5 Keys for Business Leaders to Understand What Makes Copy Good Copy

A few weeks ago, I read a compelling post on LinkedIn by marketing extraordinaire Liz Willits. She described her decision to pivot from simply submitting her copy for review to a somewhat lengthy meeting to pitch her copy. 

The result? Far fewer edits and change requests from her clients and much better performing copy for them. 

To be clear, the point is not to avoid getting edits. Truthfully, many copywriters don’t feel that their clients are being honest when they have no feedback at all. The key is that her pitch– explaining her thought process and reasoning behind her choices– changed her clients’ opinions. They came to understand the value she provided.

There is a real danger in non-copywriters offering too many edits– it’s not a victimless habit! Some ideas may seem like a slam dunk but, in reality, weaken the performance of your copy. Rounds of edits back and forth cost time and money and may result in a product worth less than you paid for– and not because the copywriter didn’t do their job!

The truth is that few business owners understand what goes into good copy. The kind of copy that costs 62% less than other marketing methods but returns three times the profits, according to Demand Metric

While I’m no Liz Willit’s, I was inspired this Monday morning to write up a few key points in an effort to close the gap between those who pay for quality copy and those who write it. 

1. Proper Headings Drive Traffic

Many top-performing copywriters admit that they spend a disproportionate amount of time crafting a heading than writing the body of the piece. As far as my experience and research can tell, that comes down to two reasons: 

  1. The right headings are rewarded by the algorithm
  2. The right headings get clicked on by viewers

This may seem like saying the same thing twice, but there is a subtle and vital difference. Your headlines convince two different portals that your copy is worth reading: the search engine and your target demographic. 

For example, you’ll often see LinkedIn articles with the words “successful,” “mistakes,” and “leaders” in the titles. So whenever you see a pattern in words showing in your feed, it’s likely revealing algorithm preferences and what LinkedIn audiences want to read. 

On the other hand, there are phrases that search engines like that may not resonate with a scrolling audience. Nailing the balance often requires more conscious thought than what the bulk of the copy takes.

In fact, coming up with the heading for this article alone was a headache! Tell me what you would title this piece in the comments– maybe I’ll take you up on a better one 🙂

2. Playing with Grammar Conventions

I’ve also seen a running commentary from fellow copywriters that clients or higher-ups can be frustrated with improper grammar. That may be surprising to some– why would copywriters defend poor grammar?

Copywriters aren’t out to destroy language, but good copywriters will challenge the rules when they get in the way of understanding and connection. 

For example, I use Grammarly to check all of my work before submission. However, Grammarly will always flag a hanging preposition. And nine times out of ten, I ignore those. For example, the sentence

Successful businesses remember who they work for. 

Should really be written as

Successful businesses remember for whom they work. 

My goal is to have people smoothly ride the flow of my work. Restructuring the sentence to be grammatically correct (like the example above) takes work to read. 

Too much work means the flow is disrupted, offering a natural breakpoint for the reader to give up and move somewhere else. So, sometimes it’s better to break the rules.

3. Human Voice and Connection

Going right along with grammar protests, having a human connection is usually a higher priority than professionalism for many copywriters. And here’s why. 

Millions of results come back on any given topic, with only a handful on the first page. Can you remember the last time you went to the second page of Google results to see what you missed? Me either. 

In reality, 90% of people report clicking on links from the first page. And if they don’t find what they want, they’re more likely to try another search than to check the second page.

Meaning that you need to offer some real value to claim a top spot. But more than that, you need to provide that value in a way that people care about. In a way that resonates, builds a relationship, and creates interest.

4. High Preference for Scannability

I’m assuming that if you’re reading this article, you first quickly scrolled through to read the headings to see if you were interested in reading more. 

According to the Nielsen Norman Group, average web readers only “have time” to read 20-28% of the written words, with headlines and subheadings making up most of what is read.

You’ll also notice that my sections are only a few sentences long. That is also a proven methodology to increase attention and engagement. Long sections of text feel boring– no dopamine, no engagement. 

This isn’t a top complaint, but once in a while, I work with a client who wants more details or wants things lumped closer together. It’s better to allow more frequent breaks in the text if your true aim is to engage a paying audience.

5. Resist Saying Everything in One Post

My final key– at least for this post– is to resist the temptation to say everything you could in one piece. Like Will Smith advises in Hitch to his client base of struggling suitors, “…She does want the real you. She may not want to see it all at once, but she does want to see it.

This dating logic applies to copywriting in two or three essential ways. 

One is the simple fact that readers have a 54-second attention span when reading online. You heard me right 54 seconds. So if they don’t get their information from you quickly, away they go. 

Why do you think so many recipe bloggers put the “jump to recipe” button on their blogs? Because while the blog offered good content, only its devoted following will read it. Most casual “recipe shoppers” just want the goods.  

A second motivation is a bit more self-serving. SEO and rankings have a backlink portion, meaning that each article should have a targeted number of links. When you don’t have any content, most of those links will be to references– away from your site. But once you’ve built up some content, more and more of those links will be to other links on your site.

This will improve your SEO rankings, keep more viewers on your site longer, and work within your audience’s attention span. Win, win, win!

Well, those are my five keys that will help close the gap between business owners/management with their copywriters. Let me know in the comments what you think I missed, I’d love to hear from your experience!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: