It’s crazy how things work out. I despised speaking in front of anyone, but now I present, speak, and run writing workshops all over Australia to teach people how to write. I’ve also written an Amazon best-selling book, WOW Words on the Web, on the topic of writing. I’ve loved it for more than 3 decades!
You do a lot of writing for clients in the Australian fashion and beauty industry. What are some of the trends and unique attributes of this particular market?
The content is very personalized to the readers, but it also reflects the business’s own style and personality, too. They rarely have any restraints, so I can use words that are different, very conversational, and just plain funky. People who jump on to a fashion/beauty site use these words in their everyday conversations, and that’s reflected in the copy. So it speaks to the reader on so many levels. It connects and converts in ways other industries can’t.
Fashion and beauty businesses use a lot of descriptive and emotional words, so readers feel like they are the only person in the world. This industry has more scope to be fun, funky, and fashionable.
They also make up words and cool phrases, and are one of the only industries that can use “industry speak” (for example, words like glitterati, pret a porter, fashionista, and so on). Even if people aren’t interested in fashion, they’ll have heard these words before. These businesses can get uber creative, and they are open to different ideas, too.
Respond to this (oversimplified) viewpoint: “All I need to do to be a better writer is to use better words.”
It’s more about using the right words that speak to your audience. They need to have “wow factor.” That’s why it’s so important to know your target market. I call them your business bestie, because when you know everything about them – including their problems (money, time, and health are three big ones most people have), what you can do to help, and even the words they use – you can mention these throughout the content to take your readers on a journey from start to finish and keep their eyes on your page.
Now, we can all be better writers, just like we can be better cooks or better at running. The fact is, your writing style resonates with your target market – they love you for you and what you have to say! Your writing style helps them get to know you and what you can do to help them. You don’t want to change that. You may, however, take a course to better your writing fundamentals like structuring content in a way that captures people’s attention or learning where to put keywords for SEO. There is so much more to writing than just the words, but they are pretty darn important!
You talk about “WOW Words” on your site. What are those?
Anything that sets you apart from others. They make you shine and sparkle in the eyes of your readers, prospects, and customers. These are the words that speak straight to your audience, so that each person on your site feels like you are only speaking to them. My WOW words may be different from yours, for example, because they come down to you knowing your ideal customers like the back of your hand.
But the best tip I can give when it comes to WOW words is to be different and stand out. So use tips, tricks, stats, inspirational quotes, did-you-knows, fast facts, or short stories. Get creative and evoke emotions. Listen to the way your customers speak and the words they use. They will form the foundations of your WOW words.
Given that many people get the bulk of their information from the web these days, how does that impact which writing techniques are successful and unsuccessful today?
It’s a double-edged sword. There’s so much info out there on how to write and what to do, and some of it is conflicting. I follow the leaders in the industry for the latest and most up-to-date info (for example, Content Marketing Institute, Moz, Hubspot, and Social Media Examiner). Plus, I look to those who are doing amazing things with their content and see how that’s working for them. You take what you want from each one, then test and measure it to see if it works for you and your audience. Read and research, then test and measure; you’ll soon see what’s successful and what’s not for your particular business.
What’s the biggest mistake made by today’s web writers?
Their content has no style; no wow factor – it’s boring, has no personality and no structure – and therefore it’s not getting read. I just had a business owner come to me to look at their site because they are paying a fortune in SEO campaigns and online advertising. They are getting the click-throughs, but not converting because they have a high bounce rate, which means people aren’t staying on their site. They get there, can’t find what they need, lose interest and go – and this happens in a matter of seconds.
I had a look, and the copy is a bore! It doesn’t speak to a reader at all, let alone their ideal client. There’s nothing that captures people’s attention and compels them to read on. There are no images on the pages. There’s nothing to make the words stand out. The copy has no structure (no headline or cool lead), doesn’t solve problems, provides no info on how the business can help and why they are different, and there’s no call to action on any of the pages.
It just didn’t command attention. That’s part of the reason they aren’t converting.
What are the attributes and hallmarks of a piece of web content that make you say to yourself, “Yes! That’s good web writing!”
I can’t take my eyes off the page and I want to keep reading all the way to the end – and then I want more and more of it! It’s engaging and punchy. Great content tells a story in a way that’s easy to digest. That is, it follows a structure.
When I’m teaching people how to write, I follow basic journalism/writing 101 with a twist for online – that is, a clickable headline that grabs attention, a compelling lead sentence that makes people want to read on, captivating and formatted body copy that’s easy to read and uses keywords and links, and then a call to action at the end so people know what to do after you’ve taken them on a beautiful journey with your WOW words.
Using stories and drawing on emotions will always get read because people can relate to these concepts.
What do you see in the future of web writing? How will this industry evolve over the next several years?
Words are here to stay. I don’t care what anyone says, they aren’t going anywhere! But they will get shorter and sweeter.
As we are already so impatient and our attention spans are getting shorter and shorter online, your words will need to have more impact more quickly, so content writers will get savvier with their writing. They’ll get better at being concise. When in doubt, leave it out!
There will be more of an emphasis on stories and hitting those pain points as business owners get very clear on their customers’ problems. After all, they are in business to solve those problems – even if the customer doesn’t know they have a problem!
And I think there’s going to be an influx of biz owners learning to write their own content. There are a lot of people who love writing but don’t know how to come up with ideas for regular content creation, or to structure it in a way for readers and search. Plus, the SEO side of things freaks them out.
Are you worried that your copy isn’t “wowing” your readers? Request a free content marketing assessment today!
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