Tag Archives: copywriting tips

Etiquette dos and don’ts when writing content

Etiquette do's and don'ts when writing content

Etiquette do’s and don’ts when writing content.

I was just browsing my content aggregator and I came across this blog post on the etiquette dos and don’ts of content writing thinking that the post actually talks about etiquettes.

Well, instead of talking about etiquettes it gives you the general dos and don’ts of writing effective content.

Nonetheless, the author has shared some good tips on what to take care of when writing content and what you should avoid.

I am quickly going to present a run down on what to do and what not to do.

Focus more on delivering value when writing content

This must be your primary focus.

Most of the people publish content because they want to improve their search engine rankings (or simply fill up their website because without written content, the website would look odd), but the primary purpose of writing content is to deliver value and engage your visitors.

If you deliver value and engage your visitors, your search engine rankings automatically improve.

Have a doubt? Read this blog post: Relationship between quality content writing, bounce rate and SEO.

Make sure you proofread and edit

Once you have written your content, make sure you go through it. Read it aloud if it’s possible.

What do I do when I’m editing?

I mostly shorten my sentences. I shorten my paragraphs. I remove needless adverbs and adjectives. Sometimes I add needless adverbs and adjectives.

Just make sure your content is easy to read and it does not have embarrassing mistakes.

Write for your niche

Defining your niche makes it easier for you to focus your writing.

When you are writing content, you are having a conversation with the reader.

Just imagine talking to someone who doesn’t want to talk to you.

Of course, defining your niche is not as easy as it may seem, but you should narrow it down as much as possible.

When I’m writing content for my blog, I am mostly targeting people who are looking for an experienced content writer who can help them publish engaging content and at the same time, can also help them improve their search engine rankings.

In the conventional sense my niche is quite broad – I get content writing queries from real estate businesses to blockchain businesses to IT consultants to babysitting businesses to online retail stores, and pretty much everything in between.

One thing is common though: they are all looking for a content writer.

They may need a content writer for their website, or their blog, or their email marketing campaigns or their social media campaigns.

Hence, I have lots of content targeting these categories.

Keep SEO in mind while writing

Though, you shouldn’t obsess about SEO when writing content, this is an aspect that you cannot ignore.

How do you write SEO content?

You may want to read How do I write search engine friendly content for my clients?

There are some other tips that I just wrote about in the link I have shared just above.

These are some basic do’s and don’ts. They’ve got nothing to do with etiquettes.

Anyway, what etiquettes should you keep in mind when writing content?

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Try to write gender neutral content if it is not being written for a specific gender.
  • Don’t offend people on the basis of race, region, religion or class.
  • Don’t use abusive language.
  • Respect your audience and don’t dumbify them.
  • Don’t mislead your audience just to improve your SEO.
  • Don’t keep promises you cannot keep.
  • Don’t be judgmental or condescending.
  • Avoid taking a political stand when you are writing for business.

Since the title of this blog post hints as of the blog post contains some insights on etiquettes, I wanted to write something about this issue. Maybe later on I will do a complete blog post on this.

 

13 copywriting rules I use when writing copy for my clients

My copywriting rules when I'm writing copy for my clients

My copywriting rules when I’m writing copy for my clients.

The copywriting rules listed in this blog post help my clients generate more leads and get more business. What are these rules? Or what are these copywriting laws? Read on.

Copywriting is a tricky undertaking. When I’m talking to my new clients, I always tell them that you cannot immediately get results from a landing page or an email marketing campaign.

You may not find these copywriting rules on other blogs not because they are unique, but because I implement them and hence, talk about them, in my own unique way.

Do I follow all these rules or laws? Not at all. In the end I will explain why. In fact, I used to believe that as long as you write well, there is no need to follow any particular copywriting laws.

Customer behavior is quite scientific these days. Ample amount of research is available that reveals to you what works and what doesn’t when you are writing copy. There are even certain words and expressions that, although mean the same, have different impact on your copy and through your copy, on your customers and clients.

4-5 landing pages or email marketing campaigns are needed before we can find out what works and what doesn’t.

No matter how experienced a copywriter is, experimentation is needed. A problem with freelance copywriters is that when a client approaches, she wants to know exactly how much a particular piece of writing is going to cost and how much is going to be delivered. Hence, there isn’t much scope to try out various rules or laws, especially when you want to evolve using your own copywriting techniques.

A copy is not about the number of words. It is about making an impact.

Due to this faulty, and yet inescapable approach, there is very little scope for experimentation, analytics, and learning.

Most of the clients move on after the first campaign. Some have access to analytics, and some don’t. They see that not much business was generated, and they think that may be there is something wrong in the copy.

I’m gradually shifting away from that model – quoting for the number of words – and instead, I focus on the result and quote accordingly, sometimes not even telling the client why I’m charging what I’m charging. Though, that’s a different topic.

First, here is a quick list of the copywriting rules that I try to stick to as much as possible:

  1. Thoroughly understand the product or the service.
  2. Get a clear idea of whom you’re writing for.
  3. Use the language of the audience.
  4. Spend ample amount of time on the main headline.
  5. Avoid using big words and jargon.
  6. Use simpler sentences – mostly one thought in one sentence.
  7. Use call-to-action strategically.
  8. Create a sense of urgency (but don’t overdo it).
  9. Use positive language instead of negative.
  10. Focus more on benefits and less on features.
  11. Leverage storytelling.
  12. Stick to the point.
  13. Be your customer’s advocate.

Although results cannot be guaranteed with every campaign, there are some fundamental copywriting rules that can be followed when writing copy. Every audience is unique. Every set of customers and clients is unique. Nonetheless, certain steps that you take when writing copy always leave a positive impact.

Below I’m listing some rules that I follow when writing copy for my clients.

1. Understand the product or the service as clearly as possible

David Ogilvy in his book “Ogilvy on Advertising” says that before beginning to work on a copy, he did so much research that he would know more than the business owner. Of course, most of the clients don’t have that much budget, but whatever you can learn about the product or the service, try to learn it.

How can you write about something you don’t know of? Knowing about a product or service doesn’t just mean knowing what it does. It means how a product or a service helps customers and clients.

This is always my primary focus. What would draw people to this particular product or service? What overwhelming problem does the product or the service solve?

2. Define the target audience

In the content writing parlance, it is also called “defining the persona”.

Although I don’t psychoanalyze the audience such that it takes me hours to understand the people – obviously the client isn’t paying that much – I try to gather as much information as possible.

3. Adapt my writing to the language of the audience

What kind of language does the audience prefer? What language does the audience use when talking about similar products and services? You don’t want to alienate people by using a language that they don’t use.

Someone recently suggested that if you want to learn what type of language people use when talking about the product or the service that you are writing copy for (similar) visit other e-commerce websites and read the reviews and comments left by their users.

For example, if you’re describing the features of a mobile phone, visit a website like Amazon.com and go through various mobile phone listings, especially the reviews section.

4. Brainstorm on the main headline

I’m again going to quote David Ogilvy, “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar.”

Some professional copywriters claim that out of the entire time, they spend 50% of the time on defining the headline. Sometimes they experiment with multiple headlines.

Although I won’t say that I spend 50% of my time coming up with the headline, I take my headline seriously. The headline must capture the essence of what is being written in the copy. The person who reads the headline should be immediately able to understand what the copy is about.

I make sure that the headline doesn’t confuse the reader. It must be straightforward. It must represent the biggest benefit or address the biggest problem.

But at the same time, I don’t believe in hyperbolic headlines. I try to create as realistic headlines as I can.

5. Avoid “big words”

By big words I mean, use “get” instead of “obtain” or “best” instead of “superior” or “help” instead of “facilitate”, and so on.

This also makes it easier to use conversational tone which makes your readers comfortable.

Of course, being a writer sometimes I get in the flow and use the words I shouldn’t be using but this normally happens in the first draft. By the time I’m through with revisions, I get rid of lengthier words if shorter versions are available.

6. Use simple sentences

This needs to be strategic. Too many simple sentences can sound like monosyllables or uninspiring. But, whenever I can, I express just one idea in one sentence and avoid using compound or complex sentences.

It makes it easier for the reader to read and understand what you are writing. In compound or complex sentences, one needs to process multiple thoughts at the same time, and this may end up confusing or distracting the reader.

7. Use call-to-action strategically

CTA or call-to-action is a big part of copywriting. The entire copy revolves around your CTA. The aim of your copy is to make the reader perform an action. This can be buying something, or replying, or downloading a brochure or giving a call, or registering for a workshop.

You can use call-to-action multiple times within the copy. It isn’t necessary that call to action must be used at the end. Whenever you express something compelling and you feel that the reader may be motivated to perform an action, you can insert a call-to-action.

But don’t overdo it; this makes you sound desperate.

8. Create a sense of urgency

I don’t believe in creating a sense of urgency just for the heck of it. I want to build trust among my readers. I create a sense of urgency when there is actual need.

For example, a client is organizing a workshop next week and he is making an offer to the first 25 attendees who register within the next two days.

In such cases, I use something like “This offer expires in two days and there is a mad scramble!”

9. Use positive prompts

It is something like instead of “Don’t spend your day in pain”, I write “Spend a painless day”. Another example would be, instead of “Don’t miss the opportunity”, I write “Grab the opportunity”.

10. Highlight benefits instead of features

I know, this is clichéd advice but even after coming across this advice for more than 273 times, I still see many copywriters getting obsessed with the features of a product or a service.

So, instead of giving more stress on the fact that your mobile phone has more than 300 GB of storage space, tell your prospective buyers that they can store 10,000 videos.

Instead of saying that your jeans is stretchable, you can tell your buyers that the same jeans can be worn by people of different sizes.

I’m not saying avoid features altogether. Features are important. I mean, 300 GB of storage space does sound appealing to a tech savvy person like me. Hence, don’t skip this part, but also don’t skip the part that the phone can save 10,000 videos.

11. Use storytelling

People relate to stories better. You have a great SaaS product with awesome features, but if you talk about some John who couldn’t afford expensive hardware and software and how he was able to grow his business using your SaaS product through a cheap, second-hand laptop, it can make a great impact.

12. Stick to the point

I don’t use fluff. I don’t beat around the bush. Of course, when you’re telling a story you need to build a narrative, but keep your audience focused. Even small distractions can make your readers lose track and go somewhere else.

13. Be the champion of the customer

I write copy as if I’m talking on behalf of my customers and clients. How are they going to benefit from the product or service I’m writing about? How is it going to change their lives?

Honestly, sometimes I feel insincere because how can I champion the cause of the customers for whom I’m writing, if I myself haven’t been using that product or service? I’m not an evangelist who has been using this product or service for years and have benefited immensely.

Take for example construction materials: these days I’m writing a series of marketing emails for a company that supplies construction materials and equipment to construction companies. I don’t have a construction company. I don’t use construction material. Still, I’m trying to convince those construction companies that they are going to get the best deal on the best materials from the company I’m writing about.

Well, this is something I need to reconcile with quite often.

Do I follow or implement all the copywriting rules I have mentioned above? Not necessarily. I pick and choose. Sometimes I use even random copywriting rules that I may have not listed above. I prefer to go with the flow. But these rules combine into a basic structure that keeps me on the right path. Even if you follow 50% of these rules, you are good to go.

 

What is a cliffhanger in copywriting?

What is a cliffhanger in copywriting?

What is a cliffhanger in copywriting?

A cliffhanger in copywriting is also called the “curiosity gap”.

You want your readers to read your entire copy, right?

Making them read the entire copy is important for call-to-action and conversion.

You want to keep them hooked.

You need to pique their interest.

They should quickly want to read what comes next.

What makes reading gripping? What do you call a page turner?

When the writer always keeps you on the edge.

Something is always just about to happen.

You must have seen cliffhangers in many Netflix series: the current episode ends at a drastic juncture, and you desperately want to know what happens next.

So, you watch the next episode instantly.

You can use cliffhangers similarly for writing copy that you want people to read till the end.

Why is it important for your readers to read your copy till the end?

You are building a narrative.

You want to inform, educate and motivate them enough so that they convert.

Your entire narrative builds towards your call-to-action.

If they lose interest midway, they will never respond to your call-to-action. They will never be motivated enough.

Therefore, it is important that you keep your readers hooked with the help of cliffhangers.

Build the suspense. Tantalize them. Hook them with incomplete sentences and opportune questions.

Here are some examples:

“He wasn’t sure if he could afford it, but then…”

“Just when he thought he had seen whatever could have been seen, something totally unexpected unfolded.”

“This app doesn’t just help you manage your tasks, it does much more than that. Want to know what?”

Don’t overdo, though. Use cliffhangers in copywriting strategically for maximum benefit.

What exactly do you do?

It's very important to know exactly what you do.

It’s very important to know exactly what you do.

This is the first thing that I want to know when take up a new content writing project: what exactly does the client do?

The answer is not as simple as it may seem in the beginning. For most of the clients, it is often difficult to tell in a couple of sentences what they do and exactly who they serve.

And then they wonder why their websites in general and copywriting in particular don’t convert.

It helps you target better if you know exactly what you do.

What do I do?

I provide content writing and copywriting services.

Big deal. There are thousands of content writers and copywriters on the Internet, and some may be even better than me.

So, what do I do to deserve your business?

I write engaging content that helps you convert better. I also improve your search engine rankings.

Now, this is a bit more precise. What next?

My writing is confident. It may not win a Pulitzer or a Booker Prize, but I write with conviction and confidence.

I always know the right words for the message that you want to convert.

I don’t use fluff. I come to the point straightaway. I don’t try to impress the readers. I try to inform them.

Instead of worrying about how many words I should write, I focus on the message (although, most of the clients are more worried about the number of words, but that’s a different story).

So, as a content writer and a copywriter, I do the following:

  • Write conversational content.
  • Write content with conviction.
  • My content writing helps you improve your search engine rankings.

These are the basic traits that a small business owner is looking for in a content writer.

Similarly, if you want to communicate your message without confusing your visitors, you must know exactly what you deliver.

Don’t leave it on your content writer to first understand what you do and then write. He or she will be wasting his or her time and you too will be wasting your time.

Write down somewhere exactly what you do whether you are getting content written by a writer or you yourself are writing it.

What do you deliver?

What is the benefit of working with you?

How do you define your target customers and clients?

What would they be looking for when they search for you?

Is there something that you can deliver that the others cannot? What is it?

What sets you apart?

 

Know the why of your writing

Simon Sinek wrote a complete book  exhorting businesses to find the “why” of their existence. The same holds true for individuals. Why do you do what you do? Why do you work as an engineer? Why do you work as a graphic designer? Why are you in politics?

And the same holds true when you are writing. Know the why of your writing. I’m not talking about the larger picture, I’m talking about a particular blog post or a particular article or even a particular social media update that you’re going to write: why are you writing it?

We all have a general answer. You want to improve your search engine rankings. You want to “engage” your customers or clients. You want to publish fresh content on your website. You want to maintain visibility on LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter. You want to regularly reach the inbox of your email subscribers.

These are larger whys. Important, but vague, and cannot be achieved unless you know why you are writing this particular blog post or social media update.

So, the next time you sit down to write something or you take out your mobile phone to write a quick update, think of the why.

What impact do you want to make? What is new you’re going to add? How is it going to help your readers or your followers? How do you want to portray yourself through this piece of writing or this update?

Write as many whys  as possible. The more whys  you can figure out, the more impactful will be your writing.