4 Basic Things Every Copywriter Needs to Know

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Copywriting Basic - New Writer

There’s so much more to being a copywriter than simply being able to write.

Sure, the ability to string a sentence together is a vital skill to have, but it’s not the only thing you need to bring to the table.

In fact, there are so many skills you can bring to the table that it can get overwhelming.

So let’s pare it back for a moment and focus on the key aim of any copywriter: to boost conversions.

The sole purpose of copywriting is to make people act – whether that means they buy a product, sign up for a newsletter, or share a story.

When you remember that single focus, it’s easier to plan out content that works, and, to do that in the easiest way possible, you need to stick to the very basics of copywriting.

The 4 Basics of Copywriting

1. It’s All About Them

Though the goal of a piece of copy might be to sell a product, that product shouldn’t be the focus.

Sounds strange, right?

But every successful copywriter knows that the reader is the most important person.

They are the people you are driving into action.

They are the people you want your copy to resonate enough with so they do what you tell them to.

That means making everything you write about them, from the headline right down to the call-to-action. If you’re selling a product, for example, you need to think about how it will provide the reader with a solution to a problem.

At all times, you should be reflecting on things like:

  • Whether your headline showcases the outcomes your reader will get if they buy or sign up or share
  • Whether the copy shows you understand their pain points and offers them a solution
  • Whether your call-to-action is about them and not the product or service (rather than “download our infographic now”, you can write “send me my infographic now!”)

Copywriting Basic - Crazy EggCrazy Egg focuses on the objections a reader might have and then encourages them to click on the call-to-action which is geared solely towards them.

2. Unnecessary Words Aren’t Welcome

A lot of people think that to sell a product they need to get all persuasive by writing reams and reams of text.

While persuasion is key in copywriting, you also want to bear in mind that most internet users only have an attention span of around 8 seconds (which, believe it or not, is less than a goldfish).

That means you have a very small timeframe to capture their attention and keep them interested.

This is where you should be looking for words that aren’t necessary and for places where you can make the message more concise and easy-to-understand.

Think about it: if your copy is too wordy and takes too long to get to the meat of things, there are plenty of other places where your reader could go to get that information.

Sometimes it’s difficult to spot those fluffy sentences or those flabby words (we’re all guilty of that), but there are a few activities you can do to shave things down.

  • Read your copy out loud. The best way to see if you’re getting too verbose is to read your copy aloud. We tend not to add unnecessary words when we speak, so if it sounds long-winded when you’re reading aloud, it’s time to get the scissors out.
  • Use an active voice. Phrases like “He jumped over the fence,” hit home harder and are more to-the-point than “the fence was jumped over by him.” Using an active voice not only cuts out useless words, but it makes your copy sound tighter. Copywriting Basics - Conversion

You can’t really get more straight-to-the-point than this headline from ConversionXL.

3. Connection is Key

Even in this day and age where we can access everything with the click of a finger, we still value human connection – in fact, we crave it. Which means if you want to reel in your reader and encourage them to buy, sign up, or share, you need to start building trust and connection.

One of the best ways you can do this isn’t by writing, it’s by listening.

When you start listening to what your prospects want and need, you can start offering them a solution and building a rapport with them through a mutual understanding.

Every time you show your prospect you understand them, you strengthen that trust. As well as listening, you can:

  • Use their own words in your copy. By using the exact words a prospect uses (which you glean through listening), you instantly show that you “get” them and their needs.
  • Avoid using jargon. People create connections with people they can relate to. When you throw in complicated jargon, you scare away prospects by making them think your product or service isn’t for them. 

Copywriting Basic - Renegade Diet

This example of a sales page from The Renegade Diet doesn’t use jargon and gets straight to the point.

4. Benefits Above All Else

The biggest mistake new copywriters make is focusing on features rather than benefits. If they’re selling a car, they’ll focus on the 1.2 litre engine, the super-duper air-conditioning, and the built-in stereo system.

But prospects don’t care about these. Well, they do, but they care about how these features will benefit them.

For example, the super-duper air-conditioning means they can keep cool in traffic while they commute, while the built-in stereo means they can jam along to their favorite tunes on the way to work.

When you focus on the benefits, you’re showing the reader how your product will help them, rather than why it’s a super-duper, all-singing, all-dancing buy.

Copywriting Basic - Infusionsoft

This example from Infusionsoft lists how each feature will benefit the user.

If trying to determine the benefits of a product or service gets your head spinning, start by writing down the features and then writing what those features mean for the reader – just like I did above with the car example.

It might seem like a lot of elements need to come together to create a great piece of copy that actually converts, but really it’s just these four basic principles.

If you can nail these over and over again, you’re going to consistently create copy that is to-the-point, connective, and relatable – a.k.a. the kind of copy that converts.

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Lizzie is a professional writer and copywriter who helps start-ups, marketing companies, and app businesses connect with their audiences and boost conversions. When she's not writing, you can find her exploring new places (usually with a coffee in hand).

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