Tag Archive | "Persuasive"

Last Day to Join Persuasive Copywriting, and a Punch in the Mouth for Facebook

Heads up: The introductory rate for our Persuasive Copywriting 101 Course is ending today, November 1, at 5:00 p.m. Pacific…

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Get a Lot Better at Writing Persuasive Copy: Copyblogger’s Brand-New Copywriting Course is Open

Last week, one of our very dear community members, Hashim Warren, said something I loved about our new persuasive copywriting…

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Sign Up for the Free Copyblogger Workshop on Persuasive Presentations

On Monday, I unveiled our new Copyblogger book club. We’ve been having a great time working through Ursula Le Guin’s Steering the Craft, and we’d love to have you with us! On Tuesday, webinar “gun for hire” Tim Paige swung by the blog to talk about one of the things that can make webinars so
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The ‘Pulp Fiction’ Technique for Engaging and Persuasive Content

"Pulp Fiction expertly uses a common writing technique that grabs attention right from the beginning, and magnetically holds it." – Brian Clark

You’ve seen Pulp Fiction, right? It’s the classic 1994 black comedy crime film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino.

The film is highly stylized, presented out of chronological order, and filled with eclectic dialogue that reveals each character’s perspectives on various subjects. And yes, it’s profane and violent.

Pulp Fiction was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture. Tarantino and his co-writer Roger Avary won for Best Original Screenplay, which is truly the foundation of an exceptional film.

Despite the groundbreaking inventiveness, Pulp Fiction also expertly uses a common writing technique that grabs attention right from the beginning, and magnetically holds that attention through a form of psychological tension generated by our short-term memories.

This simple strategy is something you can use in your marketing content, your sales copy, and your live presentations. You’ll not only increase engagement, but also add enhanced credibility to the persuasive point you’re trying to make.

Opening the loop

Back during the aftermath of the tragic effects of Hurricane Katrina, I came across an interesting article about some less-than-inspiring aspects of the devastating storm. It began with this:

“An Illinois woman mourns her two young daughters, swept to their deaths in Hurricane Katrina’s floodwaters. It’s a tragic and terrifying story. It’s also a lie.”

Now, any article that details accounts of fraud in the aftermath of Katrina would contain compelling information. But that opening had me riveted, and it got me reading what ended up being a detailed and lengthy piece that I might have otherwise skipped.

The article went on for 1,136 words before explaining that opening statement. It finally came as the initial bullet point in a list of false claims for relief after Katrina.

This type of opening with a delayed resolution is called an open loop, and it works for just about any type of content or copy. No matter the medium, you always want to grab attention quickly and hold it while you provide the surrounding facts, lessons, or supporting evidence.

The information is the same, but the level of attention and even fascination on the reader’s part is greatly heightened by the structure, leading to better retention and potential for persuasion.

Bond … James Bond

Open loops are used all the time in the movies. Think about James Bond, dangling over a vat of sharks.

While the villain monologues, Bond saves himself by cutting away the ropes with the buzzsaw hidden in his Rolex Submariner watch. Why do we accept, much less embrace, this ridiculous resolution?

It’s because the buzzsaw feature of the watch was introduced to us earlier thanks to the new technology presentation from Q that happens in every Bond movie. The implausible becomes credible thanks to the setup earlier in the film.

These setups create open loops that will keep your audience itching to find out what happens in the end — a need-to-know phenomenon called the Zeigarnik Effect by psychologists.

In a nutshell, the Zeigarnik Effect means that we hold things in our short-term memories that lack closure. For example, waiters can easily remember the orders of each of the tables they’re serving — until the food comes out that is, at which point retention and recall diminishes greatly.

So, when you use the setup and payoff structure of the open loop, your audience is driven to keep going with you. And that’s what you want, right?

Think about cliffhanger endings, where a loop is opened without being closed. Not only do you want to know what happens, you remember to tune in next time.

The setup and subsequent payoff of an open loop is incredibly satisfying. And that’s why open loops are also powerful persuasion vehicles, because we embrace the payoff in a way we wouldn’t without the setup and time-lapse in between.

Think back to the James Bond example; the open loop made an implausible escape perfectly acceptable. As we’ll see in the next example, it can also make a commercial claim more credible, and even prompt the holy grail of direct response copywritingaction.

Loops that move people to act

So, how can you use an open loop in your copy to not only persuade, but also prompt action? Take a look at the copy for this radio ad written by Roy Williams for a diamond merchant called Justice Jewelers:

“Antwerp, Belgium, is no longer the diamond capital of the world.

Thirty-four hours on an airplane. One way. Thirty. Four. Hours. That’s how long it took me to get to where 80 percent of the world’s diamonds are now being cut. After 34 hours, I looked bad. I smelled bad. I wanted to go to sleep. But then I saw the diamonds.

Unbelievable. They told me I was the first retailer from North America ever to be in that office.

Only the biggest wholesalers are allowed through those doors. Fortunately, I had one of ’em with me, a lifelong friend who was doing me a favor.

Now pay attention, because what I’m about to say is really important: As of this moment, Justice Jewelers has the lowest diamond prices in America, and I’m including all the online diamond sellers in that statement.

Now you and I both know that talk is cheap. So put it to the test. Go online. Find your best deal. Not only will Justice Jewelers give you a better diamond, we’ll give you a better price, as well.

I’m Woody Justice, and I’m working really, really hard to be your jeweler. Thirty-four hours of hard travel, one way. I think you’ll be glad I did it.”

Okay, so the ad starts off by setting up an open loop. If Antwerp is no longer the diamond cutting capital of the world, which city is the new one?

But here’s the thing … we’re never told the city, or even exactly how low the prices are. To do that, you need to take action by heading over to the Justice Jewelers website, combined with a challenge to find lower prices anywhere else online.

Less artful ads would lead with the claim of the lowest prices thanks to an exclusive source of diamonds. Skepticism would naturally abound.

Here, the storytelling setup is incredibly engaging, even if you’re not in the market for diamonds. If you are in the market, the lingering open loop means the listener is more likely to retain, recall, and act on the information.

Can you see how this might work on a landing page aimed at getting an email opt-in? You open the loop, and the only way the visitor can close it is to sign up for the lead magnet.

That’s just one example of the many uses of open loops. As I mentioned earlier, you can incorporate open loops in your marketing content, your sales copy, and your live presentations, all making you inherently more engaging and persuasive.

And speaking of earlier, what about Pulp Fiction?

Pumpkin and Honey Bunny

So I saw Pulp Fiction on opening night back in 1994, and oh man … that first scene. I’ve never before or since experienced a theater full of people bursting into applause after the opening of a film.

As a refresher, Pulp Fiction begins with a man and a woman sitting together in a diner. The two are known only by the pet names they call each other — Pumpkin and Honey Bunny.

They’re discussing the relative dangers of robbing various places, revealing that the two are criminals. They’ve been holding up liquor stores, which Pumpkin thinks is too dangerous and will eventually result in them or someone else getting killed.

After sharing a story about a man who robs a bank with a telephone, Pumpkin proposes that they start robbing diners. In fact, he suggests that they rob the diner they’re in, right now.

Up to this point, Honey Bunny has been nothing but sweetness and light. She suddenly jumps up with a gun and shouts some particularly shocking threats to the patrons. Cut to Dick Dale’s iconic rendition of “Misirlou” and the opening credits.

Now, the rest of the film proceeds. Some of what follows actually occurs before the opening scene, and some occurs after, but don’t worry about that right now.

The point is, much of the rest of the film plays out without returning to Pumpkin and Honey Bunny. Even though the film is riveting, in the back of your mind you’re thinking … what the hell was that about?

What happened to Pumpkin and Honey Bunny?

Finally, we arrive at the last scene of the film. It’s the same diner from the opening.

Turns out, this is where gangsters Jules and Vincent have decided to have breakfast after escaping The Bonnie Situation and disposing of a headless guy at Monster Joe’s Truck and Tow.

Cut to Pumpkin and Honey Bunny, just as Honey Bunny leaps up with the gun and makes her threat. Ironically, in their bid for safer crime options, these two fools have picked the exact wrong diner to rob.

The scene plays out and the film ends, which closes the open loop. Incredibly satisfying.

So, in case there was any doubt, you can also use open loops when crafting tutorial content as well — because I just demonstrated one for you. The headline and opening of this article promise you an example from Pulp Fiction, but I didn’t actually close that loop until the very end.

  • Maybe you were wondering when I would get to it.
  • Maybe you knew I was demonstrating an open loop in my usual meta way.
  • Maybe (hopefully!) you got so caught up in the article that it was only nagging you somewhere in the back of your mind.

Anyway, do you use open loops in your content and copy? Let me know in the comments.

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The Persuasive Power of Analogy

"The right analogy, at the right time, told the right way, may be exactly what they need to do business with you." – Brian Clark

An elderly man storms into his doctor’s office, steaming mad.

“Doc, my new 22-year-old wife is expecting a baby. You performed my vasectomy 30 years ago, and I’m very upset right now.”

“Let me respond to that by telling you a story,” the doctor calmly replies.

“A hunter once accidentally left the house with an umbrella instead of his rifle. Out of nowhere, a bear surprised him in the woods … so the hunter grabbed the umbrella, fired, and killed the bear.”

“Impossible,” the old man snaps back. “Someone else must have shot that bear.”

“And there you have it,” the doctor says.

Persuasion comes from understanding

At the heart of things, persuasion is about your audience understanding what you’re communicating. Understanding leads to acceptance when the argument is sound, well-targeted, and the conclusion seems unavoidable.

When it comes to creating effective understanding, analogies are hard to beat. Most of their persuasive power comes from the audience arriving at the intended understanding on their own.

The doctor could have simply said that the old man’s wife had to be cheating on him. But the analogy allowed the cranky patient to come to that conclusion on his own, which is much more persuasive.

Let’s take a second to make sure we’re all on the same page with analogies. It first helps to distinguish them from their close cousins, metaphor and simile.

A metaphor is a figure of speech that uses one thing to mean another and makes a comparison between the two. A simile compares two different things in order to create a new meaning while using the words “like” or “as.”

An analogy is comparable to a metaphor and simile in that it shows how two different things are similar, but it’s a bit more complex.

Rather than a figure of speech, an analogy is more of a logical argument. The structure of the argument leads to a new understanding for the audience.

When you deliver an analogy, you demonstrate how two things are alike by pointing out shared characteristics (a hunter with an unloaded umbrella and an elderly man who is “firing blanks” sexually). The goal is to show that if two things are similar in some ways, they are similar in other ways as well.

Let me give you an example of a killer persuasive analogy. It comes from that master of sophisticated rhetoric, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

No, really.

The Terminator analogy

Schwarzenegger is an advocate for renewable energy, both for California and the world at large. Given his celebrity status and prior political experience as Governor of California, he has quite the platform to share his views.

Just over a year ago, Arnold published a piece on Facebook called I don’t give a **** if we agree about climate change. That provocative title set the stage for what could be called a “terminator” analogy, in the sense that it puts any intellectually honest person in an inescapable box that supports the conclusion Schwarzenegger wants you to arrive at.

First, Arnold says forget whatever you think about climate change. He goes so far as to say that climate change deniers can assume that they’re right.

He then turns to the facts of the here and now:

  • 7 million people die every year from pollution
  • 19,000 people die every day from pollution from fossil fuels
  • Renewable energy is driving economic growth

Then, Arnold turns to an analogy that illustrates his argument in a very personal way:

“There are two doors. Behind Door Number One is a completely sealed room, with a regular, gasoline-fueled car. Behind Door Number Two is an identical, completely sealed room, with an electric car. Both engines are running full blast.

I want you to pick a door to open, and enter the room and shut the door behind you. You have to stay in the room you choose for one hour. You cannot turn off the engine. You do not get a gas mask.

I’m guessing you chose Door Number Two, with the electric car, right? Door Number One is a fatal choice — who would ever want to breathe those fumes?

This is the choice the world is making right now.”

Talk about putting someone in a box — literally. By sidestepping the controversy over climate change and making the outcome of exposure to fossil fuel emissions a matter of personal life or death, Arnold likely changed the minds of more than a few reasonable people.

Now, this is the internet. So, I’m sure some people simply refuse to be swayed no matter what, and some trolls probably said they’d rather choose the deadly Door Number One than do anything perceived as good for the environment.

Well, there is a way to set up a real-life demonstration of this analogy if anyone’s interested. :-)

Why marketing analogies work like a charm

I shared Schwarzenegger’s analogy because it’s a brilliant example. But keep in mind that unlike with contentious social issues, your prospects want you to convince them.

If someone has a problem they want solved or a desire they want fulfilled, they want to find a solution. If they’re currently a part of your audience, they want you to be the solution.

That means they want to understand why you’re the best choice. Which means they want to be persuaded.

And that’s the essence of content marketing strategy. Tell your particular who exactly what they need to hear, exactly how they need to hear it.

The right analogy, at the right time, told the right way, may be exactly what they need to do business with you …

And there you have it.

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Prove It! 6 Persuasive Techniques for Making the Sale

simple tips to convince skeptical buyers

A few months ago, I was struggling with writing a sales page for an upcoming program launch, so I showed my draft to my copywriting mentor and asked his advice.

He scanned the page for about 20 seconds, then said:

“You need more proof. This page should be full of stories and case studies about how your approach works. You need to show the real results people get from using this product.”

I argued that adding more case studies would take up a lot of room on the page. He laughed.

“When I write my own sales pages, highlighting the proof is the most important part,” he said. “If I can show people I can get results, the rest of the copy is almost superfluous.”

I know his advice was a bit of an oversimplification — other elements of copywriting still matter, of course — but now I see better conversions on my sales pages because I implement my mentor’s advice on a regular basis.

In today’s post, I’ll share six persuasive techniques for showing proof the next time you need to convince a prospect that you can get results.

1. Case studies

Case studies (also known as customer success stories) tell a brief story about a customer or client who has gotten great results from your product or service.

For example, you might write, “Alexander Manuel used my system and saw a 50 percent increase in email sign ups within one month.”

When you use case studies in sales copy, it’s best to keep them short and concise. Focus on measurable results whenever you can. Numbers are often the most persuasive aspect of case studies for prospects.

If your product helped your customer reduce 300 hours of his workload last year, state that. If your client increased profits when she started using your services, state how much extra revenue she brought in.

2. Testimonials

Testimonials are written statements from your customers or clients, extolling the virtues of your product or service. Typically, they are quotes from people who have hired you or bought from you in the past.

The best testimonials go beyond just singing your praises and talking about how awesome you are — they explain details about why your client endorses you.

Testimonials, like case studies, are most powerful when they include numbers and/or quantitative results.

Check out these six questions from Sean D’Souza that help you draw out detailed and persuasive testimonials from your clients.

3. Press coverage

Have you recently received praise from a media outlet? Add it to your copy if it’s relevant and helps support your claims.

If you’re going to include press coverage, though, make sure the quote is from a well-known source.

While praise from a small-town newspaper might not do much for your credibility, a few words from a highly trusted magazine might be compelling and persuasive.

When deciding whether or not to include press coverage as part of your copywriting proof, ask yourself if your prospects recognize, like, and respect the source.

4. Social shares

In certain situations, it might make sense to use social media sharing results in your copy.

If you’re a freelance writer, for instance, and you have a track record of writing blog posts that get thousands of Facebook or Twitter shares, you could present those social sharing numbers when you pitch your services to new clients.

5. Research studies

If research studies clearly show the effectiveness of your product, you can use that data in your copy.

The key to using this type of proof is making sure you deliver the information clearly and concisely in layman’s terms.

6. Visual representations of results

Images are powerful. You can use before-and-after photos, charts, screenshots, and other visuals to prove that your product or service works and is worth the investment.

Label visuals with captions if they need explanations, and don’t let charts or other snazzy images overpower your copy. In most cases, visual representations will complement the main part of your copy.

Proof: one of the most important elements in your copywriting toolbox

When you write copy, proof is incredibly important. That’s why it’s one of the 5 Ps of writing great copy: Premise, Promise, Picture, Proof, and Push.

Learn more about the 5 Ps in Copyblogger’s free ebook, The 5 P Approach to Copy that Crushes It.

As you face your next copywriting assignment — for your own business or for one of your clients — don’t forget to include convincing proof. It will help you create compelling copy that brings in more registrations, opt-ins, and sales.

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3 Resources to Help You Produce Stunning and Persuasive Content

copyblogger collection - beautiful content that sells

Eenie meenie miney mo …

You likely have used the “eenie-meenie-miney-mo method” when making an inconsequential decision.

That’s the opposite of how you should make decisions regarding the look of your content and the message you want to communicate.

Your content needs to be a carefully crafted presentation that is the result of intentional choices.

Those focused presentations, in contrast to the outcome produced by the eenie-meenie-miney-mo methodology, create an experience for your audience members that make them happy to receive your content — and even happier to take the next step and do business with you.

This week’s Copyblogger Collection is a series of three handpicked articles that will show you:

  • How to get more people to read your content
  • How to fully engage your readers’ brains with images
  • How to boost the conversion rates of your call-to-action buttons

As you work your way through the material below, think of the following lessons as a mini course for producing stunning and persuasive content.


8 Incredibly Simple Ways to Get More People to Read Your Content

8-content-design-tips

One of the biggest fears a content creator may have is that no one will view their work. It’s tricky to stay motivated if you feel like no one pays attention to you.

How do you hook distracted readers?

In 8 Incredibly Simple Ways to Get More People to Read Your Content, Pamela Wilson walks you through easy-to-implement changes that will make your content pop and draw readers in.


How to Fully Engage Your Readers’ Brains with Images [SlideShare]

images-engage-readers

Speaking of content that pops, Pamela is back, and this time she has expert advice about choosing images that perfectly complement your writing.

Pamela says:

“If you haven’t been fully engaging your readers’ brains by using images with your content, the time to start is right now.

Because it turns out that just like everything else in life, you’ll get more proficient and professional with your image creation the more you do it.”

Check out How to Fully Engage Your Readers’ Brains with Images [SlideShare] for techniques and tools that boost the comprehension and retention of your content.


6 Proven Ways to Boost the Conversion Rates of Your Call-to-Action Buttons

call-to-action-buttons

Here’s an important reminder from Joanna Wiebe:

“Your visitors can’t get through your checkout process or sign-up form without clicking at least one button. And that one button — like all of your buttons — can be improved.

But we fail to optimize calls to action for pretty simple reasons, all of which are complete BS.

We need to stop ignoring the so-called ‘small things,’ especially when conversions depend on them.”

Joanna reveals small changes that can grow your business in 6 Proven Ways to Boost the Conversion Rates of Your Call-to-Action Buttons.

Present a content gift to your audience

You have the opportunity to wrap up your content in a package that your audience members will view as the exact gift they want.

Use this post (and save it for future reference) to help you master the art of creating content gifts.

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Here’s How to Combine Storytelling and Data to Produce Persuasive Content

Posted by nikkielizabethdemere

[Estimated read time: 5 minutes]

Can you recall Don Draper using statistics in a quote? Neither can I.

Draper’s pitches were successful because they focused on stories. (Remember the famous Kodak Carousel pitch?) He was on to something: Research highlights stories as key to capturing an audience’s attention.

Jennifer Aaker, a social psychologist and professor at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, cites a study in which students were asked to present a one-minute persuasive pitch to their class members. Each pitch included an average of 2.5 statistics. Only one of those pitches included a story. Ten minutes later, the researcher asked the students to pull out a sheet of paper and write down every idea they remembered. Only 5% of the students remembered a statistic; 63% of the students remembered the story.

For most people, numbers aren’t memorable. Stories are.

kwUFkb1.pngNumerous studies have shown that stories aren’t only more effective in making a message memorable, they’re also more emotionally persuasive. Pair this with research that shows we make decisions primarily with emotion (using logic to justify them later), and you have the power of story in a nutshell.

Your brain on stories

When we hear a story, not only are the language parts of the brain activated, but also every other part of the brain we would use if we were living the story. Mentally, we become the protagonist. In our minds, the story is real and it’s happening to us, not to somebody else.

Warm chocolate oozed out of the center of the cake, swirling with mocha eddies of ice cream.

Oh, sorry — are you feeling hungry now?

There are 63 grams of fat in Chili’s Chocolate Molten Lava Cake.

How eager are you to forget that statistic?

If the story is about food, your sensory cortex lights up. If the story is about motion, you motor cortex lights up, as if you were the one shoveling cake into your mouth or driving a race car.

An even more remarkable study from Princeton shows that when you tell a story, your brain and your listeners’ brains actually sync up. This implies that you can plant ideas and emotions into your audience’s brain through story.

Don’t ditch the data

There’s a case to be made for ditching data altogether in favor of story.

If you’ve read about the “identifiable victim effect” — demonstrated by Carnegie Mellon researchers presenting study participants with the story of a starving child versus statistics about child starvation in Africa — you know why. In the experiment, participants who received the Save the Children pamphlet featuring the story of a starving child named Rokia donated double the money of those who saw a pamphlet with statistics only.

But, in another experiment (part of the same study), they handed participants a Save the Children pamphlet that included both the story and the statistics.

ajYCsuK.pngThat may seem like damning evidence as far as data is concerned.

Paul Slovic, one of the researchers, explains this phenomenon (nearly a 40% drop) as a “drop in the bucket” effect. Read about poor starving Rokia, and your emotions and mind are fully engaged. But read about the millions of starving children on the African continent, and as Slovic says, “The data sends a bad feeling that counteracts the warm glow from helping Rokia.”

But data doesn’t always give a bad feeling. It all depends on how you use it.

Marry stories with data for compelling content

If story activates the emotional centers of the brain, data activates the logic centers. Activating both at the same time can be incredibly powerful — if done correctly. For example, if you tell a story about someone your business or product has helped, then combine that story with data that explains how much you’ve helped them, your story becomes more trustworthy.

In John Allen Paulos’ New York Times piece “Stories vs. Statistics,” he explains that people are afraid of committing two types of judgment errors: observing something that is not really there (Type 1 error); and missing something that is there (Type 2 error). Some people are more comfortable committing one type of error over the other, depending on their personality types, and this is where stories and statistics come into play.

fJEBlMO.pngFor a certain type of consumer, story is really all they need. They’re ready to make a decision based purely on the emotional connection you make with them. But others aren’t so sure about your story. They’re less impressed by the flashy details. Their discerning minds want proof in the form of hard numbers.

Why do numbers make us trust? While data and statistics can be woven into just about any form to support just about any theory, we still think of numbers as unbiased, objective, unemotional. Perhaps this bias is a result of how our brains treat numerical information; it just doesn’t tickle the emotional parts of ourselves. We treat numbers with logic and, illogical as it may be, expect the same treatment from data in return.

It’s a bias we marketers can use, especially when we know that, while people are likely to act on their gut instinct, they still confirm that instinct with logic.

I would argue that we need to use data in this way, as a confirmation of the story we’re telling, not as a replacement for the story.

Professor Jennifer Aaker explains it like this:

nzNte6Z.png

Whether you’re writing a web page, ebook, or presentation, lead with the story. Grab attention with an anecdote that paints a narrative picture of the problem you’re trying to solve. Then, don’t just throw a data set in.

Instead, put your data into a meaningful, visual context that literally illustrates your point.

In Visage’s related ebook, they tell you how to thoughtfully blend the data and storytelling to provide value, insight, and meaning to your audience.

And, to drive your point home, explain your data visualization. Don’t assume audiences will get it at a glance (even if they can). Highlight important patterns. Explain your axes. Answer the question lingering in your audience’s mind: “So what?”

When you deliver data within the context of a larger story, that is the moment when it becomes incredibly powerful, and you become your most persuasive.

How are you using data in your content marketing?

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15 Copy Editing Tips That Can Transform Your Content into Persuasive and Shareable Works of Art

Image of star being carved out of stone

What’s special about the compelling content you retweet, Like, bookmark, and email to your friends?

Those articles serve the audience, not the content creator.

Creative work that instantly captivates and holds an audience’s attention influences their lives.

Transcribing the thoughts in your head won’t always serve a purpose. You must construct helpful and manageable instructions for your audience — the reader will do something differently in her daily routine after learning about the information you share on a specific topic.

That’s easier said than done.

You obviously want to establish your website as an authoritative publication in your niche, but in order to cross that threshold you need to critically examine your cornerstone content.

Strengthening your ability to create content that spreads includes improving your editing skills. Editors transform basic text into powerful stories (in all media) that persuade people to take action.

Once you’ve written a draft, you’re still not ready to hit “publish” just yet. Here are 15 copy editing tips that help turn your articles, landing pages, webinars, and podcasts into shareable works of art.

Copy Editing Stage 1: Pre-revision rituals

  1. Walk away. Realistically evaluate your post’s urgency. Unless you must meet a strict deadline, take a break for at least a day after you’ve completed your post. New ways to modify your writing will become evident after you’ve created some distance from your initial creation.
  2. Release attachment. Forget that you wrote the content and consciously assume an Editor Mindset that’s free from your Writer Ego. As an editor, you have no problem evaluating and deleting to produce a more coherent and complete post. Proactive editing shouldn’t be devastating.
  3. Create a new document. Prepare to save everything you remove because writing consistent posts for your blog is a fluid process. Content that’s excessive or irrelevant for a certain post shouldn’t go to waste. Use those ideas as a springboard for your next article.
  4. Indulge a bad habit. Perform one fast, superficial reading to gratify the impulse to skim your text. Each subsequent reading should be a meticulous review of the text.
  5. Self-evaluate. As you lightly read your post, write side notes without changing the draft. If you didn’t communicate your intentions accurately, use these notes as an opportunity to record leftover ideas you thought you included but actually didn’t. You’ll use the notes in Stage 2.

Copy Editing Stage 2: Comprehensive cutting and pasting

  1. Summarize your goal. Write your straightforward aim in about 25 words, and then edit your summary until you have a succinct headline that includes the “Four U’s” of copywriting: ultra-specific, unique, useful, and urgent. Writers often assume that readers will quickly understand their main point even though they haven’t explicitly stated it.
  2. Avoid overwhelm. Weak sections may appear in final versions of blog posts if you don’t edit enough because reviewing the entire post in one sitting overwhelms you. For example, I edited this post in five different sessions. Begin with your favorite part to generate editing momentum.
  3. Pamper your audience. Ask yourself, “How does this information help my reader?” after each sentence. Each paragraph should satisfy an element of CMKR — provide Comfort, be Memorable, share Knowledge, or list Resources.
  4. Consider alternatives. Incorporate notes you made during Pre-Revision as you reorganize or combine sentences, shorten or lengthen paragraphs, or change the order of the text. If you often repeat a word, keep it in the most appropriate place, and replace it with synonyms in other instances.
  5. Eliminate questions. Use the “Fifth U” that pertains to editing the body of your copy: unmistakable. You never want your reader to guess or have the thought, “I don’t really follow. Is he trying to say ___?” If a reader strains to comprehend your message, she won’t have any motivation to share your writing with others.

Copy Editing Stage 3: Razor-sharp proofreading

  1. Don’t rush. Your content needs to be solid before you proofread. You’ll notice errors more easily when you’re not still rewriting and rearranging portions of your blog post. If you begin proofreading but find yourself copy editing too much, continue with Stage 2 until you’re ready for Stage 3.
  2. Be curious. Read slowly, as if each word is foreign to you. It’s time to scrutinize each word to make sure it’s the perfect fit for that sentence. A slow proofreading practice also helps you catch real-word typos, such as “my” instead of “may,” “through” instead of “thorough,” “most” instead of “post,” or “to” instead of “too.”
  3. Get mechanical. Proper writing mechanics ensure that your blog post is effortlessly comprehensible. A few grammar, spelling, or punctuation mistakes won’t necessarily ruin your reputation, but they may ruin great ideas by making them confusing.
  4. Value consistency. Create a style guide for your blog post that lists all proper names, terms, and phrases. Professional, polished writing doesn’t have inconsistencies such as varied capitalization or punctuation when referring to the same word. For example, if “Walmart” is the correct spelling, you should never also write “Wal-Mart,” “WalMart,” or “Wal-mart” within the same post.
  5. Categorize your progress. Stop proofreading a section of your text once you know it’s flawless and focus on weaker areas. Highlight the text in green if it’s completely proofread, yellow if it’s partially finished, and red if it still needs a good amount of your attention. When all the text is green, read your post one more time out loud. You should be able to read it without making any changes.

Adaptation is essential to effective communication

Editing improves your writing because language that impacts readers doesn’t always materialize immediately. Your concepts become more persuasive when you manipulate and craft your original words.

During in-person communication, you can rephrase your verbal speech if you observe a puzzled or clueless look on someone’s face. With writing, you don’t get the luxury of such feedback until after you’ve published. At that point, you don’t get another chance to explain yourself; a reader will simply stop reading.

How do your copy editing techniques differ from your writing practices?

Share your favorite revision tips in the comments below!

About the Author: Stefanie Flaxman is the creator of Revision Fairy. Get more from @RevisionFairy on Twitter and Google+.

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A 5-Minute Guide to More Persuasive Copywriting

image of screaming crowd

Copywriters love to tell clients they can create compelling copy.

Few of them ever mention whom they think they’re compelling.

That’s because too few of them have ever given it the thought it deserves.

One of the first rules of copywriting is to know your audience, and many copywriters are fairly skilled at creating copy designed to appeal to, say, a 60-year-old female retiree who’s confused about her insurance options.

The problem is that that’s not how Dorothea in Florida thinks of herself.

If Dorothea doesn’t identify with that picture, what makes you think you’re actually writing to her?

Who does Dorothea say she is?

Dorothea in Florida thinks of herself as a mother to two children, and widow to a husband who recently passed away from a heart attack.

Dorothea used to be a saleswoman and retired when she was fifty, because every company she applied for wanted someone younger.

Dorothea is a poker player and a mystery-novel lover. Dorothea is a damn good cook. Dorothea is a busybody and a know-it-all.

Dorothea has never once in her life thought of herself as a 60-year-old female retiree who is confused about her insurance options.

So copy that was written for that theoretical person doesn’t appeal to Dorothea. It doesn’t appeal to her three closest friends either –- you know, the ones she plays poker with on Thursdays.

And when her eldest son reads the copy, it doesn’t sound like his mother. In fact, even though he thinks she could use the service, he doesn’t send it to her because he doesn’t want her to think that’s his image of her.

She’d be hurt. Or insulted.

Same goes for her doctor, her neighbors, and her book club. No one thinks that copy sounds like Dorothea — because it doesn’t.

It sounds like it would appeal to someone who doesn’t exist.

You need to write for Dorothea

The next time you’re writing, don’t write for a demographic.

Those people don’t exist. The real readers — the ones you want to persuade — won’t recognize themselves in a collection of demographic traits.

Instead, write for Dorothea.

Or write for a teenager named Harper who thinks her parents are ridiculous because they need her help with the computer and they don’t understand anything about Twilight.

Write for Mike, who’s just out of college and has about $ 10,000 in credit card debt that he hasn’t told his parents about (and hopes he’ll never have to tell them).

Write for Arnold, who’s just getting used to an empty nest after his kids left for college and is wondering what he should do with his hobby business, now that he has all this extra time on his hands.

Give yourself a real person to write for.

Appeal directly to that person. Know all their foibles, their worries, their problems – and explain how this product or service fixes one of them.

The person you’ve imagined in your head doesn’t exist either, of course. But writing for a human being instead of a demographic lets you think and write in new ways.

What this way of writing gets you

With that person’s image in your mind, you’ll be warmer and less robotic.

You’ll be less generic, more personal.

You’ll draw the reader in on a personal level.

You’ll be compelling because you know who your reader really is, what that person is worried about, and why this matters to them. You’ll be compelling because you’ll be focused on how you can help a person, not focused on how you can sell a product. And your reader will sense it.

You’ll be compelling because getting this right will genuinely benefit this human being in front of you.

If you think your readers can’t tell the difference, you’re dead wrong.

Just ask Dorothea.

About the Author: For more compelling writing tips, get on the Damn Fine Words mailing list at http://www.damnfinewords.com. Owned and operated by James Chartrand of Men with Pens, you’ll get weekly tips on writing, content creation and getting results from your words.

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