Tips for DIY copywriting
Don’t have the budget to hire a copywriter? No worries, sometimes it’s just as easy to do it yourself.
Are you a business person writing your own business marketing collateral? Whether you’re writing an ad or a press release, your copy needs great headlines.
1. AdWords Ads
A very exacting type of web writing, with a limit of 25 characters for the headline and 35 characters apiece for lines 1 and 2. Here are a couple standout articles about how to write effective AdWords ads:
It is extremely difficult to write corporate bios for a website without sounding mind-numbingly formulaic and packing them with corporate speak. Lately there’s been a trend toward less formal bios, which helps a great deal in keeping them fresh and engaging. A good bio conveys key background information clearly and compactly. A great bio connects the person’s background with the needs of the reader. A few tips:
- Write in a style appropriate for your audience. Bios for a mortuary tend to be more serious than those for a circus. Where does your brand fall on the scale of seriousness to silliness?
- Keep bio sets properly balanced. The purchasing manager’s bio shouldn’t be 50 words longer than the CEO’s. If one bio is funny and the next reads like grim death, the reader will become confused about your brand.
- Keep corporate bios short. Unless credentials are monumentally important in your line of business, you’ll only turn off readers with excessive chest thumping.
3. Blog Post Titles
A blog post without a great title is like a balloon without air. It’s the title that peaks reader curiosity and attracts search engine interest. Much has been written on the topic. Here are a few articles to get you started:
- 33 Foolproof Headline Strategies
- 10 Sure-Fire Headline Formulas That Work
- Write Magnetic Headlines With These 7 Tips
Downloadable brochures are an important component of many Internet marketing strategies. Copywriting and design are closely intertwined on brochure projects, and there really isn’t any formula to shortcut the hard work of capturing the essence of the topic at hand and turning it into a compelling statement of value. From a content perspective, the biggest trap is trying to say too much in one brochure. In our short attention span world, sticking to one thing at time makes the most sense most often. Common types of brochures include:
- Individual products – Usually heavy on specifications
- Product groups – Provides an overview; should be heavy on benefits
- Capabilities – Important to tie capabilities to customer needs
- Positioning – Explains what your firm does, how it does it, and why anyone should care
It doesn’t get any more important than writing effective calls to action, whether for a website, landing page, email blast – you name it. One thing I’ve learned: Thinking you can compose the perfect CTA based on theory, instinct or experience is a fool’s game. The only way to achieve perfection is to TEST. Here are examples to get your creative call to action juices flowing:
- 37 Calls to Action to Get People to Read, Click and Buy at Your Website
- 25 Examples of Convincing Call-to-Action Buttons
- 60 Call to Action Examples
6. Case Studies
They can be as short as a paragraph or as long as a white paper. Case studies are particularly valuable when a firm’s products, services or benefits are complex. For example, you’d read a lengthy case study about how a $500,000 piece of equipment resulted in a 3% increase in operational efficiency. On the other hand, you’d pass on a five-page case study about ABC Corporation’s new coffee machine. Writing resources for case studies:
- How to Write a Case Study
- How to Write a Great SEO Case Study
- How to Write a Great Case Study
- 17 examples of business case studies
7. Display Ads
Less is more. Copywriters tend to expand the content to the size of the ad, but white space and brevity sell. Here are some growths you can hack off of your ad to make it more noticeable and persuasive:
- Your logo. If your brand isn’t widely known, why waste space showing it? The only reason to do so would be if your campaign’s goal were brand awareness.
- Your company name. See above.
- Phone number. Do you really think anybody is going to call rather than click?
- Multiple benefits. If people notice or remember one thing about your ad, it’s a victory. The idea that people will digest two or three benefits defies the laws of Internet behavior. Stick to your key benefit, and if you have more than one, A/B split test them.
8. Facebook Fan Page Posts
For brands that leverage the engagement and conversion power of Facebook, effective writing is a necessity. I’m still learning this new art form, and here are some things I’ve picked up along the way:
- Ask meaningful questions. Facebook is about engagement. There’s a real art to asking questions people want to answer. I draft them up in bunches, pick the best ones, and tweak them. It takes time.
- Emphasize non-business topics. I get more engagement when I talk about bacon than when I discuss Internet marketing. Your brand has to be really popular before people will want to talk about it, but everybody likes to chew the fat.
- Use recurring themes. Having a weekly “Ask the Expert” exchange is a popular technique. Our Facebook fan page features an “Internet Marketing Question of the Day” (that often has nothing to do with marketing).
- Quantity and quality. “Out of sight, out of mind” applies to Facebook in spades. Visibility comes from comments and Likes, so it’s imperative to provide your community with ample opportunity to engage.
- Don’t over polish. As with most social media platforms, putting too fine a point on your composition frequently backfires. Incomplete thoughts, informal style, occasional typos, and a little emotion are A-OK on Facebook.
Writing instructions is a technical writing discipline, but it often crops up in the marketing world for things such as rules/disclaimers for contests and promotions, shipping and payment instructions, and return/exchange policies. Stylistically, instructional writing differs greatly from other common business forms. Here are helpful resources:
10. Landing Pages
Landing pages aren’t really “odd” copywriting jobs, but since many firms fail to utilize them on paid search and email campaigns, I’m going to touch on them. A landing page has one purpose: conversion. For that reason, writers must be in top form, creatively using proven persuasive writing techniques. Resources:
11. Meta Descriptions
Although they no longer carry weight for SEO, meta descriptions are crucial for conversion: if you want people to click on your link, a persuasive meta description can make all the difference. Composing effective meta descriptions requires a delicate balance of persuasion and information. I start by thinking, if I were searching for this on Google, what kind of description would make me want to click through on this link? Resources:
- Influence Customers with Meaningful Terms in Meta Descriptions
- Meta Description Best Practices for SEO
Company newsletters are quite popular for keeping employees, customers, suppliers and stakeholders connected with management and each other. From the agency standpoint, they require a great deal of editing, organizing, and careful writing. With a newsletter, it’s really important to understand the audience and write in the proper tone. If, for example, a newsletter adopts too much of a boardroom tone, rank and file employees may be put off. On the other hand, projecting a devil-may-care attitude will spook investors and key managers. Resources:
- How to Write Effective Email Newsletters
- Super Sampler of eNewsletters (InternetViz)
- How to Do a Newsletter that Gets Read
13. Press Release Boiler
Creating “About” boilerplate is very exacting, much like writing bios. An additional complication with press release copy is that it needs to incorporate SEO techniques along with a concise and persuasive snapshot of the firm’s capabilities and value proposition. Learn more:
- How to Write an Effective Boilerplate
- Use the AP Stylebook or another accepted source to get the details right
- Don’t forget to update your boiler periodically
Sales proposals are the most important offline content we tackle at Straight North: What could be more important than persuading a prospect to sign on the dotted line? All by itself, a sales proposal may not win the business for you – but a bad one can cause you to lose it. Structure, formatting and content strategy vary, depending primarily on the product or service’s complexity and cost.
12 writing tips for sales proposals:
- Lead with a brief, clear statement of purpose: define the products/services, scope, and value proposition.
- If the proposal is lengthy, add an executive summary.
- Close with a call to action: give the customer a way to say yes on the proposal itself.
- Clearly state pricing.
- Clearly state terms and conditions.
- Provide additional detail on products/services in an appendix rather than overly expand the main body of the proposal.
- Focus on benefits. Paint a picture of how the prospect’s life will improve when they say yes.
- That said, don’t sell too hard in a proposal; e.g., any and all benefit statements must be solidly backed by facts. At its core, a proposal is informational.
- Include credibility statements: associations, awards, testimonials, links to published articles, etc. These items can be presented graphically to heighten impact (see below).
10. Include design elements: photos, charts, etc. Images focus attention on key points.
11. Avoid jargon.
12. Use typography best practices: bullets, numbered lists, bold text to highlight key points, short paragraphs and readable fonts.
For me, taglines are the most difficult form of business writing there is. Crafting an effective tagline takes a high level of imagination and strategic thinking, along with a thorough understanding of the firm’s industry, business, customers and key differentiators. Whew – no wonder taglines are so expensive. Resources:
- How To Write A Terrible Tagline
- 45 Creative, Clever and Effective Blog Taglines
- The New Rules of Writing a Memorable Slogan
- Good examples of taglines
Writing or editing testimonials can be tricky business. To help you gather ideas, I pulled some great posts loaded with examples and excellent tips. Here they are:
- How to write a great testimonial
- How To Write Results Based Testimonials That Pull Orders
- How to Write Testimonials
- 13 Tips to Make Good Use of Testimonials
Communicating 140 characters at a time presents many challenges. Obviously, business tweets must be succinct – but they must also include SEO best practices. I’ve written quite a bit on this topic:
- How to Write Business Friendly Tweets
- Tight Title Tags Attract Twitter Traffic
- Twitter and Writing within Limits
- 10 Essential Twitter Writing Tips
And Twitter writing tips from other sources:
- How to Write on Twitter with Confidence
- How to Write the Perfect Tweet
- How to Write Tweets that Get Clicks
18. Twitter Bios
Your Twitter bio is extremely important for engaging tweeps and search engines. Since Twitter limits your bio to 160 characters, you have to think through your messaging very carefully. A solid Twitter bio conveys personality and key facts expressed in strategic keywords. Keywords are crucial because the bio is your most search engine-visible Twitter content.