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Writing

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A free grammar checker that actually detects a wide range of errors at varying levels of difficulty? That’s fantastic.

What about a free grammar checker that goes beyond its name, such as finding and correcting formatting errors, such as too many spaces between words? Or how about a free grammar checker that checks for sentence fluency and recommends rewriting options if the sentence is disfluent? That is extraordinary.

But, for those who haven’t discovered Quill yet, you can now ask it to expand abbreviations. This is a word processor that searches your text for any words or sentences that differ from the original sentence and may be incorrect. One of these words may have synonyms in the content.

You can guess where this is going. So we can all agree that QuillBot’s Grammar Checker is both free and useful.

 

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Despite the fact that some of its competitors offer similar features and a significant price difference, QuillBot remains the best paraphraser and grammar checker on the market.

It is easy to use on all platforms and provides a reliable database for grammar study. Users can edit their documents from any device using their web application.

Purchasing QuillBot’s premium version is a no-brainer because it includes all of the necessary functions, and QuillBot is constantly improving its own features to keep its customers up to date.

In just three years, they have released over ten versions. Their software is currently running version 10.0.3. You can get a sense of how consistent they are in making their product exceptional.

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Content Writing

How to Write Better: 12 Tips from 12 Professional Writers

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I write a lot. I write client emails. I write web copy. I write blog articles (oh hello there). It’s my job, and it’s my passion, so I’d like to think I’m pretty good at it.

But I want to get better.

So, I decided to interview ten writers I admire, from different roles, industries, and genres. Each offered their best writing tips, including a piece of wisdom too great not to share.

12 tips on how to become a better writer

1. Know your stuff

“Before you write a sentence, research. Writing is power. When you write you have a responsibility to read and research everything you can before you write one declarative sentence. People read and when they read, you have influence over how they think, feel, and act. You owe your readers to do the work.” — Margo Aaron, Writer & Creator

2. Find a mentor

“Get a mentor or find an editor that’s willing to show you their process. Having a good editor who didn’t just fix my pieces, but rather suggested changes and showed the reasoning behind it, made me a much better writer.” — Kaleigh Moore, Freelance Writer

3. Choose simple over smart

“No matter how intelligent you are, don’t try to sound smart. That shouldn’t be your goal. Write so everyone can understand what you’re saying. Write at the simplest level.” — Kristen Herhold, Content Developer and Marketer

4. Clients buy ownership

“You don’t own the words you give to the client. They might mangle the words you give them, but that’s their right. They’re paying you for the service and once you produce it, it’s theirs. Of course, if you believe in the words, fight. Take a stand. But at the end of the day, you don’t own them anymore. It’s a harsh reality, but coming to grips with it makes it easier to let your work go.” — Luke Trayser, Senior Copywriter

5. Embrace ambiguity

“Don’t force a tiny box to fit a bigger idea. It’s okay to describe an experience or tell a story without landing on one universal insight. Let the audience draw their own conclusions. Let them think for themselves.” — Carly Ho, Senior Engineer & Freelance Writer

6. Play around

“Learn to just have fun with language. Riff for a while without the intention of a presenting or fully developing anything. Great ideas are built on a lot of small, terrible ideas. If you’re having fun and playing around with what you’re writing, you can get creativity flowing more easily. Soon, you’ll see patterns develop around a concept that you can lean into and clean up.” — Bryant Harland, Senior Marketing Content Writer

7. Live a little

“Make friends and collect stories. Writing is lonely and tiresome. Get outside and see people, gather stories, and then go to the mines and excavate them.” — Callum Sharp, Freelance Writer

8. Just write

“Writer’s block is bullshit; it’s a story that we tell ourselves. Accountants don’t wait to account. It’s no different with writers. Don’t wait to get inspired. Just sit down and write. Most of the time it’s not good, but everybody’s first draft is a steaming pile of garbage. Creativity on demand is a muscle, and the more you build it, the easier it will come.” — Paul Jarvis, Designer, Author, and Creator

9. Show, don’t tell

“Quote don’t summarize. Show don’t tell. Describe what happened to you and the readers will feel what you felt. Transport the reader into your shoes. Put them in your motorcycle helmet, their hands on your bar. They will feel what you feel without you telling them.” — James Peterson, Former Senior Editor at Playboy

10. Write and repeat

“Practice. Over and over again. You develop a voice by just doing it. It’s like swinging a bat or shooting a freethrow. Experiment until you feel comfortable; that’s when you know you’ve found the right voice for you. Tune out people who say ‘you shouldn’t’ or ‘you can’t.’ With writing, you can do anything.” — James Gordon, Writer & Poet

11. Lose your ego

“We all have had ideas or have written something we thought was a winner, only to be told by others it simply doesn’t work. Stubbornly insisting ‘no it works’ doesn’t help—that’s just your pride getting in the way. Be willing to accept that you might have to scrap ideas you love, and do so without hesitancy. You literally have an infinite supply creation you can start instead.” — Jeff GoodSmith, Content Marketing Strategist

12. Put your audience first

“Many of us write because we have something to say. But if you want people to keep reading, the audience has to come first. I once heard someone say, ‘Never let what you want to say get in the way of what your audience wants to hear’. I think that’s advice worth bookmarking.” — Brent Trotter, Senior Strategist & Writer

Ready to step up your writing skills?

Throughout this project, I learned a lot. The biggest thing? Good writing isn’t math. It’s not formulaic.

Everyone I interviewed had different perspectives, processes, and rules on writing, with one thing in common: we are writers because we start writing.

Whether you’re a blogger pursuing, well.. blogging or creative writing attempting to become the next Hemingway, or even business and social media writing, like the work that I do every day, being a good writer comes down to one thing:

To be, you just need to do.

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Content Writing

Best Edits: A Quick Guide to Giving Actionable Writing Feedback

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Content Writing

5 Questions to Assess the Status of Your Messaging Strategy

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We work on a lot of web projects. 

When we kick one off, we dig in and ask questions to get a better understanding of the business—specific questions about target audiences, value propositions, and brand differentiators.

The discussion is designed to reveal if there is more work to be done in the way of aligning how to talk about the thing we’re selling.

Whether we’re hired to write copy or not, it’s important to determine and document how you want to present your brand/business to the world with regard to messaging.

It’s often referred to as your Messaging Strategy.

Whether you don’t have one at all, you think yours needs refining, or you aren’t sure what they should include, this article should help you along the way.

How We Define Messaging Strategy

A messaging strategy considers two primary elements of communication: what you say and how you say it. It’s designed to help you establish a clear, cohesive, and compelling way of talking to your audience about your brand, product, or service.

Without one, you risk pushing unclear, fragmented communications that can make it harder to achieve your business objectives. It’s harder for design teams to design, sales teams to sell, and marketers (you) to market.

These are three key ways a thoughtful, well-developed messaging strategy can benefit your brand or business.

A Quick Case for Developing a Messaging Strategy

Clarify your target audience and associated messages

No matter the medium, the audience is central to your approach. 

The process of developing a messaging strategy requires you to think about your audience with empathy. It hones in on the pains and frustrations they might be having and explores how your solutions directly address them. A clear target helps you narrow the focus of your communications, too.

Create more cohesive communications across the board

Marketing messages don’t just live on your website. They’re often distributed across print materials, via sales channels, and through word-of-mouth between customers, referrals, and strangers new to your brand.

Messaging strategies streamline the number of messages and elevate the strongest ones. They reinforce your core benefits by adding consistency and serve as a guide for any team member who writes or talks about your brand to potential prospects.

Better position your brand with effective communications

Smart marketers are concerned with how their brand is positioned relative to the competition.

A messaging strategy helps iron out your strongest brand positions and how they distinguish you from your closest competitors.

Sales teams are armed with more effective language, marketing teams can better target specific groups, and service can align on how they’re responding to customers in real time.

A thoughtful messaging strategy helps you understand your customers, better position your product/solution, and align your teams with clear, cohesive, compelling messages.

So how do you know if you might need one? 

5 Questions to Gauge If You Might Need a Messaging Strategy

1) Can you clearly describe and segment your target audience(s) and your current ones?

A targeted messaging strategy requires targeted audiences. It answers the question, “who are you trying to reach and how you could segment them?”

On the surface, everyone has at least two audiences: targeted, hypothetical users and current, actual ones. 

Your targeted users are the segments of audiences you want to engage with. For example, an association might have 3 segments: members, partner organizations, and individual donors.

Additionally, there are actual users that are already visiting your site. They’re often segmented by factors like demographic information and/or interests. Understanding these users is derived from taking a peek at your analytics.

google analytics dashboard displaying age and gender demographics

There’s undoubtedly overlap in these groups, but they both inform your messaging strategy in different ways. The when, where, and how you talk about these your message matters, too.

Sticking with the association example, the things you might want to communicate to members might be different from that of donors. Members might care more about networking opportunities, while donors prioritize where resources are allocated.

In addition, analytics can inform your approach. For example, if a majority of your audience views your site on a mobile device, brevity might play a key role in getting them to engage.

2) Can you rank and prioritize audience groups as they pertain to your business goals?

You’ve heard the old adage: “if you’re trying to speak to everyone, you end up speaking to no one.”

While true, it’s not entirely helpful. Organizations are complex and often do have to speak to a wide range of audiences. 

However, being able to rank your audiences in order of priority as they relate to your business objectives helps you craft more specific, compelling points where they matter.

This prevents you from stuffing all your messages onto the homepage and drowning out the big takeaway you want to leave users with.

If you’re a membership organization, and your top business priority is to recruit and retain members, then they become your highest ranking audience.

On the other hand, if your membership numbers are stable, business is driven by word-of-mouth, and you’re currently focused on earning new corporate partnerships, your messaging might be different.

3) What are the primary pains and problems each of your user groups face?

A comprehensive messaging strategy seeks to document the frustrations your users face.

Ultimately, messaging is designed to influence behavior. The goal is to write in a way that works to help you achieve your marketing objectives.

Copywriting that appeals to the emotions, frustrations, or aspirations of your audience tends to be more effective.

Identifying and documenting the real challenges your product/services seeks to address helps write more pointed, effective communications.

4) How do you connect your product/brand benefits with your users’ pains and frustrations?

I like to think of benefits in two buckets: product/service benefits and brand benefits.

Let’s use Netflix as an example.

netflix originals landing page with a sample of shows

Product/service benefits address specific user pains or frustrations. 

Users hate having their viewing experience interrupted with commercials. Netflix offers commercial-free viewing to alleviate that pain.

Brand benefits on the other hand are real or perceived values or a point of difference users get from using your product.

As the streaming wars heat up, more original and exclusive content is more attractive to viewers. While Amazon has the largest volume of content, Netflix has claimed to have the most original programming.

Mapping the real benefits to the pain or problems your product/service addresses is key to creating more persuasive messaging to move users.

Here’s an example in practice. 

fathom analytics homepage

Fathom Analytics believes that other free analytics platforms are collecting too much personal data, much of it is distracting or not useful, and typical reporting dashboards are too complex.

Headline: Fathom, simple analytics for bloggers & businesses

Body: Stop scrolling through pages of reports and collecting gobs of personal data about your visitors, both of which you probably don’t need. Fathom is a simple and private website analytics platform that lets you focus on what’s important: your business.

It’s a pretty simple, yet compelling sell if you fall into the target audience.

5) What are the top 3 messages you want to communicate?

This question gets at the elevator pitch you’re making to your audience.

A refined messaging strategy helps you quickly summarize the what, how, and why of your pitch to your key audience groups.

The goal is to make your message tight, clear, and consistent.

Know Your Team does a great job explaining the what, how, and why of their offering in the first impression of their site.

know your team homepage

Headline: Leadership doesn’t have to be so hard

Body: Know Your Team is software that helps managers become better leaders. Use our tool to hold effective one-on-one meetings, get honest feedback, share progress, and build team rapport.

Let’s break that down.

What: software for managers

How: tools to hold effective meetings, get feedback, and share progress and build rapport

Why: because leadership is hard but it doesn’t have to be

These key questions are designed to help you refine “what” you say. They should help you identify gaps in your current messaging strategy—if you have one—and encourage you to consider developing one if you don’t.

Your brand voice—another key component of your messaging strategy—gets at “how” you say what you say: an equally important component to crafting a messaging strategy that best represents your business, attracts, and converts new customers.

In Conclusion

Doing the work to develop a strong, refined messaging strategy is an essential part of a successful marketing plan.

It helps you better understand your users, brings clarity to your audiences and internal teams, and reinforces the value proposition of your brand/business to prospective customers and partners.

If you’re finding it hard to answer some or any of these questions, chances are you have some work to do. And that’s okay.

The right partner can guide you through the process of developing a messaging strategy and establishing a clear, cohesive, and compelling way of speaking to your audience about your brand.

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Content Writing

Conversion Copywriting: Master the Art & Science of Words that Work

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When is the last time you remember taking action on something you saw online?

What was it that enticed you to buy software, register for a newsletter, or donate to a cause?

Was it the emotional banner image?

How about the fancy animations?

Perhaps the words on the landing page?

It’s a trick question.

Everything played a part—from the basics of human psychology to the copy on the buttons. Building a content experience that compels people to take action is a holistic process. It requires the contributions of designers, writers, engineers, marketers, and strategists to create something that inspires you to take action.

But when you’re finally ready to cross the bridge from considering to deciding, it’s often the message that moves you.

In the digital marketing world conversion is king. One way to maximize impact is to optimize your website’s copy for conversions, also known as conversion rate optimization (CRO).

For marketers, understanding the value of conversion copywriting presents a huge opportunity. According to an Econsultancy report, only about 22% of businesses are satisfied with their online conversion rates.

We’re always learning how to write better, too. We’ve seen well-crafted words help our clients, but I wanted to dive deeper into the art and science behind conversion copy—what it really is, why it works, and how to do it well.

So I interviewed some conversion copywriting experts to get their perspective.

Let’s dive in.

What is conversion copywriting?

Conversion copywriter and consultant Joel Klettke says that “Conversion copy is a deliberate data-driven attempt to write something that gets people to take action.”

The term “copywriting” on its own can mean different things depending on the context. Some copywriters write advertisements. Some copywriters write web copy. Some copywriters write email campaigns and funnels.

The types of copy can be distinguished in two ways. The intention and the process.

The intent gets at what your goal is with your copy.

The process pertains to how you go about writing it.

“The difference [with conversion copywriting] is in the process: It gives the business owner so much insight into their own process, and customers, too,” says Sara Frandina, a conversion copywriter with Sara Frandina Strategies.

Skilled conversion copywriters are highly valued because the process of doing it well can be intricate and time-consuming. Fortunately, when done right, it can have an immediate impact on ROI.

What motivates our behavior online?

Let’s take a half-step back and talk about what’s going on in our brains when engaging with a website.

When looking at what motivates people’s behavior online, Web Psychologist Nathalie Nahai suggests using the “Three Brain Model” to categorize and understand the influences different types of information might have. This includes the primal system, emotional system, and rational system.

The primal system (or reptilian brain) is concerned with survival and maintenance. On the web, this relates to things like the imagery of food, subtle sexual cues, and indicators of scarcity. For example, the microcopy on an airline checkout page that tells us “only 4 seats left” activates our primal system.

triune brain model

The emotional system (or limbic brain) is concerned with principles like empathy, or storytelling. On the web, this explains why we’re drawn to images or faces, or respond well to a compelling narrative. Brands like Lokai integrated their story directly with their product design and give 10% of net profits to their charity partners. This approach appeals to our emotional system.

Finally, the rational system (or neocortex) is the most evolved part of our brain. It’s concerned with logic, language, and things like processing abstract thought. On the web, this relates to product features, benefits, and other evidence for decision-making.

“We all like to think that we make our decisions rationally. But there’s a huge amount of evidence that suggests that emotion is at the base of decision making. When we look at persuasive arguments, what we’re actually doing is post-rationalizing the decisions we’ve already made at a primal and emotional level,” says Nahai.

Why does this matter for conversion copywriting?

When done well, conversion copywriting reaches all three systems on some level. It can arouse interests with an understanding of basic needs (primal), appeal to emotions by addressing genuine frustrations (emotional), and address the inner skeptic with convincing language (rational).

What should you consider to write effective conversion copy?

Tweaking your website copy for CRO isn’t one-dimensional. Multiple elements go into doing it right.

“You can’t do this stuff in a vacuum. It’s not about changing button colors, and copying and pasting formulas you found on a website. It’s a process. And you have to fall in love with the process. It’s not black magic, there’s a science and a rationale behind it, but there’s still room for creativity,” says Klettke.

Here are some things to consider to write effective conversion copy.

1. Audience

With any business strategy, you have to begin with your target audience in mind. Everything you do should be aimed at improving their experience.

Former Illinois Governor Adlai E. Stevensen, Jr. said that “understanding human needs is half the job of meeting them.”

Specifically, conversion copy should be focused on understanding the pains, gains, hopes, dreams, anxieties, and frustrations that your audience is experiencing. First, you need to show that you can understand and empathize with their experience. Then, you can identify how you can help them.

frustrated man working on a computer

“You need to be as detailed as possible. What’s their burning pain or desire that consumes them now?”, says Joe Choi, a direct response copywriter, and marketer. “What’s the unspoken question behind that, and how can you help them answer that? For example, a job seeker might wonder why they’re not getting an offer. They have a resume, cover letter, they’re going on interviews. They’re doing everything right in their mind. Do you have something that can help them?”

The better you understand your audience, the better chances you’ll have at conversions.

2. Research

Every writer I spoke to emphasized the importance of customer research. It’s the secret sauce to any effective writing you’ll find on the web.

Copyhackers founder Joanna Wiebe would agree. In her process, she says, “We begin with research and discovery all the time. This tends to be the biggest part of the work, and if it’s not the biggest part of the work, 99% of the time it means you’re doing it wrong.

There are two types of research: qualitative and quantitative.

Qualitative research (soft data) might include things like surveys, social media, user interviews, or chat logs.

“The main thing you’re doing when you collect qualitative data is looking for patterns in the way people describe their pain points, needs, and anxieties in their own words. You’re looking for trends in the language they use, what’s most commonly talked about, and what’s communicated as a high priority,” says Klettke.

You’d be amazed at the insights you can find talking to your customer service teams. I’d guess the solution to all Comcast’s customer experience issues is somewhere in the call transcripts.

Quantitative research (hard data) could include digging into Google Analytics, SEO tools like Ahrefs or SEMRush, Hotjar, or email marketing open and read rates.

In some ways, it’s more analytical and open to interpretation.

The combination of these data points leads to a more comprehensive understanding of who your audience is and how they’re talking about your brand.

3. Tone and Voice

Many brands and organizations are strategic in thinking about how they talk to their customers.

When writing conversion copy, striking a tone that resonates is key to making a connection.

But there’s a delicate balance. Some organizations worry about coming off too “salesy”. For example, a non-profit or university asking for donations might be hesitant to be direct.

It’s fair, but it’s not entirely valid.

“People worry about it more than they probably should,” says Frandina. “Lots of people feel like conversion copy can be really sleazy — but if you use that voice of customer data — it doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your brand voice.”

In other words, if you’re speaking to your audience in a way that genuinely resonates, and what you offer aligns with their emotional brain, your message has a good chance of getting through.

Choi offers a suggestion on how we can do this in practice:

“Write as yourself and then go back and edit it. Things get done faster when you’re not constantly thinking about how you’re supposed to write. Keep a tally of words that keep coming up — how people describe their day to day life, their struggles, etc — build a keyword bank for that. Again, that’s why research is so important. Then go back and edit with those words.”

4. Context

Prospective customers find your brand at various stages. Generally, you can imagine the three stages being awareness, consideration, and decision.

At each stage, the work that has to be done to move them closer to conversion changes. That means the way you write has to change, too.

Let’s use “being sick” as an analogy. In the Awareness stage, you might be thinking, “I have a sore throat, fever and I’m achy all over. What’s wrong with me?” That might lead you to different resources than already knowing you’re sick and are looking for ways to get better.

three stages a buyers journey: awareness, consideration, decision

These days, our first touch point with a brand isn’t necessarily the homepage. Sometimes it’s a blog post with a call-to-action. Sometimes it’s a long-form sales letter.

The depth of information should be tailored specifically to the page, and the presumed understanding of your audience.

Conversion optimization expert Talia Wolf says, “Knowing where your potential customer is on her journey helps you to gauge what she will most likely respond favorably to, so she feels comfortable taking the next step.”

5. Design

Copy and design have to work together. There’s no way around it.

But in practice, there’s often a struggle to figure out which one comes first.

Unsurprisingly, when it comes to conversion copywriting, the writing should drive the design.

“Writing copy and fitting it into the design is like drawing all the pictures and trying to write the story. You’ve now forced the writer to try to cram the message into a box it wasn’t made for,” says Frandina.

Good copywriters should be concerned about how the words on the page will be presented, too. “You don’t necessarily have to be a UX designer, but you need to have a good understanding of how copy and design interplay and consider that how they’re presented will influence somebody taking an action,” says Klettke.

At Clique, our interdisciplinary approach weaves together content strategy, user experience, engineering, and content marketing as a single discipline. That means our content team is involved in the wireframing process and structuring the words on the page from the very beginning.

Is that more challenging? Yes. But wireframing with the copy in mind inevitably yields better outcomes.

website sketch outline with colors

For designers, working with real copy helps them bring pages to life in a way they couldn’t with Lorem Ipsum. By adding context to the sitemap, they can better present users with the information they’re looking for.

6. Testing

One of the benefits of conversion copy is that you can always improve it.

Testing headlines, call-to-actions, or the body copy of a specific section is how to continually refine it.

“Don’t be afraid to get crazy. As long as it resonates with your audience’s desires, and you can support your claims, then it’s fair game. Now, not everyone is comfortable running outrageous headlines or copy. But I think it’s easier to push something to the limit, then dial it back,” says Choi.

But regardless of your research, the writing might flop. And that’s okay.

Klettke suggests we anticipate failure as part of the process. We can’t always stick the landing on the first attempt. But committing to the process of testing and refining your copy will pay dividends in the long run.

How can you improve your conversion copywriting today?

1. Invest in research

The first thing is to invest in understanding your audience better. Even if you’re starting with no money and no customers, you can learn more about your audience and what matters to them.

If you’re starting from scratch, Wiebe suggests a method called Amazon Review Mining to understand what people want, and what frustrates them in their own words.

  1. Identify books (or products) that relate to the problem you solve
  2. Read the reviews and track “memorable phrases”, “what people want”, and “what frustrates them”
  3. See what messages resonate most and use it in your copy

2. Get better at asking questions

I asked everyone I interviewed what their “secret sauce” was to improve their conversion copy. Everyone said some version of, “the magic is in the method.”

I’m really good at asking the right questions of my clients, their clients or their prospects. And then curating the best stuff from the interviews. Things that resonate best with clients and their audiences usually come straight from their mouths,” says Frandina.

Keeping your questions open-ended, asking thoughtful follow-ups, and getting into specifics will help elicit useful responses.

In conclusion

If you want to optimize your website for conversions, you’ve got to make sure the language is on point.

To do that well, you can start with these four key things:

  • Invest in research to better understand your audience
  • Empathize with their pains, gains, hopes, and dreams — in their own words
  • Work in tandem with your design team to amplify the right messages
  • Test. Learn. Optimize. Repeat.

Remember, you’re not creating all this content, building these great products, or supporting these worthwhile causes only to have them ignored.

You’re trying to make an impact after all, right?

Check out these additional resources to help improve your conversion copy

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