Copywriting and marketing are inextricably linked. You can’t have great marketing without great copy. But the rules of what makes for great content are evolving.
It used to be said that you should keep blogs to between 500 and 800 words. The thinking being that internet users won’t spend longer than 2 minutes reading any one article. While this is still true in some cases, I’ve seen very short and very long posts gain huge engagement levels. More on this below.
Likewise, at content marketing school we were taught to use “listicle” format, as I’ve done with this article. That way, if a user was pushed for time, they could quickly scan the list to gain insights.
We were also taught not to make the title too long. Again, these rules have pretty much gone out the window as writers are more confident testing different formats. As a copywriter, I strive to differentiate my and my client’s content as we compete against all the other content on the web for users’ attention.
I put together a quick list of 5 different type of copywriting and blog styles that I am seeing work well for its producers on a variety of platforms. I’ve included an example for each one so you can get a good sense of what works and why:
#1. Short-Form Blogs
I am seeing some short posts do just as well as their long-form counterparts, sometimes even better. I used to pay special attention to staying within the 500-800 limit as advocated by marketing companies like HubSpot. Then I realised this was hurting the quality of my posts.
The article should be as long as necessary to a) get the point or points across, and b) be satisfying to the reader. Artificially making a blog too short or too long can leave it feeling stilted or waffley. Here’s a short post that did extremely well on affinity networking site, beBee
This is a relatively short post by Javier Camera Rica, CEO of beBee. Javier gets to the point of the article using both the title graphic and his title to explain what the blog will be about. He then tells us why he sees these three networks as necessary for empowering personal brand, a hot topic area at the moment. He then gives a few short bulleted lists of instructions so that users can capitalise – something you should try including where appropriate too.
*) The Perfect Mix for Empowering your Personal Brand
This post was viewed over 7000 times on beBee, and comes up on the all-important first page of Google when I type in ’empowering personal brand’ – a search string that is likely to be used by those seeking to enhance their own personal brand.
This is a good reminder to match your titles to common search phrases for maximum SEO value. This advice from content marketing school still holds water.
#2. Long-Form Blogs
On the flipside, long-form blogs and articles are also doing very well. Take a look at my interview with Craig Campbell, for instance:
*) Interviews with Entrepreneurs: Craig Campbell
Craig was kind enough to spend the time to give a very detailed and insightful interview. The result is a long interview packed with information, in contrast to the wishy-washy one or two line answers that you can get when the people you are interviewing are pushed for the time – which don’t make for great reading.
The result – great interaction for me (and Craig I hope!) on Twitter, and more traffic driven back to my site.
This is a reminder that you should use Twitter as a hub to direct traffic to other places. Let’s be honest 140 characters isn’t enough to add much value to Twitter users on the platform.
#3. Controversial Posts
Posts giving a very strong point of view, or which use language that is not always deemed as ‘business professional,’ are causing quite a stir on social media. And are generating thousands of page views for their authors in the process.
Look at this piece by Cara McKay published on LinkedIn:
*) How To: Fucking Work From Home
A simple use of the F word has catapulted her to global recognition on LinkedIn, and raised her profile significantly. She’s now featuring on TV and has been nominated for entrepreneurial women awards.
Of course, she may have got there anyway – but increasing her number of followers on LinkedIn to nearly 9,000 while generating over 10,000 ‘Likes’ on just one post, certainly hasn’t hurt.
#4. Photo Journals
I just love this post by Claire Caldwell, my fellow beBee Breakthrough Woman:
With lots of pictures and just a little bit of background-setting, Claire gives beBee’s global audience an insight into her life in South Africa. It’s also a visual treat with stunning photos from her adopted land.
This post garnered Claire 3,100 views on beBee alone – plus tons of positive comments and engagement
#5. Comparison Articles
Have a look at this article by regular Huffington Post contributor, and fellow beBee member, Anne Thornley-Brown
*) Why a Power LinkedIn and Twitter User Has Been Blown Away by beBee
Anne manages to pull the reader in with a longer than usual title, and by setting up a comparison between three social networks.
Anne also uses the often overlooked tactic of ending her piece with not one but two questions, encouraging readers to leave their comments and engage further with her content.
Of course, comments on Huffington Post can also be seen on Facebook, helping to encourage virality – which is what great copywriting is all about. A positive comment from beBee’s cofounder didn’t hurt either.
Using influencers to help spread the word about your content – by mentioning or tagging them in your piece – can help a post gain traction way beyond your own network. Just make sure you do so in appropriate context, otherwise, it can be annoying, or come across as ‘spammy.’
These are just a few of my favourite posts from the last few weeks. I chose them because they are great examples of the different types of content. But there are much more I could have chosen and will probably write a follow-up piece so I can include them!
In the meantime, check out some incredible voices such as John White, MBA, Paul “Pablo” Croubalian, Jim Murray , Lisa ? Gallagher, David B. Grinberg, Devesh Bhatt , Gert Scholtz, to name a few. I keep learning from these people and find myself inspired by them to write better.
The best way to hone your copywriting and blogging skills is to keep reading as well as writing.
I hope my list has given you some ideas and inspiration to mix up your posts. Mixing things up – and keeping it fresh – are key to successful copywriting and marketing.
Sandra Smith is an independent marketing consultant, copywriter and beBee.com brand ambassador. Follow her on Twitter @sandrasmithco