Copy Critique – More Than Editing

copy critique

We’ve all been there and done that. We hit publish on a piece of copy or content, confident it’s going to take the internet by storm. It’ll be the best thing we’ve ever created, sure to go viral and make our business name known worldwide overnight. Only…it doesn’t.

It sits there like a lump. Its bounce rate is so high you’d think the thing was a friggin trampoline. Its sales results are dismal. And all you can do is wonder “why???” That’s where a copy critique can come in handy.

It pays to have a source for a second opinion, whether it’s your car’s motor’s funny sound, the cause of your daily headaches, or your copy’s quality and potential. I have fellow professionals that I trust to give me THEIR opinion of my copy. Yes, even copywriters and professional marketers get copy critiques. Our copy and content are too valuable NOT to, in my opinion.

What Kind of Copy Can Benefit from a Copy Critique?

  • Emails
  • Web page content
  • Social media posts
  • Profiles – LinkedIn, especially
  • Sales letters and pages
  • Ad copy
  • Fundraising appeals
  • Brochure copy
  • Press releases and other public relations materials
  • White papers, case studies, one-sheets, “lead magnets”
  • Guest posts for other people’s blogs

In short, ANY kind of copy or textual content can benefit from a copy critique. If it’s got a message or offer to communicate to a specific audience with a desired action or end result in mind, it’s important enough to deserve a review.

What Is a Copy Critique?

So what IS a copy critique?

  • A second opinion and critical examination – looking over your text for common issues and concerns, and trouble spots
  • More than editing – it doesn’t JUST look for typos and bad grammar. It delves into purpose, audience, and overall voice/style/messaging issues.
  • Suggestions, comments and advice – possible rewrites, fixing “clunky” bits, telling you when something is good and when it isn’t, how to address the audience better, lower your readability score, etc.

What Can a Copy Critique Do?

  • Strengthen weak spots in your text
  • Help you better match text to its intended purpose and to its intended audience
  • Strengthen your overall writing ability – when you know you are doing something wrong, you can avoid it next time

Can You DIY a Copy Critique?

Sure. You can give your own copy a good going over before you hit publish or send or post. It’s not as good an idea to DIY a copy critique, as we tend to be way too harsh on ourselves, or way too lenient. However, here’s a simple checklist you can use to review your next bit of copy or content:

  1. Read Aloud Time. Read your text out loud, either to yourself or to someone else. Reading aloud can help you find places where your copy doesn’t read well, or needs to be broken up into smaller sentences, or just needs some revision.
  2. Proofread. Look for obvious mistakes like spelling errors, missing words, run on sentences, and punctuation issues. (It’s a good idea if  you KNOW you have issues with “language mechanics” like commas or run-ons to look for them AS you write, to save time in review.)
  3. Watch Your Head(line). There are no hard and fast rules for writing headlines. Even we pros disagree on when it should be written and how. Here’s some tips: Keep it short, keep it simple, keep it descriptive and interesting. Your headline should make them understand what they are going to be reading about, but not such that they don’t need to read. It should also make them WANT to read.
  4. Know Your Reader. Everyone does, or should, have a unique voice and message that resonates with YOUR specific reader group. Make sure the language you are using, the topic you are addressing/offer you are making, and the platform or medium you are using is appropriate for your reader. Keep ONE person in mind as your write. Write to that ONE person as if you were talking to them directly.
  5. Know Thyself. Stay true to YOUR voice and YOUR message. Don’t try to be someone or something you aren’t.
  6. Check for Readability. There are free apps all over the place where you can fill in or copy and paste your text and it will be scored for readability. Keep the readability score at a level compatible with your audience.
  7. Tell, Don’t Sell. Even if your copy is a sales piece, hyped up, spammy, smarmy sales talk went out with the polyester leisure suit and late night infomercials. Don’t be “that guy” when selling. Tell your story, give valuable information, tell them what you want them to do, which leads to…
  8. Be Direct. If there is some action you want your reader to take, if there is some desired end result of reading your copy, don’t be afraid to come out and ask for it. Use clear, concise language that every reader can understand and point them in the direction you want them to go. Make it as easy as possible for them to follow your lead.

If there are any issues with your text as you go through the checklist, stop and see what you can do to fix them. If you are trying too hard to sell, or if your voice is “off’, or if any other concern becomes apparent, backtrack and find a way to correct the problem.

What To Do Now?

Whether you’ve never had a copy critique of your content in your entire business career, or if you never  publish or send without one, the next step is obvious. Start performing a copy critique on every important piece of copy and content you create fro here on out. If you DIY your copy critique, and have trouble figuring out what to do to fix the issues you find, that’s quite common. Don’t worry. There’s a solution for that. There’s also help and hope for those of you with no time or desire to DIY your own copy critiques.

Simply contact me here at Bloomers Marketing. I offer copy critiques as part of my consulting and coaching services. I’ll take my professional eye over your copy or content and give you a thorough review, including rewrite suggestions and possible alternative headlines, if needed. The service is $400 for each typed or published page of copy. Use “Copy Critique” in your subject line so it doesn’t get lost in my inbox.

Together, well have your copy in winning form in no time!

PS I will, if necessary, tell you “It sucks.” A copy critique only goes so far, and somethings can’t be fixed easily or without a complete rewrite.

5 Quick and Easy Steps to Bad Blogging

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The web is full of “tips and tricks” posts on blogging and every other topic, and here at Bloomers, I feel that sometimes the best thing to do is to follow the crowd. (NOT often, mind you, as I march to the beat of my own bloomers, but there always comes a time when it seems appropriate…)

If you’ve ever read ANY of my content or talked with me online or off for any length of time about what I do here at Bloomers, you know I tend to ramble incessantly talk a great deal about content. Its importance. Its relevance. Its various forms. And incessantly invariably, that brings up blogging.

Put the two together and what have you got? A “tips and tricks” post ALL ABOUT BLOGGING. (Big surprise there, right?) I see a LOT of blogs in my roles as blogging coach, copywriter, and content marketer. I review them, write them, audit them. I see the good, the bad, and the “don’t meet it in a dark alley” ugly. Today, we’re gonna focus a bit on the latter of the three. It IS October, after all, and horror shows are “in”. Let’s count down the top 5 ways to be a back alley bad blogger, shall we?

How to be a Bad Blogger Tactic #5 – Blogging for no good reason

I know you might be sick of hearing this, but you should NEVER create ANY content without a really good reason for it. Create a content marketing plan, an editorial calendar, even just a list of blog goals on the back of the receipt from yesterday’s Starbucks. I don’t care how detailed or vague you make it, but you NEED to where you want to go with your blogging efforts before you ever start blogging.

It’s like taking a cross country trip without knowing which direction to begin with, turning off your GPS, and leaving the maps unread. You CAN get there from here, but who knows how long it will take you, or how many wrong turns you’ll be making along the way.

Purpose – Your road map to success

I often see bad bloggers just blogging away with no purpose, no direction, no goal (except perhaps to sell stuff) and then they wonder WHY their blog has no decent results. Just how important IS a plan, a strategy, a  REASON for blogging? Every minute, 70 new blogs are started on WordPress. Every minute. That’s a LOT of competition out there, a lot of noise to rise above. And yet, most surveys say that somewhere between 65 and 69 of those will be abandoned within 18 months – considered failures, or simply not worth the effort. The successes seem to all have one thing in common from the start – a distinctive purpose for being.

That purpose can be to communicate a singular message, to build a community, to create a place for resourceful information, or to simply entertain or uplift the reader. (The best do all of those things.) The thing is – that purpose is clear almost from the beginning, and the blogger behind the keyboard works to that end. Stop blogging just to put up a post. For the love of all that’s bloggish, spare us more of that. Find a reason. Pick a goal. Work toward achieving it.

How to be a Bad Blogger Tactic #4 – Creating ONLY one kind of content

You know those list posts I mentioned? Yeah, they’re everywhere. And on some blogs, that’s the only kind of post you’ll find. On others, it’s all “how to” content. I can understand recipes on a foodie blog, but I also enjoy OTHER topics like how to select produce or cheese or create the perfect dinner party menu.

Let’s touch for a moment on the fact that not every blog post needs to be, well, WRITTEN. Post a video, a link round-up, an infographic, a slide deck. (Some things that will be coming to Bloomers’s blog very soon.) Just because it’s a blog doesn’t mean it HAS to be black text on white background, ya know? (Seriously stepping out of MY comfort zone. You can do it, too.)

A good blogger knows that there is more than 1 kind of blog post you can create. A good blogger knows that the reader LIKES variety in their blog posts. No magazine has the SAME type of articles in every issue. Not even your newspapers get that boring. Mix it up. Get creative. Your audience will love you for it.

How to be a Bad Blogger Tactic #3 – ONLY addressing ONE level of reader.

We all have our “ideal” reader – that target audience that needs to know what we have to offer, that finds our blog to be the “one source” for their information, inspiration, or entertainment. And every blogger should have THAT ideal reader identified, so that they can present the majority of their content to that person. However, gang, we all know that people come to us from all levels of experience.

There are the newbies who stumble upon us via a social share or SERP. There are those who are familiar with our topic and interested in what we have to say/teach. And then there are those who are our peers – knowing as much, perhaps even more, than we do. While MOST of our content should focus on ONE of those “levels” of experience, that doesn’t mean that we can’t create content for ALL of them.

An easy way to broaden your audience

How, you ask? Simple. Start with the basics – the “need to know to make any sense of this” info. That pretty much covers the novices. Then, add more. Go more in-depth. Get into the finer details. Introduce new concepts that build upon that base-level knowledge. If your ideal reader IS a newbie, then you don’t have to give them MUCH higher-level stuff, but sometimes knowing the “next step” can help direct your first ones. As for your peers, you can address them, too, with reviews, asking for their opinion in the comments or on social media, perhaps even requesting one or your more of them to guest post for you.

By addressing ALL levels of your readers, you create a friendly, open atmosphere. You are still the leader, but you invite conversation and interaction from all the members of your following. AND you create a blog with a bigger reader appeal and eventually, readership.

How to be a bad blogger Tactic #2 – NOT watching their language

I’m not talking dropping F-bombs every other word or suggesting censorship of ANY kind. If that’s your thing, go for it. We all gotta be true to ourselves, right? If that’s the image you want to project to your followers, that’s your right…

No, what I’m talking about is a couple of completely different aspects. The first is jargon, and the second is your readability score. And in some instances, the two can get intertwined.

Insider Jargon

Some guys just can’t help themselves when it comes to filling their blog posts with insider jargon. Granted, there is such a thing as industry-specific language, but if you are trying to reach new readers who may not have much insider knowledge, you’re screwed if you use too much of it without defining it first. I find this a lot on tech/SaaS and marketing blogs. They use their insider jargon non-stop and then wonder why their customers don’t read their blogs or respond to their posts’ CTAs.

In my experience, MOST of the people hiring or buying tech, SaaS, and marketing services and products typically AREN’T in the industry themselves. They are hiring you, buying YOUR stuff BECAUSE they aren’t techy, SaaS developers or marketers. You AREN’T addressing your peers in your posts. Stop creating content that only THEY could understand. Write for the common ordinary guy who just wants to hire you to develop his app or get him more leads. You’ll have much better success.

Readability scores

And then there’s that pesky readability score. I recently reviewed and audited a fellow marketer’s blog. His readability scores were well over Grade 12. He assured me he has good solid justification for this, but I don’t buy it. Study after study has shown that several things come into play when we read online:

  • the size of our screen
  • the activity in the background
  • our offline reading speed
  • our reason for reading

All data suggests that we read slower online than off. We read slower because we don’t simply track left to right on the screen (or right to left, if your language prefers). We are often distracted by other “activity” on the page. We are sometimes distracted by activity in OUR background – especially when reading on mobile in a public place. And we often read online material to LEARN something, which means we read slower so as to not miss anything important.

All of this adds up to the fact that lawyers, surgeons, engineers and even PhDs prefer a lower online readability level than they can comfortably read offline. The average well-educated individual can comfortably read at a high school level. Take that down a few levels to adjust for the online aspect of the reading material and you’re looking at levels in middle school. Yes, even college professors and folks with 8 years of college education prefer their online reading to be easily understood by your average 14 year old.

Now, take into account that YOUR business’s blog probably does NOT address folks with THAT level of education or reading comfort. Where are your readers’ reading levels? Closer to elementary school, perhaps? That’s why I and every other blogging coach will tell you to shoot for readability scores between Grade 5 and Grade 8. Easily read content GETS read, and if reading your content is vital to your blog’s success, you will want to do all you can to ensure it gets read. (There’s also some anecdotal evidence from as recent as July that posts with better readability scores are getting ranked higher by Google. Nothing hard and fast yet, but I’ll take a SERP boost any white hat way I can get it.)

How to be a bad blogger Tactic #1 – Like a loser on Saturday night, you’ve got no style

Ever read a half dozen blog posts or so and not really remember ANY of them? Or have one REALLY stand out? How about the business blogs that ALL sound alike? I’m not talking similar topics, but actual style, voice, tone? Like cookie cutters in the bakery, all churning out the same stuff, just using slightly different words.

If you follow many blogs, I’ll bet there’s a common factor among all of them. It’ll be something different from reader to reader, but there’ll be that ONE thing that most, if not all, of your favorite blogs have in common.

In a word, it’s called STYLE. Your favorite bloggers will have their own distinctive voices and their own way of using them. And if you look closely at your blog roll, you’ll most likely find that your faves have something similar in that voice and style. It’s what attracts you to them as a reader. It’s probably a part of your persona, too. You’ve found kindred spirits whom you can resonate with. And that makes them god bloggers to you, and for you.

Don’t be the boring guy at the party

Even business blogs for serious businesses can have some personality, a voice, of their own. I’ve written for lawyers and surgeons and financiers and created blogs without that stuffy boardroom, starched underwear feel to them. Together, we created interesting, likeable, personable blogs by allowing the blog to have its own personality. That doesn’t mean that you have to be “personal” on your blog.  It just means you can let the blog HAVE a voice, a style, a persona. You can shine through it without naming names of your pets, or children, or spouse, or without even mentioning ANY personal details. You just have to remember that real humans are reading your blog. And humans prefer to engage with folks with some style, some uniqueness. The guys who turn out to be boring only get invited to the party once. Boring blogs seldom attract repeat readers.

How to be a bad blogger BONUS Tactic – Inconsistency

(Yeah, I know…preaching to myself here, too.) Want to lose readers in a BIG hurry? Want to get frustrated with how long it’s taking your blog to grow? Ready to chuck it all in as not worth the effort? Blog inconsistently. Go weeks or even months (head hung in shame) without blogging. Get too busy or too important and turn your back in your readers.You’ll find they usually turn their backs on you, too.

Stats show that organic reach of ANY blog jumps dramatically after 50-55 posts are published. Stats show that even once-a-week bloggers develop loyal, BUYING audiences of readers. It’s not hard to see how bloggers go from 0 to 6 figures in a year or two. It just takes a consistent, even effort.

Plan to succeed

Just like you need a well-defined purpose and a well-defined reader to have blogging success, you also need some sort of editorial calendar. Some sort of plan of what to blog about and when to blog about it. It can be as complex or as simple as you need. (Mine’s a spreadsheet with over a dozen columns, but then I do this professionally.) Map out what you’re going to be blogging about for the next 60 to 90 days. Then, set aside the SAME time each week to get the job done. That time is SACRED on my calendar. NOTHING (now) interferes with or is scheduled in place of my blog writing time. IT’s too important to my success, both as a blogger and as a business, to allow for anything else. It should be for you, too.

What next?

Got a question about becoming a recovering bad blogger? Add it to the comments below or go to the Bloomers Facebook page. The world needs fewer bad bloggers, don’t you agree?