Revealed: The marketing tactics six successful copywriters use to build a better income

Six UK copywriters give their views on marketingYou know the score.

You see other writers making mega bucks. Yet you’re just slogging away for peanuts.

You long for clients who value your work and pay you the rate you deserve.

And you dream of working for all those big brands just like the top copywriters do.

So if only you could speak to writers who’ve been there and done it. And find out just how they do it.

Well, actually you don’t need to. Because I’ve done it for you.

What’s in this post?

For this post I’ve rounded up six of the best UK copywriters to get their insights into marketing a successful copywriting business.

Each has a strong online portfolio and a healthy mix of direct and agency clients.

What’s more, they each have their own individual angle and story. So be sure to read them all.

And, at the end of the post, you can also get access to their exclusive bonus tips.

But what stands out about all these writers is that they’re not necessarily prolific bloggers or social media superstars.

What’s different is that they’re real commercial copywriters, with real professional experience. And they understand what goes into making a prosperous copywriting business.

So pay attention …

Leif Kendall

Leif KendallAbout LeifLinkedIn follow buttonGoogle+ follow buttonTwitter follow button

Leif runs freelance copywriting service Kendall Copywriting, based in Poole on the South Coast of England.

He’s a huge fan of the freelance way of working and author of Brilliant Freelancer, a guide to building a happy, productive and profitable freelance business.

Leif also founded WriteClub – a regular meetup for like-minded writers in London and Brighton.

1. What marketing do you currently do?

I don’t do nearly as much marketing as I once did, as my services are now in good demand.

But I still write blog posts at least once a month.

I also manage an active Twitter profile. Though I think it’s important to stress you won’t get any benefit by just setting up an account and posting the occasional tweet. This simply won’t get you anywhere. Instead, you really need to engage with others, be helpful and share people’s stuff.

2. Which marketing methods do you find most successful?

Both blogging and Twitter have worked well, as well as in-person networking.

But here’s the thing about networking.

The best prospects are often far too busy to attend the small local events. So what you’ll find is everyone’s in the same boat – all just desperately looking for work.

At the better events, there are businesses looking to share ideas and build connections with potential suppliers. That’s where you want to go.

But don’t expect immediate results. It takes time to build those relationships.

3. Do you have any specific types of target client?

Yes, web and marketing agencies.

4. How do you find or identify them?

I drew up a list of agencies and rang each of them up. Agencies get most of their enquiries by email. So I think making a phone call is more effective, as it really helps you to stand out.

I also attended events for web professionals. Whenever I did any in-person networking, I made sure I got to know the right people, such as web designers.

5. What’s the worst marketing mistake you ever made?

I’m quite fortunate that I’ve not made any really major mistakes. I think it’s because I’ve never put all my eggs in one basket. As I try different things, I look at what works and what doesn’t. Then I adjust my marketing to focus on the things that do.

6. What’s your top marketing tip for freelance copywriters?

I can’t tell you what a big difference it makes to have a professional-looking website and great content on it.

Sarah Turner

Sarah TurnerAbout SarahLinkedIn follow buttonGoogle+ follow buttonTwitter follow button

Sarah is a straight-talking freelance copywriter, who hates corporate jargon and arty mumbo jumbo.

Based in London, she runs her own freelance business, Turner Ink, which she set up in 2005.

1. What marketing do you currently do?

These days I don’t have to do any, as pretty much all my business comes from word of mouth and repeat business. I also get a lot of enquiries from my website.

But when I first started out 10 years ago I marketed like mad and used loads of different methods.

I sent out newsletters, contacted ad and marketing agencies, attended networking events and even did some cold calling.

But as I gradually became established I needed to do less and less. The tipping point was after about 4 – 5 years. By then clients were nearly always coming to me.

2. Which marketing methods do you find most successful?

Cold calling. I only did it a couple of times. But it worked surprisingly well and I got quite a bit of business from it.

When you speak to someone on the phone, you have an opportunity to build up a rapport – which is why it can be so effective.

3. Do you have any specific types of target client?

I always say the clients you want are the ones who pay your bills on time, regardless of sector. But if I had to describe what my target clients are then they’re companies with a decent budget who believe in what you’re trying to do.

4. How do you find or identify them?

These days they find me. But I can identify a time-waster pretty quickly: Anyone who emails you from a Hotmail account. And anyone who says ‘Can you do a deal for this project as there will be tons more work coming your way’. Guess what? There won’t be.

5. What’s the worst marketing mistake you ever made?

Really early on I spent £200 on a database from Thomson Directory. I could’ve found out the same information on the Internet. Annoying.

6. What’s your top marketing tip for freelance copywriters?

Try a lot of channels. Try them all. See what works for you and do more of it. Also seek out other freelancers who offer a complementary service such as graphic designers and web developers. Don’t forget to make friends with other copywriters too. They can give you work.

Laurence Blume

Laurence BlumeAbout LaurenceLinkedIn follow buttonGoogle+ follow buttonTwitter follow button

Laurence has been a professional copywriter ever since he graduated in 1981.

He worked at some of the top advertising agencies in the UK, before launching his own freelance business in 2000.

He’s written for many high-profile brands including Sony, Jeep, Goldman Sachs and Unilever. Laurence also appeared on BBC One’s prime-time evening magazine The One Show, in which he talked about advertising.

1. What marketing do you currently do?

In-person networking. I have a strong professional network, which I’ve built up over the last three decades. But I’m always looking to build new relationships.

I also share carefully selected content on social media

On top of that, I do paid search and regularly advertise on LinkedIn. These are great ways to put you in front of serious businesspeople. What I mean by that are people who are purposely on the lookout for professionals they want to hire.

I also follow up anyone who’s viewed my LinkedIn profile.

2. Which marketing methods do you find most successful?

Word of mouth is definitely my most effective form of marketing.

And that makes sense, as people are always more inclined to follow a recommendation made by someone they know and trust personally.

PPC also works well, although the market has become increasingly competitive. So it isn’t as efficient as it once was.

All the same, it still gets you business – because you’re bringing yourself to the attention of people who are looking for someone like you at that very specific moment in time.

3. Do you have any specific types of target client?

No – they can be anything from a solo entrepreneur to a global corporation.

But what is important is that they value and respect what I do. In other words, they’re not someone who simply wants to get a job done quickly and cheaply. They want to build a meaningful relationship, fully appreciate what I do and understand what I can achieve for them.

I also view every prospect from the perspective of a potential new relationship rather than simply a new project.

When you start working with a new client, you have to go through the process of getting to know them and what their needs are.

But with long-term clients, both of you know the score. You value each other. You become more than simply someone who writes copy. You become more like a consultant. And you gradually become an intrinsic part of what they do.

These kinds of clients will phone you in advance to find out when you’re next available – because it’s you they want and not anyone else.

4. How do you find or identify them?

I don’t find clients. They find me.

So it’s more a question of how I go about deciding which prospects are right for me.

I do this by listening. Or more specifically, asking questions, listening and making judgements.

You’ll often know the type of client you’re dealing with within the first few seconds of the conversation. For example, it’s always a bad sign whenever someone immediately asks about price.

5. What’s the worst marketing mistake you ever made?

Being over reliant on the golden goose of Google.

It’s great to be able to depend on a consistent flow of work through my website.

But as I experienced for myself last year, you never know how your site might be affected by the next Google update

So you can’t afford to be without a Plan B, as anything can happen quite literally overnight.

6. What’s your top marketing tip for freelance copywriters?

Build relationships. Because relationships deliver work.

Caroline Gibson

Caroline GibsonAbout CarolineLinkedIn follow buttonGoogle+ follow buttonTwitter follow button

Caroline is an award-winning London-based freelancer. She’s been a copywriter all her working life.

She worked for several top London ad and branding agencies, with big-name clients such as British Telecom and Orange, before setting up on her own in 1999.

1. What marketing do you currently do?

I’ve been in the business a long time, so I no longer have to do any proactive marketing. All my work now comes through client referrals, repeat business and enquiries through my website.

At one stage, though, I did try breakfast networking clubs. But these didn’t work particularly well for me. First, I had a young family. So it was hard to commit to regular early morning meetings. Secondly, many of the prospects were simply too small and had only limited marketing budgets.

One thing I still do is keep regular contact with former and existing clients. Every year I send them a digital Christmas card. Each time I come up with a different creative concept. For example, last year I sent everyone a specially designed CD with a selection of Christmas songs.

I also feel it’s important to maintain a strong visible presence online. So I try and keep up an active profile on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+.

2. Which marketing methods do you find most successful?

I remember a particularly effective marketing tactic at the time I was looking for my first copywriting job. Shortly after I graduated I did a mailshot in which I sent out Valentine’s cards to creative directors. That really helped me stand out and get on people’s radar. And it got me a whole load of job interviews.

Another thing I’ve always put to good use is my past work background.

I worked at various London ad agencies and also spent a year at Wolff Olins as their first in-house copywriter. Having this branding consultancy experience gave depth and breadth to my offering when I went freelance.

What’s more, I’d also won a few awards including D&AD. This helped me to get even more recognition and attract better clients.

3. Do you have any specific types of target client?

Yes, I prefer to work for bigger clients. I also generally avoid start-ups – as the less experienced the client, the more time they usually need.

4. How do you find or identify them?

Nowadays clients come to me. But when I do get an enquiry, I’ll often spot signs that a particular prospect isn’t for me.

Some very obvious examples are people who:

  • Send out a blanket email without referring to me by name
  • Contact me outside normal working hours, such as late in the evening
  • Request a quote for something like 30 blog posts – as they clearly want quantity over quality

5. What’s the worst marketing mistake you ever made?

Sometimes in the past I’ve let my social marketing fall to the bottom of the pile. Even now, I’ll often only think about the work in hand. Making clients happy and getting money in the bank are your prime focus. But you still also need to think ahead.

6. What’s your top marketing tip for freelance copywriters?

Get yourself a professional-looking website that does the work for you. Take time to think about your content – especially your points of difference. Whatever you do, don’t rush it or do it on the cheap.

Derryck Strachan

Derryck StrachanAbout DerryckLinkedIn follow buttonGoogle+ follow buttonTwitter follow button

Derryck started his career as an in-house copywriter for WEA Records in 1994.

Over the next 10 years he progressed through various writing-related roles in the music industry, working on acts such as Iggy Pop, Meatloaf and the Spice Girls.

Since 2005 Derryck has been running his own copywriting agency, Big Star Copywriting, based in Devon in the South West of the UK.

1. What marketing do you currently do?

We mainly focus on PPC advertising and SEO. But we also actively market to digital and search agencies. We also get a lot of work through word of mouth.

2. Which marketing methods do you find most successful?

We get good results from all the marketing we do.

As our own preference is for search engine marketing, we don’t do any direct marketing, cold calling or networking.

That doesn’t mean to say they’re a bad choice for other copywriters.

That’s the great thing these days – you have so many different ways you can market yourself. So virtually anyone will find something to suit their own particular business.

3. Do you have any specific types of target client?

Yes. But, as most of our marketing is inbound, we tailor our website to target specific industry sectors.

4. How do you find or identify them?

We have several landing pages aimed at different writing markets, such as legal, travel, property and financial copywriting. We also target the type of clients we want through the case studies we choose to share.

5. What’s the worst marketing mistake you ever made?

I wouldn’t say we’ve made any really big marketing mistakes. Sure, we’ve tried some types of marketing, which have brought us few or no leads. But that’s how you refine your marketing ­­– by experimenting and learning what works and what doesn’t.

6. What’s your top marketing tip for freelance copywriters?

Don’t expect opportunities to simply fall into your lap. Instead, be prepared to put in the time and money to market yourself professionally.

John McGarvey

John McGarveyAbout JohnLinkedIn follow buttonGoogle+ follow buttonTwitter follow button

John is a freelance web copywriter based in north London. He writes almost exclusively for online and has been creating content for the Internet for more than 10 years.

Much of his work has been for technology companies and he has a keen understanding of how digital content works.

1. What marketing do you currently do?

I keep up an active Twitter profile and blog. But finding time to blog is difficult when you have so many other work commitments.

All the same, I do generally update it once or twice a month.

2. Which marketing methods do you find most successful?

My website provides a good steady flow of leads. But a good proportion of these are not a particularly good fit for my business.

I also do networking, focusing on like-minded people who are aligned to my business in some way. Although I get fewer enquiries from this, far more of them end up becoming clients.

3. Do you have any specific types of target client?

Yes. It’s important to me to have a good working relationship with clients. So I look to work with people who actually get the web and do interesting things on it.

A good client will see the value of quality content, appreciate good design and understand how they work together.

4. How do you find or identify them?

Most of my work is for digital use. So I regularly attend networking events where web designers, web developers, digital creatives and other like-minded people hang out.

And when I get an enquiry, I consider several things before deciding whether we’re right for each other. For example:

  • What’s their budget? Is there room for negotiation or changing the scope?
  • Do they have a clear brief? Do we share the same understanding of what’s required?
  • Does the client understand their own obligations? Are they co-operative? Will I get the information I need to complete the work?

5. What’s the worst marketing mistake you ever made?

Being slow to respond to new leads and being far too preoccupied with existing clients. This can be a habit that’s hard to break. But one you definitely should. Because you never know where that enquiry might lead.

And another thing.

For my first website, I just used a run-of-the-mill WordPress theme. It neither stood out nor represented what I could achieve for my clients.

Then recently I invested the time and money in a professionally designed custom website. This said so much more about me and the audience I was targeting.

My only regret is that I hadn’t done it sooner.

6. What’s your top marketing tip for freelance copywriters?

Do something.

It’s hard knowing where to start. But don’t waste time agonising on what to do first.

Whether it’s setting up a website, starting a blog or taking to Twitter at least make a start. This’ll help you to develop a network of contacts and build up your own digital footprint.

And don’t do the hard sell.

Be helpful. Be useful. Then prospects remember you for positive reasons if ever they need a copywriter.

Have your say

How do you market your own copywriting services? Do you have any marketing tips of your own? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Blogger ProfileAbout the Author

Kevin Carlton of Write OnlineKevin Carlton is a freelance SEO copywriter and blogger based in Staffordshire in the UK. He is owner of website copywriting service Write Online, which helps others get the most out of their online presence.

You can follow him on Twitter and Google+ or connect with him on LinkedIn.

10 super simple strategies copywriters use to find a sizzling-hot USP

10 methods a copywriter uses to find your USPYou know what it is. And you know every business should have one.

Yet, despite everything everyone tells you, you still struggle to find your own unique selling proposition (USP).

You find it hard enough to find any difference between yourself and the competition – let alone a winning one.

Because there are only so many ways a business can be different.

So you accept you’ll never find that all-elusive killer USP.

After all, you don’t offer anything customers can’t get elsewhere. And you really don’t have any other way to stand apart from the crowd.

But what else can you do?

Well, quite a lot actually. All you need to do is follow the same simple strategies copywriters use to differentiate their own clients from the competition.

Here’s how:

1. They do their homework

A copywriter doesn’t just pluck copy from thin air. They always do their homework first.

So they research as much background information as possible. For example:

  • Marketing material: Previous direct mail campaigns, press releases, product reviews, website copy or anything else they can lay their hands on.
  • Technical information: Such as user guides, installation manuals, technical specifications, patents, market research data and official test figures.
  • Competitors: From company websites, blogs and PPC ads to sales brochures and newspaper ads.

The better you know yourself and the better you know the competition, the easier it will be to find your own unique place in the market.

So make sure you do your research before anything else.

2. They ask the right questions

You can always tell a great copywriter by the questions they ask. And they usually ask a lot of them.

It’s the only way to fully understand what your business is about. And what makes it different.

Here are some typical questions they might ask you:

What are your key product features? Which of those compare favourably against the competition?

What are the biggest problems your customers face? And what do your products and services do to solve them?

Do you offer any extras as standard? For example, a complimentary WordPress training DVD or free website SEO audit.

Are you a member of any trade organisation? Or do you belong to any local trader register or Buy with Confidence scheme?

Ask yourself a few basic questions like these to help you find your own USP. They may reveal something about your business you hadn’t initially considered.

3. They play on your strengths

Once you’ve done your groundwork, you can then set about finding on your own individual angle.

The most obvious place to start is your strengths:

  • Are you faster or more reliable?
  • Do you offer any special services or features?
  • Do you deliver a better brand experience?

But don’t forget:

You need to back up any claims you make in your copy. Otherwise they’ll simply have no credibility.

That doesn’t mean to say you need extensive proof or statistics. You can simply give a reason why your product or service is better. And that’s all you usually need.

4. They exploit competitor weaknesses

In 1991, the Journal of Economics published the results of a groundbreaking study by psychologists Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky about loss aversion.

The article suggested fear of losses plays a far more powerful role in people’s choices than the prospect of gains. Or, as Kahneman put it, Losses loom larger than gains.

So why not use this fear to exploit your competitors’ weaknesses? And highlight the pitfalls of buying their products and services.

For if customers do so they could end up making a terrible mistake. And so the only safe option is to buy your own.

5. They state the obvious

One day, around 10 years ago, I was shopping online for a wireless router. At that time my partner had a PC and I had a Mac. So I needed to be sure the device would work with both a Mac and a Windows machine.

But there was a problem.

I checked out all the brands. Yet not a single manufacturer stated their product was compatible with both systems. Apart from one.

So naturally I bought it.

It was only later I discovered every router works with both a Mac and PC.

But not every customer knows this. And, at the time, neither did I. The brand that won my business did so because they stated the obvious. It was a winning USP.

Likewise, both you and your competitors could be offering something that’s obvious to you but not to your customers.

But if you’re the only one who actually bothers to say so, it could make a telling difference.

Sneaky copywriting tipSneaky tip

You can often create a USP by combining two common selling points one much scarcer one.

For example, imagine you’re a small local franchise retailer. And that most of your competitors are small local businesses too. So, in that respect, you’re all pretty much the same.

However, because you’re also a franchise owner, your business is part of a much larger chain. And there’s nothing much different about that either.

But combine the two and what have you got?

The best of both worlds.

You offer the individual service and attention you get from a small independent retailer. But, at the same time, you also offer outstanding value for money – just as you’d expect from a large retail chain.

6. They target a niche

Many businesses are scared of targeting a niche. They think it limits their options.

But more often than not it does exactly the opposite.

In a post last year, I explained how copywriters highlight the areas they specialise in to set themselves apart.

This positions them as the obvious choice in their specialist field. By contrast, a generalist is never the obvious choice for any type of writing at all.

But copywriters don’t just do this to differentiate themselves. They also do it to differentiate their clients. And so can you.

The following examples give you a general idea:

  • Social media training for senior managers
  • Healthcare copywriting services
  • Gluten-free ready meals for working mums
  • Dental PR consultants
  • IT services for schools

And don’t forget that specialists are harder to come by. So they usually charge more.

Sneaky copywriting tipSneaky tip

Keyword research tools such as Google Keyword Planner can help you find your own niche market by giving you valuable insight into competition and demand for your target products and services.

7. They make promises or guarantees

100% customer satisfaction guarantee. 7-day free trial. Double the difference price promise. Nearly every product seems to offer some kind of promise or guarantee these days.

And they work because people don’t like taking risks with their money.

So if you can come up with a compelling promise or genuinely different guarantee then you could be onto a winning USP.

You could even do what the big brands do and build your marketing slogan around it:

M&Ms: “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand”

Domino’s Pizza: “You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less – or it’s free”

Ronseal: “It does exactly what it says on the tin”

But remember: If you’re a copywriter, PR consultant or any other marketing professional the one thing you can never guarantee is results. So only make promises on the things you can actually control.

8. They create a persona

If you are your authentic self you have no competition.

But don’t just take my word for it. Listen to what marketing author, speaker and social media authority Scott Stratten has to say about it:

Now if you’ve built your business around your blog you’ll recognise this common differentiation technique. And you know it makes good sense.

But a personal brand isn’t right for everybody. Especially for anyone who has plans to sell their business on.

Because no-one will buy a business that relies so heavily on one single person.

9. They highlight your credentials

Sometimes a copywriter barely has to do anything. They just let the facts speak for themselves.

Awards, accreditations, official statistics, survey results, reviews and ratings all demonstrate your credentials and help break down buyer resistance.

So if Brand Republic voted you the best internet marketing blogger in its small business category then say so.

Or if you’re the only ALA-registered vehicle locksmith in Stoke-on-Trent then consider using it as your USP.

Here are three famous advertising slogans that work on the same principle:

Whiskas (cat food): 8 out of 10 owners say their cats prefer it

Fairy Liquid (washing up detergent): Lasts 2x longer than the next best-selling brand

Cadbury Dairy Milk (chocolate): A glass and a half of full cream milk in every half pound

10. They tell you to adapt your proposition

So what happens when a copywriter has explored all the options? Yet they still can’t pinpoint a clear unique selling proposition.

Well, there’s only one thing for it. And that is to actually introduce a USP into your business.

So a good copywriter will suggest ways you can adapt your proposition to make it different.

For example, this could be:

  • Better repayment terms
  • A better guarantee
  • Extra customisation or flexibility
  • A whole new way of doing things

Now the choice is yours. You don’t have to have a fancy strapline or advertising slogan. You just need to give customers a good reason to choose you over someone else.

As these days a USP is more important than ever. Because it’s so easy to check out your competitors online.

But whatever unique selling proposition you happen to use, one thing is more important than anything else. And that is that you always deliver just what you say you do.

What is your unique selling proposition? Do you have any suggestions to add to our list? Please tell us in the comment section below.

Stuff you can tweet:

  • Good copywriters don’t pluck copy from thin air. They always do their homework first [Tweet this]
  • You can always tell a great copywriter by the quality of the questions they ask [Tweet this]
  • A USP is now more important than ever, as it’s so easy to check out your competitors online [Tweet this]
  • You can often create a USP by combining two common selling points into one much scarcer one [Tweet this]

In our next post: Discover the marketing methods six successful UK copywriters use to attract a better-paying clients.

Blogger ProfileAbout the Author

Kevin Carlton of Write OnlineKevin Carlton is a freelance SEO copywriter and blogger based in Staffordshire in the UK. He is owner of website copywriting service Write Online, which helps others get the most out of their online presence.

You can follow him on Twitter and Google+ or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Trade secrets: How to craft bullet points like a superstar copywriter

The secret to writing successful bullet pointsThey’re one of the most powerful copywriting tricks you have at your disposal.

They can transform your writing from sterile, weak and lifeless copy into high-impact content that everyone wants to read and share.

But do you really know how to use bullet points properly? And do you know how to exploit them to their full potential?

Not quite sure?

Then I’ll show you some of the deviously clever ways superstar copywriters turn boring, everyday vertical lists into super-charged bullet points that leap off the page.

But first of all let’s quickly recap the basics, starting with why bullet points are so effective.

Why do bullet points work?

They liven up your writing

Just like subheadings, callout boxes, diagrams and pictures they help break up your copy and present it in more manageable bite-size chunks.

They’re easy to scan

People tend to scan web pages rather than read every sentence word for word. Bullet points work well because they make it easy for readers to consume your content quickly and efficiently.

They capture your visitors’ attention

This makes them ideal for highlighting your most important points, such as product features and benefits.

Sneaky copywriting tipSneaky tip:

The first and last items in a list generally grab the most attention. So, unless your bullet points are in some kind of logical order, use the start and end of the list to convey whatever is most important.

How do I construct bullet points correctly?

OK, so we know we should be using bullet points in our copy. But that doesn’t mean to say we’re doing it right.

In fact, many copywriters still screw up big time. Instead of making their writing simpler, they somehow end up throwing readers with illogical, inconsistent and confusing sets of bullet points.

And most of the time they run into problems simply because they fail to follow these three fundamental guidelines:

  Keep each list item parallel in structure:

What do we mean by keeping list items parallel? Well, basically it means ensuring each item follows the same type of grammatical construction. Let’s take an example:

Whenever you write a blog post you want to:

  • not use excessive jargon
  • include internal links to other posts on similar lines
  • to write a compelling and attention-grabbing headline
  • you need to proofread it carefully before you publish it

Grammatically, each of the above items is different. The first one starts with a negative, the second with a verb, the third with a preposition and the fourth with a pronoun.

Now look how much clearer the list becomes when you maintain the same pattern throughout:

Whenever you write a blog post you want to:

  • avoid excessive jargon
  • include internal links to other posts on similar lines
  • write a compelling and attention-grabbing headline
  • proofread it carefully before you publish it

  Ensure each item follows on from the platform statement:

Bullet points usually come with a few introductory words, known as a platform statement.

In most cases the platform doesn’t make any sense on its own. But when you complete the statement with any of the list items it should read as one whole meaningful sentence.

So let’s go back to the first example:

Whenever you write a blog post you want to:

  • not use excessive jargon
  • include internal links to other posts on similar lines
  • to write a compelling and attention-grabbing headline
  • you need to proofread it carefully before you publish it

Can you see what’s up with the third and fourth points?

You’re dead right.

The third point reads ‘Whenever you write a blog post you want to to write a compelling and attention-grabbing headline’. And the fourth reads ‘Whenever you write a blog post you want to you need to proofread it carefully before you publish it’.

Both are pretty painful to read aren’t they?

So remember: Whenever you write a list of bullet points, read each one over again and make sure it forms a complete sentence with the platform statement.

  Stick to consistent punctuation throughout:

It’s totally up to you how you style your vertical lists. But one thing you should always do is keep punctuation consistent.

Now I’m sure you’re fed up with seeing the same example, so here’s a new one:

As the successful candidate for this new position, you will:

  • manage a creative and lively team of in-house writers;
  • Contribute regular content to our company blog.
  • work to tight schedules and strict project deadlines

The first item ends with a semicolon, the second with a full stop and the third with no punctuation at all.

Readers find it easier to follow a regular pattern. So whenever they come across deviations like this they readily get distracted.

And did you notice anything else?

That’s right.

The second item starts with a capital letter, whereas the other two don’t. In other words, keep capitalisation consistent too.

So what are the special tricks of the trade?

Smart copywriters don’t just focus on how they word their lists. They also think about how to style and format them. This is because the way you structure and present your messages makes a big difference to how well they perform.

So here are three of the most common tricks copywriters use. If you know some HTML and CSS or have access to a web designer then you can use them on your website too:

1. They experiment with different symbols

Bullet points don’t necessarily have to be solid disks or squares. You can use dashes (–), triangles (▶) or anything else that helps give added impact.

For example, the following list uses ticks or check marks:

Check Mark [Display] Ticks are eye-catching and make your points look more like a checklist.
Check Mark [Display] They work well with lists of features or benefits as they reinforce the idea that you meet the reader’s purchase requirements.
Check Mark [Display] Ticks stand out more if you make them a different colour (Check Mark [Green]).

And here’s the list again, but adding a checkbox to the tick:

Check Box [Display] Ticks are eye-catching and make your points look more like a checklist.
Check Box [Display] They work well with lists of features or benefits as they reinforce the idea that you meet the reader’s purchase requirements.
Check Box [Display] Ticks stand out more if you make them a different colour (Check Mark [Green]).

Another symbol that can really bring your lists to life is the arrow (). It helps convey a sense of action. So this makes it perfect for lists of instructions, action points or commands.

Sneaky copywriting tipSneaky tip:

Symbols and graphics, such as arrows and check marks, can help enhance subheadings too.

To add a simple arrow to your website copy you can either (i) copy and paste the character into your text or (ii) insert the Unicode character → directly into your HTML code.

Similarly, for a simple check mark, just copy and paste the character into your text or insert ✔ into the HTML code.

2. They kill two birds with one stone

Imagine for a moment you’re writing a list of features and benefits of a product. How would you go about it?

You could :

  1. list only the features
  2. list only the benefits
  3. highlight features in some bullet points and benefits in others
  4. break up the features and benefits into two separate lists

Now, as every copywriter knows, the problem with the first option is that benefits sell NOT features.

But the second option won’t work either. You’ve listed the benefits but still need features to support them.

The third option is no better. Mixing features and benefits like this is just confusing.

And we can rule out the final option too. By highlighting your features and benefits in separate lists you immediately break the ties between them.

So what’s the answer? How do you kill two birds with one stone? Well, here are three ways you can break free of boring one-dimensional bullet statements:

  Lead with your benefit:

Start each bullet point with a benefit, make it stand out by highlighting it in bold then back it up with the feature that supports it.

Here’s an example similar to one I once did for a UK window blinds chain:

Check Mark [Display] Buy in the comfort of your own home. With our FREE no-obligation home consultation service.
Check Mark [Display] Shop at a time to suit you. We offer flexible appointment times including evenings and weekends.
Check Mark [Display] Avoid hidden costs and nasty surprises. All prices include the cost of fitting.

  Lead with your feature:

Sometimes your copy is shorter and punchier if you lead with your feature instead. Take our window blinds example. This works better because each feature statement follows a simple and familiar pattern:

Check Mark [Display] FREE fitting. No hidden costs and no nasty surprises.
Check Mark [Display] FREE no-obligation home consultation. Why come to us when we can come to you?
Check Mark [Display] FREE out-of-hours service. Flexible appointment times to suit you, including evenings and weekends.

  Break up each bullet point entirely:

We often use different text styles, such as bold, italics, headings and subheadings, to break up our main body text. But we can do the same with our bullet points too.

Here’s our list once again, but making better use of space, colour and font size:

Check Mark [Burgundy] FREE fitting
No hidden costs and no nasty surprises.
Check Mark [Burgundy] FREE no-obligation home consultation
Why come to us when we’ll come to you?
Check Mark [Burgundy] FREE out-of-hours service
Flexible appointment times to suit you, including evenings and weekends.

3. They let their bullets do the talking

People love visuals. It’s why infographics and video posts are so incredibly popular.

So why not go all the way and give one of your extra special lists a complete visual makeover?

To see what I mean, let’s look at how I did this on my own home page:

List of SEO copywriting features and benefits
Notice how each image conveys a clear positive message and sums up in an instant just what each bullet point is about. What’s more, the whole thing looks good too, especially compared with your typical, everyday bullet point list.

Now maybe you could argue these are not really bullet points at all. Yet stop and think about it and all you’ve actually got is a basic list of three items – each one made up of two individual components.

But, quite frankly, do you really care whether they’re technically bullet points or not?

Because if they help get your message across and get you regular sales or enquiries then that’s all that really matters.

Do you agree that vertical lists are too often just plain boring? If so, then please share this post or leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

If you like this, you might also like:

One HUGE Reason Your Web Copy SUCKS, and How to Change it NOW! | Jarvis Edwards
Two crafty conversion tricks copywriters can learn from eCommerce | Write Online
Does your SEO copy leverage the rule of three? | SEO Copywriting

In our next post: Discover 10 super easy ways you can identify your own USP.

Blogger ProfileAbout the Author

Kevin Carlton of Write OnlineKevin Carlton is a freelance SEO copywriter and blogger based in Stafford in the UK. He is owner of website copywriting service Write Online, which helps others get the most out of their online presence.

You can follow him on Twitter and Google+ or connect with him on LinkedIn.

3 dangerously destructive writing habits every copywriter should avoid

Beware of dangerous copywriter habitsDoctors do it. Trendy marketing agencies do it. Lawyers are the worst culprits of all. And it annoys us to the point of exasperation.

– You’re told the patient has had a cerebrovascular accident but you’re not sure whether they’ve broken their arm or had a stroke.

– Your creative consultant wants to ‘articulate your message across several marketing touch points’ but you just want to shoot them.

– You’re given an important legal document to sign but need a translator to make any sense of it.

They, and many other professions like them, use their own special language. And because you don’t understand it, you don’t want to read or hear it. Because it just makes you feel stupid.

Now for these people it rarely seems to matter. After all, their living doesn’t depend on it. But if you’re a copywriter, blogger or online retailer it does.

People are free to choose whether they read your content or not. And if they can make neither head nor tail of it then they’ll click away from your web page, product sales page or blog post in an instant.

So ask yourself this:

Do people read, share and comment on my blog posts?
Is my website converting traffic into sales?

Because if the answer’s NO then maybe you’ve got exactly the same problem.

The three deadly sins

Basically your content isn’t working because you’re NOT thinking about your target audience. And you can put this down to three fundamentally dangerous habits or deadly sins:

  1. You confuse readers with excessive JARGON ­– specialist words and expressions that only people in the know can understand.
  2. You use PAROCHIALISMS ­– things that mean something to you but nothing the reader.
  3. You assume readers already know particular ACRONYMS and INITIALISMS – abbreviations formed from the initial letters of other words.

But you can set yourself free of sin just by recognising when you’re doing it and knowing how to deal with it.

Here’s how:

  Go easy on the jargon

In my previous post, I said short and simple was nearly always best. But I also explained that longer words are often more specific and could capture what you’re trying to say far better than a shorter, more general one.

Well, much the same applies to jargon.

Sometimes you’re talking to a very clear and specific audience. Sometimes you need to target specialist terminology in search. Sometimes no other word will do.

But excessive jargon is often too much for even the most technically minded people.

And it can also be bad for your SEO.

A web page awash with jargon is a bit like targeting too many different keywords at the same time. This makes it difficult for search engines to work out what your content is specifically about.

Also the more technical the product or subject matter the harder it is to avoid it.

But don’t let that be a problem: Instead, take the opportunity to help visitors make sense of any unfamiliar language. For example, you can:

  • Add hover-over text to specialist terms.
  • Use a call-out box to clarify any jargon you’ve used.
  • Link to a blog post, landing page or Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section that provides additional useful information.
  • Link to an external resource, such as Wikipedia, that gives a fuller explanation.

But remember: You want readers to stick around for as long as possible. So hover-over text and call-out boxes generally work best.

  Beware of parochialisms

Perhaps the best way to grasp parochialisms is to see them in action. So here are a few fictitious examples:

The Blog Writing Workshop is a collaboration between the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO) and five internet marketing agencies from our local area.

The problem here is that the author knows what they mean by their local area, but the reader hasn’t a clue. Unless the writer’s previously stated where it is then it could be just about anywhere in the world.

This special 10-week series of seminars was specifically developed for small and medium-sized businesses under the guidance of Professor S.P. Hutchins.

But who on earth is Professor S.P. Hutchins? He or she means something to the author but absolutely nothing to the reader. Unless the writer has introduced them earlier in the copy then no-one will really care.

Parochialisms in tweets, shares and blog post headlines are particularly common. Take this example:

Here’s my latest post for Marketing Week about website copywriting.

Why does this person assume everybody knows them?

Even if I do know them, I’m still not gonna share it – because not everyone in my own network does.

And as for ‘about website copywriting’. That’s far too vague and general. If you want to capture people’s interest, you really need to be a little more specific than that.

  Spell out acronyms and initialisms

Acronyms and initialisms are pretty much the same thing. The difference is that with acronyms you pronounce the abbreviation as if it were a word:

  • NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)
  • OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries)
  • SCUBA (Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus)

But with initialisms you pronounce each letter on its own:

  • B2B (Business to Business)
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
  • ROI (Return on Investment)

These days acronyms and initialisms seem to be almost everywhere. But don’t automatically assume readers know what they stand for.

So, whenever you use a new specialist term in your copy, don’t forget to spell it out in full and immediately follow it with the abbreviated form in brackets:

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has just announced the dates for its next Staffordshire Beer Festival, a free annual event that takes place at various locations across the county.

But use your common sense. For example, if you write a blog about search engine optimisation then you really don’t need to say what SEO stands for in every single post.

What’s more, where you do need to spell out terminology you only have to do it the first time you mention it.

And remember that sometimes it’s not nearly enough just to spell out the term in full. You may need to go one step further and also explain what your terminology actually means.

This will, of course, interrupt the flow of your copy. But then again you can always use the same ideas we suggested for jargon – namely hover-over text, a call-out box or a link to explanatory content elsewhere.

Now becoming a successful copywriter or blogger is far from easy. And, in many ways, this is just what this blog seeks to explain.

But if you pay attention and learn to kick these dangerously destructive copywriting habits, you will be well on your way to becoming a better writer.

What bad writing habits annoy you to the point of exasperation? Tell us in our comment section below.

In our next post: Find out how to craft bullet points like a superstar copywriter.

Blogger ProfileAbout the Author

Kevin Carlton of Write OnlineKevin Carlton is a freelance SEO copywriter and blogger based in Stafford in the UK. He is owner of website copywriting service Write Online, which helps others get the most out of their online presence.

You can follow him on Twitter and Google+ or connect with him on LinkedIn.

The common-sense way to edit your writing – without going overboard

Copywriter putting an axe to writingKeep your copy short. Keep it simple. Edit out this. Cut down on that.

It’s what all the top copywriting blogs tell you to do.

Just lately, practically every other post about blogging or writing seems to be giving out the same guidance on how to edit down your copy.

Don’t use long words when short ones will do. Ditch redundant words. Steer clear of the passive voice.

Again all pretty sound advice wouldn’t you say?

So what’s the problem?

Well it’s this:

Too many people are just plain stupid. They only see things in black and white.

Show them what to do in a particular situation and they end up doing the same thing every time.

You tell them to tighten up their copy and what do they do? They butcher the living daylights out of it.

They pare it back to the bare minimum. They strip out every last bit of personality. They remove subtle nuances that affect its meaning. And, in the end, they actually make their copy harder to read.

Now we all need to edit our content down before we publish. But how do we know when we’re going over the top?

So let’s take a look at this advice again and see where we might use a little more common sense:

→ Don’t use long words when short ones will do

Short and simple nearly always works best. But DON’T use a short word at the expense of the right word.

Longer words can be far more specific and often capture what you’re trying to say far better than a shorter, more general one.

They also help you avoid repetition. For instance, take the following fictitious job ad:

In this exciting new website copywriter position you’ll handle all of our B2B clients.

You’ll handle all aspects of their on-site SEO, write blog posts on their behalf and handle their email marketing campaigns.

You will also handle all of their social media accounts.

I don’t know about you, but I got a bit sick of seeing the word ‘handle’ by the end. The alternative ‘be responsible for’ might be stuffier, but at least it adds a bit of variety. And it’ll also save you from looking like a five-year-old who’s just learning to write.

→ Ditch redundant words

Grammar sticklers call it circumlocution or prolixity. Everyone else knows it as using more words when fewer will do. Here are some examples:

Circumlocution Shorter alternative
in view of the fact that because
in order to to
on a regular basis regularly
in the vicinity of near

Most of the time these redundant words are unnecessary baggage.

But just like white space between paragraphs a few occasional padding words can actually make your copy easier to follow.

They smooth the transition between one idea and the next. They also help split up individual parts of a sentence and clarify its meaning.

Here’s a very simple example:

The company changed its plan in order to give staff a pay rise.

The company changed its plan to give staff a pay rise.

In the first case, staff are getting a pay rise. In the second, they’re not. So sometimes stripping out those so-called redundant words isn’t such a clever idea.

→ Steer clear of the passive voice

Virtually any copywriter will tell you the active voice is stronger, more direct and more compelling, whereas the passive voice is weaker and more difficult to read.

But this isn’t always the case. In many writing situations only the passive will do.

Take this sentence I wrote about English footballer Frank Lampard in a magazine article documenting the high and low points of his career:

Lamps is denied an equalising goal in England’s World Cup showdown with Germany in South Africa.

Now see how you’d write it in the active:

The referee denies Lamps an equalising goal in England’s World Cup showdown with Germany in South Africa.

The active voice just doesn’t do it here – because the sentence is meant to be about Frank Lampard NOT the referee. In other words, the passive can sometimes help make your content easier to read.

What’s more, it’s particularly useful if (like me) you do a lot of website copywriting and on-site SEO.


Because you can front-load your most important keywords in headlines, title tags, image ALT tags and lead sentences.

And also, as we’ve seen in the footie example above, you can use it to strategically position important words in your copy.

So, when it comes to the sales-oriented pages on your website, you can place them where they’ll make the most impact on conversion.

Now I’m not giving you an excuse to write limp, long-winded and bloated copy. I just want you to know that the passive and longer or ‘redundant’ words have their place.

So go ahead and make use of the many great online resources available. I’ve even included a couple of links for you below.

But, whatever editing guidance you take, remember that there’s just no substitute for common sense.

Have you ever had your writing butchered by an editor? Do think over editing can rip your copy to shreds? Let us know your thoughts in our comment section below.

If you like this, you might also like:

24 complex words – and their simpler alternatives | Ragan’s PR Daily
25 Editing Tips for Tightening Your Copy | The Write Life
5 non-existent words that make YOU look a halfwit copywriter | Write Online

In our next post: Acronyms, parochialisms and jargon – when you should use them and when you should avoid them?

Blogger ProfileAbout the Author

Kevin Carlton of Write OnlineKevin Carlton is a freelance SEO copywriter and blogger based in Staffordshire in the UK. He is owner of website copywriting service Write Online, which helps others get the most out of their online presence.

You can follow him on Twitter and Google+ or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Help! No-one ever comments on my blog. What should I do?

The invisible blog writerYou say something, but no-one takes a blind bit of notice.

It’s as if you’re talking to a brick wall.

Is this how you feel every time you publish a blog post?

No matter how often you blog, no-one ever leaves a comment. You might as well be completely invisible. While other blogs get bucketloads of comments you never get so much as a sausage.

Now if this is YOU then perhaps it’s time you asked yourself this question:

Does it matter if no-one ever comments on my blog?

Well, if your answer is NO then maybe you should stop and think about this:

Comments give your blog credibility

Imagine a prospective client who’s looking for a writer. They check out several websites, each with a blog. None of them has a single comment – except one, which has loads. Which one do you think they’ll prefer?

Comments add a form of social proof to your blog that impresses prospective clients. But they’re not the only ones. When regular visitors to your blog see other people engaged in the conversation they’ll naturally want to join in too.

Comments build relationships

We’re building relationships with other people all the time – with clients, with colleagues and through everyday social interaction. But how many of these are with genuinely like-minded people?

But through blog commenting you can connect with fellow freelance writers, website copywriters and bloggers – the people you want to meet, but never get the chance.

OK, unless you write sponsored posts, sell an eBook or offer some kind of training programme, these relationships aren’t going to lead to any direct business. After all, most of these people are selling much the same services as you.

But these are the people who are most likely to Tweet, +1, Like or social bookmark your posts.

They are the all-important advocates for your content. And where they go, prospective clients will eventually find their way too.

Comments send positive signals to search engines

Some SEOs argue that comments are bad for your SEO. They say they dilute the keyword focus of your content and pass authority to anyone that supplies a link with their comment.

Perhaps that’s true. But all this sounds a bit old school for my liking. Search engines want positive signals about the quality of your content. And one of the best signs of quality is surely when people engage with that content.

So now you’ve established you want people to comment on your blog, what can you do about it?

  Build up a subscriber list

Wouldn’t it be great if, every time you publish a post, you have guaranteed exposure to a large number of potential readers?

Well, as any successful blogger will tell you, the solution is to build up a mailing list of blog subscribers. Here’s the basic idea:

   Make it easy for readers to sign up to your blog by showing subscribe buttons in prominent places on your site

   Provide at least one RSS button for people who’d rather subscribe through a feed reader

   Offer an incentive to sign up by offering exclusive content as a reward for subscribing

   Leverage the traffic to bigger blogs that have a far larger audience than yours

Now the last point warrants a whole blog post in its own right. But bottom line is that if you go out your way to help the big-name bloggers – by making insightful comments on their posts, buying their products, submitting quality guest post pitches and sharing their stuff on social media – they will help you in return.

  Write magnetic headlines

If your headline doesn’t tickle anyone’s fancy then no-one is even going read your post, let alone comment on it.

The web is positively overflowing with tips on how to write attention-grabbing headlines. So make sure you read up and get this sorted.

And, by the way, next time you come across a headline that really makes you want to read that post, stop and ask yourself why.

  Give your posts a sense of purpose

As I touched on in my previous post far too many blogs are just a series of directionless musings.

Give your posts a clear sense of purpose, so visitors know why they should read it and what they’re going to get out of it.

In other words, offer your readers something meaningful and they’ll respond with something meaningful back.

  Ditch the corporate tone

You can write a post packed full of insanely good ideas and information – but if your language is as dull as dishwater, it’ll still bore your readers to tears.

So learn how to liven up your writing by adjusting your tone.

Corporate language sometimes has its place. But definitely NOT in your blog posts.

  Spark a debate

If you have a viewpoint that goes against popular convention then say so.

Some people will agree. Some will differ. Others will appreciate a new way of thinking. But whatever the case, if you make your opinions known readers will naturally respond by adding their own points of view.

Before you write your next post, think about what things get your readers going. For example, have you ever noticed that spelling and grammar are always a hot topic of conversation on other copywriting blogs?

That’s why I wrote 5 non-existent words that make YOU look a halfwit copywriter earlier this year.

This has still been by far my most popular post to date.

  Reward people for commenting

When people make useful comments on your blog, check out their own website, share their content, reply to their comments and connect with them on social media.

Or better still make your WordPress blog more comment friendly by installing the CommentLuv plugin.

The big attraction of CommentLuv is that it rewards readers by allowing them to leave a link to their latest blog post below their comment.

It works particularly well on sites related to blogging and internet marketing. Sometimes too well. The bigger blogs tend not to use it. Otherwise they’d be inundated with comments from people who only want a backlink.

  Give a call to action

Just like a direct mail letter or landing page, if you want readers to do something then give them a call to action.

Remember that getting comments on your blog is like many other things in life – if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Do you agree that comments add value to your blog? What do you do to encourage them? Let us know your thoughts in our comment section below.

Stuff you can tweet:

  • Make it easy for readers to sign up to your blog by showing subscribe buttons in prominent places on your site. [Tweet this]
  • Next time you come across a headline that really makes you want to read a blog post, stop and ask yourself why. [Tweet this]
  • Getting comments on your blog is like many other things in life – if you don’t ask, you don’t get. [Tweet this]

In our next post: We show you a more common-sense approach to tightening up your copy.

Blogger ProfileAbout the Author

Kevin Carlton of Write OnlineKevin Carlton is a freelance SEO copywriter and blogger based in Stafford in the UK. He is owner of website copywriting service Write Online, which helps others get the most out of their online presence.

You can follow him on Twitter and Google+ or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Why reading books sucks if YOU want killer copywriting gigs

Warning sign telling copywriters not to read booksWho else has never read a book since school?

Now that may seem like a bizarre question to expect from someone who writes for a living. It might even freak you out.

But the truth is that I’ve never actually read a single book since I left high school.

OK, I’ve read a fair bit of non-fiction – and I’ll get onto that in a minute – but not so much as a single novel, play or any other book of fictional or creative nature.

Absolutely nothing.

I detested English Literature at school. I couldn’t even get beyond the first couple of pages of a novel without hyperventilating with boredom.

So how on earth did I end up becoming a copywriter?

Because there’s a demand for people like me – that’s why

Yes, you read that right, there is a massive market for copywriters just like myself.

Maybe you think we’re illiterate or something, but writers like me just aren’t interested in stories, poetry, sonnets and inspired moments of self-expression.

Instead, all we’re interested in is information. In particular, practical information that makes our lives easier or more pleasurable.

Give me a book or blog post that shows me how to learn Italian, pitch a press release or store wine properly then I’d much rather read that any day.


Because it helps me get where I want to go.

And here’s the kicker: Most other people who are searching for content online are doing just the same.

Think about the stuff you read when you’re browsing or searching online. Most of it’s just informational or commercial material. It’s so different from literary writing that it may as well be in another language.

A bad education

Now this is the controversial bit – but trust me, as an outsider, I’ve often seen the signs of this in other people’s writing. Basically, if you’re a copywriter then reading books may end up doing you more harm than good.

By reading literature you could be subconsciously learning a writing style that’s no use whatsoever in the straight-talking world of website copywriting and blogging.

A reality check

And, while we’re at it, here are another few home truths.

Most prospective copywriting clients really don’t care if you:

  • are an avid bookwork who’s always loved words
  • have a dedicated poetry section on your website
  • can impress them with your artistic talents as a writer

All they really want to know is whether you:

  • get what they’re trying to achieve
  • can embrace the subject they want you to write about
  • are able to write in a clear, concise manner that their visitors can understand

So avoid those whimsical musings on your blog and telling prospects your ambitions of becoming a book author – because most business clients won’t be interested in the slightest.

A methodical approach

So you may be wondering how on earth I write when I never read.

Well, as I said, I do kinda read. It’s just I don’t read literature.

But does that make writing any harder?


If anything, it makes it easier – because, for me, writing isn’t a creative discipline. Instead, it’s just a series of systematic or methodical steps.

Here’s how it goes:

  • First, I study the client and their proposition. In particular, I look at any existing copy they have, such as their website.
  • Secondly, I look at competitor websites and make note of all the great ideas and copy that I want to steal from them.
  • Next, after discussing features and benefits with the client, I list the most important sales points. Any that set my client apart from their competitors go right at the top.
  • Then, just like a jigsaw, I piece together the content for each web page. And even if it’s a blog post, I still methodically plan out what I’m going to say.
  • Finally, I write the copy. This is where I recycle, rephrase and reuse any ideas I’ve borrowed from elsewhere.

The great thing about working to a set procedure like this is that, in the end, the copy practically writes itself. And, by the time you’ve finished, you’ve still got a whole new original piece of content.

Now, for all you book fanatics reading this, I’m not of some deranged notion that reading fiction is somehow bad. The world is full of people with different interests and it just so happens it isn’t one of mine.

But the point I’m making is this: Most of the killer copywriting gigs out there aren’t for bookworms and aspiring novel writers. So if you wanna make a real go of freelance copywriting then you’d better keep the two things totally separate.

So come on. Who else has never read a book since school? Do you agree or disagree that reading literature is bad for your copywriting? Leave your comment below.

In our next post: Does it matter if no-one ever comments on your blog?  Find out why it does and what you can do about it.

Blogger ProfileAbout the Author

Kevin Carlton of Write OnlineKevin Carlton is a freelance SEO copywriter and blogger based in Stafford in the UK. He is owner of website copywriting service Write Online, which helps others get the most out of their online presence.

You can follow him on Twitter and Google+ or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Two crafty conversion tricks copywriters can learn from eCommerce

An eCommerce Buy Now button on a keyboardDo you get tons of visitors to your website? Yet, for some reason, none of them ever becomes a client?

Well, one way you might be able to generate more enquiries is to think more like an online retailer.

But before I tell you exactly how, there’s just one thing you’ll need to know – what it is that makes a great online retail site.

And, to see what that is, you only have to look at the ultimate online retailer Amazon.

It’s the role model for any eCommerce website.

It has a clean, uncluttered design and is so easy to use. It also has a whole load of great user features that add value to the shopping experience and help you to make a much more informed purchase.

Here are just a few typical examples:

  • Thoughtful item recommendations, related items and other helpful product suggestions
  • Customer reviews and product ratings
  • A Look Inside feature that lets you browse through parts of a book before you buy
  • A variety of shipping options

So what’s the point?

Well basically, aren’t you selling something on your own website too?

OK, unlike an eCommerce website, you’re selling a service you can’t physically buy over the net.

But that shouldn’t stop you.

In other words, you can still incorporate features into your own site that encourage people to buy or make an enquiry – in just the same way that online retailers do.

So what kind of features can you introduce?

Well, the following are two ways in which I improved my own website that were inspired by eCommerce. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t do the same too:

➜ Highly visible call-to-action buttons

Have you ever noticed how on online shopping sites the Add to Cart, Proceed to Checkout or Confirm Order button always stands out from the rest of the page?

Take, for example, the following typical product details page on popular fashion retail site

An Add to Cart button on

Now take a look at the very bottom of the home page of my own website.

eCommerce-style Get Started button

Spot the similarity?

You’ve got it. They both have just what I’m talking about – a prominent call-to-action button.

Sneaky eCommerce tipSneaky tip:

Choose brighter, contrasting colours for smaller call-to-action buttons so that they grab your visitors’ attention. But for larger buttons, choose colours that blend in more with the colour scheme of your page.

However, choose your colour carefully to avoid clashing with your website’s overall design. If in doubt, consult a graphic designer or use an online colour selection tool such as or Adobe Kuler.

People almost can’t help but click on buttons. So if a visitor is interested in what you’ve got to sell, they’re all the more likely to take the action you want.

In the above example on, the action they want you to take is to add the item to your basket. In the case of my site, it’s to get prospective clients to visit my Contact Us page, where they can find out more and make an enquiry if they wish.

This leads me on to the next thing:

➜ A fully featured query form

Just imagine for a moment you’re shopping on an online retail site and you find exactly the product you want.

Then you discover that you don’t actually have the option to make the purchase online. Instead you need to either email or phone the retailer to place your order.

Now doesn’t that sound far too much like hard work? Be honest – you’d much rather click on a few buttons, enter a few details, click to confirm and be done.

So think about this for a moment …

Imagine a similar situation where you’re a visitor to your own website. You decide to make a query, but only have a choice between picking up the phone and sending an email.

So what are you gonna say?

Yeah, you’ve gotta start thinking about things. So it’s very tempting to put that query off until another time – and the only trouble is that you never do come back.

That’s where a fully featured query form comes in.

To see what I mean, let’s look at a clip from my own query form below:

Copywriter Query Form

Can you see why making a query is so much easier?

That’s right. Because the form does all the thinking, so you don’t have to. All you need to do is fill in a few fields, select a few options and away you go – you’ve got the ball rolling.

Easy isn’t it?

But just one final thing

All this clicking and selecting is great. Every button you click conveys a sense of action – just like placing an order on an eCommerce website.

But not everyone’s the same. Some people prefer to call. Others like to email. So make sure you give your prospects all three options.

Remember how I included variety of shipping options in my list of great Amazon user features? This is just the same.

The more options you give, the more likely you’ll get a sale.

Do you think these two ideas would work well on your website? Do you have any special conversion tricks of your own? Let us know by adding your views to our comment section below.

Stuff you can tweet:

  • One way you can generate more enquiries from your website is to think more like an online retailer. [Tweet this]
  • People can’t help but click on buttons. Turn a call to action into a button and more people will buy. [Tweet this]
  • The more contact options you offer on your website, the more likely a prospect will get in touch. [Tweet this]

In our next post: Who else has never read a book since school? Find out how reading books sucks if YOU want killer copywriting gigs.

Blogger ProfileAbout the Author

Kevin Carlton of Write OnlineKevin Carlton is a freelance SEO copywriter and blogger based in Staffordshire in the UK. He is owner of website copywriting service Write Online, which helps others get the most out of their online presence.

You can follow him on Twitter and Google+ or connect with him on LinkedIn.

Are your web directory listings one big waste of time?

Yahoo! Directory, Brownbook,net, Best of the Web and dmozI want your opinion.

What I want to know is whether you’ve ever submitted your website to online business directories.

But, more than that, I want to know whether it was worth the bother.

The reason I ask is this: Some people claim they get worthwhile results from them, while others reckon they’re a complete and utter waste of time.

Now I’ve given a few a try. Some were general everyday business listings, some were paid submission and others were niche directories specifically for freelances and copywriters.

Yet I can’t say that any of them have really done that much for me.

But does that mean to say that online business directories are just a loser’s game?

Well, not necessarily.

So before you make up your own mind, let’s at least take a closer look at some of the benefits that online directory listings may have to offer:

They get you your first few backlinks fast

Click here to post this comment to TwitterWhen your website first goes live, it is an island – no links in, no links out and little or no way for potential visitors to find you.

So what you want to do is get your website hard-wired into the net as quickly as possible.

With most online directories, especially the free ones, you can hardly expect the highest quality backlinks. But when you’re first starting out beggars can’t be choosers. So, for what it’s worth, you may as well get a few nice and easy SEO points under your belt.

They show up well in local searches

In a previous post, I discussed in detail why you should try and target niche keyword terms if you want to stand any chance of standing out in search.

Well, perhaps the most obvious place to start is to target local search.

Now this is often where online business directories can give you a real leg up right at the start.

To see what I mean, take a look at the following screenshot of an experimental search query I made a couple of weeks after my own website went live last October:

Google search for website copywriter in stafford

What I found was that, although my website immediately ranked well in for some of my target keywords, my site was nowhere to be seen in local searches – even when I performed highly specific keyword queries such as website copywriter stafford above.

Yet, as you can see, two online directory listings – which I’d set up just a matter of days before – were already showing up prominently in local queries.

In other words, don’t discount directory listings if your website is fairly new, because in the early stages many of them will outrank your own site in local search.

They’re a quick and easy solution for small local clients

If, like me, you’re a freelance copywriter then you’ve probably worked with many small local businesses in your time.

But often the problem working with small clients is that they can barely afford someone to write and optimise their website content, let alone pay for an ongoing SEO campaign.

What’s more, they simply don’t have the time or wherewithal to do it themselves.

Yet all is not lost.

Competition in local search isn’t generally that tough and few competitors tend to know much about SEO either. So getting listed in a few local and general business directories could be as much as they’ll ever need.

And because it’s fairly quick and easy, it’s something clients are usually happy to do for themselves.

But there’s one more thing also worth remembering …

One size doesn’t fit all

If you were looking for a copywriter then, let’s face it, you probably wouldn’t look in an online directory to find one. But if you were looking for a local florist, second-hand car dealer or gas fitter then you probably wouldn’t think twice about it.

In other words, online directories may be load of old pants for some types of business but still the perfect place to advertise for others.

Now it’s over to you

I’ve gotta say that, despite having submitted to web directories myself, I’m not 100% convinced by them. That’s why I’d love to hear from you.

So have you tried listing your own website? Was it worth your while? Share your experiences in the comment section below.

In our next post: We’ll be looking at two crafty conversion tricks, inspired by eCommerce, that you can use on your website.

Blogger ProfileAbout the Author

Kevin Carlton of Write OnlineKevin Carlton is a freelance SEO copywriter and blogger based in Stafford in the UK. He is owner of website copywriting service Write Online, which helps others get the most out of their online presence.

You can follow him on Twitter and Google+ or connect with him on LinkedIn.

5 reasons why rookie copywriters should only blog once a month

Standard WordPress themeSome say you should be doing it several times a week. Some so-called SEO experts even say you should be doing it several times a day.

But do you really need to mass-produce blog posts like a factory assembly line in order to build up your following, move up the search engine rankings and attract more lucrative clients?

Well, it certainly seems to make sense doesn’t it?

I mean, you only have to look at a few of the many good reasons to do so and it would seem like a no-brainer:

  • The more often you post the more often you engage readers
  • You’re rapidly expanding your site with new, unique and relevant content
  • You’re creating more and more entry points to your site
  • You’re telling search engines that you update your site regularly

Now, I’ve had my copywriting website for just over six months now. And it’s ranking well and getting enquiries. So do you think that I blog once, twice or maybe three times a week? Or even several times a day?

You must be joking!

In fact, I only blog once a month. Any more frequent than that and, at this early stage of my own online marketing activity, all that extra effort would simply go to waste.

So what’s the reason why?

As it happens, I have a whole bucketload of reasons. But if had to list just a few, these would have to be the five most important of all:

1. You’ve gotta learn the bloggin’ style

One of the key secrets to successful blog writing is keeping it informal and keeping it conversational.

So jump straight in and start blogging in a cold, corporate and conventional writing style and you’ll bore the pants of your readers in next to no time.

Instead, you need to dedicate some time to develop and improve your writing in the time between publishing each of your posts.

For example, by observing how old hands write on popular blogs, such as Copyblogger and ProBlogger, and quality blogs dedicated to website copywriting, such as SEO Copywriting and Kate Toon Copywriting, I was able to adapt my writing style as I went along.

2. You have to market your posts

Sometimes you can talk as much as you like. But if nobody’s actually listening there’s not a lot of point really.

That’s why it’s just so important to market your posts.

And I don’t mean just posting them to social media. You also need to network online by commenting on other blogs and mingling with like-minded people in social media hangouts, such as LinkedIn Groups and Google+ Communities.

Not only are these people more likely to respond to your posts and subscribe to your blog, but many of these gatherings are places where you can learn great new stuff and also pick up new ideas for your posts.

But if you really want to build influence, get exposure and ramp up those subscriber numbers then there’s one thing that you really should do at one stage or another.

And that’s guest posting.

What’s more, not every website expects you to guest post for free. Some do actually pay you to blog for them.

And you can find an excellent list of pukka websites that do pay writers just here on another great freelance writing blog Make a Living Writing.

3. You want to offer new insight

Your blog will be competing with hundreds or thousands of other websites that talk about writing, blogging, social media and SEO.

So if you want to stand out and get people to engage with your posts you’d better have something new, informative or powerful to say.

Now do you honestly think that a blogger who is completely new on the scene is capable of doing this every single day?

Somehow I just don’t think so.

4. You should focus on quality NOT quantity

On the same lines, quality doesn’t half beat the hell out of quantity – every single time.

Remember: very few people ever feel inclined to comment on a lousy post or subscribe to an inferior blog.

But if you can nail just one high-quality post every month for now, instead of alienating readers by pumping out mediocre material day after day, you’ll have a fighting chance of seeing those visitors return to your site for more.

And another thing …

Your blog is also very much like your online portfolio.

Hundreds of low-grade blog posts, only written for the sake of SEO, aren’t going to impress any prospective client. However, a few carefully crafted quality posts certainly will.

5. You need to personalise your blog

Don’t you find it incredibly tedious how, on so many blogs, everything looks the same?

No matter how good your content, if you’re using a default WordPress theme and the same old search widget, tag cloud and category list in your sidebar then your blog will never have a chance in high hell of ever standing out.

So before you ramp up your blogging efforts and start posting more frequently, you want to make sure your blog offers a unique experience and has all the elements in place so that both you and your visitors get the most from of your website.

You could offer free exclusive content to any reader who signs up to your email newsletter. You could show testimonials, or other forms of social proof, in your sidebar.

You can even stick a few affiliate ads on your site. Not only can they be a great starting point for monetising your blog, but readers may actually appreciate a few carefully selected ads, provided you’re promoting something that they might actually want or need.

But what else can you do?

In short, loads as it happens. But that’s for another post.

However, if you do want to explore further and find more ways to add those all-important personal touches to your blog then popular social media and blogging sites, such as Kikolani and Social Triggers, are probably your best places to start.

These are some of the reasons why I’m still writing just one post a month. In the meantime, I’m researching, tweaking, personalising and networking online. Are you doing the same? Please let us know by leaving your comment below.

In our next post: Are online directory listings one big waste of time?

Blogger ProfileAbout the Author

Kevin Carlton of Write OnlineKevin Carlton is a freelance SEO copywriter and blogger based in Staffordshire in the UK. He is owner of website copywriting service Write Online, which helps others get the most out of their online presence.

You can follow him on Twitter and Google+ or connect with him on LinkedIn.