It’s All In The Words
In this second tutorial in the copywriting series, we will take some of the concepts that were first raised in the initial tutorial to the next level and introduce some new elements of successful online copywriting that you need to consider and understand.
One very common mistake that new-to-the-copywriting-game marketers make is to write more than they need to, possibly because they’ve read somewhere that long copy is always the best.
My experience has brought me to the conclusion that this concept of long copy always being the best way of convincing site visitors to take action is a long way wide of the truth for many different reasons.
Firstly, I have found over the years that shorter copy can sometimes work far better than the longer version even in situations where ‘accepted wisdom’ would have it that the long copy should be more effective.
For instance, you will sometimes see it stated as a ‘rule of Internet marketing’ that short copy only works with cheaper products, whereas if your product is more expensive, you need a long copy sales page.
The logic of this argument is seemingly unassailable based on the concept that the more expensive your product is, the harder you have to work to sell it. You must give them more proof that the product works and therefore you need longer sales copy.
Unfortunately however, my own recent experience tends to indicate that this basic tenet of online marketing no longer holds true.
Sure, there will be situations where short copy works better with cheaper products but short copy can also work extremely well with more expensive products as well.
After all, it is gradually becoming more acceptable to use ‘video only’ sales pages for expensive products, and is hard to imagine how you could have a shorter copy page than one that features little more than a video.
There is also the fact that people have increasingly short attention spans nowadays to take into account.
There may be many of your potential prospects who are simply not willing to plough their way through a massive long sales letter. They literally land on the sales page, scroll to the bottom to be horrified at how long the page is and a split second later, they’re gone.
The truth is, there is no hard and fast rule that will tell you when long copy works best or when you should use a shorter sales page.
It all comes down to testing various different page formats to see what works best in practice instead of basing your long or short copy decision on what you think might work best.
An alternative answer to this short –v- long debate is to let your visitors make the choice for themselves. To do this, you use a short copy page as your ‘original’ pitch with a prominent link to another page where they can read more about the product or service on offer if they choose to do so.
However, one thing that you must do if you are going to use long copy is break up the page into easily manageable, bite sized pieces.
It should not be one uninterrupted flow of text because there is no easier and quicker way of persuading visitors to leave than asking them to read a textual marathon akin to Anna Karenina!
Use images, videos, bullet point lists, ‘Add to cart’ buttons and testimonials to break up the flow of your page. This is particularly important with long copy pages but you should also do the same with shorter pages because it makes the reading experience more easily manageable for your visitor.
Similarly, use graphics (arrows, ‘stars’ and the like), sections of the page that appeared to be handwritten and so on to provide variety that will hopefully keep the prospect on the page reading.
You’ve probably heard the phrase that suggests that there is no point in reinventing the wheel? If so, then you understand that the principle is that if other people have found a way of doing things extremely effectively, there is no point in duplicating their efforts to arrive back at the same point.
This is not to say that you shouldn’t try and improve on what they are doing, but as a starting point, if they have discovered something that works, why not ‘piggyback’ on their efforts to shortcut the amount of work you need?
This applies to copywriting just as much as it does to any other aspect of online marketing, particularly when it comes to writing sales page copy.
There are several ways you can locate super-successful sale pages that you know have done well in the past or are doing extremely well now.
Doing this is remarkably easy because when you sort products by popularity, what you are really doing is sorting the sales pages by popularity rather than the products. After all, until someone pays for and downloads a digital product, they have no idea how good it is so it cannot be the product that is popular.
The popularity ranking is therefore telling you exactly which sales pages are the most effective and profitable.
Consequently, all you need to do is study and analyze the bestselling sales pages before modeling your own along the same lines.
Try to work out what makes the sale copy so effective by comparing several examples in different markets to establish the commonality of the various different bestsellers.
Generally speaking, these common features shouldn’t be too hard to spot.
For example, you’re likely to find that the most successful copy tends to feature high impact, stronger emotive language and words in preference to those that have less emotional impact or are more neutral. They will be ‘amazed’ rather than ‘interested’ or ‘stunned’ rather than ‘surprised’.
Remember, people base their buying decisions on emotions, so you should always do something similar in your own copy whenever possible.
There will be lots of ‘benefit-rich’ bullet points that stress the main benefits of the product or service being offered from the prospect’s perspective.
You should also look at the way the pages are laid out, how they are broken up, the way that testimonials are used and so on.
All of these are valid copywriting tricks that you can use on your own pages to spruce them up a bit anytime they might need it.
Another way of finding highly effective, professional copy that you can modify and use in your own efforts is to follow the marketers who employ the top copywriters in the business.
One of the things that makes learning to be a great copywriter different from almost any other required skill in Internet marketing is that it doesn’t matter how long you have been a copywriter, you can never know too much.
It probably goes without saying, but as a copywriter, your main ‘weapon’ in the war to get your readers to do what you want is your choice and use of words. And as with all weapons, the more proficient you become at handling your words, the deadlier your copy will become.
Here’s a terrific trick to find effective copy in already existing sales letters.
Try it and see just how quickly the power of your words and therefore your copywriting skills improve.
Take a look at any of the sites of the great copywriters listed below:
Have a root around these sites until you find a piece of copywriting that really does it for you, something that appeals and really makes you think, pulls you in and involves you.
Once you have something that really works for you, write it down and I mean write it on one of those old-fashioned rectangular things that we used to call a piece of paper.
Write it out verbatim, word for word and don’t be tempted to take short cuts or get lazy and don’t try to remember it either (this is not a test of memory). It has got to be word for word, every single one.
After you have done it once, repeat the exercise. And then do it again and again because what you will find is that every time you write it out, you will begin to understand just a little bit more of what the writer is doing with words on the page that make them work so well.
By repeating the rewriting exercise as often as you need to (it probably took me at least a dozen attempts with every piece before I got to the heart of what they were doing), you will gradually get inside the head of some of the best copywriters in the business and you will understand why what they do works so well.
Of course, you are not going to copy what these ‘kings of the business’ write word for word in your own materials (it might be recognized pretty easily!). Nevertheless, after this exercise, you will find that what works for the really top guys will no longer be quite the mystery it was previously.
And this is not something that you should do just once either.
It is something that you should practice regularly for the simple reason that the more often you do so, the better you’ll become at understanding what works and what doesn’t.
Basically, what this technique does is wake up a part of your brain that is usually vastly underused. This is the part of your brain that makes the connection between words and emotions, the place where you interpret whatever you see, hear or read.
Strangely enough, although you might think that this would be a part of your brain that is constantly active, it’s not. By the time you reach adulthood, you have already decided exactly what each word you encounter means, so you no longer analyze the real emotional impact of words.
People make buying decisions based on emotions rather than on logic or a well-balanced ‘for and against’ argument. Hence, the more you understand about the emotional impact of the words you use, the more effective your copy naturally becomes.
This is an absolutely central concept of all copywriting.
The difference between success and copywriting failure has less to do with the product or the offer that you are making and far more to do with the words you use to do so.
Another aspect of communicating with your prospects in a way that really connects with them is to use the language that they use. What this means is that no matter what market niche you operate in, there will be a lingua franca, something like a ‘dialect’ or style of using language that all the ‘insiders’ use.
You need to know how the people in your niche ‘speak’ to one another when they are online. Hanging around the appropriate forums and getting involved is the best way to learn.
What I would recommend is using a pen name to join the top 5 or 6 forum sites in the niche in which you are working. To find the top forums, run a Google search for ‘your niche + forums’ or forum and take a look at forum and noticeboard directory sites like Big Boards.
Once you have found the top sites in your niche, log in on a regular basis and watch the way conversations develop.
Once again, remember that what you are looking for here is the way that members converse with one another, the way that they speak and in particular, the words and terminology that they use to do so. Learn the way that people in the niche use language so that you can ‘mimic’ them in your copy and don’t be afraid of getting involved either.
In fact, getting involved in the top forum sites in your niche should be a priority. Not only does this allow you to discover how people in your niche converse with one another, it also enables you to ask direct questions of people who will ultimately be your target audience.
Remember how it was highlighted in the first tutorial that you need to establish exactly what your target audience wants so that you can provide it? Asking questions through the major forums in your niche is a perfect way of establishing what people want and need so that you are in a perfect position to provide it.
The beauty of using forums is that they are interactive and it is therefore very easy to communicate with your potential prospects and customers. This is not an opportunity that you should allow to pass you by.
Another excellent strategy for finding more people in your niche want or need is to take a look at the most popular magazines in your market. Doing this enables you to ascertain which advertisers are running the same ads week after week or month after month and the words that they are using.
If an advertiser is willing to pay for an ad that is being featured in a top magazine on a regular basis, you can be certain that they are making money from these ads, plus you have the headlines that they are using to do so.
All you need do is copy what they are doing for your site because as suggested previously, if something is provably working, it makes sense to duplicate other people’s hard work rather than doing all of the hard graft yourself.
As with most aspects of business online, you can learn to become a great copywriter through your own efforts but it is far easier and quicker to do so if you have someone else coaching or mentoring you.
As you would probably expect, you will make far less mistakes along the road to copywriting superstardom if someone else who is an expert is helping than you would if you were learning by yourself.
There are several ways of finding this kind of help.
The first option is to look out for the occasional training courses offered by the top copywriters who were highlighted earlier in this tutorial.
I know for example that some of the copywriters mentioned previously do offer training courses every now and then, so keep your eyes open for when they do so.
The problem is that most of these training courses are not free. They are well worth spending money on, but it may be money that you do not have at the moment.
The second option (and the one I would recommend) is to use a copywriting forum to find potential mentors:
As indicated in the screenshot, there are 816,000 Google results for ‘copywriting forums’ so there are plenty of places where you can find other copywriters with whom you can build a relationship.
As with all forums, if you login regularly and keep an eye on what is going on, you should be able to establish who the most prominent people are on all of these sites.
Once you do so, the first step toward establishing some kind of relationship which you can build on is to get involved in their conversations, trying to do so as quickly as possible.
This is important because if you are one of the first two or three people to post a response when they start a new thread, they will notice what you have written. It must therefore be quality content that you add whenever you decide to get involved.
If however you are the 97th person to respond, it is far less likely that they will notice you, so getting in early has significant advantages.
Once you have an idea of who the real ‘go to’ people in the copywriting world are (they may not necessarily be big names), think about how you are going to approach them.
In particular, you must have an answer to the question that they are going to ask you if you approach them to mentor you, which is why should they do so? What benefits will they get from taking you under their wing?
If you are extremely lucky, they may be totally philanthropic and willing to help you out for no other reason than it being a ‘good thing’ to do.
However, the chances are that you will need to give them a very good reason for helping you, so this must be something that you have worked out in advance.
The chances are that they are not going to ask for money because money is probably the last thing they need. However, the one thing they are properly short of is time, so why not offer them your services for free for a period of six months or something along these lines?
One of the reasons that they are likely to ask you why they should help you is as a test of how much you really want them on-board.
If you do not have answers to the most basic questions (‘what’s in it for me?’), it suggests that you have not really given as much thought to the idea of asking for a mentor as you should have done.
Finding a mentor is a great way of shortcutting your way to being a tremendous copywriter. If you are struggling to come up with effective copy, this is an option that you should consider.
One of the things that most online marketers struggle to understand when it comes to coming up with great copy is that almost all of the information, tools and resources that you need to do so are already available on the net for free.
Moreover, copywriting is not rocket science nor is it necessary to reinvent the wheel. Everything you need to know about copywriting is freely available and all you need to do is read and learn.
This is a theme with which we will continue in the next tutorial.
It is now recommended you proceed on to Part 3 – Make It Believable.