Copywriting can seem an intimidating topic to the uninitiated. And whilst it is true that quality copywriting is learnt over many years, there are plenty of tips that can quickly get you on the right path.
And that is the purpose of this post – to get you on the right path. Whilst copywriting is an involved subject, there are certain fundamentals that are not difficult to learn. If you take the tips below on board and incorporate them into your blog posts, you will soon see a marked improvement in your engagement and conversion rates.
1. Break It Up
Let’s face it – you are not writing a novel. People will not have the patience to wade through lines and lines of text, even if you do have a fascinating message to deliver.
Your content should be broken up to into short and easily-digestible paragraphs. You would be amazed at the difference it makes to the readability of your content – structure can have a dramatic effect.
2. Write For “Scanners”
In the modern age, we are exposed to an enormous amount of information. This has forced us to adapt in the way that we take this information on board. You only have to look at your own habits to realize this.
Unless a reader is particularly engaged, they will “scan” a blog post, rather than read it. Whole sentences will be skipped over as the reader subconsciously seeks whatever it is they are looking for.
This is where your sub-headers come in. You will want to break up your writing with a sub-header every 3-5 paragraphs (as a rule of thumb). You should aim for each sub-header to pique the curiosity of your reader. However, make sure that your sub-headers are not obscure – visitors will not have the patience to decipher your intended meaning. Keep it simple and direct.
3. Draw Attention
This tip is an extension of no. 2. Whilst sub-headers are very useful in conveying the gist of your message, there should be killer statements in the body of your post that you will want to stand out. Examples would include the unique selling point of a product, or a poignant comment on something of note.
You need to draw attention to such statements. The easiest way to do that is to make them bold, or underline them. But don’t be afraid to let your creativity run wild – for example, you could repeat key statements in a “quote box” embedded within the post (this is done all the time in magazines).
4. Create Color
Whilst a blog post with plenty of sub-headers and varied formatting is far better than an amorphous mush of text, you cannot rely on text alone – no matter how engaging it is.
Pictures should be an integral part of any blog post. Look at it this way – if you present a block of text to someone, they will either read it or they won’t. But when you introduce images, the equation changes. They may read the text or they may not. But they will almost definitely look at the image. And if you have included an intriguing or poignant image that links in well with the subject matter, the possibility of your post being read increases dramatically.
You can really look to put the odds in your favor by including a caption with the image. If you can create solid links, from image to caption to content, your post’s read count will jump.
5. Be Efficient
You have no doubt read newspaper articles where you can tell that the journalist was writing simply to fill out his or her word count. You will see the same with bloggers – as if there is some unspoken rule than article must be a minimum of 400 words.
Let’s make this absolutely clear – there is nothing wrong with writing a 100 word post. If it gets your message across in a clear and concise manner, it is more likely to convert your readers than the same message with 300 additional words of padding. Just ask Seth Godin.
6. Be Epic
This may seem to flip the previous tip on its head, but don’t be afraid to write long blog posts. If you have something to say and it takes 2,000 words, so be it. As long as you are being efficient in what you say, the length of the post is irrelevant.
The theory that blog readers lose interest after 400 words is an absolute myth. Have you ever sat down and read a 1,000 or 2,000 word article? Of course you have. It really doesn’t take that long at all; and if the content is engaging, the post’s length will be inconsequential.
7. Give Direction
You should include at least one Call To Action (CTA) in every single blog post you write. If you are not telling the reader what to do, they will make their own decision – and that decision will probably be not what you intended. So make it easier for both parties – tell them what it is that they are supposed to do next.
There will be two possible outcomes to this – they will either follow your directions, or they won’t. If they do not follow your directions, you are no worse off than if you didn’t include a CTA at all.
The key is to not be overly demanding with your CTAs. You shouldn’t be telling your readers to subscribe to your newsletter at the end of every single post. A CTA can be as simple as directing them to another relevant blog post where you do ask for their email address. Just give them some direction that keeps them within your “realm” – whether that be your blog, your social media accounts, or your newsletter.
8. Keep ‘Em Hanging
You no doubt remember the television series “Lost”. The scriptwriters were masters of the cliffhanger. It is a plot device that you will see everywhere, once you are tuned into it.
It is human nature to be drawn to cliffhangers – so don’t be afraid to exploit that fact. Don’t be afraid to end a post without a firm conclusion. If you can find a way to provide a conclusion in return for an email address, it can be a brilliant conversion tool.
But bear in mind that this strategy only works effectively if you show the reader what they should do next to gain closure. Although the desire to gain closure will be immediately strong, it will fade quickly if you do not take advantage.
9. Don’t Overwhelm
When planning a blog post, you need to know exactly what it is that you plan to achieve. If your content is rudderless, the reader won’t hang around for long. Ideally, you want to have one clear message in mind, and stick it it. If the central message of your post starts to wander, it won’t be long before the reader gives up.
10. Make It Beautiful
Now this last point isn’t strictly copywriting per se, but it is fundamental to producing blog posts that convert.
Imagine you were given the option of opening just one of two boxes. One is plain and brown, the other beautifully wrapped. Which one are you going to open? The second one, of course.
To an extent, your content can only be as good as the design that it sits in. Human beings are masters of forming opinions after a matter of seconds – the same thing happens when a visitor hits your site. They are judging your content before they’ve even seen it. As far as a new visitor is concerned, the quality of your design reflects the quality of your content. So if your content is great, you should make sure that your design is too.
Creative Commons photos courtesy of Alberto Ziveri, npslibrarian, Rameshng, Brighton photographer, wilhelmja and Kapungo