Tag Archives: Copy

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Why you shouldn’t ask if your copy is too long

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Why ‘Is it boring?’ is the real question.

Something tells me you haven't got the sale. Image Source: CNN Money.

Something tells me you haven’t got the sale. Image Source: CNN Money.

Let’s talk about length, and why it’s important. It’s fine if you need to go outside and have a snigger first. The desired length for any given piece of copy is something that everyone from business owners to marketers obsess over.

Take blog posts for instance. Some people will tell you that they need to be kept short and concise in order to hold anyone’s attention in today’s instantaneous online world. Yet others will argue they should be well in excess of 1000 words, in order to be able to include enough information to make them relevant and valuable to the target audience.

But focusing on the length of your copy isn’t going to help you in the long run. Unless your word count is dictated by the physical space it will occupy (for instance on a flyer or brochure), the question to ask should be ‘Is my copy interesting?’

Length does not equal interest

There are some times in which shorter is indeed better: parents’ evenings; wedding ceremonies; root canal operations. But when you’re marketing to somebody your main goal is to persuade them to take action. Not everybody is the same. Some will take more persuading than others.

If you are presenting to potential clients, you stay long enough to answer any questions they have and ensure they have all the information they require. You wouldn’t pack up your laptop and leave as soon as the PowerPoint had ended. Selling isn’t about saying what you want to say, it’s about saying what the prospect wants to hear.

Which is why what you should be worrying about when it comes to your copy is whether or not it’s interesting. Just because you cut 1,000 words down by 50% doesn’t automatically mean your content becomes twice as interesting.Rather frustratingly for anyone looking for a definitive answer, the real rule about copywriting is that it should be as long as it needs to be.

How do I know if my copy is interesting?

Unfortunately this one is mostly down to your customers to decide. You have to trust your intuition, and there are a few basic ways to ensure you have done everything you can to keep it from being boring. Ask yourself:

Have I made points I need to make? If 500 words isn’t enough space in which to convey all the benefits of your product that your target market will want to know about, then cutting yourself off will damage your ability to convert them into customers.

Will the reader have any objections or questions that I have not yet addressed? Your potential customer will come up with many reasons (excuses) not to buy from you. If you do not challenge all of their objections, you are giving them a valid reason not to buy. Your copy should leave them with no doubt in their minds that they need your product.

Have I addressed everything that I raised at the beginning of the copy? Like a good story, copy needs some sort of narrative. If you draw your reader in using a question, statistic, or relatable scenario, you need to make sure you have concluded the points you raised by the end of the copy. Your target market won’t appreciate being drawn in with an interesting anecdote, only to be hit with standard sales copy once you have their attention.

Do the trees outside start quaking in fear as my mouse hovers over the ‘print’ icon? Don’t underestimate the power of editing. If you analyse what you’ve written, identify key points, and think of alternative phrasings, you can usually cut 1,000 words down to 500. It’s a common strategy in post-recession businesses these days (albeit usually applied to staff): make what you have work harder with less.

Too little copy is just as bad as too much. What is important is not how long it is, but how skilfully you can guide the reader from the beginning to the end without them even considering the length. People only complain about things being too long when they fail to hold their interest.

Just like some of the most effective things in marketing, great copywriting is invisible. Do you agree?


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Does your copy say what you think it does?

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This woman isn't actually floating on a magic carpet. Perspective is an important thing to remember when writing your web copy, too. Image Source: Buzzfeed.

This woman isn’t actually floating on a magic carpet. Perspective is an important thing to remember when writing your web copy, too. Image Source: Buzzfeed.

We all know that some words can mean more than one thing. What’s worth remembering is that words can also imply something. A phrase can mean different things depending upon where it is seen, what images it accompanies, and even what time it is viewed. Context is important when it comes to considering your word choices for copy.

Connotation is the thing a word signifies, which is not necessarily the same as what it means. A perfect example is when it comes to cakes and calories.

Pudgy puddings

Calories are, when not consumed in moderation, a bad thing. But no food manufacturer is going to want their packaging to admit that their product is bad for you. They legally have to tell you about all the bad bits that go into it, however they’re going to do it in the most positive way possible.

This is why you’ll notice the nutritional information on a lot of cake packaging tells you that a serving ‘provides’ X amount of calories.

Same meaning, different connotation

‘Provides’ is a much better word than ‘contains’ where calories are concerned. ‘Provides’ is a strong, generous word. It suggests you are being given something. Those 10,000 calories in 100g of cake are a gift. This cake is providing for you. It’s looking after you. What a lovely cake, doing all that. It’d probably wash the windows if you asked it to.

A more serious example

The other problem with connotations is that your marketing can be perceived to be giving out a completely different message than it actually intends to. Budweiser are a very pertinent example of this. The company have been the target of a social media storm by releasing bottles of Bud Light with the sloganthe perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night’.

I think the meaning behind this slogan is meant to be that by having a light option, you can still enjoy a drink with your mates. There’s no need to refuse to join in. However, it is painfully obvious, considering the issues surrounding alcohol, consent, and multiple horrific news stories in the past few months, that this slogan comes across as condoning rape culture.

It’s a completely innocent message with a terrible connotation. It’s kind of remarkable that no one in the marketing department managed to pick up on it, really.

Changing a single word can transform your copy

Thinking about the subtle implications of your word-choice can help make otherwise dull copy into something positive and exciting. Read the example on moisturizer for men and women in my post on semantics for another good example.

Have a look at the example for a taxi service below, and you’ll see just how different a message can be by taking the connotations of your word choice into account:

Getting you where you need to go” – focus is on the fact you’ll end up where you need to be: destination, not the journey.

Carrying you where you need to go” – caring. Sounds supportive, tender. Focus is on a good journey.

Driving you where you need to go” – convenience. Focus is on the service being provided.

Bringing you where you need to go” – focus is on the objective. Acknowledges the stages of your journey and the taxi’s role within it.

They all mean more or less the same thing, yet they convey a different message. It is by considering these implications when writing your copy that you can convey your company voice and objectives.

When was the last time you thought about the meaning behind your marketing copy?


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Semantics – your key to better copy and better SEO

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"Lupa.na.encyklopedii" by Julo - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Lupa.na.encyklopedii” by JuloOwn work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

We have entered the age of semantic search. In terms of SEO, it is an important step. It makes search more intelligent and more relevant to users.

Semantics is all about meaning. The fact that there are so many different ways of expressing a single thought or question is important. People aren’t always going to use identical search queries, and we don’t all write about topics according to one universal style guide, even if we all follow the same laws of English.

What is Semantic Search?

The advantage of this search development is that Google not only understands what you said, but what you meant. You can see this in action by picking a service and searching for the ‘benefits’ of it. Google will also return articles on the ‘advantages’ of that service, because it knows those two things mean the same thing in this context. This is useful for searchers – because imagine missing out on great pudding recipes because you looked for ‘desserts’.

Those are simplified examples. What semantics allows us to do is focus more on providing quality writing rather than ticking SEO boxes. We no longer have to pack blogs, articles, and web copy full of “meat” – we can talk about “chicken”, “pork”, “bacon”, “beef”, and so on. It makes for a more interesting, more readable piece of writing. We can still optimise our copy, yet in a more subtle way.

Semantics in copywriting

Semantics has always been useful in copywriting. It’s how we prevent our prose from becoming boring. It means we can say something is fantastic, handy, cool, awesome, wonderful, brilliant, great, and so on, instead of just ‘nice’ all the time.

People get bored of seeing the same word several times, and repetition can jar people out of the reading ‘zone’. Repetition is bad. Avoid repetition. Spoils the moment, doesn’t it?

Semantics also helps us to tailor our writing to get the best response from the target audience. Think about how moisturiser for women ‘rejuvenates’ (a soft, caring, feminine sort of word), whereas men’s face cream ‘re-energises’ (an action-packed, masculine sort of word). They both do the same thing – make you more moist than you were originally – it’s just the semantics are different, because men and women want to moisturize for different reasons.

How has semantic search changed your SEO policy?


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