Quick Note – This Content Refers To The “Content Creation” Side of Copywriting.
Since Google released its algorithm adjustments Panda, Penguin and, eventually, Hummingbird, copywriting experienced a significant shift. At the time, content farms dominated the Internet, churning out simplistic articles offering little to no reader benefit. Modern copywriting now depends heavily on quality over quantity. The term “content is king” rose from the ashes of Google’s past search engine algorithms, forcing writers to focus on producing high-quality content, providing readers with beneficial material over advertisement-stuffed, bland posts. While search engines such as Google continue to put out minor algorithm updates, nothing has since compared to Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird. Despite this, copywriters do need to continually evolve their craft in order to meet the ever-changing requirements of Bing, Yahoo, and Google. Here is what a writer needs to understand about copywriting in 2018.
Aim to Build a Relationship
In the past, creating content online revolved around one thing: a quick buck. Yes, the drive for most copywriting in 2018 contains the end goal of making money, but Internet readers are far more educated now over the average Internet user five years ago. Plus, in the age of “fake news,” well-versed Internet users understand the importance of seeking out quality information from a trusted source. Due to this, in order for any copywriter to generate traction and develop a following, they need to build a relationship with the reader.
According to Shirley Polykoff, one of the most influential American advertising executives and rated as the 24th most important people of the 20th Century (according to Advertising Age, 2012), “Copy is a direct conversation with the consumer.” It isn’t writing about what a business wants or the needs of a company. Content needs to focus on creating a direct dialog with the target audience.
To build a relationship with the reader, posts must focus on the needs of the reader, not the needs of the business. When a consumer receives helpful insights from content online they become more likely to return to the site. As this continues, it helps grow the level of respect a consumer has for the website. From a plumber writing a blog post to an Internet security service provider offering insights into protecting a corporate network from external threats, by making the content about the target audience, it helps build a relationship. This, in turn, helps make money in the end.
Understand the Copywriting Medium
There are many forms of copywriting. Writing for a blog, or for social media posts, or any other outreach method a business uses to connect with its customers all fall under the umbrella of copywriting. However, writing for each varies significantly, so understanding the chosen copywriting medium helps not only boost search engine ranking but increase social sharing as well.
When creating a blog post, the highest-ranking posts are generally the longest. According to Orbit Media, nearly 45 percent of bloggers said their posts of over 2,000 words received the strongest results. Blog posts of less than 500 words only offered 13 percent favorable results.
Google and other search engines prefer longer content. In research performed by SerpIQ, the average length of top search engine results is 2,450 words, with a 2,500-word content length coming in second. As the length of a post went down, so too did it’s ranking.
Longer blog content doesn’t just perform better in search engine results. It also receives the most social shares as well. Social shares help bring in additional traffic to a company page it may not have generated otherwise, so focusing on creating excellent, longer content pays off. According to research performed by HubSpot and published by Copy Hackers, longer content receives a substantial boost in social shares. As illustrated in the below graph, the content of more than 2,500 words receives around 6500 shares, while the content of fewer than 1,000 words receives less than 2,000 shares. By doubling the length of an article, copywriters can see nearly three times the number of social shares.
While longer blog posts help generate traffic and increase social shares, the same is not true with other forms of copywriting. For copywriters creating content for social media sites, shorter is almost always better. Twitter, for example, just increased its allotted character posts to 280. Despite this, shorter copy receives more re-tweets, likes, and comments. According to research conducted by Buffer Social (2016) tweets between 71 and 100 characters receive a 17 percent increase in engagements. Facebook posts of 40 characters receive 86 percent higher engagement, while the desired length for Google+ titles is 60 characters.
The Importance of Formatting
In the world of Internet blogging and copywriting, longer more often than not is better. Longer content experiences a boost in search engine results while generating additional social shares. However, longer doesn’t always mean the reader will actually take in everything. Despite results demonstrating posts of around 2,500 words receiving more traffic, readers are just as likely now to scan and skim content than ever before. According to Copyblogger, while eight out of 10 people will read the headline copy, this number drops down to just two out of 10 people reading the rest of the text. Furthermore, the Nielson Norman Group indicates visitors read just about 20 percent of the contents of a page. Due to this, formatting in 2018 is more important than ever before.
The average attention span of a current Internet user sits right around eight seconds. Prior to the release of the first Apple iPhone in 2007, Internet users had an attention span of nearly double that. With the stark decline in attention span over the last decade, the need to push the most important content to the forefront of any article remains paramount. Due to the small percentage of readers who actually take in a full article, the only way to accurately do this hinges on the importance of formatting.
Paragraphs need to be short. If a paragraph consists of more than four or five sentences, it’s too long. The average Internet reader does not like to see a giant block of text. It becomes a daunting task to read, plus the large chunk of words does not scan easily. Breaking it up into two or three paragraphs, even if the text remains the same, improves scannability while increasing the chances of a visitor actually reading the content.
Content needs to include large, bold, subheaders. This breaks up the content and gives the reader the ability to scroll down to an area within the copy they might want to read. It clearly illustrates what a specific section of the article focuses on.
Additionally, bullet points make it easy to clearly outline important facts within an article, without burying the entire context deep within bulky paragraphs. Even if the bullet points are explained further in paragraph form, offering bullet points helps improve the reader’s ability to scan the content.
In reality, a copywriter needs to consider writing an article like they would their resume. The majority of resumes are not read in full; at least not on the initial pass. Employers scan through a resume, so the most important information should be bolded, clearly identified, and often in bullet form. If a copywriter does this, their created content will see an increase in social shares as more readers take away the general idea of the published material.
The Timing of Copywriting is Crucial
As is the case with just about everything in life, timing very much is everything in copywriting. According to TrackMaven, copywriters, bloggers, companies, and other writers post content at relatively the same clip during the workweek. About 17 percent of content goes online on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, while this number dips to around 16 percent on Monday and 15 percent on Friday. However, very little goes online during the weekends, as only around five percent of content goes live on Saturday and Sunday. Faulty logic suggests readership dips during this time of the week, when in fact social sharing increases on Saturday and Sunday.
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday each see about 13 percent of social shares per day. This number again drops to about 12 percent on both Monday and Friday. However, Sunday sees an increase to 15 percent and Saturday pushes to nearly 20 percent. This shows social media users are more likely to share blog posts and catch up on missed content during the weekend. It also suggests copywriters and companies not uploading to the weekend miss out on a substantial amount of potential traffic. Due to this, it remains imperative for copywriters to publish material not only during the week but during the weekend as well. With only five percent of posts occurring on Saturday, yet nearly 20 percent of all sharing taking place on the same day, taking advantage of these numbers should lead to a sizeable boost in social exposure.
What is the Motivation Level of the Readers?
Despite the numbers indicating most blog posts and social shares center around the content of at least 2,500 words, some of the top online publications continually release material of just a few hundred words, yet still, receive high levels of traffic and social shares. According to BuzzSumo (2015), companies such as Disney regularly share articles with an average length of just over 200 words, yet these are some of the most shared posts on the Internet today. Why? The name brand and the company’s understanding of what its readers are looking for. Disney knows readers want short and to the point content. It doesn’t need to create 2,500-word posts in order to boost search engine optimization as it already has a sizeable social media following. However, most companies don’t have the kind of media push and substantial social following to carry out this kind of practice. Because of this, it is of vital importance for copywriters to understand their reader’s motivation.
In order to identify a reader’s level of motivation, a copywriter needs to answer a few key questions.
First, have the visitors or readers ever heard of the blog, product or store before?
Second, does a visitor checking out the content have any intention of making a purchase, or are they reading the shared information to learn something or solve a problem?
Third, is all the information they need to make an informed decision (if they do have an intent on potentially buying something) available?
Fourth, will they have any questions following the completion of the blog, or do they just have general questions before they even begin reading that requires answering?
Lastly, what kind of anxiety or fear might a reader have that prevents them from making a purchase? Is it because they have never heard of the brand before? Maybe the price is high? A copywriter needs to answer these questions before they even begin writing their content. This way, they know not only the key demographic they’re writing to, but also the motivation level of the audience. This goes a long way in determining both the subject and how a writer needs to present the information to the reader.
Research, Research, Research
The term “fake news” has taken over the copywriting industry. Regardless of what political candidates do or do not say about the topic, fake news poses a very real problem to the average consumer. Gone are the days of logging online and believing the contents of an article (even from certain reputable sources). By exposing this problem, consumers are discovering just how important it is to not only look for reputable sources but also back-check the sourced information within the article. If the reader discovers sources either are non-existent or altogether false, they, in turn, become less likely to return to the blog for future reading.
Grab a Reader’s Attention
Attention-grabbing headlines, for better or worse, is a must for the modern copywriter, both now and into 2018. A simple tweak in the title of an article plays an important role in bringing readers in and generating engagement.
According to Conductor, using a number in the headline sees a drastic increase in readership over all other formats, with 36 percent of headlines now using a number (such as “10 Ways to Make Money”). The second most prolific title formatting at 21 percent is directly addressing the reader (such as “Top Ways You Can Make Money). 17 percent of headlines use a “How To” in the title, while 15 percent of titles are considered normal (“Ways to Make Money”). Only 11 percent of titles now use a question, as readers are not drawn into these title formats. Now, readers want to be told something valuable, not asked a question.
Copywriting continues to evolve right along with the rest of online marketing and the Internet itself. As changes occur with how search engines rank posts and how social media users share content, so too does the content a Copywriter produces. 2018 will likely bring with it many forecast changes, in addition to a few unexpected surprises. However, by following these suggestions, a copywriter will prove prolific with their content, exposure and reader response in the coming year.