Complete Guide to Copywriting in 2021

The perfect copy. A struggle for every copywriter, especially those new in the field. If we’re being completely honest, the truth is – no one can nail it on the first try. So, how can you get there? How can you become a world-class copywriter that everyone wants to hire?

If you think you have a knack for it, you’ll naturally want to explore the possibilities of becoming a great copywriter. And we’re here to tell you that you don’t even need to have much prior experience to achieve decent copywriting.

In this article, we’ll flesh out some important guidelines on becoming a desirable copywriter with impressive skills. However little knowledge and expertise you had when opening this guide, rest assured that you’ll be well on your way to becoming a master copywriter by the end of it.

Let’s get started.

The Importance of Copywriting

Marketing is nothing without the art of copywriting. Its purpose is to persuade people and businesses to engage with brands by buying products and services or signing up for memberships. In other words – copywriting provokes people to take a certain action and begin the process of conversion.

When a person is presented with marketing copy, they begin the experience as a prospect (someone interested in a product or service) and – ideally – finish as a lead (someone convinced they need to purchase that product/service).

The whole concept encompasses a bunch of different types of content – blog posts, articles, advertisement copy, landing pages, social media posts, white papers, presentations, taglines, etc. You can be great at all of them, or specialize in a few particular forms of copywriting. It’s entirely up to you.

Good copywriting keeps readers engaged and produces immediate results. If you manage to nail your copy, there’s always going to be a remarkable increase in:

  • Captured prospects;
  • Closed deals;
  • Conversion rates;
  • Engagement on social media;
  • Number of shares, likes, and upvotes;
  • Revenue.

What Makes a First-Class Copywriter?

A lot goes into becoming a brilliant copywriter. As is the case with anything, it certainly takes a while to become one of the best. Some of the key characteristics of a master copywriter are:

  • Vast, constantly expanding knowledge;
  • Hard-work;
  • Openness to new ideas;
  • An impeccable writing style;
  • Interest in current events;
  • A winning mindset;
  • Perseverance.

Now, don’t get overwhelmed. Each of the above can be learned and improved over time. When you’re passionate about something, everything eventually falls into place.

And that’s what we’re here for. To help you expand your knowledge, improve your copywriting skills, and set you on the right track to becoming a successful, self-sufficient copywriter.

Key Guidelines for Becoming a Great Copywriter

We’ll be sharing 10 essential methods that every aspiring copywriter should research and work on improving. Through them, you’ll learn how to:

  • Get to know your audience;
  • Write captivating intros and headlines;
  • Grab the reader’s attention and earn their trust;
  • Leverage SEO to increase visibility;
  • Use tried-and-true copywriting formulas.

Our guidelines are packed with valuable tips and tricks to enhance the flow and readability of your copy, so get comfy and get your notebook ready to take some notes.

Do Extensive Research on What You’re Writing About.

You really need to be exhaustive about this one. Failing to thoroughly learn what the product or service that you’re writing about is will result in catastrophic copy. 

So, don’t go head-first with writing. You’re going to have to dig deeper and discover everything about your writing assignment. Dig until you get to the bottom of it! Otherwise, how do you expect to convey the message to your readers when you yourself don’t have a full understanding of the subject?

If you want to interest others, get interested yourself. Take note that sometimes it can take days before a clear idea about how to write the copy pops up in your head. But don’t sweat it – sooner or later the idea will present itself. Explain to your clients why they need to wait a bit more, and they’ll give you the extra time to ensure better quality.

Learn the Language of Your Readers.

Mastering the language of your readers ensures that they’ll get immersed in your content, believing that they’ve found someone who truly understands them.

To get to know your audience, you can start by browsing your niche on Reddit, for instance, and learning how your target group expresses itself. 

Product reviews are also a pot of gold when it comes to knowing your niche audience’s preferences. Research as many product reviews as you can and look for the things most of them share. In the meantime, you can discover what your audience appreciates and enjoys about the product or service you’re writing about, so make sure to emphasize those key characteristics in your copy.

You can even go as far as to interview existing customers/clients yourself. It will take a lot more time to conduct research with this method, but the benefits will prove the “investment” worth it.

It’s also very helpful to know the differences between copy versions. You can’t write a product review and a follow-up email with the same attitude. While you should introduce your business and list the product features in a product review, a follow-up email doesn’t need those details as the reader would already be familiar with them.

Use a Tried-and-True Copywriting Formula.

Writer’s block: it’s when a writer hits a dead end, and it happens to every writer, eventually. For some, it happens on every copywriting gig. We know how frustrating this can get – you have a deadline, but also a life, and you don’t want to spend precious time waiting for the idea to arrive.

So, if you can’t decide how to structure your content and how to effectively persuade your target audience, get inspired by a strategy that always works: using an existing formula. There are many copywriting formulas out there and you can do your own research to pick those closest to your style. 

Here are some recommendations that we often use:

AIDA – one of the most widely used formulas by copywriters. Its acronym stands for:

  • Attention – make your readers curious about what follows with the first lines of your copy;
  • Interest – give them more hope that they’re definitely in the right place to find a solution to their problem;
  • Desire –  put the accent on what they’ll get with your product or service;
  • Action – now that they’re hooked, present them with the next step, i.e. tell them how to engage with your business.

Take a look at the intro of this guide. We used the AIDA formula for it.

ISDR – Kevin Rogers, founder of Copy Chief and best-selling author of The 60-Second Sales Hook, coined the ISDR formula:

  • Identity – introduce yourself;
  • Struggle – state your problem;
  • Discovery – introduce the product/service and what it does;
  • Result – reveal how it will fix the reader’s problem.

We use the ISDR formula quite often for our blog at StartupResources.io and it works like a charm.

PAS – another widely used formula for writing sales copy that’s pretty similar to the ISDR formula:

  • Problem – introduce the problem that your prospects are facing;
  • Agitation – escalate things to make the problem seem as frustrating and unbearable as possible;
  • Solution – provide relief by presenting the solution.

The above formulas are mostly optimized for blog copy. However, the same formulas and their structures can be applied to other types of copy (email, billboard, social media post, ad, etc.), you just need to properly format it. This guide can help you discover the right formula for your copy. 

Captivate With Your Headlines.

Again, knowing your audience is the first step to crafting a way to hook them with your headline.

Some things you can consider to create a captivating headline include:

  • Write the whole copy first, as the process can help you come up with a winning headline;
  • Think about the greatest benefit of the product/service and include it in the headline;
  • Go over several different headlines for the same copy and combine the best elements of each in a final headline;
  • Go for a safe and straightforward headline if you can’t think of anything original. These types of headlines have fewer chances of achieving virality but are also less likely to fail.
  • If you’re confident in your quirky unconventional headline, knock yourself out. Unorthodox headlines have a much higher probability to misfire, but they can be real winners every now and then.

A study conducted by Moz reveals that including numbers in your headline and addressing your readers directly works better than generating a “how-to” or a question headline.

Here’s an example of an effective headline using numbers that we wrote for a blog post a while ago:

 

Additionally, you can use software like MailChimp or Unbounce to perform A/B testing for some of your top headline choices to see which one resonates with the audience the best.

Ace Your Intro.

The opening (introduction) is the backbone of the entire copy. If you can’t entice your readers enough to get through it, they definitely won’t make it to the next part, or, in an even worse scenario – they won’t take any action.

Here are some tips for writing a killer intro:

  • Keep it short and simple. Prospects are afraid of big chunks of text. Your intro should be about 7-10 lines long;
  • Persuade only if you make it seem like you’re not persuading. Readers are very quick to spot when someone is desperately trying to make a sale rather than trying to help them;
  • Connect on a personal level. Readers love it when you’re direct with them;
  • Use bullet points to list key benefits. Bullet points are much easier to spot because they stand out;
  • Ask questions. This psychological approach makes prospects feel like they’re the ones asking the questions.
  • Don’t befriend fillers and fluff. We don’t recommend fluffing up your copy, and especially not your introduction. Stick to stating exactly what your purpose is;
  • Finish with a powerful call to action. Don’t miss your chance to convert the prospects that reached the end of your intro.

Take a look at Basecamp’s homepage. Their opening is the perfect example of a short concise paragraph that grabs the readers’ attention by indulging them with problems they can relate to. Then a solution with great benefits is presented, culminating with a strong CTA (call to action).

Focus on Providing Readers With Actual Value.

Think about the content type you need to produce before you start writing. You can’t write a how-to blog post, a product review, or a guide the same way, but the purpose in all of them should always revolve about benefiting the reader.

For example, if you’re writing a guide, focus on providing the best practices for the topic and give honest advice that could be of real value to the readers.

If it’s a sales copy in question, after you’re done with the intro, continue elaborating on the product features and emphasizing the benefits they offer. This is a must in every sales copy in order to make prospects develop a real craving for the product.

So, don’t just state facts about the features – provide the benefits as well. Make them sound as unique as possible. If your prospects get the notion that they can’t come across the same convenience anywhere else, consider your product sold.

The real takeaway here is: do touch up on every feature but focus on emphasizing the benefits.

Write With SEO in Mind.

Write every piece of content like it’s meant to be optimized for search engines even when it doesn’t have to be. SEO practices ensure that the content is ready to reach high-volume traffic and that’s the goal of every one of your clients.

Here’s our input when it comes to SEO:

Marketing copy works best when following the casual formal writing style. That ensures the facts and stats are evident, but the jokes and struggles are what makes readers relate and get hooked to the very end. Writing like you’re having a conversation with a friend whom you respect is always a winner.

Grammar should always be on point. Run your text through a digital writing assistance tool like Grammarly to remove any mishaps, or better yet – ask a professional editor for help with any technical or structural issues.

Ditch the passive voice as much as you can. A sales copy or a piece of website content is not a college essay, so using active voice is always preferable.

Avoid using complicated, fancy words to increase readability. Instead, go for short and familiar words and phrases. Jargon-free content without acronyms and industry-specific terms is always more attractive for your readers. 

Using mostly short sentences is also one of the key SEO principles.

Use subheadings whenever possible. Don’t just write a 6-page content piece with only one subheading; every reader first skims through the whole text, and if there are no headings often enough to let them know how things will progress, they will probably lose interest and leave.

Hemingway is a great tool that counts the use of adverbs in your copy, tells you which words you can substitute for their acceptable versions, and suggests which sentences need to be shortened. Use it to improve the SEO aspect of your copy.

Hit Your Readers Where It Counts – Their Mind!

Psychology is a powerful tool for persuasion. Make use of it to get to your prospects’ minds.

There are three techniques that you can utilize to nail this aspect:

  • Open loops.
    Keep your audience hooked by immersing them in your copy by continually asking more questions and delaying the answer. Start explaining a certain benefit and when you reach culmination, divert the final result by starting with a different explanation. This approach will make your readers’ curiosity itch for answers. However, it takes competent copywriting skills to accomplish strong open loops. If you overuse them in your copy, readers can easily get frustrated, lose interest, and leave.
  • Create a sense of urgency.
    FOMO (fear of missing out) is another potent method of inducing desire in your prospects. Creating sales and discounts arouses a sense of urgency. Limited offers and deadlines have huge marketing potential, so make them central in your copy.
  • Cognitive reframing.
    The concept refers to applying a positive outlook on a rather negative idea or event. In relation to marketing, reframing has the power to distort the value of a product/service and make it more appealing and acceptable. Take this for example – a Netflix monthly membership might seem expensive to some. That perspective changes when you “remind” them that they pay the same price for their daily coffee.

Tips and Tricks for Incredible Copywriting.

In this section we decided to provide you with some additional handy tips to polish your copywriting prowess even further:

  • Leverage your reputation.
    Mention how many products or services the business has sold, and how many members the platform has. Prospects find it easier to trust an already verified brand.
  • Include some mini-stories in your copy.
    Describe a short personal experience or an inspirational story that helped build the business or the product you’re writing about.
  • Add takeaway sections.
    Sum up the most important points with one or two sentences at the end of each section. This makes skimming much more effective.
  • Don’t round up (or down) your numbers.
    Saying that you provided 19,750 businesses with accounting software sounds much more believable than rounding that number up to 20,000.
  • Enhance your flow by using transitions.
    Transitions provide a smoother reading experience by making it easier to switch between sentences and paragraphs.
  • Use real user testimonials in your copy.
    Readers know you’re a copywriter and they always come to you with some suspicion, no matter how honest and relatable you may sound. But when you enhance your copy with real customer experiences, they’ll start warming up to you.
  • Create mental pictures.
    It’s great when a reader can start imagining the situation you’re laying out in front of them so they can easily relate to it. That’ll make them interested in your copy as a whole. So, use emotions to describe your reaction to a certain situation. Emotions help produce a mental picture for your reader. Use one or two throughout your copy, because more than that can actually cause harm – you don’t want to overwhelm your readers with many situations that aren’t necessarily relatable. That might scare them away!
  • Gain more trust by offering guarantees.
    Emphasize that the company offers free trials, free returns, and no commitments. Businesses that aren’t afraid to lose customers display high confidence, which is why prospects grant them their trust.
  • Use links and buttons to provide guidance.
    Don’t make your readers figure things out for themselves. If you want to sell them something, take them where they can closely check out the product – a step closer to checkout. Accommodating prospects with convenient options to get what they want will make them appreciate your work and come back for more.

Keep Working on Getting Better.

Even if you’re a great copywriter today, it doesn’t mean that’s going to be true tomorrow. Things change fast, especially online. The internet is a place that gives birth to new trends on a daily basis, so adapting fast is a key characteristic of every copywriter.

In order to always stay up-to-date with the latest changes in the industry, we regularly learn from our favorite writing blogs. These are our top three writing blogs:

  • The Write Life – An incredible resource for bloggers and copywriters with daily tips on marketing and a fascinating writing community;
  • The Write Practice – Another great solution to help you awaken the creative writing side of your mind. They offer blog posts covering crucial writing practices and also provide writing exercises. Their assessment tools will quickly determine what’s the right practice plan for you to become a better writer, fast;
  • Writer’s Digest – More suitable for literary writers, making it a great escape from the marketing world. Amazing for sprucing up your lexicon and drawing inspiration.

Conclusion

You’ve made it to the very end! By now, you should be feeling heavier due to all this valuable knowledge on how to be a better copywriter.

When writing your next copy, try to implement some of the above-mentioned guidelines. You’ll know you did the right thing when you see the conversion rates spike upwards.

A final piece of advice: Calm down and develop affection for the text you’re about to write. Try and act like you love it, if need be. You’re the machinery and emotion behind every word. If you don’t find the copy you’ve written appealing, thought-provoking, and facilitating, no one else will.

Finally, make sure to revisit this guide whenever you’ve hit writer’s block and need some inspiration.