Content marketing, the term applied to today’s information-rich, education-focused marketing process, requires clear, concise and appealing copywriting. Here are 8 tips to help you write well for marketing … and prosper.
Although I’ve been creating content for marketing for many years, only in the last three years have the following 8 points crystalized for me, to help me write well.
They’ve driven me to whack down the number of words, sharpen my focus and phrasing, get to the point and write well from my reader’s point of view. What a difference it makes. I look back on pieces more than five years old and wonder, “What was I thinking?”
What spurred the change? What has driven me to edit ruthlessly and focus to create better content? Learning more about SEO, and studying results of web writing, emails and other measurable digital content.
Here’s what I’ve taken to heart. Here are the 8 tools and ideas I use to improve every word, phrase and paragraph. Today, when you write well, you’ll see response.
1. Copy written for good SEO is good marketing copy.
This is REALLY important. When you write well the words and phrases that help your audiences find you are the same words and phrases that communicate your marketing position. Why?
Because good SEO and good marketing deliver what your audiences are looking for.
The best advice for writing a blog that draws traffic is “answer people’s questions.” Marcus Sheridan (the Sales Lion) exploded his business when the economy tanked by following that rule. Check out his insights.
People want to do their own research–especially on a large purchase–before they talk to anyone. No one wants to be “sold.” Google says we use more than 16 sources of online information before making contact. Be ready. Answer people’s questions.
2. Write for your reader, not about yourself, your products or services.
When you take yourself out of your own shoes and step into those of your target audiences, you’ll discover they (usually) don’t speak like you do, or use the same jargon you use.
People search like they speak. They want answers to questions. They want to know how what you offer will give them what they’re looking for. They want to know how to choose, how to decide, how to buy.
Get away from the “we, we, we” on websites. Or product, product, product. Focus on the outcomes, benefits and results someone will have if they buy what you offer.
Thus the best SEO copy (and the most readable content) is a conversation. Simple language. Direct and to the point. Active instead of passive. And free of complicated language, buzz words or confusing terms. Simplify, edit, cut. Be brutal with your editing and you’ll be more effective both online and offline.
3. Discover and use the Flesch Reading Ease score.
This tool (which is an option to turn on in Word) scores the readability and grade level of your copy. By using it consistently to test different words and phrases, you’ll learn how to drive the score down and cut the grade level of your text. It’s also built into SEO Yoast, an excellent free tool for WordPress.
By measuring the length of words, length of sentences and paragraphs, as well as checking for active vs. passive phrases, the Flesch score reveals where you have extra words or phrases.
My two basic tips for quick edits to improve your score:
- If you use ‘ing,’ try rewording to drop it. Restore instead of restoring, build instead of building.
- And … any time you see an ‘and’ in your sentence, can that sentence be broken into two shorter sentences?
4. It’s a conversation, not a lecture.
Use first person–we, you–as if you were speaking to your reader in person. Don’t be afraid to use sentence fragments, they sound more natural. Simplify words. The difference between purchase vs. buy, unemployment vs. people without jobs can make your writing clear and slash your Flesch score.
Big words and long sentences don’t make you look smart. They are usually intimidating or (at best) confusing. Good marketing copy is human, readable and interesting enough to draw people in and keep them reading.
Also … it’s not about you and what you do or sell, it’s about the audience. Keep asking yourself “what’s in it for me?” from the audiences’ point of view.
5. Stop using default words, be specific.
Default words–quality, solutions, service, needs–are over-used words applied to nearly any industry or category. They have become meaningless. Please come up with something else. EVERYBODY says they have great quality and service. Who’s going to say they have rotten quality or lousy service?
What do you actually mean by “quality” or “value” or “great service”? What do you want the reader to know? Make friends with your thesaurus. Noodle on unexpected words to deliver a more specific description.
Is quality “a purse handcrafted of fine leather to last a generation,” or “carefully chosen blooms to fit the colors of your decor?” Play with descriptions that include details. Use statistics and words that will paint a picture. After all, when you describe what you offer, you want your reader to think “I want that!”
6. Specific details add richness.
If you’re a reader of novels (I am), you’ll see the power of detailed descriptions to put you into the story. What can you say that connects to the senses–what is seen, smelled, heard, touched? How can you describe an experience or outcome so your reader will want that result?
Or you use specific numbers to say more … and not “many wineries in McMinnville” we used the impressive numbers, “17 wineries and tasting rooms in 14 strollable blocks.” That’s the “wow!” that gets people to pay attention. And when you turn those numbers into big graphics (because there are also 34 unique restaurants in those 14 blocks), you will grab your audiences.
In any marketing copy, your goal is create a relationship and eventually, a buyer or referral source. Drive your reader to take the next step. That could be a call to action in an email. Or a link at the end of a web page. Or a list of related posts at the end of a blog.
Make that action clear and precise. Instead of “click here” the text on the button could be “get my e-book.”
Don’t leave readers hanging at the end of a web page or blog post, ebook or white paper. Give them specific direction and a place to go next, a clear course of action.
8. Read the studies and stats
There are innumerable studies on which words and phrases improve response–from headline styles that draw more clicks, to button text that produces bigger response. Look at SEOMoz, Kissmetrics, QuickSprout, HubSpot, Buffer. Study the reports. Use them.
Of course you want to be original, but don’t be so esoteric or “creative” that people don’t know immediately what is said. Learn about line length, lists, action words. It helps, really.
I hope these tips are useful. I’m confident they will help you write well and prosper.
When you’re ready to tackle concentrated, clear writing to create your verbal brand … which expresses who you are, the value of what you offer and why audiences should choose you, build out a messaging hierarchy. It’s the foundation for your marketing copy. Get our guide to learn more.
Here are other links you might be interested in.
- Website writing, don’t make me squint!
- 7 fatal flaws to fix on your website
- Messaging before website