Julia McCoy (Alexa Julian Photography)

Online Copywriting 101: The 10 Commandments of Great Copy

Julia McCoy
6 min readSep 2, 2015

There’s no question about it:

Copywriting is hot right now.

With so many companies increasing their focus on content marketing, and those that are doing content marketing spending a TON on content creation…

Source: https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2018/10/research-b2b-audience/

There are literally millions of blogs, websites, brochures, podcasts, magazines and social media sites that need content and copywriters.

Copywriters, content marketers and writers are the ones responsible for meeting all of these content needs and, regardless of what is being written, great copy needs the same things every time: it needs to engage readers, convey authority, sell products and rank well.

So that said, let’s delve into…

The Ten Commandments of Online Copywriting

In order to meet those requirements, here are the top ten tips every copywriter needs to keep in mind when focusing on their online copywriting.

1) Answer Questions With Long-Form, Long-Tail Content

If you think about the structure of search engines, it’s obvious that they exist almost entirely to answer questions. If a customer needs a new dog leash for Fido, he or she can sit down, type “Dog leashes” into Google, and be met with almost 2 million search results in less than one second. With this much information, how is a customer supposed to sift through all of it?

Customers go to search engines when they have specific questions, for specific answers. (In this instance, which leash is best to purchase? is a more specific question and more likely to be asked by your audience, if this is the product you sell). The content that sticks out is the stuff that best answers their questions. As an added bonus, since Google has made it clear that it favors content that is high-quality and answers consumer questions.

Online copywriting that serves this purpose will rank higher in search engines.

2) Know Thy Audience And Create for Them

If we stay in line with the dog leashes example, we can easily understand the importance of knowing your audience. When a person types “dog leashes” into Google, they’re met with millions of results, which we already established.

When those results pop up, though, a customer will immediately look for something that he or she identifies with.

If the customer has a dog that pulls, for example, they are likely to click on BarkBox’s “Best Dog Leashes for Pullers” article. If they have a dog that chews they might favor Lupine’s “Guaranteed — Even if Chewed” warranty.

Once they’ve clicked on one of these links, the chance that they will purchase from the company involved is much higher. In this case, the decision to make a purchase will essentially boil down to how well a product meets their specific needs. Companies that knows what their customers want can better target their content, thus making more sales and building authority.

3) Write Killer Headlines

Headlines are the most important piece of any article or blog post, and great headlines pull readers in while mediocre headlines can easily earn you a quick site exit.

There are plenty of great resources on the web to help you craft great headlines. Some of my favorites are BuzzSumo. Just search their Content Analyzer for top-shared content in your industry, to get ideas on hot headlines to replicate and redo as your own:

Advanced Marketing Institute’s EMV Headline Analyzer (a good score is 45–70) is another fantastic tool I use constantly to optimize, draft and create hot headlines.

The importance of this can’t be underscored enough. Attention grabbing headlines take your content to the next level by promoting reader engagement and garnering more shares.

4) Harness the Power of the Number

It’s a long-known fact that using numbers (# Tips for Walking Your Dog Without a Fight, for example) in your headlines makes your content more powerful.

Headlines with numbers get more clicks than those without and, since they’re often well-divided and easy-to-read pieces, these articles can earn more shares thanks to their readability and specificity.

5) Break Your Content Into Bites

Currently, the average human attention span is roughly 7 seconds long. For the record, that’s one less second than a goldfish’s.

In our current state, it’s safe to say that text-heavy, dense content is much less readable than content that is broken into small, bite-sized pieces.

For this reason, it’s wise to break all of your content into small bits.

In addition to making it more readable, this also promotes skimming, which helps a reader quickly size up your page and decide whether to leave, stay or share.

6) Inject More Power Words

Power words evoke an emotional response from the reader. They are the verbal equivalent of Wheaties — they power readers up and keep them moving through your content, more engaged, excited and attentive than they would have been otherwise.

By using strong power words in online copywriting, writers can ensure increased reader interaction and strong keyword compliments.

7) Embrace Formatting and Subheaders

If great headlines grab readers, solid subheads keep them entranced. Subheadings serve the purpose of organizing articles, making them more readable, providing points of interest throughout the text and helping guide readers through your thought process.

Look at these two pieces of content. This one is without good formatting and subheaders:

And this is the same blog, rewritten, but with formatting this time:

Much better, right?

Additionally, formatting with H2s and H3s serves an important SEO purpose by making your content more readable for search engines and, when done properly, can boost your rankings.

8) Get Visual

Images are an important piece of great content and posts with visuals get more shares than those without. To take your content to the next level, include photos; infographics, memes, screenshots and other visual aids to boost your views and help your copywriting content garner more shares.

9) Use Valued Links

Anyone who knows anything about SEO knows that authority is one of the most important pieces of ranking well. With online copywriting, authority is built using the power of strong links. Search engines rank sites that feature plenty of outbound links to high-quality sites in a more positive light and, in turn, rank them higher in their indexes.

Link to quality sites internally in your content (avoid any free or non-authority sites, like john.blogger.com — use Forbes.com instead), and earn more external links by guest blogging.

10) Capitalize Upon the Call to Action

Without a compelling call-to-action (CTA) your content is directionless. A strong CTA gives the reader a direct command and helps point them in the direction you want them to go, be that purchasing a book or subscribing to an email list. Learning to write strong CTA’s is a pivotal piece of upping your online copywriting game and ensuring your content stays strong, relevant and engaging.

Go Forth and Master Online Copywriting

Online copywriting is a hot field to be in.

As a skilled writer, you can ghostwrite and virtually be the face for brands across the web and, as such, it’s important that you do it well.

It’s time to create powerful content that harnesses all the basics of great writing and great SEO in order to serve brands well. Here’s to you, becoming a force to be reckoned with in the world of online copywriting!

Want to learn how to be an SEO copywriting master? Check out my Expert SEO Content Writing Course.

For more useful guides like this one, visit my Write Blog.



Julia McCoy

Adapt to AI, or die. E/Acc. From exiting a 100-person SEO content agency to leading the AI content frontier at Content at Scale w/ a bunch of bright foks.