Writing structure: five terms you need to know
Copywriting is a tricky artform which can really power up your marketing assets. If you're new to copywriting or even creative writing, there are some fundamentals that you need to learn before you embark on your content writing journey. Here are five fundamental elements of writing structure that you need to learn.
Read more about excellent writing structure here.
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What is content marketing?
Content marketing is the process of creating useable content that your customers, clients and end users get real value out of (eg, learn information) and sharing it on your own channels to increase your credibility and entice new leads and sales.
All good things need a plan but getting started with your content plan can be daunting. Below, you will find some simple steps on how you can get started with your content strategy.
'Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.'
How do you decide what topics to focus on and what format to use?
When writing and planning a bunch of content, it can be challenging to know where to start and what to write. You might want to write about dogs and bowties but how relevant is it to your broader marketing plan? What kinds of topics will draw in more sales and new customers?
Topic focus should be based on your target demographic and what content appeals to them to engage their interest and convert sales. What do they already consume and what articles and blog posts influence them to purchase?
Keyword research as part of your SEO investigation and strategy is a great place to start when it comes to planning your content topics. By discovering a list of applicable keywords and long tail search terms, you determine which content articles and web copy would be an important, primary and immediate focus.
What steps should you take to develop a content strategy?
How do you track and know if your content has performed well?
Utilising analytic programs (such as Google Analytics) and other tools to ascertain performance of content, you can report on key metrics and data in accordance to your predetermined KPIs and objectives, which you would assumedly focus around views, increased site traffic, increased social media engagement and metrics and most importantly conversions to sales.
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Need a freelance copywriter? Hire me today.
One of the most make or break things about professional writing is the structure and it absolutely pays to get it right.
Structure is the order of ideas. More specifically, when it comes to professional communication and writing, it's about looking at the way your assets are structured. Learning the fundamentals of structure are incredibly important so that you can apply it to your own writing and achieve successful results.
Building block questions
In every piece of writing, you need to look at the basic storytelling building block questions that are to be answered in the research phase. These answers to these fundamental questions will form the basis of the information of your piece of writing.
In addition to these building block questions, it pays to be clear on the following aspects of structure:
Ten writing tips for structuring your work
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Stuck for social media content ideas? Never fear, Jones is here!
With so many social media marketing platforms and marketing channels that you need to attend to and be visible on, it can be difficult to continuously come up with clever and wily content ideas and posts.
I’ve taken out some of the hard work for you by compiling a list of content ideas that you can use and incorporate in your content marketing and social media marketing strategy. Essentially, what you'll find below is a month's worth of social media content. Or more!
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Innovation: an overused and ignored word
As someone who writes a plethora of technology articles (I’m genuinely infatuated with big data, blockchain, artificial intelligence...) I stumble across the word innovation or innovative multiple times a day.
Innovation is a late Middle English word which stems from Latin. What’s fascinating is that the term innovator, used to be a complete insult and punishment often resulted in jail time and having their ears cut off. Ouch!
Innovation is about introducing something new (or change something into new). Used in its precise context, it works well. But how often to companies, products or services that are described in copy or when a keynote speaker is gracing the stage or sitting opposite Kochie on whatever morning program he is on and purport themselves to be innovative when what they are doing isn’t new at all?
I’ll admit, it’s a great word that captures a lot of what people are trying – or think – they do.
But it gets lost in the noise and becomes invisible because it’s categorically overused.
The more predictable the word, the more likely someone is going to skip it. ‘Readers possess semantic and syntactic information that enables them to form expectations about upcoming words in text (Goodman, 1970).'
And if someone is skipping your text, they aren’t going to totally absorb your message. And if you’re trying to stay front of mind in your potential customers and clients, you want them to remember your message!
‘…when word length is matched, words that are predictable from prior text are more likely to be skipped than unpredictable words…’
Instead of innovation, try these terms:
But it’s not enough just to use these words.
You must take it a step further and explain exactly why you/your product/your service are those things to connect with your audience and convince them that you are the one for them.
And truly, I’m not saying don’t use the word innovation, I’m saying become creative and specific when conveying your message. Put across different ways of saying what it is you actually do. Be accurate, why are you innovative? For example, list the technology you use or where you deviate from industry best practices that work. What are you doing differently from others in your field?
Is it time to refresh all your copywriting? Learn how to write great content here.
The interesting evolution of copywriting. It's older than you think!
There is a certain level of peculiarity that comes with being a copywriter that goes beyond simply being a writer or working in marketing. Of course, I’m completely biased but it feels like a strange set of skills that I’ve stolen from history and that I’m disguising under new tech. Do you ever get that feeling about your job? I can imagine visual artists, doctors and yoga teachers might feel similar or at least understand what I’m getting at.
Advertising copywriting has existed since Babylonian times and the first printed material is said to have come into the world in 1477, promoting the sale of a prayer book.
The history of copywriting dates back to when the first printed papers were distributed on the street. The actual word “copywriting” means the act of writing words to sell products. The copywriter is the person who does this, often found in ad agencies or at home as a freelancer.
The job of a copywriter began by creating ads on a large poster made of paper with a feather dipped ink (how deliciously antiquated and time consuming). These posters were fixed to walls and poles in the bigger cities of Europe. Centuries ago there were no printing processes to make duplicates, so each page was painstakingly handcrafted. Creating such ads was more of an art and it sounds incredibly meditative to me.
Eventually, they evolved to printed pamphlets and brochures and became much smaller in size as printing in its new evolution was a complicated and lengthy process, so the smaller the item, the faster it was.
Once mass printing processes were perfected, around 1605, newspapers could be mass produced and hawked on street corners. The first English paper was produced in 1664, called the Oxford Gazette (now known as the London Gazette). It was when the larger format newspapers were published that advertisements began to appear on one full page or several ads were dispersed throughout the pages. What a glorious time that must have been for copywriters as there wasn’t quite the saturated market, you could have more effect on people and their purchasing or social decisions.
The beginning of freelancing
It has been suggested that the first person to work as an official independent copywriter was John Emory Powers (thanks dude). He lived from 1837 to 1919 and was the first person to have this job fulltime and instead of working for a newspaper, he worked for the popular department stores of Lord & Taylor and Wanamaker’s. These stores recognised the importance of creating excellent ads that would stand out in newspapers and magazines. He created six ads a week. I’d like that kind of work load!
He is deemed the ‘father of modern creative advertising’ by creating one of the most controversial ads of the era, in his signature straight talking style, that ended up selling out stock in a number of hours. Truth telling was his gimmick and it seemed to work!
‘Suddenly, everything I'd seen in direct mail and all the ads I'd seen made sense. Give people a reason why they should buy a product,' Clayton Makepeace.
The value of copywriting
The value of copywriting was finally recognised around the 1800s. The copywriter would make advertisements that would capture the attention of consumers. For the Wanamaker's store, they quickly doubled their yearly revenues.
Where advertising used to be more of a gamble and a risk taking venture from the thirties to the sixties, today it is one that is unavoidable and if you don’t include it in your marketing plan you are already behind your competitors. In 2017, there was a global advertising spend of approximately $688 billion (in AUD). That is off the charts!
‘The man who stops advertising to save money is like the man who stops the clock to save time,’ Thomas Jefferson.
One of the most prominent and influential copywriters of the past century was Robert Collier, who started the direct mail phenomenon in the thirties, utilising emotional connecting and psychological techniques. He later became a bestselling and famous new age and self development author.
It wasn’t really until recently that training and education became formalised for copywriting, perhaps with exception of on the job training and mentoring.
Copywriting doesn’t last long
Copywriting is almost instantly obsolete, which is bizarre considering how much time, skill and sheer effort goes into it. It’s even more bizarre to think how influential that copywriting is. I could craft a content article or digital ad today that could affect hundreds of people enough to buy a product or a service that could change their life or, at the very, least change perspective on the way they had previously viewed something.
With real time feedback and digital analytics, copywriters and content marketers have instantaneous feedback and can tell whether the copy is working more than ever and campaign cycles are much quicker. So now we have to be faster and more accurate and create something that gets results within a 24-48 hour cycle. No pressure!
Today’s modern copywriter does more than simply write copy for newspaper or magazine ads. With ecommerce growing at a rate of at least seventeen per cent per year and content marketing becoming a universal marketing tactic employed by ninety per cent of businesses worldwide, a copywriter now has to be proficient in writing for the web with a sound knowledge of SEO best practices. Copywriters may also write copy for book jackets, food and product packaging, name floral bouquets (I actually did this once), write about technology trends in healthcare (done this too), write meta data descriptions for sunglasses (yes, tick this one off the list), write media releases about musicians and authors (uh huh…) and so it goes.
A worthy copywriter is also responsible for helping websites achieve good SEO rankings involving strategic placement of common keywords that consumers are likely to be searching for, in amongst web copy and content articles without making it seem awkward and unreadable and like it’s been written by a drunk robot.
Despite the medium and shelf life of copywriting changing, there are still some rock solid facets of copywriting that haven’t changed over its lifetime. They are:
The Australian copywriter’s focus has undeniably shifted considerably from print to the internet (it has had to!) over the past decade but one thing is unchanging in my self interested eyes… copywriting will continue to be one of the best ways to promote businesses, organisations, services and products and is truly an artform that every marketing strategy can reap benefits from.
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Do you run your own business and want to set yourself apart from your competitors? Do you want your future clients to see you as leading the way? Then it’s time to consider positioning your business, yourself and your services as industry leaders.
Have you always fancied yourself to be a thought leader or subject matter expert but not quite ready to do that TED talk? Then here is a way to make that happen. This, by no means, may be easy and you will need to invest in professional support but the rewards will be endless, particularly if you are enthusiastic to grow your business.
‘Thought leaders are the informed opinion leaders and the go-to people in their field of expertise. They are trusted sources who move and inspire people with innovative ideas; turn ideas into reality, and know and show how to replicate their success,' Thought Leadership Lab.
Below I’ve outlined a three phase plan for your marketing to ensure you are positioning yourself as either a thought leader, subject matter expert or your company is the “go to” in your industry.
Phase one: client case studies
I have broken this phase down into four simple steps.
Collate and collect the data to write up some impressive client case studies. You can use my case study template here.
Write and edit the case studies so they read well and contain the right storytelling element. My recommendation is to start with three to six. Make sure they feature on a dedicated page on your website, where people can find them. If you work with clients in various sectors, be sure to capture a range of ways you have successfully helped clients.
Pluck out testimonials from the case studies to splash across your website and design graphics to use across your social media channels. Remember: people love social proof.
Share your case studies far and wide. Include them in any tender material, quote and award submissions, digital marketing strategies and talk about them when you meet people.
Phase two: annual content strategy
Devise a complete annual or six month content strategy, tailored specifically for the needs and goals of your business.
Your twelve month content marketing strategy will provide overarching content goals, themes, ways to implement marketing activities to support the reach and promotion of the content and the content will be in alignment with SEO research and other analytical research to meet business goals and objectives in align with your overall strategic business plan.
A great content marketing strategy will undertake an audit and look at and review the existing and potential challenges and provide practical recommendations to overcome them. Try using this content strategy template.
Don’t forget to include your target demographic in your strategy. Find out how to keep your content fresh here.
If you have a book or an ebook or are planning to write one this is the perfect phase to include it in and start promoting it. Here’s why you should write (or get someone to ghost write) a book if you are an entrepreneur.
Phase three: public relations campaign
The third phase focusses on spreading your message far and wide via the media. Having a third party confirm your leadership, especially the media, boosts your credibility and encourages people to believe that you are as you say you are.
A traditional statewide and national public relations campaign to position the business owner or senior executives as thought leaders and industry experts, whilst concurrently positioning your organisation as the “go to” business for the core services that you offer. If you service overseas clients, you might like to consider an international public relations campaign too.
So that’s your three phase plan to position your business as experts in your field and make sure that when people think of your industry, your brand name is at the forefront of your mind. Drop any questions in the comments below!
This year has been a terrific whirlwind for Jones the Writer. More than sixty per cent of small business cease operating in their first three years, so the mere fact that I have replaced my income (from employment) has exceeded my expectations.
Other goals that I have met, include blogging quality content regularly, with the aim to knowledge share as much as possible. To make your life easier I have curated my top ten most viewed blog posts, according to my Google Analytics. Some of these were posted years ago but have had a resurgence in 2017.
My content articles are specifically written with practical advice in mind and the aim is that you should get at least one genuine takeaway (minimum) that you can implement straight away and improve your marketing. So, if you read all ten below, that’s AT LEAST TEN practical things you can do to uplevel your marketing immediately.
1. Social media day
Adelaide's infamous Social Media Day had a host of information to impart. From legal ramifications of social media to tracking who visits your website, this recap has it all. Read here.
2. Easy SEO actions you can do over a weekend
3. How is your business writing?
Writing well to promote your business is crucial to its success. In a digital era of fast paced communications, you need to get your message "bang on" immediately or clients will drift elsewhere. Fix here.
4. Case study template
I'm not surprised that this free downloadable was a popular one! If you haven't already done so, download your template here.
5. Social media mistakes you need to stop
To be upfront, half of the reason this post performed well was due to the Facebook advertising I did in October as part of a campaign for my website. It's still one of my favourite posts, however. Stop these mistakes now.
6. Facebook's algorithm and how it works
If you're unclear how Facebook algorithm works, have a brief read here.
7. What you don't know about freelancers
I bet you didn't know that freelancers actually care about our clients and really want them to succeed and we'll probably go above and beyond to help make that happen. This was a surprise wildcard post and gives you an insight into how freelancers really think.
8. Facebook marketing mistakes
Easy to make (and yet easier to avoid) Facebook marketing mistakes. Find out what they are here.
9. Your marketing demographics
This is definitely one of the most useful content posts I have written. Identifying your target demographic audience is really important and the initial investment can end up saving time and costs. Identify your own demographics here.
10. Content marketing planning
Creating content with purpose can be challenging but incredibly rewarding, both emotionally and financially. Read more about content marketing here.
Even if you implement one new practical tip per day, you could have your marketing flourishing and well on track by Christmas time. I'm always interested to see how businesses are thriving, so be sure to let me know via commenting below or sending me an email on how these posts have helped you.
All the copywriting assets explained.
What are content articles?
A content article is a well written editorial type article that generally sits between 700 and 1200 words and is often in written in the third person.
As it is often commissioned by a commercial client, it does inherently contain bias and is used as a soft sales tool but is written in a way that still retains credibility, resources and is often viewed by readers a piece of editorial.
There are two very important aims for content articles:
A good content article will contain quality pull quotes, statistics, links, sources and genuine information and is relevant and employees a number of best practice SEO techniques. It also uses impeccable grammar and spelling and follows an editorial style. I also take the liberty of highlighting a few HTML/formatting tags including headings, sub headings, pull quotes, call to actions and so forth.
Content articles will be written to a specific content plan/strategy that has been created by your marketing department/consultant that adheres to the customer buyer journey or your SEO research and keyword/search term list.
Content writers ‘...produce content to entice and engage visitors so they continue browsing the current website. The longer a visitor stays on a particular site, the greater the likelihood they will eventually become clients or customers,’ Wikipedia.
It’s unwise to engage a content writer that has no SEO training and doesn’t keep abreast of SEO updates and changes.
What is a media release?
A media release, also known as a press release, is a one to two page document that is written specifically for people who work in the media and is genuinely newsworthy. It incorporates a journalistic style and is often written by publicists or copywriters, with the aim of getting media coverage.
The idea behind a media release is to have it written as closely to the journalist’s or media personnel’s way of writing as possible. People who work in the media are always on a deadline and busier than you can imagine, so the easier you make their job, the more chance that you will be featured.
The ultimate media release is one that a very busy journalist can cut and paste.
Media releases are great for:
What is email marketing?
Email marketing campaign packages could include kickbacks, autoresponders, automated campaign emails and prompters.
Automated emails are set up via specialised platform (such as Mailchimp, Aweber, Campaign Monitor etc) that are sequential and have their own trigger.
Check out my email marketing campaign template here.
What are meta data descriptions
Meta data descriptions are the small amount of text and title that is placed at the backend of your website that is displayed in Google's search results. Getting the meta data description right, is vital for high performing SEO.
It is a unique blend of advertising and SEO and is one of the key factors in getting people to visit your site (your click through rate) and they need to be compelling and an accurate summary of the corresponding webpage.
In 2016, Google announced that the amout of text (approximately 300 characters, although it actually goes by pixel width) that they truncate has increased.
Here is SEO guru, Neil Patel, telling us why meta data description is so important.
Editorial or news article
An editorial or news piece is suitable for an online or print publication.
It involves less formatting than a content article and is written more like you would see in a newspaper or a magazine. For example, one heading and many storytelling paragraphs.
It contains unbiased and more dense content, is often written more formally and uses correct word choice, rather than being SEO and focussing on putting the designated keywords throughout the copy.
A sales letter is a more traditional form of direct mail communications that may be still used today. A sales letter is a one page, formal letter introducing a product or service to an existing database and is even still sent via post!
It has high selling power and is written specifically to persuade the receiver to purchase, so it is a really high value piece of comms and is still quite effective in creating return on investment.
High sales landing page or squeeze page
A high sales landing page is a standalone web page, most often seperate from your website and uses specific landing page software that help monitor and track your sales conversion funnel.
The purpose of this sales landing page is very focussed and specific on converting the reader to a sale or signup, right then and right there. It's very "salesy" and can be dramatic to get the most effective results. A lot of work and skill goes into crafting these pages, so your copywriting might charge a little extra, but they are of incredible value to you because they are a huge player when it comes to selling well and a lot.
Content articles and website writing
Writing well (particularly your content writing and web writing) is a key player in drawing in more customers and leads via organic searches, as we’ve looked at previously with easy SEO tips.
If you’re not getting the organic traffic that you expect, it’s time to start including better written and more content on your site. To do this, it’s essential to know what Google determines as good content. You'll need to know what to avoid, how to make it engaging and readable to your target audience with an insight to the importance of setting business goals in order for marketing success!
72% of marketers say relevant content creation was the most effective SEO tactic.
In this article we’re discussing great content. Content can mean a number of things in marketing but in this article I am focusing on discussing content articles, which are online articles that are informative and well written but as they are often commissioned by a business an organisation, they play a part in the sales process. They are not as obvious and glaring as advertorials, they are more closely related to editorial. Although not overtly “salesy” they can occasionally contain bias and will avoid mentioning competitors. We’ll also touch on static website copy (all the other text that sits on your website) and the part that plays in sales and conversions.
Before you consider creating exciting features or content for your website, brainstorm your business goals and what you want to happen when people visit your website. To get the results you desire, set marketing goals from the outset in order to develop an effective marketing strategy that is easy to follow and execute. Identifying clear goals and your “why” will help you understand the motivation behind every marketing activity and help you simplify your decisions.
If your goal is to increase sales, you might consider in your plan to focus on having a user friendly site with clear calls to action to increase conversion rate. Conversion rates indicate the amount of people who visit your site who then follow your call to action which include making a purchase on your site, subscribing to your enewsletter or contacting your business.
Other goals include becoming an authoritative resource in your industry or on your area of expertise, improving interaction with your customers and nurturing new leads to eventually convert them into new customers or sales. To achieve these goals you'll want to establish trust on your website with the content you provide and way you present your knowledge. You’ll particularly want to give your customers a reason to come back to your site.
‘On average, consumers visited at least three online stores before making their purchase and 81 percent of shoppers conduct online research before making a purchase.'
And in the travel industry, 'buyers can visit up to thirty eight sites to plan their holiday.'
To capture those people who are ready to make a purchase upon first viewing of your site or to increase the chances of people coming back, it’s imperative that you foster a sense of trust and knowledge on your product or services. Having compelling content articles and static website copy will instil confidence and security in your potential buyer.
Kissmetrics tells us that ‘Approximately 96% of visitors that come to your website are not ready to buy.’ Give them a reason to come back! If you're looking to establish your brand and its credibility, you'll also need to look at producing great content.
Keywords: the base of your content articles
Good content writing is optimised content and uses intentional keywords in your content. Keywords are the words or phrases people typically search for whilst using a search engine. For example, if you've set up a business selling BMX bikes in Sydney, ensure that you use these keywords and variations of in your content. Avoid overusing the terms, make it readable and enjoyable and importantly informative for your audience, as Google’s ranking system is hyper savvy and will know when you are “keyword stuffing”. Keyword stuffing is the practice of throwing in a bunch of keywords in your content at the expense of good writing. Basically, the more natural and professional you can make your content writing sound, the better.
You can research the top keywords on sites such as Google Adwords, Google Trends, Keyword Tool, Hubspot’s guide to keyword research to find the best key words to attract your audience to your site. To get a good idea of which key words will work, check out your high ranking competitors and the type of content writing and keywords that they use.
Tip: don’t forget to include locations in your keywords, particularly if you are a location based service. For example, one of my search terms is “Adelaide copywriter”, given that I am based in Adelaide.
Once you've figured out your key words, get a feel for what people like to read about and care about. Using the BMX shop example, you might want to write about competitions and races that are taking place in the local area or you might want to write about exciting new and upcoming products that you'll be stocking. Never pad out or over use keywords as this will detract from the quality of your writing and Google search rankings favours well written material.
Have a go at writing your own content and posting regularly and you'll start to see positive reusults. There are a number of copywriting services that I offer to help with this process, all of which I'm excited to help you get tangible results. They are: