Sep 5, 2016

The Ultimate Guide to Writing Exceptional Copy

by Digital Marketing Institute

Writing exceptional copy is ridiculously difficult.

Arguably the single-most important skill required of any digital marketer, it is often one of the least developed and practiced. Most digital marketers spend their time writing blog posts, sharing content on social media, and networking with fellow marketers and industry influencers. While all of this can contribute to a solid digital strategy, unless you’ve mastered the art of writing sales and marketing copy, you and your organization are missing out.

Afterall, what’s the reason for your brand’s existence? To sell. Of course, you want to educate your customers. Yes, brand recognition is important. But, even if you have the largest following in the world, if they aren’t buying, you’ll have a hard time staying in business.

While writing great copy is challenging, if you approach it with the right mindset, it’s certainly possible. This article discusses how to write exceptional copy across a variety of platforms and channels!

How to write great copy that sells

The goal of copywriting is to sell something – whether that’s a new software, a marketing service, sponsorship opportunity, or other product. While landing pages are often the first form of copywriting to jump into a marketer’s mind, they aren’t the only place where good copywriting is important.

In fact, when creating ads for search engines, Facebook, or Twitter, understanding the key elements of copywriting is equally as important. The shorter your message, the more time you need to invest into each element of it.

Regardless of the platform from which your copy will be presented, there are five universal elements that are critical for successful copy that sells.

1. Know your audience – and write to them

What are the needs and wants of the individual reading your copy? What problem are they trying to solve, and what has caused them to be in this situation in the first place?

The better you know who your customer is, and what types of issues they are facing in their day-to-day, the easier it will be to craft copy that inspires them to take a specific action.

The best way to do this is to ask your target audience a series of questions to determine how they currently address this problem, what would make them try something different, and how much this inconvenience is costing them. Once you know what’s at the core of their problem, you’ll be able to provide an appealing and engaging solution.

2. Invest the time and money necessary to make your copy unforgettable

The most successful landing pages can cost thousands of dollars to write. That’s because incredibly skilled writers and sales people will spend weeks crafting each word and section header. They’ll use custom designs, images, charts, and call-to-action buttons to visually direct the reader down the proper path. Then, they A/B test to maximize the performance of the landing page.

If you’re creating the landing page copy yourself, plan to spend a substantial amount of time on it – and expect to return to it every few days to further perfect the vocabulary, imagery, and overall tone.

Meanwhile, if you’re handing over the project to a cheap freelancer or intern, don’t expect to receive the same response as you would from a professionally-developed landing page.

In short, to do it right, expect to invest enough time into it to validate the quality and clarity of the message.

3. Recognize the intelligence of your audience

Did your parents ever spell words out when you were a little kid so that you wouldn’t know what they were talking about? Odds are, you still knew the topic of discussion most of the time!

People are smart – and it’s important to assume this from your readers. Don’t speak down to them or treat them like lowly students who need to learn from your never-ending wisdom. Instead, communicate with respect. Treat them like peers with whom you’re sharing a new idea. This will ensure that your copy inspires, rather than enrages, your readers.

4. Get the headline right

Particularly when it comes to writing ad copy for social media platforms, but also with landing pages, headlines are the single most important element. It’s not unreasonable for a skilled copywriter to spend 80% of their time perfecting the headline. Why? Because if the headline doesn’t draw the reader in, it doesn’t matter how great the copy is – it will never get read.

To excel at copy, constantly focus on maximizing conversions across the sales funnel. From the moment a reader sees your article in search results or shared on social media, until they click the final purchase button, the goal is to maximize conversions.

5. Never forget your focus – making the sale

As a digital marketer it’s a lot of fun to develop creative marketing strategies, viral campaigns, and witty ad copy. When this delivers results, fantastic! However, even the most witty one-liner is worthless if it doesn’t improve your conversion rates.

Therefore, when developing your ad copy, feel free to include creativity, education, and inspiration – but don’t leave it at that. The only copy that matters is the copy that results in a sale.

This ties back to why it’s essential to invest so much time in developing the copy in the first place. Although you want it to be engaging and shareable, you also want to ensure that it always incentivizes the reader to take that next step.

Examples of exceptional copy across multiple platforms

Once you understand the basics of copywriting, the trick is to convert those skills across the many different copywriting opportunities available to digital marketers. While traditional copywriting ended up in magazines or on billboards, today’s copywriting efforts often land on social media platforms, search results, or featured landing pages. The style of copywriting needed for each one of these venues is substantially different.

The following examples illustrate how to maximize your copy for a few of the leading platforms.

Copywriting for Facebook

According to HubSpot, the four components of a successful Facebook campaign are:

  1. It’s visual
  2. It’s relevant
  3. It includes an enticing value proposition
  4. It has a clear call-to-action

As the online world continues to become more visual, the art of merging copy and imagery becomes even more essential. By using words and pictures to tell a story, you can drive home a point more clearly. However, this also means that choosing the right words is even more important.

A great example of a company that writes Facebook ad copy (and copy in general) well, is the Dollars Shave Club. As you can see from the example below, they use just a few words to convey a clear and memorable story. When most razor companies offer pink razors for women, Dollar Shave Club offers equality.

Notice how this copy very clearly encourages the reader to “Try the Club today” without being overly salesy. This ad that’s slightly humorous and insightful doesn’t seem spammy. In fact, it’s almost fun to read!

Dollar Shave Club - Ultimate Guide to Writing Exceptional Copy | Trends & Insight Blog

Copywriting for Twitter

As the marketers over at WordStream assert, Twitter advertising is unique because of the short half-life of a tweet. While other forms of media are visible for days, a tweet will often receive over half of its action within the first hour.

Therefore, Twitter advertisements must be:

  • Attention grabbing
  • Highly visual
  • Surprising
  • Offer reader engagement (such as a giveaway or direct request to respond)
  • Potentially use a negative message
  • Desirable to click – using a promise or discovery

The biggest trick with any message on Twitter is the 140 character limit. But this doesn’t need to hinder you. Instead, use a brief sentence or two to directly reach the heart of your target audience.

For example, GigRove targets freelancing travelers in this great ad that is short and simple – but very appealing to the right audience. The copy isn’t going to win any awards, but it will definitely inspire a click from their target user.

GigRove - Ultimate Guide to Writing Exceptional Copy | Trends & Insight Blog

Copywriting for Google ads

One of the most important places to write exceptional copy is in your paid search campaigns. With just 25 words for the title, and the need to stand out from competing ads above and below your link, Google search advertising is the true battlefield for copywriters.

Unbounce has an incredibly thorough article on how to write high-performing AdWords campaigns, but to summarize:

  • Remember that people see your ad after they perform a search – so give them an answer, not a repeat of the question they just asked Google
  • Include “You” whenever possible to make the ad personal
  • Make your ads hyper-local and time-relevant through the use of locations, dates, and count-down timers
  • Continually A/B test

One of the easiest ways to evaluate and find the best paid search campaigns is to search for high-profile industry topics or keywords and evaluate the campaigns that show up – which ones would you be more likely to click on?

Copywriting for landing pages

Of the different variations of copywriting, the most popular, and often most challenging, is the landing page. Once someone has clicked on the social media or search link, and arrived at your site, the real work begins.

Craft your landing page effectively and sales will more than cover the cost of your landing page, sponsored posts, and AdWords campaigns.

Landing page copy can vary tremendously, from 5-word pages that ask the reader to subscribe, to 5,000-word articles that encourage the reader to make a thousand dollar purchase.

Kickoff Labs shares an exceptional list of landing pages along with 10 key characteristics of each. Meanwhile, to see examples of well-crafted landing pages at work, take a look at Ramit’s courses on Regardless of your views on his courses, his ability to create highly-engaging and captivating landing pages that convert is impressive.


Becoming a skilled copywriter takes time, but it isn’t impossible. Although a digital marketer should develop the ability to craft all forms of copy, start by focusing on one or two forms. Then, as you become comfortable, expand to other platforms.

If you find yourself unable to write the kind of copy you need to grow your business, you have two options: you can either hire someone to develop the content for you, or invest the time to become an expert copywriter yourself.

Once your online presence has the copy it needs, landing clients, making sales, and growing your audience will become a walk in the park.

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