Like it or not, everybody needs to know some basic copywriting skills these days. Whether you are writing a cover letter for your next job application, or trying to make money online in any capacity, copywriting skills will come very handy. That’s why copywriting matters more than most people realise.
If you want to take this seriously, there are some great courses online. However, today I want to show you some places where you can learn some base copywriting skills for free.
But first, what is copywriting anyway? Unless you come from sales, marketing, or advertising background (or have an interest in any of these), you could be excused for not knowing exactly what it means. You wouldn’t be the only one. It’s even quite common for people to confuse copywriting with copyrights.
I have seen many definitions of copywriting, however for our purpose the definition I like best is the one put out by Copyblogger:
“Copywriting is the art and science of strategically delivering words (whether written or spoken) that get people to take some form of action.”
Let me illustrate with a practical example. Let’s say we Google for this phrase: how to make money on fiverr.
Let’s have a quick look at a couple of search results.
If you saw just these two search results and nothing else, which one would you be more likely to click on?
The chances are you said the first one. Why? Just because it seems more compelling than the second one. It states very clearly and to the point that it will show you not only how to make money on Fiverr, but how this person actually makes $2,000-$3,000 each month.
By contrast, the other search result does not state any strong benefits, does not give us a compelling reason to click on it. The information on the page behind it might be great, but if not many people will click on it then this is not going to be very helpful.
That’s just one quick example where learning some very basic copywriting skills would be of great benefit.
As a side benefit, if more people will click on the first search result shown above, Google will progressively reward that web page with a better search ranking. Conversely, if fewer people will click on the second search result above, over time Google will move it lower and lower in the search results. Why? Because Google want to show the most relevant pages first. By clicking more on a particular search result, people collectively vote that page as relevant. Of course this is just one of the factors in search rankings, but you get the idea.
Now, once people click on that link and come to your page, do they see more compelling words? Is the title of the post (or page heading) compelling enough for them to start reading the page? Does the first paragraph (or two) do a good job to draw you into the rest of the blog post?
The first one does well on both accounts:
If the page heading or the first paragraph are not enticing enough, chances are many of your visitors will leave quickly (which is another important factor in search engine rankings, by the way, which is called bounce rate).
But you don’t want your visitors to leave quickly. You want them to stay on for a while, learn something useful and hopefully take some action (such as subscribe to your newsletter, for example).
This is exactly what learning some basic copywriting skills will help you to achieve.
Where else will copywriting skills be useful? Every time you create a landing page, an opt-in form, every time you write an email subject line, basically any time you want your readers to take some kind of action (sign up for a newsletter, click on a link, open an email, etc.).
Ready to learn?
Good. Let’s move on.
The places to learn copywriting for free
There was a reason why I mentioned Copyblogger before. Not only do I like their definition of copywriting, they also happen to have great learning materials available for free. Yes, they also sell some stuff, but you won’t need it in order to learn the basics of copywriting, the fundamentals that will serve you well online and in the real world as well.
Poke around the site a bit first. Then make sure you sign up for the free training.
Don’t overlook their excellent blog either. The blog is something to be consumed over time. Don’t try to do it in one sitting or you will get overwhelmed.
What can I say? This website is full of great free content, operated by Joanna Wiebe. Yes, Joanna and her team do make their money by selling expensive courses too, but this is more for people that aspire to become professional freelance copywriters, I feel. There’s so much free stuff there, just poke around a bit and pick and choose what interests you most.
They have a wide range of tutorials from how to research a blog post, how to write an epic blog post and how to keep readers reading, to how to write welcome emails, how to write headlines, how to keep readers reading and many more.
They also offer a free course on conversion copywriting, called Conversion Copywriting 101. It will teach you the essentials of writing copy that works today. The course is just an introduction, but if you are new to copywriting, it should be well worth your time. In fact, if you feel a bit lost in the site and not sure where to start, watch this course first.
I also found a fascinating post called The Ultimate Guide to No-Pain Copywriting (or, Every Copywriting Formula Ever). Post is actually not the right word here. It’s more like a mega tutorial. It lists just about every copywriting formula in existence and gives examples of each so it’s easy to see how it’s used in real life. Fascinating study and probably something you will find yourself referring to over and over again.
The Definitive Guide to Copywriting by Neil Patel and Joseph Putnam
This is a very well structured short introduction to copywriting for the web. It’s been designed with bloggers and online marketers in mind.
You will be taking such topics as:
- How to write a more compelling copy
- How to write attention grabbing headlines that convert
- How to master the art of persuasion
- Why your copy shouldn’t be about you and other secrets
- How to combine copy and design for maximum results
- The importance of testing and more
It’s a solid, well-researched and well put together guide that will give you good basics of copywriting principles, particularly in the context of web writing. It’s all online, no email signup required, read it at your leisure.
21 Incredible Copywriting Formulas (I Use) – from Copy Ranger
Speaking of copywriting formulas, here are the 21 favourites used by Rick Duris (aka the Copy Ranger). There are many other interesting posts and links to other places of interest on his blog.
Copywriting Headlines That Sell (with Templates & Swipe File)
A nicely done and fun to read tutorial on how to write effective headlines. Once you learn the basics of writing headlines, you will probably still come back to it, if only for its detailed list of 125 real life email subject examples. They even give you open rate stats for each email subject line. Fascinating.
While it’s unlikely these exact subject lines will be suitable for your niche, it’s a great study of what type of headline / subject line will command more attention from readers.
There is one more thing you will probably be referring back to, a list of dozens headline templates, that may be easily adapted to many situations.
Then, there are links to further resources as well. Great value, particularly for free.
801+ Power Words That Pack a Punch and Convert like Crazy
Jon Morrow is a very switched on blogger and he knows a thing or two about the importance of copywriting in blogging. This is a great study of power words, with examples of how they get used in real world.
Chances are you already know about Jon’s blog and if you don’t, you definitely should make an effort to read it regularly.
While you are there, you may also want to get Jon’s free ebook “52 Headline Hacks. A “cheat sheet” for writing blog posts that go viral”.
What We Learned Analyzing 1 Million Blog Headlines
This is a very detailed study by Garrett Moon, founder of CoSchedule, of the top blog headlines. One of the exercises was to analyse the most shared headlines to see which words have been used most times. It turns out that you/your are the most used words.
The copywriting legend John Caples was right of course. He did his own research (about 40 years earlier) of 100 great headlines and has found that the word ‘you’ was at the top of the list, used 31 times. The second most used word was ‘your’, 14 times, and the third was ‘how’, used 12 times. This was published in John Caples fantastic book “How to Make Your Advertising Make Money”.
It’s great to see that this is still as valid today as it was back then.
Also, two more great headline studies from CoSchedule: Here Are The 101 Catchy Blog Title Formulas That Will Boost Traffic By 438% and 43 Data-Driven Headline Ideas From 1,000 Of The Most Popular Posts.
Quick Course On Effective Website Copywriting
This is a really good introductory article from Peep Laja, about writing effective web copy and the importance of copywriting.
Peep puts it very well:
“Many dismiss copywriting as something that ad agency people do. Truthfully, all of us need to pay close attention to copywriting if we want to achieve our business objectives.
The goal of a “regular” text is to inform or entertain. The goal of Web copy (and ideally your website in general) is to get people to do something—to sign up, make a purchase, or something similar. Hiring a professional copywriter can be very expensive, which is one of the reasons why this is a valuable skill to have yourself.”
More free copywriting resources (beyond the basics)
To be honest, unless you want to become a serious student of copywriting, the above few resources will give you a great start and might be all you will ever need.
You will learn more about copywriting than an average blogger will ever know. Believe me, it will be worth it though. Through a better copy you will be able to touch and help more people. You will have better search engine rankings, more enticing search results listings, more traffic and more interesting blog posts.
Ultimately this means that more people will be visiting your site and they will be staying there longer. They will become more loyal. All great benefits. Some basic copywriting can really put you head and shoulders above an average blogger.
Having said that, if you want to learn more about copywriting still, I will mention below some more advanced resources which are also free.
They can assist you to take your copywriting to a more advanced level, if you so desire. You may find it very interesting, perhaps fascinating, even if you never have any interest in becoming a professional copywriter.
However, since these resources are also free, I would be doing you a disservice by not including them here.
The Gary Halbert Letter
If you have never heard of Gary Halbert, you’re in for a treat. Gary was one of the top copywriters in the late twentieth century and the early 2000’s. Gary practiced direct copywriting, the form of copywriting where the effectiveness can be directly measured by the results you get.
He was one of the best. He was as creative and colorful as he was successful. Sadly, Gary passed away several years ago.
Gary used to publish in print his educational newsletter, The Gary Halbert Letter, in the days before the internet and he charged a pretty penny for it too. Around the year 2003 he published his past newsletter copies online, with free access for everyone. It’s still there today for us to study and learn from. These days the site is maintained by his son, Kevin Halbert, a copywriter in his own right.
Gary Bencivenga did not publish much for free. He was one of the top direct response copywriters, now retired from the business, I believe.
Gary Halbert once said: “Many people think Gary Bencivenga is the best copywriter on earth. And, believe it or not, it’s hard for even me to dispute that.”
Bencivenga’s 100 seminar, before his retirement, sold out for $10,000 a pop and was attended by some of the best copywriters. The DVD course of the seminar sells for $5,000. This is just to give you some idea of the calibre of his copywriting skills.
Fortunately, Gary Bencivenga has also left some gems for us to study for free: his marketing bullets.
Make sure though to read all you can access on this site, which is not much in terms of volume, but is pure gold in terms of quality and education.
In the sales letter for the DVDs Gary says:
“I Was Just an Average Copywriter for the First 10 Years of My Career. I mention this because, for the first 10 years of my career, if truth be told, I was really just an average copywriter. But, once I based my copywriting and marketing on the Gibraltar foundation of The Bencivenga Persuasion Equation®, I became almost unbeatable, winning about 85 percent of the time, usually against the best copywriting competition in America. (And you needn’t take my word for this … as you can tell from the supporting comments in the boxes of this letter.)”
Google the Bencivenga Persuasion Equation, if you want to get some insights from the people that attended the seminar.
Also make sure to study the above sales letter.
This is a great place if you want to see some of the copywriting pieces produced by some of the best copywriters past and present. You will find the famous classic advertisements by John Caples and Eugene Schwartz. You will also find plenty of modern examples by John Carlton, Gary Bencivenga, Dan Kennedy and others.
A great resource if you ever decide to become a serious student of copywriting. For blogging or niche site creation, the biggest benefit is in studying the headlines used in these ads. After while you will notice certain structures that repeat and can be adapted to almost any situation. Study also the first paragraph or two in some of the sales letter to see how they draw you in.
And last, but not least:
Scientific advertising by Claude Hopkins – free classic book from 1923
David Ogilvy, an advertising legend of the twentieth century, once said of this book: “Nobody, at any level, should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times. It changed the course of my life.”
Jay Abraham, contemporary marketing genius, is said to have read this book over 50 times.
You can read it for free online. It’s available in many places these days, as the original 1923 edition of the book is in public domain. A good starting point may be the Wikipedia. Just look in the bottom section of the page for links to the ebook.
If you want to become a serious student of copywriting, this classic book is a must. Not a must read. A must study book.
Every time you write a title for your blog post (as well as the post itself), every time you write page title tags and meta description tags, every time you create an opt-in form for your email list, every time you want your readers take a specific action, the basic copywriting skills will put you head and shoulders above an average blogger.
Basic knowledge and skill of copywriting is not an option. If you want to touch more people with your words, it’s a must. The knowledge comes from reading. The skill comes from studying and practicing. Both take time but will be worth it in the end.
Perhaps you decide to become a serious affiliate marketer instead and use your copywriting skills there.
Who knows, you may even fall in love with copywriting and take it much further than the basics. Professional copywriting is a valuable (read: well-paid) skill to have, both online and off. If you become reasonably good at it, you could be making $10k+ per month freelancing as a web copywriter. If you become really good at it, you could be making hundreds of thousands every year, writing long form sales letters for the larger publishing houses and marketing companies.
Until next time. Stay focused.