7 Keys to powerful copy and content
Part 2 of “Breathing Life into your Marketing Language“
The rules of Internet marketing seem to change almost daily. But in the rush to make millions online, the power in word use is easily lost. And I’m not talking about keywords either. Sure, you have to figure out your key words and phrases and what percent attracts Google and all that. But solid writing has always had the power to move readers to respond. Just for starters, here are 7 ways to wield power with word:
- Follow the old “you first” rule. You know this one, but it bears repeating. Look for ways to inject the word “you” into your marketing mix, whether you’re writing sales copy, blog posts, or service articles. Tell your readers what’s in it for them. This technique is as old as the “sell benefits not features” rule, which also still pulls its weight.
- Don’t start with “It.” It is one of the weakest words you can use to begin a selling statement. You can always generate a stronger opening. Other weak beginnings: “When it comes to …” “Some of the …” “There is …” Try to weed these out wherever possible.
- Keep your message fresh and juicy. Neutral words like “receive” don’t motivate half as much as the more active “get.” Words like “quality” and “value” have lost their quality and value. Be more specific. What is the quality or value you’re offering? Why is it better?
- Who needs needs? “For all your health insurance needs!” “Supplying all your nutritional needs.” Advertising copy abounds with this headline cliché. Old-school advertising consultant Herschell Gordon Lewis used to call it, ” … a nondescript running-in-place word suitable only for Yellow Pages rejects.” For today’s marketing gauge, look to the current experts, like like Rand Fishkin (from SEOmoz) and Aaron Wall (from SEOBook.com). But some of the old rules still apply. Cut the cliches and ask yourself, ‘what are my customers’ needs?’ Make the answer to that question the subject of your message.
- Little words mean a lot. To answer the questions posed in the previous post, the word “when” works better than “if” for suggesting something will happen. Write, “When you refill your diabetes supplies …” But, “If you have questions about operating your new diabetes monitoring kit …” The word “one” sounds more substantial than the word “a.” For example, instead of “a serving,” write, “one full serving.” And “buy” is a better friend than the stuffier “purchase.”
- Persuade by numbers. Power lurks in numbers. English teachers tell you to spell out the numbers one through nine and use numerals for 10 and above. Word wizards know better. For more dynamic content, use numerals (like I did in the title “7 Keys to Powerful Copy and Content.” But when your content calls for more sophistication, spell it out. “One full year” sounds longer than “12 months.” Either way can work to your advantage. And, “60% prefer electric wheelchairs” feels cold-blooded compared to the warmer “3 out of 5 people.
- Say what you mean. How can you mesmerize someone who doesn’t understand you? Clarity is fundamental. Don’t let keyword stuffing or any other element of communication interfere with your clear and simple message.
Happy Health Writing,
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NOTE: An earlier version of this article was published a while back in my Business Journal column “The Smart Side.”