I might get in ca-ca for sharing this with the entire readership of Search Engine Guide, but it's time to reveal what a lot of web copywriters probably don't want you to know. Why? Because keeping you in the dark about how we crunch out great copy day after day keeps us in business.

Or so one would think.

Personally, I'd rather spill the beans. It's too much pressure to have everyone believing that we web copywriters and SEO copywriters are practitioners of witchcraft. While I readily admit that I cannot always explain how I craft each and every line of compelling copy, there are a few "tricks" that I use--and I'm pretty sure other copywriters use--when words fail me.

Voodoo That Will Help ANYONE Write Better Web Copy (Even SEO Copy)

The voodoo secret behind some (maybe even a lot) of the great copy you read online is what I call "freestyle copywriting." It entails temporarily suspending rules and formulas so you can get the creative juices flowing and ultimately, so you have something decent to work with later. Here's how it works:

Step 1: Do the requisite pre-work. Research your target market. Research potential keywords. Get your head around the main message for the page you want to write some great copy for. Write it all down in a notebook. Slam the notebook shut. Walk away.

Step 2: Get a good night's sleep. The brain works in mysterious ways. (Told you this was voodoo.)

Step 3: Open your notebook and review your pre-work. Chances are you suddenly have some additional insights you'd like to add to your notes. Write them down. Squeeze stuff in the margins. Use arrows and squiggly lines to connect related ideas and words. Try to keep this little brain dump all on one page if you can. This creative dance is the foundation for the witchcraft that follows.

Step 4: Open up a blank Word document. A new post or page in your WordPress or Typepad dashboard screen will do just fine as well. Take a sip of coffee and crack your knuckles a few times. Stretch your arms up above your head. This helps you feel like a real writer and puts you in the zone for some copywriting voodoo to happen. (No pressure.)

Step 5: Think about your key message and start typing like a mad scientist. Worried about the headline? I don't care. Start typing anyway. Not sure where to begin? Then don't start at the beginning; start in the middle or even at the end and work backwards. Just TYPE. Let the voodoo flow through you. Don't get up to go to the bathroom. Just type until you've got nothing more to say about the subject matter at hand.

Step 6: When the mad typing starts to feel redundant (and it probably won't for at least a page or two), STOP. Stretch out. Crack your knuckles. Take a sip of (now cold) coffee. Click save, and walk away.

Step 7: Get a good night's sleep.

Step 8: Turn on your computer and review your voodoo copy. Not bad, is it? It surely needs a lot of editing, rearranging, and a ton of ruthless deletion. But overall, I bet there are some real nuggets of gold in them there pages. This is where copywriting can actually be fun, because now you have the opportunity to take lots of raw, honest words and sculpt them into something concise, compelling, and able to incentivize action.

The point of all this? You've now got something much meatier than a blank page. You've got ideas, emotion, passion and hopefully lots of interesting facts and tidbits about what you're trying to pitch. Even if you have to look up some copywriting formula to know where to begin editing this mess, you've got an incredible starting point.

And that, my web friend, is how you win the battle. Find a starting point and jump off. It's what every web copywriter and SEO copywriter does when the words just won't come. Use this bit of copywriting voodoo next time you're stuck for words, and I promise, you'll end up with a call to action that is a helluva lot more inviting than something coerced by a template.





Karri Flatla is a business graduate of the University of Lethbridge and principal of snap! virtual associates inc., a virtual consulting firm providing business communications and Internet marketing services to the progressive entrepreneur. Karri also produces Outsmart, the email newsletter for small business with big purpose. Visit http://www.snap-va.com for more information. Click to follow Karri on Twitter.



Comments(14)

Great tip. Anyways, it gave me an idea on how I can expand on copy writing articles.

At first, I thought this was going to be another "you too can magickally write million dollar SEO copy in minutes for free" article.

What a terrific surprise!

You clearly described the lengthy struggle of writing copy that is compelling, engaging and persuasive for Web visitors and yet friendly for spiders. It's enough to drive any sane business owner to realize they can put their time to better use (like running their business) and hiring a competent and savvy SEO copywriter to do this dirty work for them.

No hocus-pocus, no cauldron filled with strangely named herbs and animal parts, no incantations to the SEO gods - just plain hard work to make the copy sparkle!

Good copy is not only "magickal," it's profitable!

Great tip about starting in the middle. Or the end. Anywhere really. Just start.

I often find myself struggling just to get started, but the truth is, once you start putting words to paper (or pixels) things do begin to flow. So start somewhere. Put it in the right order later.

Thanks for sharing this tips, ill try this out.

Like Bonnie, I didn't have high hopes for this article.

I was wrong though, this was useful and helpful. Thanks very much!

I sometimes take a "rolling start" approach to copy - just keep typing random sentences over and over until I'm ready to tackle my topic. After that I progress in pretty much the same way you've described.

Great article, Karri. I make my living as a copywriter, and I know there's a lot of truth in "just do it". Sit down and write, then rest, write again, then let the magic happen.

If you have time, of course. If not, do the best you can. It's probably more than good enough.

It's definitely a woodoo for those who want everything to be done quickly and magically and even want guarantee for it.

I believe you've beautifully explained the hard time an author goes through to write some compelling content that attracts readers to itself like a magnet.

Thanks for the realistic post!

Thanks for the tip, so it's like when they say "dance like no one is watch"!.."Write like no one is going to read"!

All this put together helps someone like me, who's not very good at composing.

Just throw everything together then later rearrange it, to make sense.
Thanks a million times

Nice point you have there. Sometimes we cannot really make a good article in one seating, and like what you said having a voodoo style will really help.Take sometime and more ideas will really flow on your mind when you take your time on writing

Hi Karri-

I was a little disappointed with the article. This "Secret 8 Step Process" isn't secret at all. I learned it in 6th grade (as did most students) while completing my first research paper. Through the years, I think professors and teachers have called it, "The Writing Process." And, it should be used each and every time - not just for those times when you have a blank page. It's something like:

1. Brainstorm
2. Research
3. Write
4. Re-write
5. Re-research to fill-in missing blanks
6. Write
7. Re-write
8. Get an "A" - or in this case, sell some "stuff"

I feel awful for the students of today. If the writing process is now a "secret", then it doesn't bode well for the next generation of writers - no matter the area they pursue.

Hi Jerry,

Hi Jerry. Appreciate your comment. I was being a little bit tongue-in-cheek with the title of the article.

That said, it's been my experience--both before my copywriting days and now as a copywriter--that many people are intimidated by the writing process. Why this is may be for another forum entirely, but I suspect it's something to do with the fact that most children are not asked to use their writing muscle all that often ... at least not with any degree of regularity. And young adults spend more time texting than actually writing anything that contains a complete thought ... I digress.

My purpose in writing this article was to demonstrate that we ALL have the ability to write; we just need--as one commenter referenced--a place to start. A simple methodology that feels fun and relaxed. The structure, the polish, the subtleties can come later if need be.

Next time I'll be more obvious in my sarcasm ;)

Hi Karri-

Thanks for the response; I didn't see it until the newsletter arrived today. Yes, I understood the sarcasm. I guess I'm just the jerk in the class that expects the guru to actually use the "secrets" he or she is revealing. I didn't think the article measured up, ironically, for a "How to" article for a better writing process. Did you utilize the writing process that you were advocating while generating this post?

With regard to the next generation of children, I disagree. I think with full-blown access to technology infiltrating every aspect of their lives between the computer and smart phones kids are writing more than ever. They just happen to be doing it differently than we are doing it today. What you perceive to be an inability for a complete thought is simply a distillation of information and a change in communication patterns. If you speak with this generation, you will be amazed what they know by "osmosis of information" simply by browsing the web. Oh, they can think and they think critically faster than we do because their minds have been trained to do so. Imagine the amount of information these kids are bombarded with and must parse on a daily basis. A complete thought happens differently. Now, it's 140 characters. You try and make an impact with 140. It takes huge talent - and thought. It's fifteen text volleys that convey the core of the idea - not the fluff - and it happens instantaneously between five people...who are each reading and writing back. We are undergoing a cataclysmic shift of communication patterns. The change of instantaneous information overload and immediate processing has occurred.

I'm not worried about them and their perceived ability, or lack thereof, to write in the future. Their writing will simply be different than today and I'm excited to see it unfold. I guess the question for the future is "Will the tried and true writing process even be relevant based on these changes?"

As an aside, since you are charged with writing on a daily basis, perhaps another article idea for you is: "8 Inspirational Methods to Kick the Crap out of Writers Block." You could use the article to explain methods you use / places you go to find inspiration and ideas online to get a topic started.

Thanks for the conversation.

Hi Jerry - Yes indeed I used the writing process I advocate here, albeit a rather compressed version of it ;)

The intent of my article was only to show people how to tap their creative juices to jump start the writing process. Many writers and teachers advocate some form of this technique, and it does work.

Regarding kids' written communication skills, we're getting way off topic but I wanted to say this:

About 10 years ago I worked as a Teaching Assistant while attending university. The 12 first year students in my charge had to write papers throughout the course. ONE of those kids was a very competent writer in that she knew how to illustrate a point with her written word. I remember her very well for some reason (funny how that works). Maybe 2 other kids in the class could write with some degree of clarity. The rest were bordering on illiterate.

While the definition of literacy may be changing, some principles of "good writing," I believe, will stand the test of time. Mainly the ability to tell a story. I'm on twitter much of my working day and I've yet to be told a good story in 140 characters. Entertained? Yes. Intrigued enough to start a deeper conversation elsewhere? Sometimes. And it can definitely be a relationship building tool ... but 140 characters is never the whole story. It's headlines. Flashcards. Points of reference. Bookmarks. But twitter and texting does not make for an artful account of the depths of the human experience (even if we'd like to pretend it does sometimes).

I suppose we could have asked those poor first year uni students to just blurt out a series of twitter-style headlines and then see if any of it made a lick of sense.

Though you're right in that the world seems to turn on the sexiness of headlines. Too bad in my humble opinion.

Sometimes you have to take the long way before you can take the shortcut.

Books still sell because people enjoy exploring topics beyond pop-tech-culture in an in-depth manner. They appreciate the fluidity, the journey, the stepping stones. Headlines and shoutouts have their place (hey, I'm a copywriter), but they're only the tip of the iceberg.

Just my opinion of course. And again, way off topic, but wanted to respond.

Signing off,
Karri

Thanks for the tips Karri!
I clicked into the article expecting some pseudo-techno babble about keyword density and heading tags, but I was pleasantly surprised. Sometimes it's good to be reminded to write well so you can produce compelling copy.
Thanks again,
Paul

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Search Engine Guide > Karri Flatla > Web Copywriting Voodoo: The 8-Step Secret Copywriters Might Not Want You to Know