The Changing Trends in Copywriting

Sally OrmondInternet marketing and all its associated skills seem to change faster than a fast thing: web design techniques are constantly evolving, search engine optimisation techniques are constantly changing and as for copywriting…

Actually, copywriting is the one thing that isn’t changing.

In fact the techniques associated with writing great copy haven’t changed since advertising began.

Granted, the language is a bit different now as new words are adopted into the English language, but the basic premise of what constitutes good copy has remained the same.

The pillars of good copy

“I want the copy to make me sound intelligent, professional and business-like”

Do you? Really?

If you had a physical shop, your sales team would welcome your customers and chat with them, trying to persuade them to buy something.

In Internet marketing your copy is your sales team, which is why conversational copy works best.

Even your best salesman would have a hard time getting sales if he approached your customers with the opener:

“Welcome, we’ve been in business for 25 years and are regarded as a leader in our field.”

So why write your website copy that way?

That’s why the first pillar is:

1. Write in the second person in a conversational style, addressing the reader as ‘you’ and minimising the use of ‘we’.

Because you’re using a conversational style, the language and structure you use must also be simple.

Guess what? Big words and complex sentence structures do not make you look intelligent – quite the opposite. So ditch the thesaurus and use simple, every day language that everyone understands.

Pillar number two is:

2. Use simple language and simple sentence construction at all times.

Talking of sentences, keep them short too. Long, rambling and overly complex sentences, with excessive amounts of punctuation, can be confusing to readers causing them to lose the thread, give up and find another website that presents its information in a clearer and easier to read format [and breathe].

That’s not to say you can’t use longer sentences (mixing things up keeps your copy interesting), just be sensible about it.

So, pillar three is:

3. Keep your sentences short (although the occasional longer one won’t hurt).

Short is also good when it comes to paragraphs.

Look at this post, it’s full of short paragraphs (and yes, some are only one sentence in length – shock horror).

Presenting your writing in this way creates a lot of white space on the page making it look easy to read (which of course it is because you’re such a skilled writer).

That brings us to pillar four:

4. Short paragraphs increase the readability of your webpage (or brochure etc.).

The next one ties in nicely with number 4. Sub headings help your reader see, at a glance, what information is on your webpage. That means, should they wish, they can find the information they want without having to read the entire page.


5. Sub headings help break up your text and act as signposts to show the reader what information the page contains.

That brings us to the Holy Gail of copywriting – benefits.

It’s a word that you’re always hearing about, so what does it actually mean? What are benefits?

For starters, they are not features. Your reader doesn’t want to know about what colour your product comes in, what it’s made from, or the size options (well, OK they do, but that’s not what will make them buy).

They want to know what it will do for them. That could be anything from making them look really cool, helping them save (or make) money, reduce their household bills, make them more desirable…the list goes on.

What you have to think about is what will your product or service mean to your customer and make sure you show them the primary benefit at the start of your copy.

That makes number 6:

6. Always focus on the benefits your product or service offers your customers.

That last one isn’t easy. It means you have to think about your product or service in a completely different way if you’re to find the one thing that will tip the balance in your favour and secure a sale.

The anecdote below from Dave Trott (the greatest advertising guru and Chairman of The Gate – in my humble opinion), illustrates this type of creative thinking. It’s actually in relation to an advertising campaign rather than writing about a specific product or service, but it shows how powerful a bit of skewed thinking can be.

Many years ago the Fire Brigade asked him to come up with a campaign to reduce chip fires. Previous attempts involved showing graphic images of fires and their aftermath, but had little effect.

Dave thought long and hard about what the Fire Brigade actually wanted. When chip fires broke out the householder usually tried to put it out by chucking water on it, which exacerbated the situation resulting in a massive fire that the Brigade were then called out to tackle (at great cost to the tax payer).

So the real focus of the campaign was to reduce the number of call-outs.

But how could that be done?

The simple answer was to educate the householder about how to put out a chip fire safely.

Relating that to product sales, let’s imagine you’re selling designer shoes. You could write about the colour, the sizes and the height of the heel, or you could say they:

• Are ‘handmade from the finest Italian leather’ (high quality product)
• ‘Exude sophistication’ (affluence will radiate all around you)
• ‘Were inspired by the latest trends in Italian fashion’ (you’re a style icon and the envy of your friends)

You’ve probably noticed I haven’t mentioned anything about SEO copywriting

That’s because everything you’ve already read is SEO copywriting.

Forget keyword density; everything you write is written for your readers. The search engines aren’t going to buy from you, so stop squeezing in keywords and write naturally. If you don’t you’ll end up with drivel like this:

|f you want to create copy (whether for web, brochures, emails etc.) that people will read, make sure you follow these 6 pillars:

• Write in the second person, in a conversational style
• Use simple language and sentence construction
• Keep your sentences short (but vary length for interest)
• Use short paragraphs to boost readability
• Use sub headings to break up your writing
• Focus on the benefits of your product or service

That’s really all there is to it.

This is a post written by Sally Ormond from Briar Copywriting – SEOmers regard Sally as one of the most talented copywriters that we’ve worked with.

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