copywriting

I Critiqued 37 Landing Pages: You Can Learn From Their Mistakes

Learn from my experience and avoid the most common mistakes that keep your landing pages from being the kickass high-conversion machines you deserve.

The Secret To Human-Centred High-Conversion Landing Pages

When you look at marketing from a cold, strategic perspective, it’s easy to lose touch. Each decision becomes more about numbers, and less about the real people browsing your website. As a freelance copywriter, I believe in a human-centred approach to marketing. Learn how to apply these principles to improve the performance of your landing pages.

Writing High-Conversion Headlines: The Entrepreneur’s Cheatsheet

Are you a business owner? An entrepreneur? A marketer? Perhaps you just want to improve how you write headlines? Then this guide is for you. In the following, you’ll learn how to create effective, compelling, high-conversion headlines.

Content & Design: A Tragically Misunderstood Part of Your Business

Content and design. What's more important? Why does it matter to your business? It's definitely an interesting question. It's also a little controversial. As a digital copywriter, I've had this debate with designers and visual creatives time and time again. Without stepping on too many toes, I'm going to be blunt.

Online Writing Tip 4: Learn From Social Media

Social, social, social. Lets get social (don't click if you value your sanity). We're constantly barraged with the importance of social media - whether you're a writer, a small business owner or, well...a regular punter. Social media can be a pain. It can drive us insane - what with the opinionated tweets, banal Facebook posts, and narcissistic Instagram pages.

But in all honesty - social media has redefined how we write and communicate - for better or worse. If you're a wannabe Shakespeare, that might be a bad thing. But for the rest of us, it's great.

Now, our communications are more:

1. Clear and concise

2. Conversational

3. Personalised and relevant

The thing is, 140 characters forces you to say what you want to say quickly, clearly and - in many cases - creatively. Not only is it training us to write accordingly, it's also training us to expect that level of communication from each other.

That means...lengthy, complex content, long-form posts and dry, impersonal 'business talk' is becoming more and more out of fashion. Consequently, we need to completely redefine our approach to online writing.

Applying The Tip

Write For An ADHD 8th-Grader

Yep. Social media has reduced our attention spans. Now, we spend less time on words, and more on more visually engaging stimuli (Netflix and chill....anyone?). That's why we need to write in a concise, simple, legible manner. Here's how:

1. Break content into short paragraphs interspersed with bullet-points, images, bolded/italic key phrases

2. Always use simple word variations (or...word choices!) - full list here

3. Use active vs passive voice, as well as action (verbs) words vs descriptive (nouns) words

4. Cut unnecessary words, phrases, and keep everything simple - use the Hemingway Editor to get your writing to 8th grader level

Don't Just Talk - Create a Conversation

Social media is all about the conversation. It's allowing customers to directly interface and influence companies on a personal level for the very first time - and it's absolutely fascinating. Now, companies are finding much more success talking in a direct, friendly, no-nonsense manner. Take the likes of Apple, or Trello, or Innocent Smoothies.

1. Make it feel like you're a friend recommending a service/product - through social proof (testimonials, case studies, statistics)

2. Write like you're talking to one person - not thousands (individuals are reading, not crowds)

3. Use conversational language (contractions like ain't, casual phrases like 'funny business')

4. Mix super short, short and medium sentence lengths (just like a normal conversation)

5. Address the readers needs/problems - offer them helpful advice or ask them explicitly to engage

We can learn a ton from the world of social media. On cultural, psychological, and practical business levels. So, next time you write that intro email, web page or flier, are you going to talk at your audience, or with them? I'll leave that up to you.

Daily Writing Tips is where I share my expertise on web writing, content strategy, online business, creativity, and more.

 

Online Writing Tip 3: Let SEO Writing Follow - Not Lead

The SEO writing craze has been and gone (for most of us)... For all the clunky SEO headlines, blatant SEO filler content, and SEO writers advertising their services, you wouldn't have thought it had left.

While Google's updates in the last 5 years have punished poor SEO practice, so many of us are still being misled by out-of-date information. It sucks, but we can do something about it.

The web is becoming much more user-focussed. That is - content that improves a user's 'experience' will be looked on more favourably by Google. Content that is informative, that is shared on social media, and has a high percentage of bookmarks and return visits will be ranked highly. Have a look how Google ranks pages below:

image01[1]
image01[1]

As you've heard countless times before, written content is your brand's voice. The 'dialogue' between yourself and your reader should be true to your brand's identity, and true to their unique needs, desires and problems.

Content that is written like this is far more likely to rank highly compared to weak, clunky, keyword-stuffed content. Thing is - you can still utilise SEO, keywords, metadata and all that palaver. You just gotta' be subtle!

Applying the Tip

View 'Copy' as a Conversation

...Because, you know, blurting out nonsensical phrases like 'web developers London' in the middle of a conversation will quickly send them running.

View your website copy as a conversation with a friend, whom you're informing and convincing that something (product/service) is awesome. If SEO phrases or content makes your 'conversation' sound clunky, change them immediately.

You wouldn't keep repeating gibberish and jargon during a conversation (hopefully!) - don't do the same on your website.

Spent Your Time Wisely

Try to spend the majority of your time researching, writing, and promoting. If you put in the effort to create effective copy first, and leave the SEO aspects to last, the chances that your content will be driven by SEO are slim.

Take the following graph as a good indicator of SEO tasks:

image241[1]
image241[1]

As you can see, only a fraction of time should be spent on the technical side of SEO. Spent the rest of the time writing and engaging with your audience. They'll thank you for it.

Daily Writing Tips is where I share my expertise on web writing, content strategy, online business, creativity, and more.

Online Writing Tip 2: Write Like Hemingway

"A writer's style should be direct and personal, his imagery rich and earthy, and his words simple and vigorous." - Ernest Hemingway

One of America's most renowned authors, Hemingway's unique, punchy, 'to-the-point' style was as influential as it was controversial.

Because he was trained to write for newspapers, the literary world found his clear, no-bullshit approach to be intimidating.

Know what? His writing is more relevant than it has ever been. Concise, direct and personal translate to web writing excellently.

Taking a figurative page from Hemingway's book could help improve your web writing immeasurably.

Applying the Tip

1. Use Short, Concise Sentences

"For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

When challenged to write the shortest story, Hemingway proved his prowess with the above quote. He also proved that short sentences can have a huge impact.

In the era of online - with attention spans dwindling - quickly capturing your reader's attention is a valuable skill. And writing short sentences is a great place to start.

Long, rambling sentences will quickly have your readers dropping off like flies. Short sentences won't. I promise.

2. Use Strong, Bullshit-Free Language

Avoid:

- Excessive adjectives (powerful, innovative, state-of-the-art)

- Superlatives (amazing, awesome, great)

- Industry Jargon (core-competency, cutting-edge, results-driven, paradigm-shifting)

Choose:

- Simpler word alternatives (e.g. 'use' instead of 'utilise')

- Engage readers with emotional instead of intellectual language (e.g. 'finished' instead of 'completed' - full list here)

- Benefits-driven facts, statistics, quotes and testimonials

- Active instead of passive voice (e.g. 'every student failed the exam' instead of 'the exam was failed by every student')

- An honest, personal writing voice (learn more from Copyblogger)

3. Follow the 'Iceberg Theory'

Coining the 'iceberg theory', Hemingway described how only 10% of the plot was written on the page. The other 90% was unspoken. When you're writing content, keep this in mind.

You don't need to burden your readers with an excess of information to be effective. Choose the most powerful, impactful '10%'. The rest can be left unspoken.

 

While none of us will ever be as legendary as the man himself, we can learn from Hemingway's wisdom and, in doing so, take steps towards becoming more persuasive, effective writers as a whole.

Daily Writing Tips is where I share my expertise on web writing, content strategy, online business, creativity, and more.

Online Writing Tip 1: Kill Your Darlings

"In writing, you must kill your darlings." - William Faulkner

While the quote's origin is ambiguous, the power of the message is the same.

Whether you're writing content for your website, your latest blog post, or a cold sales email, being ruthless with each draft is one of the greatest things you can do.

When we spend hours slaving away at drafts of content, it's easy to become emotionally attached. Like soldiers, you've both been through a lot together. Late nights and early mornings...caffeine dependency...it's only natural to feel protective of your perfectly honed words.

We attach a disproportionate amount of value to the things that require the most effort. It's irrational, but hey, that's humans in a nutshell.

Remember - your thoughts, words and ideas are all disposable. They bend to your purpose, not the other way around. The quicker you internalise that - the quicker the quality of your writing will improve.

Applying the Tip

1. Ideas First - Then Words

We're often told to write as much as humanly possible, then edit. This is terrible advice. The more you slave over one idea, the harder it becomes to edit it. You become too attached, too close to the one concept - even if the concept itself is sub-par.

I suggest investing more time in coming up with the right idea/angle/approach. Write down 10 of these. Carefully choose your favourite. Then plan out your content carefully for your chosen idea. This will give you a solid base, and make editing far, far easier when the time comes.

2. Reveal it to the World

This can be a sobering experience. However, getting as many perspectives as possible on your writing can bring you back to reality. Nothing pops your bubble of creative delusion like a bit of objective feedback. Think about outsourcing a proofreader or copy-editor if you want to take it up a notch.

3. Weigh & Measure Your Idea

Write down guidelines for what you want your writing to achieve. E.g. desired tone, what benefits you want to communicate, and what actions you want the reader to take. Write these before starting on your content. Once complete, refer to these guidelines. Is your writing achieving all of these? No? Edit ruthlessly until it is. Yes? Good job!

Hopefully this writing tip has been of some use. Being objective with your writing is one of the most valuable skills you can have, regardless of what you're writing.

Daily Writing Tips is where I share my expertise on web writing, content strategy, online business, creativity, and more.