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.

[clickToTweet tweet=”They’re vs. their is a spine-chilling error that wins most obnoxious spelling mishap on the planet.” quote=”They’re vs. their is a spine-chilling error that wins most obnoxious spelling mishap on the planet. – @JuliaEMcCoy”]

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:


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?):


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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Custom Writing Service

What to Expect from a Custom Writing Service

If you’re like most marketers, you’ve probably considered hiring a custom writing service at one point or another.

But if you’re like most marketers that are new to delegating their online writing, there’s another side to that: you’re also probably not sure what to expect from working with a custom writing service.

We’re here to shine a light on the topic!

If you’ve ever wondered what a custom writing service is and what you can expect when you hire one, this post is for you. Read on to learn more.

Custom Writing Service, copywriting service, content writing service

Let’s Define a Custom Writing Service

A custom writing service is any company, individual, or firm that writes custom web content for customers.

Seem simple? It is, but it’s also very varied.

A custom writing service can write anything from blog content to print books, depending on what the customer wants and needs. Custom writing services are run by expert copywriters, marketers, and SEOs, and are designed to help busy marketers get the custom content they require, without the hassle of stressing over producing it in-house.

Check out a short list of what we do, from our pricing page (over 40 products in our Content Shop!):

express writers pricing

To see a full list of what our copywriters can handle, check out my guide: How Copywriting Works.

5 Standard Expectations to Have with a Quality-Oriented Custom Writing Service

If you choose to hire a custom writing service, you’ll be in for a unique experience. Because custom writing services are highly individualized by definition, the service you receive from the company or individual you hire won’t necessarily be comparable to anyone else’s experience.

The custom writing service is there to define, understand, and exceed your unique needs – that’s the whole point!

You can, however, count on a few standard protocols and methods from any custom writing service you hire. These are as follows:

1. A custom writing service will take time to consult with you about your needs

To serve you effectively, a custom writing service needs to understand what you hope to get out of the partnership.

For example, are you looking to populate a new site with content? Do you want to improve your leads and enjoy more conversions? Are you publishing an ebook and looking for someone to help you write or organize the copy? Maybe you’re looking to start a blog, but you don’t have time to manage it.

Whatever your needs may be, the first thing any reputable custom writing service will do is seek to understand them. This information is critical for the writing company because it allows them to do the following things:

  • Gain a deeper understanding of your company
  • Develop a plan to meet and exceed your goals
  • Craft custom content that caters to your corporate aspirations
  • Adjust existing content to support your business’s trajectory

When you first hire a custom writing service, you’ll want to be prepared to be as open as possible about your goals. This will help the company better serve you.

2. A great custom writing service will evaluate your current content

They won’t just throw a quote at you – a good writing service will actually evaluate where you stand and go from there.

If you’ve already got content on your site or blog, or if you’ve provided a layout for a bigger project, like an ebook, the custom writing service will evaluate it and reach out with suggestions, questions, or observations.

This helps the writing team you select get an idea of how long you want your content to be, which topics you’d like covered, what voice you’re looking for, and what goals you’d like the content to achieve.

For best results, be sure to maintain an open line of communication with the custom writing service. Remember: great writing flows easier when both of you communicate freely about the direction of the project. More tips on that in our guide on outsourcing your writing.

3. They will develop a content plan

Depending on the goals you set out earlier in the process, the custom writing service will now help you develop a content plan designed to meet the objective. For example, if your primary goal was to increase your social media following, the custom writing service may design a social content plan that includes several posts each week on all of your platforms. This plan would likely include a mix of curated, original, visual, and textual content to intrigue and inspire your readers.

This is a point at which you can expect to work very closely with the company. Does the plan adhere to what you had in mind? Is there anything you need clarification on? Do you want more detail about why a particular keyword is being targeted or why the use of infographics, for example, is so smart? All you have to do is ask! Any custom writing service worth its keyboards will be happy to help shine a light on these things for you.

4. Your custom writing service will optimize content for SEO

If you’re publishing web-based content for the purpose of marketing or lead generation, you can expect your custom writing service to optimize it for search engines and readers. Remember, your readers come first, but SEO is vital too.

Today, 81% of consumers research online before they decide to buy a product, and having content that is optimized for SEO is one of the best ways to ensure that your content appears when and where readers need it.

If you’re not familiar with SEO, a good custom writing service can help you understand it more deeply. Essentially, SEO is the process of optimizing content for search engine visibility and a positive user experience. This often entails methods like keyword inclusion and meta content optimization, to name just a couple.

The fact that so many custom writing services now optimize for SEO is one thing consumers love. Because today’s most visible content has all been optimized for SEO, hiring a quality custom writing service can help you remove the middleman and get professional, expert-level, properly optimized content from a single source.

5. They will publish content for you, upon request

If you’re looking to be as hands-off as possible with your content, it’s easy to find a custom writing service that will handle everything from the topic mining to the distribution for you. This is particularly the case when it comes to web content like social media posts and blogs. Dozens of custom writing services handle all of the publishing and distribution for their clients, and this is one simple thing that many marketers love about hiring a custom writing service.

Expect to pay more for this – if it’s done right, you’ll get a meta description, writing, and post optimization along with publishing.

5 Reasons Hiring a Custom Writing Service Is a (Very) Smart Idea

I mean, we are a custom writing service, but we above everyone else know how and why our clients benefit from our content. 😉

There are tremendous time savings and ROI benefits to hiring an outside writing service.

Now that you know what custom writing services do, let’s talk about why hiring one is such a good idea. Don’t be the marketer that underestimates the importance of custom content.

As it stands right now, 90% of shoppers find the presence of custom content helpful, and 61% of customers are more likely to make a purchase from a company that delivers custom content. With that in mind, it’s clear that creating custom content is not just important, but critical, for any business that wants to build success in the world of online marketing.

If you’re still in doubt that hiring a custom writing service is a smart move, consider the following points:

1. A custom writing service will make you more competitive

Today, more than 86% of B2B marketers and upwards of 77% of B2C marketers take advantage of content marketing, and while many of them have in-house content creation teams, many hire their content creation out to custom content companies. If you’ve not yet jumped on the custom content bandwagon, the chances that you’re missing out on traffic are high.

Today, consumers don’t just want custom content – they expect it. And if you’re the only company in your industry that’s not giving it to them, you’re missing out on business. By hiring a custom writing service, you can populate your site and social profiles with high-quality, original content that caters to your individual consumers and helps to boost your conversion rates across the board.

2. A great writing service will diversify your content voice

Maybe you’ve been creating content in-house for quite some time now. And maybe it’s been going well. Perhaps you’ve noticed a drop-off in reads and shares, though, and you’re wondering why. Even if you have an established reader base, keeping your content fresh is difficult, and even the most loyal customers will begin to drift off if your content becomes stale or uninspired. Because of this, it’s essential to keep things fresh and do whatever it takes to ensure quality content at all times.

Hiring a custom writing service is a great way to do this. Because a good custom writing service has a team of skilled writers rather than just one or two individuals, you get the benefit of many people putting their heads together to create unique topics and write inspired content for your company. This benefits your readers just as much as it does your brand, and can go a long way toward improving your content’s performance on all of your distribution channels.

3. An excellent custom writing service will help you stay on track

If you’re running a business or trying to get a company off the ground, you’re busy, and it can be tough to hold yourself accountable to create a few blogs or social posts each week. Unfortunately, letting these things fall by the wayside doesn’t do anything but hurt your company in the long run. Today, custom content is more important than it’s ever been before, and if you neglect its creation because you’re trying to build a functional website or fix bugs in the system, you’re going to see a drastic drop-off in your visitors and readers.

When you hire a custom writing service, though, these problems cease to exist. While running a company is still hard, having the professional help of a custom writing service can make it much, much easier.

Because a custom writing service can take over your content creation efforts and free you up to focus on things like building your product, it’s the perfect tool for busy founders who need a break. When you hire a custom writing service, nothing has to suffer for everything to come into place down the line. Instead, you get the benefit of a successful company and quality content to reflect it.

4. Learn best practices from your up-to-date writing team

If you’re a little out of touch on best practices in content marketing, a good custom writing service can help bring you up to speed. Because the writers at a custom writing company write marketing and promotional copy for a living, they’re highly knowledgeable about the current best practices and industry standards.

While it may seem tempting to throw these things to the wind under the assumption that they don’t matter, best practices are more important today than they’ve ever been before, and finding a team that understands them and knows how to adhere to them is critical.

5. A custom writing service can offer technical know-how, as well

While good writing skills are essential, technical expertise is, as well, and a custom writing service can pick up on all of the picky aspects of SEO that you don’t understand (or simply don’t care to understand). By doing things like optimizing your meta content, adding alt. text to your images, and ensuring that your targeted keywords are utilized properly throughout your content, a custom writing service can deliver quality content that’s as functional for search engines as it is for people.

A Good Custom Writing Service: Your Secret Weapon for Success

A skilled, reputable, professional custom writing service is exactly what you need to build a successful online presence and ensure that you’re providing the content your customers and would-be customers need from your company.

While it’s tempting to think you can go it all on your own, a custom writing service can take the burden of content creation and distribution off of your shoulders and help you build a solid online company with a reputation for authority, leadership, and intelligence across the board.

taxbreak cta

seo copywriting service

Separating the Wheat from the Chaff: 14 Traits to Look for In Your SEO Copywriting Service

Finding a good SEO copywriting service is no joke.

In addition to being professional, the service you hire must also be knowledgeable, experienced, and able to turn on a dime to accommodate your needs.

Sound like a tall order? It is! We hear new clients tell us all the time horror stories about their past experiences.

Writers that didn’t pan up to the promises, didn’t even have experience in the industry they swore up and down they did, and deadlines that were left in the dust.

My team, founded on high principles, has been around for six years now. We know a thing or two about values, and what it takes to create content that fulfills every need for clients. We’re here to share today the key elements to look for in an SEO copywriting service that will put the “wheat,” not the chaff, in black and white for you. Keep reading!

wheat vs. chaff in seo copywriting

Defining SEO Copywriting

SEO copywriting is the marriage of two essential skills: SEO, and copywriting.

While each of these things has existed separately for many years, the focus on bringing them both together has arisen in response to increasingly intelligent search engines and increasingly discerning consumers.

  • SEO used to be aimed at optimizing content so search engines could find it. This often entailed keyword stuffing, black-hat link building tactics, and spammy content pasted across every page of the site.
  • Copywriting, on the other hand, used to be aimed only at sales. The copywriters of old were the great salespersons of the web – pitching ideas, pushing products, and doing anything they could to get an early, interested, underwhelmed audience to bite (ah, for those low-volume internet days to return to us again!).

Today, though, both of those things have shifted.

Within the last several years, search engines have gotten smarter, and major names like Google have begun to penalize sites that use the SEO tactics of yesteryear. Today, spammy links, crappy content, and over-stuffed keywords simply don’t fly.

That’s not where it ends, though – Google has also begun to push for better-quality, more user-focused content, and customers have followed suit. Today, readers want quality, informative, relevant content that helps them solve their problems, and Google wants SEO that optimizes for readers just as much as it does for people.

Because of this, SEO copywriting has become an essential service for successful companies near and far. Today, SEO copywriting is critical for businesses that want to target their customers and help to solve problems and relieve pain points with the aid of unique, relevant, and high-quality online content.

Why Hire an SEO Copywriting Service?

Every business needs online content, and that online content needs to be optimized for reader experience and search engine visibility.

With few exceptions, most marketers don’t have the time, expertise, or resources in-house to create this type of content or to optimize the content they’ve already created. Without a centralized plan for improving SEO and crafting great content, things begin to go to pieces. Content comes out disorganized or irrelevant, and SEO falls by the wayside.

This is why it’s so critical for companies who are serious about their success to hire an SEO copywriting service. In addition to helping make SEO and content creation a more cohesive, cooperative process, a good online copywriting service has dozens of additional benefits, as well.

Some of the largest are as follows:

  • Increased traffic: Right now, 61% of internet users around the world search for products online. Unless you’ve crafted enough targeted, custom content to catch their attention, you’re going to miss out on significant amounts of attention for your site. A good SEO copywriting service can help you identify your customers, and then develop material that speaks directly to them, contributing to increase your site views and help your brand become a household name.
  • Boosted leads: According to HubSpot, companies with websites ranging between 401-1000 pages earn 6x as many leads as businesses that only have between 51-1000 pages. When you hire an SEO copywriting service, one of the top priorities will likely be to create blog and web page content. As you create blogs, for example, each new blog is an additional page for Google to index. This helps boost your site’s visibility and increases the number of leads your site will draw through organic traffic.
  • Increased relevance to customers: Today, customers use web content to answer questions and gain new information. When your company creates custom content meant to cater to these purposes, you become more relevant to your consumers, which is good for brand recognition and customer loyalty.
  • Decreased costs: While inbound marketing is drastically more efficient than traditional, outbound marketing, it’s also significantly less expensive. In fact, HubSpot reports that companies save an average of $20,000 each year by migrating to inbound marketing tactics.

14 Traits of a Worthwhile SEO Copywriting Service

1. Clearly defined boundaries

SEO copywriting services are not SEO-only services, and it’s important to understand that from the get-go.

While a good SEO copywriting service has an extensive understanding of everything that has to do with search algorithms, and likely conducts Google-specific duties like keyword research and on-page optimization, it’s unlikely that an SEO copywriting service will do anything like updating your link profile, for example.

With this in mind, an SEO copywriting service should neither define itself as an SEO company nor should it attempt to tackle the most convoluted aspects of technical algorithms. These jobs are best left for other, more technical firms.

When an SEO copywriting service clearly defines what it is and isn’t, you can bet that the content delivered will be high-quality and that the scope of focus will be narrow enough to provide you with targeted, quality service.

2. A willingness to work with your company’s brand

A professional SEO copywriting service will morph to adapt to your brand. Everything from the company’s voice to their approach should shift depending on your unique target audience and preferred tone.

While this may sound like a tall order, copywriters are chameleons by nature, and altering these things to provide you with a good experience should be natural for the firm you hire.

3. An insistence on perfection

SEO copywriting can be a huge boon for your company, so it’s essential that the SEO copywriting service you hire insists on quality, professionalism, and perfection in everything they do.

The company in question should have a good network of writers, editors, and reviewers in place and should run everything through plagiarism-checking software before submitting it to you. These systems help ensure quality work and will help your business gain online visibility, over time. Want to see what a few faces from a team of 60+ looks like? Check out our About page!

4. Demonstrable SEO copywriting experience

A good SEO copywriting service should be able to point to extensive examples of what it has done in the past. These examples should be high-quality and wide-ranging – running from blog content to white papers and beyond. (We have over 40 content services in our Content Shop!)

Demonstrable experience helps you ascertain the skills of the SEO copywriting service and get an idea for their style and methods before you commit.

5. A wide selection of expert-level knowledge

Expert content is critical for any company that wants to build a sustainable online presence, and a good SEO copywriting service should be able to cater to a variety of expertise and industries. Most professional firms have several professional writers on staff. These writers specialize in industries like marketing, law, and finance. By finding a business that offers writers who specialize in your unique industry, you can ensure expert content for your site and high-quality material for years to come.

6. Outstanding research skills

A great SEO copywriting service will go above and beyond regarding research. Whether the firm is researching one of your products or searching for quality statistics to include in a blog post, excellent research skills are critical.

Look for a documented research method and standards for what separates a good source from a bad one before you hire an SEO copywriting service.

7. Ability to appeal to reader emotions

Great SEO copywriting services know how to use reader emotions to make your content convert.  Whether the copywriter is crafting a sense of urgency through limited time offers or inspiring customers to click by warning them about common pitfalls or easy-to-avoid mistakes, a professional SEO copywriting service should be able to use your readers’ emotions to make your content more compelling and actionable.

For best results, look for examples of how they’ve done this in the past. Previous marketing copy is a good source, as is on-page copy created for other companies.

8. An ongoing use of the positive voice

Most marketers don’t realize how much positive voice affects their customers’ mindsets. When a writer says “Don’t make this mistake…” it leaves the reader with a negative feeling. When the author says, “Avoid pitfalls by doing this instead,” the reader’s emotions shift to a positive outlook. Writing in the positive voice makes content more actionable.

Instead of giving the reader a list of what not to do, it provides solid action points that help the reader make positive change. This, in turn, creates more valuable content that can benefit your company. With this in mind, look for an SEO copywriting service that knows how to write in the positive voice.

9. A focus on simplicity in online writing

The best SEO copywriting services take complex concepts and make them easy for your readers to understand. In addition to making your content more accessible, this approach also ensures that you’re not alienating readers through jargon or overly-muddled online material.

Look for an SEO copywriting service that uses short sentences and simple words and pays attention to reading levels when crafting online content.

10. A dedication to specificity

Specificity transforms online content. Instead of saying, “Many customers use search engines,” a good SEO copywriting service will provide statistics that offer information on just how many readers. This, in turn, creates a better experience for the customer and makes content more valuable by making it more informative. Specificity is essential in online content, and it’s critical to find an SEO copywriting service that agrees.

11. A commitment to white-hat strategies

While black-hat SEO firms aren’t the law of the land anymore, they used to be. Today, it’s harder to get away with spammy, black-hat SEO copywriting, but some firms still do it. Unfortunately, this will harm your Google rankings and alienate your customers over time. For best results, find an SEO copywriting service that uses white-hat SEO techniques like guest blogging, consistent posting, keyword research, and quality link building to improve rankings and draw traffic. In addition to being more sustainable, these tactics are better for your site and your readers.

12. Willing, open communication with clients

SEO copywriting is a difficult task, and it’s essential for a good SEO copywriting service to maintain clear and open communication with its customers. If you want a change, an edit, or a different approach, the SEO copywriting service should be willing to oblige, and should help explain any aspects of the process you don’t understand. This builds a positive relationship between your brand and the copywriting service and contributes to high-quality, unique content that benefits both of you.

13. Ability to craft quality CTAs

A good call-to-action (CTA) is essential for actionable content, and a good SEO copywriting service will understand how to write CTAs that don’t alienate your customers. Look for brands that have increased the conversion rates of other companies in the past, and feel free to ask questions about what a good CTA entails. A good SEO copywriting service will have a profound understanding of the topic.

14. Current SEO knowledge

The best practices for SEO change often, and a good SEO copywriting service must have a good grasp on them. This means using the newest tools, understanding Google’s most recent algorithm updates, and being able to adjust their tactics according to new information. Without this knowledge, it’s impossible for an SEO copywriting service to provide to-the-minute offerings.

Finding a Good SEO Copywriting Service Made Simple

While finding a great SEO copywriting service may seem difficult, it’s well worth the time and effort to find a firm that you click with.

In addition to streamlining your content creation and ensuring high-quality material for your site, building a partnership with an SEO copywriting service is a wonderful way to help your brand become more visible online.

Need help developing high quality SEO copywriting?  Contact Express Writers today!

robots won't replace the writer

Why Robots Won’t Replace The Writer Anytime Soon, and How to Create Content that Will be Read

In recent years, there’s been some concern that robots will eventually replace human writers.

Automated systems have successfully replaced people in thousands of factory assembly jobs, surgical positions, security posts, and farming positions. Why not writing, as well?

While there’s no doubt that writing has been, and will continue to be, aided by technological advancement, I say it’s unlikely that robots will ever fully replace the human copywriter.


Robots can’t process a human level of creativity, thinking, and subsequently, writing.

While robots, algorithms, and automated systems may have methods in place to “crawl” and interpret data, they will never understand the distinctly human joy of curling up in front of the fireplace with a cup of tea and a great book.

Think about these scenarios for a moment:

  • Robots will never know how exciting Tolkien’s world can be, or how a great novel or short story can transport you to another time, place, and headspace.
  • Robots will never know what it means to read a Content Marketing Institute article that punches you in the gut, that you feel compelled to share so everyone can learn what you just learned (content marketing nerds unite).
  • Robots can’t ever wipe away their own tears at the last lines of Shakespeare’s dying Romeo, or Mufasa’s passing in the Lion King.

For these reasons, human copywriters will not be replaced anytime soon.

While robots might be capable of incredible things, only we understand how deeply human the act of writing is, and how much heart it takes to produce material that other people want to read.

robot vs. writer

Why Robots Won’t Replace the Writer: The Raw Power of Human, Conversational Content

You know what else robots are lacking that humans have down pat? The power of conversation. Sure – robots can be programmed to talk, answer questions, and tell jokes, but they’ll never be the conversational natives that humans have always been.

This gives us a serious edge when it comes to copywriting.

If you’ve been working in the digital marketing space for a while, it’s likely that you can think of a few examples of funny, conversational, relatable content you’ve read and enjoyed that features a distinctly human touch.

Here are a few of the brands that come to mind for me when I think of conversational content:

1. Dollar Shave Club

Dollar Shave Club is almost always on the top of these lists because the brand has done such an incredible job of making itself approachable, funny, and relatable. There’s no doubt these guys have real, hard-working humans behind their digital content. While there are dozens of examples of how the company does this, check out this screenshot of the “How it Works” portion of their website for a great demonstration:

Dollar Shave Club Screenshot

2. Poo~Pourri

What I love about Poo~Pourri is their genius level of creativity in every bit of copy and marketing material.

Their theme? Creative humor. They win at it.


If that’s not fun, relatable and conversational, I don’t know what is. We all can give a little belly laugh in the name of joining a “potty” community ready to spritz the bowl and “trap-a-crap” (a product name, not kidding you).

Show me a content scraper, algorithm, or robot that can evoke that humorous level of creativity.

3. Headspace

Headspace built a meditation app that provides access to fast, accessible meditations for situations ranging from anxiety to anger to general wellbeing. While meditation often feels like a lofty and unapproachable practice, Headspace hits the ball out of the park when it comes to making the pursuit user-friendly and approachable.

HeadSpace Screenshot

One of my favorite examples of their conversational their content is their “How the Headspace App Works Video.”  Watch it and then tell me you’re still feeling intimidated about developing a meditative practice:

5 Reasons We Have to Learn Conversational Writing

While the brands above are all killing it at conversational writing, the people behind this content didn’t just come in off the streets and start excelling at it. While it’s true that people are conversational natives, writing marketing copy (and everything listed above is marketing copy) that connects with readers requires a set of learned skills.

Most of us are familiar with marketing messages that feel cold, pushy, overly sales-y, or cheap. This material makes us recoil and click “delete” as fast as we can. While a human may have written it, it doesn’t do anything to make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

With this in mind, we have to learn conversational writing. Here’s why:

1. School didn’t teach us

If you’re like most people, you remember being told you were too wordy, informal, or grammatically incorrect in your school papers. While this may have made sense when we were learning APA or MLA formatting or constructing a senior thesis in college, it doesn’t hold up in the real world.

Sometimes, approachable marketing writing bends grammar rules. Sometimes it’s less formal than a college essay, and sometimes it pushes the envelope – but that’s okay! In fact, that’s necessary.

While school taught us to abide by hundred-year-old grammar rules, it didn’t teach us how to be approachable and conversational in the material we write.

2. Conversational writing takes relies on the audience

What your audience might find approachable and what my audience might find approachable may well be two separate things. While some aspects of conversational writing carry across all industries and target personas, there’s no doubt that being compelling in marketing copy requires you to know your target audience intimately. If you don’t, you can’t expect to speak directly to them.

3. It takes time to get good at this

While there’s a fine line between being professional and robotic, there’s also a fine line between being conversational and downright rude or unprofessional. Conversational writing, like all things, requires a delicate hand and a certain level of skill. You don’t develop this overnight, and it’s important to give yourself time and space to hone the craft and develop your unique style.

4. Old habits die hard

For some people, breaking out of the box of academic writing and learning to be more conversational and approachable is a severe uphill battle. It’s tough to un-do old teaching, and writing in a conversational and friendly way can feel counterintuitive, at first. This is one of the biggest reasons we must learn to write like this, rather than just expecting it to sprout up overnight.

5. Great writing shouldn’t sound like writing

Take a moment to wrap your mind around this one.

Elmore Leonard once said:

“If it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.”

The best sales pitch shouldn’t feel like a sales pitch, and the best marketing writing shouldn’t sound like writing – it should sound like a casual conversation between friends.

10 Impressive Ways to Write More Conversational Content

So, now you know why we must learn to write conversationally. Now, let’s talk about how.

Here are ten smart tips you can put into action right now:

1. Stop trying to be everything to everyone

Imagine this: you’re sitting down at your computer to write your weekly email newsletter. You want it to be exciting, compelling, and valuable for your audience. The tough thing is, though, your email list contains every internet user on the globe – about 3,424,971,237 people.

That’s an impossible task, right? Right. There’s absolutely no way you can appeal to all those people, and you’d be wasting your time trying.

The first step in creating more conversational content is to hone your audience. Instead of trying to be everything to everyone, you want to be a very specific something to a very particular set of people.

When you sit down to write your copy, you should be able to pick one individual that’s representative of your target audience and write to that person and only that person. This will make your writing infinitely more approachable and unique.

2. Don’t try to sound casual

Any time you try to show off, things take an immediate turn for the worst. This is as true in sports (ever tried to look cool on a ski hill, only to face plant in front of the large group you were trying to impress?) as it is everywhere else in life. Don’t try to sound casual, or cool, or funny in your writing. Your readers will know immediately that you’re trying to impress them, and you’ll lose interest. Remember: the best writing doesn’t sound like writing. Keep it natural for best results.

3. Talk to people, not at them

Think about how much easier it is to stay engaged with a conversation than a lecture. Now, bring this into your online writing. When you write to people rather than at them, you create room for a two-way exchange, which is much more valuable than a soliloquy.

4. Be yourself

When you read Dollar Shave Club’s web copy, it doesn’t feel like they’re trying to be something they’re not. Instead, you get the distinct idea that the company has a host of funny, cool, witty people on their team – people you’d probably like to get to know. The easiest way to be approachable and conversational in your content is to be yourself. When you’re not trying to fit yourself into someone else’s mold, your voice shines through, and you immediately come off as more authentic.

5. Ask your readers questions

To show your readers you care what they think, ask them questions. Simple things, like their feedback on a recent site redesign or input on a blog post topic are excellent access points and can make you a more accessible brand straight away.

6. Cut the fat

Today, the human attention span is limited. To be precise, it lasts about eight seconds. This doesn’t mean you have to compress all your writing into micro-sized packages, but it does mean you need to slash anything that’s not obviously contributing value. Flabby content doesn’t reflect well on your company, nor does it grab your readers. Trim the fat for more engaging writing.

7. Feel free to bend or break grammar rules

While you want to keep your writing readable (that’s the whole point, after all), it’s okay to break grammar rules here and there. Many of them are antiquated and ill-suited to conversational writing, anyway. For best results, keep it reasonable – use broken sentences here and there, start sentences with “and” or “but” occasionally, and break up your paragraph structure for more impact. While your English teacher of yesteryear might not appreciate the approach, your readers will.

8. Write to a close friend

Lifestyle coach and fitness nut Tim Ferriss is famous for saying he had an awful time writing his books when he was trying to write a book. As soon as he sat down and wrote like he was writing an advice email to a close friend, after a glass of wine, however, his writing changed entirely. Maybe this is why he’s become a multi-time NYT bestseller!

9. Evaluate your process regularly

Like all things associated with writing, creative and conversational copywriting requires regular check-ins. For best results, check in with your results on a regular basis. Are people still responding? If they’re not, consider altering your approach. Being flexible will keep you relatable now and in the future.

10. Keep it simple

Conversational writing is a skill rather than a science. When you keep it simple and avoid the temptation to make it hard and complicated, you’ll automatically increase your chances of success.

To Get People to Read – Write to Be Read! 

There you have it: humans are the irreplaceable ingredient in conversational copywriting.

Today, audiences want material with a human touch, and it’s conversational, highly-readable content that gets shared and talked about today.

We’ve all heard the saying, “if you want to be interesting, be interested.”

The same goes for writing – “If you want to be read, you have to write to be read!”

If you’re looking for professional copywriters that can nail the art of conversational copywriting, look no further than Express Writers. Contact us today!

writing great copy

The Secret of Writing Great Copy: Finding Your Vein of Gold

Sometimes, copywriting feels like gold mining.

To find even a few ounces of gold, you must move mountains of earth.

The same thing goes for writing!

When you sit down at your computer to write (whether it be a blog, page, copy), you tap out thousands of words–only to go back and sift through them all.

You move some here, delete some hundred there, separating and refining them in search of that one valuable nugget, that one shiny sentence that makes the entire process exhilarating, rewarding, and worth it.

 Not everyone has the time, patience, or skill to give the writing process the attention it deserves, however – just like not everyone has what it takes to strike it rich as a gold miner.

Because writing well is a craft that takes so much attention and dedication, that only those who are willing to develop those things will earn rewards. The writers who are prepared to move the mountains of earth to find the richest vein, or put their heart into their writing until it turns to pure gold, are the ones who will ultimately succeed.

secret of writing great copy

The Secret of Writing Great Copy & Finding Your Vein of Gold

There’s no shortcut to success, and this is as true with copywriting as it is with gold mining.

Keep reading: I’m going to talk about how to find your “vein of gold” in online copywriting, and why truly great writing is the only type of writing worth doing this year.

To be Great, You’ve Got to be Tough

There’s a thin line between being excellent and being “good enough.

The great (and awful) thing about the web is that most content creators fall into the latter category.

Hey, that was me, when I just started out in 2011-2012.

I’ve since deleted a boatload of blogs from those days. I wasn’t tough on myself. I didn’t analyze every content piece, stressing over every sentence, perfecting every single H2. I wrote, edited, threw together a graphic, called it a content piece, scheduled it, got it “out.”

Those days are long gone. And I’m so glad.

The content creators that just want to be good enough, which truly means “get content out,” are like miners who refuse to invest in the right equipment, or won’t put in the long, hard hours in the sun.

While this can be terrible for readers, who must slog through tons of mediocre content to reach the great material they deserve, it’s good news for content creators who are willing to go the extra mile. When nearly everything else is sub-par, standing out gets a bit easier.

Remember: if striking gold were easy, everyone would be doing it.

The reason so many people push out low-quality content is that that is infinitely simpler than writing thousands of words, sitting back, and then filtering it all down to that one sentence, that one thought that matters.

At the end of the day, being great means being tough – in your edits of your writing, in your dedication to the craft, in your expectations of yourself, and in your commitment to blowing everything else out of the water. Sure, it’s harder than the alternative, but it’s the only approach that honors how crowded the web already is, and how important it is to add only quality material in the coming years.

How else are you going to strike that vein that offers rewards beyond your wildest dreams?

The Secret of Writing Great Copy: Being Willing to Walk Away from Your Work

It sounds almost crazy, doesn’t it?

“Write 5,000 words and then scrap 2,500 of them.”

That seems like an exercise in futility. It seems like a Sisyphean task.

Remember the gold miner, though? Remember how gold miners often have to move thousands of tons of earth to find a few ounces of gold? If you take mining for its surface value, it seems insane. Until, however, you realize that a few ounces of gold can be worth hundreds of thousands – even millions – of dollars.

Then things start to make sense.

In writing, as in gold mining, there’s no shortcut to success. You’ve got to bow your head to the work and be willing to do some of it in vain. While being great might be true that you’ll slash many of your hard-fought words from each piece you write, think of those words as the tons of earth you have to move to get to the good stuff.

There’s no way around it, and you’re not going to find the material that glitters unless you’re willing to dig. While it can be tempting to think that everything you’ve written is gold, this is just hubris, and it won’t do anything to help you hone your skill.

The Secret of Writing Great Copy: Narrowing Down to Your Best

The gold of your writing is hiding beneath the dirt, and to access it you need to be able to recognize the work involved and commit to it.

While it can be discouraging to write and re-write, the goal is to refine your content until you find the one sentence that matters, the one paragraph that gets your reader in the gut.

Once you find it, start there.

It’s your standard now for the entire piece.

Your lamppost, your guideline.

Make sure everything that follows is just as shiny and inspiring.

Cut everything else out. Trim the fat.

Remove everything that doesn’t bring something new to the table. If it’s just noise, you don’t have a right to publish it, and your readers shouldn’t be forced to wade through it.

An Example of Trimming the Fat

Content Block A

It’s critical to look at everything that is nothing better than “wordy,” and cut, cut, cut that out. Your content must shine. It must be polished, to stand out in a sea of online content that keeps rising every day. Discover in your copy what’s poor, what’s not as good as the rest. Cut out everything that doesn’t matter. Trim the fat.

Content Block B

Cut out everything that doesn’t matter. Trim the fat.

See what I did there?

I narrowed everything down in Content A to my two last sentences. That was the heart of my paragraph. The gold. All the other words, which took a while to compose and write, were trashed.

(Also, ironic, eh? I trimmed down to “Trim the fat.” :-P)

How much more impactful is that copy?

Far more.

And with the attention span of today’s reader less than a goldfish, it takes carefully chosen words to fully impact your audience.

Don’t assume that every word you’ve written deserves to be published. That’s like the gold miner saying the dirt covering the gold deserves to stay where it is. With thinking like this, he’d reason himself right out of a job.

Be analytical and real in your approach to your copy. Don’t hold back on pruning to discover your best roots and content health.

Your Job as a Content Creator Comes with Responsibility: Use it Wisely

Today, our job as content creators isn’t simply to push out written material – it’s to create targeted, from-the-heart content that resonates with our readers, that provides something different, and that comes from a place of passion and true belief.

To get to this place, you’ve got to be tough–on yourself.

Develop an eye for excess, and understand that creating your best work often means walking away from much of it.

Remember the gold miner.

At the end of the day, his brow is bent to the earth. He’s sweaty and bronzed from the sun, back turned to the mountains of soil he’s moved to uncover the tiny spot upon which he now focuses. He’s shaking his sifting pan rhythmically back and forth, running water through it like a baptism.

You can call him crazy if you’d like, but that small spot contains riches untold, and he knows exactly what he’s doing.

When you bring this kind of attention, diligence, and commitment to striking gold in your online writing, there’s no way you can go wrong. You’re on your way to great copy, every single time you publish.

Nuggets From The Secret of Writing Great Copy: Finding Your Vein of Gold

Save this slide to your desktop and open it every time you need a reminder of how to find your vein of gold. 😉


Need content help? Talk to our team.

increase roi on your content

3 Amazingly Simple Ways to Boost CTR and Increase ROI on Your Content

Did you know that the average American will spend 42 hours this next year sitting in traffic?

That’s almost two days’ worth of morning commutes, traffic jams, and rush hours spent sitting in the car, waiting for the vehicle in front of you to crawl ahead.

Traffic on the highway and the byway is not the kind we typically enjoy.

On the other hand, when it comes to content development and driving readers to your brand, traffic is the goal. We welcome, and work toward, a steady flow of visitors to our content who will engage with it, tell their friends, and send them over to check it out.

Contrary to what we may have been taught, bringing more traffic to your site is not done by building links or even creating more content. It is accomplished through optimizing for organic search click-through rate, which can lead to a greater ROI. Let’s discuss.

boost ctr on your content

How to Increase ROI On Your Content: First, What is Measurable ROI for Content Marketing?

How does a content marketer even begin to measure ROI (return on investment)? There are a few factors to consider.

First, make an estimate of the outgoing costs for your content marketing; this can include employee pay, distribution costs (if any), and publishing or software use costs.

Next, calculate how much revenue your marketing has brought in.

Here is a simple equation to use when thinking about your return on investment (originally found in The Guardian):

roi of content marketing

(Revenue Generated – Cost of Content Marketing) / Cost of Content Marketing = ROI.

Another way to look at ROI is by understanding the return versus the investment.

  • Return = leads, revenue, conversions, brand awareness
  • Investment = cost of producing and sourcing content, time spent planning, advertising costs

3 Simple Ways to Boost CTR and Increase ROI on Your Content Marketing

So, what are the best ways to boost organic CTR and increase ROI? And why does it matter? Jump in as I tackle these questions!

1. Create a Catchy, Authentic, Engaging Headline

Clicking through on content is the reason we develop writing pieces in the first place—as writers and marketers, if no one is reading what we produce, what’s the point?

Especially when you consider that most readers quickly scan headlines, and then move on without reading further.

Only about 40% of readers will go beyond the headline in a typical story, which makes it even more important to start with an engaging title to pull the audience in and make them want to stay.

If the goal is to invite readers in, then the headline is the welcome mat and cup of coffee—the message should be, “Come on in and sit down. I have something awesome to tell you”.

What makes a good headline?

Here are 8 key tips to get you started:

1. Start with a rough draft, also called a “working title”

Working titles are specific, focused, and maybe a bit imperfect. Using phrases like “how to” and “x number of ways to” can be a good starting point for creating a focused title. Create an emotional hook by using words that have power behind them.

2. Present the truth

Don’t put facts or promises in a title unless you can back it up with authoritative links and trustworthy statistics. Setting high expectations in the beginning, and then not following through, will disappoint your readers and encourage a sense of distrust.

3. Make it pop

The type of “catch” you use in your title will depend on the audience you are addressing. A lighter topic can be an appropriate setting for witty words and alliteration, while stronger words should be reserved for specific settings.

4. Keep it simple

Everyone’s headline is going to be different in length, but if your goal is to rank well in search, a good guideline is to keep a title under 70 characters. However, research has shown a title with eight words saw a 21% higher click-through rate then average. Headlines that included odd numbers, a hyphen, and a questions mark saw increased engagement.

5. Practice optimization for social and search

It can be challenging to optimize for both search and social, but with a few tweaks, it can be done. With a focus on keywords that are relevant to your audience placed as close as possible to the beginning of the headline, there is a better chance your title will be optimized for both.

6. Break up with keyword-heavy titles

If only four out of ten readers are moving past the headline to absorb content, it makes sense to put thought and time into developing a relevant title. Bogging titles down with keywords takes away the opportunity to create something fantastic and attractive.

Try the free Headline Analyzer from CoSchedule, which will give your headline a score and rate the ability it has to drive traffic, shares, and SEO value. The site can help you strengthen weak parts of your title so you can present your audience with the very best welcome mat/coffee combination.

7. Get in with the “in” crowd

One way to contribute to an increased CTR is by forming your headline from the perspective of one of these personas (Search Engine Journal):

A SEO-focused title might read, “Raising Kids: Getting through the Toddler Years”, while the comedian version could be, “Got Mushy Brain? 3 Tips for Getting Through the Foggy Years of Raising a Toddler!”

8. Invite everyone over for the party

No one wants to be left out, so gathering together all the components of an awesome title is the best way to be the content hostess with the most-est.

  • Start with the specifics: 4 Ways to…, How to Make…, 5 Brands Who…, 10 Stats That…
  • Add an emotional hook: Brilliant, Unreal, Must-Follow, Inspiring
  • Follow with the content description: Infographic, Quotes, Stats, Strategies
  • End with the subject: Social media, Kids, Marketing, Writing

Examples of Fabulous Headlines:

4 Brilliant Brands Who are Killing it in Social Media                                                                          

Don’t Waste Time Raising Well-Mannered Kids: 4 Experts Share What Really Works                        

Love at First Click: 10 Ways To Create Your Best Headlines This Year

2. Target Specific Channels

Although it may be tempting to write 2,000 words on “the perils of raising temper-prone toddlers” and then share it across every available platform, that may not be the best approach for increased ROI.

To avoid killing your ROI, and instead increase ROI on your content, Neil Patel suggest finding 1 to 3 channels where your content will do the very best and sharing across those mediums.

Why be specific? Because audiences on different channels will behave differently from each other. Content that has a lot of engagement on Twitter might not work as well on LinkedIn or Google+.

Deciding where and what to post will take time. It may help to analyze how past content has performed and look at the number of people who engaged by way of visiting, commenting, and sharing.

3. Use descriptive metadata

Metadata on your website includes:

  • Alt tags (given to images)
  • Title and meta description (should include keywords)
  • Search-friendly URL

A descriptive metadata is one SEO factor that is within your creative control, unlike backlinks and off-page factors.

Here is an example of a meta description from Google:

While meta description tags may not be important when it comes to search engine rankings, they play a crucial role in gaining click-throughs from SERPs. That is one reason to include relevant keywords and write it in an engaging way.

When it comes to creating a user-friendly URL, SEMrush suggests keeping the page name to a length of 3-5 words, including relevant keywords, and being descriptive but meaningful. SEMRush

Content, especially across social media channels, is filled with images, which makes the addition of an alt tag that much more important. And since content that includes relevant images gets 94% more views than content without, it’s safe to say visuals are a vital addition to CTRs.

Alt tags offer a simple way for your images to show up in search results, so don’t overlook them.

Putting It All Together to Increase ROI On Your Content

Boosting the click-through rate and return on investment with your content doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. With a bit of research and the right tools, you can create the catchy headlines and descriptive metadata that will have readers flocking to your content quicker than you can say “search engine optimization”.

The key during the content creation process is to draw the right audience in (construct engaging headlines), utilize the best mediums (target specific channels), and give them what they need in their search for answers (write descriptive metadata).

If you have been looking to increase the CTR and ROI with your own content, connect with Express Writers today to find out more about our awesome services!

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how to outsource your content writing

How to Outsource Your Content Writing (Successfully)

Imagine this: you’ve spent a long day running your business, and the day is wrapping up. You’ve been at your desk for nine hours, and you’re ready to go home.

The problem?

You’ve still got those tasks for content creation (i.e., write a blog, write and schedule social media content, create a lead magnet) on your list.

If this is you, you’re not alone. And it’s the #1 reason why content creation is delegated today by many marketers and agencies.

It’s the smart thing to do.

Content Marketing Institute’s benchmark study of content marketers shows that content creation is the #1 area in content marketing where there has been the most reported increase in spending over the last 12 months (56%).

Now, knowing how to outsource your content creation can be tricky.

How do you guide your content creator or agency team on creating content that works for you? How do you work together with them as a partner?

After eight years, 16,500 projects under our belt, and countless agencies and marketers served in our clientele, we decided to compile this guide on how to outsource your content writing. Let’s dive in!

Content creation is the #1 area of content marketing where marketers have increased their spending the most, via @cmicontent's benchmark study. Learn how to delegate your #content effectively in our guide 🔥 Click To Tweet

how to outsource your content

How to Outsource Your Content Writing Successfully: A Guide

For this guide on how to outsource your content creation, I teamed up with our amazing staff, from our lead Strategist to our editors and team manager. Their quotes are below!

First, let’s start with a few signs to help you know when it’s time to outsource your content.

3 Tell-Tale Signs it’s Time to Outsource Your Content

Just how do you tell that it’s time to outsource your content writing?

1. Your content is dropping off, you’re missing publishing times, and people have stopped engaging with your content

If you’ve noticed a significant drop in your engagement lately, it could be because the quality of your content is slipping off. This happens when business owners start getting so busy that they neglect the quality of their content creation, and it could be happening to you right now. Fortunately, there’s help to be had before you disappear into that wormhole of obscurity. Outsource your content for the love and attention your social channels and blogs need to thrive once more.

2. You’re just never able to find the time to write

Being a business owner or entrepreneur comes with the requirement of an insane schedule. If you’re one of those people who eats in the car, spends half the day on the phone, and has started keeping survival supplies in the bottom left drawer of your desk, it’s likely that content creation isn’t your main priority right now, and – hey, rightfully so. Even though you want your business to succeed, content creation is time-consuming, and it’s hard to balance that, which can seem a bit obscure, with all of the real, tangible, everyday demands of your physical business.

Some business owners who find themselves in this position just stop creating content altogether. Never do that. You could lose all your new inbound lead opportunities if you do. Remember: businesses that publish 16 or more blogs monthly get 3.5 times more traffic than businesses that publish 0-4 posts per month (Hubspot).

3. You simply dislike writing

Writing is not for everyone, and that’s okay. It’s one thing that can be tough to master – especially the skill of online writing. If you hate it, don’t stress yourself out over it. Instead, call in a trained team of writers who can take the icky task off your back while you focus on things you do like.

4 Express Writers’ Content Creation Staff Members Share Tips on How to Successfully Outsource Your Content & Get Amazing Results

It’s not every day, unfortunately, that business owners outsource their content and get incredible results from it.

We’ve seen new client after new client come to us with this kind of story:

“I just hired a writer. It was a year-long contract for a blog per week. He claimed he knows the industry. Now not only is my client rewriting everything from scratch, it was so bad, he’s actually about to leave me because the writer stopped showing up and I have no content to give my client.”


Is this your story? It doesn’t have to be. Fortunately, there are content creators that really care about content creation.

As a content agency, we’ve created thousands of projects for hundreds of clients since 2011 (check out one of our creation reports). Here are a few key tips from some of our content creation staff and leadership team members.

If you’re looking to outsource your content, follow these carefully to successfully manage both quality and expectations for yourself and your writer.

1. John’s tip: Communications is the key to a great outsourcing experience.

john content strategist express writers

John, our on-staff Content Strategist who has been a full-time Authority Copywriter, trained Content Strategist, and copywriter with us since mid-2016, knows what it takes to succeed. He says it’s all in a good brief.

Depending on the type of copy you’re ordering, a successful brief could include a number of different features.

However, I would consider the following to be mandatory.

In fact, unless I already have a lot of experience with the client, if I don’t see at least one of these, I’ll usually ask for them immediately.

1. An Outline

Outlines don’t need to be overly detailed, but it’s nice to have a sense for what the client is expecting to receive from their piece.

This includes any client-specific requirements. For example, if the client wants an article about ecommerce tips, but they need them to be related to social media, that’s something that should be specified in the brief.

2. A Reference Piece

In lieu of an outline, a reference piece is also very helpful. Clients often send both, which is great, but at the very least, it’s nice to have a point of reference (or multiple) with any additional notes from the client (e.g. “add in X”, “skip the part about Y”, etc.).

The other reason a reference piece is so important is because of word count. If a client has looked at other articles on the same topic, they probably have a good idea what they can cover with a certain number of words.

Otherwise, they risk trying to cover too much (e.g. “Top 20 Blogging Tips” for a 500-word blog post), which results in a weak copy.

2. Danielle’s tip: Remember your focus keyword and other vital content musts

danielle quote on outsourcing

Danielle, our Content Specialist and on-staff editor at Express Writers, answered this question with some fabulous reminders. Simple points, but critical to content success!

What makes for a great blog, both in the client side (input given) and when you see a writer simply nail it?

It’s best to know what exactly is in a client’s mind before turning his/her dream blog post into reality.

Some of the most important details a client can provide should answer the following:

  • What’s your business or website all about?
  • What’s the topic of the blog post you want to be published?
  • What is your business’s/website’s target audience?
  • What should be the tone/voice used in your blog post?
  • What is your blog’s focus keyword?

Clients often miss answering the last question—providing a focus keyword. And it’s one of the most important especially if one wants to have an SEO-optimized blog.

Sometimes, others send too many keywords (more than 10 can be too much) that’s impossible for writers to use in one piece. That’s why, for me, it’s way better if clients have the right keyword research and topic planning in place to make sure their dream blog posts give them the best results.

And when it comes to the actual blog writing, a writer simply nails a great blog post if all the details provided by the client are in it.

Besides that, I want the post to have a readable format, contains the right sources, meta data and CTA, and speaks straight to the point. It should satisfy future readers with the right information without wasting their time.

3. Korilynn’s key tip: Be specific, but not too constricting.

korilynn on outsourcing

Our Business Development Manager, Korilynn, says that every freelance writer needs to know exactly what you are looking for in terms of tone, direction, keywords, and core message, but, encourage your writer to use their freedom and tap into their inner creativity. If the guidance is too constricting, then the copy tends to come off robotic even from the most talented writers, because they are pigeonholed into a very specific outline.

4. My key tip: Evaluate how you provide instructions.

julia mccoy

Even the best writer is only as good as the instructions that he or she receives.

With this in mind, be sure you’re setting your would-be writers up for success by evaluating the way you provide instructions.

Here are two examples of instructions:

Poor: “Write 300-words of web copy for our ‘about us’ page.”

Helpful: “Write 300 words of web copy for our ‘about us’ page. The URL of our site is The key points we want to communicate are as follows: Company is a Texas-based provider of custom dog coats. All our coats are environmentally friendly and made from recycled pop cans. We never undertake animal testing, and we give 10% of our proceeds to grassroots non-profits. Our contact number is 867-5309, and we specialize in producing coats for small and medium breeds.”

Is the second example a little wacky? Sure. But is it specific, and useful to the writer? Yes.

When it comes to giving your writer instructions, be as specific and granular as you can.

Provide examples of content you like, reference websites for research and statistics, very specific directions and outlines, etc. The more information your writer has to work with, the more efficient he or she will be with your content creation.

so you think you can write book by julia mccoy

3 Additional Key Tips to Outsource Your Writing Successfully

5. Understand that editing is part of writing

If you’ve never worked with a writer before, you might not know just how integral the editing process is to content creation. When your writer submits a draft to you, consider it just that – a draft.

Not quitting on the first draft is essential. To forge a good relationship with your writer, you’ll need to work together to determine a process for content creation. Remember: no matter how good your writer is, it takes some time to “teach” him or her what you expect from your content.

What’s more, writers want to do a good job, and they can’t fix mistakes in formatting or voice unless you let them know they exist. That said, work through the editing process in close collaboration with your writer to create a more functional partnership.

6. Reward your writer for a job well done

For copywriters, it can often seem like assignments come and go and are never heard from again. This can be a discouraging way to work, and it’s something that bothers many writers. Instead of letting this happen in your newfound writing team, be sure to reward your writers – either financially or verbally – for a job well done.

Something as small as calling out what you liked about a certain piece or adding a bonus to a writer’s assignment every now and again can go a long way toward boosting the morale of your team. It also has the added benefit of helping your writers see your assignments as their top priority, and encouraging them to turn in quality work at all times.

7. Remember to hire based on skillsets, if you have an industry need

If you own a high level niche company, look for writers with niche experience in your industry. Writers with niche medical, financial, and technical skills are all over the web, and they can help enhance your content and create the high-level material you need to help your business thrive.

Know How to Outsource Your Content to Great Writers, & Your Business Will Grow

If you hate writing, aren’t any good at it, and can’t bear to do it one more day, it’s critical to know how to outsource your content to a team of skilled writers.

Finding a great group of copywriters is a rewarding process, and it can help your business grow now and in the future.

Looking for the right team to help you craft your content? Talk to us to learn more about how we can help you grow with content writing!

cta great copy

oxford comma

The Oxford Comma & Its Place In Your Web Content

Who cares about an Oxford comma?

Good question. You should, if you are in search of being a well-read online writer.

While the Oxford comma may seem like a useless little piece of punctuation, this unique little comma has a major effect on the clarity of a sentence, and can either improve your online content or drive it into the ground depending on how you use it.

How much does it matter to the content writer, and the readability of online content? Let’s dive in and talk about the Oxford comma in relation to online writing.

comma in web content

What is the Oxford Comma, & Why is it Such a Big Deal?

Oxford Dictionaries defines the Oxford comma as an optional comma that precedes the word and, and appears at the end of a list.

It garners it’s name from being traditionally used by readers, editors and printers at Oxford University Press. It also goes by the nickname “serial comma.”

This still from the Oxford Dictionaries “What is the Oxford Comma” YouTube video does an eloquent job at portraying the problem that could occur, should you omit the Oxford comma. (See the highlighted blue circle showing where the Oxford comma would go.)

screenshot youtube oxford comma

Without the comma, the characters in the still – President Obama and the Queen of England – become acrobats at the party.

With the Oxford comma, the characters go back to being who they are, intact, all right in the world.

(I like to say the Oxford comma saves lives, because there’s also this fun old quip: “Eat, Grandma!” vs. “Eat Grandma!” Telling Grandma to eat takes quite a turn, without the Oxford comma.)

According to a 2014 poll that asked Americans in general about their feelings regarding the Oxford comma:

  • 57% reported that they were for using it
  • 43% would rather avoid it

This is a pretty even split, and it provides some insight into why so few people can agree on the Oxford Comma’s place in online writing.

Even though there are a few different schools of thought about how to use the Oxford comma, and where it’s appropriate, anyone familiar with professional writing (either on paper or online) knows that inconsistency looks improper. As such, it’s smart to develop a standard for how you’ll use the Oxford Comma in your online writing.

In addition to being a good practice, learning to use the Oxford comma correctly can have a significant impact on the clarity of your writing.

After all, the Oxford comma has the potential to change the meaning of a sentence completely – as we saw in the earlier image.

Consider two more examples:

  • “Angie went into the lake with her sister, a doctor and a hot-air-balloon enthusiast.”
  • “Angie went into the lake with her sister, a doctor, and a hot-air-balloon enthusiast.”

One simple comma can mean the difference between a three-person lake party with a doctor and a hot air balloon enthusiast, and a quality summer outing between sisters.

So, learning to use the Oxford comma correctly is essential to ensure that your writing is saying what you want it to say, rather than running away with your purpose.

But, Do You HAVE to Use It?

Is the Oxford comma strictly required in writing?

The answer, although I’ll probably debate you on it (;-)), is not at all!

As a copywriter, you’ll find that some clients prefer it and that some could do without. Feel free to cater your style to the preferences and style guides of your clients. Certain brands may have uniform grammar rules that they appreciate and go by, and you want to stick within their voice and style. That’s fine.

Beyond personal preference, there’s also a geographical norm to the Oxford comma. Once you start using it, you’ll find that it’s a pretty standard practice in the US, but far less common throughout the UK. 

How to Use the Oxford Comma: 4 Tips to Remember

While the Oxford comma is necessary, it can be confusing. Here’s a list of key ways to use it.

1. Always use the comma in long, complex lists.

Example: “Alison went to the store and got caviar, cheese, crackers, soy sauce, Sprite, cookies, bread, and toenail clippers.” The Oxford comma in this sentence appears right before the last “and” and helps to simplify the pattern of the phrase.

While it’s fine to omit the Oxford comma in a short list (“Alison went to the store and got cheese and crackers”) it helps to streamline longer lists and is essential in any online content that lists a variety of products, goods, or services, for example.

2. Use the serial comma in any sentence that needs additional clarification or could be confusing without it.

In online content, using the Oxford comma is recommended in any piece that will be confusing without it. Because the Oxford comma helps to break up topics and keep the message clear for readers, it’s an essential way to keep mix-ups to a minimum and help your readers digest the essential meanings of your content.

Here’s an example: “I had toast, eggs and cheese.”

Without the Oxford comma, it sounds like you’re telling your friends, Eggs and Cheese, that you had toast for breakfast. “Great,” they think, and your readers are confused. To make it easier on everyone, insert the Oxford comma:

“I had toast, eggs, and cheese.”

For an example of how the Oxford comma (or lack of it) can create confusion, check out this Mental Floss infographic on the topic:

mental floss infographic


3. In online writing, use the comma before coordinating conjunctions that link independent clauses.


“I went running, and saw a platypus.”

“I sat at a coffee shop, and met the president.” Etc.

The reason for this is simple, if you took the implicit “I” from the second sentence, it wouldn’t have a subject, which destroys its meaning and makes it grammatically incorrect. With this in mind, insert a serial comma to help it make sense.

4. Use the Oxford comma before the final item in any list of three or more

This applies to all types of online writing: if you have a list of three or more, insert the Oxford comma before the final item. This helps avoid confusion and streamline your writing. It also helps keep your material consistent, and saves you from looking like an amateur to your audiences.

5. …Except when the concluding element requires a conjunction

The only exception to the above rule is when the last item in a series contains a conjunction. Example: “I had eggs, cheese, coffee and cream for breakfast.” If you put a comma before “and cream,” it would indicate that you had cream all on its own, rather than in your coffee which (We hope) isn’t true!

In Defense of the Oxford Comma

This lovely bit of punctuation is a real grammar life-saver. Lose it at your peril: use it to win! 😉

Knowing just how to use it can help simplify its place and purpose in your online writing. This simple little piece of punctuation is critical for helping avoid confusion and streamline your online writing.

Have anything to add or share about how you use the Oxford comma in your content? Tell me in the comments!


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