I’d be the first to recommend you hire a professional copywriter if you’re at all unsure about your writing skills. The reputation of your business may rest upon first impressions, after all. But unless you’re a big business with a similar budget, it’s an expense we’d all rather not incur if we have even a smidgen of writing ability ourselves.
Unfortunately, avoiding typos and knowing where to put an apostrophe won’t save you from the many pitfalls awaiting the unprepared. That’s not to say you shouldn’t be your own copywriter – you just need to work a bit harder! Read my Top 10 Tips to writing your own copy.
Excuse the vulgarity (my husband, a long-standing military man, is particularly fond of the phrase), but it does happen to be true. Ill-prepared writing, meandering incoherently from one poorly prepared point to another is dazzlingly obvious. So know your facts and sketch a rough draft of the order of their appearance before commiting your writing to public scrutiny.
There’s no point writing in the style of an upright, middle-aged professional if your target audience is twenty-something and cool. Don’t promote the funky aspect of your product if what matters to your audience is value for money. Why stress how cheap your product is if it’s a high-end luxury aimed at an affluent customer? Research your market thoroughly. Write in the style that will appeal to them and write about the things that matter to them.
Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But so many articles lose their way. They start well enough, but then the writer gets distracted by an idea or a point he’s making and goes off on a tangent. The article then floats on aimlessly until the writer runs out of things to say and can’t remember what he started talking about in the first place! The end result is a confused reader who started reading an article about the growth of online shopping and ended with a tirade against out-of-town supermarkets. How to avoid this:
* The beginning: set out the subject of your article and an introductory summary of the information, ideas or arguments you’re going to explore.
* The middle: in a logical order, present said information, ideas or arguments
* The end: wrap it up in a conclusion that summarises the points you’ve made.
This self-imposed checklist will ensure that your middle is relevant to your beginning and your end is relevant to both!
You know that sinking feeling you get when you arrive on a web page and it’s a wall of words? And the scroll bar at the side of the page goes on forever? Yeah, that’s the one. Readers of web pages have a shorter attention span than of printed pages. Faced with an endless wall of words, they may abandon it altogether. Go back through your work again and again and cut the bits that are…well…boring! Be ruthless. Get to the point – quickly. Cut the waffle. You’ll end up with a tighter piece of writing that holds a reader’s attention.
On the other hand, images are a handy way to break up a page of text. Make them interesting and relevant – not so many that they detract from the text, but enough to hook the reader’s eye occasionally. Images can make a piece of writing much more powerful than text alone.
Readers WILL skip read – it’s inevitable sometimes. Make sure that if they do, they still take on board the most important points. Sub-headings and bullet points catch the eye, even if you’re skimming an article.
If you’re writing copy for your business website, chances are your ultimate goal is to convert visitors to customers. Be careful not to put too much sales-speak into your copy. Readers are more likely to be convinced by copy that’s genuinely useful and helpful than by a direct sales pitch. For example, you sell vacuum cleaners? Write an article reviewing the pros and cons of your top ten selling models. You’re a plumber? Write a guide to avoiding frozen pipes in the winter. Gain your reader’s trust and they’ll remember you.
Another phrase I’ve borrowed from my husband! I think the more politically correct phrase is “Keep it short and simple” but hey, both work in my book. Use shorter sentences to avoid losing a reader’s attention. Convoluted sentences with lots of commas, parentheses (brackets) and semi-colons tie my brain in knots. Use simple language – three-syllable words scattered throughout the copy may show off your education but it can be intimidating for us lesser mortals.
Search engines don’t buy your products and services, humans do. Tempting though it might be to stuff your copy full of keywords for better search engine rankings, resist the urge. Google’s too clever to fall for that anyway. If your copy resonates with the people that read it, they’ll share it, which will result in links. A healthy link profile is a much better way to impress search engines.
Typos, poor grammar and misplaced apostrophes are unforgivable in a copywriter. Your reputation will free-fall if your copy suffers from such unprofessional mistakes. Word’s spellcheck feature might pick up some errors but it’s not infallible in certain situations. Proofread your work for mistakes at least twice before publishing your copy, or ask for professional help.
GOT LEMONS? MAKE LEMONADE!
Homemade lemonade can be more tasty, too! Of course a professional copywriter would do it differently, but if you’re on a tight budget and it’s out of the question, you just have to do the best job you can. Remember though, you’re not trying to be Shakespeare and your readers wouldn’t thank you for it anyway. In the end, you’re writing for them. Getting the words down is important – follow these pointers to keep it tight and give it some polish. It WILL shine through!