3 Rules of effective copywriting

In this post I'll explain 3 very basic rules of copywriting. Although they'll sound very simple (and even redundant) these are the most overlooked copywriting principles based on my personal experience of reviewing 500+ Landing Pages.

Here are the 3 rules:

Rule 1: Clear and Evocative

It's far more important for your writing to be easy to understand than for it to be well-written.

But clarity can be viewed differently by different people. So a simple test of clarity is evocativeness. If your audience can see, touch, smell and interact with your product in their imagination that brings immediate clarity.

But for many products (like softwares) it's not possible to touch or smell it. So the alternative is to bring the product as close to reality as possible. If your copy can help them interact with it in their imagination that's the clarity your copy should strive for.

At times this clarity will come with examples and in other cases you can add clarity by complementing the copy with an image or video.

Here are few examples from some successful companies who didn't get it right the first time. But the good thing about successful companies is that they realize what's not working and fix them over a period.

Below I've shown 2 examples where some simple tweaks made to the copy massively increased the clarity.

Example 1: Contentyze

Before

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After

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Initially they went for something clever and catchy only to change course over a period of time.

"Turn ideas to content at scale" sounds like an interesting proposition but when you start thinking about it, you can form a mental image of what "content at scale" would look like.

More importantly, they couldn't easily put an image to represent the text. Look at the 2 images in before and after designs and you'll see how easy it was to visualize the product in the second design.

The thumb rule is - anything that takes us more than 5 seconds to visualize is not a clear copy. You may still go ahead with it for very complex products but you must always think of ways to make it simple.

Example 2: ConvertCalculator

Before

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After

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Rule 2: Speak Audience's Language

Speaking the language of your audience is the next important rule. That includes using jargons, technical references or anything that makes your audience think that you are one of them. You understand them.

Most of the time you'll find these specific wordings and phrases during user research phase when you ask your users about their pain points during the product development.

Here is an example where you'll find that the copy uses some technical terms which many people (outside their target audience) might not be familiar with and how it changes based on audience.

Before

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After

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You'll notice that the copy talks about dynamic email images, APIs etc. which is okay if you know that your target audience can connect to it.

Earlier they were targeting designers and they talked about "variations of graphic templates". When they changed the target audience to address marketers they removed those references and used marketing jargons like 'social media visuals'.

For creating a great landing page, writing good copy is as important as knowing who your audience is.

Rule 3: Short and Precise

Finally, your should keep your copy precise and simple. This rule comes third when all the 3 rules are considered. That means it's absolutely important to write clear copy that speaks to your audience even if it's not very short and precise.

But once those 2 rules are met, you should try to make your copy as compact as possible because you have a very short window to deliver your message across to the reader and you need to deliver the maximum you can within that window.