Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How To Write Good Copy

Once customers are dazzled by your photography and are visually interested in your product,they’re going to read your copy to see if it matches the picture they see. If the picture and the words don’t feel right together, you’re going to lose the sale. Technically speaking, ‘copy’ is the description you write for your items. Be sure to spell words correctly, use correct grammar, and give your customers all of the pertinent details (color, size, condition, purpose, material) they need about what they’re buying. And just because I see it all the time and it drives me cuckoo, there's no ‘a’ in any of the following words:


But copy is much more than basic information, and you can take the most beautiful pictures in the world, write crappy copy and kiss your shop good-bye. Let’s look at a couple examples. First, let’s look at examples of ‘bad copy.' I'm using my own pictures, and I'm making up this bad copy so no one comes after me with a pitchfork.

Example #1:

These are 3 pairs of earrings look like fruit for only $17 which is a good deal. One is red, one is orange, one is hot pink. The picture only shows one earring, but you really get 2. Like I said, this is a really good deal Please check out my other items. I have a lot of things on sale. If you would like me to make you something, just ask because I don’t charge a lot to make things. If you like my shop even if you don’t buy anything please tell your friends about my shop. I have been selling a long time and nobody is buying anything and I don't know why maybe its the economy.


Do either of those made up descriptions make you want to buy anything at all? No. In fact they make the biggest mistake that untrained copywriters make: they reveal the seller’s insecurities and weaknesses. No one is going to buy from you if you aren’t confident enough to represent yourself well or describe your product well. Another copy killer is cutting and pasting copy directly from eBay straight into Etsy so that you have auction verbage listed. There are no auctions on Etsy. Care enough about your shop to make that your copy reflects the correct venue.

Now, let’s look at good copy! One of the most popular bath & beauty shops on Etsy is Gudonya Too. With their permission and my serious handmade soap affliction, let’s look at one of their listings and see how a great picture and excellent copy sells the everloving yum-yums out of this soap:

Gudonya Whipped Clean (tm) - Wild Blackberry --- vegan ---8oz Jar


OOH LA LA! Can I just stop here and ask you something? Do you like loads of fabulously-smelling bubbles running down your body? Yeah, we do, too. And that's just one of the reasons why we love this stuff! (RELATES TO CUSTOMER ENTHUSIASTICALLY & PERSONALLY)

But before we go on and on about the great lather, the wonderfully strong scents, and the fact that one jar of Whipped Clean seems to last forEVER, let's talk about the fragrance.... Wild Blackberry-- This one is a true Southern Blackberry scent; very pungent, sweet and fragrant aroma of ripe Blackberries ready for picking. Dark and delicious, a heady full bodied fragrance. Great "comfort" scent just for you!!! Now back to Whipped Clean and why we think you should be showering or bathing with it... All you need, literally, is 1-2 swipes through it with your bath pouf and you've got enough bubbles and aroma for a car wash! Honestly! (FANTASTIC IMAGERY)

The NEW WIDE MOUTH plastic jar is bathroom-friendly (yes, ahem, one of us is always dropping things in the shower. Perhaps it's all the lather, perhaps someone's just a klutz, but the point is that we haven't broken a jar yet.) We especially like this packaging with kids/teens in the house. And believe us, if you have this fun stuff in the shower, there's no WAY they're going to stay out of it! It's pretty easy to access the Whipped Clean in the bottom of it, whether you use a bath pouf or not, which is another plus for us.

So why do we call it Whipped Clean? That's easy - it looks like whipped cream but that phrase was already taken. It's a pretty solid mixture that lathers easily in the hardest of waters and is kind to your skin. (More advertising coming your way here... ) Of course, we always recommend following up your daily body cleaning ritual with a sMOOchy! (BRINGS CUSTOMER IN ON PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT PROCESS)

Being trained by a MASTER bath and body formulator, we make and use all of the items ourselves and stand behind the quality. We use only top-shelf oils and ingredients, including fragrances and essential oils, and the scents are very strong. All bath and body items are labeled with our brand name of Gudonya (pronounced good ON ya). Gudonya.... the way it SHOULD be! (EXPERTISE)

PLEASE…Convo us with any questions, comments, suggestions or custom orders! (ACCESSIBLE)

Thanks for spending time with us and have a Good on you TOO day!!! (GRATITUDE)

All Content, including product names, in and is ©Copyright 2005-2007. All Rights Reserved (PROFESSIONAL AND TRUSTWORTHY)

Now, I will grant you that that is a lot of copy, and you certainly don’t have to write something that long, but I chose it as an example because it demonstrates every aspect of what good copy can and should do. It draws the customer in, excites them, engages them, relates to them, involves them in the entire process of the product, empathizes with them, over-delivers on customer service, guarantees the product and ends by solidifying trust with the potential customer.

Any copy you write always needs to reflect your personal style. If you're not a stream-of-consciousness type, then the copy written above wouldn't make sense for your shop. Here's a much simpler example of successful copy from blacksheepbeads at ArtFire.

These funky vintage plastic beads remind me of antique pottery - they have the appearance of clay with a carved design visible beneath the finish. They measure 16mm and are drilled through the middle; you'll receive 10 in the lot.

That copy is simple, engaging, and it adds value to the product. You get all the information you need and feel comfortable purchasing the product.

Writing copy isn't difficult; it's a skill that once practiced over and over, can become an art in itself. If you love what you do and know what you're selling, you can write good copy. We live in a 24/7/365 world where anybody who knows anything about anything can become a self-proclaimed expert on any subject in ten minutes by setting up a blog with the right keywords and posting articles about the current hot topic and the next thing you know, they’re being quoted as a reliable source on CNN. If Joe-the-Plumber can get a book deal, you can write copy that engages your customer and keeps them in your shop! Trust me!

Parts of this article are an excerpt from my e-book How to Make It Small When Your Trying to Make It Big. Top photo is The Writer by emmaklingbeil. Save $4 on the book when your register your shop on the Handmade Highway, the living directory of handmade sellers.


  1. You must have been reading my mind! I suffer from bad copy syndrome, and while I think my pics are pretty awesome, my descriptions need lots of work. It's back to the drawing board! Thanks for for the insight!

  2. Why, thanks for using my writing as an example! :) I like to think that my dual BAs in journalism and English did me some good...even though I left both fields behind and became a librarian. Sometimes I'm inspired to write longer descriptions, but then my son takes his bed apart for the fiftieth time and the baby starts crying and my daughter wants to show me the snake she found in the yard and dinner starts boiling over and the phone rings and the dryer dings and the dog vomits and get the picture.

  3. Misspellings are a turn-off, but the biggest faux pas I see in a lot of descriptions is people making apologies for their product. (If you don't believe in it yourself, why would that make me want to buy it?)
    Or- they suffer from TMI syndrome. Like in your first example, saying why nobody is buying anything. Worse is when people go on and on about their personal tastes and issues.

    But even when it's about the product... your Long good example is too long and too laden with !!!s for my taste. (Fourteen exclamation marks in one description? Give me a break it's just soap for Pete's sake.)
    If I'm browsing I would never get through all that.

    Rereading... Sorry, it's WAY too long. "Now back to Whipped Clean and why we think you should be showering or bathing with it... " Do you have to SAY that? Just get back to it already. And should you really have to get "back to" describing your product during the description of your product?

    They sure do:
    "(yes, ahem, one of us is always dropping things in the shower. Perhaps it's all the lather, perhaps someone's just a klutz, but the point is that we haven't broken a jar yet.)"
    "(More advertising coming your way here... )"
    Lord have mercy- make it stop.

    ...I write catalog copy at work. Good copy is nothing without good editing.