Posts in Copywriting

Writing hacks from 16 of the industry’s best copywriters

With his sights set on the C-suite, my husband recently started an MBA with the Jack Welch Institute. As with any university course, there are a lot of assignments and essays to write so he asked me for some pointers.

I shared some of my top tips, such as:

  • Always write your introduction and headline last.
  • Think about the structure – state the ‘problem’, describe the ‘solution’, share the ‘evidence’, reach a conclusion.
  • When researching, always Google “[search term] + survey”to get the rich, juicy results.
  • Make sure you back your opinions with credible research.
  • Ideally sleep on it before reviewing your work.

Considering day-to-day he’s a director, in charge of managing a team of about 20 people, he’s averaging a 4.0 grade point average (the equivalent of an A-grade, or about 95% mark).

And it got me thinking…

As a copywriter, I probably have loads of these tips and tricks up my sleeves – things I don’t even think about any because they’re all things I do naturally. A bit like when you learn to drive a car, after a while you stop thinking about finding the ‘bite’ because you just know where it is.

But rather than ramble on at you, I thought I would turn to some of the incredible copywriters I know and instead, ask for their top tips, tricks and techniques…

Just start: if you wait until you’re ‘ready’ to write, it may not happen. Just put pen to paper (or get behind the keyboard) and go for it. The first draft doesn’t need to be perfect.

Credit: Michelle Garrett

Put the reader first: start with the most interesting idea to draw readers in, and make it easy to read throughout. 

Credit: Sean McManus

Write like you talk: and in a way that a 12-year old can understand. 

Please the eyes first, then engage the mind: short paragraphs, subheadings, etc. Make writing easy to skim read. 

Credit: That. Content. Shed.

Don’t try to write like you *think* writing should sound:write in your own voice, making your points as clearly as possible.

How to structure an argument:“People think X. Because of Y. And Z. But actually, A! Because B.”

Credit: Ed Callow

Think structure: mix up the length of sentences and keep an eye on structure – what information is the audience getting when? 

Use eye-catching word or phrases: when used around the main idea of the text they anchor it in the reader’s mind.

Credit: Anthony Arnott

Pay attention to sentence length:

  • No more than 20 words per sentence.
  • Try to have a mix of short and long to help it flow. 
  • Stick to one idea per sentence. 

Credit: Craig Wright

Adding a similar sentiment for paragraphs:

  • Don’t let them creep over five or six lines. 
  • Use subheadings to help.

Think about passive/active voice: put the people in your writing by letting us know who’s doing what.

Show don’t tell: don’t just say ‘you’re a valued customer’, make your customers feel valued.

Credit: Leigh James

Tips for shortening sentences and improving precision:

  • Be ruthless in cutting adverbs, even ‘very’. They can weaken rather than strengthen the point.
  • Check for and purge ‘over-extended’ words – so, don’t use ‘documentation’ for ‘documents’, ‘methodology’ for ‘method’, ‘limitations’ for ‘limits’.

Credit: anon

Use simply-constructed clauses: probably more important than sentence length.

Credit: Leonie Thomas

If you want to learn more about clauses, here’s a quick lesson…

Get a thesaurus: synonyms are your friend – but they need to be the right ones. Say you’re writing about “search rankings” repeating “search rankings” over and over starts to jar and distract. Throw in a few “search results; organic results; SERPs” etc. Keeps it interesting.

Credit:SEO-specialist Andrew Cock-Starkey

Always start sentences with ‘And’.

Credit: Alexandra Griffiths

It has such an impact on your writing, making the reader stop and take notice. I’d extend this to include starting sentences with ‘But’ and ‘However’ also.

Keep a consistent tone of voice throughout: don’t use ‘big’ words to try and sound more intelligent. Aim for clarity

Don’t be a thief: if you include anything from external sources, quote/cite them.

Credit: Robyn Santa Maria

When you’re editing your own work:

  • Start at the last paragraph and work backwards, stops you being pulled into the flow of what you’ve written. 
  • Print and edit.

Credit:Claire McCabe

Read it out loud afterwards: make sure it IS like you’d talk.

Credit: Mary Whitehouse

Practical tip for editing: before checking over your own writing, change the font and font size.

Credit: Ed Callow

Edit. Edit. Edit: take out any word that adds nothing to the sentence. I go back and strip out each “very”, “really” and “so”.

Credit: Antonia Taylor

And there you have it…

27 tips from 16 copywriters. Apply them to your writing and see the difference it makes.

And don’t forget…

I’m an open book. So if you have any another question, or want to know what the copywriting community thinks about a particular topic, let me know.


Photo by Trent Erwin on Unsplash

A ridiculously simple guide to blogging

Written in the right way, blogging can be a very powerful tool for your business, helping to showcase your skills/knowledge in a particular area, demonstrating that you empathise with your target audience, providing insight into all the exciting activity that’s going on in the company, and creating inbound leads for your sales pipeline.

It’s tempting to jump straight into writing, essentially throwing up your words all over the page. But before you put pen to paper (of fingers to keys), take a moment to think about the following…

Set the overall goal

There’s no point in writing content for the sake of it. The best blogs create value for your customers, while supporting your overall business strategy. So think about what value you want your blog to deliver to your business.

For example:

  • Raise your brand awareness
  • Boost your SEO
  • Start conversions with new leads
  • Establish trust with prospects
  • Position you as a thought leader

Decide what to write about

The hard reality is that your customers/prospects really don’t care about you – it’s all about them. So with every piece of content you produce for your blog, think about whether it’s interesting, relevant and compelling for them.

It’s time to put on your creative hat and step into your customer’s/prospect’s shoes. Ask yourself:

  • What information would they find useful?
  • What do they need to help them move to the next step in the sales cycle?
  • How can you help them get the most from your product/service?
  • How can you make their lives easier? Or their job simpler?
  • And what can you do that’s fun to show off your personality?

Then look around for inspiration. See what your competitors are talking about, the industry analysts, the media and industry associations. Check out social media, ask your sales team, ask your colleagues…maybe even ask your customers what they want to hear about!

Keep a note of all your ideas and keep adding to it. Then start to structure it, for example:

  • A day in the life of…
  • 10 ways to…
  • How to….
  • Problem solving (can be more technical)
  • What does xx mean for xx?
  • Motivations for a career in [your industry]
  • Case studies
  • Predictions
  • Launching a survey / survey results
  • Response to industry trends
  • New applications / functionality

Create a content calendar

The key with blogging is to make a commitment, and stick to it. If you say you’re going to post content every month, every week, every day, over time your customers/prospects will come to expect it – so you better deliver. 

There’s nothing worse than visiting a blog and seeing the most recent post is from several months ago. What message is that sending?

Read more about the impact of failing to post regular content

Structure it right

Start with an attention-grabbing title and a killer opening paragraph, so they’re hooked from the outset. 

Top tip!

Make this the last thing you write – it’s a lot easier to think of the words once you’ve created the main body of the copy.

The best B2B bloggers write with empathy, addressing their audiences’ pain points and sharing how to overcome their challenges. They chuck all the business cliques, industry jargon and technobabble in the bin and speak to the audience in simple language that they connect with.

With each blog, think about the story you want to tell your audience. As a rule of thumb, I use the following structure:

  • Problem
  • Anticipated outcome
  • Solution overview
  • Evidence
  • Call-to-action

Then think about adding informative subheadings to guide the reader through. Subheadings are also important because they ensure that if someone is skim-reading the piece, they still gain value from your blog and take away the key messages. Plus they’re an opportunity to boost your natural search engine optimisation (SEO).

If you’re looking to share large quantities of information, consider using bullet points or lists to make this information easier to consume.

And then once got your first draft down, it’s time to review, review, review…..and review. The secret to reviewing is to look for something different every time:

  • The first couple of passes should focus on the main body of the content, ensuring you stay on topic throughout, the key messages are clear, it has flow and is well-written. 
  • Then review your research, checking sources, surveys and quotations. 
  • Review for structure. 
  • Review for keywords to boost your SEO and aid with organic search results. 
  • And finally, the all-important SPAG – spelling, punctuation and grammar. 

Read more about what the content community has to say about reviewing…

The best format

The beauty of the blog is that it can be whatever you want it to be, you’re not forced to stick to a specific length. So think about mixing some short, sharp pieces (500 words), with longer form copy (1,500+ words). 

Once you’ve got the words down, it’s time to think about the pictures. Blogs with no images look dull. Add visual interest to your blog through:

  • Header images
  • Graphics
  • Word clouds
  • Videos
  • Infographics
  • Illustrations
  • ‘Box-out’ sections
  • Diagrams

Time to post

Congratulations! You’ve finished your blog. Time to proudly publish it to your website for the world to see, before sticking your feet up to enjoy a nice cup of tea.

WRONG!

Posting your content online is just the first step. Once you’ve published your blog people don’t automatically know to go and read it on your website, they need to be told it’s there and pushed to go and read it. Think about ways to promote your new blog, for example:

  • Through your social media channels
  • Through other people’s social media channels
  • Through groups/associations you’re a member of
  • Advertising, such as Google Adwords, promoted Tweets, sponsored content
  • Email signature
  • Email marketing

Commit to your content

Creating engaging blog content is a real commitment – and the more you put in, the more your get out.

If you’re looking for a constant drip of leads into your sales pipeline, then you need to feed your content engine with a steady stream of interesting and useful blogs. 

Discover more about why people are pledging to #Write52 and give their blog a boost…


Photo by Patrick Perkins on Unsplash

#ContentClubUK roundup

#ContentClubUK has quickly become my highlight of the week; for 30 minutes our content community comes together to share their advice and experience, learning from each other and helping each other to become the best we can possibly be. This week, I hosted…

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