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13 Copywriting Tips and Techniques for Online Content

By: Compose.ly — September 26, 2019

Copywriting is the art of persuasion through text. Done well, it influences readers to take action.

Think about your own content. How does your website’s copy affect its audience? Does it give readers a reason to interact with your product or service?

In the deluge of modern online content, effective marketing is crucial to attracting readers and getting your message across. Only the most compelling copywriting can captivate and maintain readers’ attention.

So how can you enhance your copywriting to capture more attention? Below, we’ve identified 13 key copywriting tips and techniques to hone your content.

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1. Know your market

Who is your target audience? What are they looking for in your content?

Consider creating several user personas to better visualize who exactly your audience is. Keeping your entire audience in mind is vital, but it’s ultimately more effective to gear your writing toward a few representative individuals, rather than writing for thousands. Your copy will read as much more targeted and personal as a result.

To get to know your audience, check out what they look at on Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, and other platforms. Then use this insight to inform your writing. The more relevant your content is to your audience, the more meaningful they’ll find it.

2. Research your topic

Understanding your subject matter is crucial to writing effectively about it. Without a solid background of your topic, after all, your copywriting may be inaccurate or misleading. Readers may perceive your content to be unhelpful—or worse, they’ll find you and your brand utterly unknowledgeable.

Keep a swipe file of links or facts that have served you well before, so you can access compelling information. Writing from a place of knowledge creates much more effective, persuasive copy.

3. Consider users’ search intent

Search intent refers to what exactly users are hoping to find when they enter a query into Google.

And it’s the key to writing quality content that people actually want to read.

Understanding your audience’s search intent will clue you in on how best to structure your content and what related keywords and phrases to include. To get a better idea of users’ search intent, consider: what is the goal conveyed by the phrasing of your target keyword?

For instance:

  • Are readers looking to solve a specific problem? (e.g., “how to tie a tie”)
  • Is there an intent to buy? (e.g., “cheapest car insurance”)
  • Or do readers simply want to learn about something? (e.g., “capitalism definition”)

The more likely a reader finds what they’re looking for in your text, the more likely they are to continue reading and spend time perusing your content.

4. Outline your key points

How are you going to roll out your copy? Will your post be long-form or short-form?

Before you dive into the writing process, put together an outline of your draft. Highlight your key points as well as supporting arguments for each.

Your outline doesn’t have to be excruciatingly detailed—just enough to provide a broad skeleton for your content. When it comes time to write, having your main ideas distinctly partitioned in a pre-writing outline will help you maintain structure and convey your points more clearly.

5. Create a good hook

Does your first sentence…

  • capture attention?
  • communicate a feeling?
  • provoke interest?
  • provide information?

If your answer is no to more than one or two of those questions, delete your first sentence and try again. And keep it short; as legendary copywriter Joe Sugarman advises, the first sentence of your copy should be so short that it’s easier to read than not.

A hook should not only grab the audience’s attention, but also maintain it—in other words, it should encourage the audience to continue reading. So be sure to link your hook firmly to the text that follows it. What information will the reader likely want next?

6. Write succinctly

Few readers have time for long, flowery sentences. After all, the average reader spends less than 40 seconds reading an article.

Develop your elevator pitch, give it a hook, include all the relevant details, and finish with a call to action. If you can’t briefly and directly communicate your key information to the reader within the first several sentences, you may need to consider a rewrite.

7. Tap into emotion

Effective copywriting leaves a strong impression on readers—and one way of achieving this is by stirring emotion in them. Doing so instantly makes a piece of content more memorable.

Do you have a moving personal story that relates to your product? Or a funny anecdote about how it was created? Whatever the case, appealing to your readers’ emotions humanizes your copywriting and distinguishes it from competitors.

Additionally, research shows that using either positive or negative sentiment in your titles improves click-through rate. But if you can’t work emotion into a title, try starting the body of your copy with an emotional anecdote, or include an engrossing story farther down in the text.

8. Start with a question

When was the last time you ate a donut?

Did your brain just search your memory in an attempt to formulate an answer?

That’s the power of leading with a question: the reader is almost compelled to consider it, and then to read on and discover the answer. In fact, research from Backlinko shows that title tags containing a question have a 14.1% higher click-through rate than tags that don’t.

9. Keep your readers’ eyes on the page

Nielsen Norman Group study screenshot

(Image credit: Nielsen Norman Group)

According to a Nielsen Norman Group study, readers often scan a page in an “F”-shaped pattern, such that they view the first few lines of text on any page for the greatest amount of time. In addition, a reader’s eyes tend to fixate on the top leftmost words of a line of text.

What does that mean for your copy?

Focus your most important information at the top left of your content—that is, at the beginning. This applies to both the lead paragraph and subsequent paragraphs.

As your readers’ eyes scan and jump along your content, they’ll pick up crucial points located in this hot-fixation area of the page. If you bury information too far down below the fold, fewer readers will see it.

10. Use facts and figures

Incorporating data into your content increases consumer trust.

Phrases like “85% of new clients report being very satisfied with our service” are more persuasive than “Many people enjoy our service.”

And thanks to the internet, you can easily find statistics for almost everything. Try Knoema, Statista, or Worldometers as a starting point.

11. Check your vocabulary

Be careful with how you use industry vernacular.

Learning and applying the buzz words of a particular field can demonstrate your expertise in the space—but you don’t want to get too carried away and overwhelm unfamiliar readers.

Be sure to hit the sweet spot between accessible vocabulary and over-jargon. Think of your target audience and how best to make your copy accessible to them.

12. Use active voice—not passive

Your job as a copywriter is to spark the reader to action, so speak to them in a language that does just that. Specifically, write using the active voice; when it comes to writing and grammar, the active voice triumphs over the passive.

What’s the difference?

Sentences written in the active voice follow a distinct subject + verb + object pattern, whereas sentences using a passive construct use the reverse: the noun phrase that would be the object in a corresponding active sentence acts as the subject.

For instance:

  • “Why did the chicken cross the road?” (active voice)
  • “Why was the road crossed by the chicken?” (passive voice)

See how the first question is clearer than the second? Active voice excels over passive in this way, and also tends to result in shorter sentences.

13. Profreed and editt

Isn’t it startling to discover spelling errors in professional copy (like the ones in the tip above)?

No matter how minor, copywriting typos come across as unprofessional and sloppy, and ultimately distract readers from your point. So proofread and edit your writing before you post, or try one of the many online services like Grammarly or the Hemingway app to pick out errors and strengthen your writing.

Conclusion

You want your readers to find your content interesting and engage with your ideas—and that’s where copywriting comes in. A nice web design and sleek graphics can only go so far in grabbing readers’ attention, after all.

Follow the tips above to craft smart, informative copy that connects with your audience and invites them to keep reading.

This article was written by Compose.ly writer Amanda Barraza.


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