Entries from January 2010 ↓

Copywriting – Clever or Clean?


This was a question that was raised during last week’s online Q&A session on copywriting as a career with The Guardian.

Clean copywriting is very tight, concise, compelling sales copy – clever copywriting is there to impress.

Which is best?

As the Q&A discussion discovered, it rather depends on your audience. However as 99% of my copywriting work is commercial print or web based – I shall answer that question from my experience.

Short and sweet wins every time

When I’m approached to write sales copy (whether is for brochures, email campaigns, posters, adverts or SEO website copy) I follow a simple formula which is designed to have maximum impact.

We all lead busy lives these days; sales messages are everywhere – in newspapers, on buses, on the tube, on radio, TV, magazines, the internet…the list is endless. Considering the number of messages we are faced with on a daily basis of you want yours to get through it must be powerful and concise.

Because of this your message must be noticed, resonate with the reader, convince and compel them to take action.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it!

The winning formula

I mentioned earlier that I follow a formula to create clean and compelling copy. Before I tell you what that is you must remember one thing. Every audience you write for is going to be different. An approach that worked for one group of people may fall short of the mark when used on another group. So always bear your audience in mind when creating your copy.

So where do you start? Well, how do you normally read things? from the beginning, right? And what do you find at the beginning?

  1. Headline

This is the hook that will get some interested in your copy enough to read it. If you get your headline wrong, your whole sales pitch will be lost. If you need inspiration read magazines, look through newspapers or check out the home page of Digg – that is a great source of inspiration.

However you create it, it must draw your reader in to the rest of your copy.

  1. Beginning

Once your headline has pulled them into your message web, hit them with the main benefits of your product/service. Hit them between the eyes – tell them exactly what the product/service will do for them.

At the end of the day, your reader will only buy if they are going to benefit in someway – point that out to them immediately and your half way there.

  1. Middle

Now you’ve shown them the benefits of your product/service their hand is poised over their wallet – but they’re not pulling out their credit cards just yet.

They may be interested in your product now, but you’ve got to make them want it. Help them visualise how amazing their lives will be if they had it. Make them want it by telling them supply is restricted or the price is going up soon or they’ll be amongst the first to won it, they’ve been specially selected…

  1. Finale

This is it – they’ve grabbed their wallet, they’ve taken out their credit card…does it end there?

It will if you don’t tell them what to do next. The final step is to write a strong call to action. If you don’t tell them to buy now, call now or order now they won’t know what to do and will look elsewhere.

Headline + Benefits + Want Factor + CTA = SALES!!!!!

If you want your sales copy to work every time, keep it strong, keep it tight, keep it simple. Don’t try and be clever.

Sally Ormond – Freelance copywriter

Copywriting As A Career

freelance copywriter

Yesterday’s post announced the Q&A session I was asked to take part in for The Guardian today.

Well, as you can see, I am still able to type!

Loads of excellent questions were thrown at the panel covering all aspects of copywriting and how to get started in the industry. Not only did we manage (I hope) to help a number of the participants, I think we learnt a lot from each other too.

Find out what it means to be a copywriter

Starting out as a new copywriter can be a daunting experience. There are so many things to think about:

  • Do I start as a freelance copywriter or get a job with an agency
  • How do I find clients?
  • How do I start my portfolio
  • Do I need an online presence?
  • Do I need any special qualifications?
  • Are there any courses I can do?

The best way to find out how to get started is by asking someone already doing it.

Visit The Guardian’s forum and discover a few tips for starting out in the world of copywriting. If you can’t find the answer to your question here, drop me a line and I’ll do my best to help you.

Copywriting As A Career – Want To Know More?

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Many of you know about me and my freelance copywriting business – Briar Copywriting. Well now you have the opportunity of learning a bit more about me.

The Guardian’s Careers Forum – Copywriting

On Friday 15th January The Guardian are running an online forum about careers in copywriting. So, if you are considering a career change or want to know about copywriting and how to get started, come along!

I will be amongst an esteemed panel of experts from the copywriting world. We have all come to the industry from different backgrounds so you’re sure to learn a lot from our experiences.

Visit the forum this Friday 15th January between 12pm and 3pm and post your questions to us.

It’ll be great to see you there.


Freelance Copywriter

SEO Love – What is SEO copywriting really about?


In days gone by, most ‘SEO copywriters’ thought it enough to achieve that magical keyword density within their web copy to keep their clients happy.

WARNING if your SEO copywriter tells you keyword density is still important, get yourself another copywriter.

There was an ad in my local paper recently from a company looking for a freelance SEO website copywriter. Intrigued, I responded with a few examples of my work and a brief explanation of SEO copywriting and what I would be able to do for them. The next day I got a call from them wanting to meet up.

That meeting was very enlightening. The guy told me he had spoken with a few people who’d responded to his ad – most of the SEO ‘experts’ couldn’t write and most of the SEO ‘copywriters’ obviously had no idea about the whole concept of search engine optimisation.

I had been called in because I was the only one who’d mentioned in my email that keyword density was not an important factor anymore. We had a very enlightening discussion.

Just plain chicken for me, forget the stuffing

You still see today websites that have their content stuffed to bursting point with keywords. In fact the copy is so jam packed it is unreadable.

Sure keywords are still important – more so in where they are positioned – but you’ll find natural writing will attract the required frequency of your keywords anyway. What is more important is the construction of well thought out, relevant copy that will be of interest to your readers.

Today SEO is more about relevancy and popularity – your writing has to make you an authority.

Come link with me…

In today’s internet environment, if you want to get great rankings you have to get people to link to you.

Links from other sites are like gold dust as far as Google is concerned which could have something to do with the strong emergence of social media marketing.

Before you can get any links you have to get your stuff noticed – sites such as Digg, Delicious, Stumble Upon (there are loads more) are great for this. Self submission can be frowned on so get a friend to submit for you. Creating strong headlines will give your stuff a great chance of being picked up.

Use a blog, Twitter, Squidoo or Hubpages to generate more links too.

Basically the more links you have coming into your site from other websites (relevant to your field), the more authoritative Google will see you and the higher in the search engine results you’ll appear.

Concentrate on…

  • Relevant copy that people will want to read
  • Making sure your keywords are in your headings, subheadings, page tags
  • Use social media marketing
  • Blog, Tweet, Squidoo and Hubpage
  • Creating copy that will attract links

Need advice?

If you’re not sure how good your webcopy is and just need a bit of advice or guidance, get in touch and I’ll take a look for you (no tricks, no charge, no obligation).

Sally Ormond – freelance copywriter

Website Copywriting Tip – Be Who You Are


Writing your own website copy can be a complete nightmare. Trying to distance yourself from your business to write about it objectively is incredibly difficult.

For a start you have to forget about blowing your own trumpet – readers don’t like that. Instead you have to consider what it is that you do for your customers. How do they directly benefit from your product/service?

Then you have to make sure you don’t include any jargon. You have to write simply – now that can be a challenge. So many people fall into the trap of thinking…

I’m writing for the public therefore I must use incredibly complex sentences and unfathomable words to show my incredible intellect”

Well if you do, no one will read your website.

Don’t be something you’re not

Even if you manage to master all of that, you must be careful about how you portrait yourself.

Most local companies aim to achieve great rankings using local/geographical keywords. Why? Because you can get good results quickly and, if people are searching for local companies, they will probably use a town or county name within their search.

But businesses often have a desire to appear bigger than they actually are dropping local geographical terms within their copy in favour of the faceless national corporation facade. The problem with that is you’ll do nothing for your local rankings and end up being disheartened as you try to compete with the big boys for generic keywords that return millions of results.

It’s not all about size

A certain amount of illusion can be created by using “we” instead of “I” or words associated with large companies – “fleet”, “team”, etc.

But be warned – there is a reason why people search the internet for small local businesses.

To them, small businesses mean a high quality, personal service. They expect to pay a reasonable amount for goods and services safe in the knowledge they aren’t being ripped off by overly expensive items. If you try to show yourself as a large business it can convey negative connotations – expensive, inferior service, customers not being treated as individuals.

So think carefully before you start to write your copy.

Write to your reader, write simply, and tell them what’s in it for them.

Be proud to be a small local company – I know I am.

Sally Ormond – Freelance Copywriter