Body copy is the place where you make your money. You can choose long or short body copy, depending on your product and goals, but at the end of the day, body copy is where you build your story.
There are tons of articles about headlines. There’s also a lot of great advice about writing from a personal perspective. But body copy is hard because body copy is just writing. Many people, when faced with a blank page, panic a little bit.
These four tips will make the process easier, especially if writing isn’t the favorite thing on your to-do list.
1. Decide who you’re writing to
To—not for—that’s important to remember. The number one piece of advice for body copy is to write it as though you’re writing a letter to a friend or family member.
That’s great in theory, but executing is hard. Clear writing is often muddled by detailed buyer personas, calls-to-action, or positioning. In this scenario, you’re not just writing a letter to someone you care about. You’re writing a letter in response to their imagined letter to you.
In their letter, they are asking you to help with a specific problem. Your product or link is the solution to that problem. Just like a personal letter, if the solution is all you send, you’ll not only offend that person you love with your letter you’ll probably confuse them too.
So, before you write to your imaginary family put yourself in the shoes of your customer. This is harder than it sounds. One technique is to read something from your customer’s point of view before you begin writing. This could be a thread on Reddit, published interviews or blogs from influencers in your niche. Another strategy is to experiment with a search engine. Let yourself go into a Google hole the way your customers do and see how that changes your perspective before you start writing.
Once you understand the worries of your ideal customer, it’s easier to write a letter to them. Your body copy should show them that you care while providing a solution. Also, you’ll want to show your customers they have reason to trust your suggestions.
2. Be smart about your outline
You have to build a frame for a house before you paint the walls. Writing copy requires some structure too. So, don’t start writing until you know how the different topics you want to write about will flow together.
Many writers stick with what they learned in high school—an introduction, three supporting paragraphs that expand on the ideas introduced in the first paragraph, and a conclusion. That structure is a great place to start.
That said, if you stick with that formula, your readers might stick with another common formula- scanning the first paragraph and leaving your blog or email before you get a chance to tell them what you really want them to hear.
Let’s go back to the idea of writing a letter. As you write your letter begins by rephrasing the problems your ideal customer would have added in their letter to you.
Go into some detail, and show that you understand why this problem is a big deal. Then, tell them a little bit about your experience with this problem so they understand why you’re a good person to come to for advice.
After that, your only goal is to get your audience to keep reading. So, write for scanning. Readers tend to skim looking for something interesting or new. They also might be looking for the answer to a specific problem. With each paragraph add something that will hook your reader in. This will ensure that they stick around until your offer or CTA.
If you’re writing a blog, connect your calls-to-action with the search terms your audience is most likely to use to reach your article. This makes readers more likely to click.
One more thing to consider in your outline- emotion, and logic. If you’re trying to write body copy that converts, you’ll want to focus on the emotional pull for your readers. Whether it’s business or personal, people purchase for emotional reasons and then rationalize those purchases with logic.
Will your product make a task take less time so they can have a moment to relax? Will it make them feel as cute as their friends on the next girl’s night out? How does your product make your customers feel good? Start with that emotion and follow up with logic.
It’s easy to start with the logic of your brand messaging and the way your product solves a specific problem. But, chances are your readers won’t pay attention until you address the emotional needs your product will satisfy.
3. Get it all out
You’re busy, so you might write a short letter, clean it up, and send it off. Even if you’re a great writer, that probably won’t be body copy that converts.
Effective body copy takes more time. You want to play with each idea and talk about it from several angles. Try to think about the specific little problems that come up while tackling a big idea. Those tiny snags are where most people get stuck.
If your body copy can help just one customer get unstuck, that customer will be more likely to look to you the next time they need help with a problem.
Once you’ve written all the different options and solutions, you probably have too much copy. If you don’t, keep writing. Copy that converts may need proof or testimonials. You may want to add statistics or a vivid story to draw readers in. Your body copy could be great, but if it doesn’t fully meet the expectations you created with your headline, you need to keep writing.
If you have a busy day ahead, it is easy to cut this process short or get distracted. To avoid this, set a timer and write until the timer goes off no matter what. If you tend to wander off-topic as you write, set a timer for each section. Give yourself only a set amount of time, about five minutes, to write on each topic.
When you’re done, let your copy sit for at least a day. If you are someone who puts off writing until the last minute, make your deadline a day (or 31) or early. You’ll need a clear head and fresh eyes for editing.
4. Then bring it back in
You put it all out there, now it’s time to pull it back. Editing is the next step in writing your body copy, and some say it’s the most important step in writing.
Cut it short
You may have started writing your body copy with a clear set of business goals. Before you start editing, make sure that these are still the right goals for your body copy. Meet each of your business goals in the fewest words possible. You usually want to stick to one goal or CTA per piece of writing if you can.
To start, actively edit by making sections of text you feel need work a different color or underline text to make it stand out.
Things you noticed easily on your first read are easy to miss as you continue to clean up your body copy. On your first read-through, highlight anything that doesn’t lead your readers to the desired goal. You may leave these sections in for flow or emotional connection, but they are a good place to start editing.
Be ruthless in your editing
Next, remove extra words and replace difficult words with easier-to-read alternatives. If you need help cutting down a copy, a tool like Hemingway Editor can help. It will show you which of your sentences are harder to read than others and give you an idea of where to trim copy down.
As you edit your sentences and paragraphs, assume most people are reading on their phones. A long sentence looks like a fine amount to read on a desktop, but it looks like a long paragraph on your phone. People will be more likely to continue reading if you break up your text.
After your body copy feels right, do one final pass to check to make sure your spelling and grammar are correct. Again, you’re building trust with your readers. Even small errors can give the impression that you’re not as smart and trustworthy as you seem to be.
Humans are hard-wired to love stories. Your body copy is a chance to tell all the different versions of your story to the people that need your products. Body copy can be easy, just like writing a letter to an old friend.
About the author
Jana Rumberger is a writer and content manager for Selz ecommerce. She has expertise in strategy, selling products online, and small business solutions. Jana combines diverse experience in education, creativity, and manufacturing to craft engaging content. In addition to her writing, she is an active visual artist and foodie in Portland, Oregon.