What's in it for meThere are some really good copywriters out there – and some writers who think that being able to write good English is all you need to get paid as a commercial copywriter.  I’ve read some absolutely fantastic, compelling and interesting copy on commercial websites – and some copy that doesn’t help the site owner in any way at all.

If you’re writing commercially it’s all about purpose.  What do you want people to do when they’ve read what you have to say?

Then you have to take into account that people are busy, impatient and lazy.  Yes, that applies to you and me too.  We want to find what will benefit us quickly and without too much effort, so if you’re looking at a website, a flyer or a brochure you need to get the message quickly and without having to work too hard.  Online this means that people won’t read much, they just scan over what’s there looking for key words.

The universal keyword is YOU!

To be honest, most of us are not very interested in what a potential supplier does, no matter how good they claim to be.  What we want to know is ‘what do I get?’  As soon as you write about your reader they are much more engaged.

In order to do this you really need to know what your reader wants, what their problems are, what is irritating them, what they dream of and what will get them to pick up the phone.  No easy task, but nobody said that copywriting was easy – although some people seem to think it is.

How many words is the right amount of copy?

This is a ‘how long is a piece of string?’ question; there is no single right answer.  On a marketing flyer, fewer words with a powerful headline on the front is essential and there needs to be plenty of white space to encourage people to engage – solid text puts people off.  On a website it varies.

  • A long sales page can have up to 1500 words – but it’s written to a very specific formula and only works for certain types of product.  It’s predominantly focused on business to consumer, rather than business to business.
  • A brochure-style website really only needs enough content to persuade people to want to know more and get in touch – that can be anything from 150-250 words, any longer and your reader will start disengaging.
  • An online store will need a short description of each product and, ideally, a longer benefits-based narrative – but not too long.

Search engine optimisation specialists may ask you to deliver much more copy.  However, search engines are more sophisticated and don’t need those longer landing pages of 400-600 words they used to.  As long as each page is focused on a single product or service and the content is around that, you shouldn’t need to worry.

When to stop

Say what you have to say and then shut up!  A good rule of thumb to follow.  Ensure everything you have to say is about how your reader will benefit in some way and then ask them to take action.  This may be to visit another page on your website, to ring you, to read your blog, to sign up to your list or something else.

Make the call to action clear and easy to follow and then don’t add any more copy.  The fewer distractions the more likely they will be to take action.

If you follow these tips you’ll find your commercial copy will improve out of all recognition.