From web copy to an in-depth white paper, or a high-pressure sales presentation to a single tweet, success can be won or lost with the quality of copywriting. Here we look at five things we’ve read recently that we can all learn from to positively impact our marketing campaigns.

1) A great headline may not guarantee ad success, but these 5 steps will help!

Most content will require headline but, with the possible exception of social media posts (where the content often is the headline), it is still just one part of any package of content. That said, without a great headline many adverts simply won’t stand a chance. Recently Forbes published an article which suggests there are five critical steps to writing a headline, of which only one actually involves writing.

  1. Know who we are talking to
  2. Understand what they care about
  3. Understand why they should buy from us
  4. Understand the technical elements of writing a great headline
  5. Distinguish between what does and doesn’t get results

The first two parts are a great reminder to get to know your customer and develop an awareness of their interests and challenges, while step 3 will put you right in your customer’s shoes and appreciate the benefits of your product or service from their perspective. Only when you have that mindset does the author suggest you focus on things such as headline length, use of attention-grabbing phrases, numbers or powerful/emotional words.

2) Avoid being too passive

Another post which grabbed our attention recently covered some useful grammatical pointers, giving examples of common debates in this area. In particular it highlights the benefits of an active voice (where the subject of the verb is doing the action) than a passive one (where the subject undergoes the action rather than doing it).

There are times when a passive voice is more than acceptable – just ask any politician who claims in a passive way that “mistakes were made,” compared to the active equivalent of “I made a mistake.” Generally speaking however, the active voice is more effective for marketers who want to resonate with their reader in a compelling way. If you are writing for an audience that wants quick answers, and you want to deliver action points in a more powerful and influential way, then remember to take the active approach.

3) Use the art of intrigue

Cutting through the noise of content marketing is a challenge that marketers have been discussing for many years. As this article highlights, on WordPress alone 83 million posts are now produced every single month. Whether your strategy includes blog posts or any other piece of digital content, the difficulty of getting the attention of your target audience is very real. Fortunately there are a few things you can do that will help – some of which you should know but often forget and another that may be new and will certainly make your copy more compelling.

There is a theory that we “see” the flavour of food before we “taste” it, and the same can be said for the content. With this in mind, don’t take for granted the impact of using the right type of image and general layout. Another top tip is to make sure you get right to the point – make it immediately clear what the reader can expect from your content (of course, it is vital that you then go on to deliver on that promise).

Finally, be sure to write a headline which can’t fail to make the reader want to find out more, by using the power of intrigue. Ask a question the reader can relate to and take advantage of the surprise and curiosity factor.  For example, “Are you ticking all the data compliance boxes on this checklist for marketers?”

4) Writing copy for mobile is essential… and it needs a considered approach

Twice as many adults now use the internet via mobile rather than desktop devices, which serves to add even more weight to giving engagement via mobile devices your full attention. The layout on such devices will of course appear differently; not just on sites which aren’t optimised where users must still pinch and zoom, but also for some that are optimised. Due to the myriad of different device screen sizes in use, the volume of content visible can vary significantly. All the more reason for that compelling headline and intriguing opening content! However, in addition to losing a chunk of the body copy ‘below the fold’, the biggest threat to success may be the call to action being pushed off the opening screen.

As this post suggests, when it comes to copywriting for mobile and delivering the best user experience there are four main considerations:

  1. The ease of reading – it’s partly about responsive design, but also about brevity of copy and getting to the point.
  2. The need or otherwise for scrolling – ensuring all your key copy and images are visible on the first screen when landing on the page.
  3. Ease of navigation – again this comes down to design.
  4. Ease of responding – having clear buttons with simple ‘action’ commands (Access Report, Buy Now, etc).

5) Competitive research can be a wise investment

One area which perhaps doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves is strategic copywriting with a view to competing aggressively with your rivals. Producing great marketing copy is critical, but an investment in the creation of content that performs well in relation to keywords, engagement and social signals can be money well spent.

There are a number of tools with which brands can gain insight into their competitors and so discover methods by which they may improve their own performance. This post recommends a number of those tools, including buzzsumo.com which provides information on what content performs best in relation to specific topics and competing brands. While Impactana.com can measure both the sharing of content via competitor social channels and also a level of user engagement regarding exactly how content is shared. No longer is it simply a question of competing on PPC activity online. Now, technology is allowing brands to gain competitive insight which is helping to shape the content itself.

With marketers having to produce much more content these days, these are just a few ways we must stay on top of our copywriting game.