Blending compelling copy with keyword strategy takes practice. Lots and lots of practice.
Online copywriting has made it necessary for us, ah, mature copywriters to update our existing skills to meet new demands. And even if you’re a digital native who learned online copywriting right off the bat, the strategies for creating copy that’s both persuasive and optimized aren’t easy to remember when you’re cranking out copy by the ton.
After all, not everyone is capable of turning the fine art of writing into the science of online copywriting. Online copywriters are a hybrid breed, and if you master this craft, you’ll always be in demand and never lack for work.
As an online copywriter who also teaches this craft to others, I have to continually polish my skills. It’s always worth reviewing the mandates of the online copywriting world! I’m going to get some practice in online copywriting by tweaking the examples below. And I encourage you to take these “before” examples and practice for yourself, before you read my versions.
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An effective online copywriter must master search engine optimization.
Trust me, it’s not as hard as it seems once you’ve jumped in and tried it. Besides, it can be a great brain exercise, like acrostics or crossword puzzles. But I know that for some of you, forcing yourself to use words that you wouldn’t have used otherwise is still a huge hurdle. So try writing your sparkling copy without using the keywords. Often you’ll find that you’ve used those words anyway. The savvy online copywriter will then go back and see where to replace pronouns, or insert the keyword in front of a generic noun.
Here’s the lead paragraph of a sales letter that should be optimized for the phrase “building horse barns.” Although the phrase is right there in the title of this free report, the density for this phrase throughout the letter is only 1.9% — not nearly enough to get to a Google results page that anyone will ever see. It is creative, though. So how can a skilled online copywriter improve its optimization?
When it comes to building your own horse barn, well, Dickens could well have been writing about that instead of the French Revolution: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.”
Few things are as exciting, overwhelming, frustrating and exhilarating as building your own horse stable. You get exactly what you want in your horse barn, and you can design your stable plan to suit your specific horse needs. But it’s not as easy to design a horse barn floor plan that incorporates everything you want and remains functional and affordable. And the more you add, the more your new horse barn costs and the more decisions you’ll need to make.
As a professional online copywriter, it’s easy for me to see where to tweak the copy:
When it comes to building horse barns, well, Dickens could well have been writing about that instead of the French Revolution: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness.”
Few things are as exciting, overwhelming, frustrating and exhilarating as building horse barns. You get exactly what you want in your horse barn, and you can design your stable plan to suit your specific horse needs. But when building horse barns, it’s not easy to design a horse barn floor plan that incorporates everything you want and remains functional and affordable. And the more you add, the more your new horse barn costs and the more decisions you’ll need to make.
An effective online copywriter must focus on benefits, not features.
This hasn’t changed on the Internet, but it still surprises me how many people don’t seem to grasp this. As Don likes to say, people want to fit into their clothes better – that’s a benefit. What they don’t want is the diet – a feature. But you can always turn those boring features into exciting benefits if you’re a skilled online copywriter.
A seminar description from a digital media summit:
Frank Anton shares Hanley Wood’s approach to and experience with transforming his publishing company to a media, information and marketing company that puts digital first. Hear also what he sees in store for the future of magazine publishers.
Those are the features. But an online copywriter shouldn’t make the reader figure out how all this will benefit him. Revised:
Discover the future of digital publishing and map your own path forward when you hear how one publisher completely transformed his business. You’ll be able to jumpstart your own company’s digital growth and profits after attending this session!
An effective online copywriter must write less.
Online copywriting includes many platforms where characters are limited, including Twitter, Facebook, text ads and email subject lines. This seems like an impossibility, but truly it’s an opportunity to hone your skills. After all, most writers were taught to write concisely and clearly … but it’s easy to wander off that path in the day-to-day rush to complete your tasks. As an online copywriter, writing character-limited copy forces you to revisit that “write tight” skill, while still answering the question, “What’s in it for me?”
To write a great character-limited headline, go ahead and write out a great long headline. Sit back. Ponder it.
The headline on an investing newsletter promotion:
Warren Buffett Mastered This Simple Strategy 50 Years Ago. It Made Him a Billionaire. Now He Can’t Use it Anymore…
He’s Too Rich. But YOU Can.
Now try to summarize this information. This strategy made Buffett a billionaire, so he must love it. He can’t use it anymore because he’s too rich, but … he probably wishes he could still use such a successful strategy!
Here’s the subject line of the investing newsletter promotion, clearly written by a skilled online copywriter – a mere 34 characters:
How Buffett WISHES He Could Invest
Now here’s a rather lengthy subject line for a webinar on assertiveness.
Asserting Yourself: How to Say “No” and Other Tricky Encounters
Revised version, 36 characters:
You’ll Never Cave in to Others Again
An effective online copywriter must cater to the skimmers.
Studies have shown us most people, faced with more than a paragraph, will skim what you’ve written. As an online copywriter, how do you make sure those folks still get your message? Answer: Repeat the highlights of your message over and over, and emphasize it with bold, underlined and indented type. These elements will draw the skimmer’s eye and reinforce your message. And every time you do that, you should include a call to action, too.
Here’s an example from my sales letter for Mequoda’s fictional magazine, Hidden Gardens:
Hidden Gardens not only takes you around the world without leaving your garden bench, it also helps you …
- Create stunning gardens at home that will stop traffic
- Implement the newest design techniques
- Learn wildlife and garden photography tips from the experts
- Discover amazing plants you never heard of
- Save time and money in developing your ideal landscape
- Enjoy your garden more while working less
- Achieve your dream garden – at last!
Discover the world’s most amazing hidden gardens and become the gardener you always wanted to be!
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An effective online copywriter must include keywords in hyperlinks.
This is a simple but effective trick: Never, ever write “Click here.” Instead, write “Get your FREE conservative investing guide right now!” “Conservative investing” would be a keyword phrase you’re targeting.
As an online copywriter, I have to practice, practice, practice to keep my skills sharp. But after 35 years as a writer, I love having the chance to elevate my game in this brave new world. I especially love the challenge of helping publishers get found on the Internet, so let us know if you’ve got an SEO problem that a professional online copywriter could solve! And, as always, please share your own tips and tricks of online copywriting with the community below.