Fix these 5 things in your copy to look more pro stat

Presented live on Tuesday, February 11, 2020

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No matter what kind of copywriting potential you have, the first time(s) you sit down to actually pen an actual work of conversion copywriting genius

– not just to talk about it or think about it –

you are likely to make one or two really simple mistakes in your copy.

Or maybe even five.

And any of these five mistakes can signal pretty fast to the people reading your copy that you are soooo new at this.


Joanna Wiebe: Hello Everybody! Today’s Tutorial Tuesday, which is all about five things that you can fix in your copy to look more pro. Super stacked. The idea here is that over years and years and years of me first writing copy and later obviously testing and all of that stuff and reviewing copy. There are some things along the way that stand out and it’s hard to put these in a blog post, because we don’t do listicles. And it’s just like one of those things like these stack up over time. And I keep seeing them happening. And so I’m like, well, let’s just do a tutorial on that because we do have every, you know, every other week is a new topic. The second Tuesday of the month is for beginners. And this is really important stuff to know if you are newer to copywriting it’s also something to correct if you’ve been doing this for a while and you just didn’t know

Some of us are out there writing copy without anybody ever coaching us or giving us real feedback on it outside of clients. If you’re a freelancer, and you went straight from one job into another say you’re a teacher, you were tired, you’re like, I’m going to try this copywriting thing you might be learning from people like us, but often doing the writing on your own and getting feedback from clients who don’t know any better. So I want to walk you through five things that I think that you should do very quickly. Make sure you’re correcting…..they’re not even mistakes. They’re not mistakes. They’re problems that happen in copy, making it seem like the copy is not as sharp or polished as it could be.

So, what I’m going to do is walk you through these five little problems. I’m going to call them problems, even though we might not call them problems. We’re going to call them that. And I’m not going to show you the negative example because I find when I’m teaching copywriting, as soon as you show a negative example it can be really easy to feel bad for the person who is example is up there. When everybody really does mean. Well, I haven’t met anybody in the copywriting world, personally, at least, who is trying to mess up. And this is one part science. Sure. But there’s also a lot of art to it. And so I don’t want to show negatives because they can feel negative. So I’m going to show you. I’m going to tell you what the problem is. I’m going to show you basically solutions to it or how to do it better.

So the first one is you sent her your body copy. This is, I’m leading with this one because it’s so huge. Most freelance copywriters do this across sales pages and they do it across their own websites or websites, even that they’re writing for clients. You can center headlines and you can center cross heads. You can center a button and the copy in a button. You should not center your body copy and I’m going to show you what you should do. So, the problem and that’s why I don’t want to show negative examples because then you have to bring somebody site up and then they feel bad about themselves. And again, this is a really common mistake and you shouldn’t feel bad about yourself.

You just have to stop doing it immediately. So it’s not a crosshead and it’s not a headline, it’s not a button. Ask yourself, Why am I centering this? If it’s because you weren’t thinking about it and you just did it by default. That’s not the way to become a great copywriter. So do everything intentionally. It doesn’t take much longer to do it intentionally just have to ask, why did I do that. And then fix it if you don’t have a good reason why.

Okay, so let me move on. When Google Slides catches up. Okay, so this is an example of what should be centered and what should not be centered. So what should be centered is this, how it works – that little eyebrow copy at the top. What if you could turn the same number of leads into twice the deals for a solution called follow up boss. The headline is centered. Headlines can be centered. Long headlines, this is a pretty long headline, it can still be centered. It’s fine. You don’t have to center a headline, but when it comes to things that can be centered and should not be centered headlines perfectly fine.

Body copy, not as good. It’s very hard to read copy that is centered, especially since most people who are centering their copy, their body copy – it’s spreading across the whole width of page, which is extremely difficult. So we want to keep our copy in columns and the more copy you write, the more you should think in terms of how wide is this column? And I know that might feel early for you to think about that, but look at newspapers. There is a reason that copy in newspapers is written in columns. The headline can span the whole page and can be centered, but the copy is not. Newspapers are optimized for readability. They’re optimized for me to sit down consume the content quickly get the point and move on with my life.

That’s our job when we’re formatting too. Are we formatting our copy to make sure that you can sit down, consume what you need to, pay attention to the things you need to, and the supporting stuff to help like beef up that headline or crosshead. That needs to be something that I can sit down, look at, read without getting fatigued. So you want to have that left margin and this is if you read anything about studies on readability their actual Institute’s that study this. The left margin, being flat being like this for again for like Western readers. It varies if you’re, if you read differently, if your page is laid out differently. But for most of us, English speakers, you’re going to want to have a left hand margin. A Left side margin that’s flat where you could put a ruler up against it and an eye can keep butting against it, and an eye can depend on it being there at every point. The right is called the ragged right and we want to leave that ragged right, that’s actually good for readability too.

So you don’t want to have a column where everything is like, justified across the column, and it turns into this perfectly lined up call, which is really good for OCD people who are like, ah, it’s neat and tidy now. But it’s actually harder to read. So don’t center your body copy when you do have body copy, do your best to make it as readable as possible. And you can talk to your clients about this stuff too. So they can get that extra confidence and assurance that you actually know what you’re doing with really simple things like knowing the term, ragged right.

Okay now there are situations where you can center body copy. This is again lead with the rule never centre body copy, but then if you are thinking in terms of columns and this is like if you use WordPress or lead pages to write your copy. And this is why a lot of copywriters should go in and use the actual tools of the trade, so that you get what it’s like to actually lay out copy on a page or in an email. If you think in terms of columns, you’ll look at a page separately, or differently than you would if you don’t think in terms of columns. So, if you know anything about photography, photographers look at something and they have their own rules. They have like a grid. They have magic numbers they have things they’re looking at. Copywriters have to do it the same way too, we just look in terms of like columns and sections of a page like okay, I’m in this section of a page, I’ve got this many columns. Those columns might not all be the same with etc etc. You’ll learn more about this as you go. Just know, stop thinking about a page as this big lump of stuff to fill in with copy, however you feel like doing it, and start thinking more about, okay, once I get the copyright, how do I make it so it’s more consumable.

So, this is an example of the same website, follow up boss. This is an example of centering body copy. So, in this case you wanted to have all the focus on this great thing, beautiful screenshot. It’s a video, you could play. It’s great. We want eyes there. Having it pushed off to the side would make it smaller, it would allow us to put, to put that body copy over to the left. But it would make it smaller and we wanted to focus the viewer on this. So we take the body copy, we put it up under that crosshead there which is centered, and we’re allowed to center crossheads. We put the body copy up top and we think in terms of columns. So we’ve got effectively, this might seem crazy, but it’ll get better as you move through it. You’ve got effectively five or six columns across the width of the page and you’ve got two columns on the on either side that are blank. And the other copy, the rest of the copy, fills in the middle. Now this again you’ll be like, what does that matter? It matters because if your copy runs the full width of the page, it’s just harder to read. So narrow that up, try to get as much as like newspaper style as you possibly can, without it actually looking weird on the page.

This is an example of when you can centre body copy, but note that it is not long. We wrote this copy, we know why decisions were made for this. So, you want to make sure that it’s nice and tight, not longer than three lines. Ideally, two lines. Once you get into four, it’s an awful lot for the eye to keep running back and forth and have no like, hard left to hit against. So that’s rule number one.

Number two, you use throwaway text instead of intentional button copy. So repeatedly when I’m reviewing freelance copywriters copy, or anybody’s copy, frankly, and I see their body copy or their botton copy, and I say, well why that? And they don’t have an answer. This happens way too often, you need to have an answer. The button is the site of conversion on a page, you cannot convert online, you can call. Sure if there’s a phone number, you can call without having to click a button. But everything else that’s happening online is happening on a button or a text link. Both of them are equally important. A button, people will click a button pretty easily. So it’s easy to say like, Oh, don’t worry about it, they’ll click it. It’s true, people click things, but is it a good click? Is it a click that reinforces like the value of moving forward and things like that. So, be intentional with your button copy, or a client will ask you – all it takes is the client to ask you, well, why that? And you not having an answer for you to immediately look like you don’t know what you’re doing. You could have 20 years experience, but if you weren’t thinking of that button copy and you just threw in whatever felt right – Oh. Sign up now, get free trial, all of those sorts of things. You think that’s the right thing to do, but it’s the actual site of conversion, it is if you run this is my button tests are the easiest split test run. Because everybody has to either click or choose not to click a button so you can very quickly get results on what people will do, and will not do based on the copy that you write.

Right. Okay, so here’s an example of an intentionally written button. This is on Awara, it’s an organic bed in a box. Shop the Awara organic bed. So this is on their homepage. This is, or I think this is actually their product detail page, where you can now go put together the Awara organic bed. Instead of shop now we’re reinforcing what you’re actually shopping for the Awara organic beds. Because we’re trying to differentiate the product against other beds and boxes that are filled with harmful like toxic materials. This is non toxic. This is where you’re actually going to like feel really good about what you’re like laying on all night. So shop the Awara organic bed, that’s an intentional button, we could have just said shop now. We went more intentional so that we can reinforce the reason to choose this particular bed.

Okay. Oh, sorry, that was going backward. Another one, Add to Cart. You don’t have to get crazy on your buttons. You just have to know why you did it. Add to Cart might be a throwaway button, unless you’re doing it intentionally. If you’re like no, they’re actually ready to add to cart and the user needs to know, that now, the thing the user is doing is adding it to their cart. It’s allowed. If get free trial, start free trial, sign up now, claim my offer – if those are actually the right buttons to use in that moment, go ahead and use them. What I’m asking you to do as a beginner copywriter and all the way through your career is to think, Is this the right button copy? That’s it. And if your answer is add to cart is the right button copy here. Cool. Just make sure you have that answer.

The third one personality. Okay, so you’re laying the personality on so thick, it’s like frosting on a cupcake. Not just any frosting, but like the kind you can literally like lift off the cupcake in a solid mass. So gross. This is overdoing it. Now, there is something to be said for what’s called maximalist copywriting where you really go to town on something. Usually in the context of more minimalist copywriting, we can talk about that in the future, like advanced copywriting tutorial. Too many freelancers or copywriters start their career thinking they’re supposed to be creative. More often than not, you’re not. So, if you went into copywriting to have a creative outlet, you’re probably in the wrong business. This is actually a sales business, we just use words to connect with people and persuade them. So overdoing it on the personality, really. I know people think it makes them sound like really good. And there are cases where you should, where the brand wants to push really hard on personality. But that has to be a discussion between you and the person who’s hired you, or the company you’re working for. When you default to laying on personality really thick, it tends to actually look amateurish.

So we did a lesson, a tutorial on this, um, a couple months ago, maybe even a year ago, actually, now that I think about it. It’s on like the art, the artfulness of copywriting Basically nothing else we talk about ever at conversion at Copyhackers with our conversion copywriting has anything to do with art of it. Because the art comes pretty naturally to a lot of people and we have to kind of reign that in with the science, the math, all of that kind of stuff behind it. So we want to go easy on personality.

You should really only use personality in two places. When you’re starting out, don’t break the rule until you’ve done this for a couple years. Start with only using personality and headlines and in crossheads. That’s it. Your headline is allowed personality. That doesn’t mean you have to use it. It means, if you’re writing for a brand that needs personality where that’s like part of the brief, then headline, crosshead. Outside of that, no. I mean never. No. Now, in an email, that’s another story and again, talk to your client about that. What did they hire you for? What kinds of emails do they love? And then how much personality do you need? But always default to less is more. Okay, so a really good example.

If you want to look at how to be creative. Well, Apple has the best web copy for actually learning what to do right and paying attention. You can see they’ve got centered copy, but it’s in columns, it’s not across the page. So that’s an important thing to keep in mind. The personality is light. Lay it down, charge it up. That’s it. That’s the language that they’re using. It’s not heavy on personality, but in context, it feels right for the brand. And that’s the only place where the copywriter can get more creative. The power of 24 hour battery life, everything after that is very, very technical. That’s the only thing that’s venturing toward having personality and you can see it’s not a lot of personality, but it still gives the reader a little bit to feel emotional about before they dig into the logical stuff. Don’t overdo it on personality.

Okay. This is a really, this is a common one across the board for everybody, and that is leading with the brand name, company name, product name, beat your name in, or we instead of you, the prospect, we all – you’re learning. If you’re newer to copywriting, you’re learning that the prospect only cares about themselves. You’re also hopefully learning that you’re not selling a product, you’re not selling a service, you’re not selling an app, you’re not selling a day at the spa where you can get a facial. You are selling the customer, themselves. You’re selling everybody’s heard the selling the customer better version of themselves. The customer is actually the product. Think about it that way you’re not selling a product, you’re selling a customer your copy actually creates a customer. So to do that, the customer needs to see themselves in the copy that you’re writing. And if you lead with the product name, you lead with the feature name, you lead with the word we, immediately, I’m not seeing myself in it. I’m just not.

So, your job is to go back through all of your copy, and I’ve taught this a million times and people still do it. Your job is to go back over your copy, and if you see your company name, your brand name, your product name, your feature name, the word we at the start of any sentence, you rewrite that. You rewrite that hard. You have to. And an example here FourEyes, we wrote the site many, many years ago, but it still holds up. If there’s no we or brand name, you don’t have to open with an adjective of some or adjective, sorry, a pronoun of some kind. You can go straight in and do the imperative like this headline is doing here, but when we get into the copy itself when you’re going to talk more about something, rewrite everything to begin with the word you. You don’t like to be limited, and we don’t want to limit you. We didn’t start with, we don’t want to limit you. That would be a really natural place for a lot of people to start. But again, I don’t care about what you want. I care first about me. Secondly, and I mean that distant distant second, about you.

That’s why you can invite people to take your survey any old way you choose. That crosshead is focused on the user, they’re still learning about the product. Oh, I can invite people to take my survey any way I choose to, however, it’s talking about them first. Then we go over to the body copy again left aligned over in a column. You can send plain text or HTML emails, send test emails, customize schedule view and send – all of that is about them, but we opened with the word, you.

Second paragraph, or you can embed your survey or share and then the word you again in the start of the sentence. And this is a randomly selected one from our portfolio you have got to lead with the word you. When you lead with we, it’s not only bad for conversion, but it also looks like you haven’t done this before. You don’t know that it’s supposed to be about them. How do you not know that it’s supposed to be about them? You have got to make this a thing that you always do. Always, always, always go over your copy, look for the word we, look for the brand name and make sure it is not the star of the show.

Okay, I think, we’re on the last one. Really, I’m going to town on these and I see that there are a lot of questions. Okay, do you try to come up with new copy on the fly. This is kind of, I think this is absolutely the last one.

And this is the problem. I’ve seen people do this where they’re presenting copy, or they’re sharing copy with a client, or with a boardroom, or whatever it might be and the room says, Oh, well, no, I’m not sure I like that. And you try to come up with new copy right there in front of them. It’s crazy. It looks, it looks like you haven’t done this before, and you don’t have confidence. It looks like all you are doing sitting at your desk dreaming up ways to say things and that is not what anybody’s paying you for. So don’t do yourself a disservice by trying to come up with new copy on the fly. And there’s no example of this, of how to avoid this. But what I do want you to do is after this, go over and go on to YouTube, or anywhere, and just Google like Don Draper presenting life cereal brand. And you can see what it’s…. how awkward and horrible it is when someone tries to come up with new ideas on the fly, write new copy on the fly. Don Draper has to be drunk to do this, and everybody, and which he always is. But everybody in the room is mortified that this is happening, you should be mortified too. If you watch it happen, it’s embarrassing and if you do it, it’s awful. Don’t ever do it.

So these are the five things to do. Center headlines and crossheads, and when body copy is in an intentional column and you’re controlling it, you can center body copy there. Most cases just default, to always left aligning it. Two. Be intentional with your button copy. Three. Personality very light, a little goes a long way. Four. Lead with the word you and Five. Never live write with a client.

Okay, those are the five things to do. So that is it, for what we have time for today. I know there are questions around what is a crosshead? A crosshead is what some people call a subhead, so just stop calling it a subhead, that’s designer talk. It’s a crosshead for copywriters when you’re talking to designers, they’ll say subhead. To say like oh copywriters call it a crosshead, did you know that? And then, now they’re like, oh, I didn’t know that. Tell me more about this crosshead thing. It’s just, it goes across the hyperlink that goes across, it’s a crosshead. Nothing crazier than that.

Okay, that’s it, we’re at the very end. Thank you for participating today. We have, of course, at the beginning, the second Tuesday of every month is for beginners. So if you found this interesting, then come to every second Tuesday of the month. And of course, you can come to all the other ones too. We will see you on the next tutorial Tuesday.

Thanks, everybody. Thanks Ange. We’ll check you later.

Angela Stojanov: Thank you. Thanks.

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