Writing Better Copy in Three Easy Steps
It just so happens that from time to time nearly anyone can write an article that takes off beyond their wildest dreams. Links start pouring it, the article beings tearing up the shares/Diggs/retweets/whatevers and is being forwarded all across the Internet, and no end is in sight. What was different with this particular piece of content? Wouldn’t it be great if all of the articles you write in the future turn out to be as popular this? They can be…
The truth is that not every single article can be like that, but that does not mean that all hope is lost and you should give up writing copy. There was something in that last article that you wrote that made it so successful, and you just need to figure out what it was. You could spend a lot of time trying to figure out which writing technique it was, or you could just read the rest of this post and get a few major hints. With a little help in the psychology department, figuring out what went so wonderfully right in the last article you wrote is not going to be too hard. Before discussing the psychology of it, let me tell you a brief story about my wife and her Yahtzee game.
My father gave my wife a portable electronic game of Yahtzee a long time ago, and my wife and I both play the game on a near-daily basis. One of my habits that drives my wife nuts is that I will not start playing a game unless I can begin with a Yahtzee. To her it is a matter of superstition, but to me it is a simple numbers game; if the probability of using the same playing techniques is used in the same fashion every game, then it would seem logical to guess that starting with a Yahtzee would be a good way to ensure a higher average score and a greater probability of setting high scores. My current high score is 628, hers is in the mid-300s and she plays more than I do.
My Yahtzee story goes to show one thing: knowing that you are playing a game of probability can help you stack the deck in your favor just as I do in mine when playing Yahtzee. There is nothing unethical about stacking the deck when writing copy, only simple logic.
Copy Psychology 101: Gratification NOW!
The vast majority of people tend to like instant or near-instant gratification, and that can be clearly illustrated in so many different ways that it is virtually indisputable. How can you offer instant gratification? There are a few ways to do it, but the first is to succinctly and concisely teach something that a user will find truly useful. If you look around the pages on AoB, you will see that we have plenty of content that teaches how to do this or how to do that. Why? Because people have questions and they want answers.
Take this a step further and add teaching techniques to copy. For example, if you are a site that reviews video editing software and hardware, offer a review of a feature (not a program) that is shared by many utilities and concisely demonstrate what you are talking about and how to accomplish the same act at home/in the office in the quickest possible manner. If someone can learn something that they feel is useful in a very short period of time, then you have already started stacking the deck in your favor.
Copy Psychology 102: Beware of This, That, and the Other Thing!
Everyone has fear, and consumers have a very common set of fears. For example: people are scared of taking their car to a garage and getting ripped off because they do not know anything about cars. Many people never visit an electronics store to buy a big screen TV because they know nothing about shopping for big screen TVs and are afraid of being ripped off. People are scared of taking their computer to the repair shop because they are afraid of getting ripped off. Nobody likes shopping for used or new cars…because they are afraid of getting ripped off. This same theme repeats itself all over the place: fear kills sales. Dead. Period. End of story.
Remove the fear by empowering the reader/viewer with enough knowledge to navigate whatever obstacle they are facing that serves as an obstruction to buying something. In our previous example of a site that is an affiliate for various video editing solutions, the main fears are probably things like: Can I figure out how to use this? Is it really so simple? Can my computer run this software?
Address these concerns head-on: Yes! You can learn this because our site has helpful tutorials and we will gladly answer e-mails and even make guides for popular questions. Is it simple? It is so simple that if you cannot learn it in 10 days or less, you can get our FREE e-book! Click here to have your system specs tested to see if your computer is compatible. These are all ways to overcome fear, but this is just one example.
Other sites are dedicated to less specific things, such as sites that sell aftermarket products for muscle cars. In cases there the content is so broad, offer warnings and suggestions. Something like this: Shopping for a Hemi? Be sure to inspect the…here’s how…and put in appropriate pictures and/or video. Many people are scared of purchases because they feel that they are in a minefield. Give them a map that tells them what the danger looks like and how to avoid it, and you will have not only taught them something useful, you will have removed fear that serves as an obstacle to a conversion.
Copy Psychology 103: Be Specific!
There are some subjects that are very difficult to discuss in specific terms, but examples are always helpful. I could have saved myself some time and not written about the muscle car site or the video editing software/hardware examples, but I did. Why? Because they are specific examples of what I am talking about (and I just got to use them again!). If you write only in nebulous terms, then expect people to respond accordingly. Think of it this way: horoscopes are notoriously and intentionally vague, but few sane people act on them routinely; a repair manual for a 1980 Honda Civic is likely to be very detailed and followed to the letter.
Unless your website is about horoscopes, you should try to write copy that is more like the Honda Civic manual. That does not mean that a little theory or groundwork does not have its place, but be sure to include succinct steps and a summary whenever possible.
You do not have complete control over how well your posts are received, but you are not helpless to impact the popularity of a post either. Take a look at what has worked in the context of teaching, removing fear as an obstacle, and being specific and see if something doesn’t just click. If and when it does, try to learn from that success and bring it into as many pieces of content as is reasonably possible. It is only a matter of time until success repeats itself if you always start out with the deck stacked in your favor.
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