Copywriters adapt ancient and universal storytelling structures to create modern brand stories that are instantly memorable and eminently sharable.
They use proven marketing formulas and psychology hacks to hook their audience in and keep them there long enough to sell their clients’ products or services.
They know their audience, but they also know that the customer doesn’t always come first. When it comes to blogs, industry influencers are the real target audience.
Copywriters know full well that it is not word count that matters: it is the number of purchases, subscriptions, downloads, comments, social shares, backlinks and that all important Google ranking that pays the bills.
At Melon, we’ve been providing copywriting services to our clients for years. Salvaging content for existing brands. Creating fresh content for new start-ups. Delivering compelling, results-oriented content both online and in print.
But recently we realised that we’ve never actually shared some of the copywriting tips and tricks we’ve picked up along the way on our blog.
So here are 6 killer copywriting tips that you can use right now to make your content stand out for all the right aesthetic and scientific reasons.
You’ve probably noticed this yourself: content is getting longer and longer. And not just on landing pages or blog posts or sales emails, but homepages too.
And this change from short is sweet to the truly epic has been driven by two (related) facts:
Let’s first discuss why long-form content is so naturally viral.
There, we said it. We share stuff online because of how it makes us look. If we like to fish and we find a great article introducing a new way of catching pike, we want to be the first one in our little angling community to cast the line.
Why? Because it makes us look like we are in the know, that we are at the cutting-edge of our hobby or profession.
And the more in depth that content is, the more that content helps our followers or readers or customers solve a problem, the better we look for finding it and sharing it.
For that reason, it is no surprise that the most sharable long-form content is not thought pieces or entertainment news that have short, tomorrow’s chip wrapper lifespans, but practical, evergreen content.
Practical content that takes an often narrow area of a subject and covers it in more step-by-step detail than ever before. Or content that summarises a broad subject (think of all those roundups of practical resources you’ve come across) in one place.
(Before we look at why Google loves these definitive guides, note that inherently evergreen content can also be refreshed and republished ad infinitum with little effort, so it really is the content that keeps on giving.)
When you find the ultimate resource to X or Y and spend time reading it, sharing it, talking about it and linking to it, Google is in the wings busy totting up the number of backlinks and social shares and measuring bounce rate and dwell time.
And if Google thinks your super long blog post or article or guide or landing page offers an all-in-one-place solution to a searcher’s problem, it is in their interest to serve that content up on the first page.
Content is king. But to Google, the queen is the user.
One final point:
Writing long-form content – and designing websites to showcase long-form content – isn’t easy. But if you attempt to do it for yourself, here’s one final tip:
If you have content that is 5,000 words long and your users (readers) seem to be dropping off after 2 minutes, given that the average reading speed is 200 words per minute (WPM) examine the content at the 400 word mark to ascertain what might be causing people to jump.
Then keep refining your content until it is consumable in one sitting. And this next tip will help you to do just that.
We’re all told that people don’t read online, they scan. But the real truth is that:
People scan for something worth reading.
So if you have an in depth, practical new solution to a problem that no one has definitively answered before, like we urged you to do in the previous tip, lay it all out.
But before you start writing, remember that to enhance mobile reading time (and reduce bounce rate) you have to make the reading experience easy.
The web isn’t a novel or a newspaper. Dense paragraphs might look impressive on the page but appear intimidating and forbidding on a mobile screen where font size has to be turned up – just as line length is reduced.
So here are a few tips that – while breaking a few conventions you might have picked up at school – will ensure that you don’t break your reader’s attention:
If you can convey what you mean in two or three words, use two or three words. People will fill in the blanks and thank you for your brevity.
Make 2-3 points per paragraph max
If you have a paragraph that makes more than 3 points, see if you can turn it into a bullet point list or split it into more than one paragraph.
But remember: keep bullet point lists short too. No more than 7 is the max.
Use media and social share options throughout
Interspersing relevant, non-stock art images, infographics, or video can break up and enliven written content.
You can also highlight key points and standout quotes and make them tweetable.
Don’t shy away from taking unconventional approaches
Only you know if your customers will engage with an unconventional take on a traditionally routine subject, but don’t shy away from taking a new perspective.
The most common way of doing this is to use humour, but you can also be controversial and divide your audience: those with you will stay the course just as much as those who find your stance or position disagreeable.
If you’re about to pen a sales email, this excellent post over at Copyhackers on the benefit of really long – and really unconventional sales emails – will blow you away.
As we said earlier, copywriters use established tricks and techniques to keep people reading. Here’s one proven copywriting formula we commonly use on landing pages:
When someone lands on your page, with the PAS formula you start by articulating the problem that brought them to your site so they know they’re in the right place.
But you don’t stop there. You then tease open and agitate that core problem and show how it is making their lives utterly miserable. Then when you have them where you want them, you unveil the solution.
Here’s an example:
If you sell lawnmowers, your customers’ problem is an unkempt lawn.
But what about how their neighbours feel about it? Or how the long grass is stopping their kids from playing outside? Or how an unkempt lawn can attract weeds that will cost a fortune to get rid of?
An ugly lawn now also equals:
PAS turns one problem into many smaller problems – then mows them down with one big lawnmower of a solution.
Now, to stop you dropping off the page and going to put the kettle on or walk the dog, it’s time for a quick quiz before we get to the last unmissable Melon copywriting tip.
And contrary to what you might think, this is not a spelling test. In fact, this quick quiz is all about the kind of statistics and psychology that copywriters and designers always bear in mind when they go to work.
Don’t worry, all the answers can be found at the end of the post so you don’t need to scroll too far, but try and answer them yourself first.
What is the maximum character limit for a web page title in order for it to be displayed in full on a search engine results page?
If 8 out 10 visitors to your web page actually read the headline, how many go on to read the rest of the content?
What is the average number of words (give or take 100) on a web page on the first page of Google?
When a user encounters your content, which one of these emotions is more likely to lead them to sharing your content on social media? Joy. Surprise. Sadness. Awe. Laughter. Anger. Empathy. Amusement. Other.
What’s the point of the first line of your copy?
Hands up if – as a potential customer or employee – you’ve sought out the About Us/Me page to see if the person or brand is worth buying from or working for?
Keep your hands up if you’ve either:
We all love to peek behind the curtain, but so often all we find is a dry list of accomplishments, a few whacky details about the founders (we race snails!), an offshoot Meet the Team page where everyone dresses up as their favourite Smurf, or if the brand is well established a History page crammed with old photos.
All of which is a missed opportunity because we believe that every brand – and every entrepreneur behind a brand – has a story to sell.
That story might not be worthy of being made into a Hollywood blockbuster, but if the tale of how one or two people came up with a new vision, set out on a perilous journey, and overcame insurmountable odds is a rags-to-riches saga your customers – and potential employees – might really buy into, don’t hold back from selling it.
Unlike dry dates and facts, stories are memorable, sharable, and open ended too.
So why not invite your customers – and potential employees – to help you write the next chapter?
Talking of the next chapter, that’s your lot for now. But if after reading this you feel your website needs an urgent makeover, give us a call on 0844 848 0111 or write us an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Answer to question 1:
Google only displays the first 50-60 characters of your title tag on SERPs so make sure they fit.
Answer to question 2:
According to Copyblogger, on average 8 out of 10 visitors to your web page will read the headline, but only 2 out of 10 will read the rest of the content. Learning here: make sure the first line of your content hooks people in for the ride.
Answer to question 3:
According to Backlinko, the average first page result contains 1,890 words. Which kind of backs up our point about long-form content and its effect on Google ranking.
Answer to question 4:
According to analysis conducted by OkDork, the emotion that most leads to your article being shared is awe! Incidentally, all the OkDork research will shock and awe you.
Answer to question 5
The next line, silly.
But this isn’t a trivial point. In fact, it’s the most important copywriting tip you should follow. Every opening line – on your homepage, in your sales email, on your blog or brochure – should lead your readers naturally on to the next line. If your content doesn’t do this, it’s both a waste of space and a waste of your customers’ time, which might just equate to a lost sale.
So look at the opening lines of your homepage, your last sales email, blog or brochure. Do they hook you in? Excite you about what’s coming next? Promise a reading experience that is worth reading line-by-line rather than scanning?