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The Copywriting Lesson Every Online Writer Needs to Succeed


How can you, as a writer, compete and succeed today?

(this page is part of the ZenCopy Author Help: Writing and Personal Branding resource page)

Everyone is suffering from information overload. We’re bombarded and bewildered, or bored, by the never-ending stream of information that comes our way every day – often too much of too much the same.  Perhaps you just created the greatest piece of writing since (fill in the blank with your favorite writing here), but unless you write in ways that gets people to pay attention you may still fail as a writer – particularly if your dream is to make your living from the words you write.

You may think of yourself as a blogger, or an author, and you may not think of yourself as a copywriter, but unless you can hire a professional copywriter or marketing person to help you get your words noticed, the bottom line is, you ARE a copywriter. The difference is this: you can create a blog post title  that just sits there or gets people to read your post. Or a book title that simply exists, or a book title that helps sell your book.  The choice is yours. The quick and simple copywriting lesson below will spark some new ideas, give you new skills, and help you gain the edge you need to succeed with your writing.

When you talk with someone in person, you have the opportunity for a topic (like your latest book) to shine because of your unbridled enthusiasm – enthusiasm for your writing can win the listener over even if your writing is just so-so. But when you write online, where you’ll most likely never meet your readers in person so you can regale them with your passion, you have to do something with your copy and content so people sit up, tune in, and pay attention so they want to read (or buy) what you write.

So, here in a nutshell is the copywriting lesson every online writer needs to succeed.

Step 1. You Need to Know What Stands in Your Way and Strive to Overcome

Writing Obstacles and Fixes:

a. Obstacle: the large volume of information that bombards us. Fix: you MUST find a way to stand out whether it’s your voice, your topic, your expertise, your something. Dare to be different.

b. Obstacle: determining the most appropriate channels to distribute your writing. Fix: not all writing works well as an ebook or a blog post or a tweet so figure out what channels are best for YOUR style and writing and goals. If you love short and sweet, tweet. If you love long and intricate, write a novel. Know what you do well and then do it rather than following a writing trend.

c. Obstacle: knowing your readers’ lingo. Fix: it’s important to understand who you’re writing to so you speak the same language; avoid too much jargon or technical speak unless that is the language of your readers. When you write in ways that are hard to understand it makes readers feel as if you don’t respect them.

d. Obstacle: the readers’ need for instant gratification. Fix: give your readers something they want-fast. Let them know right away how reading that paragraph will ease their pain or let them know how much better or successful they will be when they’ve read your book or taken your course, etc.

Step 2. You Must Nab Your Readers’ Attention

a. It’s important that you aim to get your readers to feel – something. Decisions are made from points of emotion, not logic. So use storytelling and amazing description and things like personal experience to pull them in and feel what you want them to feel. Good writing takes people on a journey that they feel compelled to take.

b. You must make what you write personal to the reader. Let’s face it, when we read something we read it because we want something. Whether that something is a good story or finding the right book to cure what ails us. So as a writer your job is to spin your words that make a reader feel as if you are speaking right to them, as if you know them. And if they are part of your tribe you probably do know them somewhat because they are like you.

c. I’m repeating a because it’s that important. In order for you to succeed as a writer you must appeal to at least one of your readers’ emotions if you want to succeed. Listing all the logical reasons in the world why someone will be more successful if they buy and read your book will be far less effective than appealing to one of these emotions:

  • Fear
  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Joy
  • Disgust
  • Trust
  • Anticipation
  • Surprise

Step 3. Build the Message in Your Content that Goes Where You Want it to Go

a. What are you trying to do with the piece you are writing right now? Are you trying to sell a book? get subscribers? new readers? Create your “offer” so that readers will want to take the action you’d like them to take.

b. Build trust. Like any other relationship founded on trust, writing online takes time and energy and effort. You can’t just plop in with a “buy this” and then fly away and hope to succeed. You have to prove yourself as a writer of integrity to really build your tribe and let them know that you will deliver what they come to expect from you – what they need and want.

c. Don’t shy away from questions and objections- hit them head on as honestly as you can.

d. Describe the benefits of any “offer” in ways that sparks interest and fans the readers’ desire. Make it fun.

e. Make it easy for your reader to see herself as a customer. A reader should be able to read your book title, or blog post title, or first paragraph and easily imagine what will happen to them if they buy the book or read more.

f. Deliver your message in a clear compelling fashion. Go back to the beginning of this post and the idea of information overload. Don’t make your readers struggle to get what they need because they’ll just turn elsewhere.

g. It doesn’t hurt to state your call to action more than one time. When we hear something more than once, we believe it more.

Now that we’ve talked about some of the obstacles you as a writer face and a few things you can do to grab a readers’ attention and create compelling content, we can move on to the idea of  building copy, headlines and titles that sizzle.  In other words, if you want your content and copy to truly do what you need it to do (if you don’t have the resources to hire a professional content writer for your business, blog, or site), here are some “formulas” to be aware of. Be warned, though, part of what makes awesome content, well awesome, is its organic nature. So even though a “formula” might help you get started on the right track for a title or your copy, you need to make sure that what you’re writing works for your specific situation. So use these copywriting formulas from from ProCopyTips as a place to start:

  • AIDA — This is the best-known copywriting formula of all time. Every successful promotional message must attract Attention, arouse Interest, stimulate Desire, and present a compelling call for Action.
  • ACCA — Awareness, Comprehension, Conviction, Action. This is similar to AIDA, but “Comprehension” stresses the importance of clarity and understanding, which is vital for any persuasive message. Also, “Conviction” is much stronger than “Desire.” It suggests certainty.
  • AAPPA — The eminent Victor O. Schwab suggested a very commonsense and clear formula. Get Attention. Show people an Advantage. Prove it. Persuade people to grasp this advantage. Ask for action.
  • PPPP — This is a formula by Henry Hoke, Sr. It stands for Picture, Promise, Prove, Push.  Picture: Get attention early and create a desire. Promise: Make a meaningful promise, describe benefits and what the item will do. Prove: Demonstrate the value and support your promise with testimonials. Push: Ask for the order.
  • Star-Chain-Hook — This is Frank Dignan’s charming and surprisingly fresh way to approach an advertising message. Hitch your wagon to a Star with an attention-getting opening that is positive and upbeat. Create a Chain of convincing facts, benefits, and reasons and transform attention into interest and interest into desire. Then, Hook them with a powerful call to action, making it easy to respond.
  • ABC Checklist — William Steinhardt’s formula. Attain Attention, Bang out Benefits, Create verbal pictures, Describe success incidents, Endorse with testimonials, Feature special details, Gild with values, Honor claims with guarantees, Inject action in reader, Jell with postscript.
  • The String of Pearls — This is a particular method of writing copy. The idea is that you assemble details and string them together in a long line, one after another. Each “pearl” is complete in some way, but when you string them together, their persuasive power becomes overwhelming.

And by the way, knowing these copywriting formulas will make you sound like a pro which is always fun. Throw a few out at your next networking writers party and people will start asking you to advise them.

Readers only spend a few seconds assessing whether to read more of what you’ve written which means you might have the best content in the world but if your headline puts people off or does not pull them in, they’ll never get to the next line.

And, to complete your copy writing lesson, here are some basic headline formulas to help provoke you into better headline writing (extrapolated from http://www.copyblogger.com/proven-headline-formulas/).

  • Be Simple, direct and appealing.
    Quickly highlight the Benefit/s – what’s in it for them?
  • Make an announcement. This works because it satisfies human curiosity. example: Now You can…
  • Use “How To” – we love the idea of being better, faster, thinner, richer….
  • Use a Question – you can relate the question to your biggest benefit
  • Tell your reader what to do, it’s okay to be a little bit of a dictator
  • Give useful information – this isn’t actually about the information, it’s about helping readers feel they’ll gain control, or learn a secret.
  • Use testimonials – they work. This is why celebrities get paid well to back up a product – we listen and believe.
  • (Do Something) like (World-class Example) – these types of headlines or copy lines inspires us to believe we can do it too. example: How to Blog like Leo Babauta

Final Copywriting Lesson Notes

Certainly, consistently writing effective attention-grabbing copy is not an easy task – which is why great copywriters can make scads of money. With online marketing channels increasing, the potential for you to succeed as a writer is also increasing. Which means, if you haven’t yet made the time to get your writing and copy where it needs to be in order for it to do what you want it to do, now is the time.

I hope this copywriting lesson inspires you to improve in at least aspect of your writing so that readers will be drawn to your words and writings like moths to flame.

Attention Zencopy Readers –

I’m currently developing a free downloadable writing course for my subscribers and would love to know if you have questions, comments, or issues that you’d like to see addressed that would help you out. Just post below or email me and I’ll make sure I work it in.

question image by WingedWolf

About the author: Karen, zencopy creator, is a top 10 bestselling amazon author, creativity coach, and an online content specialist with a masters in psychology and passion for learning and teaching new topics.

4 comments… add one

  • Great article on the basics of copywriting… and I agree with you 100%. Learning how to write copy is a required skill for any entrepreneur and business owner (especially online).

    The good news is that nobody is more qualified or has more passion for your business than you do. So once you get the hang of the basics, smooth sales-generating copy starts pouring out faster and easier than you ever imagined.

    Keep up the good work. I like your blog a lot. =)

    Miguel Alvarez

    • Miguel, you have a great website url going for you! Thanks for the kudos – it seems that to succeed as a writer these days you have to have many versatile skills. I like your site and wow, I remember the Commodore 64.

      Any zencopy readers who want some great copywriting tips should check out this section on Miguel’s site – http://www.copywriting.com/articles.html. Good stuff.


  • Advice: To quote Seth…”just ship it”! Or Nike “Just Do It”

    Question: I know I have a book in me…how do I pull it out? It seems too Daunting!

    • Sandra, great question and I’ll make sure I include the “how to” of getting a book from concept to completion as part of the writer’s strategy in my upcoming download. Every writer is daunted by the task of getting their first book out but like any goal, step by step gets it done. I’ll let you know when the download is complete and also email you the specific section that applies. Write on!