Here are some questions that haunt many a marketer…
Does backlinking really matter that much? If so, how do we “get” backlinks?
The resounding answer to the first question is yes, absolutely.
The second part is a little bit trickier.
Backlinks do help your visibility in Google search.
But you don’t need to work on “getting” them.
There’s a better, more organic way that leads to stronger results.
Let’s discuss. ➡
Should You Focus on Backlinking as a Content Marketing Strategy? No.
Does a good backlink profile help you rank better in Google? Absolutely.
Do you need to spend hours per week on a link building strategy to earn them? Absolutely not.
Even further, you don’t need to have a backlinking strategy to build a brand with real authority that lasts over time.
Instead, building your backlinks should be a byproduct of building a great brand. If you put the latter first, you’re skipping over an important step.
What should you do, instead? Earn your links, don’t build them.
Now, this is the longer road, and it takes more commitment, but it’s more sustainable, too. Ultimately, building your authority over time will also build stronger backlinks to your site, naturally. In contrast, focusing on building backlinks to the detriment of your content strategy as a whole is akin to building a house of cards versus a house of solid stone.
Backlinks you weasel out of thin air can vanish in a second. Backlinks you earn as part of a strong content strategy and a strong brand presence will stay with you and grow over time.
So, how do you accomplish it all?
1. Focus on Consistency
Be consistent in how often you publish content, and only publish the best quality you can produce. Invest in a consistent brand presence across your website, web pages, content, and even your social media channels. Keep it up over time.
2. Focus on Growing Your Expertise
Add value to your industry by growing your expertise and sharing your original ideas over time.
As you grow as an expert (whether you read tons of books, take online courses, or just continually reflect on your experience as an entrepreneur and common industry pain points), you’ll also have some amazing wisdom that blooms alongside your knowledge. Share it!
Your original thoughts and ideas will separate you from the pack of “experts” sharing regurgitated information. When you have something fresh to add to the conversation, that’s valuable to your audience, who are looking to learn from you.
3. Focus on Guest Blogging
Once you’re in a rhythm of creating great content, lend some of your energy to creating content for publication on guest blogging platforms. This how you reach a bigger audience that overlaps with yours, not to mention grow your brand and build your authority on a bigger scale.
To find guest blogging opportunities, just google “your industry” + “publications to guest blog for.” Remember to only publish stellar content, and always include your site link in your bio/author byline!
Now that we’ve cleared up why you shouldn’t laser-focus on your backlink strategy at the expense of your brand (i.e., don’t put the cart before the horse! 🐎), let’s take a deeper look at the inner workings of backlinking.
How Backlinks Have Changed Over the Years
Link building, or backlinking, has changed a lot since it started. Years ago, the standard was to focus on what was known as low-influence linking to build up your credibility.
Low-influence links were links that pushed domain diversity even if they were not necessarily links that were perceived authorities in a given sector. The idea was to amass hundreds of links that pointed to domains all over the place that would lead back to your site and raise your ranking.
Domain diversity would theoretically lend itself to credibility and therefore boost your overall visibility. It worked once upon a time, but in the end, domain diversity proved to be fruitless as opposed to lucrative.
Links like that are not the way to go today. Instead, you want to focus on quality over quantity, but what exactly does that mean? I’m glad you asked.
The Differences Between Quality Links and Quantity of Links
As was stated, it was common practice to link to hundreds and hundreds of low-ranking sites to raise your rank, but over time, it made more sense to work smarter and not harder.
That means working for quality links compared to the quantity of links.
In other words, you wouldn’t want to include a link to a power tool company when you are reading an article about nutritional well-being, right?
On the other hand, if you wrote an article about post-workout foods that help you recover faster, then you want to link to studies from credible and well-established sites that support your claims.
Quality links point back to relevant content and trustworthy websites. You want to focus on the best links that are relevant to your content and go to top-ranked sites.
Cultivating quality links takes an extended amount of time to build credibility, but once it is established, it lasts compared to the low-influence links of the past.
Know Where to Place Your Links
Did you know? There’s a strategic way to place links in your content. In every quality content piece you come across, the link placement is not random – there’s a rhyme and a reason for every single link you see in the material you read every day.
On web pages, have you ever noticed there are links both in the content itself as well as at the bottom of the page, in the footer or navigational area?
The second example is from an iOS app production company, Tapbots. With Tapbots, the only place you’ll see links to click on is if you scroll all the way down to the bottom of the page.
Looking at the two examples above, which one do you think is more effective?
Links that are in the content work better because they’re editorial — your audience will see them right away.
If you only put links in the footers or headers, they have less weight since they aren’t relevant to the content and they are not immediately visible to your audience.
Beware Bad Link Building Practices
You know that quality links are a good idea, and you may be tempted to try expediting the process to increase your ranking and visibility.
There are so many suggestions out there to increase link building, but be wary of the “quick” strategies and seemingly “easy” ways to do it so many “experts” tout. Most importantly, steer clear of anything that sounds too good to be true. Building backlinks is NEVER quick, and if it’s both quick AND easy, it’s probably a scam.
For example, while doing your research, you may come across the prospect of buying links.
Horrible idea. Don’t do it. Here’s why:
Buying backlinks has been a bad idea from the beginning, but people continue to do it because they think it will increase their rankings in the long-term.
The truth is that it will actually hurt your site’s ranking because if you happen to get caught using unethical link building tactics, Google will penalize you and your rankings will drop quickly. It will be hard to come back from that.
There are many examples of this happening after buying backlinks.
In one instance, a blogger thought buying backlinks was a good thing and his traffic report seemed to prove him right.
While his visitors apparently went up in a short time, his visibility and rankings earned before purchasing backlinks were utterly lost when the effect wore off.
His site had been penalized because Google knew that his backlinks were not genuine as well as being irrelevant to his content.
Something else to remember is that press releases don’t do much to improve your rankings, either.
The occasional press release is okay, but you should never use press releases as a central pathway to link building because they don’t have a direct effect on your credibility.
Google’s Penguin and Hummingbird algorithms devalue press releases, so you don’t want to use them for much more than spreading brand awareness and generating referral traffic.
All is not lost, even if you have already made poor choices, so long as you work to fix them.
You will want to remove all links that are not beneficial to you and your content. That means contacting site owners and requesting removal. If that doesn’t work, disavow the links.
Disavowing is a relatively straightforward concept – you’re basically asking Google not to associate those links with your site.
You will also want to check for bad backlinks that lead to error pages, as error pages do nothing to raise your ranking at all.
The downside is that with fewer links, your traffic will likely drop, but if you follow the right way to incorporate backlinking into your content, you will rebound – eventually.
Your last option would be to start over from scratch with a clean slate and a fresh site, but only consider doing this if you have been penalized and you can’t do anything to change the perception of your site.
Also, most agencies include link building as part of a packaged deal, so if you see extraordinary amounts for link building alone, you should probably steer clear of that offer.
When in Doubt, Google It Out
Google webmasters have created precise guidelines as to what is suggested and what needs to be avoided when backlinking.
While you shouldn’t necessarily aim for Google’s idea of perfection, as long as you avoid all of the things Google does not like while also focusing on business-building strategies like high-quality link building as part of your content marketing, you’re golden.
If you aren’t sure quite how to make that happen, request a consultation to help you get your content planning underway.
Ranking in position #1 on Google is no longer a guaranteed win.
Even if you manage to hit the top spot, you will often (not always!) get upstaged by SERP features.
Well, that begs the question…
First, what are SERP features?
They’re special snippets that Google displays to help users find the information they’re looking for faster and easier.
Prime example: I want to know how far the sun is from the moon.
I open Google and ask:
How far is the sun from the moon?
Google answers, not just with a list of search results, but with more information presented in SERP features like Knowledge Cards, Related Questions, and Rich Snippets:
Some of these features edge out the regular search results – the Knowledge Card, for instance, is in the top-left position on the page, where the #1 result would usually appear.
Here’s the thing: Your pages, content, and information can show up in these highly visible, highly desirable spots in SERPS. In many cases, a SERP will have multiple features that take over the page. These essentially become position #0 and will be the first things users see.
Position #0 is like the gold at the end of the rainbow for us SEO content creators.
By now, your main question has probably morphed into “How do I rank for a SERP feature?” along with “Which features are worth aiming for?” In today’s blog, I’ve got you covered with a list of the SERP features you should care about and tips to rank for each type. Let’s go.
5 SERP Features You Should Know + How to Rank for Them
1. Featured Snippets
2. Related Questions (“People also ask”)
3. Local Packs
4. Knowledge Cards/Panels
5. Rich Snippets
How to Find and Track Your Ranking SERP Features in SEMrush
Last But Not Least: Organic Search Results Are Still #1
They lessen the number of clicks on the page overall.
They aren’t just for the top 3 ranking pages, or even the top 5 – if you rank on a page, you can edge into a SERP feature.
Sounds good, right? Okay, let’s get into the “how.”
5 SERP Features You Should Know + How to Rank for Them
1. Featured Snippets
The Featured Snippet is probably the SERP feature with which you’re most familiar. This one shows up at the tippy-top of the page and features an answer to the search query pulled from the text of a web page (usually, the page also ranks for that query).
Express Writers currently ranks for a bunch of Featured Snippets, including this one pulled from our post on the Top 100 content marketers:
Since Featured Snippets usually appear as answers to search queries framed as direct questions (“What do pangolins eat?”, “How far away is the sun?”, or “What is SEO?” are good examples), you need to frame your written content as a definitive answer. Here are some tips:
Research long tail keywords phrased as questions to use in your content. These are often great related keywords to include along with your focus keyword.
Include those question keywords directly in your content, then answer them. (You can see we used this exact tactic for this sub-section.)
Aim to help people in your content. Be informative, factual, and accurate.
Format your content to help Google detect your answers. Bold the most important information, or put the answer to the question on its own line.
2. Related Questions (“People also ask”)
Another opportunity on the SERPs for ranking is the Related Questions snippet. This SERP feature lists other questions related to your original query that users have asked Google.
You’ll find this snippet under the heading “People also ask”.
How Do You Rank for Related Questions?
Ranking for Related Questions means you’re trying to get featured as an answer that appears when users click the question they want to know more about. Example:
Typically, Related Questions are 30 words in length. To rank for this feature, a good practice is to craft a 30-ish-word answer that definitively addresses the biggest question users may have about your main topic. For best results, do this fairly early on in the copy.
Google’s Knowledge Graph has been around since 2012. However, this is one of the main SERP features since 2018 to gain more visibility. Its primary function is to give users access to Google’s search engine knowledge of more than 500 million entities and how those entities connect.
When your Google search accesses the Knowledge Graph, you’ll see Knowledge Cards and Knowledge Panels pop up in the SERP. Here’s an example of a Knowledge Panel from a search for “vanilla ice cream”:
It includes a Wikipedia entry, nutrition facts from the USDA, photos from around the web, and related terms people also searched for.
Knowledge Cards are unique from Knowledge Panels because they usually appear in the left-hand column on a SERP and display one specific piece of information (versus the many types of information you see in a Knowledge Panel).
This graph showing the population of New York City over time is a good example of a Knowledge Card:
Note that none of the knowledge Google displays in Knowledge Panels/Cards comes from Google itself – it’s pulled from reputable sources across the web. (The source Google is pulling from is usually listed in small text under the bottom-left corner of the Card or Panel in question.)
How Do You Appear in a Knowledge Card/Panel?
Generally, having your site appear in a Knowledge Card/Panel isn’t a matter of ranking. Instead, it’s more about claiming your entry in Google’s virtual encyclopedia.
For example, when people search Google for your name or brand name, what shows up? If you want the SERP to include a Knowledge Panel on your brand with photos, links to your website and social profiles, or even links to your products, there are a few things you can do.
Google details it all in this help guide, but here’s a rundown:
First, claim your Google My Business listing.
Search for your name or brand on Google. If a Knowledge Panel shows up, scroll to the bottom of it and click “Claim this knowledge panel.” Follow the instructions on the next few screens.
Add Schema.org structured data markup to your website. This is code that pinpoints the information Google should pull from your site to fill in your Knowledge Panel entry.
Aleh Barysevich for Search Engine Journal wrote a great guide that goes more in-depth on showing up in Knowledge Panels, so be sure to check that out, too.
5. Rich Snippets
The last SERP feature you can get into with in-depth content: Rich Snippets.
What are Rich Snippets? They look extremely similar to regular search results. The difference?
Rich Snippets contain extra information that regular results lack. Here’s a comparison between a normal search result and a Rich Snippet result for the keyword “pasta salad recipe.”
Normal search result:
Rich snippet result:
Note how the Rich Snippet is “richer” with more information. It includes a star rating, the time it takes to prepare the recipe, the number of reviews, total calories, and a snippet of the directions.
Rich Snippets can appear for a variety of types of search results:
How Do You Earn Rich Snippets?
To earn Rich Snippets for your content, the main action to do is to ensure you’re using structured data markup. This won’t guarantee you’ll get any, but it will improve your chances.
As we already mentioned, this is code that tells search engines like Google specific information about your content. It helps Google decide what information to pull to populate rich snippet results.
If you’re sharing a recipe, for instance, the code tells Google which part of the text is the ingredients list, which part includes the directions, and which part includes the cooking time.
You can add structured data to your content directly in the HTML code, but if you’re not tech-savvy, there are other ways. (If you use WordPress, there are plugins for that!)
How to Find Your SERP Features in SEMrush
Did you know SEMrush has a tool that tracks your keywords, rankings, and the SERP features your content stars in?
Tracking is vital to understand how far you’ve come and what you need to do to improve. Here’s how to find these features in SEMrush, a top SERP tool.
1. Create a New Project
First, if you haven’t already, create a new project for position tracking.
In the left menu, go to Projects >> Create my first project.
On the next screen, enter your domain name and give the project a name.
2. Set Up Position Tracking
After you create a project, you’ll be taken to the Projects Dashboard. This is where you set up position tracking.
Navigate to the Position Tracking tool and click Set It Up.
Enter your domain settings, choose your device and location, add some competitors, then enter the keywords you want to track.
3. Find the SERP Features You’re Winning
After position tracking is set up, to find SEMrush SERP features, navigate to your project and click Position Tracking.
Scroll down the page to find the SERP features box. You’ll see a simple bar graph with SERP feature icons representing each type of feature. Hover over each bar for more information.
This acts as a handy Google SERP checker, giving you a high-level overview of how you’re doing with your SEO at a glance.
Last But Not Least: Organic Search Results Are Still #1
Getting your site highlighted in SERP features can give it a big boost. That said, the #1 way you should be aiming to appear in search is in the top position – the good-old number 1 spot.
Just a few reasons why:
Even though SERP features steal clicks away from organic results, organic results still get more clicks (Ahrefs).
Ranking organically is often the #1 way to get pulled into SERP features! Best of all, this holds true whether you rank #1 or #5. As long as you make the first page, you have a chance.
Think about why your product, event, or service matters to the public. If you can’t answer, “What’s in it for them?” then skip the press release altogether.
2. Objective Tone
Write in third person and avoid using “we,” “I,” and “you.” Also avoid emphasis language, hyperbolic claims, and hype flags.
3. Clear and Condensed Information
Get to the point upfront and avoid using jargon. If you must use industry terms, define them in the piece.
4. Valid Contact Info
There’s nothing worse for a media rep to have than the wrong contact information. Use an up-to-date email and phone number within the media contact text.
5. Excellent Grammar and Spelling
Your press release will get crumpled up quickly if there are signs of poor grammar and typos. Proof and re-proof your piece before distributing it.
6. Relevant Quotes from the Sources
Whenever possible get a quote from an industry professional or executive. This gives you credibility and helps emphasize the message.
The Structure of a Published Press Release
How to write a press release is answered with our structure breakdown. (See a live PR example done right from Facebook and TuneCore.)
Headline — Short and sweet attention grabber, no more than 65 characters
Sub-headline — Builds on the headline, two sentences max.
Dateline — The city where the news is originating and the date of the release
Lead or intro paragraph — Generally answers the who, what, when, where and why questions; in other words, the facts
Body — Minimum of 300 words, ideally no more than 600 words, provides supporting details, quotes, and call to action
Boilerplate — Short paragraph with information about the issuing company or organization
### — Journalist PR designated sign that signals the end of the press release
Press releases also include a company’s logo and media contact information: at minimum, the name, phone number, and email address for the PR or media relations contact who can answer any questions regarding the material.
7 Tips to Write a Press Release That Gets Picked Up
Now that you’ve got press release formatting down, let’s dive into content. Here’s how to hone and craft your message for your press release so readers read it and news outlets pick it up.
1. Make Your Message Reader-Focused
When writing press releases, you need to know what point you’re trying to get across. Remember, what is newsworthy to you may not be relevant to the press.
Take into account who your readers are and make sure your press release will be something interesting to them. Forget why your news matters to the company and focus on why it matters for your reader or customer. This aligns with the media’s goals: to satisfy readers’ curiosity and fulfill their need for relevant information.
It’s never wrong to search Google for examples of press releases to use as inspiration for your PR. Look at the structure and format, the tone of voice used, and the information included in the samples you peruse.
Don’t forget to check out press releases that have already been written about your topic, and make sure that your particular press release is somehow innovative. If it’s a repeat of something that has already been published, forget it.
3. Stick to the Right Structure
A basic press release should follow a certain format. For example, the heading should always be bold and centered at the top of the page. The headline should include your keyword for SEO potential, too. Under your headline, you may put a sub-heading (usually in italics) that further develops your headline. Make sure to use your main keywords here, too.
Additionally, pay particular attention to the first paragraph of your press release. Structure it with engagement in mind because usually no one will read beyond the first paragraph. That means you should place all the relevant information right at the top. Follow the traditional structure of the inverted pyramid with the most important information on top and supporting data in the paragraphs to follow.
4. Use Concrete Quotes
Never quote the ambiguous “anonymous” in your press release. Quote someone who is an expert or at least has insightful information about the content of your press release. It’s good to include at least one quote in your article. Don’t quote someone who is overly promotional about your topic — make sure they have good insight, too.
5. Add Standard Company Information
At the end of your press release, add information about you or your company. This is something that journalists will use to get to know you or your brand better. It’s also a good way for them to contextualize your press release and look at you or your company as more credible. Add your achievements here (industry awards, record sales, online features, etc.) as well as contact information so people will know how to reach you if they have further questions.
6. Keep It Interesting
Knowing how to write a press release also means that you understand the value of multimedia. Place pictures, videos and audio in your press release. Not only will this benefit you by letting you be more searchable in Google Images, but it keeps the reader’s interest focused on your topic. Supporting multimedia, such as charts, graphs or actual video and audio will make your page look and feel more interactive. Above all, knowing how to write a press release means you understand how to keep it engaging.
7. Distribute Properly
The first step in reaching your target audience is knowing the “who/what/where” when distributing your PR. Don’t be out of scope with the type of media you’re trying to reach. There’s no way, for example, that a magazine focusing on cars will publish your press release on the latest and greatest in makeup.
It’s important to know who you’re writing for and why. Of course, it’s understandable to want your press release to reach a wider audience, but you have to place that into context. Don’t over-reach your audience or else your press release will just end up in the reporter or journalist’s recycling bin.
Your Next Press Release? Handled.
Knowing how to write a press release is a handy skill for anyone in business.
The keys to remember:
Never forget the value of excellent content and good grammar. Bad grammar will make you look less credible and it will decrease the chances your press release will be published.
Mind your structure and audience. There’s nothing reporters or journalists hate more than irrelevant news.
Don’t have the time or skills to write a press release, but need one ASAP?
Express Writers has bonafide press release writers with backgrounds in journalism at your disposal. Hire our team to get a professional, targeted, engaging press release news outlets will pick up.
“Why do I need a writer for MY industry of expertise?”
These are great questions we get all the time.
And to answer them best, we’ve structured our team with over 90 writers and four core levels (general, expert, specialty, and authority).
We’ve studied Google’s guidelines, and we don’t believe just any writer can write for every industry. ✋
In fact, Google has very specific guidelines around how they measure expertise, authoritativeness, and trust for all industries. Especially when it comes to finance, law, and health, the guidelines Google uses to rate and review content get even stricter. (I wrote about Google’s rating guidelines here on the Write Blog.)
Here’s our belief: Writers do have specialties, and industry expertise — and that absolutely should be matched up to a client and their industry/expertise.
Or, to put it simply, you need a writer who knows your industry like you do to write your content.
There are plenty of reasons why. Let’s go deeper into the top 3 to illustrate why this is so important – for your content, your brand, and your content marketing success. Here’s why you should hire an expert copywriter.
Now, your expertise isn’t in question, here. If you already outsource, it’s your content writer you should be worried about.
Even if you give your writer plenty of direction, mistakes happen. And, if they’re not an expert in your industry, those errors are a lot more likely to plague your content.
Unfortunately, Google de-ranking your content and pushing it down to page 10 is the least of the consequences. You’ll also dramatically break your readers’ trust if you give them bad advice or information.
That equates to fleeing leads and potential customers who disappear.
The problem isn’t just rampant in high-stakes industries, either. An inexperienced writer who doesn’t know your industry or your product/service in, say, beauty or pet care or natural living can do just as much damage to your brand reputation.
When your content isn’t written from a place of knowledge and authority, it shows. It will be inaccurate, lacking in substance, forgettable – or all three.
Where does that leave you? With content that constantly needs major edits, rewrites, tweaks, and revisions. It will never be “right” from the get-go, which is a total waste of your time and money.
Your content reflects your brand. Full stop. If your readers notice a disconnect, they’ll stop caring and fall out of your marketing loop. ❌
2. You Don’t Have the Skills Necessary to Write Winning Content
Copywriting with finesse and intrigue isn’t a skill you can learn overnight.
If you want to hook readers, hold their attention, and incite action from them (subscribing to your email list and making purchases are two biggies), you have to use copywriting techniques.
The thing is, they take years to hone.
Specific skills, including marketing knowledge and storytelling, give copywriters the ability to appeal to particular target groups, hold their attention, qualify your product or service, and convert readers into buyers.
Formatting is just as important as language, so professional copywriters are well-versed in writing within certain marketing formats and publishing standards.
All this, while simultaneously coming across as professional, intelligent, and convincing, using your brand voice and point of view.
Considering every single industry needs digital marketing to stay relevant today, it’s sad that copywriters aren’t more respected. Their skills are VITAL.
But not everyone has them. And not just anyone knows how to write content that succeeds, builds a brand, and creates ROI.
Expert copywriters do — and that’s why you should hire them.
More people reading content = more chances to attract your target audience.
Once you attract them, it’s key to build trust – not break it.
And trust-building needs two factors to work:
Time – Relationships with customers built on trust take time to grow. Trust isn’t built with one piece of content. It takes many, many pieces of great content (and other good interactions) to solidify trust.
Consistency – Maintaining a consistent presence over time means you show up, again and again and again, with great information. Your content solves problems, entertains, informs, or all three, every single time you publish.
Throw in a few jarring pieces of content – whether they’re poorly-written, full of bad information, or just plain unhelpful or boring – and you’ll throw a huge wrench into your trust-building endeavor.
Here’s another well-known fact. Very few business owners have the time or desire to write, and the finished result usually reflects that fact.
Why waste time doing something you don’t want to do and you know won’t be the high-quality content you need to continue to grow your business?
It’s pretty simple. If you don’t have the time to produce consistent content that meets high standards, you’ll be breaking trust with customers rather than building it. You’d be better off NOT creating content at all.
Enter the expert copywriter.
We have the time and skills you lack to get it done right. A good copywriter can help you drive sales, pull in new traffic, build loyalty, entertain the masses and reflect your professionalism.
We can help drive your success and are integral to help increase your bottom line.
Hire Expert Copywriters. Grow Your Business.
Knowing what you know, which will you choose: the ad-hoc, doing-it-to-save-a-few-bucks non-writer moonlighting as a writer (which, let’s face it, might be you)?…
Or an expert copywriter, who makes their living writing great copy and content?
…We both know the second option is the smart option.
Expert copywriters are passionate about their jobs and love what they do.
They are specialists in their field and have chosen their career because it’s what they want to do.
They understand how to write for online audiences AND Google.
Finally, if you match up with a writer from your industry, you’ll get a pro who will help build trust between you and your audience.
9 Skills, Traits, and Characteristics the Best Web Copywriters Have in Spades
The best web writers have honed their raw talent and turned it into an occupation where they earn money for every word they set down. Do you (or the web writers you’re hiring) have all the skills on this list?
1. Nimble Creativity
The best web writers need to be able to turn on a dime and write in a completely different style and voice for different clients.
That means their capacity for nimble creativity needs to be very high.
Online writers also need to be able to produce copy and content when that creativity well is drying up. A nimble, can-do attitude is essential, here. Sometimes, you just have to buckle down and get some words out.
The best writers who live and breathe online content will be able to do it and do it well, no matter the circumstances.
2. Research Chops
Research is a huge part of online writing. To underline your authority, you have to prove yourself in your written content and copy.
That means relying on the knowledge and research of others, along with your own. It means citing sources and studies, and providing statistics and evidence that back up your claims.
The online writer who is well-versed in research best-practices, including how to properly cite sources and link to them in content, is indispensable.
3. Strong Understanding of the Basics of Constructing Great Sentences
Writers construct, tweak, and manipulate sentences to get their ideas across clearly. Without the basic ability to craft really good ones, can you call yourself a writer?
This ability includes understanding grammar do’s and don’ts like noun-verb agreement and comma usage, but it also includes knowing how to create a compelling call-to-action, how to write effective meta descriptions, and how to compose a zinger of a headline.
As a copywriter, you need to know which of these is correct. (Source: Grammar Girl)
Does your web writer understand the various stages of the buying cycle/sales funnel? (Have they even heard of a sales funnel?) Do they get how to tailor their words to what the audience knows/doesn’t know at a particular stage?
What about landing page copy? Do they understand how best to craft a page that leads the audience to take action?
If they don’t, they should.
If you’re the writer, according to Content Marketing Institute, your knowledge should be T-shaped.
You need a deep knowledge of content – best-practices that earn traffic, engagement, and conversions, and how to tie in SEO –- that’s a given.
You also need at least a passing understanding of online marketing concepts like technical SEO, UX, press & PR, and analytics.
5. Generalist AND Specialist Expertise
A web copywriter needs to be a jack-of-all-trades and a master of one… Or two.
The former is important for that aforementioned nimbleness factor. You need to be able to pivot from topic to topic without much trouble, research topics if you’re shaky, and write about them like you know what you’re talking about.
That is the power of a skilled generalist writer.
On the other hand, you also need specialist knowledge in at least one topic. This means you have the background to write about that topic from the viewpoint of an expert.
This background can include education, experience, or a mix of the two. A blend of both is a good place to start honing your expertise.
Either way, the best writers can specialize and write with an incredibly authoritative tone for at least one industry.
6. The Power of Persuasion
Persuasive writing is a huge part of online copywriting.
Your readers’ attention spans are shorter than ever (the average currently clocks in at 8 seconds – one second shorter than that of an average goldfish). They’re distracted by every shiny thing that’s blinking at them or screaming in all caps.
They’ll click away from your content faster than you can blink – unless you can persuade them to stay.
This means knowing and using proven writing styles and copywriting formulas that keep visitors glued to the page. It also means formatting your words for maximum ease-of-reading on tiny mobile device screens or headache-inducing computer monitors.
There’s a lot that goes into persuading audiences online, so the copywriter who can do it (and do it well) is worth their weight in gold.
A copywriter’s job is to speak to the reader on a deep level. You need to be able to address their hopes, fears, and desires like they’re your own.
The only way to truly get on their wavelength is to empathize with them.
If you have a fair amount of natural empathy, you have an advantage. If you don’t, you can practice it.
Step outside yourself. Put your thoughts and feelings aside.
Imagine trying on the perspective of the person in question, like a pair of glasses. What do you see differently? How do you feel?
Try to stay in that headspace while you write.
You can also try reading lots of books written in the first-person perspective (with lots of “I” language – “I did,” “I said,” “I wanted,” “I tried,” etc.) These narratives literally immerse you in someone else’s thoughts and may help you hone your ability to empathize.
8. Little-to-No Writer Ego
A copywriter’s job is not to get their own writing style airtime. If you’re in the hot seat, your job is not to write the way you want to write.
A copywriter’s job is to get other people’s words out there, and to do it in the best way possible. Copywriters have to write to make their clients sound knowledgeable and interesting, and their products enticing.
They need to write for their clients’ audiences, not their own.
Naturally, many copywriters also have higher writing ambitions. They may have wanted to be a writer from a young age, or have dreams of completing a longer work of fiction or nonfiction under their own name.
For some writers, their motivations for their personal writing career may clash with what’s expected of them (and what’s needed of them) as a copywriter.
If your writer ego is a little too big for its britches (don’t get me wrong – this isn’t a failing; it’s actually what gets many writers published), you may want to rethink copywriting.
Similarly, if you find it very hard to put that ego aside and write with equal verve for clients, you might want to rethink copywriting.
9. Self-Motivation and Determination
These days, most copywriters aren’t hunched over desks in a communal space, writing elbow-to-elbow with their colleagues in a Mad Men-esque office setting.
Instead, most are working from their laptop in a coffee shop or toiling away behind the monitor in their home office. Some even are scraping a living from a seat on their couch in their tiny apartment.
(Take a look at how our remote team here at EW gets down to business. We each have our own personal spaces and methods.)
Needless to say, when you’re working alone with no boss over your shoulder, the chances that you’ll deviate from the task at hand are 10 times – nay, 100 times greater than if you are working in an office with supervision.
That means the best web copywriters are self-motivated, determined, and on-point when it comes to time and work management.
They don’t need constant supervision because they have the skills to stay focused and on-task.
This focus is 100% necessary, especially when an assignment looms that is hard to write. You have to wade through that beast no matter what, and the best copywriters can get through with aplomb.
Without that kind of self-sustaining motivation, you’re sunk as a remote copywriter.
Web Copywriters Who Reach Success Have These 7 Skills in Common
Great web copywriting is an art and a science. You need lots of technical knowledge, but you also need to know how to riff once in a while (and understand when you can riff on the rules).
Arguably, though, these eight base skills serve as the foundation for greatness.
You don’t have to be born with them. You can cultivate them, grow them, and become a bonafide amazing online writer.
So, whether you’re getting your foot in the door or looking for fresh talent to do the writing for you, look for these characteristics. Make them your mantra.