Our previous VMA blog defined copywriting and discussed what makes good copy. As a refresher, good copy will engage your audience and provide something valuable to make people want to buy your product or use your services. In addition to starting a conversation with your customers, good copy also needs to take web design and SEO into account in order to thrive in modern-age business.
The next question is:
How do I get better at writing copy?
Let’s go over some useful copywriting exercises to help you improve your copy and make you more comfortable with writing and creating as a whole. Practice makes perfect, so let’s go over some things you can do to develop your copywriting skills.
Advertisements are everywhere. We’re bombarded with them constantly. As you interact with the world every day, pay close attention to the ads around you and try to re-write them. Can you figure out a way to make people crave that restaurant’s food even more with a better billboard slogan? Is there any way to improve that Google AdWord advertisement that came up on your last search?
Don’t worry about the quality of your fake re-written ads. The important thing is to constantly practice using different styles and methods to promote an idea or product.
Make a Swipe File
If you have a job that requires you to constantly produce new content, keeping a swipe file is a must. A swipe file is a collection of advertisements and copy that left a mark on you in some way. Even if it has nothing to do with your field, you can put content in your swipe file for any reason: great visual design, a clever turn of phrase, or even a cool font that you want to use later. Make sure to save anything that makes you click on a link, laugh, or even just pause for a closer look.
A swipe file can be either a physical file or digital file. You can even have one on your phone, which is a great way to keep up with mobile-responsive innovations. Screenshots are a great tool for easily saving digital copies. If you have a Mac, you can press command-shift-4, then drag a box around the desired image. By default, this saves the screenshot to your desktop, where you can drag it into your swipe file.
If you have a Windows PC, it gets a bit more complicated. Here’s an overview of several different ways to take screenshots in Windows. If you have Windows 10, by default one of the easier ways to take a screenshot is to press Windows-PrintScreen (usually abbreviated to something like PrntScrn or PrtScn and located near F12). This will save an image of your entire screen to Screenshots under the default Pictures folder.
So what do you do with your expanding swipe file? Use it for inspiration! If you need to make something, browse your swipe file for ideas related to that project. Need a clean-but-interesting web layout? Want to find phrasing ideas for blog titles? Check your swipe file and see if anything that popped out at you in the past can help with your current problem.
A simple exercise for improving your content is to copy other people’s copy. While you’re filling your swipe file with fun ideas, physically write down advertisements, slogans, and other forms of copy that you think are brilliant. Copy them word-for-word, so you can get a better feel for how the sentence is structured and what makes it sound and look good.
Highlight the Benefits
When you describe the features of your product or business, don’t simply list them. You also need to let your customers know the results of these features and how they will benefit them.
For example, a feature of WordPress is the ability to publish content such as pages and posts without using code. This is a great feature, but on the WordPress website, the copywriter further explains that anyone who has created a document on their computer is already prepared to write a post, format it, insert media, and publish “with the click of a button.” Not only does the paragraph describe the feature of WordPress, but it also explains in simple terms how this feature benefits the potential user.
Keep in mind that you are most likely much more informed on your business’ field than your customers. They want to know how they can use your features to benefit themselves and why they should use your company over another. Most of them won't be drawn to a jargon-heavy list of features.
There’s a reason why social media sites such as Twitter and Instagram are so huge. People love taglines. A short, concise phrase such as “just do it” or “I’m lovin’ it” sticks in your head much easier than a longer sentence would.
When creating your copy, try to trim down the content and get your point across with as few words as possible. By sending out information more efficiently, you will get your message across better. Whether it’s text, video, or audio, spread information with fewer words.
This doesn’t mean that all of your copy should be cut short. Long copy can spread a lot of information, draw people in, and sell well. Longwinded copy, on the other hand, drives people away before they finish listening.
Read Out Loud
One of the best things you can do to improve your copy right away is read it out loud. Not only does this help you weed out typos and grammatical errors, but it also helps you make your content sound more conversational. It’s much easier to make a sentence sound natural if you hear it as you read it. It will also help you avoid being as longwinded!
Read aloud to yourself, record your voice and listen to it, or even force someone else to listen to you. You’ll see instant results.
Many jobs require you to keep up-to-date on the latest news, techniques, or trends. Working as a copywriter is no different, especially if your focus is online. A copywriter who is good at many things is always going to have an edge over one who is only good at one thing.
Get experience wherever you can. If you want to work as a freelancer, it’s best to start out in an established company for a few years. That way, you can learn how many aspects of the business works, and it’s not as easy to get stuck in a rut of your own repeating ideas.
Constantly search for more ways to learn something new or improve an old skill. Take classes, join a discussion, read a book…the possibilities for new information are endless, especially online!
Hopefully these tips help you develop your copywriting skills a bit more in the future. If you want more information on SEO, web development, design, and many other topics, check out Virtual Market Advantage’s other blogs here!