7 Things to Banish From Your Marketing Copywriting Right Now
Marketing copywriting: it’s a different animal than virtually any other form of writing. Less flowery and flourish-filled than creative writing, but more vibrant than technical or scientific writing, marketing copywriting comes with its own rules, structures, and requirements.
Not surprisingly, lots of people aren’t exactly sure how to approach it. This issue is compounded by the fact that the purposes of marketing copywriting are many, and no two pieces are out to accomplish the same things.
Fortunately, the quest to write compelling marketing copy doesn’t have to feel like an impossible one. In fact, it’s easy to improve your marketing material simply by knowing what not to do.
With that in mind, here are eight things you should cut from your marketing copywriting, and what to replace them with instead.
Get Rid of These 7 Things to supercharge Your Marketing Copywriting
Whether you’re a small company or an established enterprise, good marketing copywriting is critical for success. Fortunately, you can take some proactive steps to improve your copywriting at the grassroots level. Start by getting rid of these seven elements:
If you want to write with flourish, take a creative writing class. Marketing copy is simply not the place to be long-winded, overly-dramatic, or excessively verbose.
Unfortunately, lots of people, especially those who are new to marketing copywriting, think that unique, personable writing means being slapstick, wordy, or “too cool.” Even though none of those things work, nor have they ever worked.
At its core, marketing copywriting is designed to be clear and concise. While the process of writing good marketing copy is creative, marketing copy itself is not the same as creative writing.
What to do instead: Swap flourish for clarity. Not certain how to do it? Start by observing the following SEO best practices:
- Keep the majority of your sentences under 20 words
- Limit the content between subheaders to 300 words or less
- Write at a 9th-grade reading level, or lower
- Use a tool like Hemingway or Grammarly to spot passive voice, wordiness and other copywriting no-nos
- If you’re using WordPress, install Yoast SEO to help you optimize your content as you write it
If you’re mad or disillusioned or angry at your competition, your copywriting is going to show it. As a general rule, people don’t like negativity, and they won’t respond to it. As such, you’ve got to banish negativity from your online marketing materials.
Even when you’re writing about a negative subject, like the death of a well-loved piece of software or a poorly-constructed program, your duty as a marketer is to place it in a positive light. While this doesn’t mean that you have to be all sick-sweet about it, it does mean that you’re obligated to provide your reader with information they can use.
What to do instead: To start, try reframing your approach. If you want to be a thought-leader, you have to tell people how they can improve, not just what they need to look out for.
3. Blatant Self-Promotion
We’re living in the age of Millennial-driven marketing, which means one thing: your customers will NOT buy your B.S. hard-sell tactics. More than virtually any other generation in history, Millenials are turned off by brands which are full of themselves or try to force people into purchasing their items.
Not only will this new age of consumers not buy from those brands, but they’ll tell everyone they know not to, either. As such, companies who want to succeed in the modern world need to find ways to make their pitches softer and more user-focused.
As a general rule, this involves extensive audience research and the help of a skilled copywriter who can help you transition your “here’s why you need to buy from me right now” material to “here’s what’s unique about this product and how it can help make your life easier.” While there are dozens of examples of brands that do this well, ThirdLove is one of my favorites.
A lingerie company specializing in ultra-comfortable undergarments, ThirdLove spares its audiences the hard-sell, sales-pitch, or lengthy discussion of materials and construction and instead says, “The best bra is the one you never think about.”
Sold? I would be.
4. Bad Writing
Nothing, I repeat, nothing alienates audiences and drives editors crazy faster than mistake-laden copywriting. Not only is it insufferably lazy, but it’s also terrible form for any company that purports to be all about its users. Unfortunately, the scope of possible mistakes in copywriting is extensive. From incorrect forms of there, they’re, and their to misattributed statistics and more, there are 6 million ways to die in the world of online copy.
What to do instead: To avoid content mistakes, you’ve got a few options. The first and most obvious is an extensive and intentional editing system. If you’re writing your copy on your own, you’ll want to get comfortable with the idea of writing the material and then stepping away to let it “Rest” for a few hours or a day. Afterwards, you’ll need to go back for a manual reread. At that point, you can pass it along to a third-party editor or run it through software like Grammarly. Many people do both.
Pro tip: Don’t make the mistake of “editing” with the sole help of the spelling/grammar checker on your word processor or Drive, as they commonly miss easy-to-spot errors.
5. SEO Mistakes
If I had a nickel for every time I saw a copywriter or marketing company pumping out blog posts with no recognizable SEO structure, I’d have lots of nickles. While SEO structure isn’t necessarily something your readers will notice, it’s something crawlers and search engines take lots of notice of, so it’s wise to implement it accordingly.
What to do instead: Learn the basics of SEO and follow correct formatting in your online content. Here’s what every post you write should have:
- A H1
- Several H2s throughout the post. These should include your target keywords and should be relevant and concise
- Body content, which incor[orates your target keywords throughout. Be sure to keep it to less than 300 words between H2s.
- A meta description. Meta descriptions should include your target keywords and be 160 characters or fewer.
- Alt tags. If you include images in your post, use alt-tags to help search engines “Read” them
- Links. Be sure to link to relevant internal and external content throughout your article.
6. Passive Voice
Passive voice will ruin your writing faster than you can say “Oklahoma.” Because it takes readers longer to decipher passive voice than it does active voice, it makes your content confusing and hard to read.
Not sure how to recognize passive voice? Passive voice is anything where something acts upon the subject of a sentence rather than the other way around.
For example “The ball was kicked by Pete” is passive, while “Pete kicked the ball” is active voice.
What to do instead: Learn to recognize and omit passive voice. If you don’t trust your ability to catch passive voice in your writing, use a tool like Grammarly or Hemingway editor to help.
Marketing copywriting works best when it’s written at around a 9th-grade reading level. Higher than this and it gets difficult for some audiences to understand. Not sold on the idea that reading level has a direct impact on the conversion-worthiness of your copywriting?
Think again, my friend!
In fact, lots of the most widely-read stuff on the web has a reading level of far lower than you might assume. To illustrate, here’s a graph from Contently that breaks down top-selling books by reading level:
To ensure they’re writing at the proper level, professional copywriters use something called the Flesch-Kincaid “Reading Ease” score. Available in processors like Microsoft Word, this score gives you an idea of how easy to understand your reading is. Here’s how it works:
All this lends weight to the fact that simpler is better when it comes to copywriting.
What to do instead: Get rid of jargon once and for all. Abandon complexity, pare it down, and write at a lower reading level. Your audience will thank you.
The Day You Became a Better Marketing Copywriter
If you’re confused about marketing copy, don’t be hard on yourself. You’re not alone. The truth is that, while marketing copywriting is one of the biggest industries in the online world, it’s complicated and tough to master. If you’re planning on handling your marketing copy on your own, getting rid of these seven elements can help.
If you need help with your marketing copy, it’s worth it to hire a professional copywriter or marketing agency. Not only does this allow you to take a hands-off approach to content creation, but it also frees you up from wondering if that last sentence was active or passive.