Writers create art. And art influences human behavior, including the act of buying a product or requesting to learn more about a product.
And that’s the reason you’re here. You want to improve ad copy, blog content, or site text.
In this blog, I’m going to discuss how to make your copy more potent. I will break down simple techniques to clean up outdated copy or blog posts or ad copy. I will do so by way of best writing practices, but also through simple technical applications that can help the non-writer.
Who is this copywriting guide for?
- The non-writer who needs to create or clean up ad copy or site copy.
- The established writer seeking to improve their craft.
- SEO Copywriters and bloggers.
- What does it mean to write copy?
Copywriting includes ad copy (think Google Ads), newsletter marketing, social media posts, and blogs written for SEO or viral intent.
When a writer creates powerful copy, it can influence people to make big life decisions. For example, impactful copy helps sell merchandise. It entices people to put their email and phone number in a lead generation form. It impacts how people feel about a brand or politician or charity. It placates angry, jaded customers.
Underwhelming copy discourages sales and leads. Reckless copy ruins reputations. Sluggish copy burns advertising spend.
What you write, anywhere at all, matters.
So, How Do You Write Amazing Copy?
I’ve written copy for brands all over the world, including USA Today print. Many non-digital marketing friends often think that I’m hired to write for people who “can’t write.”
That’s far from true.
At least half of the people who have hired me to write copy for them have an MBA. In some cases, they don’t have time to write copy for themselves. They might be scaling a business model and that requires an infusion of resources, including copywriting.
But more often than not, they’ve tried to create amazing copy and failed.
You can’t achieve an MBA without extensive writing.
My point is that copywriting, as an art and vocation, bewilders intelligent, educated people. They create copy that they feel should sell or influence, only to have the associated data tell a far worse story.
To write killer copy, you must break free from traditional mindsets. Selling floor tiling to new home buyers and writing a thesis for your college professor aren’t the same things.
To write copy that moves the sales or influencer needle, you need to change your mindset.
Let’s begin with some basics that can help you create new content, or clean up legacy content.
The 3 Copy Cleansers
The below pointers are ways you can clean up copy. Let’s say you’re an executive at a company you are not ready to hire a content marketer or copywriter. Or maybe, you are a writer but want to edit your copy for effectiveness.
That’s what the tips below help with. I follow these after every piece of content I create. So you should as well.
“To Be” or Passive Voice
One of the more argued SEO writing techniques is “dreaded” passive voice. But many people don’t understand what passive voice is and certainly not why it harms SEO.
Here’s the thing: It does not harm SEO in direct fashion.
The reason you hear that passive voice harms SEO is that Yoast SEO, the most widely downloaded WordPress SEO plugin, scores for passive voice. So a flawed assumption now exists.
The reason Yoast scrapes your copy for instances of passive voice is to increase readability. Passive voice often makes your copy feel less readable. When you use passive voice too much, your copy may be less potent.
Understanding passive voice confuses many people. That’s OK; you don’t need to understand it to correct it adequately.
When you write in passive voice, you emphasize the verb as the subject. That can, at times, weaken copy.
Let’s have a quick look at what I mean:
PASSIVE: This blog post was written by Cory Hedgepeth
ACTIVE: Cory Hedgepeth wrote this blog post
The second active version flows better. The subject, myself, is clear.
Notice how in the passive version, we can cut out my name entirely.
This blog post was written.
This example shows why passive voice can harm copy.
But let’s not dive too deep into what passive voice is, let’s talk about how to clean it up.
Both SEO Yoast and Grammarly will run checks for passive voice. This allows you to go back and create more powerful sentences. In my experience, Grammarly performs better at passive voice checks. You can do a manual check, which means using CTRL F to search for instances of “is” and “are” and “was,” to name a few.
When you encounter the sentence that’s deemed passive, you need to decide if you can use a more powerful verb in place of the verb, “to be.”
In some cases, maybe you can’t. No big deal, remember, you’re looking to clean up as much copy as you can, not rewrite the entire piece. Don’t sweat it if you can’t figure out a better sentence structure. Additionally, sometimes, passive voice is just fine.
For example, if you don’t know the person or thing that performed the action.
My toolbox was stolen from my truck.
If you don’t know who stole your toolbox, you can’t do much to change it.
The key takeaway: Go back over copy and find instances of passive voice and see if you can write a more powerful sentence.
When you use an adverb, you determine that you could not find a more powerful verb because powerful verbs stand alone.
You shouldn’t strip all adverbs, instead, just comb through the copy for instances of modifiers and determine if you can use a more impactful verb.
Many people will tell you that adverbs destroy otherwise good prose. When you use an adverb, you must ask yourself if the adverb detracts from the writing, or waste sentence length.
Writing shorter sentences helps make your work more impactful. Adverbs add length. When writing a Google Ads or Social Media headline, it is especially important to cut down on copy length.
When are adverbs a waste?
I yelled emphatically at the man.
I mean, I, “yelled,” right? I didn’t need “emphatically” to modify a verb that implies such.
Again, the key takeaway: comb over your copy and determine if every adverb is needed. Restructure sentences accordingly.
Technical Copywriting Assistance
The two leading copywriting assistance software I recommend:
- Yoast SEO (if you’re using WordPress)
I rely on Grammarly the most for helping me clean up copy. I typically write in Grammarly’s online editor first and then copy the text over to it’s home. You can install a Grammarly plugin for most browsers, although, it can slow down your processing speed. Most notably, Grammarly’s extension can cause a WordPress editor to become sluggish.