(815) 503-0286 matt@matthewlbrennan.com

Great copy is more than just an afterthought. We all want a website that truly works as your always-on-duty sales partner. We all want marketing materials that truly resonate with your audience.

That means your messaging is more than an afterthought. Too many business spend thousands on website redevelopment, only to populate the pages with a message that misses the mark, for one reason or another.

Great copy is what keeps people invested. It’s a headline that convinces them a click, and a call to action that convinces them to buy. It’s a compelling message between those two points. The commandments of great copy ring true whether you are in the b2b or b2c niches.

The 11 Commandments of Great Copy

It Provokes Emotion – We all fancy ourselves rational people. We’re all logical and well reasoned. The truth is, we don’t buy a convertible because this one has parts that are built to structurally last longer.

We buy a convertible because of the freedom. We buy a convertible because who wouldn’t love the wind blowing in your hair at 80 miles per hour on the Interstate? This goes beyond cars. We buy the computer that helps us get more done, the clothes that make us look better, and the coffee maker with the timer so that we can prep our morning drinks the night before. In other words, we’re not just buying a product. We’re buying how that product will make us feel. Emotion is also achieved through a masterful reveal of the benefits.

We want to feel safe, fulfilled, happy, and empowered. Emotion is the key ingredient that provokes the person reading your great copy to pull out their wallet and pluck down their credit card. You don’t get that by simply going through the motions.

Self Understanding – Great copy also requires a certain level of self-understanding. You have to have a firm understanding of your product or service, and be able to convey the value proposition in a meaningful way. How do you solve other people’s problems? What is your background and expertise in the field?

It’s not about boasting. It’s about positioning yourself in a way that your readers will get to know, like and trust you. It’s about having the level of clarity on your own work required to convey your messaging to your audience. 

Write Right Sell Now

Knowledge of Audience – Speaking of your audience, you’ll need a firm understanding of where they are coming from as well. Great copy requires being able to shift perspective, and write about what matters most to your readers. It requires a keen understanding of the issues facing your customers, and how you can best address them.

The issues you want to write about and the issues facing your customers may not always be the same thing. But your readers have other options for finding the relevant answers within their research. If they don’t see it through you, they may find it somewhere else.

It’s Convincing – Do you remember those persuasive papers that your English teacher used to make you write in high school? They weren’t completely useless. Even in your most informative and educational blog posts, you’re still trying to convince your reader to go with you.

What are the benefits of your product? How does your product make your readers’ lives better? Why can’t they go another day without what you have to offer? Make sure that you convey the benefits wherever you can. Learn what makes people buy your stuff. You can reread your reviews, testimonials or LinkedIn recommendations for inspiration.

Take a look at the best trigger words. Work them into your copy wherever they fit. We tend to focus on the dragons, when sometimes it’s the gnats that are taking us down.

Impeccable Word Choice – Word choice matters in so many ways. It matters in persuasion, as mentioned above. But it also matters in keeping your reader engaged in your content. For example, you probably know more about the inner workings of your industry than your customer. So if you’re using unexplained acronyms, or complicated jargon, you’re giving your reader reason to stop, or choose someone else.

Word choice also matters for the rhythm of your work. Your verbs can make your sentences sink or soar. Words like got, was, has or being. All are fairly boring. Instead of “He got the results he was looking for,” try obtained. Spend some time on the small details. They may make or break your piece.

A Powerful Headline – Copywriting legend David Ogilvy famously said that the headline is 80 percent. His point is that nearly five times as many people will read the headline than the full body copy.

You can take the time to learn more about crafting headlines that sell more. You can take the time to make sure your headlines convey a key benefit of your product. You can use headline templates, such as those found in David Garfinkel’s Advertising Headlines that Make You Rich.

Those few words at the top of the page are what will convince someone to click on your story or move on to the next search result. Are you doing everything you can to make the decision easier for your reader? 

The Copy is Clean – When someone reads your work, the goal is to have as few stopping points as possible. Every time there is a spelling or grammar error, it can form a seed of doubt that detracts your reader away from your main goal. When these distractions compound, it can be enough to send a reader away. 

The Idea is Researched – While emotion can be the secret ingredient that moves your readers closer to action, research and data help you prove your point. If you are arguing that your product is better than the competition in some way, show us that you’ve done your industry research.

Data and statistics can be a great way to bolster a point. When you’ve shown that you have considered the specifics, it also establishes your credibility as an expert. Below are a few example questions that can guide industry research:

  • How many people suffer from the problem that your company solves?
  • What makes your solution better than the other solutions available on the market? (What is your product differentiation?)
  • Who is your potential audience, and how are you attempting to reach them?
  • What are all the key benefits of your product or service?

What are some of the industry talking points or statistics that your audience might benefit from knowing?

Your Reader Stays Invested – After crafting a compelling headline, your work is far from done. You’ve convinced your reader to move ahead, click on your web page or blog post, and investigate further.

The job of great copy is to move readers on from one sentence to the next. After that compelling headline, you need a strong lead, or introductory sentence. Strong word choice and verbs that pop will help keep your reader invested. You can also go through and cut any unnecessary words to make your writing tighter.

It’s also important to make sure your writing is organized, and on-track toward making your point. You might have an example of some of your best writing, but if it is an aside from the main point of your blog post, it might be time to cut it, and use it somewhere else.

Don’t Bunt – I had to throw in a baseball reference. Don’t just publish to publish. Write because you feel strongly, and have something to say. Average content won’t help you stand out in any meaningful way. It’s ok to aim for the fences.

It Advances the Sale – This might be the single most important point: great copy advances the sale. You are in business to make money. Experiment with different ideas, and run with what works. The strategy or direction that you enjoyed the most may not be the strategy or direction that will help your business grow.


Conclusion – Great copy is the necessary ingredient in creating a website that will continue to attract new work for your business. Your readers are forming first impressions of your business through web pages, blogs and other digital content. Are you doing everything you can to write copy that sells?

Matt Brennan is a Chicago-area marketing writer and copy editor. He is also the author of Write Right-Sell Now.