Best Web Copywriting Tips (For Copywriters and Non-Copywriters)
Writing is difficult, and writing well is an art that takes years to master. That’s why we’ve put together this master post with the best copywriting tips we’ve heard for all types of writing for your marketing life.
In this article, you’ll find tips we’ve gathered from our own careers, our peers, conferences, other blogs, and best practices. We’ve separated them by type, and we’ve gathered our top tips:
- For Your Blog Posts & Articles
- For Your Newsletters
- For Your Social Media
- For Your Value Propositions
- For Your Speeches
- For Your Landing Page
- For Your Subject Lines (Emails)
- Bonus: For Your Emails
For Your Blog Posts & Articles
Picture your reader
If you’re struggling with writing compelling copy, print a photo of your target persona and tack it onto your desk at work.
Write your article with them in front of you, and them in mind. You may be surprised it how much of a difference it makes to how targeted your message is, and how much it resonates with your audience.
Write your outline first
We know, it can feel tedious, and we know, Jack Kerouac just had to lock himself in a room with a typewriter and coffee and that’s how genius was born.
Nonetheless, we’d really recommend that the first thing you type when you sit down is not your opening lines, but “INTRODUCTION, SECTION ONE, SECTION TWO, SECTION THREE, CONCLUSION”, and start filling in from there.
This has two purposes; firstly, it helps combat the intimidation of a completely blank page. Secondly, structuring a piece before writing it almost always helps a more cohesive flow of thoughts, and reminds you to back up each point as you state it.
New to writing outlines? No worries! Check out CoSchedule’s step-by-step guide to writing outlines.
(And if you’re still not convinced, remember what Truman Capote said about Jack Kerouac, “That’s not writing; that’s just typing.”)
Research is key
Do more research than you need for your article. For almost all good pieces of content, you should end up leaving something on the cutting room floor. This means you should be writing about something you already know something about.
Don’t undertake a topic you aren’t an authority in, can’t learn about, or can’t find resources for. Today’s environment is too competitive to consistently be publishing low-quality, repetitive or unoriginal work.
Read Your Competitors' Work
Read your competitors’ work as often as you read your own and don’t read it to hate it or bring it down. Read it to see what they’re doing right.
Proofread your work
We’re going to put this one in bold again in every section so you understand how important it is.
For more, check out Wishpond’s Free Ebook: A Simple Guide to Blogging for Business
For Your Newsletters
Use your brand's tone
Align your newsletter tone to your brand. There’s no right or wrong tone for a newsletter, but there are misaligned ones and inauthentic ones, and those can be very bad for a company.
For example, if you signed up for a fun, fresh company to brighten your day and ended up bombarded with impersonal sales emails, you’d be quick to unsubscribe. Simultaneously, if you signed up for sharp, original insights into your industry and got a disgruntled intern emailing you irreverent joke articles, you’d lose faith in that brand.
That’s what you should keep in mind when writing your newsletter: what do your readers expect from your brand voice? What did they sign up for? What are they hoping to see? Write that.
Keep it short
Don’t say more than you need to. You may feel pressure to fill up the screen in front of you with words: don’t. Say what you need to in your email and then finish it. Your readers will likely be skimming it.
Mind your manners
When you sign up to The Hustle Daily, this is what you get in your inbox:
The Hustle’s writers here have demonstrated two things: a great sense of humor and a keen understanding that they’ve been invited to their subscriber’s inboxes. This is something that we, as marketers, take for granted.
They go so far as to write a whole thank you letter, with a hand-signed (digitally, anyway -- you do what you can) letter from their CEO.
Proofread your work.
This one again. We told you we’d repeat ourselves.
For Your Social Media
Know the character limits
Know the character limits, and work within them. Here's a quick guideline to help you out:
Twitter character limit: 280 characters
Instagram character limit: 2,200 characters, 30 hashtags
LinkedIn: 1,300 characters
Facebook: Varies depending on if its a personal Facebook post (63,206 characters), Ad (90 characters) or Page description (155 characters).
Here’s a simple free character counter (that reminds you of social media limits right on the page!) to help.
Get in the habit of drafting your social media captions in character counters, so you don’t get frustrated by writing the absolute perfect status -- only to find its 50 characters too long. (We’ve been there.)
Get to the point
Write snappy, sharp, to-the-point copy. Remember how people use social media. Quickly, on the move, often distracted. Don’t make your copy dense or hard to understand or engage with.
Use hashtags and tags
Help your copy be seen. Do your hashtag research if you want to be trending. Tag influencers. Even great writing needs promotion to be seen and read.
Avoid grammar mistakes
This one is particularly important for social media. It may seem like an excessive extra step for something as simple as a social media caption, but a small-sized grammar mistake or an ill-timed joke can cause an outsized amount of problems for your brand. If you can’t get a proofreader, at the very least, spellcheck.
For Your Value Propositions
Talk about what you know
Don’t worry if you’re struggling. Writing a value proposition is a difficult task. This should be easy, right? You know what your business has to offer better than anyone. Yet, it can be surprisingly tricky to distill this into one sentence and display it on your landing page or a brochure.
Know what a value proposition isn’t. Your value proposition isn’t your slogan or your catchphrase, so don’t put the pressure on it of making it catchy or viral.
Clarity over wordplay
Don’t try to be clever. Your value prop often isn’t the place for wordplay: it’s the place for clarity. After reading your value proposition, your audience should know what you do and what you offer.
For a step by step walkthrough and detailed tips, check out this guide from ConversionXL.
For Your Speeches
Editor's note: We know, it may seem a little strange to include this in a piece about web copywriting, but today, so many of our speeches end up on website archives or recorded for webinars, we thought you might find this helpful.
Anecdotes make a difference
Less statistics, more anecdotes. When we write, we know to back up everything we say with statistics and graphs and infographics.
Speaking is a little different.
When people are listening, numbers don’t click the same way. Often, your audience will be happy with a brief explainer of a principle they can take away and look up later, but what really clicks is hearing about these principles applied in real life: how they showed up, how they worked, how they didn’t work.
Your speeches shouldn’t feel like a university class, they should feel like an experience.
For a brilliant example of this, check out Andrew Stanton’s, “The Clues To A Great Story”.
Leave your thesaurus at home
Don’t go too heavy on the thesaurus. We can’t emphasize this enough. Your speech is not the time to show off your mammoth vocabulary. You want everyone in the room to walk away crystal clear on everything you said, not needing a dictionary to understand half your presentation.
Say it out loud
It sounds simple, but don’t forget to time yourself after your speech is done. Writing on a page translates very differently to the spoken word. Include time for pacing, pauses, and questions. Often, you’ll find it makes a difference to how much you need to write. (In our experience, you’ll either need much more or much less.)
For Your Landing Pages
Keep the focus on the user
Every section should address the user somehow. We love Udemy’s landing page because it demonstrates user-centered copy perfectly. Every section has been tailored to highlight how Udemy’s courses work for the user.
How often the word ‘you’ or ‘your’ appears on the landing page is a good sign, and the fact that it takes into account their schedule and their learning style undoubtedly contributes to the platform’s success.
Give social proof
Consumers now almost expect this. It’s a good idea to feature any positive testimonials you have on your landing page.
Talkspace, a brand that particularly relies on building trust, does a great job in combining personal reviews from multiple established brands, and displaying them prominently on the landing page.
If you have a brand new business, and you don’t have a bank of referrals to publish yet, that’s okay! Certifications from standards committees or partnerships with reputable other businesses can help gain consumer trust.
Use simple terms
A mistake new writers often use is confusing good writing with complex vocabulary. You don’t need big words to drive your message home: you need the right ones.
Take Penzu, an online journaling platform. Describing its privacy features, we read:
“...Penzu keeps your journals safe with double password protection and military strength encryption so you can rest easy knowing that your entries are secure in the Penzu Vault.”
Without resorting to multi-syllabic words, Penzu has us sold on their ability to keep our online scribbling secure.
Proofread your work.
Aha! You’d thought we’d forgotten! Nope! Here we are again.
For Your Subject Lines (Emails)
Keep subject line mobile-friendly
With more and more people reading emails on their phones, a mobile-friendly character count will be key to helping your open rates across devices. Campaign Monitor lists different platforms and displays.
The most restrictive hovers around 41 (it’s also one of the most popular on the market, so keep that in mind when writing your subject lines.)
Within that limit, though, there's room for experimentation. Writers at AWeber found success going to extremes, keeping their subject lines very very short (less than 15 characters) or going right up to the max of the display count.
Avoid spam-like subject lines
Don’t let your subject lines be easily confused with spam. Avoid unnecessary caps lock, asterisks, and exaggeration. Don’t push sales more than you push value for your readers. Add a sense of interest and urgency, without resorting to cheap gimmicks -- give people a genuine reason to want to click.
All about the power words
Use verbs and power words. We know certain words spice up our copy and make us more likely to click on headlines. (Which is why, since the invention of the internet, so many more things have been “jaw-dropping” and “unbelievable”.)
Use that same power for your open rates. To help you along, check out these 99 emotional trigger words from Snov.io
BONUS: FOR YOUR EMAILS:
You may not have to present these to a boardroom or publish these on your website, but there’s no doubt that writing emails is the majority of our writing life -- copywriters or not. We all agonize over them, and in that spirit, here are some handy tips.
When drafting, do this
For important emails, don’t draft with the address in the “To” field. If you’re going to be thinking about it and checking it, copy the address you need into the body of the email and leave the address fields blank so you know your email can’t go anywhere until you’re absolutely ready for it to.
Clunky attachments are questionable etiquette. Google Docs, OneDrive or DropBox are free alternatives.
Set up an email signature.
You don’t have to write out your website and phone number in each email. A signature generator can be a way to include all your relevant contact information in a sleek design, in every email, effortlessly. We like this signature generator.
To email more confidently, refer to this handy chart.
We’re fans of this popular Instagram post from Dani Donovan.
There you have it!
The best web copywriting tips for copywriters and non-copywriters for newsletters, social media, value propositions, speeches, landing pages, subject lines, and email copy.
It can seem like a lot but take it one step at a time and you'll begin to see your copy improve.