

5. Use bullets and lists (strategically)

Wait! Before you skip over this one—there’s a strategy within the strategy. According to the serial position effect, people tend to recall the first and last items in a series the best. So when you’re using bullet points, make sure you place the MVPs accordingly.

This may be more applicable to longer lists, but here’s a small example.

If I only remember the first and last bullets, my clear takeaway from this webinar landing page is that I’m going to learn lead scoring best practices (feature) so I can understand my prospects’ engagement (benefit). Sweet.

How to write CONCISE copy that sells

A concise definition of concise: Uses fewer words to say more.

Concise copy brings an obvious benefit for character-limited content (like ad copy), but it applies to any and all content marketing. Whether it’s your email copy, blog post, or white paper, there’s never room for clutter. 

Follow these tips for clear and value-packed copy your readers will appreciate and remember (and also for you to become a better writer overall).

6. Remove redundant or empty adverbs

These not only add unnecessary words to your copy, but they also sound more desperate than authoritative. Let’s have a look.

Unnecessary adverbs:

carefully curated → curatedstressful crisis → crisisimportant priorities → prioritiesover exaggerate → exaggerate

Unnecessary and desperate adverbs: 

critically important → criticalpowerfully effective → powerful
extremely helpful → helpful

Adverbs aren’t altogether bad. Here are some great blog post titles:

“Surprisingly easy” tells me this post isn’t going to give the usual rundown. I’d click.

Here’s another one:

“Ferociously unique” is playfully bold. I’m interested.

In these cases, the extra words are effective, not destructive. Just make sure you deliver on your promise

7. Replace adjectives with stronger nouns

Another great copywriting tip: Replace adjective-noun pairs with just one, more powerful noun. 

difficult situation → dilemma
tough spot → bind
specific group → niche
small difference → nuance
close connection → rapport

One less word. Lots more power.

8. Remove nonwords

The SERP for “nonwords” is rough. I may or may not have had an editorial identity crisis while I was in there. 

But you have to remember that we’re not talking about essays or news articles here. Marketing and ad copy is versatile. It can be technical, conversational, dry, or friendly, depending on its purpose/place. So here are a few examples.

“So you can”

Okay: Let us do the legwork so you can get back to running your business.Not okay: Use these tips so you can improve your writing. Replace with: Use these tips to improve your writing.

“Thing”

Okay: Here are six things you can do to prevent a cyber attack.Not okay: Stressing over deadlines is a thing we can relate to. Replace with: We can all relate to stressing over deadlines.

“Really”

Okay: Learn what it really takes to write copy that sells.Not okay: With our reporting features, you can really focus on metrics that matter.Replace with: With our reporting features, you can focus on metrics that matter.

9. Say ta-ta to tauto(logy)

Turns out there’s a technical term for fluff. Tautology is the practice of saying the same thing more than once but with different words to try to look like you’re not. Let’s call it black-hat redundancy.

This, for example, is tautology at its finest:

121 words that tell me you have no idea what you’re talking about. 

44 words that convince me I need personalization in my ecommerce strategy. Sold.

10. Save it for another page

First of all, “world-class” is not a selling point. It’s an empty adjective (also something we’ll get to later). Intellum (cringe) uses this on its homepage:

Now if you are actually world-class (Iwhich Intellum is), back it up—but not in your home page, solutions page, or landing pages. Say it in a sentence and then use a “learn more” button to show credibility and link to long-form (but also concise!) copy that proves it.

11. Be blunt

Take concision to the extreme with one or two-word sentences. For example: 

“Video Editing Software. Free Download. Easy Movie Editor.” 

Plain. But to the point and exactly the words I’d search (tip #2). Plus, “free” and “easy” are staples in any list you find of words that sell.

“7 days. 7 dollars. Full access.” 

Catchy. Quick. No-nonsense. Sold.

How to write CREDIBLE copy that sells

With clear and concise copy, your readers can get right to the point you’re making. But is it a point that sells? Follow these tips to make sure you’re not just saying, but selling.

12. Avoid empty testimonials

While this isn’t copy you write, it’s copy that sells. We’ve all seen 5-star reviews or testimonials like “ServicePro was great. I’ll definitely use them again.”

Positive? Yes. Credible? No.

In the example below from Akvertise website, you get a specific person complimenting a specific employee on specific actions.

Instead of just asking for a review, ask through email if you can get a quote from them for your website. Beause there’s no on-the-spot pressure and they’re typing it out, they’ll put more careful thought into it, and knowing that it will appear on your website, they’ll make sure it makes them look good too.

13. Share statements, not opinions

Outwardly trying to convince with your product description copywriting has the opposite effect. Stick with simple statements.

For example, you might use an adjective like “fastest installation” in a header to attract your visitor, but plain Jane statements like “one day installation”  and “24 hours” work better in the feature breakdown.

14. Replace adjectives with verbs

Rather than describe your product as all-in-one, easy to use, powerful, etc., to promote your product or service, use verbs to communicate exactly what they can do with your product. Take a look at Sleeknote’s product copy:

11 verbs: collect, grow, drive, assist, get in touch, make, sell, increase, guide, send, invite.

4 adjectives: segmented, quality, right, exact.

Save the inspirational copy for your mission statement. Plain statements that get right to the point are more credible than adjectives that try to convince. 

15. Nix empty adjectives

Continuing on in this anti-adjective campaign, take a look at this example (adapted from David Meerman Scott):

“We have assembled surgical and clinical expertise second to none, have a state-of-the-art trauma center, developed sophisticated minimally invasive techniques, and call on innovative training and technology to ensure the highest level of patient safety and quality of care. These clinical initiatives, a thriving research enterprise, and an unparalleled medical education program all enable [Hospital Z] to fulfill our mission.”

This copy should be broken up into segments with credible information…perhaps bullets (tip #5)?

• Our trauma center uses minimally invasive techniques like laparoscopic surgery to shorten your recovery period.• With our in-house research teams and Harvard-trained surgeons, you can rest assured you’ll get the highest quality of care.

Easier to read (tip #1), FABulous (tip # 3), and credible. Sold.

16. Use data

When it comes to credibility, nothing beats data.

Again, even if customers don’t know what these numbers mean, they see that cybereason has proof. Numbers sell.

How to write COMPELLING copy that sells

Compelling copy is magnetic.

(PS: In this section, adjectives are our friends.)

17. Don’t be afraid to get technical

As you can see from the bullets above, adjectives aren’t always bad. But if you’re going to use them, make them specific and factual. Words like “durable,” “secure,” “highly trained,” and “unique” work, but can you get more specific to build more confidence in potential buyers? Y.

strong → titanium-based
durable → industrial-grade   secure → NP2-encrypted (made that up)trained → DSFA-certified (that one too)
unique → proprietary
safe → flame-retardent

It’s technical, but this type of copy sells, even if customers don’t need to know what it all means.

18. Read their minds

Think about the assumptions, hopes, doubts, or fears your buyer personas have, like:

I’m not an online business so I don’t really need a website.
What the heck does amortize even mean?
If I hear [buzzword, cliche, etc.] one more time…
Native ads are like display ads, right?

Capture real thoughts your target audience has, and create an immediate personal connection that draws them in.

Thoughts can be among the most compelling headlines.

19. Make it urgent

Urgency is the hallmark of selling. As Ray Edwards puts it in his book How to Write Copy That Sells, “You need to place a dollar cost on this failure to solve the problem when at all possible.”

This means not only using words like “now,” “today,” or “hurry” in your CTAs, but communicating to your readers the cost of indecision or ignoring the problem. 

20. Use the power of emotion

Factual copy sells, but not all sales copy is factual. Emotions hold equal power. And you can do even better than the fear-based ad above. No matter your product or service, it all comes down to pain points and desires, which come down to all kinds of emotions. For example:

We sell: marketing services.

So our customers can: grow their business.

Because they want to feel:

Confident that they’re using the right strategies.
Excited about getting new customers.
Proud of what they’ve built.
And they don’t want to feel:

Overwhelmed at the number of strategies out there.
Worried about missing opportunities.
Defeated by competitors.
Translate your customers’ pain points and desires into emotions they both want and don’t want to feel, then either elicit them with your copy or use the emotion word itself. This is particularly helpful for storytelling (which we’ll get into shortly).

Like keywords (tip #2), emotional marketing copy speaks your customers’ language. When they feel like you truly understand their problems and desires, they’ll feel more confident that you can solve them. In other words, it’s an emotional way of gaining credibility.

21. Try out power verbs

Here’s a simple copywriting exercise. Write a plain sentence starting with “We sell…”

Now, replace the word sell with captivating verbs like:

• Eliminate
• Empower
• Level up
• Inspire
• Reduce
• Unlock

Continuing with our example above:

We sell marketing services.

• We eliminate the guesswork of coming up with a marketing plan.• We empower business owners to compete with big businesses.• We level up your online presence.• We inspire business owners to make a mark in their community.• We reduce the amount of time you spend on growing your business.• We unlock your business’s full potential.

You get the idea. I’ve got lots of compelling verbs in my list of 273 words for writing emotional marketing copy. Pick out your favorites and fill in the blanks.

22. Make it about them

Notice in the example above, every statement starts with “we.” That was just an exercise to help you come up with compelling concepts, but the copy itself should be about your customers about 90% of the time. 

With our Builder—a Google Chrome Extension—you can create flows and track new events with a few clicks. Open the Buidler on top of your product, create something beautiful, and wow your users!

“You” is used eight times. “Our” is used once.

In the initial stages of the funnel, customers care less about what you do and more about what they want to do. Later on when they’re doing their vetting, copywriting about what you offer and how you do it makes more sense.

23. Use storytelling (okay but what does that MEAN)

If copy that sells is concise and to the point, then how the heck does storytelling fit into the picture? (See what I did there (tip #18).) Enter copywriting formulas. For example:

Before-after bridge formula

Here, you accurately describe your customer’s current state. Then their desired state. And then introduce your business as the way to get there. 

Image source

Here’s the before-after-bridge formula in a tweet. 

A 12-word story that sells. Image source

Problem-agitate-solution formula

Introduce the problem your readers experience, use emotional words and phrases to agitate the problem, then offer your business as the solution.

Image source

And there you have it. Compelling marketing copy. that uses storytelling while staying clear, concise, and credible. All boxes checked. Try this in your Tweets, email copy, blog posts, case studies, and more.

24. Try catchy statements

This could work with homepage headers or even Facebook ad copy. You can use the contrast approach, such as with “One source of truth. Endless solutions.” 

(Note that this isn’t a bombastic claim (tip #10). Airtable is not claiming to be the one source of truth. Businesses use it to collect information and tasks in one place so that everyone has one source of truth.)

More ways to write catchy copy include alliteration, rhyming (ideally subtle to reduce the cheese factor), or taking the “not this, but that” approach:

25. Final tip: be careful with assumptions

Okay so, we all know not to overtly patronize or belittle our prospects for obvious reasons. But words like “we all know” and “obvious” can be subtly destructive if used in the wrong manner.

I said it above because it’s a cultural norm not to belittle or patronize. So this word choice serves to not insult your readers’ intelligence. But in the case below, the same words can have the opposite effect.

Everyone knows that drip email campaigns can increase conversions, but how do you create them? What tools do you need?

Maybe your reader doesn’t know this. No, they aren’t going to feel consciously offended, but they might have a micro-moment of feeling inadequate or like they’re in the wrong place. Here’s a better alternative:

If you’re like most marketers, you’re always looking for ways to increase conversions with your emails. Drip campaigns make this possible. But how do you create them?

So be careful with assumptive words and phrases that hold power to insult or acknowledge your readers’ intelligence.

You now have what it takes to write copy that sells (anything)

The fifth in the five Cs is “call to action”, but if you’ve followed all the tips above, this will be the easy part. Plus, we’ve got a post on that. 

And by definition, all copywriting is a call to action. Trust what I have to say. Stop scrolling and read this post. Click on my ad. Buy my product. So you don’t need to “always be closing,” but you do need to “always be selling.” And now you know how to do it.

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Google’s algorithms have become sophisticated enough that the quality of content has more importance than use of any particular keyword or phrase or string. Thus, the first SERP might not contain an exact match keyword anywhere in the body of the page.

When it comes to marketing your business / website, your writing style matters a lot. Sadly, it gets ignored enough time.

What is important is that your writing be clear, concise and consistent.

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Put RAD in your Backlinking

Follow simplest backlinking strategies.

According to gShift, a backlinking strategy is very simply about these three concepts:

Relevancy, Authority & Influence, Diversity.

Every backlink you build should pass the RAID test:

  • Relevance – Is this link coming from a relevant source that further supports the relevance of my content?
  • Authority & Influence – Was the source of this link written by an authoritative, influential person or business?
  • Diversity – By adding this link to my web presence am I diversifying and adding value to my digital footprint?

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10 Steps for better website

1. Put Your Phone Number At The Top Of Every Page In Big Font Sounds obvious, right? But, millions of sites don’t do this. According to a report by VSplash, “six out of ten SMB websites in the U.S. are missing either a local or toll-free telephone number on the home page to contact the business.” Small business owners are always talking about how they want “calls not clicks.” Put your phone number in people’s faces. That might help.

2. Understand Your Customer’s Objectives Many small and local business websites are a home page with some kind of “welcome” message and/or marketing text, an image or two, and a couple of tabs — usually Services, About, Contact, etc. Your business likely has a variety of different types of customers who are looking for different things, and when they land on any page of your website, it should be crystal clear how to find what they are looking for immediately. This is no easy task, particularly for large websites with lots of content. A recent example I looked at was a veterinarian site that just had Services, Contact and Events tabs. While it’s not rocket science for a visitor to click on the Services tab to find that the vet provides services for horses, providing navigation that prominently identifies the animal types the vet works with would help. Navigation links like Dogs, Cats, Horses, Duckbill Platypus, etc. are much more likely to be of interest to people with sick pets than your next street fair appearance.

3. Create Content That Focuses On Your Customers’ Needs You’ll find this one repeated everywhere there is a search marketing guru, but it’s perhaps one of the most effective things you can do to bring qualified leads to your website with the hopes of converting them. Offline, when you are selling a customer, you do it by answering common questions, telling them how you do things, providing them with pricing and timing information, etc. It’s no different with your website. In our above Vet example, perhaps the site could explain how they deal with the typical Duckbill Platypus maladies. If you’re at a loss for content ideas for your site, consult How To Create Content When You’d Rather Be Doing Something Else.

4. Don’t Use Clip Art! You’re a cheap guy, right? That’s how you’ve become overlord of your vast SMB empire. But, just because you are cheap doesn’t mean your website has to look cheap (unless, of course, that is what your brand is all about, such as, Cheap Harry’s Auto Repair). Use of clip art is a serious offense. There are plenty of inexpensive design services that can supply you with decent-looking artwork for your site. Try ODesk, Elance, 99Designs or better yet, the local high school art class. You can always upload a nice photo, too. Show your company vehicles and your location. Maybe show yourself or your employees at work. People want to do business with people, not clip-art models, and definitely not with that chick sitting on the floor with a laptop raising both arms in triumph. Can we please just retire her?

5. Add Testimonials Potential customers want to see that other human beings find your services valuable. Adding a few quotes from happy customers can do a lot to help sell people on your service. Just make sure they are real quotes. If you don’t have any, grab some from a third-party review site like Yelp, which leads us to the need for trust.

6. Add Trust Marks Just like testimonials, trust marks — logos from services that provide some kind of validation of how good or trustworthy a business is — can go a long way toward helping someone, who has never heard of you before, feel good about making a purchase on your site, sending you an email or picking up the phone. Logos from organizations like the BBB, the local business association, or even the local soccer league will do the trick.

7. Add Conversion Messages To Your Landing Pages (And All Your Pages) For each page on your site, you would ideally craft conversion messages relevant to the content (e.g., “Is Your Duckbill Platypus Sick? Call Us Now!”). You may even want to test putting a “contact us for a free estimate” message in front of visitors that request the content using a lightbox type pop-up approach. One client increased inbound leads by 300% just using this simple technique.

8. Qualify Your Visitors I love sites that take visitors through a simple set of questions designed to segment them (e.g., budget, nature of their problem, timing, size of their company, title, location, etc.). This method can help you push the visitor to the right content, product, salesperson, etc. While it could also reduce the number of inbound leads, those leads that come in should be of much higher quality because they’ve been qualified.

9. Keep Your Address, Hours & Event Calendars Up To Date Goes without saying right? You’d be surprised. Or maybe you wouldn’t…

10. Improving Conversion Tends To Have a Faster ROI Than Improving SEO Let’s say you make $100 every time someone fills out a form on your website. If your site converts 1% of all visitors, you make $1 for every visitor that shows up. Double that to 2% and you make $2. If it costs you $1,000 to get to 2%, the improvements will pay for themselves after 500 visitors. Everything after that is gravy.

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Local Search Engine Marketing is King

Local Search Engine Marketing is King.

  • 59 per cent of Internet users submit a query in search engines at least once per day.
  • 76 per cent of users use search engines to find local business information.
  • In 2011 Google disclosed that 40% of mobile search traffic is with local intent.
  • In 2012 Google disclosed that 50% of mobile search traffic is with local intent.
  • In 2012, according to one estimate, 43% of search results on Google carries local search intent.  25% with Bing / Yahoo has local Intent.

 

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