10 Rules the Best Online Copywriters Follow

Dec 9, 2008   //   by Eric Brantner   //   Copywriting, SEO Blog  //  13 Comments

The success of your Internet marketing efforts boils down to one thing—how good is your copywriting? It doesn’t matter how much you promote your site. If the copy doesn’t connect with readers, you’ll never get the sales you desire.

So, what makes great copywriting? Here are 10 rules the best online copywriters follow.

1. Keywords aren’t Everything- Obviously, it’s important to optimize your copy for relevant keywords to ensure you get high search engine placement. However, keywords aren’t the most important part of your copy. They might be the gateway that brings visitors to your site, but if your copy is stuffed with keywords, your conversion rate will suffer. Always remember your human readers, and never place the search engine’s needs above theirs.

2. Scanner-Friendly is a Must- Numerous eye-tracking studies show that website visitors tend to scan content rather than fully reading it. What does this mean for your website? It means your copy needs to accommodate their scanning habits. This means you should use plenty of whitespace, keep your paragraphs brief, and use bold headings throughout. This will help the scanners grasp the main points from your content quickly and easily.

3. Compelling Headlines are Essential- The best copywriters know that a great headline is one of the most important facets of any online copy. Your headline needs to sell a benefit or connect with the reader in some other way. A simple keyword phrase won’t do the trick. This is your chance to grab the attention of your website visitors. Make it count.

4. Content Must Reinforce Headline- Once you come up with a great headline, you need to make sure your content reinforces it. If your headline mentions a specific benefit, follow up on that by discussing it in your copy. In other words, don’t trick your readers by using a catchy headline and then talk about something completely different in your copy.

5. Converse with the Reader- To me, conversational copy is perfectly suited for the web. The internet is a social medium, so it only makes sense that your copy should feel personal to your readers. Remember, consumers are more wary when purchasing from companies online. Conversational copy that’s free of gimmicks helps them gain trust in your company. How?  By making it seem like they’re interacting with a real person who understands their needs.

6. Testimonials are Helpful- Another way to build trust with your visitors is to use real testimonials on your website. I prefer placing a few testimonials in a sidebar on the right hand side of the page. They catch the eye and deliver the message of trust without distracting the reader away from your main website copy. Make sure to keep your testimonials in their original form without any edits. The more authentic they are, the better.

7. Quality Trumps Quantity- We’ve already established that online readers have a short attention span. So, don’t spend 500 words explaining something that can be summed up in 250 words. I realize a lot of websites extend their copy so that it reaches the magic 400-500 word count for SEO purposes, but it can really hamper the flow of your content. Keep it short; keep it simple. This will keep your readers on track.

8. Superlatives are Useless- Don’t say you’re the best at something or that you’re the leader in your field. Everyone says that. Every company thinks they’re the best, and every company is the most experienced. Consumers don’t fall for these silly superlatives. They carry no weight, and frankly, they sound like a bunch of B.S.

9. It’s All about the Benefits- Instead of loading up on the superlatives, talk about the benefits of your product. In other words, how will your company make the customer’s life better? That’s all your readers care about. Let them know what’s in it for them, and you’ll have much more successful website copy.

10. Call to Action Should be Clear- Of course, you can have the best copy on the web, but it’s all for nothing if you don’t have a clear call to action. The point of your copy is to convince the reader they need your product or services, and then, the call to action tells them how to get it. Don’t leave your readers hanging. Have a clear call to action that tells them exactly what you want them to do. If you want them to call a number, tell them to call you. The clearer your call to action, the higher your conversion rate will be.

How many of these rules does your website copy follow?


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Eric Brantner

Eric Brantner is a copywriter who is obsessed with getting conversions. His services are used by small and mid-sized businesses from a range of industries.

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  • What a great blog!

    This was great information. I really appreciate you taking the time to put it all together!

    #7 and #8 are key in my opinion.

    Keep up the great work!

    Cheers

    Sean

  • Tracy says:

    I agree, #8 is key. Whenever I see something written like it came from Braggerty Markety Academy I am immediately turned off and feel like the writer has no respect for my intelligence or time.

    Even worse, when they use a bunch of resume words – like the article says, be conversational, don’t broadcast at me.

    Tracy’s last blog post..Kinder Eggs and Pero Instant Natural Beverage

  • Eric says:

    @ Sean and Tracy-

    Thanks for the comments. I think Tracy brings up a good point about writers having no respect for their audience’s intelligence. If you talk down to your website visitors, they’ll never take the action you want them to. You have to be conversational and connect with them in a meaningful way.

  • Tracy says:

    Eric, nothing frustrates me more that writers who refuse to “dumb down” their precious vocabulary and convoluted syntax so that they can provide their audience what they need. They don’t seem to understand it’s not about them.

    And honestly, do they not understand it’s not because I’m too thickheaded to understand big words? It’s because my time is valuable and I want the meat and potatoes straight up, no frou frou filler. I do not need to be subjected to your self indulgent blathering.

    You’re right, what it does is build walls between you and your audience. Although I’ve found such people comfort themselves by saying we’re all just too dumb to get them!

    Tracy’s last blog post..The Paranoid Mom Reviews New Products: Cargo Comforters

  • Jon says:

    This is all excellent advice. It is also a good idea to do your keyword research before you begin writing your copy. Use phrases that people are actually searching for. There are a lot of keyword research tools but I feel that since Google has 60% of all searches that their free tool is a better representation of what people are really searching for.

  • Gerald Weber
    Twitter:
    says:

    @Jon,

    Hey how are you doing stranger? Thanks for commenting on Erics post.

    <abbr>Gerald Weber’s last blog post..10 Rules the Best Online Copywriters Follow</abbr>

  • Ned Carey says:

    This is a terrific list but these aren’t just for online, these great tips for any business writing or communication.

    Good communication, selling, marketing, writing, salesmanship skills are just as important online as well as offline.

    Ned
    PS came her from Yan’s blog via the comment luv.

    Ned Carey’s last blog post..The Power of Positive Thinking

  • You’re right number 1 is super important. I shed a tear when a writer is ranking a sentence around a keyword phrase. It just doesn’t work.

    I say use less, and better keywords and put them where they belong.

    Sir I have bookmarked this for future reference.

    Jordan Pearce’s last blog post..Copywriting: SEO

  • Matt says:

    #1 really resonates with me. I think too often blog writers try to make their posts so keyword dense it takes away from the message. Always remember you are writing for humans, and a few keywords are fine, just don’t over do it.

    Matt

    Matt | Small Biz Bee’s last blog post..Attract Customers by Giving Them the Short End of the Stick

  • Abdul says:

    As most of the comments have said the same thing, I think if your blog is getting visitors and followers that means that that you’re bringing up a blog for your readers! Trying to give them a loose end by controlling your vocab hormones wont hurt a bit because on my part If I read a vocabulary stuffed line with more than 2 words not in my knowledge, I’m out of there!!

    Abdul’s last blog post..6 Pieces of Advice for making a Clean Budget

  • Eric says:

    Several of you bring up a great point about vocabulary. A lot of writers think using big words makes them a great writer, and that couldnt be further from the truth. Writing is communication. The quality of your writing is directly related to how well you connect with your target audience. Sometimes, that requires using PHD level vocabulary (academic journals,dissertation etc) but most times it’s about using easy, free flowing writing that gets straight to the point

  • You've captured it! These are excellent points.#5 – Converse with the reader – to my mind is most important. Sticking a corporate brochure online and "we-ing" all over the place won't wash with today's savvy web users. I always say, "I don't write for my clients. I write for my clients' customers."

    <abbr>Louise Desmarais’s last blog post..11 tips for communicating with the virtual team</abbr>