As a content marketing writer, I’m in the process of building a future (and hopefully long-term) career on the assumption that content is here to stay. Having said that, the only thing we can be certain of in the age of the Internet is change, so I set out to discover whether I’m barking up the wrong tree to do so. Here are the main trends predicted for the future of content.
Prediction: Content Will Become an Asset, Instead of an Expense
Personally I believe this idea is way overdue. How often have you read something online and clicked on a hyperlink in the text, only to land up on an error page? Part of the reason for this is because companies aren’t thinking long-term when it comes to content. They publish their material, and after a year or two it's outdated or they redesign their website so they whip it off. Used that way, content is an expense. It might deliver short-term ROI while it’s on the site, but once it’s gone it’s useless.
By changing their thinking to view content as an asset, companies will put their dollars to better use by building up a repository of knowledge and information that outlasts their competition. The benefits of this are many, including:
Creating a gold mine of resources for clients and press
Building thought leadership that endures
Establishing credibility through clear evidence of long-term existence
Delivering ongoing ROI, as long as the links remain active and the material is accessible
In short, content marketing will need to be a long-term commitment, not a campaign.
Prediction: Content Will No Longer Be Marketing-Driven
We can already see the truth of this prediction as content becomes increasingly bound up with SEO quality requirements. Content is becoming crucial to every aspect of business communications, including client relationship management (CRM), lead nurturing (sales) and development of brand awareness (public relations). As companies make the shift towards being publishers, content will play a larger role in the overall business strategy than it currently does. It will need to inform, engage and nurture, without the accompanying marketing or sales pitch.
Prediction: Niche Content Will Be Gold
Generalized content is already going the way of the dinosaurs, due partly to the overload of information on the web. Users are becoming more discerning and now only access information that they really want. The tighter your content niche, the more likely you are to get readers. A content marketing writer will need to be able to focus an entire blog post or article on one particular point to achieve this.
Prediction: Data Convergence Will Be Critical
We’re already seeing the impact of big data on content marketing, with the ability it has to segment the market narrowly, targeting groups and individuals with specific information. In addition, as data and metrics improve, the information generated is likely to drive both content spend and quality, according to Contently CEO Joe Coleman. That’s great news for a content marketing writer, because it means I’ll have lots of work.
Making it Work
So how do I make these predictions work for me, as I build my content marketing writer portfolio? I think there are a few critical things I need to do, such as:
Begin educating my clients now to stop wasting money on “disposable” content that’s going to come down in a year or so, and focus instead on developing long-term content that can form the basis of their online resources and be updated as the information changes.
Write every piece of content with a long-term focus. Use evergreen conventions so the material requires the minimum of updating—but will still have longevity and deliver value that keeps readers coming back for years.
Start asking my clients for more information about the purpose and/or target market segment for each post, instead of just rushing to write it because it’s an assignment.
“Design-proof” the content I write so it doesn’t depend on format to deliver the desired impact—just in case we end up going back to preferring text over HTML and images!
And everything I write, I’ll review it from the angle of someone reading it in two, three, four or five years from now. Is it going to be easy to update? Does it clearly state in what year the original facts applied, or is it going to confuse users looking for information? Does it depend on layout for impact, or can it stand alone just from a text/copy point of view?
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When it comes to copywriting, landing pages are an important part of your clients’ website. Sure, there’s the home page, the About page, the blog, the product and services pages. But as vital as though as those pages are, the big difference between them and landing pages is that landing pages convert visitors into leads. With the exception of the blog, few (if any) of the other pages of copywriting on a site actually do anything beyond providing information and raising awareness. The landing pages are the ones where your client gathers intelligence on prospects, and yet, for some reason, the copy on them is often poorer quality than on other, less significant pages.
Here are five of the most common copywriting mistakes affecting landing pages:
#1: The Copy is Too Long / Too Short
This might sound like a paradox, but both are common mistakes. Copy that’s too long and presents the reader with a solid block of text is not going to get read, while copy that’s too short might miss out on conveying exactly what the page is selling. To provide your reader with a return on time invested (ROTI), the landing page needs to tell him just enough to make it worth his while to stay there.
#2: You’re Keeping ‘Em in Suspense
One of my pet peeves is that landing pages so often send the reader (me!) on a hunting expedition. I’ve read the pitch or blog; I’ve clicked on the CTA and I’m here. Now, don’t make me scroll back and forth hunting for what to do next. Make it clear what I’m here to do, how/where to do it and what I’m going to get in exchange.
#3: The Message is Inconsistent
Landing page copywriting often tries to say too many things, and in the process your primary message can get lost in translation. Web usability expert Steve Krug says you shouldn’t make the reader have to think. If you’re offering product price comparisons in your CTA, don’t lead your landing page with the benefits of a particular product or a subscription to your e-newsletter. Make the landing page all about a single message and stick to it. It’s like golf—the purpose is to get the ball into the hole, not check out the scenery on the way.
#4: Not Using Doing Words
Make the landing page copy actionable by using verbs as much as you can. There’s a reason why copywriting principles focus on direct, active voice instead of passive and indirect. What’s more effective here?
This is a comprehensive network engineering program that:
Utilizes your existing Nortel phones
Integrates smart phones, laptops, office telephones, home phones and tablets
Collaborates with others in real time without boundaries, across multiple locations
Improves responsiveness to customers
Simplifies technology systems
Maximizes your telephony investment
With this program, you will:
Reduce your capital expenditure by utilizing existing Nortel phones
Integrate your smart phones, laptops, office telephones, home phones and tablets
Collaborate with others in real time without boundaries, across multiple locations
Improve your responsiveness to customers
Simplify your technology systems
Maximize your company’s telephony investment
The first one isn’t too bad because it uses action words, albeit indirectly. The second, however, speaks directly to the reader. It makes the message personal.
#5: Choosing Creativity over Clarity
You’ve been creative, with the copywriting that brought your reader to the landing page. Now, it’s time for clarity over creativity. Imagine you’re on a timer and it’s set for 4 seconds. That’s the amount of time the average Internet user takes to decide whether to stay or go. So whatever you say on your client’s landing page, you have to make the point as briefly and clearly as possible. After you’ve written it, delete all the fluff and extraneous words. Remove all the “in facts” and “actuallys” and make the copy as concise as it can be without losing meaning.
We all have clients who don’t know what they want. Or, if they do, we know they are wrong. If you want to maintain your integrity as a writer, you can’t just subscribe to the principle that the client is always right. There’s a reason he’s asked you to write the material—because you’re supposed to know what works and what doesn’t. So don’t go along with a landing page that you just know isn’t going to work. Explain and educate.
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Wait, isn't content marketing and copywriting the same thing? Not exactly. Copywriting is an important part of a good content marketing strategy, but only one piece of a larger puzzle. Before we can talk about how marketing copywriters can help their clients, let's take a look at what the difference between the two are and how they work together to generate leads and keep existing customers.
What is Content Marketing?
In a nutshell, content marketing is the strategy of creating and sharing different types of content for a specific audience with the goal of attracting new leads and retaining current customers. There are many different things that qualify as content including infographics, videos, blog posts, podcasts, ebooks, and social media posts.
The key word here is strategy. Everyone dumps content on the web but not everyone is doing it in a measured way with a precise goal. Forbes points out that when content is part of a marketing campaign it is valuable. In fact, the tell-tale sign of a content marketing campaign is the fact that people actually want to consume the content rather than ignore it like traditional marketing and advertising. Why? Because it is helpful, informative, entertaining, or otherwise useful to the reader.
What is Copywriting?
Copywriting is the actual writing of the words. It differs from other types of writing in that the goal of copywriting centers around sales. Journalists investigate and inform, novelists entertain, and technical writers teach us how things work. Copywriters present products and ideas and make them sound awesome.
Copywriters are experts at discerning the audience, finding the right tone to write in, and adapting their work to fit a wide variety of industries, voices, and perspectives. A good marketing copywriter is also an expert at creating copy that is interesting, informative, and engaging and not full of a bunch of advertising mumbo jumbo - while also still maintaining a bit of persuasion with their words.
How Do they Fit Together?
Let's go back to that key word: strategy. A marketing copywriter is skilled at creating written content that not only fulfills the needs of your business, but is also something that people want to read. This content will attract new leads to your website by promising them a solution to their problem and then delivering it. A marketing copywriter can help flesh out a content marketing strategy by providing:
Blog Posts. Blogging works best when it is done regularly and consistently. Professional writers can make sure their clients stay on track.
Fresh Web Page Content. If an "About Us" page or FAQs are putting people to sleep, perhaps some bright and clean copy will liven things up.
Email Marketing. Boring, sales-y emails go straight to the bit bucket. A marketing copywriter can spruce up newsletters and personalize offers so people actually read them.
Ebooks. These long-form pieces of content work as a great trade for contact information from prospective customers, but you better give them something great or they'll be sorry they gave up their email address.
Here to Stay
Content marketing is more than just a buzzword. In fact, 80% of business decision makers want to get company information from articles rather than ads and 70% of them say content marketing makes them feel closer to the company. As a content marketing copywriter, you can study marketing strategies and learn how frequently your clients neeod to blog, how frequently to update social media accounts, and how to identify your client's target market and ideal reader.
Writing copy, on the other hand, is a skill that is honed with a combination of education and experience and usually involves a bit of natural talent, too. Marketers who don't want to put their marketing strategies at risk with boring or ineffective copy will consider hiring a marketing copywriter to create words that get the job done.
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As a freelance writer, you make your living based on your ability to churn out numerous quality pieces of writing. So when you run into the already devastating roadblock that is writer's block, it becomes even more devastating. Your words don't come out right, you spend hours writing something that previous took only one-third of the time, and your pitch efforts are proving futile.
Since your livelihood comes from your writing, it is important that you overcome your writer's block as quickly as possible. Keep these tips in mind the next time you encounter a block, and you'll hopefully be back to your usual brilliant self in no time.
1. Take a break.
When working as a freelance writer is your full time job, it's easy to get burned out. You're churning out word after word, sentence after sentence, day after day. Take a half an hour or so to just walk away from what you're working on. Take a nap. Move around. Go for a walk, do a quick yoga routine, or do some jumping jacks. Read a few interesting articles. Doodle. Vacuum or do the dishes. Do something other than writing for thirty minutes.
2. Move to a new location.
If you've been working at your desk for awhile, maybe you simply need a change of scenery. Take your notepad or laptop and sit in the park if the weather is nice. Find a table in a coffee shop or cafe if it's not. The new environment will work wonders on your creativity.
3. Free write.
Forget about the assignment that you're working on. Just because you're a freelance writer and you do have to write for a living doesn't mean that you can't simply write for you every now and then. Set aside ten to fifteen minutes of time and just write. Don't stop to think. Just write whatever comes out of your head. Some writers use this as a tactic to further their current writing project--write whatever you know on the topic at hand for fifteen minutes. Don't even worry about capitalization or punctuation.
4. Get rid of any distractions.
If you no longer need the Internet for your research, turn it off. Put away your cell phone. Lock up the TV. Whatever is distracting you from really zeroing in on your work, get rid of it. If you're trying to write with noise in the background, chances are it actually isn't helping.
5. Do more research.
If you're having trouble writing on a topic, you might not know as much about it as you thought you did. By taking a break from writing to do a little bit more research, you're opening up new avenues for your article.
6. Work on multiple projects at once.
Working on the same writing assignment for long periods of time can bore you and make you start to hate your job. By keeping it interesting and allowing yourself to move freely between assignments, you'll find that you have a much easier time finishing writing.
7. Find your most productive time.
I do my best work in the morning. Maybe it's the same for you. Or maybe you're a night owl or you prefer the afternoon lunch rush at your favorite cafe. Find the time that you work best and always set aside that time to work.
8. Phone a friend.
Take a mental break for a minute and call a friend you haven't talked to in awhile or one that you talk to everyday. Have a nice conversation, mention that you're stuck on a certain assignment, and ask for advice. If they have some, great! If not, it was still a worthwhile conversation.
9. Read something you've already written.
As freelance writers, writer's block hits us hard. It makes us begin to question our existence as a writer. What if we were never really able to write in the first place? By going back and reading things you've previously written, you'll remind yourself that yes, you really can write, and yes, it does come naturally, and yes, you really do love what you do.
Just because you're facing a roadblock and you're not sure where to go from here doesn't mean that you should give up or that you'll never be able to write again. Take a break, create a change in scenery, write a to do list, do some more research, or go make your bed. You've still got it.
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As a professional copywriter, you may long to write serious articles and interesting research pieces, however, keeping the lights on usually means writing a few persuasive pieces on insulation, car features, and other industry-specific topics.
Your client wants something that's useful, yet still indirectly nudging the reader towards a call to action. If you're having trouble hitting the mark, here's three tips to help you write effective persuasive copy while still keeping the reader engaged.
1. Benefits vs. Features
Whether you're writing product descriptions or informative blog posts, navigating the difference between benefits and features is an essential skill for a professional copywriter to master. While features generally entail a list of attributes or details about a product or service, benefits tell the reader why they should care about it.
A list of features might be good for a product package or on a landing page asking for contact information, but when you're writing copy you should focus on benefits. Benefits will always be more persuasive as they help a reader identify with a product or service and speak directly to the problems that the reader is trying to solve. Benefits also tie into a reader's emotions, which leads to the second tip.
2. Tap Into Emotions
No matter how well you've presented the benefits of a product, service, or idea, if the reader doesn't feel anything or have a sense of attachment to those benefits then they won't stick with your content and they won't follow through with any calls to action.
According to Entrepreneur Magazine, common emotional triggers include value, instant gratification, trend-setting, and time. If you can elicit these triggers from your readers, they are more likely to be moved to take action from your messages. Help readers to see that you're showing them something of value, or something that they can have right now. Show readers how your ideas or products will make them leaders in their industry or save them five hours per week.
3. Be Specific
If there's one instruction that makes a professional copywriter cringe it's “no fluff.” Most writers want to give their best work and adding in unnecessary adjectives and irrelevant information just isn't part of the deal. On the other hand, how can you be sure that you're avoiding content that can be viewed as fluffy? By using details and specific information to make your case rather than wordy claims or general ideas.
For example, rather than saying that adding insulation to your home can cut down on energy costs, point out that a properly insulated home can save up to 20% of a home's heating costs. The first idea sort of seems appealing, but cutting a bill by 20% is an instant winner.
Bring it Together
The reason why people seek out a professional copywriter rather than applying these ideas to their own words is because it isn't always easy to tie these ideas together and create sensible sentences. That's where your creativity and expertise comes in. To bring it home for our example of insulation, here is one way to speak to the reader's emotions while delivering a powerful fact-based benefit:
“If you're tired of shivering through the winter and your energy bills are giving you the chills, maybe it's time to bulk up your home's insulation. A well-insulated home can cut your heating bills by up to 20% so while you're fattening the layer of insulation in your attic, you'll be fattening your wallet, too.”
If insulation can sound that great, anything is possible.
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If you are struggling to help your client's business get ahead when it comes to online marketing, the proper use of social media may be just what you need to achieve your goals. However, understanding how to effectively use social media as a marketing tool is an important step to take before launching any type of online marketing campaign that involves social media.
Social media copywriting is an essential component of your online marketing efforts. Learning more about what it is and how you can use it will help your clients stay competitive in the online arena.
Understanding Social Media Copywriting
Social media copywriting is the creation of text for the purpose of marketing via social media. Many businesses confuse copywriting with content marketing as a whole. Content marketing is a more complex mixture of the content itself, the creation of ideas for content and the strategic placement of this content on a website. Copywriting refers to the actual writing of text. While it is only one component of content marketing, it is an essential one.
Tips For Mastering Social Media Copywriting
Now that you understand the difference between social media copywriting and content marketing, you can take this knowledge a step further with these tips.
Be aware of the importance of the content in your blog. Forbes explains that building valuable content is a part of your content marketing strategy. Social media copywriting is how you drive traffic to your blog. Short, concise posts that are crafted to garner interest are needed to encourage your followers to become website visitors. The best way to get followers interested in reading your blog is to create curiosity.
Landing pages may provide basic information about your company, but social media followers may not be interested in reading these dry pages. This is why it is important for you to focus on your blog when you are copywriting.
Inject your personality into your copywriting efforts. Stating the facts is not enough to convince followers to continue on to your blog. You need to breathe some life into social media posts while keeping your posts short and easy to read. Pique interest by hinting at the most interesting parts of your blog or website without giving away everything.
Do not rehash the same information over and over again. Whether you are talking about something that you have already posted or information that is already available across the Internet, saying the same thing again and again will just bore followers. The value of your copywriting often lies in your ability to share new information. Entrepreneur highlights this fact by advising companies to focus on the quality of their content.
Use copywriting to show potential customers that your product or service is the best solution to a problem that they have. You should already know how your product or service can be used to fulfill a need, so your job while copywriting is to highlight this feature.
Focus much of your attention on the headlines that you create in order to increase interest in clicking through. Social media followers are used to being bombarded with information and enticements to click through all day. This makes it more difficult for you to encourage a visit, but you can appeal to potential visitors by creating an eye-catching, interesting headline.
Do not be afraid to point out the problem to which you are providing a solution. While you do not want to alienate your customers, a slight touch of the nerve that fuels their insecurities is not always a bad strategy. Just be sure that you are able to thoroughly demonstrate that your business is able to provide a solution in order to avoid turning potential customers off by pointing out their issues.
A Final Word
Social media copywriting is a process that may require you to push out of your comfort zone in order to create unique, attention-grabbing headlines. This essential component of your content marketing plan helps to garner interest in your blog to drive traffic to your website.
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You may know that your website has to be accessible on mobile devices, but have you taken this knowledge a step further to optimize your mobile website content? Here is what you need to know about making your mobile website content valuable and easy-to-reach for a growing demographic of website visitors.
The Importance of Mobile-Friendly Content
Why is it so important for you to focus on the creation of mobile website content? Statistics show that mobile Internet access is growing at an impressive speed. If you fail to market to an increasingly large demographic that is accessing your website, you stand to lose out.
Statista reports that nearly one-third of organic search traffic in the United States is sourced from a mobile device. Nearly $84 billion in e-commerce in the U.S. is associated with mobile purchases or searches, and over one-third of product searches are done with a mobile device.
Think about how many times you have been out shopping or meeting a friend when you decided to browse a website for a retailer or restaurant for more information before your meeting time arrived. What would you do if the website that you were trying to access only included huge posts or off-center images that blocked the text that you were trying to read? Content that is not optimized for mobile use frustrates a large percentage of your customers and potential buyers.
Determining If Your Website Content Is Mobile-Friendly
Now that you truly understand how important it is to create mobile website content, how do you go about actually achieving this goal? Experts from Business 2 Community and Content Marketing Institute provide valuable advice.
Utilize a font size that automatically scales down for mobile devices. A large font can make scrolling a chore for mobile users. Ensuring that users are able to zoom in if they cannot read the font is important for people who need the text to be just a bit larger.
Give users the option to save website information to access later. Mobile users may be browsing quickly while they are waiting on someone to arrive. The fact that these users may have to put their mobile device away in the middle of browsing means that the option to save information related to the page that they were reading is a desirable feature of a mobile website.
Use links to your website when you are launching an email marketing campaign. One of the most common tasks that people complete on a mobile device is checking their emailing. Increasing website traffic by linking users to the website when emails are sent is a great way to encourage potential customers to take the next step.
Cater to the connection that your target demographic uses. You will have to do some research to determine whether your potential customers use a wi-fi connection on their mobile devices. These individuals are more likely to be able to load graphics and watch videos. If you find out that your target demographic does not utilize wi-fi capabilities, you may want to leave out the extras that take more time to load.
Keep mobile website content short and to the point. People who are accessing your website when they have just a few minutes do not have time to read through a lot of fluff. Padding your content with fluff is a bad idea anyway, so crafting content that gets to the point right away is the best way to keep mobile users engaged when they visit your website.
Along with eliminating videos or images when appropriate, remember to eliminate Flash elements from your mobile website content. Most mobile devices are not able to load these components of a website, and an error screen may result. Your potential customers may not be able to find out more about your business when you integrate Flash into your mobile website.
Include breaks in content to make it easy for a visitor to digest each piece of information individually. Headings, bullet points or swipeable slides work well for this purpose.
A Closing Thought
Reaching mobile users is more important than ever. More people are using a mobile device as their primary method of accessing the Internet, and your company needs to cater to this change in the way that people access your website in order to stay ahead of the competition. Mobile website content that is short, concise and appropriately sized for easy reading on a mobile device is a must.
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The first time I ventured into the scary realm of ebook writing, I had to Google how to do it. Seriously. But with the growing demand for businesses to publish ebooks to expand their reach, I figured that do or die I was going to get it right. Since then, I’ve learned a lot more about what works and what doesn’t, and I’ve written multiple ebooks for my clients. Here’s my recipe for producing a successful ebook, in 7 fundamental steps.
Step #1: Define the Target Market
This is a crucial first step in anything you write, but even more so for an ebook that takes longer to write (and costs a lot more money) than the average blog post. The more narrowly you target your niche, the more likely you are to get results. Start with a broad definition of whom you’re writing for, then break it down into segments and create personas.
Let’s assume you’re writing an ebook to attract subscriptions to a tour operator’s mailing list:
Does the company target travel agents or travelers?
Are the products (tours) offered high end and expensive, or backpacking and budget?
What are the demographics of the customers who typically take up the tours available?
When you’ve listed and grouped your targets into various categories, decide which group you’re specifically targeting with the ebook and create a persona with a name, a job, a life and needs, wants and desires.
Step #2: Identify the Call to Action (CTA)
Ok, now that you know whom you’re writing for, you need to determine what you’re trying to tell/sell them. Usually the client determines this, but if you’re a marketing writer for a company you might be the one in the hot seat. Remember, ebook writing (and any other form of content) doesn’t work well unless there’s a clear CTA that tells the reader exactly what you want him/her to do, and what they can expect to receive in exchange. In an ebook, you’ll likely have several different versions of the same CTA appearing in various locations to reinforce the message, so make sure that you know what it is and that you write content that supports it.
Step #3: Select the Tone, Size and Format
This might sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how often I ask an ebook writing client this question and they don’t know the answer! You can’t just start writing and hope you reach the end somewhere. I’ve found that good questions to ask the client are:
What is the primary purpose of producing the ebook, e.g.: create awareness/generate leads/brand building?
What are the main points you want covered? Even if a client doesn’t have a clue how to go about ebook writing, chances are good s/he knows roughly what they want in it, so don’t accept only a working title.
How in-depth do you want the information to be, e.g.: brief overview/general explanation/detailed instructions?
What’s the main message you want the reader to take away from the book?
The answers to these will give you an idea of how much information you need to provide on the topic and how to break the information up. Your target market definition should help you to pinpoint the tone and format, too.
Step #4: Create an Outline
No, I don’t just mean a list of the chapters or sections. I mean what goes into each section, too. You have a specific message to deliver and by now you know what your CTA/s are going to be, so one way to structure the ebook for maximum benefit would be to create sections that each support a different question or objection the prospective customer might have.
Map out each section in terms of the format, the information that’s going into it and the projected number of words. This will help you to identify whether the “size” is realistic, too.
Step #5: Write the Intro and Conclusion
Yes, I know we all learned in school to write the essay first and the intro last, but that doesn’t necessarily apply to ebook writing. You can “tweak” them later, but by writing the beginning and ending first (based on the outline, naturally) you create a framework for yourself to operate in. You’re less likely to find yourself going off-track in the midst of a chapter, because you can keep referring back to your intro and ending for information. Say what you’re going to say, say it and then say what you’ve said.
Step #6: Let it Rest
I never, ever turn in an ebook writing assignment right after I finish it. Not even if I’ve proofread it twice. The reason is because fresh eyes see things that tired ones don’t, so let your work—and your eyes—take a break of at least a few hours to a day before you finalize it.
Step #7: Check and Finalize
Once your rest period is over, review the content and weigh up carefully whether your writing delivers on the promise in the introduction all the way through. If not, you can either modify the intro or the body, but there’s nothing worse than an ebook that starts off saying one thing and ends up saying something else. Read it aloud—that will help you to pick up typos as well as awkward phrasing and ensure that when you submit it to your client, it’s the very best work you can produce.
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Firefighter, police officer, astronaut, lawyer. These are the most common answers you hear from young children when asked what they would like to be when they grow up. Few people have childhood dreams of growing up to become a technical copywriter.
But, despite the job’s lack of traditional appeal, technical writing is a field on the rise. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that between 2012 and 2022, technical writer employment is projected to grow 15%, faster than the average profession in the United States. Additionally, the median pay for a technical writer is $65,500 per year, which is substantially higher than the median net compensation of workers in the U.S. in that same year, $27,519.10.
For many, these statistics beg the question: should an aspiring writer become a technical copywriter? How does technical writing differ from other forms of writing? To answer these questions, it is necessary to take a look at what a technical copywriter does and how they usually work.
A Technical Writer’s Role
If you have ever purchased an electronic device, appliance, or any other product that came with a manual or user guide, it is likely that these documents were written by a technical writer. Technical copywriters often specialize in a specific industry or field. They are sometimes responsible for producing work that involves specialized terms within these industries, or for translating this jargon into copy that can be understood by the average consumer.
The Society for Technical Communication provides a broader label for technical copywriters: technical communicators. According to the STC, technical communicators either communicate about technical topics, communicate by using technology, or provide instructions about how to do something. Above all, remember that technical writers are responsible for delivering instructions to their readers, whether those readers have just purchased a new TV or are scientists looking for information about materials in their laboratory.
Technical Writing Vs. Other Forms Of Writing
Now that you know a bit more about what it means to be a technical copywriter, you are probably wondering if this type of work is for you. There are some pros and some cons that you should know about before making your final decision on technical copywriting:
Technical copywriters usually work full-time at a single company. This means that once they find a job, technical writers never have to be concerned about finding new clients or marketing themselves the way that freelance writers do
The robust growth of the technical writing field means that it will be easier to find technical writing jobs than it is to find work in some other fields
Technical writers can find work with a huge variety of employers. Electronics manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, medical equipment manufacturers, and the federal government are just a few examples of the kinds of organizations that technical writers can get a job with
Since technical writers usually work full-time for one company, they aren’t afforded the freedom and lifestyle flexibility enjoyed by freelance writers. Because technical copywriters usually are paid on salary, there is also little opportunity to earn more money at work without an official raise
Once you get a technical writing job or contract, you will be handling a certain type of work for the duration of your employment. Although there are exceptions, technical writers are usually hired to write just a few types of documents for their employer: on the other hand, freelancers can work on a wide array of projects on vastly different subjects
Technical writing usually requires not only writing experience and formal education, but also some type of specialization in the field you will be writing about. For example, writers at engineering companies usually need to have some type of formal training in engineering. If you don’t have any sort of specialized education or certification, it will be more difficult to break into the technical writing field
Remember that everyone is different: some writers may be extremely attracted to the positive elements of becoming a technical copywriter, while others may be put off by the drawbacks of this type of work. There are also freelance writers who do some of this writing in addition to their normal marketing writing work. Deciding whether or not becoming a technical copywriter is for you requires some soul-searching based on the information available about this kind of work and whether or not it aligns with your skills, interests, and professional goals as a writer.
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When it comes to the web, audiences have pretty short attention spans. This means that you have to get right to the point and get them hooked before they get a Facebook notification, a text message, or simply wander away from your page. Before you waste another minute writing content that gets passed over, here are 6 mistakes to avoid.
1. Being Overly Complex
Writing is as much of an art as it is a skill and all artists love to show off. The trouble with blogs, articles, and other web copy is that most readers aren't interested in sticking around long enough to decipher complex metaphors and read lengthy passages. Cut to the chase and keep it simple so readers can get in, get the information they need, and move on.
2. Focusing on SEO
In the past, boosting a site's search engine rankings left the writer sticking in awkward keywords, including alternate spellings, and repeating a word until you were absolutely sick of it. Google has had enough of that and now favors writing that is well written and focused on being informative and useful. If you're assigned a keyword or two, be sure to use them strategically, but focus first on producing outstanding content. Otherwise, you're just producing words that nobody will waste their time reading.
3. Forgetting About SEO
Just because current SEO practices favor the web copywriter doesn't mean that there aren't a few things you should know about keyword placement. If you've been assigned a keyword, do your very best to work it into the title of the piece, into at least one subheading, and one or two more mentions throughout the piece as long as each mention doesn't interfere with the flow of the text. If you don't pay a little attention to SEO, you're wasting your time writing something that might not ever get found.
4. Using too Much Jargon
Or, sometimes, not using enough jargon. The trick is to really understand the audience that you're addressing. For example, if you're charged with writing 600 words on household insulation, it's important to know whether you're addressing installers or homeowners. If you're writing for installers and launch into a lengthy explanation of what R-Value means, they won't waste their time reading your article and they will be gone before you know it. On the other hand, if you're addressing homeowners and you leave this explanation out, you run the risk of confusing or alienating the reader. Always know who you're talking to so you can get the language correct.
5. Leaving Yourself Behind
As a web copywriter, you're probably aware of the fact that there are dozens, or even hundreds of posts about every topic you're writing about. You've also probably written for a bunch of different clients, each asking for their own voice and tone. When you put this all together, you might find yourself in the trap of churning out content that hits all the major points and keywords and is grammatically flawless, but somehow seems to be falling flat.
What's missing? You. Without your own personal point of view, your own personality shining through the words, your work is going to blend in with every other post on the topic and nobody is going to take the time to read your version. Try to find a fresh perspective on the topic, include some interesting new facts, be funny if it's appropriate, and let yourself show in each piece you produce.
6. Not Leaving Some Steam for the Conclusion
It can be easy for a web copywriter to simply be thankful that all the major points were hit and that all the mechanics are correct and call it a day. However, always save a little energy to put a bow on top of the neat little package you're about to deliver. Insert an interesting quote, come up with an inspiring call-to-action, or otherwise motivate the reader to do something because of what they've read. Let the reader know that you're thankful that they've spent the time to get to the bottom of your post by leaving them with something special.
Time is Money
Remember, as a web copywriter, you're in this to make money, too. Don't waste your time writing fancy prose that doesn't get noticed or writing boring text that never gets read. Make the most of your time and talent by avoiding these time-wasting mistakes and giving each reader just what they need.
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