How to Write Unicorn Content
Step by Step guide to creating the best content on the web
February 26, 2019
In this current digital age everyone is writing for the web, whether it is for blogs, marketing, or even sharing daily thoughts on Facebook or Twitter. I’m not here to help you write a snappier 140 character tweet, or a more enticing Facebook post about your cousin’s gender revealing party, but, I am here to teach you how to stand out in a sea of endless digital content. You’re going to learn a lot in this article, so buckle down and refer to this outline if you get lost.
- Learn what copywriting is
- Choosing alluring hero images
- Writing compelling titles
- How important a subtitle really is
- Catchy headings that’ll keep them reading
- Share your content and show social proof
- Including dates on your every article/blog post
- Tagging ideas to boost SEO
- Formatting into paragraphs or bullet points
- Let your personality shine
- Cut back on wordy sentences and language
- How to decide what word count to shoot for
- Types of visuals you need to include
- Linking proves your credibility
- Respond to reader comments
- Outline before you begin
- Update old blog posts
- Choosing keywords in title tags
- Adding alt tags to images
- Crafting a unique author bio
What is Copywriting?
Know your audience and build a loyal following
Copywriting is the science of writing, in order to sell something or convince a reader, to take action by reaching customers through a web page, magazine, blog post, billboard, and so much more.
The most important part of copywriting is knowing who your targeted audience is and knowing exactly what they are searching for. The easiest way to learn about your customers is through feedback methods, such as Google Forms or even watching how they interact with your site through Inspectlet. If you’re copywriting to sell something, or to gain more readership, then you’ll want to read this breakdown and guide to create useful content for the web.
Laying a solid foundation
Before you even begin to write you need to know your product and customers. You need to know every detail of what you’re selling, or writing about. This will help you have a better idea of how to sell it.
1. Select hero images that convert
No, Superman’s not going to swoop in to save you this time, but your image will be aesthetically pleasing to your visitors. You have just 50 milliseconds to make a good first impression. That's all the longer it takes for visitors to form an opinion about your site. The image is the first thing visitors will notice when landing on your website or visiting your blog. Finding a relatable or alluring image isn’t a hard thing to do if you know your audience well enough. I can spew many tips on choosing the right hero image but, it all depends on what your content is. For instance, you may want to use directional cues, for example, choosing a photo of a person whose gaze points towards your call to action. Or, if you’re writing about a personal experience, you may use emotional triggers. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, so leave your audience with a feeling they can’t ignore. There are plenty of free sites providing high definition and pretty pictures that you can use. I recommend Pexels, Pixabay, and Librestock. I don’t know about you, but if I’m hooked by the image, I’m moving on to your title.
2. What’s in a title?
Having a good title can be the difference between having your post shared all throughout the web or only read by your supportive friends. The words you use and how you craft your title is crucial to the success of your overall post. Write a crappy title and you can forget everything else you put your hard work into. Here are some tips to writing a better title:
- Ask a question
- Include keywords in your title
- Use emotional triggers
- Be controversial at times
- If you promise something, deliver it in the body of the post
- Use lists (Top 10 Places to Eat in Pittsburgh, 3 Reasons to Ditch the Guy You Met in a Bar, etc).
This title of an article from Huffington Post poses a question, and arguably triggers emotion, for any reader currently in finance who is worrying about losing their job to a robot. Yikes!
3. Importance of a subtitle
If crafted well, a subtitle can be incredibly effective to the rest of the post. It’s another chance to lure the reader to your post and also sets the tone of what’s to come. Subtitles often give you an idea of the author’s voice and even a touch of their personality. Let’s take a look at some examples.
Dog Days are Over
A Guide to the Less Than Perfect Life
Boom. No one thinks their life is perfect. So, I guarantee you, you can garner a lot of readers through a relatable statement such as this.
A Tale of Friendship & Love
Subtitles are also another chance to get keywords in there for someone to search. This post may pop up for “friendship” or “love” stories.
If you can’t hold their attention through subtitles, then the rest of your post doesn’t stand a chance. No matter how amazing it is. Buzzfeed’s subtitle here really hooked me. I hate spring cleaning but, if it means I can make a little cash doing so, then I’m in. I had to check out the rest of the article to see what other tips and tricks that could get me through the dreaded cleaning.
4. Catchy headings no one can resist
Think of headings as the title of a particular section. Shorter posts may not require headings. Longer, more complex posts most certainly do require headings . Headings provide structure and identifies key points of each section you write about. Maybe a reader doesn’t care to read about ‘titles’ because they’ve mastered it, so they’ll skip down to ‘headings’ instead. Imagine, if this article had no headings whatsoever - it would be a trainwreck of ideas. Not only do they organize your article, but attention grabbing headlines will lead readers to read the first sentence of your copy. If it’s awful, you can kiss the readers goodbye. When writing a catchy heading, remember these 4 words: unique, useful, urgency, and ultra-specific. If you're heading achieves these 4 u’s then you’re golden.
5. Sharing (& social proof) is caring!
Say you’re a self proclaimed ‘famous lifestyle blogger’ but only have 100 followers or worse yet, show no trace of social media. I’d be willing to bet that all followers are family members you bribed or your social media presence sucks so bad you’re embarrassed to share your lack of likes on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Don’t be this person. It’s totally fine to not have any followers yet, but, the only way you can build an audience is to enable your site to be shared or to show off all of the thousands of likes your page has! I will shamelessly admit that if a blogger, or product, shows outstanding social proof, I’m more than likely to be a fan, continue reading, or purchase the item without knowing anything about the person or product.
At the very top of this screenshot of a famous bloggers site, you can see tiny icons for social media. Clicking on them leads you to her sites where you can pin her photos, share posts, or follow her. Mousing over her photographs like I did the one below, displays her number of likes for each photo, showing her large fan base. If
something goes out of date, you can always go back and update your content to be more applicable to today. Including a date can show you’re committed to keeping your content fresh and up to date for your readers.
6. To date or not to date
Fresh material pops up on the web daily. Many bloggers think that by not timestamping their post, readers will think it was recently published and stay longer. They, my friends, are wrong. Including the date on your post can be the best thing that’s ever happened, especially to your evergreen content. I often view the date of the post to put things into perspective, or context, and never find that it determines whether I read it or not - unless I’m looking for advice on the best iPhones. I obviously wouldn’t read something from 2007 in this case.
The date is also not a reflection on your expertise, nor does it indicate that your misinformed - the reader just realizes that the post is old, even if the information is still relevant.
7. Tag your ideas
Think of tagging as the colorful stickies you use to markup sections of your favorite book. These ideas don’t describe your book as a whole but, instead individual ideas or sections. This is how tagging works for your blog posts or articles. This may be obvious but I’m going to say it anyway - tagging is something you should do if you want your posts to be easily searchable. Be careful with this though because tagging can be useless if the tags you use vary. For example, don’t tag “journalism,” “copywriting,” and “blogging” all for one post. Pick one and then stick with it throughout your blog. If you’re writing about an amazing second date, tag it with “love” in case someone were to, oh I don’t know, search “love” articles when they’re feeling lonely on a Friday night (not that I’ve ever done that).
8. Paragraphs v.s. bullets: which will you choose?
Arranging your posts into paragraphs or bullets are both acceptable, depending on the content. The bonus of writing with bullets is that readers don’t like to read full sentences or paragraphs anymore. People like to scan when looking for information or reading about something that sparks their interest. Bullet points help them do this. If you’re finding that your bullets are turning into full sentences and have more than one sentence per bullet, then it may be easier to just write a paragraph. However, if you choose to write paragraphs, make sure they have headings enticing readers to continue reading and to visually organize them. The main thing to remember though is to pick one and stick to it. Meshing them together disrupts your flow.
9. Write with an unforgettable personality
Not to sound creepy but, you want every stranger that comes across your page to feel as though they have met you (especially if you’re a blogger). Let your visitors know why you’re selling something. Has the product you’re selling changed your life? If so, how? Humanize your copy so visitors don’t feel as though they’re talking to a computer. I could rewrite this entire article to be impersonal, but who would read that?
10. Wordy by nature
I’m guilty of this 100%. (I know, practice what you preach, Emma. But I just can’t help it!) Like I’ve said, you’re lucky if readers read your entire copy so don’t push it by being too wordy. Edit your content and polish each and every word. Since being too wordy is my biggest flaw in writing, I’ll let TechRepublic coach you on reducing wordiness.
11. High word count
You’re killing yourself if you have 2,000 words but only 500 of them get to the point or really matter. Never write to hit a word count because you’ll get the same result as when you bullshit your way through a high school book report on Romeo and Juliet for a C+. I’ve read plenty of these in my (student) teacher days and you don’t have to be a teacher to identify one. Longer articles are typically well researched with fleshed out ideas that hold credibility, but what really matters is what’s being said. If it takes you 4,500 words to convey your message, great. But if you can say everything in 450 words, even better! Include enough meat in your posts that adds a lot of value, so 2,000 words should be easily achievable.
12. Visuals are no longer optional for copywriting
The reality is that eloquently written copy just isn’t enough anymore. It has to look good, too. Visual information is processed 60,000 times faster than written information and 65% of the world’s population are visual learners. Need I say more? The good news is you don’t have to be a creative genius or technologically savvy to incorporate some knock-your-socks-off visuals.
One thing to note is to use stock photos. There are plenty of resources out there for free images you can use, such as Pexels, Pixabay and Librestock. Graphics include tiny icons, especially clickable buttons for social media. Iconfinder features over 1,750,000 free icons so there’s no excuse not to use them! Don’t be a stealer! Create your own photos or make sure they are free to use.
Infographics simplify information in a more visually appealing way. It’s taking complex information and making it more comprehensible by converting it to graphs, maps, charts, and visual stories. Check out Google’s “Music Timeline” infographic that models music trends from the 1950’s to present day.
Who doesn’t love a good gif? You can create your own with Screencastify!
Video’s are perfect to show tutorials or further inform your audience of a product, or why you want them to join you. Videos can be extremely educational and enticing.
13. Prove your credibility through links
External linking is when you send your readers somewhere else for either further information for them to explore, or to prove your information is relevant and credible. If you also link to certain websites often they will notice and possibly decide to link out to you, in return, driving more traffic to your site.
Internal linking is when you link to other pages or sites you control. If your internal links perform well, they can continue a reader’s journey through your written world of wonders. If your site already has an amazing reputation and authority, then linking internally can help some other pages with less traffic to perform better. This is especially great for old posts you previously loved that have gone through a face lift and deserve a second chance.
14. Responding to comments builds relationships
As a blogger, or someone writing articles, I’m sure you’ve read the comments, especially if you’re as self conscious as I am. One important thing to start doing though, if you haven’t already, is respond to the comments. Many times these commenters drive traffic to your blog, so treat them like the royalty that they are. I understand not all comments are worth your response but, how do you know? First of all, you can forget the spammers. The generic comments such as “Great post! Thank you for sharing!” may not need a response but a simple “Thanks for reading!” will do. Then there’s the self promoters. I have respect for these commenters because blogging requires some self promoting from time to time, especially for newbies. A kind, “Thanks for the link! I’ll check it out,” is a good idea and in return, you can leave a link in their comment section.
15. Writing strategy that makes your middle school teacher proud
Like everything, you need a strategy for your writing. I promise this is the last time I go back to your high school days, but I know you’ve learned all about outlining before you write. You should have a clear intro, body and conclusion. (If you ever need help with this, hit me up.) Don’t forget to wrap it up with an amazing closing line.
16. Continuously update old blog posts
Ever hear of evergreen content? This is when you write something timeless and always stays relevant. Sometimes this can be hard to achieve and if some of your posts are not ‘evergreen,’ then just update it! Obviously when you do this you should also update the date. It would really confuse your readers if they came across an article about Pittsburgh Summer 2017 Events dated in 2016.
17. Choose a keyword in your title tag to go after
The title tag is the place to put your pages best keywords and has the most SEO power of any other tag on your page. Rumor is, the title tag is also the best place to get a concise description of the content on the page. When crafting a title tag, remember, there should only be one used per page in order to keep your code valid. It’s also important to note that you should place top-performing keywords in descending order. The first word is deemed the most valuable, the second the next most valuable, and so on. A pro tip to keep in mind is that search engines don’t particularly like long title tag text so keep it to no more than 70 characters, including spaces! Craft with care!
18. Add alt tags to our images
This is just as important as a title tag we just talked about. Images are chosen to get people to read your content and often times strengthens your message. Alt tags improve the accessibility of your website and describes what’s on the image. If someone were unable to view the image, then the alt tag should perfectly describe to them what exactly the image is. For instance, if I took a screenshot of a call-to-action, the alt tag may read exactly what the CTA says, “Start your free trial for a limited time only!” Every image should have an alt tag, not only for SEO purposes, but for blind and visually impaired people as well.
19. Personal author bio that makes you unique
Your personal author bio is where you get to share a little bit about yourself and stand out among the other millions of online writers. Why should readers follow you? Be creative about who you are or what you do! For example, don’t just call yourself a blogger- describe yourself as a “wordsmith extraordinaire who weaves words into gold.” There’s no secret formula to writing a killer author bio, just know that it shouldn’t be as long as your article because it’ll typically appear at the end of each post you write. 30 words or 3 sentences is a good limit. A great author bio will also generate trust in your readers and make yourself relatable to them.