25 Random Points about Copywriting

Ian Lurie

Internet marketing isn’t mysterious. It’s the writing, stupid.

This is a collection of random thoughts about writing, prompted by someone telling me today that “all you know how to do is write”. They were attempting to reduce my price for an SEO project. You inspired me! Cheers!

Elephants: "Someday, Kiddo, you'll be a great copywriter like me"
  1. Writing is what makes marketing tick. And the folks who think the internet somehow made writing less important in marketing need CAT scans.
  2. Great internet marketing starts with copy that’s concise.
  3. It requires careful thought around linking and structure.
  4. And it needs a great headline. Content with a crappy headline is like telling everyone you have a ‘great personality’. No one will give you a chance after that.
  5. Devote at least 1/2 of your marketing budget to copy. That might mean 1/2 your SEO budget, or 1/2 the hours you spend marketing your own company. Doesn’t matter.
  6. Copywriting is an ongoing effort. Spending a day every 2 months frantically cranking out lousy copy won’t get you anywhere. The most successful online marketing efforts have great, steady copywriting behind them.
  7. Video is not a way to dodge writing copy. HAH. Nice try. But you have to write a script for that video. So write it.
  8. Great copy doesn’t magically spring from the ground. It takes a lot of revisions, hair-tearing and hand-wringing. You and your writer will revise it. And revise it again. Then fight with busted beer bottles. Then do more revisions. Then it’s ready.
  9. Running a small business? Start writing.
  10. Running a Fortune 500 company? Hire some decent writers, dammit, and stop sending me to web sites that read like a shredded copy of Us Magazine.
  11. Want a higher search ranking? Ooooooh, I have an idea! How about if you do some writing.
  12. Want links from relevant sites so you get a higher search ranking? Great. Start contacting people. But oh, wait, they all want decent writing to which to link.
  13. Need better conversion rates? Assuming your site wasn’t designed by a drunk, a moron or someone with zero design experience, you’ll want to have decent writing.
  14. You can make great stuff happen with great writing and a lousy web site. Try the opposite, though. I dare ya. With lousy writing and a great web site you’ll flop around a shrinky-dink in fast motion.
  15. Yes, for every example of a great search marketing campaign built on great copy, you can point to some scumbag who got a top search ranking without it. Check again in 3 months. They’ll be gone.
  16. Anyone who pays $30 million for an ad campaign without seeing a writing sample should be laughed off Capitol Hill when requesting a bailout.
  17. It’s impossible to edit bad copy. It’s easy to edit good copy.
  18. Writing is a skill that can be cultivated, if you’re up for the effort.
  19. The best way to cultivate that skill, next to writing for 3 hours a day, is to read. Watching TV with subtitles does not count.
  20. Little known fact: Richard Nixon wouldn’t have been impeached if someone had written “Delete these tapes” in a memo. See? Writing’s important!
  21. People are afraid of writing because it invites criticism. But you become better as a writer only through criticism. Learn from it. I recommend growing up in a Jewish family, or at least attending a few holiday dinners, to build up your resistance.
  22. Quality writing is like oxygen: You rarely notice it until it’s gone.
  23. Lousy writing is like a dirty diaper. You can ignore it, but eventually it leaks out and causes a huge mess. Did I just write that?…
  24. Some of us do care if you can use ‘palate’ and ‘palette’ correctly in a sentence.
  25. Writing is part of your brand, and sets customer expectations. Great, clear writing engenders trust.

K, this writing therapy session is now over.

Someone really did tell me that today. Someday I will become rich by inventing a way to pinch people’s noses via the internet.

SEO Copywriting eBook
Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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  1. That’s an awesome line they used on you. I bet you instantly gave them your “super secret cheap pricing model” that is only unlocked by the hardest of noses.
    I’m going to email my father with a link to this post – my writing degree ain’t so worthless after all.

  2. From one writer to another – fantastic post! I share many of your gripes, but my personal favorite is number 8. Broken beer bottles are hardcore, I admire your dedication!

  3. I can relate. I’ve recently been in discussion with a supplement wholesaler/retailer (on and offline). We went ’round about the effort, experience, even expertise that it takes to translate pharmaceutical and medical research articles and manufacturer gibberish into clear and concise copy that can fit in a brochure and catch people’s eye on a rack in stores.
    He calls it ‘dumbing down’. I call it ‘finding the right words to make the complex simple and understandable to laypeople so you have a hope of making a sale to folks who don’t have chemistry research PhD’s’.
    He just…doesn’t…get it. And doesn’t value it. His partner sorta does and we’ve been through revisions without wielding busted bottlenecks!
    But I’m on the fence about accepting more work from that source even though the writing is fun.

  4. A boss-type once told me, and I quote: “Copy doesn’t matter in e-commerce. What matters is product, price, and promotion.”
    I still haven’t figured out how the prospect learns about the product, the price, and the promotion without the benefit of copy. :p
    A veteran copywriter, anonymous just this once for obvious reasons

  5. I got to this post via a Twitter link from Sonia Simone today and am not disappointed! You crack me up yet it makes me want to shake the person next to me and say, “Yea! Exactly! See!” But then I saw your article about linking and structure and feel like I should really read that too and wonder if I’ll ever get to my own copy today because I’m sure you will probably have yet another great link in there which will lead me to yet another one of your articles – all because of your great copy. Damn! So now I’m wondering if I should have ever come here! 😉

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