3D printing technology allows manufacturers to create new products without leaving behind material waste.

By fusing together liquid and solid molecules, an object takes shape in a matter of minutes. This is a process known as “additive manufacturing” – materials are added one after the other.

Historically speaking, this innovation differs greatly from the traditional manufacturing process, whereby workers begin with a large hunk of material and chop away at it, burn it, bend it until it resembles the object they want. This is “subtractive manufacturing” – materials are removed.

In the world of web copywriting, creatives follow a subtractive model.

Start with a large idea, whittle it down to a working concept, fashion it into something presentable, then polish it until it’s beautiful.

What’s left behind are those throwaway phrases, superfluous words and unnecessary patter that didn’t make the cut.

That’s what makes copywriting effective: It’s part blacksmithing, part wordsmithing.

The digital competition of copy

For most of us, it’s a labor of love – writing for the sake of writing.

But a copywriter can’t rest on his or her laurels in a business environment in which there are defined quotas on word counts, character lengths, ad exposure and conversions.

Copy is an input; conversions are the output. So the game becomes how, as a marketer, do you configure a process by which you can create content that’s actually quantifiable, not just creative.

Website copy is often the first digital touchpoint between brands and consumers, be it a simple headline that appears in Google search results or an Instagram hashtag through which your social media profile is discovered.

Copy is intended to convert, to entice, to move.

And that’s a tall order.

Nearly 4 million blog posts go live every day – and that’s JUST blogs.

How does your copy stack up against that of billions of competitors’? Every letter, every character that lives both on and offline is theoretically a competitor of yours. If not a physical, direct business competitor, then, at minimum, a rival for the attention, the energy, the patience of consumers to wade through the enormity of text and visuals they absorb every day.

How good copy leads to good customers

Considering that just 0.75 percent of leads result in closed revenue, you have two options: improve lead quality or generate more leads – or you could attack both at once.

In the first scenario (improving lead quality), copy plays an instrumental role.

Because lead quality is a challenge every business faces, there’s a straight line between how strong your copy is and how likely it is that a prized prospect ends up on the phone with your sales team.

So how do you obtain leads who are actually qualified through compelling copy?

It’s all about audience

If you’re frustrated by seeing your outreach emails go unopened or, worse, responded to by a prospect that ends up having nowhere near the budget to afford your services, you may be taking too much of a one-size-fits-all approach to your marketing.

Instead, you may want to try an account-based marketing model, which is the opposite of one-size-fits-all, as we’ve previously elaborated on.

In practice, you write copy, personalize outreach and launch campaigns toward a small percentage of high-value leads. Before you begin, these leads are vetted, qualified and of immediately higher business consequence than had you successfully onboarded smaller-scale customers more quickly.

Here’s a brief primer on what this could mean for your lead quality:

Within every company’s database there are certain high-value leads that enormously outweigh the collective value of lesser-known, smaller accounts.

By targeting only those high-end accounts, marketers forgo cold calls, mass emails and impersonal messaging. Everything is, in essence, hyper-specific and completely calculated to the few accounts at hand.

Onboarding three large clients in 2018 for a total revenue of $6 million, for instance, is thus considered more efficient than onboarding 15 smaller clients for the same dollar amount.

You cut out the possibility of generating leads that aren’t worth your time. You basically maximize every dollar spent and keep your marketing and sales teams singularly focused on the same goal.

Persona building

To granularize your audience targeting, you’ll first need to build out a detailed set of core personas, complete with:

  • Age.
  • Job title.
  • Hierarchy within company.
  • Personal and professional interests.
  • Industry expertise and experience.
  • Understanding of your services.

You’ll then need to match those individual personas to the types of organizations that are rightly suited to your company’s goals. So, if you’re targeting 55-year-old CMOs within the logistics space, but the majority of companies in that market are considered SMBs, then don’t waste your time writing copy for them if you intend to do business with only enterprise-level firms.

Both the market size of your ideal customer and their respective stakeholders should scale with your business’s revenue trajectories.

Targeted campaigns

Whether it’s sales copy, social media posts or organic long-form content, your campaign assets need to resonate with your target audience.

That means your copywriting not only needs to be distributed through the channels in which your audience is most likely to see it but also that the specific verbiage, messaging and media is aligned with those distinct audience profiles.

For instance, a marketing intern is likelier to click on this social media headline:

“47 ways your current logistics provider is ghosting you”

Whereas a 35-year-old director of marketing may prefer this type of format via Google search:

“8 things you leave on the table by sticking with your current logistics provider”

Lastly, a time-strapped CEO that doesn’t organically research content may take to an email with the subject line:

“How one company cut labor costs 200% by switching to a new logistics software startup”

Each of these three copywriting examples preach the same message but with different audiences in mind. Always remember, you are not your own reader – your copy is not your own. It’s meant for the influencers, decision-makers and end users who, via their purchases, pump profit into your company.

Sales alignment

Effective copywriting must have an … effect.

The only effect that matters to commercial quotas is the sale.

To generate interest in your service, nurture a prospect through the sales process and, finally, ink a deal, you’ll need to know the stages where potential sales commonly stall, the questions sales reps are often asked and the pain points that obstruct someone from signing on today versus six months from now, if at all.

This is as simple as unifying communications between marketing and sales departments. Sit in on their meetings, and allow them to do the same. Update and share brand guidelines. Brainstorm messaging ideas together.

What do you find? Write about that.

The best part of upping the quality of your leads is that you’re also, by default, laying the foundation for increasing their quantity as well (should that also be your tactic). Keeping your copy action-focused and targeted toward those who may actually have an interest in your services may generate less site traffic and fewer social media followers. But that’s fine – those are vanity metrics that don’t impact revenue. Engaging content will, on the other hand, increase pages per session and social engagement – metrics that will drive up the number of people who want to talk to you (aka leads).

And this brings us to a very important point.

Which types of conversions are most important to you?

Not all conversions are created equal.

Copy is supposed to spark action. But what does “action” actually mean to a business?

Determine what objectives matter most to your company when crafting copy, and segment them into two buckets that are easily measurable.

For clarity, a conversion is simply an action a user takes when consuming your content.

Micro conversions: DO NOT have a direct commercial impact (although they can in the future).

  • Newsletter subscriptions.
  • eBook downloads.
  • Creating an online account.

Macro conversions: DO have a direct commercial impact.

  • Demo request.
  • On-site purchase.
  • Contact with a sales rep.

Your web copywriting should be able to accomplish some or all of the above. It’s dependent upon what you want to accomplish. These are common examples to get your bearings, so customize your conversion goals accordingly.

Applying copywriting best practices to all of your content

To push ordinary site visitors, intent-driven readers and important influencers toward a desired action, there are a number of key best practices you can employ when writing:

Headlines

  1. Never bait and switch – content should always follow through on what the headline promises.
  2. Use language, as shown above, that corresponds to your audiences’ level of understanding and expertise.
  3. If writing for search, use a keyword or related term in your title.
  4. Use engaging adjectives and active voice. Other tactics may include alliteration, clever phrasing and trigger words like “how to” or “this is how.”
  5. Be concise. You should be able to say all you need to in fewer than 12 words – ideally in six.

We’ve got plenty of other tips on writing drool-worthy titles here.

CTAs

  1. In addition to placement and color, CTAs should be optimized with A/B tested copy.
  2. Copy should be fewer than four words.
  3. Use active verbs.
  4. Include exclamation points or question marks when necessary.
  5. Make your CTA offer absolutely clear, such as “Download our eBook” instead of “Learn more.”
  6. Use urgent, first-person language like “Subscribe now for instant access!”

Dive deeper into CTA conversion rate optimization here.

Social media

  1. Write with your platform-specific audience in mind (i.e., longer is OK for LinkedIn but not so much for Twitter).
  2. Depending on the platform, copy should support the image/video or vice versa. Understand this relationship to determine whether copy is complementary or paramount.
  3. Encourage comments, shares and likes in your copy descriptions (or directly in the comments section).
  4. Be more conversational and even humorous than you normally would on your own domain.
  5. Use copy and hashtags to attach your company to relevant, timely events and conversations.

Emails

  1. Space out copy appropriately – don’t use blocks of text.
  2. Use data, bullets and different font weights to place emphasis on where readers should focus their attention.
  3. Use “you” to highlight what you can provide to the reader.
  4. Keep it short, as in fewer than 100 words.
  5. Craft personalized subject lines for higher open rates.
  6. Ensure CTA copy or buttons are succinct and align with the email copy.

More on email writing here.

SEO

  1. Focus only on a single keyword and related terms.
  2. Meta descriptions and title tags are copy, too, so optimize them with keywords.
  3. Break up text every 200-300 words with informative subheads, images or videos.
  4. Make headlines clickable and shareable by using numbers and compelling adjectives.
  5. Include hyperlinks to reputable sources over anchor text.
  6. Use word counts that enable you to comprehensively cover the topic.

Other 2018 SEO trends to stay on top of here.

Measuring the performance of your copy

Of the hundreds of content marketing metrics you can measure, there are more specific KPIs you can use for copywriting in particular.

For starters, gauging in advance how well your copy might perform is, of course, extremely valuable. Luckily there are a few free tools that help determine your “Readability” and whether there is both subjective and objective room for improvement. Those are:

Additionally, traditional metrics you can find in your Google Analytics dashboard and integrated email/social platforms shed light on your web copywriting, such as:

  • Unique visitors.
  • Dwell time.
  • Social shares.
  • Social engagement.
  • Open rates.
  • Opt-in rates.
  • Organic rank.
  • Organic click-through rates.
  • CTA click-through rates.
  • Pages per session.

Setting up proper Goal Completions, whatever they may be, in Google Analytics will also provide more context on how well your copy is converting. Ideally, at the end of your campaigns, you can attribute new customers to the copy that lived on a CTA, or landing page or email.

And hopefully you didn’t have to cut more words than actually made it into your final draft, because that’s just a terrible feeling, we know.

Mike O'Neill is a writer, editor and content manager in Chicago. When he's not keeping a close eye on Brafton's editorial content, he's auditioning to narrate the next Ken Burns documentary. All buzzwords are his own.