The reign of content as king is nearing its second decade and it’s a more demanding master than ever. More and more brands, companies and individuals have jumped on the content bandwagon, increasing competition tenfold – meaning you really have to go the extra mile to stand out from the crowd.
Text (or copy to use the journalistic term) is arguably the easiest and most cost-effective type of content to produce, but one of the hardest to get right. Fortunately for you, I’ve got one tip that will almost certainly get you producing copy that goes above and beyond the call of duty.
Become a Better Writer
Obvious? Possibly. Straightforward? Nope. The adage of practice making perfect doesn’t really apply to copywriting, but practice will definitely make you better – so do it often. In the initial stages, a blank page is your worst enemy and the best way to combat this is to put something down. Even if you immediately hate it, it will give you a better idea of what you’re trying to accomplish and this should improve with each revision. It’ll also have the added benefit of beating back the spectre of procrastination, which looms menacingly behind every writer.
Observe and Report
Another step that will make you a better writer is reading – lots of reading. Gorge yourself on everything – from Shakespearean plays, to metaphysical poetry, to modern thrillers (you can probably forgo 50 Shades of Grey though). This will give you an unparalleled insight into pace, tone, personality, metaphor, conceit and every other aspect of good writing.
The best artists are the best thieves, so make sure you’re scoping out what your competitors and counterparts are up to. I’m not suggesting you should plagiarise, but instead note what they’re doing well, what they’re doing badly and what they’re not doing at all. Once you’ve got an idea of the elements you like, mercilessly co-opt them into your writing, but be sure to put your own spin on it.
As mentioned, every man and his dog are churning out content these days, so for every concept you sit down to pen – chances are 12 people have done it before you. One of the best ways to stand out from the crowd is to inject your own personality and insight into the issue. While it’s tempting to fall into a safe, staid style of writing – avoid this at all costs.
On the other hand, don’t make the piece entirely about you – try and empathise with your target audience and be as informative as you are interesting. While anecdotes are a great tool, your article shouldn’t be one long story with a pegged-on insight at the end. Like a chainsaw-juggling tightrope walker, finding balance is key.
‘Talent will out’ as the saying goes, but you sadly can’t rely on your writing ability alone when producing copy for the web. There are myriad technical elements that you can examine time and again to improve your performance, but a few of the key things to look out for in 2013 are:
Keywords are Dead, Long Live Keywords: Keywords are out, long-tailed keywords and synonyms are in. Instead of ruthlessly targeting one phrase – feel free to branch out and widen your scope on this front.
Link to Other Posts: Having one brilliantly-performing page and 100 useless ones is definitely not ideal. By linking to your previous posts, you can spread some of that SEO goodness around.
Take a break: Not you, you’ve got work to do. For better or worse, the internet has turned us all into gibbering, attention-depleted wrecks – so your copy has to reflect this trend. Put plenty of breaks, lists and white space in your posts or you risk overloading your audience with intimidating paragraphs.
Length: Churning out short, value-poor articles is no longer a route to SEO success (thankfully). Search engines these days now favour bigger, more elaborate pieces – so try and aim around the 300-word mark.
Art is never finished, only abandoned and at some point you’ll have to let your beautifully-crafted copy fly free into the world. Keeping your writing in top shape is a never-ending battle, but by writing often, writing well and injecting a little personality, you can give your writing all the opportunity it needs to flourish.
This article was brought to you by Gerald Heneghan of online marketing agency Custard. We offer a range of tailored on and offline PR services, so get in touch today to find out more.