Effective Copywriting

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By | Dec 31, 2014

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Many dismiss copywriting as something that ad agency people do. Truthfully, all of us need to pay close attention to copywriting if we want to achieve our business objectives.

The goal of a "regular" text is to inform or entertain. The goal of Web copy (and ideally your website in general) is to get people to do something to sign up, make a purchase, or something similar.

Think you don't need to learn copywriting?

David Ogilvy, the father of modern advertising, addressed this in his book Ogilvy on Advertising. One of his copywriters told him that he had not read any books about advertising; he preferred to rely on his own intuition.

Ogilvy asked him: "Suppose your gallbladder has to be removed this evening. Will you choose a surgeon who has read some books on anatomy and knows where the gallbladder is, or someone who relies on his own intuition?" What distinguishes top experts from mediocre players is that the best know more. You can write better copy if you know more about it.

The Process Of Writing Great Copy

Everything is easier with the right process. If your approach to copywriting is "I'll just try to be convincing", you're setting yourself up for failure.

You don't even need to be a "natural writer" to come up with excellent copy, you just need the right process and some key principles about writing copy that sells.

The best processes are simple, as those are the ones you actually use. Here are the six steps of effective copywriting process:

1. Research: customer, product and competition.
2. Outline and guideposts.
3. Draft copy.
4. Conversion boost.
5. Revise, rearrange.
6. Test.

And now let's get to the details:

Research: This is often the most time-intensive part of your copywriting. "You don't stand a tinker's chance of producing successful advertising unless you start doing your homework. I have always found this extremely tedious, but there is no way around it.". – David Ogilvy.

You need to figure out why people buy the product, how they buy it, what they use it for, and what really matters to them. If you don't have this figured out, you really can not write a copy that works. When it's your own business that you're writing copy for, things go much faster, of course, as you know the product and the competition.


You need to be aware of your direct competition, how they present their product, and what claims they seem to be making. If you are not selling something unique, you are selling as much for your competition as you are selling for yourself. Being "like" others or choosing to be "one of the leading providers of" is a losing strategy.

Neuromarketing research tells us that differentiating our claims is the key to talking to the old brain, the decision making part of our brain. Our whole business identity should be different from the competition, and the claims we're making about our product should stand out.


The answers are not in your office and you won't have eureka-moments at brainstorming meetings. You have to interview people. Don't waste time interviewing random people, you need to talk to your ideal customers and find out what's on their minds.

Find out what they think about your kind of product, what language they use when they talk about it, what attributes are important to them, and what promises would most likely convince them to buy it. Pick the last 10 to 20 customers, and ask them these questions:

  • Who are you? What do you do? (customer profile).
  • What does our product help you do? (helps you understand how they use it, tells you words they use to describe our product).
  • Which parameters did you compare on different options? (which features matter).
  • What were the most important ones? (key pains to solve).
  • Which alternatives did you consider? (competitors we have to look at).
  • What made you choose our product? (our key advantage).
  • What were the biggest hesitations and doubts before the purchase? (things we have to address in the copy).
  • Were there questions you needed answers to, but couldn't find any? (necessary information to provide).
  • What information would have helped you make the decision faster? (same as above).
  • In which words would you recommend it to somebody you know? (words they use to describe our product).

Take note of the exact wording they use. Your copy needs to match the conversation in your customer's mind. If you talk about "scribing devices" and he needs a pen, there's a mismatch.

My point is that when customers see the product described in words they have in their mind already, then you've got their attention.

Outline And Guideposts

Next step: write the outline. Guideposts are the markers that help you write the content.

Writing an outline usually only takes a few minutes and provides a road map for the rest of the project. It allows you to complete the work faster and ensures that you stick to the flow. The outline structure will depend on the page you're writing the copy for. The main pages you need a well thought-out copy in place are your home page and product pages. Here are outline templates I personally use, and you can copy them. I've tweaked and tested them over the years, and this model works the best for me.

Home Page

Your home page copy structure depends a lot on your business. A nail salon would have a different approach from an e-commerce store; a website selling mobile app design courses is different from a hosting company. It's basically impossible for me to give you an outline template for your home page.

What IS universal is the value proposition Every home page needs one (unless you're a very well-known brand).

A value proposition is a promise of value to be delivered. It's the primary reason a prospect should buy from you. The value proposition is usually a block of text with a visual. There is no one right way to go about it, but I suggest you start with the following formula:.

Headline: What is the end-benefit you're offering, in one short sentence. Can mention the product and/or the customer. Attention grabber.

Sub-headline or a two-to-three sentence paragraph: A specific explanation of what you do/offer, for whom, and why is it. useful.

Bullet points: List the key benefits or features. Here's a list of useful value proposition examples4 you can check out.


Product page is where you sell the value of your product and where the user takes action (adds to cart, sign up, makes a purchase, etc.).

1. Name of the product.
2. Value proposition: what's the end-benefit of this product and who is it for?
3. Specific and clear overview of what the product does and why is that good (features and benefits).
4. What's the pain that it solves? Description of the problem.
5. List of everything in the product (e.g. curriculum of the course, list of every item in the package, etc.).
6. Technical information: parameters, what do you get and how does it work?
7. Objection handling. Make a list of all possible FUDs (fears, uncertainties, doubts) and address them.
8. Bonuses (what you get on top of the offer).
9. Money-back guarantee (+ return policy).
10. Price.
11. Call to action.
12. Expectation setting: what happens after you buy?

What you now have in place is like a skeleton. Next step would be to start writing the draft version of the copy by filling in the blanks.

Draft Copy

Start filling in the blanks in the template above, and keep these points in mind for the style of your writing.


The goal of the copy is to connect with the reader, and guide them towards an action. 

"Human relationships are about communicating. Business jargon should be banished in favor of simple English. Simplicity is a sign of truth and a criterion of beauty. Complexity can be a way of hiding the truth" – Helena Rubinstein.

Using complicated, fancy words does not make you seem any smarter or your solution any better it just turns everybody off. Who wants to read something that doesn't feel like it's written for them? Talk to people like a real human. If you wouldn't use a phrase on your website in a conversation with a customer, then don't use it.

In addition to fancy words, avoid meaningless phrases. What do "on-demand marketing software", "integrated solutions" or "flexible platform" really mean anyway?

Or useless phrases like "changing the way X is done", "paradigm shifting ..." or "exceeding customer expectations" stop the nonsense.

These bland phrases have long lost any meaning, and you will just waste precious attention time. You can see a list of the top 100 most overused buzzwords and marketing speak in press releases here. Another thing to avoidâ superlatives and hype. Saying things like "the best", "world leader", "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" will just ruin your integrity. People don't believe such claims anyway (even if they're true).

Writing great copy is a skill you have to learn just like anything else. Use the outline and the tips to get started on the right track. Stephen King, the famous writer, said that if you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. I believe the same goes for writing great copy. 

The best Web copy is not the one that uses sophisticated persuasion and mind manipulation techniques. The best copy provides full information about the product, its benefits, and makes it clear whether it’s the right one for the user.

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