As an SEO copywriter, I see what goes on behind the scenes in the world of online content.
By that, I mean I see the assignment and request sheets. I even have the long phone conversations with clients who aren’t exactly sure what they want, but who know they want something.
I get the jumble of keywords and the word count and the instruction to make it into something useable.
It’s often creation ex nhilo, in its finest form. And the other copywriters out there know what I’m talking about.
Despite the fact that it’s often difficult, though, it’s entirely worthwhile.
And here’s why. Online copywriting challenges us to be one thing that we often aren’t in our daily lives: authentic.
Today, more people are turning to online content than have ever done so before, and their B.S. detectors are better than they’ve ever been.
Because of this, it’s critical to take all of the raw components of online copy and make them into something coherent, compelling, and, yes, authentic.
If this is something that you, like so many SEO copywriters struggle with, this piece contains some tips to help you be more authentic in all of your online content, starting now.
Authenticity: The Cornerstone of Great Online Content
The best creations from any good SEO copywriter are like a puzzle meticulously assembled.
It’s a little bit of SEO, a little bit of research, a little bit of skill, a lot of dedication, and some humor or insight, all rolled into one cohesive package.
If any of these components are lacking, the content just does not work. And don’t get me wrong, there’s plenty of this out there, but it’s not what people want to interact with.
Today, brands in all industries and specialties are striving for authentic content, and readers around the globe are working harder than ever before to find it.
This represents something extraordinary.
While content has long since been the vehicle for various forms of marketing, it’s a recent thing that the demand for authentic content has reached such a fever pitch. Today, customers don’t want to interact with pushy, stiff content that reeks of used-car-salesman vibes. Instead, they want legitimately valuable content that helps them solve problems and, get this, develop relationships.
According to an article published in the Harvard Business Review, the importance of a massive, powerful brand (think Wal-Mart) is falling, while the importance of company-customer relationships is rising.
In fact, the value of customer relationships has doubled over the last decade, leaping from 9% to 18%.
In addition to driving things like engagement and sales, stronger company-customer relationships also help promote brand recognition and loyalty.
And what’s the best way to create these relationships? You guessed it: authentic content.
3 Brands Currently Killing It with Authentic Content
To get an idea of what authentic content looks like in the world of online copywriting, it’s smart to look around at a few brands that do it well. Here are three of my favorites:
1. Dollar Shave Club
I reference Dollar Shave Club often in what I write because I truly believe they’re one of the best brands out there regarding online content. I’ll confess that I became a member of their service based purely on the genius of their launch video, and the goodness just continues.
For an example, consider this email I received from them just today:
While this headline might not immediately strike you as “authentic” (slapstick, maybe?), it does a few things well.
First of all, it’s funny.
I saw it in my inbox and knew that the email would contain a pitch for some hand cream. I also knew I wouldn’t buy any, but I opened it because I wanted to see what was inside.
And guess what? As a consumer, I’ll continue opening their emails until another one of their products does appeal to me, and then I’ll purchase it. Because they’re consistently funny, upfront, and authentic, I’m a devotee of the brand – even though there are similar ones out there.
Patagonia is one of my favorite clothing companies, and it’s also one of my favorite brands for content. Dedicated to sustainability, recycled materials, and super high-quality outdoor clothing backed by an “ironclad guarantee,” Patagonia takes its vision into its content, and practices what it preaches every step of the way.
The company’s blog, The Cleanest Line, features articles on everything from preserving the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear to profiles on great outdoorsmen (and women).
While Patagonia isn’t funny like Dollar Shave Club (and, where it exists in Patagonia’s marketing, humor takes a different form), the company manages to speak directly and authentically to their clients, which is probably why they have one of the single strongest followings I know of.
3. Neil Patel
Neil Patel is the co-founder of Crazy Egg, KISSmetrics, and Hello Bar, and I believe he’s one of the best marketers out there. While he does many amazing things in the way of content, one of my favorite things about his approach is his willingness to admit that he hasn’t always been awesome at this.
While an influencer like Neil could feel completely inaccessible, he takes steps to break that perception down by openly sharing what he calls his “oh sh*t” moments. It’s vulnerable, honest, and authentic, and it makes people want to engage with his brand even more than they would if they knew he was one of the most successful marketers out there.
5 Steps to More Authentic Content (By Yours Truly, An SEO Copywriter)
Unless you know how to approach it, striving for authentic content can have the opposite effect: it can make your content feel stiffer.
Luckily, these five tips will help you get off on the right foot:
1. Write for your audience, whoever they are
Obviously, the audience Dollar Shave Club is targeting is somewhat different than the audience Patagonia is targeting, so it stands to reason that the voice is different. That said, though, both brands do an excellent job of speaking to their unique audiences.
To make your content more authentic, learning to speak to your target audience is key. It doesn’t matter who your audience is, only that you write to them and only them.
With that in mind, take the time to research your audience (or your client’s audience). Who are they? What are their concerns? What makes them laugh? Is there a niche-specific joke you can play on to earn their trust? By viewing the audience as actual people, rather than an anonymous body of “readers,” it’s easier to tease out authentic content.
2. Forget the sales pitch
This suggestion can strike fear in the heart of copywriters.
“But, doesn’t it need a sales pitch?” everyone wonders.
The answer is yes…and no.
Good content should sell without trying to. This means that it should be so informative, so valuable, and so compelling that the people who read it want to interact with the brand producing it.
Valuable copy is much more moving than a stuffy CTA, and it’s safe to say that content everywhere improves as soon as the writers behind it stop making sales their number one priority.
3. Be yourself – whoever that is!
Patagonia, Neil Patel, and Dollar Shave Club are all genuinely themselves in their content, and while the brands aren’t comparable in their voices or approaches, they all manage to feel welcoming and real.
In many ways, this is the gold standard of content. With so many pieces of information floating around on the web, and so many “experts” telling you how to transform your content marketing, it can be tough to hear your own voice through all the static.
At the end of the day, though, this is what sets the lasting brands apart from the flash-and-fade ones. An enduring brand knows what it is, and it knows how to express that in its copy, and this is more valuable than virtually anything else.
4. Write with a purpose
Depending on what you’re writing, your purpose may be to make your customers laugh or to move them to sign a petition. Whatever that purpose is, though, it’s important to keep it in mind throughout the writing process.
In addition to giving your content a direction, writing with a purpose also imbues online copywriting with emotion and relevance, all of which helps it feel more compelling and authentic.
5. Hone your niche and stick to it
One of the best ways to keep your content authentic is to find a niche you love and work there as much as possible. Whether you enjoy helping young brands tell their stories or writing copy for lifestyle and travel companies, writing about what you love is a good way to come off as excited and passionate in your online copywriting.
The Case for Authentic Content: It Benefits Both the Brand and the SEO Copywriter
Just like brands don’t want boring, stuffy content, SEO copywriters don’t want to struggle with writing content they can’t connect with.
Because of this, it’s essential for copywriters to learn the power and importance of authentic content.
Seek to create it every time you sit down to write. Demand it from your writer.
Let’s make the web an authentic place.
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