The Sarky Type – content with more bite

Some of us are too busy to care about the nuanced points of content writing and copywriting.

I’m not at all busy. I hate being busy. Charge more, do less. Fuck. Yes.

Most people running a business (busy or not) don’t know (and don’t care) about the endless debate between content writing vs copywriting. 

It bores the living shit outta me too, tbh. 

Just like Bobby Brown, it’s your prerogative to avoid that particular writer’s discussion, but having a basic understanding of this thorny issue will make your website content much better. 

Content writing.

Website content writing is SEO optimised text that attracts organic traffic.

Its entire purpose is to get you found by the right kind of people. Blogging is a huge part of content SEO and it’s considered (by me, at least) as the long game to attraction.

If you blog, think about the process.

I’m guessing you research the topic. You figure out the keywords you want that post to be found for and I dare say, you SEO the bejeesus out of every aspect of that post. Once it’s done, you promote the life out of it.

All that is part and parcel of brand awareness.

I nearly typed ‘bland awareness’ which for many is so apt.

All this content is building a reputation. 

And a reputation sets you up as an authority, which in turn, cultivates trust (lest we forget the E-A-T principle of SEO).

This is a drip-feed of information about what you do and what you sell to potential customers. We do that, not only on the basis that they will find us but also, remember us.

Content marketing works in a similar way to TV ads. 

You’re constantly reminding prospects who you are so when they need that thing you sell, they’ll know who to turn to.

All this happens over a long-ass period of time. 

Producing online content is relentless. It’s hard graft. But a website without a content strategy is a lame duck, and without it, your organic traffic efforts are fer nuffin’.

Copywriting.

So, you’ve got some potential clients mooching around on your homepage, great, but now you’ve got to do something with them. 

We need to give those visitors a reason to stay and we absolutely want them to take some kind of action – an action that we have orchestrated.

Direct response copywriting is how we convince customers to do that thing. 

If you want to sell a product or get a blog sign up, you write using that technique. And it’s a technique that has hard and fast rules.

(I struggle with rules. I’m not great with authority either.)

Unlike content writing, copywriting has a short term goal.

And that goal is to elicit a decision from the reader. A decision that requires some urgency, in the same way, that infomercials want you to act now to get that half-price Dormeo mattress.

Content writing and copywriting are similar.

Both techniques require you to know your target customer like your own mother.

If you don’t know your own mother, sorry. 

Content writing and copywriting are only effective if you establish a problem that you can solve.

Both also ask that you speak directly to your client. In the same way that you might have a one-to-one conversation.

Why do you need both?

Selling a product and attracting organic traffic are two different things.

The writing style you use is determined by the pages of your website, the purpose of which can vary.

A landing page, for example, has one purpose, a short term goal that requires urgent action. You’ll predominantly use copywriting on those kinds of pages.

A blog post is all about long term brand awareness so you’re much more likely to adopt content writing techniques to engage your audience.

Can you combine content writing and copywriting?

The marketing technique of mixing shit up has already been invented and it has a snazzy name… wait for it… 

Brand Response.

Christ.

Brand Response is the marketing communications industry’s Genius of the And. It sounds too good to be true. It asks us to live with two apparently contradictory ideas at the same time. It can be defined simply as a strategic and executional campaign approach where brand-building drives response and this response, in turn, builds the brand in a virtuous circle of effectiveness.”

Marketing Society

In summary, you’re getting both short term and long term goals in a single hit.

You’re doing the thing of creating a buzz around your business – building on the desire to want to be remembered for a long while to come, whilst asking of those reading your content to do something immediately after the fact.

You can do exactly that with your blog.

The dark art of merging both content writing and copywriting to murderous effect. 

I’m clearly thinking about my own blog.

If you apply the rules of direct response, all the while keeping your brand awareness sensibilities, you’ve got the basis for a cracking business blog that not only informs but converts.

Interestingly enough, direct response copywriting is often long-form, and according to Crazy Egg, it outperforms short-form by 30%. 

Oh, and the grandmaster of advertising, David Ogilvy said something along the lines, “The more you tell, the more you sell.”

What a wordsmith. Sadly, he was nowhere near as pretty on camera as his nephew. 

So, what do you do now?

Well, I suggest you mull all this over.

Take time to fully appreciate how brilliant using both techniques (and even merging the two) could be for your website.

If you’re still on the fence about employing someone to write for your business, then you’ve either missed all my other posts / you have no money / you refuse to understand the value.

If however, you’re starting to see the proverbial light, click here to find out more.

SEO copywriting

In truth, this post is to remind me what the hell I’m doing as an SEO copywriter and content writer. It’s also to help those who might hire me. If that isn’t you, go and do something else. 

Putting the ‘writing’ into SEO copywriting and content writing.

Forget about SEO for just one moment and let’s talk about words. I’m not bad with words, I enjoy writing them.

They’re fun to be around – much more fun than any human even the ones I think are interesting and/or bangable.

And unlike the people in my life, they’re easily manipulated. I put them in whatever order I want and sometimes magic happens.

I’m making the point that writing well is the greatest gift you can give to your website and online environs. SEO-optimised text – with zero writing ability is keyword cramming. And that reads like shit.

Going keyword bonkers is shooting yourself in the SEO foot.

Don’t be this mug:

“We are artisan bread makers in Hull. We bake our artisan bread on-site in our bakery in Hull. We are passionate about artisan bread and are the leading artisan bread supplier in Hull”

I think you’ll agree, that was terrible.

Here are my three degrees of SEO copywriting and content writing:

  1. Get seen: be visible to those who want what you offer
  2. Attract clients: hook in prospects with excellent writing
  3. Build trust: show what you know and people will buy

Ok, I need to clear this up: SEO content writing attracts people to your yard (website) and copywriting compels them to take some kind of action whilst they’re there.

If you wanna know more about the difference, go here.

Who’s all this writing for?

So, I’m a B2B SEO content writer and copywriter.

In plain English, I write search engine optimised content and copy for other business types.

That sounds really lame and implies there’s no fun in the writing. Not so, I only pen brilliantly engaging content and copy for businesses that view themselves as misfits and agitators.

I apologise if I overexplained that, I blame mother. She gives me endless details about mundane events, like meeting deaf Anne at Tesco:

“You remember deaf Anne – she lived at the bottom of grannies garden”

Deaf Anne sounds like a hedgehog.

“Had two sons. Married a welder”

Nope, I still have no idea.

“She was a part-time pirate. Liked to drink shots and dance naked at the Legion.”

Putting the ‘SEO’ into SEO copywriting and content writing.

I’ll try to make this quicker than a teenagers’ first time.

Content SEO.

Content has its own SEO category because it’s IMPORTANT.

And yet, keywords are all people talk about. The only keywords I really get giddy for are the long-tail sort (LTK) because they get to the heart of what you’re really all about. 

For example, why be an ‘accountant’ when you could be an ‘accountant helping big earners with tax avoidance schemes’. Seriously though, why be an accountant? 

I think I’ve made it pretty clear, writing shit-hot words is SEO copywriting and content writing but that also includes:

  • Understanding why you create content 
  • Knowing your audience like your own private parts
  • Being savvy about your prospects search behaviours

Technical SEO. 

I don’t fiddle with the arse-end of websites, and I don’t write code (I google code). In terms of content writing, the (sort of) technical aspects of SEO that I dabble in are:

  • Permalink structures (the links for each post/page)
  • Meta titles and descriptions (the snippet that shows in the search results)

On-page SEO.

SEO is about making what you’re selling, easy to find but also, easy to consume. Text-dumping on a page without formatting is a shoddy way to behave. When I write something nice for you I’ll also be doing this:

  • Creating a hook-worthy title
  • Laying down some subheadings 
  • Recommending internal links
  • Suggesting outbound links (to back up any claims made)
  • Add keywords
  • Include a CTA (Call To Action)

Adding the LOLs to the copy.

Humour sells.

Some of us like to laugh, and we remember the ad campaigns that made us snigger. I write copy for businesses that want that. Humour is subjective and so is great branding.

I’m telling you now, you shouldn’t try to be the everyman in your industry.

It doesn’t matter if your business sells to other companies or the great unwashed, you need to decide who’s buying your product. A client will usually give me a starting point (favourite comedian or funny brand) as inspiration and off I go, giving them that thing. It’s like acting only I don’t have to leave the house.

Here’s how I work.

Having to deal with rubbish clients grinds my gears but it means I’ve refined my process to avoid the dickwads. I now get the prospects I want.

What I need from you.

A sense of humour and a lot of information. I’m going to ask you questions, lots of questions, and some might be tricky to answer but answer them you must for I won’t be able to produce top-notch ‘hilarious’ content without those answers.

Research.

I online stalk your business. I research your industry, the chosen topic, and your target market. I check out your potential clients’ search behaviours, and research long-tail keywords that are relevant to the copy.

Writing.

I’ll be writing as you and based on all the info I gather, you’ll get original wordage for your brandage.

First draft.

I understand you’ll want to make sure I’m giving you what you want. I’ll hand you the first draft to check through and you’ll get to pop all your suggested edits under each section of the copy.

But…

TRUST your writer.

Some folks like to act as editor-in-chief when they get the first draft, it does something to their brains. If you’ve hired me to write words, chances are you’re not very good at the job yourself.

The original content needs to remain the same. I won’t accept a draft back if it’s been tampered with.

The deal is, I edit my own work. You’re not paying me to edit yours. And if you harbour desires to write, don’t hire me and start a personal blog.

There might be times when I disagree with your suggestions.

I’ll always give you a decent reason, it’s up to you to accept my ability to know how to write content over yours.

Some of your ideas might work – in truth, you’re much more likely to hamper the copy with unnecessary words and clichés. In reality, it will take more time to edit your version of the text than mine.

Proofreading.

This is the right time for suggested edits and grammatical fixes.

But not by you (or me) – someone qualified. Humans are shit at spotting their own mistakes. Doesn’t matter a damn if they write for a living because writers are humans too (yes, even me). Having fresh eyes on the text is something I won’t do without, and it will make your new copy infinitely better.

Completed project.

Hello to shiny new content. Pretty isn’t it. Having a focused brief and rigorous planning stage means there will never need to be endless rewrites. You get one chance to moan about the work, so make it count.

You’ll probably moan less if you hire someone you like and whose ability you trust and value.

If that someone is me, hit the button.

       

Most business folks I speak to rarely have a writing style guide. They don’t usually know what one is.

In short, it’s a writing standard by which an organisation communicates it’s message.

Some companies use more than one copywriter. Global brands, for example, need to make sure their copy looks and sounds the same. An organisation that uses specific, technical language will be making sure their business writing is just so. Both will almost certainly have a document that details how they present their business. 

Do you need a writing style guide?

I think you do and I don’t care if you’re a freelancer or small business owner. When you outsource your writing to a professional, it saves a lot of time if they know how you like to do things. In reality, most smaller businesses don’t have one (and often their copy is all over the show).

Developing a style guide is bloody useful.

And I’m about to blow your mind with how useful it is: your copy will look professional, more polished, and demonstrate that you’re a company to do business with.

Words are powerful. They either have a positive or negative impact. If your copy has no cohesion, no brand standard, it leaves a bad impression.

Back to basics.

Before you write a damn thing, ask yourself the following:

  • Who are you?
  • Who are you writing for?
  • What are you writing about?

You need to know who you are as a business. What your values are and how they define how you sell a product or service. And who are you selling to? How does that influence how your write your business content?

If you can easily answer the above questions but many will need to nail that shit down before they can create a writing style guide.

Consistency.

This word comes up time and time again.

Many things in life can be achieved if only you’re consistent. The same goes for business. Think of this as the umbrella that stands over all the other stuff I’m going to talk about. If you don’t have writing style guide, your inconsistencies will be as noticeable as large chin wart.

Intellectual property.

I’m referring to your company logo and business slogan.

You will have very clear ideas (or you should) about how these things are written down. If this isn’t (you guessed it) consistent, it will stick out like the proverbial sore thumb.

Tone. 

Everyone who’s publishing online as a business, has a tone.

Even if it’s neutral that’s still classed as a tone. And many businesses that write for academic or legal purposes often have to use that style of writing.

But what about your business? Are you conversational in tone, do you readily use contractions and begin a sentence with ‘and’? This should reflect the way you communicate with your customers, and more importantly, the kind of clients you’re trying to attract.

Grammar, capitalisation, and punctuation.

But isn’t there one, universal way to write all this?

Sadly, no.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that all dictionaries agree either – they don’t. And what if you’re a UK based company but your clients are in America? Will you write using American-English or English-English? (Joke for the Americans there.) Language evolves and changes. Go and read The Canterbury Tales in its original Middle English to see just how much it’s changed.

Take a look at this lot:

Example 1:

Words that can be written in different ways: eBook, Ebook or e-book

Example 2:

How you format headings: How To Write For Your Brand By Creating A Writing Style Guide or How to write for your brand by creating a Writing Style Guide

Example 3:

How you write direct speech: Sam said “I sure hope we get out of this alive” or Sam said ‘I sure hope we get out of this alive’

Tense.

This is getting tense but I’m talking about the past, present and future. For many of us it’s something we do without much thought but next time you write, take a look when you’re setting the tense and is it – you guessed it, consistent?

Perspective.

When we write we write from a viewpoint:

  • First-person: choosing ‘I’ or ‘we’
  • Second-person: taking on the viewpoint of the narrator, using ‘you’ or ‘your’
  • Third-person: writing about yourself as if you were someone else ‘Sarah has 20 years business support experience’ or ‘Blue Sky Thinking advertising agency was founded in 2004 by Robert Smith’

Business dictionary.

Create a document with words you prefer to use when describing you and your business. You could pop in things like how you want the date to be written and include words that don’t reflect your business.

I had a client who didn’t like the word ‘passionate’ when describing how he felt about his business. He thought it was a word that was overused. How did I find that out? I used it in the first draft of his website copy. There’s an example of why having a writing style guide is very useful.

That’s it.

I think that’s probably enough, you can always add and build on this. It’s a really good exercise to give your brand a little cohesion. You’re welcome!

Take a look at my blog which has more helpful stuff about blogging and content writing for your business. If you want to know how I can help you, hit the button.