There’s a lot of advice out there about writing copy — some of it good, some of it terrifying, but in the end, very few of these people are hitting the mark.
In fact, most of them are selling something, like a book or a writing class, and want you to believe, at the core of your being, that copywriting is some kind of magical thing that only a select few are capable of mastering.
It’s absolutely not true. Writing, in each and every form, is a skill. And anybody can learn it.
Learning to write is like learning to make baskets or tie a fishing lure or grow a plant — it’s not an easy trade, but it is teachable. There’s no Muse: there are only words, grammar rules and a penchant for putting it all together.
That being said, not all copy is created equally, and if you want to really create killer copy in the Internet Age, you’ve got to keep a few things in mind — these three things, in fact:
Keywords. Everybody living, playing or working anywhere near the Internet is pretty familiar with the concept of keywords. When you Google “raincoats for ducks” or “fly tying,” the search engine compares these words to websites it has indexed (in a very complicated way) and returns your results.
Years ago, it was common practice to stuff each and every blog and web page with as many keywords as would fit, but today Google’s smart enough to see through that trickery. So, before you write your first blog, keep in mind that keywords aren’t what they once were — today Google can tell what blogs are readable and useful. Drop the keywords and just say what you need to say.
Clarity. In general, we should always make the basic assumption that if no one can understand what we’re writing, we shouldn’t bother. After all, why waste that time we could be spending surfing or eating potato chips? I always wonder what people are thinking when they post blogs I can’t really decipher — but maybe they truly don’t understand what clarity is about. So I’m going to define it here.
For our purposes, clarity means that you’re writing a piece that anyone, even a neophyte, could understand. It requires knowing your audience and who is likely to stumble upon your work. Clarity also means you actively anticipate the questions someone would have while reading your piece — and weave those answers into the narrative.
Information. Writing is one of the most effective ways of conveying information, largely because visual memories linger much longer than auditory memories. When you’re writing copy, don’t waste the attention of your audience or their time, seize that opportunity to establish yourself as an expert by giving away free information they can use later.
Just like this blog post is doing, you’ll demonstrate your knowledge in a way that telling people how great you are never can. We live in the era of “show, not tell,” so show off your mad skills by stuffing each and every blog full of useful information that won’t be found with a basic Google search — industry insider tips about anything from appliance repair to interior decorating are valuable to your readers.
No matter what you’re writing or who you’re writing it for, these three keys will carry you straight to killer copy in no time. Practice clarity, information stuffing and leave the keywords back in 2005.