The Big Bang Guide to Copywriting

Big Bang Copy
,
April 2021
Copywriting

This guide contains all you need to know about copywriting: what it is, what copywriters do, the benefits of good copywriting, examples of good copywriting, the different types of copywriter and what to look for when hiring one.

Whether you’re an individual hoping to break into the industry, a professional copywriter looking for some tips or a business thinking of hiring a copywriter, this guide is for you. This is the Big Bang Guide to Copywriting.

1. What is Copywriting?

In the broadest sense, copywriting is writing for marketing or sales purposes. Any form of writing in which you are trying to persuade the reader to take action - click, download, buy, contact etc. - could be considered copywriting.

It is this idea of persuading the reader to take action that distinguishes copywriting from other forms of writing. For instance, a newspaper article will most likely be written in order to report the news or influence the opinion of the reader, but will not necessarily be expecting them to take any sort of action. Similarly, a novel or a poem is not trying to persuade the reader to download or buy anything.

Once we understand this distinction, we can start to understand the sheer volume of copywriting that we are exposed to on a daily basis - and therefore the importance of written communication in our daily lives. Here are some everyday examples from the online and offline world of where we might encounter copy:

Online

  • Facebook ads
  • Twitter ads
  • Google search ads
  • Promotional emails
  • Landing pages

Offline

  • Posters
  • Menus
  • Adverts
  • Brochures
  • Catalogues

Yet when we see any of these things, we’re only seeing the end result of the copywriting process. So what else goes into it?

2. What Does a Copywriter Do?

So what does a copywriter do? It’s much more than just writing the words you would see on the examples we’ve given above. A copywriter’s responsibilities could include:

  • Learning about the product or service that they’re promoting
  • Researching the target audience that they’re writing for
  • Researching competitors to see how they write and what they write about
  • Establishing brand guidelines in the form of a style guide
  • Optimising copy for search engines (otherwise known as SEO)
  • Optimising copy for user experience (otherwise known as UX Writing)

These responsibilities will vary depending on the type of copywriter (chapter 3) that you are. But any modern copywriter should have a working knowledge of things like SEO, User Experience (UX) and sales funnels.

3. The Benefits of Good Copywriting

Professionalism & Credibility

The first and most visible benefit of good copywriting is that it represents you or your business in a more professional way, thus making it more credible. Research conducted by Stanford professor BJ Fogg outlined four different types of credibility when people assess a new business:

  • Presumed credibility (a brand that you have already heard of is instantly more credible than an unknown business)
  • Reputed credibility (references or recommendations from your network that boost a brand’s credibility)
  • Surface credibility (e.g. the website looks professional)
  • Earned credibility (based on personal experience - which could be good customer service or reading a text full of typos and factual errors)

Based on these criteria, we can see that well-written, error-free copy is a significant factor when it comes to establishing the credibility of your company. And the data backs this up. A study conducted by Global Lingo found that 74% of people notice bad spelling or grammar on a website - and 59% would not use a company because of it. In short, bad copywriting is bad for business.

Establish a Brand Tone of Voice

Copywriting is the best way to set your company apart from competitors and thus win more business. But that doesn’t necessarily mean writing in a flamboyant manner with mammoth words and rambunctious, kaleidoscopic adjectives like these ones. 


Since every piece of content you publish reinforces your company's tone of voice, you need to make sure your tone of voice is unique, consistent and represents your brand correctly. Therefore your tone of voice can come in many forms and depends on how you want to project your brand to the world.


Many companies establish their tone of voice through a style guide, which defines every aspect of your written communication. A style guide can be as simple as a 1-2 page document outlining some key principles, or it could be as in-depth as the Mailchimp style guide. Once you’ve created these guidelines you can start to implement your tone of voice across your business, and subsequently start to differentiate yourself from the competition.

Improve Your Search Engine Ranking

Another benefit of good copywriting is the positive effects it will have on your website’s search ranking. A good SEO copywriter is able to optimise your website copy to maximise its chances of featuring on page one of Google. There are a number of elements that go into SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), yet arguably none are more important than well-written copy.


Two key indicators of SEO performance are time spent on page and bounce rate. If your content is poorly-written and irrelevant to the reader, the chances are that they will spend less time on the page and then exit. The importance of this is emphasised in one such study which indicates that the bounce rate on pages with spelling and grammatical errors was 85% higher than those without errors. 


Ultimately, your content might meet all of Google’s search ranking factors (and there are A LOT), but if the end result if poorly-written, doesn’t meet people’s expectations and drives them away from the page, your website is not going to stay on page one for long.  

Increase Website Traffic

Appearing on page one of Google doesn’t always mean that traffic to your website will increase. To do that, you’ve also got to make sure that the headlines and meta descriptions used throughout your website are enticing enough to convince people to click.


As we already touched upon in the previous point, if your content doesn’t meet people’s expectations (for example - it might not deliver upon what was promised in the headline or introduction) then the performance of your entire website will suffer. Bad copy and misleading headlines send bad signals to Google, and you do not want to send bad signals to our algorithm overloads. Oh no you don't.

More Conversions & Sales

Credibility, tone of voice, SEO, traffic...they’re all clearly beneficial for your business, but it’s true that none of these directly impact your bottom line. Yet good copywriting can do that too. Take this example.

Your e-commerce website gets 100,000 visitors a month, and 1,000 of those go on to make a purchase. That means your website has a conversion rate of 1%. But instead of investing large amounts of money into marketing in an attempt to grow your website traffic, you could instead hire a specialist copywriter to rewrite your website copy. 

If the copywriter’s changes means that your conversion rate goes from 1% to 1.5%, you’re suddenly making 500 extra sales every month. That’s a 50% increase. This is an example of the tangible impact that a copywriter can have on the bottom line of your business. 

Simply put, hiring a professional copywriter makes business sense.


Now that we understand the benefits that good copywriting can bring to a business, we're going to take a look at some real-life examples of good copywriting - and what makes them so impressive.


4. Examples of Good Copywriting

By this point we’ve done a deep dive into the world of copywriting, but from our experience it can be difficult to gauge what constitutes good copywriting until you see some examples. So we’re going to look at a few copywriting examples and then try to illustrate what makes them so good. Without further ado…

Lemonade

For our first example we've picked out a company within the insurance sector, largely because the companies within it tend to share a similar tone of voice in their communications. The biggest players - the likes of Axa, Allianz and Aviva - are enormous, multinational companies with a very corporate tone of voice. And that’s fine - after all, an insurance company needs to build trust in their customer and project an aura of professionalism.

That’s why the example of Lemonade is so interesting. It is an American insurance company that was only founded in 2015, yet in a relatively short space of time has amassed more than one million customers and expanded to Germany, Netherlands and France. This is the first thing you see when you visit their website:


The first thing to note is that they’re instantly trying to position themselves as different from their competitors. ‘Forget Everything You Know About Insurance.’ It begs the questions: What do you know about insurance? Well, they’ve answered it for you in the next three sentences - without actually saying it themselves.

‘Instant everything. Great prices. Big heart.’ 

What’s the inference here? That Lemonade offers the opposite of what you might expect from a traditional insurer. Instead of slow customer service and lengthy insurance claims, they offer ‘instant everything’. Instead of expensive premiums, they offer ‘great prices’. And instead of being a soulless corporate, they’ve got a ‘big heart’. 

They’ve done all of this without explicitly telling you what other insurers are like, and in a tone of voice which is far more conversational than the industry norm. Oh, and they’ve used the rule of three - a classic writing principle and tool of persuasion. Let’s move on.


In the next section of the website, Lemonade very briefly outline what their three headline pledges mean. ‘Instant everything’ means paying claims back super fast. ‘Great prices’ means taking a flat fee instead of a percentage. Their ‘Big heart’ means they donate leftover money to charitable causes. In these 45 words they’ve managed to communicate the essence of their business and what sets them apart from competitors. Not bad, right? 

Have you noticed Lemonade’s tone of voice? It isinstantly distinct from other insurance companies. The sentences are short and sharp. They use informal language. They address the reader directly. They write in groups of three. Lemonade have an offering which is distinct from that of their competitors, and they have reinforced their uniqueness with a conversational tone of voice that sits outside industry norms. Everything about them so far suggests they are different, and we’ve only read about 100 words.

We’re really big fans of this copywriting because it’s a great example of a brand using their tone of voice to differentiate themselves from the competition.

Firebox

Being the immature, human-babies that we are, we’ve always been big fans of Firebox. They sell gloriously useless and unusual gifts that make you seriously question your life’s choices when they arrive. And whilst things like Tiny Hands, Pierre the Penis Pillow and Portable Blenders have us going like this…

...we also understand that they’re not for everyone. Which is where copywriting comes in. The Firebox copywriters are brilliant at preaching to the unconverted and persuading people why they can’t live without, for example, the Wacky Waving Inflatable Tube Guy.



Now. Firebox are a self-anointed wacky business. Their slogan is ‘Shop the Unusual’. They are literally selling a product with ‘wacky’ in the title. So it stands to reason that their copywriting is going to be a bit out of the box too. But that doesn’t make it easy to do!

This writing is brilliant because in essence, there isn’t much to say about this product. You could look at the product pictures and pretty much get it, so instead they have written a description which grabs your attention and makes you laugh. It triggers an emotional response in you - and that’s a mark of good copywriting. Best of all, you don’t even realise you’re being sold to because it really doesn’t feel like that.

Ultimately though, this is another example of a company using copywriting to reinforce their brand and differentiate themselves from the competition. If their tone of voice was serious and professional then it would jar with the customer; it wouldn’t feel right or convincing.

Trello

We’ve had two examples of brands that use quirky copywriting to establish themselves as different and leftfield. But that’s not necessarily the right approach for every company. With this next example we’re going to demonstrate how you can write in a way that fits within industry norms but still carves out a unique tone of voice for your business.

Trello is a project management and productivity tool. It helps businesses organise their activities across multiple boards and generally make things less complicated. So it makes sense that their website needs to be as uncomplicated and concise as possible.

Trello aren’t doing anything with an instant 'wow' factor here. They’re not using fancy writing or employing a tone of voice which is vastly different from competitors. Their contrast of ‘high rises’ and ‘the home office’ suggests their tool is for everyone and not strictly the business of conglomerates. There’s an immediate call-to-action on the homepage that gives users a sense of confidence with the ‘it’s free’ appendix at the end.


This example demonstrates the importance of using copywriting in a way which correctly represents your business. Could you imagine if we saw a more grandiose tone of voice on Trello’s website?

It certainly sounds impressive - but you're probably feeling unsure what Trello actually does at this point. This might seem like an extreme example, but it only does so when compared to the actual Trello homepage. A lot of companies talk in a convoluted manner like this and it only muddies the waters for potential customers. Ultimately, Trello is easy-to-use, easy-to-navigate and easy-to-understand. So is their copywriting. That’s what makes it effective.


Like what you see? To get these kinds of results you’re going to need a professional to do it. Let’s take a look at the mechanics of hiring a copywriter.


5. Hiring a Copywriter

As we’ve already mentioned, there are any number of reasons why a business would want to hire a copywriter. Anything that requires words could also require a copywriter to sprinkle their magic dust over it. When it comes to hiring a copywriter you’ve got two main options - hiring an in-house copywriter or working with a freelancer. Here are the advantages and drawbacks of both.

Hiring a Freelance Copywriter

Hiring a freelancer is a good way to test out the ways in which a copywriter can benefit your business. If you have a specific project, such as the launch of a new website, then you could get a freelance copywriter on board to help you for a limited period of time. There are lots of different types of copywriters, too, so you should consider hiring a specialist in your field if you think it's necessary. But in order to get the most out of the relationship it’s important you understand what a copywriting brief should contain. Doing so will make your copywriting project run smoother, be less time-consuming and ultimately be more fruitful.

If you already have a brand tone of voice document then that’s one of the first things you should send over to the copywriter. But if you don’t have a physical or digital document then don’t worry - just giving them an idea of your preferred tone of voice through other examples, or a few brief sentences, should be enough for a copywriter to get the idea.

After that, it’s time to get into the specifics. Let’s use the example of a new website launch. How many words would you like in each section? What should the purpose of each page be? Are you targeting specific keywords? Send over a few examples of similar websites that you’re hoping to emulate. The more information you can provide, the better.

As time goes on you might find that a copywriter can benefit your business in more ways than you thought - at which point hiring an in-house writer could be the better option.

Hiring an In-House Copywriter

If you decide to take on a part-time or full-time copywriter then it’s important to have their roles and responsibilities clearly defined beforehand. You should earmark the areas of the business that need copywriting help and then hire accordingly. However, that shouldn’t be too difficult. Just think about some of the ways in which a copywriter could help you:

  • Writing the words for your landing page
  • Writing promotional emails
  • Editing your current website copy to improve conversions
  • Editing your app copy to keep them engaged with your product for longer
  • Putting together a brand tone of voice for employees to refer to
  • Writing the copy for social media adverts
  • Writing the copy for sales decks and PowerPoint presentations

As you can see, you might only have one project earmarked for a copywriter, but it will soon become clear that their work touches almost every aspect of a business. 

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Words Matter.

Copywriting is a skill that brings enormous benefits to your company. It allows you to carve out a unique brand tone of voice, which in turn can differentiate you from the competition and win you more business. Any business could benefit from professional copywriting, and in many cases it will turn out to be more profitable than investing in extra sales people or marketers.

If you’re a business looking to invest in copywriting, then you’ve made the right choice! At Big Bang Copy we write bold, eye-catching and effective copy that differentiates you from competitors and wins you more business. Get in touch to learn more about what we can do for you.

By
Big Bang Copy