online content primer

Your AP Online Content Primer (Essay Writing Styles You Learned In School Vs. What Real Online Content Is)

“So what should I know about online content versus what I learned in college? Do I have to unlearn AP English?”

I’ve heard that question from new writers more times than I can count.

Unlearning something doesn’t seem like the best way to approach a new writing position… or is it?

Even though you might know how to write, do you know how to write for the ​online ​reader?

It’s waaaay different than what you learned in school. AP classes may have gotten you college credit, but they do not hold nearly the same weight for online content.

When starting out as a freelance copywriter, producing engaging online content is not so much about “unlearning” what you’ve been taught. It’s about building on foundational skills you’ve already acquired.

But…

We’re going to get real for a bit.

It ​is, ​in fact, about breaking the rules a little.

Exhibit A:

lets break the rules English

Courtesy ivcc.edu

NONE of these rules apply to online writing.

(Rule #1: throw it OUT. In fact, you should always use first-person pronouns. So, pretty much do the opposite of English Composition 1 up there.)

Now, don’t get me wrong. I love great literature, the classics, and English classes. And, I think a fundamental love for English is fairly crucial for online writers. I was a straight-A student who absolutely loved her English professors in college… and they loved me, too (one actually told me I’d written the best essay on Shakespeare’s Hamlet he’d ever read).

But, here’s the fact.

School-taught English essay-writing skills are NOT anywhere close to online content writing skills.

While AP Language and Literature courses pave the way for synthesizing sources and developing arguments, online content should be thought of as a new class. Maybe one that some schools will end up offering in the future.

Well, I want to make it simple.

Over the last several weeks I’ve compiled the below guide, just for this specific pain point: figuring out college English rules vs. online content rules. Let’s call today’s blog: your AP online content guide.

AP online content primer

AP English vs. Real Online Copy: A Look at Why Online Content Matters Today

Print is dead.

I never liked that phrase.

I don’t think it is true. Even Amazon agrees. Their first-ever bookstore went live 10 miles from my house this March.

amazon bookstore launches

What is true, is that digital content has become a viable option for anyone consuming media. It’s the go-to for a culture demanding immediate answers.

However, it goes beyond the scope of reading your news online. Almost everything has been digitized to surpass the lifespan of your average piece of paper. Plus, it’s just more convenient.

In the last ten years, the paperless campaign has grown extensively. In addition to being a cost effective and environmentally friendly option, it’s honestly just easier for people. Why get my electric bill sent to me in the mail when I can view it online?

Not surprisingly, schools have opted for the digital option as well. In a few years from now, the stereotypical student hauling a 20 lb backpack could completely disappear from college campuses. This may be the case sooner in California, where a law was passed to make all textbooks available electronically by 2020.

When it comes to our education system, research compiled by Business Insider found that the majority of students prefer digital texts, even though they cannot always retain the information as well.

Perhaps it’s the gentle blue light of the screen that calls to people from all demographics.

When comparing print and digital readers, the American Press Institute, found that those favoring digital sources were more likely to admit that they value the quality of the content.

Print and digital readers also interact with the content in different ways. Making content available online paves the way for readers to build a relationship with a company because following, liking and subscribing are only one click away.

Print-and-digital-engagement-graph

Now more than ever, readers value digital media. This makes the call for an AP Online Content course all the more relevant for beginning freelance copywriters.

A Look at How We Consume Media in the Modern World

Now that we can comprehend just how many people get their daily dose of all things text from online, we must understand how they absorb content. Phone and computer screens are an entirely different experience than flipping pages in a book.

I don’t remember ads popping up for tissues as I read through the final chapters of Where the Red Fern Grows. Although honestly, that would have been very useful.

Our screens are filled with distractions that draw a reader’s attention away from the content and onto something more distracting.

I’m losing you. Does this GIF help?

Online content writers have taken on the difficult task of asking people to stay on a page for an infinitely longer amount of time than the average GIF does.

It’s a careful balancing act between being informative and engaging.

Writers should include references to pop culture – and blogs often do.

However, just by mentioning the new season of Westworld, I may quickly send viewers away to anxiously Google the trailer.

 

Please come back.

More often than not, readers are scrolling through written content so that they only absorb what stands out to them. Unlike AP classes, the content is not carefully analyzed and graded. The sole purpose for online content is to engage readers and speak to them.

Okay, so by now you’re probably ready for the meat of our guide.

That would be the biggest, tangible reasons (with screenshot proof) of why/how online content differs from the English-writing styles you learned in college.

…Hold your horses.

Before we get there, I need to make a very important point.

A VERY important one.

Although Online Content is More “Readable” Than College Essay Writing, Online Content is NOT More “Sloppy”

Many, many (x that “many” by 100,000) new writers think that dropping the essay style means dropping a lack of writing finesse altogether.

Dear God.

This GIF of Dwight sums up how I feel about this, pretty well.

No.

(X that by 1,000,000.)

In fact, I’ve talked to the chief editor of SmartBlogger, who helps create convincing “hooks” that are a big factor to their site earning 100+ new subscribers per day. 

Do you know how long he’ll spend editing this “hook” – a little matter of 100 words or less, the first words in the blog?

45 minutes or more. That’s after it’s been written, folks.

So, fine-tuning online copy into something beautiful – living, readable, NON-stuffy-college-AP is a work of real art.

And time.

Effort.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s continue into the real differentiation points.

How and Why Online Content Differs from AP English: 3 Big Differentiation Points

Now it’s time for a little show and tell.

1. Online Writing Has a More Conversational Content Structure

Consider the structure of online marketing expert Neil Patel’s blog when compared to an AP Language response that scored an 8, just one point away from perfection.

That’s not fair, you say.

Of course we acknowledge that a professional blog and AP essay are like comparing emails and Snapchat messages but here, the writer’s objective is the same: to persuade.

For English essays, you may have been taught to write in the most logical order. The structure of your paper could read something like A is true because B, C and D. In contrast, bloggers pick their letters from a Scrabble bag and find their own way to prove the same point.

In school, many of us are taught that a new paragraph distinguishes the start of a new topic. The same goes with most AP tests. The structure is rigid and formulaic.

New paragraph, topic sentence, supporting ideas, repeat. The format continues until the time runs out.

This static structure is perfect for graders and students alike. Follow the formula, and you will at least score a mediocre grade until you embellish it.

For online content, keeping a tight knit structure is a sure-fire way to get readers off your page.

Compare the same blog as pictured above to a page pulled from the novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and the difference in structure is clear.

jekyll and hyde vs online content

Scrolling down a page and turning a page are not the same experience. For online content, readers eyes are locked on the screen.

Blogs have to be structured differently because of the way viewers interact with them. This means altering the length of your sentences and varying your word choice. The overall structure is more of a conversation with the reader.

Just look at how many paragraphs from the book start with the same word:

He sprang,” “He turned,” “He thanked.”

A mere glance over at Patel’s blog shows a vital difference in structuring online content.

In online content, it’s all about readability. In other words, a differentiated variation and pace in each sentence.

Blogs must engage with the audience as if they’re individual participants. Though there is a basic structure, there is no hard fast rule of how many topic sentences you must incorporate.

The importance lies in the rhythm of your writing.

In this case, paragraphs do not always need to distinguish a change in topic. They should instead follow the flow of your thoughts. Just like writers take a natural pause when typing out their ideas, readers too need a mental break to digest the information.

Another reason why the generally accepted paragraph structure just doesn’t fly for online content is that we have other tools in our belt.

Nothing screams “I’m moving on to my next point!” louder than a heading.

Variation is key when it comes to constructing a stellar online paragraph. Keeping that in mind, here are a few rules to follow:

  • Incorporate both short and long sentences and paragraphs to break the monotony. If you’re going to make a few points all in one block of text, follow it up with a short sentence. See. It’s effective.
  • For online content, the average paragraph should be between two and four sentences. Include one sentence paragraphs in between to emphasize a point.
  • Avoid beating a topic to death. Unlike an AP exam, you don’t have to repeatedly prove your extensive knowledge to the audience. When it’s done, move on.

2. Online Writing is Shaped by Your Style

Online content does little to quiet the voices in your head. If anything, it encourages them.

The basics of writing are taught at a young age. Teachers scribble red marker over the missed capitalization and add commas where students forget.

Though grammar is a fundamental stepping stone in learning how to write, it does not necessarily make you a great writer.

“What voice in my head? I don’t have one.”

That was the response of one 12th grade student in Long Island after being asked to free write.

You would think this would be the easiest assignment for a teenager. In reality, all of the grammar lessons in the world had not prepared her to share what she really felt.

Students are constantly reminded to keep “I” statements out of their writing.

While in context, this is the correct way to approach writing an analysis on To Kill a Mockingbird, the same style rules do not apply for online content.

As a content writer, your words speak directly to the reader.

That’s you!

Blogs are filled with empathetic language to relate to the audience. It’s all about emotional marketing value (EMV).

For example: the words exploit, urgent and miracle are much stronger language to use when selling an idea to an audience.

From our friends at CoSchedule

Just look at how many times Neil Patel directly connects with the audience in this line.

You, you, and you again.

Selling products on Instagram is not a flashy topic in the slightest, but he’s found a way to connect with readers by directly calling them out.

Now, imagine the lack of connection if he’d written:

“A popular Instagram account already has followers and customers that want to buy their products.”

Bam! Point made.

Inserting your own voice into your writing will distinguish it from the masses of online content. You can make it personal by adding anecdotes and details that are specific to your experience.

Having a distinctive voice will also make your writing more relatable.

A blog isn’t a paper you turn in at the end of fifth period. Blogs are conversations.

Choose your language on purpose. Don’t be afraid to talk to your audience. Defy your teachers and use “I” statements. Just don’t use them too much, you’re only one piece of the puzzle.

3. Online Writing is Formatted for Readability

No matter how enthralling the content of your writing is, people see your writing before they start actually reading it.

Where speed is a key factor in AP English, appearance holds the same weight for online content. Nothing instigates a quick click to a new website faster than large blocks of text.

This point is made apparent when circling back around to Patel’s blog and the page from The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

Say goodbye to the five paragraph rule. Blogs are all about white space.

Shorter paragraphs are essential because they imply simplicity. Even if you are writing about a heavy topic, readers will be able to navigate through the blog without feeling intimidated. The rule new topic, new paragraph, doesn’t apply here.

Look closer at Patel’s blog. In only nine sentences, he’s managed to include seven separate paragraphs.

Had he chosen to combine all of the sentences into one paragraph, it would look too overwhelming.

Before reading a chapter of a book, I always check how long it is. I’m more inclined to read two chapters that are ten pages each as opposed to one twenty page chapter. In my brain, the small break awarded to me after I finish the first chapter makes me want to keep reading.

Line breaks visually show readers that they can handle the material. They gently coax them in as they whisper, “We can do this. It’s not too dense.”

Most online content is screened rather than thoroughly read, so shorter paragraphs also allow you, the writer, to emphasize what is important.

The best way to accomplish this is by including short, one sentence or even one word paragraphs. They also break up more detailed content to directly speak to the audience.

Do you need more reasons to include short paragraphs?

Good, because the list keeps going.

Why short paragraphs? Well, they…

  • Create a dramatic effect
  • Highlight a specific idea or statistic
  • Directly address the reader’s emotions
  • Can be an effective call to action
  • Catch the reader’s attention

Short paragraphs shouldn’t be thrown in purely for drama. You must carefully consider your language and the benefit to your piece as a whole.

Also, you do not always have to switch back from long to short paragraphs. That will just create an awkward and noticeable pattern in your writing. Short paragraphs can be added in sporadically or even follow a more gradual decline in words.

The Final Test

Are you ready to take the exam?

If this was indeed the end to the brief course in AP Online Content, what would your grade be?

The good news is that there is no final exam, learning to write is a continuous process.

Although scoring a 5 on your AP English exam didn’t exactly prepare you for the world of online content, don’t let it hinder you either.

Instead of unlearning what you were taught, try to learn more.

At their core, these extensive English courses are building blocks for everyone to become strong, honest writers. The approach to writing as a process and emphasis to write on demand, are solid preparation for the tight deadlines required by many clients.

Although I hope you never encounter a client that uses a stopwatch.

There is no need to curse your teachers for the lessons they taught and for those they left out. What is vital to understand is that writing online content and writing an AP English essay are not the same thing.

Writing a blog with the same scientific approach as a student does for AP English will not score too hot with audiences.

But that’s the thing, it’s not about the grade anymore.

Online content puts you in both the student’s and the teacher’s chair.

Expand Your Knowledge in Online Content

As an online content novice, it can be hella difficult to navigate your way through this world alone.

Beyond structure, style and formatting, you’ll soon encounter lingo like SEO, algorithm, responsive, tags, meta and well, you get the picture.

So – don’t go it alone.

If you like to read, here’s a few books I recommend to assist your knowledge of why and how online content fits into today’s world. Disclosure. I wrote two. But they’re really good, and lots of others think so, too.

Need structured, 1:1 help? Trying to comprehend the extensive ins and outs of content marketing can feel like diving in the deep end before learning how to swim. That’s a big reason behind why I created a course last year – to answer those massive questions in profitable content strategy.

And, of course, we also have to ask… Need some backup with writing your own online business content?

Don’t worry, we won’t let you drown. Our writers weren’t born with the ability to produce perfect online content. Writing is a skill that takes constant research, devotion and above all, practice. After completing more than 11,000 projects to date, we know all about that. Check out a few of our expert team writers here. And if you need some help, talk to us about how to get started. 

julias masterclass cta

marketing content writer

Your Essential Guide to Finding an Awesome Marketing Content Writer

Did you know?

In today’s content marketing, 47% of all content creation is outsourced.

Content creation CMI

This number has increased, year after year, but it’s never been as high as this year.

It’s common now to have 99% of your brand content completely written by someone else. After all, we have to run our businesses, right? (Write?)

Now that we’ve cleared up that you share a commonality with every other marketer, outsourcing to a marketing content writer, let’s talk about how to find that writer.

THAT’S the big question.

No matter what you’re selling, the most important thing is how you get your message across.

Read on to learn more about why & how to hire your next best business rockstar: a great marketing content writer.

finding a marketing content writer

Why Hire a Marketing Content Writer?

Real talk for a second.

Today, in our online world, you can’t just write your message in any old way.

For example:

“Come and get it! This is what you want! We have what you need!”

Ugh. That doesn’t work anymore.

If the copy isn’t well-written, none of the phrases you send your customers tell them anything about the product you’re selling.

Come and get what?

I bet if your potential customers were to keep reading, the content wouldn’t wow them with any real explanation.

That is where a marketing content writer steps in.

The goal of content writing should always be to promote interest in a brand or specific products.

The best type of content marketing does not lay all the cards out on the table.

These covert creative writers integrate SEO techniques while also producing high quality content that can organically stay on message. The content has the perfect mix of education, entertainment and product placement.

You might dabble in writing yourself, but this is an entirely different ball game.

Think of all of the written content that you incorporate into your business: blog posts, newsletters, social media posts, ad copy, email campaigns, holiday cards. If you’re running your own business, it’s nearly impossible to take care of everything alone.

If you haven’t already considered content marketing, you’re in the minority.

As of 2018, 91% of B2B organizations utilize content marketing strategies.

Content-Marketing-Usage

Writing is no walk in the park, especially when it coincides with marketing.

Marketing content writers have to think about even more than producing well written content. One major component of this type of online marketing is optimizing content for search engines. Writers have to integrate keywords, links, meta descriptions and headers into their content seamlessly. This requires an incredible amount of research and skill. Writers also have to edit, proofread, publish and distribute the content so that it reaches the widest audience. This all has to be done while keeping the content easy to read, relatable and engaging.

Is this something you have time for?

I’m guessing your answer is a swift no. In short, the best decision for every business is to hire an expert marketing content writer.

5 Steps To Help You Find a Quality Marketing Content Writer

If you’ve ever searched the depths of Craigslist, Facebook or LinkedIn, you can easily see that writers are plentiful. The problem is that not all of these writers may be perfect for your business. In fact, not all of these writers may even be able to write.

Anyone can call themselves a writer – the trick is finding one that can actually write.

finding a writer cartoon

Also, for you as the client, hiring a content writer is a process. You need to have a strategy and expectations before you start. For example, you should know the answers to:

  • How do you want to position and sell your brand online?
  • What type of content do you need in order to match your content marketing goals?

These are questions you need to ask yourself before hiring anyone.

Beyond the specifics of marketing your brand, you also have to figure out what type of person you want to work with. Do you need someone to be constantly on call or can they work on their own schedule? Are they able to meet deadlines? If you’re hiring a writer to work remotely, you’ll need someone who can effectively communicate.

Remember that marketing content writers are more than just writers.

Yes, writing is their main job but they are also strategists. They need to be familiar with SEO and marketing just as much as they need to write high quality content.

Take time with the hiring process. Utilize these tips to help you find the perfect writer.

1. Set Clear Expectations

The right writer will be able to help you create a strategy for your content, but you also need to consider this on your own. Do you want someone who can edit themselves? How many blog posts do you need? Are you looking for more than web content? Setting expectations ahead of time will give applicants a sense of the workload and help you organize your tasks.

2. Include Requirements in Your Job Posting

Have you ever read a job posting that asks you to include your favorite band in your email response? These potential employers aren’t just messing around. By asking a random question or including specific instructions, they are ensuring that applicants pay attention and read thoroughly. When hiring a writer, you always want to ask for at least three writing samples, a resume and a link to their portfolio or published work. You can take it to the next level by requiring a specific email subject line or another detailed instruction at the end of the post.

3. Test Your Applicants

You can choose to include a paid or unpaid test to ensure you can work with potential applicants. One effective test strategy is asking for a new example of a blog post that incorporates a specific keyword. You can also make this relatable to your company. Many content writing jobs ask for this, like this one from Texas Monthly posted on Craigslist:

Craigslist-Post

We have a very specific writer testing process at Express Writers that includes a proctored test (timed test that we set up with multiple questions on copywriting, SEO and content marketing), and a written sample with guidelines and specifics. 90% of candidates that come to us do not pass this testing process.

4. Be Specific with Hiring Expectations

Most writers are hired on a 1099 contract basis. They may have their own rates but you should have a budget in mind too. Will they be able to include a byline? Do you have a specific word count? These are all things to consider before you talk in depth with applicants.

5. Hire a Writing Agency

Searching for a writer on your own can feel overwhelming. A few scrolls through Craigslist and LinkedIn can quickly send you through a black hole online.

Even with samples, how can you ensure a writer’s content will be on point with your business? Can they guarantee no spelling errors?

Writing quality is at the top of our priority list. Only 2% of writers pass our applicant tests. They are verified from the start, and continuously trained on SEO and best marketing practices. Read more about our process.

express writers process

A final draft from the writer still jumps one more hurdle before being sent to a client. Our content quality specialists check every project to ensure it meets both the client and our standards.

Full transparency of our pricing and quality levels, as listed here, ensures everyone is on the same page.

4 Tips for Hiring Content Writers

With all of this research you may start to realize one thing: writing isn’t easy. It’s important to consider the quality of content you are paying for as opposed to only quantity. Don’t get bogged down by strict SEO guidelines when you’re trying to find the voice of your brand. Expert content writers can effortlessly fuse marketing techniques while producing high quality content.

1. Don’t Get Hung Up on the Rates

Consider why one writer charges $10 per post and the other charges $50.

Don’t look for a bargain when it comes to your content. Top notch writing will be more expensive, but it’s well worth the value. Not every business requires the same type of copy.

We’ve broken our pricing down to three quality levels: General, Expert and Industry.

express writers pricing

Each level ranges in research, SEO integration and voice to fit every niche.

2. Quality First

Don’t have it in your mind that you need 5 blog posts a week no matter what. Quantity is worth sacrificing in favor of quality content. When hiring a writer, you’ll quickly be able to tell whether they are writing for a real audience or only for the web.

3. Remember Your Readers

Yes, you will be reading this content but you’re not trying to sell to yourself.

Think about your audience. What are topics that they want to learn about? How can you help them get the most out of your products as opposed to just selling them more? The best content writers will turn your one time customers into loyal followers.

4. Don’t Forget About the Marketing Side

The whole point of integrating more content into your site is to further market your brand. There is a delicate balance when optimizing content for online. Don’t overburden yourself with keywords and SEO strategies. Find a writer that will seamlessly work those things into their content without you evening noticing.

Summarizing The Top Traits of Superstar Content Writers

Now that you’re equipped with all of the strategies on how to find the best content writer for your business, be prepared to be flooded with applicants. The narrowing down process is a tolling and time consuming task.

Lucky for you, not all writers are the same.

There are a select few skills that every great content writer possesses that sets them apart from the rest. Once you can identify these, you’ll be on your way to hiring the perfect candidate. Here’s a shortlist.

Top Writing Traits to Look For

  • Comfortable adapting to different subject matter and audiences
  • Ability to thoroughly research and use reliable online sources
  • Clear understanding of SEO
  • Pro at managing their time
  • Strong editor and proofreader
  • Unique voice that shines through
  • Clean formatting skills
  • Expert at using language to communicate

All of these traits distinguish superstar content marketing writers from their counterparts.

The ability to adapt means that even if you are running a fitness business, the writer that you hire will be able to think outside of the treadmill. They can write about a winter squash recipe while still sparking the interest of dedicated gym rats.

Thorough research goes in line with adaptability. An expert writer doesn’t mean that they are knowledgeable about every subject. Their expertise refers to their understanding of deciphering credible online resources.

Knowledge of SEO is just one aspect. The best content writers will also keep up with the trends to ensure their content ranking is continuously high.

It’s likely that the content writer you hire, especially if they are outsourced, will be juggling a few different projects at once. Professional content marketers set deadlines for themselves even when none are required so that they are always on task.

A great writer is also a great editor. Even spellcheck doesn’t catch everything. The best content writers continuously proofread their work. They also can edit themselves when it serves the quality of the content.

Some content writing is like following a basic formula. However, writers that go beyond the formula do so by distinguishing their unique voice throughout their work. A writer’s tone can bring life to otherwise monotonous subject matter while still sticking to the point.

In a matter of seconds, your audience will decide whether or not to keep reading. Sometimes this has nothing to do with the content at all.

Clean formatting plays a large role in keeping readers engaged.

Exceptional content writers will structure their articles so that it is pleasing to the eyes as well as the mind. This means including bulleted lists, numbers, bold titles and breaking up large blocks of text.

Above all, content writers are trying to reach people through their words. The best writers have a command over the written language. They don’t try to fluff their content with confusing language or stray away from the focus of the article. Instead, they speak to people as if they were right beside them, and show instead of tell.

Are you Ready to Hire an Expert Marketing Content Writer?

All of this information may make it seem like hiring a marketing content writer is overly complicated. The truth is that it is definitely not. Finding the perfect writer or team or writers to take over your content online is crucial to running a successful business. Investing in content will help you reach a wider audience and keep them coming back.

Outsourcing is a great option when hiring marketing content writers. You have a better shot at finding a freelance quality writer rather than training an in-house team to handle all of the responsibilities. Using a professional content service will ensure high quality content that is specifically designed to reach your target audience. Outsourcing also gives your team the opportunity to focus on their areas of expertise.

Producing high quality content is our bread and butter.

Over the years, we’ve curated an expert team of writers with a passion for content writing and a deep knowledge of industry tools.

Our team of marketing content specialists will set your business apart from the rest by creating engaging copy for any of your marketing needs.

See your online presence grow and invest in a truly valuable content marketing strategy with the right writer. Talk to us today.

CTA ew content strategy

freelance copywriter

How to Start Your Career as a Freelance Copywriter

Around 2007, Don Draper and Mad Men catapulted copywriting to the top of nearly everyone’s “possible career” list, even if they already had a career.

Now back then, I was just a 16-year-old homeschooled, bespectacled creative nerd, going through an early semester of college and writing fiction books. (Yes, that was really me at 16.)

But if I was starting my career and knew about the show, I’d probably have bought a typewriter and researched positions listed by ad agencies.

The truth is that the lifestyle of a copywriter isn’t nearly as fanciful as the characters on Mad Men.

That doesn’t mean, however, that this career path isn’t full of creative freedom, flexibility and the occasional Old Fashioned.

So, what does it mean?

That brings us to today’s topic.

Let’s dive in and talk about how to start your career as a freelance copywriter.

become a freelance copywriter

What is a Freelance Copywriter?

Whenever I used to mention to my family that I was earning work as a “freelance writer,” back in 2011, I had to remind them what the word “freelance” means.

For some reason they’d get too distracted by the “free” part and assume it meant making no money.

Working freelance means working on a contract or project basis. As a freelancer, you choose clients you want to work with, set your own rates, create a schedule and hold yourself accountable.

Freelancing is one of the most on-demand types of work. As a copywriter, accepting jobs from various clients allows you to diversify your portfolio.

“Copy” is just another term to describe words. To take it one step further, copy is the written content used to market a specific brand or product. Copywriters create content for promotional and commercial use. Copy can be used for advertising, websites, billboards, email campaigns, newsletters, you name it.

As a freelance copywriter, you may find yourself creating catchy taglines for magazine advertisements or composing a unique blog article optimized for the web. You’re a covert salesperson, and the main tool you’re working with is your words.

How to Get Started as a Copywriter

Luckily, freelance copywriters do not have to invest too much in equipment. Mainly all you need is a computer, internet access and Microsoft Word.

You may think you have a knack for catchy taglines but “Got Milk?” wasn’t built in a day.

Just like any other job, you have to gain experience in order to become better. The main difference for freelancers is that you have to seek out these opportunities. With the surplus of blogs, magazines and pretty much anything on the internet, inspiration is easy to find.

Read!

One of the best things you can do to become a better writer is to become a better reader. Find blogs, websites and magazines that you love and subscribe to them. Find out what makes them so compelling to you and try writing this way.

Get Organized

As a freelancer, you will have to make your own schedule. I know, this is awesome, but it can also be overwhelming without any strategy. There are a few ways to go about this depending on your work style. You can go classic day planner route or try a free organization app. It’s good to become familiar with these programs now, because it’s likely that one of your clients will use them to organize their writing assignments.

A great tool freelancers is Asana – this can help you organize tasks, set deadlines and attach files.

Get Experience

I advise to not take on a paid project without developing a writing portfolio. Most jobs you apply for will require you to send writing samples. They also want to see that you have published work online or in print. If you’re just starting out, you can build your portfolio by starting your own blog, taking unpaid gigs for friends and family and contributing to websites.

Research

At its core, copywriting requires you to be a skilled writer.

However, there are many other trends to keep up with depending on the type of jobs you take. If you run a company’s blog for instance, you need to know how to optimize your article for search engines. Sometimes it’s not enough to create captivating social media posts. Platforms are constantly changing their algorithms which affect how much your post will be seen.

Explore online tutorials, videos and training materials to help you along the way, like my fully-immersive industry content marketing course.

What Type of Copywriting is For You?

As a beginner, it’s good to try everything. However, as you gain experience you’ll find topics that you prefer to write about and copy that you prefer to write. Each type has its own style and purpose.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

Includes: Website content, blogs

Focus: In addition to creating high quality content, SEO copywriting also needs to enhance the webpage’s visibility. There are a ton of different techniques to make a page rank higher, but the best SEO copywriters can integrate keywords, links and calls to action without affecting the readability.

Technical

Includes: Articles (web and print)

Focus: Technical copywriting requires that you have an area of expertise. These articles will be less about creating a fun story and more about sharing specific knowledge and research with your readers.

Creative

Includes: catchy phrases for advertisements, blogs, branding

Focus: Remember the Kit Kat jingle? Of course you do, because it was written to stick in your mind. Creative copywriters try to tell a story with their words, which makes them prefect for developing a company’s image and brand.

Marketing

Includes: billboards, advertisements, emails

Focus: It helps to have a background in marketing for this type of copywriting. The advertisements, email campaigns and even billboards you’ll be creating need to influence the public by speaking to their needs, while not sounding too sales-like.

Content

Includes: how-to guides, blogs, newsletters, social media, scripts, billboards

Focus: As a content writer, it’s good to know what topics you’re passionate about. Content copywriters develop blogs and newsletters dedicated to providing more information about a certain subject or product. Your writing is meant to turn one-time customers into dedicated followers because you provide them with useful information.

It is not required to pick a specific niche as a freelance copywriter. You do not want to limit yourself at first. Naturally, you will find that you enjoy writing in different styles and for different purposes. As this starts to happen, you can focus in on one area to take your skills to the next level.

Remember, Copywriting is Your Job

Even if your office has now turned into your favorite coffee shop, it’s helpful to remind yourself that this is still your job.

Freelance copywriters make a good living, but it requires a lot more hustle than working a typical job. It’s good to be aware that work will not always be consistent. You have to continually seek out new projects. If you want to be taken seriously as a freelance copywriter, you have to be serious about it too.

Just like you’ll be promoting other products, learn to promote yourself as well. It’s a good idea to create a website, LinkedIn page and social media accounts that promote your new position. These are the perfect first places to post your work, network with other copywriters and seek out new clients.

Set standards for your work.

Unlike many other jobs, you can set your own fees, which may be difficult depending on the type of client you’re working with. This is one of the most confusing parts about freelancing. Everyone goes about setting their rates in different ways. You may find some copywriters charge per word while others have a set fee.

When setting your rates, factor in your experience level, type of research you’ll be doing, time, value of the material, revisions and deadline you’re given. It’s easiest to charge a flat fee for specific types of writing. For example, you can charge $30 for a 500 word blog post, which includes the time you spend researching. On average, this should take around an hour. With more experience, you will naturally become faster at the process and your prices will increase as your writing develops.

Different types of copywriting require different rates. Remember, this is how you’re making your living. Even though you are not a full-time employee, you are providing clients with material that is integral to their business.

Time to Get Started in Freelance Copywriting?

Honestly, the best way to start a new venture is to jump right into it.

The more your write, the better of a writer you become.

You may find yourself developing a jingle for water bottles or writing blogs about the latest trends in at-home exercise. Early on, you’ll be able to find jobs through LinkedIn, Facebook, Craigslist and Indeed. You will learn both the type of writing you’re passionate about, and also the type of client you want to work with. Writing trends are constantly in flux, but one skill will never go out of style is the ability to write well.

Need help? I teach a content marketing course for freelancers. Come join me and grab your seat in class for only $99/month.

content writing

8 Keys to Content Writing Success (for Freelance Writers & Marketers Hiring Writers)

These days, content is apparently king.

But writing content that rules over your competition is not that simple.

According to Time, the average reader spends only 8 seconds reading a piece of content. 

(That’s probably gone down some, considering that statistic is a few years old.)

So it goes without saying: creating engaging, valuable content that helps your target audience is vital.

These days, in order for businesses to increase traffic and revenue, it’s essential to invest in content marketing — and therefore, expert content writing.

According to CMI, higher quality content creation accounts for 78% of content marketers’ increased success in the industry, over the past 12 months (CMI’s 2018 Benchmark).

cmi 2018 benchmark content

What’s more, 47% of marketers today are outsourcing their content.

cmi 2018 benchmark

So, we’ve established how much content creation matters today — and how nearly half of all content created is outsourced!

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re one of three individuals:

  1. A writer who has heard of content writing as being one of the most profitable forms of writing.
  2. A content writer looking to brush up on your skills to get yourself ahead of the game.
  3. A marketer or business owner who is looking to step up your marketing strategy by hiring a content writer.

No matter what drew you to this article, you will walk away with a clear understanding of a major factor in online business success:

Successful content writing.

Let’s get into the good stuff!

content writers guide

What is Content Writing – Rather, What’s Good Content Writing?

Written content comes in a number of mediums: blogs, social media posts, web pages, articles, white papers, video and audio recordings.

It is information on a specific topic focused on a targeted audience.

The key here is audience.

If written content fails to attract its target audience, there’s not much point to the content to begin with.

A lack of audience engagement in your content results in a low ROI.

So then, what makes attractive written content?

Think about the best movie you’ve seen recently.

Got it?

Why do you like it? Was it the special effects or music score? Maybe it had a great storyline or focused on a topic of interest.

Chances are, the best film you can think of was a combination of these aspects in order to make it memorable.

So what’s my point?

Good content writing is similar in the way that it combines several key aspects in order to engage readers and perform well in search engines.

Impressionable writing requires creativity, SEO tactics, consistency and purpose.

We’ll soon delve into ways on how to achieve this.

But first, let’s cut to the chase:

Why is Good Content Important?

Quality online content drives marketing in almost every respect.

If your content is also optimized for search engines and draws organic traffic, you’ve hit the jackpot.

Leading businesses know the value in this and are looking for the talent to create it. The internet is a crowded place and it’s only becoming harder to stand out.

State of Inbound

While good content brings in audiences, great content generates higher conversion rates.

This is THE trick in driving revenue.

Lucky for you, we’re going to reveal that trick.

We’ve laid out easy-to-follow guidelines which focus on:

  • What content writers should strive for
  • What employers should look for

8 Keys to Successful Content Writing

Successful content writers have it all.

Aside from being wordsmiths, they are SEO specialists, social media gurus and expert marketers.

They create the online content, which drives traffic, charms Google and turns skimmers into subscribers.

Although this description seems loaded, it’s easier to grasp when broken down.

So, what are we waiting for?

Successful content writing in 2018 is:

Amy Pohler giphy (4)

Amy Poehler!

Just joking.

1. Audience-Focused

Reel in your audience and you’ll reap the rewards.

This is because Google’s main focus is keeping searchers happy.

So, if you’re catering to audiences, Google will cater to you.

By creating relevant and helpful content that puts your audience first, you will enjoy more success. It’s a healthy cyber relationship.

To know how to help your audience, you need to understand their pain points.

Research your competition and take note of what they’re providing.

A competitive content audit can help you focus on WHO your competition is and HOW they’re positioning themselves in front of your shared audience.

When you know your audience, you can answer their burning questions in a voice that speaks to them.

Remember: healthy cyber relationships rely on communication to survive.

2. Dynamic

The best online content writers can master a wide-range of writing styles.

Why’s that?

Content writing projects come in all shapes and sizes.

New Media Services sums it up well.

quality content summary

Some examples of online content forms and their individual styles are:

  • News: Short and concise paragraphs, including the summary of the story near the top of the content piece.
  • Blogging: Friendly, inviting and opinionated. See any of the posts on the Write Blog for examples.
  • White papers: Long-form while providing a solution to a problem.
  • Case studies: In-depth information providing valuable knowledge based on research of a certain scenario.
  • Ad copy: Concise and convincing with the goal of increasing conversion rate. Scroll Facebook on any given day and you’re bound to see ads in the right panel. Here’s an example of an ad from a consultant that makes millions using ads.
  • Ebook: A powerful marketing tool, which can be offered free to boost email subscribers or sold as a product. Here’s an example.

A successful writer is experienced in these fields.

Through this expertise, they can help businesses achieve specific goals with quality content.

3. Expertly Written

Know your topic like the back of your hand.

Once you’ve formulated an idea for your content, be sure to follow through with it.

How exactly should you follow through?

You’ve guessed it:

In-depth research.

Your readers are coming to you for reliable information. If you’re wishy-washy about the subject, your readers will pick up on it and immediately move on.

The way to exude true confidence is through knowledge.

The way to obtain this knowledge is through deep research.

If you dig deep into your topic and deliver the details with a knowledgeable and conversational voice, your content will ultimately become more helpful.

This expert help is what Google values.

More importantly, it is what audiences are searching for.

Successful content writers offer expert problem-solving with every piece they write.

4. Readable – Super Readable.

Readability comes in a number of guises.

However, the trick that hooks most readers is flow.

Let me explain:

Nowadays, readers scan.

As scary as it is, the average attention span of humans is dropping.

Based on data from Microsoft Corp. study

So, to catch their attention, you need to write…

The.

Way.

People.

Read.

Audiences want to easily get material, and walk away having learned something.

Bam. There you have it.

So how do we do that?

Here’s how you can create more readable content:

  • Be engaging – This means cut the fluff. Create content that is clear and concise. Audiences want the most amount of information in the easiest and most digestible way possible.
  • Use the active voice – The active voice is much more powerful and engaging.
  • Proofread – By taking the time to scan through your writing before posting, you can make sure the content is easy to read. This DIRECTLY impacts your ability to engage audiences and keep them reading.
  • Use clear structure – By formatting your content into short paragraphs while using bullet points, numbered lists, and multiple subtitles, you encourage readers to read the article in full. Studies show the success of using formatting patterns that mimic the way audiences read.

Not only will your audience prefer easy-to-read content, Google will too.

If your content sounds ‘strange,’ when read aloud, it can affect your page ranking with Google now.

Since the Google Hummingbird update, the need for readable content has never been more important.

5. Creative

One word is key here: ideation.

According to Cambridge Dictionary, ideation is, “the action of forming ideas in the mind.”

Content writers must continually formulate ideas for either full stories or angles on a specific topic.

Sound familiar?

A content writer’s ability to consistently create many different concepts, ideas and angles that appeal to a specific audience is key to successful online content marketing.

Let’s go back to the statistic

cmi 2018 benchmark content

Where most people go wrong is right here, at the ideation stage.

Sujan Patel believes more time spent in the ideation stage will save writers wasting their time in creation.

sujan patel

Read The Secrets of Content Ideation: Why 4 Out of 5 Articles Fail

The link between ideation and creativity starts with your title.

By finding the right blend of creative writing and keyword use in your titles, you can entice searchers to visit your page.

This can boost click through rates (CTR) which in turn helps you increase page ranking.

6. Consistent

Being consistent is what keeps successful content writers alive on the web.

This consistency can be implemented in a number of ways:

  • Voice – Your voice defines you and your brand. Keeping this consistent is crucial for successful content writing.
    After researching your audience and topic, you’ll be able to develop the right voice. Your audience will get to know you through your tone and approach. This is comforting and professional, so stick with it!
  • Posts – By consistently posting quality content, the chances of you attracting a steady readership increases.
    A popular online marketing tool for businesses to build brand awareness is through the use of blogs. Blogs feed consistent content to the web, which helps readers find your site and learn more about you and what you offer. Furthermore, blogs also support your brand and creates authenticity. In fact, last year, 65% of marketers planned to increase their use of blogging.
  • Focus – Whatever you do, don’t waver when it comes to your content’s focus. With so much competition, it is crucial that you keep your content focused. Picking a small niche and writing about topics under the same umbrella often leads to greater success. Don’t hop around aimlessly, or you’ll risk losing the loyal audience you’ve created.
  • For example, let’s say you follow an amazing food blogger who you get almost all your dinner ideas from. She comes up with healthy and quick meals that fit perfectly with your lifestyle. One day, you visit her site expecting a daily recipe, but instead, find a post on color-coordinating your wardrobe. The horror! Chances are you’d be turned off by it and would quickly search for a substitute food blogger. Audiences expect you to provide what they need — consistently.

7. SEO, CSS and HTML Smart

A successful content writer is a Jack of all trades…and a master of many.

Although they don’t need to be experts at all of these skills, a basic level of knowledge does come in handy.

Being able to quickly adjust a site’s HTML format in times of need will save you the HUGE hassle of postponing everything to track down a web developer. These skills will also help you improve the aesthetics of your content.

In terms of audience engagement:

While content writing leads, attractive visuals please.

Via: ContentSEO

What is of greater importance, however, is this:

SEO.

Successful content writing isn’t possible without good SEO knowledge.

Point blank.

In this day and age, if you’re not comfortable with SEO basics, you may as well get comfortable with page 3 or 4 of Google.

Ouch.

8. Social Media-Friendly

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

When audiences aren’t searching through Google, almost all eyes are on these platforms.

Via: Hootsuite

The ability to capture attention on social media is one of the most powerful tools in digital marketing.

Once quality content is marketed effectively on social media, it has the ability to ‘go viral.’ This significantly boosts SERPs and your ROI.

It can generate a wider readership, which boosts site traffic and can lead to higher conversions.

In short, a solid social media strategy can pave the way for your content to make huge profits.

Social media platforms are also a magical tool in helping you personally connect with your audience.

This connection can develop a sense of community. As this grows, so does your number of subscribers and ability to answer your audience’s specific questions, directly.

What Are the Main Takeaways From This Guide?

Competition online is heavy.

The key to win over readers is to know what you’re writing, who you’re writing for and how to help them.

Furthermore, you must write in a way that pleases the Google gods.

As content writing continues to dominate the business of online marketing, the demand for expert copywriters with content marketing skills will increase.

In the end, your overarching goal should be clear:

Create quality content.

By producing high-quality content that provides value for your readers, solves their problems and gives them new insights, you will work your way to the top.

Now you have the keys, what’s stopping you from opening the doors to success?

Need Help?

Freelancers: To graduate to the next level of content writing success, check out my training: The Content Strategy & Marketing Course.

Clients: For a content writing team you can count on, learn more about our story here and try us out today.

how to beat writer's block

Copywriting Fixes: How to Beat Writer’s Block and Churn Out Decent Copy

This blog is guest authored by a full-time writer at Express Writers, Alyssa.

As a copywriter, I wheel and deal with words.

Every word I write is worth something: money in the bank, bills paid on time, food in my fridge.

Needless to say, when your words are your currency, you have to be able to produce.

Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. There are all kinds of scenarios that threaten my writing.

Sometimes my dog sits at the foot of my chair and stares up at me for minutes at a time. Her eyes get big and sad.

Eventually, she sits up on her hind legs and reaches out one little paw, giving me a gentle pat on the leg. “Hey, remember me?” she seems to say. “I depend on you for survival.”

cutedog

At this point, I can only sigh deeply and try to understand what she wants. Usually, this is her not-so-subtle way of asking for a bathroom break.

My dog is the least of my worries, though. There are other barriers to writing.

The worst of them seems beyond my control.

Writer’s block.

This anxiety-inducing state is not only dreaded, but unavoidable.

Seconds, then minutes, tick by as I sit motionless, staring at a blank page and a blinking cursor. These two portents of doom taunt me.

This is the point where I have to act, or I’ll never get out alive.

So, what’s a copywriter to do in the face of this self-created melodrama? If you’re still with me, I’ll show you my strategy.

how to beat writer's block

A Copywriter’s Guide to Winning Against Writer’s Block

Writer’s block can be a copywriter’s nemesis. It doesn’t want you to write a word, and it certainly doesn’t want you to get in a groove.

Here’s how to fight back.

1. Focus – No, for Real

I know if I have writer’s block, my mind is elsewhere. If it’s the same for you, I suggest sitting back and discovering where your mind has gone (or when).

Then, yank on it and rein it in.

Put your phone away. No, don’t put it in your pocket or set it within arm’s reach. Get up, go into the next room, and literally hide it from yourself. You’ll thank me when you don’t have notifications pinging at you every 20 seconds.

Next, close every extraneous browser window/tab you have open. Just say no unless it’s essential to your process. For instance, I like to leave a tab open for an online thesaurus. It’s useful for cases of overused adjectives (“great,” “beautiful,” and “excellent” are common culprits).

Once you have eliminated distractions, center yourself. Meditate on the topic you’re writing about. If your mind wanders off again, pull it back, and be firm with yourself.

2. Do You Need Mood Music?

Once your distractions are gone, you may feel antsy. Sometimes, the silence amplifies writer’s block. It becomes a solid, menacing entity versus a metaphor for brain fog.

In these cases, I recommend background music.

Example (purchased from MelodyLoops):

This infographic from WebpageFX gives you an idea why:

music-and-productivity-1

I’m talking about the kind of music that gets your brain quietly but steadily moving, like a running brook. You don’t want waterfalls – unless you prefer that mind environment. If that’s you, by all means.

For me, a quiet, steady, musical movement equals production in an equal measure. Like the music, the words drop at a constant beat and keep coming. It’s not just like a brook, it’s like a faucet turned on to a continual drip.

I require instrumental music. Not angry, dramatic symphonies or complicated melodies, but simple arrangements. A piano, a violin. Clear notes at a moderate pace.

For you, this might be totally wrong. I recommend searching your favorite music app until you land on something that sets your perfect writing mood.

If this sounds incredibly fussy, believe me, I know. However, if your currency is words, you’ll understand.

Struggling to beat writer's block? Check out these tips from @ExpWriters to start writing great copy again!Click To Tweet

3. Light the Wick

Here’s another scenario: What if you don’t need music? What if you only need ideas?

Chances are, if you’re a copywriter, you had a topic handed to you. Whether you find it inspiring, the client needs 1,500 words expounding on it.

If you look at the topic and feel dead inside, you probably need a therapist. If you look at it and feel blah, you need to light the wick.

How?

Strike the match. Start by skimming everything you can find on the web about that subject. Read every article, blog, and website you can with the time you have. If applicable, look at pictures, too. Get inside the topic and swim around.

Reading is one the best ways, I find, to get inspired and find your footing. Once you have a better idea of where you are, you can discover an angle to explore.

If you can, make that angle as interesting to you as possible. Not only will it be more fun to write, that interest will bleed into your tone.

Let’s face it: We all know when a writer is bored to death. To combat that bored tone from boring your readers, get in there and find the interesting side.

Comic by Grant Snider

4. Resort to the Dying Arts

So, what if silence isn’t bothering you? What if distractions aren’t an issue? What if you have ideas, but the writer’s block is still there?

If you’re blank, you need my last-resort strategy. It requires three steps:

  1. Get out a notebook.
  2. Grab your favorite pen.
  3. Write – in cursive.

I’m not talking about the modern scrawl you use to sign checks and jot grocery lists. I’m talking about formal, cursive handwriting.

Yes, the type they don’t want to teach in schools anymore. The kind you practiced during painstaking sessions of loops and swirls in second grade. That one.

When all else fails, this causes my brain to light up in a new way. I start thinking differently than when I’m typing. Sometimes, I’ll even jot down a whole introduction to my article in cursive. Then I switch back to the keyboard to keep going.

It works like a charm. Try it out and see what happens.

The Number One Writer’s Block Tip? Just Do It

When all the tricks and cursive writing in the world don’t help, there’s one last-ditch cure left.

Just do it.

Nike trademarked this phrase for a reason. It’s motivating.

Sit down and do it. Don’t overthink it. Just write.

Image via QuoteHD

Meanwhile, writer’s block has retreated to a dark corner. It’s rubbing its hands together and whispering, “Until we meet again…”

You’re not worried, though.

You’ll be ready.

Is writer’s block plaguing your content efforts? Express Writers has a team of pro writers that consistently block crushers. Let us help.

cta great copy

copywriting how to get started

5 Questions Everyone Asks Before Jumping into Copywriting: How to Get Started (A Real-Life Guide)

A few months ago, I was asked by Express Writers to write about my own journey as a creative copywriter.

It was thrilling. I strive to be honest with others, so I have to say that after a regular schedule of writing content for clients who take my words and use it for their needs, it was exciting to have something with my name on it.

I shared it on Facebook without reserve. My husband shared it with the comment “my wife wrote this.” People liked it, and I was in writer’s heaven.

It’s what I’ve always wanted to do. As a kid, I kept journals and I received high grades on writing assignments. For the last several years, while working with a nonprofit, raising three kids, and going back to school, writing has been at the back of my mind.

I’ve always known I am a writer.

I just need to write. (Jeff Goins)

copywriting

Searching for Answers (On Google, Of Course)

If you type “how to get started in copywriting” into a Google search, you will see that there are almost 700,000 search results.

There is a lot of different advice out there, including tips like:

  • “You can become a well-paid freelance copywriter with NO experience!”
  • “Get a job in sales to help you prepare.”
  • “Become a freelance copywriter and earn a 6-figure income working from home.”

While I respect the journeys that others have taken in their writing and the advice they can share, not all of these statements have been true in my own experience with copywriting.

I never had a job in sales. I definitely don’t make a 6-figure income.

And while it is true that you can work your way up to “well paid,” it doesn’t come without at least some experience (and a full pot of coffee, but maybe that’s just me).

Every person who wants to get started in copywriting will be at a different place in life, have a different income requirement, and bring their own skills and experience to the industry.

I would not want anyone to fall for a scheme or believe that this job requires little work for big bucks.

Copywriting is not a get-rich-quick gig.

At the same time, previous experience and/or an education could push you to the higher end of the pay scale in a faster amount of time. Low-end freelance writers can make anywhere from $3,000 to $15,000 per year, while those who are more high-end can eventually earn 6 figures.

Moving from Writing Wannabe to Creative Copywriting: How to Get Started

When you are thinking about moving from a writing wannabe to a creative copywriter, you will no doubt have some questions. Whether you are a recent graduate looking to break into the industry, a stay-at-home parent who needs extra income, or you just love writing, there are legitimate opportunities that can work with your schedule and abilities.

Here are some common questions you might have:

1. Is online copywriting the same as general writing?

Copywriting and general writing are two very different types of content. As Search Engine Journal reminds us, the distinction lies in the purpose behind the writing. Copywriting is used for promotion and in marketing, to entertain and draw the audience in so they engage with the company or brand.

Content marketing is backed by an objective, a goal, that is supported by authoritative research in an effort to connect with the readers and sell the idea. It is professional yet warm, engaging yet relevant, and seeks to build trust while also maintaining a conversational tone.

Copywriting can be sarcastic, funny, creative, or focused. It’s used by big and small companies, entrepreneurs, medical professionals, business-to-business (B2B) markets, and just about anyone who needs to promote a brand or message.

2. Do I need to be a fantastic writer to get started in freelance copywriting?

First, writing needs to be, at the very least, something you enjoy. If content writing is something you are seeking out just to have some extra pocket cash, that’s okay, but there needs to be some passion behind it.

Your level of writing experience could be minimal, especially if you are working with a company like Express Writers. When I first signed on, I had written previously on a casual basis, but not as a job. Thankfully, our team of editors has been patient and willing to guide me in the right direction as far as meeting the clients’ needs, etc.

Over time, I have grown to really enjoy long-form blog writing (like this piece) and for those tasks I don’t like so much, I fake it. I research the particular industry and try to put myself in the place of a customer for that particular company. What would he or she be looking for?

This is true for blogs, web page content, and social media posts.

A copywriter will work to create high-quality content or improve the existing content to fit a specific need. So, you do need a basic understanding of proper grammar, proofreading, and sentence structure.

At the end of the day, clients are counting on you to deliver to them a product that they can use. And you will find that the longer you continue to write, the more you will grow and continue to improve.

3. What types of writing should I be familiar with? (Source – by our CEO, Julia McCoy!)

Depending on the position, a copywriter can receive a number of requests from clients with very different objectives.

For example, a startup that is looking to jumpstart their business with powerful social media posts may request your copywriting services at the same time as a restaurant professional wants a website makeover.

  • Web Content: This textual or visual content appears on websites of all varieties and may include images, video, and page descriptions. Web content should be original, useful, and relevant to the industry for which you are writing.

Here are some content writing examples and tools to reference.

  • Blogging: This type of writing is best done in long-form, beginning with a powerful introduction and including engaging sub-headers throughout. This is where research becomes important, as well as eye-catching visuals and relevant screenshots.

If you’ve never written blog posts before, take a look at this article.

  • Social Media: A basic knowledge of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest is a good place to start. Take some time to research what works and what is not as effective. Learn about the best times and days to post. It’s okay in this type of content to have teasers that will entice the reader to click through to the post.

Check out how to craft social media posts in no time flat.

  • Advertising/Sales Copy: Ad copy can take the form of a clickable advertisement that grabs the reader’s attention and leads them to a specific link. Ad and sales copy is a combination of search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing tactics for a variety of industries.

This article explains a bit more about how to write effective ad copy.

  • Industry Writing: When you write for a specific industry, there is often a bit of research that needs to be done first; this is especially true if you are not familiar with the topic. Industry writing is tailored for various businesses to share about a brand.

Here is a good post on how to write content for an industry you know nothing about.

  • Journalism: This type of copywriting involves gathering information, assessing sources, putting together the content, and presenting all of it in a written format. Journalism is a unique type of content creation, especially as our world has moved to delivering more news online.

Here are some journalism examples from a few years back.

  • Creative Writing: Creative writing can take many forms, including poetry, personal essays, speeches, fictions, and plays. This type of content varies but can be a fun and unique medium for expression in a specific niche.

Check out these examples of creative copywriting.

4. How is online writing formatted?

While every client has different requirements, there are some general guidelines to keep in mind when writing online content.

Titles and headlines need to be strong, and breaking up content with sub-headers helps to separate information so that it’s easy to skim. You can see from the graphic below that readers tend to prefer headlines with numbers and that are addressed to the audience.

headline chart

Graphic from Content Marketing Institute

The beginning of the content can be formed using the inverted pyramid approach, which presents the most important information first followed by secondary details. This encourages your audience to stick with you until the end.

Practice consistency in each section of content. Vary sentence style, including length and structure, and find a rhythm that fits your voice. This may take some practice, but with time you’ll find your style.

Relevant quotes and statistics have the potential to add authority and fresh voices to your written work, as long as they are used effectively and at the best time.

Sentences should be short, adding clarity to the content. Too wordy, and you’ll lose your audience. Graphs and screenshots can contribute greatly to audience engagement and interest if they are relevant and trustworthy.

5. Can I take inspiration from other online writers?

Absolutely! There are so many expert writers who consistently deliver quality content that is relevant and timely. Check out Neil Patel, Jeff Goins, and Seth Godin, just to name a few.

There will always be those who have gone before us who know more, who have more experience in copywriting, and who will offer us the best tools with which to work.

Follow these experts, read their content, and pay attention to the advice they give. They know what they’re talking about!

Here are some good blogs to follow, even though the writers may vary:

Also, check out this post on the best books to help you learn copywriting.

Connecting with a Content Writing Service

One important factor involved in the process of becoming a copywriter is choosing a company to work with that hires individuals for copywriting. How to get started?

A simple web search will result in many companies who hire copywriters, but you don’t know the people behind the screen. Do they pay fair? Are they realistic with deadlines, expectations, and treatment of their writing team?

When I started with Express Writers back in 2014, it was through a blog writer who had put together her own recommendations for work-from-home solutions. I read through reviews of the company and thought a lot about the decision before applying, and I am very fortunate to be working with this team.

Here are a few places to start when you want to find out more about companies that hire individuals for copywriting:

  • BloggerLocal has a list of top 10 blog writing services and article content writing services. The site provides valuable information about local businesses and helps to connect people with their local area.
  • Jeff Bullas put together sites that will pay for content pieces. His experience as a blogger and author has landed him featured pieces in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, and with Forbes.
  • B2C’s list of content writing services includes companies that aspiring writers can contact to see about hiring them. Business 2 Community features thought leadership, articles, and real-life experiences from thousands of contributors who know what they’re talking about.

Would I Be a Good Freelance Writer?

Freelance writing is a bit different. If this is the route you want to take, you will have more freedom to set your own schedule. While the flexibility may be convenient, it also means you won’t get paid for the days or weeks you choose to not work.

If you plan to go into freelance writing with zero experience and you aren’t well-known in the industry, this path may choose to be more challenging. However, if you have built up an audience and you have gained respect, the possibilities here can be endless.

Advice from a Fellow Freelance Writer

When it comes to breaking into the freelance industry, the rapid-fire market research approach may be the best one for you.

Just like you wouldn’t create a restaurant menu and then ask customers what they like eating, it might not make much sense to write a bunch of content that isn’t tailored to a prospective client.

When Danny over at Freelance to Win was looking to get into copywriting, he did research first and found out what paying clients were looking for, then tailored his writing samples around those particular needs.

He reminds us to not dive into a writing job that requires special knowledge about subjects we aren’t familiar with. It may be wiser to start slow so that you don’t get in over your head with work you aren’t able to complete.

By looking at the description of writing jobs first, you can get a picture of what the client needs and then move onto creating a portfolio.

Remember that his opinion is just one of the many you will hear in your journey.

Creating a Minimum Viable Portfolio

No one wants to put sweat into creating a portfolio that doesn’t mean anything, so instead, Danny the freelancer also suggests creating a simpler set of content samples for a client to have.

  1. The writing sample should be simple but not exactly what the client needs.
  2. The writing sample should be short and provide the client with a glimpse of your abilities.
  3. The writing sample should be completed in about a half hours’ time.

Other experts suggest keeping a portfolio of your best copywriting content, always adding to it and adapting as you gain more experience. This, too, can be tailored to the type of job you will want to pursue in the future.

Whether or not you choose to keep a portfolio of your work is a personal preference. Keeping a collection of your best work as you go along could end up being a valuable resource.

Never be afraid to be proud of what you’ve done. While your content may need to go through a refining fire (thank you, editors), it is your work and your efforts are something to be proud of.

To Hone Your Writing Skills, Remember: Practice, Practice, Practice

Experts will tell us that in order to be good at something, we have to practice.

Remember learning to ride a bike? Ever play an instrument? Memorize a long passage or give a speech from memory?

All of those skills take practice, and writing is no different.

It may not be that you keep a journal or blog on a regular basis, although these may help you. At the same time, when writing becomes a daily habit, you will find that you grow in your creativity, your ability to craft high-quality content, and the types of writing you are able to produce.

What Are You Waiting For?

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to copywriting. How you will get started depends on where you are in life during this season, your writing background and skills, and whether or not writing will be your primary income.

The most important step you can take is to just go for it. Use the tools I’ve given you today, read the writings of content experts, and begin to familiarize yourself with the basics of content writing.

Subscribe to our The Write Blog and be inspired by our team of writers; we come from all different backgrounds and levels of experience. And just like you, we were all once asking the same questions you are.

Everyone starts somewhere.

So – what are you waiting for?

You are a writer; you just need to write.

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great modern copywriting

7 Fundamental Pillars that Make Up Great Modern Copywriting

Modern copywriting: while it may be similar to the copywriting of years past, it’s a different animal entirely.

Today, copywriters must be Jacks and Jills of all trades – switching effortlessly between marketing prowess, fine-tuned technical know-how, poetic turns of phrase, and hard-driving SEO experience meant to produce results.

If this sounds like a tall order, it’s because it is!

Modern copywriting is hard, and few people understand what it takes to excel in the field.

Read on to learn more about the seven key pillars of modern copywriting, and how they set the art this craft apart from anything that’s ever existed before.

modern copywriter

How Do You Define Modern Copywriting?

That’s a great question, and it’s also a complex one. In many ways, modern copywriting is anything that’s being created right now. That’s not the extent of it, though. While modern copywriting is certainly content that’s being produced in the current era, it’s also a different type of content entirely.

Today’s copywriting is dedicated to so much more than just making sales. Instead, it’s about building relationships, defining brands, telling stories, creating laughs, playing on reader emotions, and learning how best to present a product, good, or service to interested consumers.

Thanks to all of these things, today’s copywriting is a drastically different pursuit than anything that’s existed in recent years, and it’s adapting every single day to become more functional and targeted for rising and developing brands.

The 7 Essential Pillars of Modern Copywriting

Just like any other industry out there, modern copywriting has a rulebook, and the people who excel in the industry know how to play by it. With that in mind, here are the seven foundational “laws” of modern copywriting, and how they all influence the industry for the better.

1. A focus on the customer

In the days of old, copywriting focused on the customer, but for all the wrong reasons. The copywriting of the past was all about making sales and convincing readers that they needed a product, good, or service, regardless of whether they did or not. Most of the time, this approach came off as pushy and sales-y because, hey, it was.

Today, though, copywriting takes a much different approach to relationships with customers. Instead of trying to shove something down peoples’ throats, the copywriting of today uses a complex series of emotional appeals, facts, statistics, and storylines to create a real, ongoing relationship with consumers.

Instead of thinking of customers purely from the standpoint of, “What can this person do for me?” Today’s copywriters look at customers as a unique group of individual people. To honor them as well as possible, copywriters attempt to create truly valuable content that addresses consumer issues and helps them solve problems, alleviate pain points, and build healthier, happier lives.

In this way, modern copywriting is more customer-centric than anything that came before it.

2. A dedication to quality and relevance

Before Google got as smart as it is today, and before consumers demanded quality, copywriters and marketers often settled for scrapped, spammy, and just plain bad online content. The attitude was, “As long as I’m putting something up on this web page or blog, it’s good enough!” Today, this no longer flies.

Modern copywriting is all about creating truly high-quality content that stands out. Spammy, black-hat techniques are no longer the norm and, today, it’s the best material that is the most likely to get noticed.

Contrary to the copywriting mindset of just a few years ago, when the creator who could put out the most content in the shortest period was the winner, today’s copywriters earn respect by crafting unique, original material that consumers (and search engines) love.

3. A focus on social media distribution

As I mentioned at the start of this post, today’s copywriters are evil masterminds who know how to use all of the things of the internet. Instead of being just writers, or just social media experts, the modern writer is both, and a whole lot more!

Today, copywriting that succeeds is copywriting that’s meant to be distributed on a wide selection of platforms. Because of this, the majority of modern content is designed for distribution on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

In addition to the fact that these social platforms often produce more engagement than a blog or website, they’re one of the most efficient ways for modern creators to connect with audiences in an effective and meaningful way.

4. A willingness to engage in storytelling

While storytelling has been around as a marketing strategy since the beginning, it’s become the focus on online marketing in recent years. Today, the pervasive notion is that copywriting is nothing without good storytelling and that any brand worth its snuff will understand how to craft a good tale for its audience.

From advertising to product launches, storytelling exists everywhere, and modern copywriting is credited with developing, perpetuating, and fine-tuning the practice.

5. A focus on additional types of content (video, audio, and visuals)

Modern copywriters know that, for a piece to be interesting, engaging, and compelling to increasingly discerning audiences, it needs to feature everything the audience wants and nothing it doesn’t. This is why so much content today features multi-modal assets, such as visuals, graphics, and video content.

By interspersing content with these unique formats, today’s copywriters succeed in creating an interesting and engaging body of work that truly benefits and fascinates consumers, rather than simply leaving them cold.

What’s more, adding visuals and videos into modern content is a wonderful way to ensure that a piece’s readers are getting the most out of the information offered.

6. Freedom to be as creative as possible

Anyone who has ever seen Dollar Shave Club’s launch video understands that creativity is here to stay in the world of modern content.

While the buttoned-up marketers of the 1950s would have cringed at such a bawdy, funny piece of content, today’s copywriters understand that creativity like this is one of the most effective ways to reach tough audiences.

By making a marketing message funny and unique, it’s possible to do virtually anything, and modern copywriters specialize in taking a brand’s message and making it creative. This, in turn, helps readers connect with the brand and makes it easier than ever before for brands that specialize in so-called “boring industries” (such as razor production) to stand out as marketing gurus.

7. A willingness to break the rules to make progress

Today, pushing the envelope is the only way to make true progress, and modern copywriting knows this. Today, copywriting has broken the metaphorical shackles it used to exist within to develop a creative, innovative, flexible mindset that allows it to adapt flawlessly to virtually any industry.

While this may seem like a luxury, it’s a necessity today.

The reason is simple: before the last several years, companies have never been so profoundly involved in online marketing as they are today. And this massive switch to the digital world has created a whole host of new challenges.

How does a brick-and-mortar tax compliance company, for example, create compelling content that makes people want to visit a local location? These are tough issues to solve, and modern copywriting has had to adapt and get creative to address them.

By breaking some of the long-held rules of the industry and being willing to make bold moves that push the boundaries of the industry, modern copywriting manages to extend incredible value to companies in all sectors. What’s more, it’s managed to make marketing something collaborative, engaging, and exciting, rather than icky and stale.

The Case for Modern Copywriting

While it’s obvious that the copywriting of today is different than the copywriting of yesteryear, few people understand how truly critical modern copywriting has been in overhauling the face of marketing as a whole.

While it goes without saying that today’s copywriting is more creative, unique, collaborative, and innovative than anything that’s existed in the past, it’s also true that all of those traits have given modern brands the freedom to express themselves more fully than ever before.

By creating a platform for expression, differentiation, collaboration, and branding, today’s version of copywriting has made shopping more exciting for consumers while also making the process of developing, launching, and marketing a brand much more enjoyable and inspiring for entrepreneurs.

So, how’s that for some positive changes? In a way, you could say that modern copywriting has sort of altered the world – for the better, of course!

Need modern copywriting services to help your brand shine? Contact Express Writers to hire our skilled copywriters today!

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how to create headlines

The Ultimate Guide: How to Create Headlines that Will Go Viral

We’ve all heard it: while 80% of people read headlines, only 20% read body copy.

What does that mean in practice, though?

In other words, how do you create headlines that entice that elusive 20% to keep reading? Or to share, comment, and convert?

The truth is that viral headlines are rare, and they take time, effort, and skill to master.

Fortunately, the content marketers who develop solid headline skills have a better chance of standing out from the crowd. Modern customers are attracted to quality and effort, and a great headline reflects both.

The good news is that headlines like these aren’t out of reach. Here’s your complete guide to creating them.

guide to creating headlines

What Makes a Headline Viral?

If you want to create viral headlines, you must first understand what, exactly, makes them go viral. What are the components they include, and what’s their foundational structure look like?

Here are a few critical elements of every good headline, as laid out by Steve Rayson in a BuzzSumo article:

  • Viral headlines have an emotional element
  • Viral headlines use content elements to their advantage
  • Viral content covers trending topics
  • Viral headlines follow a format
  • Viral headlines promise the reader something

Here’s Rayson’s table, to illustrate:

steve rayson table

According to him, most viral headlines employ not one, not two, but three or four of these elements. This combination allows them to perform in a unique way, and to grab your readers’ attention.

Which Headlines Get Shared?

The good things about learning to write viral headlines is that there’s a lot of information about which headlines get shared and which don’t, and this can help guide your efforts.

For example, in 2014, OkDork published a post that showcased the results of a survey that analyzed more than 1 million headlines. Here’s what they found:

The Most Popular Phrases in Viral Headlines

The OkDork survey found that the most popular words and phrases in headlines were:

creating headlines quote 1

As you can see, list posts top the charts time and time again. And this makes sense – they’re easy to skim, valuable for readers, and ideal for virtually all industries.

Beyond that, the survey also made it clear that people love personalization, and that content that addresses the reader personally (by using the words “you” and “your”) sat at the top of the list, as well.

Readers also loved any post that promised a better situation or hinted it would teach them to do something. As you can see, using the right words in your headline is essential, and can make all the difference in your readership.

Emotional Headlines

As the web has become more personalized and targeted, there’s been a push toward emotional headlines. These headlines take all forms. They can be shocking, infuriating, laugh-inducing, or curiosity-inspiring. Readers just want to feel something when they read your headline.

This requires the use of power words. Some power words, like freeeasy, and DIY are already included in the list above. There are many others besides these, though. Terms like approved, competitive, unsurpassed, and confidential all inspire strong emotional reactions in readers, and help drive shares for your content.

There’s science to back this up, too.

According to CoSchedule, posts with a higher emotional value earn more shares than posts with little emotional value.

CoSchedule Table

Headlines That Utilize Trigrams

A trigram is a three-word phrase used in a headline.

While the number 3 has significance throughout nature and mythology, it’s also a powerhouse in the world of writing and, specifically, headlines. The rule of three states that things that come in packs of three are funnier, more impactful, and more satisfying than things that don’t and this holds true for a viral title. BuzzSumo reports that certain trigrams within headlines earn more shares and likes than others.

Here are a few to get you started:

  • X Pictures That
  • X Signs You’re
  • How Well Do
  • Can We Guess
  • You Should Never
  • X Things Only
  • The Science Of
  • History Of The
  • The Art Of
  • The Future Of

As you can see, these trigrams are just a skeletal structure that you can apply to any headline in any industry.

Superlative-Rich Headlines

If you’re like most writers, you’ve been taught not to use superlatives in your writing. It’s time to turn that on its head, though. According to BuzzSumo, superlatives can increase the share volume of your headline when used correctly. Because they boost the emotional value of a headline and make it easier for readers to get excited about them, superlatives are ideal for creating viral posts that spread widely across the web.

Here are a few superlatives to get started with:

  • Amazing
  • Inspiring
  • Surprising
  • Successful

Particularly useful for content designed to be shared on social, superlatives can make your headlines more impactful, promising, and exiting for your readers.

Content Formats

There are a few content formats that get shared more often than others, and using them is a great way to make your content more viral. These include lists of ten things, how-to guides, and quizzes. Quizzes are especially exciting since they represent a form of interactive content many marketers aren’t creating. In addition to going viral, interactive content like this also allows you to expand your reach and help you stand out as a leader in your industry.

How to Write Viral Headlines: 5 Tips

Now that you know which types of headlines go viral let’s talk about how to write them for yourself.

1. Evaluate The Headline’s Emotional Impact

Remember: headlines with a high emotional impact get shared more frequently than minimally emotional headlines.

With this in mind, use a tool like the Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer from AMI. Designed to evaluate the way your headline’s word groups come together to elicit emotional responses from readers, this tool is free and easy to use.

Here’s an example of what it looks like in action:

headline analyzer

2. Follow a Formula

If you’re just getting started with headlines, and you want to ensure yours perform well, look for ways to include tried-and-true methods in your headline approach. Trigrams like those mentioned by BuzzSumo are always a fantastic jumping-off point.

In addition to making your headlines more impactful, using these trigrams as a structure is an excellent way to get out of a rut and ensure your headlines are performing the way you want them to.

Here are a few examples of what you could do with the trigram structure:

creating headlines quote 2

As you can see, it’s easy to take these headlines and run with them, tweaking them to your preference to ensure they fit your industry and cater to your audience.

3. Choose a Trending Topic

It bears mentioning here that creating viral content is a different animal than creating evergreen content. When you create evergreen content, you want to choose a historically useful topic that will appeal to your readers for years to come. Since evergreen content is meant to attract traffic to a post or page long after its publish date, it wouldn’t make any sense to use a fleeting, trending topic as the foundation.

When it comes to viral headlines, though, the approach is different. Because viral headlines are meant to drive a significant amount of traffic to a site or post in a short period, they thrive on trending topics.

This means anything in global, national, or industry news is fair game.

For example, check out this screenshot of some “trending” topics from Facebook:

Facebook screenshot

You can also use Google Trends to discover trending topics, and build a headline from those. Since it’s Google, the data capabilities behind the trends you can search here are massive!

google seo trends

Be sure you keep the headline ideas from trends relevant to your industry, or else you stand the chance of missing out on the audience-specific traffic your headline could be generating.

4. Make a Promise

If you’ll remember from above, some of the top-performing headlines included words like “how to” and “DIY.” The reason for this is simple: these headlines make a promise. By telling the audience they’ll teach them something, these headlines get a jump start on providing value and relevance to readers.

To make your headlines more viral, include an element of promise within them. This promise can revolve around revealing a story, telling a secret, or offering insider tips.

No matter what you do, the more exciting you manage to make your headlines, the more likely your readers are to bite.

5. Make it Emotional

Today’s best headlines are highly emotional. In addition to inspiring readers to share, highly emotional headlines also stick with people and promote recall long past the point a customer would typically remember a headline. This allows these headlines to stand out as monsters in their industries, and to be shared widely across the web.

To make your headlines as emotional as possible, include power words that make people want to click. The more of these you can include, the more impactful your headline will be.

Keep in mind that, while a good headline is emotional, it should also be natural. Readers don’t want to feel like a used car salesman is writing their blog headlines.

What Not to Do With Your Headlines

While there are a lot of dos when it comes to writing viral headlines, there are also dozens of don’ts. It’s true that headlines follow a formula and that good ones often have several things in common. You do need to be careful, though, that you’re not getting too formulaic or standardized with your headlines, or else you’ll risk coming off as spammy and untrustworthy.

Here are a few simple don’ts to keep in mind as you work toward the perfect headline.

Don’t Cram Your Headline With Exact Match Keywords

Exact match keywords are, by and large, a thing of the past. While they can be useful to guide your content, they shouldn’t act as its backbone. In addition to the fact that they look spammy, they’re not often very organic, and can cripple an otherwise great headline. Instead of relying on exact match keywords as you work your headline out, look for semantic matches, synonyms, or other phrases that get at your user’s intent but don’t feel artificial or plastic. This will make your headlines more emotional while also ensuring you’re doing a good job of matching the questions, topics, and interests your readers want.

Don’t Make A Promise And Not Deliver

As we mentioned earlier, great headlines make promises to their readers. Whether that promise is to teach a reader to do something or expose an industry secret, promises are compelling and exciting. As such, one of the worst things you can do in your headlines is make a promise and not deliver on it. In addition to being disrespectful to the reader, this also doesn’t do much for your reputation as a trustworthy source, and can harm your readership in the short and long-term. That said, make sure any promise leveraged in your headline is also supported by your body copy.

Don’t Get Too Short With Your Lists

While list posts rule, some are stronger than others. Most research suggests that 25 is the magic number when it comes to list posts and that longer lists may perform better than shorter lists.

With this in mind, don’t sell your readers short with your list posts. Instead of skimming the surface with a list of three or four things, go longer and stretch the list out to include 15 or 20 points.

Don’t Stop With Clickbait

Viral headlines are more durable than pure clickbait. They inform readers while they excite them, and they deliver on their promises. While creating run-of-the-mill clickbait headlines can be enticing, you’ll find these fall short with your readers. Instead of just flashing something shiny before their eyes, go deeper and write headlines that are as informative as they are exciting. What, exactly, will your reader learn from your content? Which questions will you answer? These elements prove your headline has substance and work to make it stand out from the crowd.

Don’t Get Overly Complex

A good headline is simple, precise, and to-the-point. If you get too complex with jargon or lingo, you risk losing readers and making your material harder to relate to or interact with. What’s more, the best headlines are the ones that can spread the furthest, and this is unlikely if you’re only writing for a specific audience. With that in mind, make your headlines appealing to as many people as possible. Not only will your readership balloon, but your headlines will more likely go viral as a result.

Viral Headlines Made Simple

If you’ve been in pursuit of viral headlines, you’re not alone. Luckily, they’re not as challenging to create as you may think. While it’s true that learning to write viral headlines is a process, it’s also entirely attainable and isn’t outside the reach of any moderately talented copywriter. That said, these simple tips are all you’ll need to learn to write viral headlines that resonate with your audience and earn your content the reach it deserves.

When you take the step toward viral headlines, your entire content strategy benefits. Not only do you rise above the sea of so-so, boring content, but you also enter a place that few content marketers know how to access. By mastering the art of the viral headline, you stand to improve your content’s value, drive more traffic to your site, and become a better content marketer, starting right now.

Hire expert copywriters to help you write viral headlines in our Content Shop!

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obvious copywriting errors

Misspelled or Mispelled? & 6 Other Obnoxious Copywriting Errors (Pop Quiz inside)

All copywriters are very much human. Even though they might publish copy that looks absolutely pristine and perfect.

How do I know? Because we make spelling errors just like the rest of the mere mortals. 😉

But the difference between you and me?

Because when I’m a copywriter and make a mistake, a lot more people are going to see it. That’s a whole lot of pressure.

Let’s face it:

English spelling is hard.

For example, how come if you write a play, you are a playwright, not a play write?

And why in the world is kernel spelled colonel?

In fact, George Bernard Shaw once pointed out that under English spelling rules, fish could just as easily be spelled g-h-o-t-i as f-i-s-h. (As in the gh from tough; the o as in women; and the ti like in nation.)

With all the wacky spelling rules, it is easy to see why even the smartest of us have problems every once in a while. Still, though, there are some mistakes so wrong that nobody should be guilty of making them. Yet, there they are, constantly being included on lists of the most commonly misspelled words (misspell, by the way, is not misspelled: however, mispelled definitely is).

If you want to make it in the copywriting biz: do not make any of these common errors. We’ve put together a fun spelling test pop quiz for you in this post! Our talented designer created a quiz graphic for every question. Remember: don’t peek at the end till you’ve taken a guess!

How well will you do on our spelling test? Ready…set…go!

copywriter errors

7 Common Spelling Problems You Should Not Be Making in Your Copywriting

Be creative with your copy, but not your spelling. Don’t even try to get creative with misspelling, i.e. krazy kopywriting. PSA: that’s not cute – that’s just bad spelling.

Here are seven words you should consistently be spelling right, but that a whole lot of people aren’t. If you want to make it in the copy game, time to get all of these right.

1. Most Obnoxious: They’re always getting their words mixed up over there.

They’re vs. their is a spine-chilling error that wins most obnoxious spelling mishap on the planet. - @JuliaEMcCoyClick To Tweet

They’re vs. their.

People seem to have a lot of trouble with this one, but if you are going to be a copywriter, you have to figure it out.

For starters, let’s go over they’re. Whenever you see an apostrophe that is not possessive, you know it has to be a contraction. So they’re has to be one as well. And, of course, it absolutely is. It stands for they are, and it should never be used in any other way.

Then, there is there. It’s a location – as in over there. It should never get mixed up with their – which is possessive. As in, their property.

Ready? Test yourself:

misspelled quiz question 1

2. He needs to leave to buy that car by the store. Bye!

Everyone should know the difference between buy, as in purchase, bye, as in adios, and by, as in a preposition.

Yet, here is this used car sign that makes me question everything I thought I knew about the level of grammar knowledge:

bye

This particular store will bye used cars. I guess that sort of make senses. I mean, maybe they were going for the message that they quickly get rid of used cars, as in they go bye. However, I feel like that is a stretch. They just apparently needed my spelling lesson.

How about you? Are you better than this used cars sign? Get this question right and prove it:

misspelled quiz question 2

3. If you lose any more weight, your pants will feel loose.

Lose is a verb. It means to replace. Loose is an adjective that means not firm. It seems so easy.

Yet when a sign for Hoodia Patch, a weight lose aid, claimed to be the effective way to loose weight, people quickly pointed out their mistake.

And even fixing said mistake made them the butt of jokes as people pointed out that their ad must have gone on a diet because their loose lost an o in the edit. Now that is not the type of attention you want your copywriting to get you.

Are you ready for the quiz on this section? It should be an easy one:

misspelled quiz question 3

4. Here are two cookies that need to be eaten later because they are too hot now.

Two people pretty much have figured out. It’s that pesky to and too that they just can’t wrap their minds around. Let’s break it down. To is a preposition. Too is an adverb meaning either a higher degree than is desired or else also.

Easy, right? Tell that to this tax office who thinks it is never to late to file your taxes (but is it too late to fix the sign?):

taxes

Do you have it down? Or do you need extra help like those accountants, too? Select the right answer:

misspelled quiz question 4

5. Why don’t I like that sign? Because it’s got to fix its spelling.

Admittedly, its and it’s can be a little confusing if you are used to ‘s being a possessive. However, when it comes to this common misspelling, all you have to know is that it’s means it is or it has and absolutely nothing else.

Did you happen to notice that in the accounting sign above, they also got this wrong? That’s a truly awful sign. Its not to late to file your taxes should have been it’s not too late to file your taxes. If you ever see this sign on an accountant’s door, please know that it’s not too late to find another accountant.

Now for the quiz question:

misspelled quiz question 5

6. A lot of people think alot is okay. (It isn’t.)

Alot does not exist. It is no more real than alittle or apair or adumb.

It is always a lot, every single time.

That being said, here is this section’s quiz question. (No excuses on this one.)

misspelled quiz question 6

7. You’re right – that’s not your problem.

Where do I start? Your is possessive. You’re means you are. It could not get any simpler. And yet here I am talking about it. Why?

Because Seagate didn’t know this. And they are certainly not the only one.

So are you one of the misspellers? Here’s your question (and note that I didn’t say here’s you’re question):

misspelled quiz question 7

8. Our friends are almost here.

Are is a verb, our is possessive. Are you getting all of this? I hope so because our spelling lesson is almost done. Get the difference?

See how well you do with this one:

misspelled quiz question 8

9 . Always know when to say no.

Here is the last on this list but most certainly not the last of the commonly misspelled words: know and no.

If you understand something, you know it. If you mean the opposite of yes, then you want to say no.

Make sense? Let’s see.

misspelled quiz question 9

Pop Quiz Answer Time!

Now here are the answers. I’m sure you aced it.

misspelled quiz question answers

Before You Hit Submit, Think About Your Copywriting for a Spell

When you are writing copy, it is easy to misspell a word, even when you actually know how to spell it.

With copywriters, it’s easier to misspell than you’d think. You’re typing fast, and your thoughts are coming in fast, so it is easy to make a typo.

The problem with our jobs, however, is that when you make that typo with copywriting, a lot of people are going to end up seeing it. And when they see it, they aren’t going to know whether you don’t know how to spell or you made a simple mistake. They will assume the former, though.

The solution to saving yourself from a world of embarrassment is simple. Think before you submit.

  • Double and triple check your work.
  • Use, but never depend on, spell check.
  • Have someone else double and triple check your work.
  • Read through it backwards (it works very well – I don’t know why).

Just make sure it does not go to print with some glaring spelling error you would be embarrassed to have credited to you.

 

And if you want someone else to write your copy for you to really clear yourself of blame, take a look at our copywriting services.

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troll copy conversions

How to Kill the Fear Troll that Stops Copy Conversions From Happening & Win Over Your Readers (Case Study)

What is it in your copy that leads someone on your site from the point of almost purchasing, to actually converting?

Better yet… What stops them from that last step (the sale)?

The answer is relatively simple.

At some point, they came face-to-face with an ugly troll that is known as prospect fear.

Today, we’re calling it the “Copy Fear Troll.”

If you’re lacking copy conversions, this troll is out there, living and breathing in your copy, on your web pages, ready to pounce on anyone who is considering a purchase on your site. The good news? You can do more than just stop it: you can kill it.

Read on to learn what website visitors fear the most (defining the Copy Fear Troll), and how I overcame a personal troll of our own, living and breathing on our site, as a New Year’s goal for my agency’s online presence.

fear troll instagram title

The 3 Subconscious Fears of Your Online Visitors (Before Copy Conversions Ever Happen)

Every member of your audience has a different buying style: some are impulsive and will buy with little to no research, while others will want their decisions reaffirmed before making any commitments.

Here are some reasons your potential customers may do a quick dash for the figurative door before taking action.

1. Insecurity

Insecurities come from many different places, including past experiences, a lack of information, and a sense that the product or service is not quite good enough. This is the fear troll’s area of expertise – dredging up all the reasons why this transaction is going to fail.

2. Mistrust

The goal in content marketing is to build trust and keep readers coming back for more quality content. There are many reasons to not trust, especially if your readers have been burned before. The fear troll loves sending subtle reminders about why a customer should quit before getting too involved.

3. Waste

Most of us can remember a time when we wasted money on something foolish, whether it was a door-to-door scheme or online purchase we felt we could not do without. No one wants to repeat that mistake, so the fear troll whispers doubt at every step.

Getting Rid of the Copy Fear Troll

copywriting troll

So, what’s a content marketer to do?

You might be surprised at how easy the answer is: kill the fear troll with real, down-to-earth, authentic copy that transparently situates your brand and your services before your prospects.

Thorough transparency.

It’s the name of the anti-copy fear troll game.

We recently worked on going from almost-good-enough to fear-killing-copy on our site, and the results have been promising.

A Case Study of How Killing the Fear Troll in Your Copy Works

In December of 2016, to prep for a great January and an even better 2017, I recruited one of our top internal marketing writers from my agency to help boost our site copy.

As of December, we had roughly 6,000 monthly site visitors, and our non-paid reach in Google SERPs was worth $13,000 in organic value:

google rankings

Yet our average new customer number was around 20-30 a month, and some converted at low numbers. Only one or two visitors per day actually sent in a contact form. We wanted to change that!

Together, my ad writer and I looked at my agency site, our services, and worked out the best emphasis on “how to sell” in our own copy.

3 Ways We Banished the Copy Conversions Fear Troll—& Won

The problem we found was that visitors were bouncing early on—after a few clicks from the home page.

My ad copywriter decided that we needed a) more copy and b) more effective copy.

The biggest two takeaways I learned from auditing our site and reinventing the weak copy that we had:

  • Cut to the core of what you do best. Be simple and authentic about your product and value.
  • Be confident and speak with confidence. You’re the A-team: show clients that!

Here’s the core of the changes we did:

1. New Fear-Banishing Page Around Our Values

Inspired, I created the new Our Values page. In it, I concentrated on telling – from my heart – why our brand stands out above all our competitors. We take a lot of pride in a process that removes 98% of the applicants that approach our writing team, but I wasn’t telling the story of our process on the site.

2. New Image Choices (Visualizing a Happy Client) & Friendlier Menu

We then re-created the menu at the top of our site with more clarity:

  • We have a lot of resources—podcast, blog, and Twitter chat—and we grouped that under one tab called “Learn.”
  • We created an “About” menu that included Success Stories (which we didn’t have live on the site previously), and a Meet the Team page.
  • We worked together to create a strong page that emphatically shared “our values.” The end result was so strong that we took it out of the About tab and put it live in the menu as Our Values.

We even changed the image on the home page. We had a stock image of a writer, thinking, pen in hand. The new image my ad consultant suggested was a visualization of a happy client receiving their content. Literally, someone smiling at a computer, with at least one other person. It was important to visualize the end result for the client rather than just our team doing the work. The result when we changed up the image concept (simple—a Shutterstock purchase!) was tremendously better looking.

Here’s the difference, visually, between our old menu and home page stock image:

old home page ew

And our new home page menu and image:

new home page ew

In less than a week, more than three live chats have been started from the Our Values page by brand new, incoming agency leads (our ideal client type), discussing thousands of dollars’ worth of work.

We’re starting to attract communications from our ideal client typeafter I decided it was time to speak to them, in our copy!

After reading the Values page, and landing on it, here is what one of those leads had to say on our live chat (we use Drift for onsite chat). Names hidden for privacy reasons:

drift lead from the our values page convo

She converted at $5,000 inside the next two weeks.

The language in the entire chat that came from this lead was so friendly, natural, and at a level where we didn’t have to “hard sell” at all. She was “sold” from the start, instead, after landing on that page. We didn’t experience conversations like these, prior to the new site page being launched. Typically, we had to convince with multiple phone calls and meetings to get a lead to that point.

Killing the fear troll with more on-site, real, down-to-earth, authentic copy, works.

Different Content for Different Goals

Your authentic copy must be uniquely created for your brand, especially when you consider that certain content types won’t work as well for conversions as others.

For instance, if increasing sales is a priority, your time may be better spent creating buying guides, product videos, and page descriptions. On the other hand, if you run a DIY website, a consistent and high-quality blog with step-by-step instructions could be a valuable tool for your audience.

Remember the 4 Stages of Customer Wooing

Different content marketers will explain the stages of the audience differently, but they all end up at the same place: conversion and retention. No matter where your prospects may fall, the key is to pay attention to all the details, however small they may seem, and make sure each one builds trust and smashes fear.

moz funnel

Graphic courtesy of Moz

1. Discovery

At the top of the funnel is discovery, which is kind of like trying catch the eye of someone you like across the room.

Is he aware of me?

Would she be interested?

Should I make a move?

For content marketers, it’s more difficult to make batty eyes, so we focus more on brand awareness and educational content. This is the stage where we tell people that yes, they do have a problem and yes, we do have the solutions.

It’s not a time to talk about ourselves – it’s the stage where we get to know them.

No one likes the guy who won’t shut up about himself, right?

Keep in mind, also, that your potential conversions may have been burned in the past and are really, really looking for trustworthy solutions.

Smash the fear by providing quality content that will make your audience feel secure in their dealings with you and your brand, whether it’s in the form of email newsletters, how-to guides, or webinars.

2. Consideration

After you catch the eye of your lead, you will probably want to move onto considering whether or not to make a move.

Meanwhile, your readers are starting to think about making a move with the solution you’ve presented. They will be researching specific product or brand information, credible authority to back up your claims, and all the evidence that points to your superiority over your competitors.

In other words, why should Mr. or Mrs. Cutie like you more than all the other Cuties in the room?

Smash the fear by being authoritative, confident, and authentic. Be yourself – you have something awesome to share, so let it show.

3. Conversion

Ah, conversion. That lovely place where you are finally interacting with that potential lead through conversation that will hopefully retain them for a long time to come. They are looking at reviews and product descriptions in order to compare and, hopefully, buy what you’re selling.

It’s the courting of the marketing world.

Smash the fear by providing honest answers and following-up at the appropriate time.

4. Retention

The goal at this stage is to keep your customers coming back for all the good content you have to offer. This will look different for everyone, but may include the creative use of technology to understand your audience, educating your customers, and focusing on quality service.

Retention is the marriage of the content world.

Check out how nine successful companies have used innovative approaches to making sure their customers have a great experience and stay loyal.

Smash the fear by continuing to offer quality resources and interacting on every channel.

Overcome Your Content Fear Troll

When you are armed with the right tools, knowledge, and resources, it is possible to kill the fear troll at every stage of the buying journey.

Take inspiration and get on the road to more copy conversions and a better, higher quality online presence.

Let us help you kill that troll today with copy written to suit your brand audience! 🙂

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