Nowadays, content marketing is vital if you want your business to grow. But what can you do if you don’t want, or can’t afford, to hire a copywriter to write your content? Here are our top 5 copywriting tips:
1) Sort out your brief
Copywriting tip no. 1: Even if you’re writing the content yourself, you should still come up with a brief. This will allow you to keep sight of important information and stop you getting lost in a web of ideas. Your brief should:
- Define your target audience
There’s not too much point in writing something if you don’t know who you’re writing for. And it’s unlikely that you’ll appeal to the analytically minded, a results-driven businessman or -woman and a people person all in one go. So, work out who you want to target and describe their persona in your brief. This will allow you or your copywriter to write for them specifically.
- Specify what you want to achieve
Different types of copy serve different purposes and some will only really accommodate one angle. So, before anyone starts work on writing your copy, you need to specify what you want it to do. Ask yourself ‘What action do you want the reader to take?’ and ‘What emotions do you want to evoke?’ The answers to these questions will help focus the copy and they may even narrow down what kind of text you want to be written (e.g. narrative, explanation, description, etc.).
- Clarify how you want your brand to be seen
This is particularly key if you’re hiring someone to write on your behalf. For your copywriter to strike a chord with your audience in the way you want, they’re going to need some guidance. You may know how you want your company, product or service to be perceived, but they may not. They may even have never heard of your company before. So, give them some ideas about your company’s values and character.
2) Write for your audience
As to copywriting tip no. 2, always keep your target audience in mind. For your content to actually engage with readers, you need to address their hopes, aspirations or worries that drive them.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Who is your target audience?
You need to go into quite a lot of detail here, i.e. go beyond things like age, income, gender and occupation. You’ll also want to identify what values and beliefs your audience may have, what motivates them, as well as their attitude towards certain topics.
- What are their worries and wants?
Knowing their hopes and dreams, pains and fears, barriers and uncertainties is key to producing content that is relevant to them. If you address their worries and wants, then your content will automatically have real value. That could mean writing copy that answers their questions, maybe as a free download, e.g. a template document or a how-to guide.
Understanding their goals or what keeps them up at night will also allow you to evoke associated emotions with your headlines to pull them in.
- What writing style will appeal to them?
To appeal to your audience, you’ll need to adapt your copy to suit their level of understanding. Don’t bombard them with industry jargon. Avoid corporate language, use shorter sentences and plain English instead. Include power words, take a storytelling approach, write in a conversational tone and bring in some personal elements to make it engaging. And write to all senses to make your copy come alive.
3) Do some research
Moving on to copywriting tip no. 3: These days, the Internet holds the answer to almost everything. Forums and Q&A sites can be a very useful tool to help you understand the current trend of what people are after. Here are a few starting points:
- Research companies
This may sound like cheating, but there are loads of companies out there that make researching customer behaviour their business. The reports they publish make a great place to start. Organisations like the Pew Research Center compile reports on all sorts of trends and customer attitudes. These are free to access, but Pew also then goes on to publish the datasets they used later down the line. And this gives you access to some great raw data to crunch more specifically for what you’re interested in.
- Forums and Q&A sites
If you need to know what issues your target audience may be facing, forums or Q&A sites are a good place to look. It can be a bit time consuming to read through all the posts, but they’re full of people asking questions. And the most commonly asked questions often express your audience’s pains and worries.
As a general Q&A site, Quora is pretty popular and often has more detailed questions and answers. Reddit is also a great source because it automatically brings popular topics/questions to the top. It also works using lots of sub-forums (subreddits) that cater to specific topic areas (e.g. r/politics for discussions about US politics), making it easier to find audience-specific issues.
- Keyword planners
And lastly, if you want people to see your posts and online content through searches, then you’re going to need to optimise it for search engines. Keyword planners are great for this and Google’s is the go-to for many people.
Using a keyword planner allows you to quickly find words or phrases related to your topic that people are actually searching for. By using these keywords in your titles and adding them into your content, you can then increase the chances of people seeing it.
Once you’ve got a grasp of your target audience’s behaviour, what they are worried about and what people are actually searching for, it simply becomes a case of writing copy that connects the dots.
4) Hook them with the headline
Copywriting tip no. 4 is probably the most important: Target the readers’ emotions with a concise headline that’s relevant to them. Fail to do this and people won’t see why they should read your post. Always:
- Budget time for your headline
Headlines are tricky and they take time to get right, so plan accordingly. Professional copywriters can spend more time writing a heading than they do on the main text. This is because headlines have a lot of work to do. Not only do they have to grab the reader’s attention, they also have to give them a reason to carry on reading. Added to this, copy for the Internet will also need to include keywords so that it is optimised for search engines. So, when you think about it, you’ve suddenly got quite a lot to squeeze into not so much space.
- Keep it concise
Speaking of space, headlines should be short and clear. This not only makes them easier to read, but also helps with your SEO. Search engines grab your headline to use as their search result title. Ever seen a search result that suddenly ends with an ellipsis (…)? That’s because Google thought that heading was ‘too long’. For search engines, ‘too long’ means anything over roughly 65 characters including spaces. Find it difficult not to waffle? Follow our easy steps to writing concisely.
- Speak to your readers’ emotions
Using cute things to engage people obviously works – just look at the number of cat videos floating around the Internet. But there are a whole range of emotions you can tap into as well. Whether it’s the reader’s frustrations, fears or desires, targeting emotions will speak to them on a level they can relate to. This then gives them a reason to engage with your content.
Making a reader think that they’ve been missing out on some big secret is another great way to use feelings to engage your audience. Nobody likes being left in the dark, and promoting intrigue is a great way to encourage them to read on.
- Make sure it fits with your content
Audiences read articles expecting to get what the headline promises. So, make sure your content and headline are on the same page – metaphorically speaking. If your content doesn’t deliver, the audience may feel frustrated and be less likely to read it in the future. Readers can also quickly identify when they’re being oversold to, and are pretty fed up with it. So be wary of using headlines with ‘best ever’ or other kinds of over-exaggeration in them. Readers may just assume your content won’t deliver and skip it entirely.
5) Make sure it’s easy to read
To conclude our list of copywriting tips: Use plain English where possible and try to explain complex ideas as simply as you can. This is even more important if you write for an international audience as it will help to avoid misunderstandings. To do this, try to:
- Write as if you are speaking
It helps to imagine you are talking to your audience and write in the same way – minus the slang or the ‘um’s and ‘ah’s of course. If you wouldn’t use particularly big words when talking, then you can safely leave them out of your writing too. We’re not suggesting you drop the rules of grammar in the process, but you should aim to write in a more ‘spoken’ manner to get your point across clearly.
- Use active verbs
Opt to write your verbs in the active instead of the passive voice. For example, say “We started the campaign a year ago” instead of “The campaign was started by us a year ago”. This is a great technique that makes your writing easier to read because it makes it clearer who or what is doing the action of the verb.
- Keep it short
That goes for your sentences, your words, and your paragraphs. Endless text will either cause people to stop reading halfway through, or even put them off reading it altogether. And that means you won’t get your message across to them. Limit the length of your sentences to 15–25 words and the length of your paragraphs to no more than a couple of sentences.