A lot is said about changes in search engine optimization, pay-per-click, and social media strategy. These things are fluid, and rising and falling trends are to be expected. But did you know that copywriting morphs just as much, and paying attention to the changes will help you better target your audience? Here’s how copywriting is expected to change, how it’s already changing, and how your brand can benefit from implementing the trends.
Trend 1: Longer Word Count and More Concise FormattingIf you’ve dabbled in content marketing, you know that readers (and search engines) want to see valuable, interesting content. You also most likely know that consumers are drowning in said content. From Facebook videos, to memes, to think pieces, to ads that somehow know we talked about wanting a new pair of Chelsea boots three hours ago — there’s no shortage of words and images vying for consumer attention. Over the past few years, brands have figured out the value of 500-something-word blog posts. In fact, so many brands have figured it out that these posts’ value has subsequently diminished. And while there is something to be said about the SEO value of these posts, that’s all they are generally good for. These days, short-form blogs are often seen as “fluff” designed to boost SEO value — nothing more. And that’s interesting. Many of us understand that readers have attention spans similar to those of goldfish, but it turns out we shouldn’t be so quick to dumb-down our audiences. The truth is that people DON’T want to read huge, blocky blog posts of around 2,000 words. Considering that 57 percent of web traffic comes from mobile, it would only make sense that people don’t have the time or desire to stare at long blog posts on their tiny screens. But this does not mean that they don’t want to read—it doesn’t even mean that you should not publish 2,000-word pieces. More important is to format the post correctly and focus on the right topic. Of course, long-form content takes more time to create, but despite popular conceptions, it can still be worth it. In a study by HubSpot, content of 2,500+ words received an average of around 6,500 shares. Content of less than 1,000 words received less than 2,000. So how are brands getting their audiences to read these tomes? The answer: short sentences, bullet points, and concise formatting. Let’s look at an example. Short sentences are easier to read. Especially when they’re placed strategically down the page. The reader’s eye flows down the page faster. And even a 2,000-word post seems easy to digest. And it’s a lot more fun to read than the five traditionally formatted paragraphs above. See what I mean? Let’s see how fast you can read the rest of this blog post when it’s formatted like this. You might even absorb a little more information.
Trend 2: Thorough Research and Reliable SourcesWe’ve all heard about it: Fake news. False stories, made-up sources, and clickbait. Everyone hates it, but there’s sometimes no avoiding it. And it’s directly because of this that consumers are now more educated; they actually seek out quality information. If they notice a questionable source, they won’t want to return to the blog or website again. In the world of content marketing, we’re not necessarily as concerned with dishonest politics as we are with plagiarism and decreased site traffic. You don’t want to copy a competitor’s post by trading out synonyms. And you definitely don’t want to copy a post word-for-word. As we touched on above, content is everywhere, but there’s no reason your content has to dissolve into that sea of boredom — not if you come up with content that’s as unique and interesting as your brand. The aim is to draw your audience in and have them actually learn something of value, maybe converting in the process. An important part of that process is brainstorming, working with a seasoned content marketing agency, and forming a deep understanding of who your customers truly are. A smaller, but no less important part of that is doing your research (or at least making sure your writers are doing their research). Finding reputable sources, and even back-checking sources used in the article you’re referencing, is more important than ever. This generally means avoiding websites you know are biased, and avoiding studies that were paid for by the product or service the study is promoting. In short, respect your audience. Give them something they can trust — and in turn, be someone they can trust.
Trend 3: Building Relationships with Your AudienceThrough its many forms — ads, white papers, blogs, infographics, motion graphics, etc — copywriting is a reliable form of persuasion. An audience should be able to read and interact with whatever content you’re putting out, and your goal is for them to eventually give you their time and/or money. In today’s world, that’s no mean feat. Being relevant to your audience requires a lot more than making or providing a product or service they will need or want. It requires a direct connection to be made with your audience. And copywriting is a direct conversation with the consumer. No, you’re probably not talking to your audience face to face. But in 2018, social media is the next best thing. Being active on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, LinkedIn, Instagram — whichever platform is most relevant to your audience — is a perfect way to talk to them in a way they feel comfortable. It’s also a great way to publish content that actually gets seen and read. And if your content is more likely to get seen and read, your audience is also more likely to interact with it, convert, and become loyal to your brand. People want to know that, even though they’re interacting with some online presence, there’s a real person behind it. That’s why people get so mad when they’re stuck in a never-ending loop of pre-recorded messages. Your brand’s personality should come out in your copy, whether that’s on your website or on social media. For example, two years ago the ethical clothing brand Everlane started a holiday campaign on Facebook. Their goal was to do something nice for their customers — whatever that may be. I’d never bought from them before, but I liked their mission, so I had “liked” them on Facebook. I was shopping for my mom, who is notoriously difficult to buy for. So I took a shot and commented on their Facebook post and said my mom would love a cashmere sweater to keep warm while working at her hospital. The brand direct messaged me asking for her size, and within about two weeks my mom’s new sweater — worth about $200, mind you — was wrapped and under the tree. And I hadn’t spent a dime. Two years later, I’m a regular customer. I’m actually wearing one of their shirts as I type this. Now, you don’t have to go giving out $200 cashmere sweaters to earn your audience’s loyalty. You just need to show them that you care about them — and that you care about what you put on their news feed. Put out content that people want to engage with — that they think about after they’ve scrolled past it — and improve your brand reputation and even attract new consumers as you do so. That means focusing primarily on the needs of the consumer, not the needs of your business.
Trend 4: Pillar Pages and Topic Clusters“Thought-leader” may be one of the most overused buzzwords in all of digital marketing, but it does have its merits. Being an actual thought-leader in your industry is important for brand loyalty and brand awareness, as well as for SEO. Brands should assert themselves as true experts in their fields, not just in the product or service they offer, but also in the content they produce. Enter topic clusters and pillar pages, which have been called the future of SEO and content strategy. A topic cluster or pillar page generally focuses on one broad topic, but is peppered with loads of information pertaining to different elements of that topic. For example, if I were creating a pillar page about how to write marketing copy, I would probably include the following sections:
- How to write a white paper
- How to write a blog post
- How to write an infographic outline
- How to write a motion graphic script
- How to write an e-book
Trend 5: Creating, Updating, and Reusing Evergreen Content“Evergreen” is another marketing buzzword that’s had its share of time in the spotlight. But don’t knock it!
- Evergreen content: Content that is relevant year-round, and doesn’t have an expiration date.
- Temporal content: Content that is only relevant for a short amount of time, such as seasonal or holiday content.
- Content with high conversions but low traffic
- Content with high traffic but low conversions
- Content underperforming relative to the time and resources it took to create
- Calls to action
- Meta descriptions
- Quality of the copy
- Do you really love this topic and want to get all you can from it?
- Did you invest a lot of time and money into this project?