We’ve all come across fantastic ad copy that blows away even the non-writers in our midst. We’ve also seen a lot of bad copy and content. But to understand what it takes to write effectively, it’s important to know exactly what kinds of things are going to speak to today’s digital audience.
And while it always takes practice (you can never be ‘too’ good), there are a few basic writing tips to keep in mind that can help almost anyone become a pretty decent writer in a fairly short time.
So how exactly do you go about writing effective digital marketing copy and content? What makes for great sales copy? And how do you go about developing your writing skills? Read on for some of the best tips and tricks for effective digital content writing.
Is there a difference between ‘content’ and ‘copy’? Yes, there is! But the trouble is that it’s sometimes difficult to pinpoint, and there certainly is a grey area between the two.
The main difference boils down to purpose.
In order to write something of real value, you need to be clear about why you are doing it. So here are a few questions to consider when you’re trying to figure out whether what you need falls more into the copy or content spectrum.
Once you separate copy and content, you can actually build some core pieces and tailgate other, smaller pieces around that. So, for instance, you could focus on one stellar blog post (think Neil Patel) and then develop smaller pieces of content and copy based on a particular objective.
Are you writing for a blog, a landing page, a regular web page, or for social media? What about an email series?
Each type of content will have a different purpose, and therefore you need to approach it in a slightly (or even wildly) different light. You need to clarify the purpose of a given piece of copy or content before you start writing, and develop your call to action (CTA) or sales strategy first.
Content is information, copy is sales. The line between the two is sometimes blurry and shifting, but understanding the purpose of a piece before you start is important.
Content is one thing, but what if you are curious about how to approach writing that’s more sales based? And what is it that makes sales copy effective? Here’s a formula that will help you structure almost any piece of copy in a persuasive way: Problem Agitate Solution (PAS).
While there are different versions of this floating around, and different experts use it in different ways, just making yourself familiar with the formula for now – and using it in practice – can do you a world of good. Once you become more experienced with writing, you can develop your own approach.
Before you start to write copy, you need to know what your customer needs. To this end you will need to carry out some customer research. Using social media features like Facebook polls and quizzes is a great place to start if you’re just practicing or running a smaller business. The key here is to identify some core values and needs of your customers so that you can really focus your message around meeting those needs.
The word ‘agitate’ here doesn’t quite mean ‘get people mad’ so much as it means doing something to move them to buy. So, once you address the problem, you then address something to do with the problem that is relatable and even emotional for the reader.
The final – and most important – part of your message is your solution. By now you’ve made your reader realize how the problem is affecting their life, and how your product can help them feel better, look better, or learn more, for example.
You can use the PAS system to develop an effective email series, and the great thing about this is that you can play around with different formulas, different types of writing, and different ordering. The main thing is that you leave your CTA as a clear solution so that you can (hopefully) boost your click-through-rates.
When you follow PAS, you can bear in mind the reader’s natural progression towards understanding your offer and exactly how it will fill their need. The point here is that you are driving them to action.
Do long-form sales pages and letters work for conversion? What about longer blog posts? Does length matter? Well, the answer is yes – and no. In a general sense, there are things more important than length – namely quality and SEO value.
However longer formats do tend to be more SEO-friendly – according to MOZ, blog posts over 1,000 words tend to get more shares. Remember that while quality should be your focus, a good balance of quantity and quality can actually do a lot to improve traffic.
There are a number of things that any marketer should be doing on an ongoing basis to clearly understand the needs, goals, and desires of their audience.
The main thing to understand is that, in order to make a sale, you’ll need to stand out from the crowd. To that extent, you not only need to say something new or different, you also need to demonstrate clear value while getting as personal as you can (more personal, hopefully, as you move through the sales funnel).
Effective copy should be composed in such a way that it triggers the reader towards an emotional reaction – it has to be meaningful and enrich their lives in some way, or it has to demonstrate how the product will. And sometimes the copy is the product – if you’re selling a book on how to blog, for example.
Throughout history, the best marketers and ads have managed to step just outside the box while still keeping things super simple.
Here are a few examples of companies that are creative and quirky with their copy – and in doing so, definitely stand out and make people genuinely like them. Injecting your brand’s quirky personality and a little bit of humor into your web copy (as well as your content) can go a long way when it comes to branding.
Cards Against Humanity is a party game that you can order only online. It can be hilarious and even a bit harsh, and it’s not for everyone. But just the tagline featured on the company’s FAQ page – “Your Dumb Questions” – speaks to its capacity to engage a quirky and not-easily-offended audience.
Trello is an awesome example of how a simple, bold design, combined with a clear, concise description and an immediate sign up button can work wonders on a landing page.
Apple is a true pro when it comes to short, concise copy – just look at the ‘think different’ campaign. Even though it was grammatically incorrect, it stuck with us. In this sense, just two words, paired with an effective graphic, can take you far.
If you’re a digital marketer who is not particularly adept at or interested in writing – have no fear! There are plenty of great writers and content managers out there for hire. The key thing to keep in mind is that you need to hire someone that understands not just how to write, but how to write for the web in such a way that pieces are both engaging and SEO-friendly.
Don’t be afraid to try something new – this is what will get people’s attention. You want to keep an eye on your overall message and brand consistency, as well as how all this fits together to give an overall feel for your product or service. You’ll also want to focus on brand and messaging consistency through all channels.
What do you need to do to become a good – or great – writer? How do you learn how to write effective, compelling, and persuasive copy and content? Well, you need to practice, of course!
Okay, this may seem obvious. But the truth is that in today’s world, most of us have access to plenty of resources that can help us to continually improve our craft, no matter what our background or industry.
If you want to learn more about how to write, create, and deliver quality content, blogs like Copyblogger, CopyHackers and The Content Marketing Institute will deliver quality writing and marketing tips right to your inbox on a regular basis.