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  • A complete guide to conversational writing

    Girl using laptop to do conversational writing.

    A complete guide to conversational writing

    How many times have you opened a marketing email or started to read a blog post and glazed over?

    Dense, over-complicated writing is a turn-off. And when you have to wade through it for work, what do you do? Yawn? Run? Put it aside for later?

    Dreary, tepid content that reads like it was written by a robot will damage the longevity of your brand. 

    On the other hand, you could deliver bright, warm, on-brand content that makes your readers want to hang around and schmooze.

    Let me show you how!

    What is conversational writing style?

    Conversational writing is a unique style of writing that breaks those grammar rules you learnt at high school. Sentences might commence with ‘And’ or ‘But’ and you’ll collide midway through a paragraph with ‘ouch’ or ‘drat’.

    It’s fun and friendly. It’s also powerful. You can use conversational writing to connect with people on a deeply personal level. 

    Dry or overly complicated content is a one-way ticket to be scrolled past and forgotten forever. But smooth effortless-to-read writing will keep your readers reading.

    Conversational writing is the way of the future for marketing materials such as email, newsletters, websites and blogs. This is the type of content businesses are using to generate leads and create loyal customers.

    Row of people standing with arms in the air

    The point is to make every single person feel like you’re giving them special attention so they keep coming back. You want your readers to feel like you know them – and, if you’ve researched your niche brand, you do know them. 

    Plus, if you’re generating well-researched, informative content, they’re likely to share it with others.

    One of the best parts of conversational writing is that once you get the hang of it, it can be a really easy style to generate original content every time. It is, however, difficult to master at first. You’ve got to shake the thought of your high school teachers drilling into you that you need to write like the next great novelist.

    What isn't conversational writing

    It can be easy to presume a conversational writing style would be as easy as typing how you’d text your friends.

    That is NOT what we’re going for. Developing a conversational tone in your writing means creating simple, easy-to-understand content.

    Couple on laptop and mobile phone doing conversational writing

    If you were to write the way you speak, though, it could be confusing for readers who don’t know you.

    The idea is to create a style of writing that makes the reader feel like you’re addressing them directly. Think of it as getting a virtual cup of coffee with them, not addressing a crowd at a sold-out concert.

    Another thing to note is that a conversational writing style is not a one-size-fits-all.

    There’s a time and a place.

    For example, you wouldn’t put liver puns in an article about fatty liver disease. But you would put puns in a newsletter about cat sweaters. This is why conversational writing is such a valuable skill to have.

    Tips for conversational writing

    If you’re ready to develop your own conversational writing style, follow these tips and experiment and practise until you feel ready to share your work. 

    Infographic on tips for conversational writing

    Use simple words

    Conversational writing should be simple. There’s no need to whip out your thesaurus and find unique words for your content. It’s not that you’re ‘dumbing down’ the writing – you’re making it palatable for every reader.

    If you’re writing about a complex topic, such as software, think about the readers. They are likely not going to be experts on the subject, which is why they’ve come to you for answers.

    Using data to back up your facts is important, but simplify the wording for everyone to be able to understand. Adding graphs, tables and illustrations to support your writing on more complex concepts is always a good idea.

    Here’s an example. Let’s say you’re writing about microgreens and you find this definition:

    Microgreens are vegetable greens harvested just after the cotyledon leaves have developed.

     You could rewrite this conversationally as:

    Microgreens are the young seedlings of vegetables and herbs.

     It may not look like much of a difference, but the reader will likely not know what a cotyledon is. You may go on to explain it later, but this is a good place to start to simplify the wording.

    Sunshine fresh

    Smooth, warm conversational writing

    Keep it concise

    Employ user-friendly words and keep sentences and paragraphs short. Nobody hopped online to read lengthy paragraphs to get to the bottom of why their left foot is itchy. Here are two rules to keep in mind:

    1. Sentences should be a maximum of 28 words long.

    2. Paragraphs should be a maximum of 90 words.

    When you look at the numbers, 51% of low-scoring texts have paragraphs that are way too long. The second that readers see a solid block of text, they’ve likely decided to move on. While you’re writing, you can check your word counts to make sure you’re staying in your lane. If you’re having trouble being too wordy, practise writing sentences and removing unnecessary words. This paragraph is about 75 words long; getting bored yet? They should be shorter.

    As for sentences, chop ‘em up! Forget what you learned about proper sentence structure in high school. Keep. It. Simple!

    Use contractions and interjections

    Another great way to work on your conversational writing style is to use contractions. So write isn’t instead of ‘is not’ and didn’t instead of ‘did not’.

    This makes writing sound more casual as if you’re talking directly to your readers.

    When you start using contractions in your writing, you’ll see how it it relaxes the conversational  tone.

    Man pointing to emphasise doing conversational writing correctly

     Interjections are part of natural speech (oops, yikes, bravo) and they’re used to convey emotion and breathe a sense of humanness into writing. Used well they can elevate writing and add interest, but take care to use them sparingly to avoid overkill.

    Ask your readers questions

    One of the best ways to engage your reader is to ask them questions.

    When you’re reading something and the writer asks you a question, it makes you think doesn’t it?

    A question is a great way to get your readers to engage and remember the information from your content.

    It’s also an excellent way to get engagement on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

    Use the right conversational tone

    When creating a conversational writing style, you should develop your own conversational tone. That’s part of the fun! It’s also going to make your content memorable and stand out among competitors. It will, of course, depend on your circumstances, but being able to add in tidbits about your personal experience can create a lively connection with your audience.

    If your business needs to appeal to more than one type of client, you may need to wear multiple hats when it comes to tone. But persevere because working out the conversational tone that a particular group of clients is most comfortable with is a must-do task.

    While creating your personality in conversational writing, don’t be afraid to add in some pizazz. You can throw in interjections like yay! or ouch! to make your content come alive. Feel free to also get WILD and start sentences with those conjunctions and and but that we discussed earlier. You won’t get an F on your English paper for that here.

    Sprinkle sensory language

    Sensory language uses words related to our five senses to add emotion to writing. While sensory words may not sound like a good fit for business writing, the payoffs can be huge.

    Decades ago, American Nobel Laureate Scientist Herbet Simon observed that “In order to have anything like a complete theory of rationality, we have to understand what role emotion plays in it.” The role of emotion in business decision-making remains a much-discussed topic today.

    The Harvard Business Review, for example, has been publishing articles on emotional intelligence for years. And while there’s no formula yet that determines how human decision-making happens, we can garner enough from the science to know that sensory language will influence the way people feel about your products or services.

    Now that we’ve got the science out of the way, let’s look at the categories of sensory language we can use to influence customers and generate leads.

    We can use visual, tactile and auditory words, as well as words that describe taste and smell. We can also put words that depict motion to good use. Sensory words shouldn’t be over-sprinkled, however. Use them strategically for the greatest impact.

     

    * Click on the categories below to see examples of sensory words.

    Dazzling, shiny, bright, sparkly, sparkling, tight, gloomy, grin-worthy, glint, glimmer, glow, shine, glossy, vibrant, glitter, knotty, murky, polished, wildly, animated, bulky, delicate, frail, wrinkled, grassy, gloomy, feeble, beefy, crinkled

    Razor-sharp, tight, smouldering, faded,  hollow, knife-like, watery, tangle, briny, damp, oily, squelch, slimy, fluffy, rough, smooth, hairy, sticky, chilled, gritty, velvety, soft, creamy, rounded, lukewarm, spiky, boiling, tender, sizzling, tepid

    Thundering, softly, gently, thumping, crashing, tingling, squeaky, piercing, whoosh, squeal, clump, boom, sploosh, crunchy, ear-splitting, roaring, faint, muted, buzz, whine, unspoken, tinkle, deafening, gurgle, squawk, hum, crackle

    Salty, sweet, bitter, sour, spicy, super-spicy, juicy, cucumber cool, crisp, stinky, bite-sized, piece of cake, garden fresh, freshly baked, overpowering, biting, tangy, lemony, minty, sharp, zesty, gooey, deliciously, wildly, intense, fruity, pungent

    Pungent, bitter, perfumed, scented, aroma, aromatic, sniff, odour, billowy, biting, faint, wispy, rich, misty, fishy, lemony, tangy, tart, citrusy, earthy, smoky, pine, flowery, lilac, mouldy, musty, rancid, stagnant, stench, gaseous, sharp, briny

    Stirring, dart, progress, flow, rapid, gradual, steady, slowly, gradual, slight, sudden, stubbornly, vibrating, mind-boggling, bumpy, stamp out, twirl, swirl, whirl, wriggle, soaring, paralysed, eye-popping, motionless, fleeting, zipping

    Sensory words are power words! 

    They engage your reader on deep levels and create a strong emotional connection. Take this example from chocolate maker Green & Black. Sensory words such as crunchy and soft don’t refer to taste, but to touch and sound. Now that’s powerful!

    A creative way to include sensory language in your writing is to insert them into metaphors. They can be evocative and moving, but must be used sparingly to have real impact.

    Metaphors compare two things that are different to suggest an image, likeness or analogy between them. 

    Simple examples of business metaphors are:

    Taking it to a new level and Growing a business.

    Literary metaphors can have an emotional impact on readers, such as:

    ‘My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.’ – John Green, Fault in our Stars.

    ‘Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.’ – Pablo Picasso

    If you’re interested in using metaphors in your conversational writing, be original and quirky. They have much greater impact when they haven’t been read before.

    Use active voice

    Try to use active voice in conversational writing whenever you can. So, instead of writing ‘The house was sold by the real estate agent,’ write ‘The real estate agent sold the house.’

    In passive voice, the subject of the action (the house) is the object of the sentence. The passive voice is usually clunky and indirect. Avoid using passive constructions and enliven your sentences with active voice. It’s bright, lively and more direct.

    Active voice also enlightens your conversational tone.

     Google prefers active voice and, if you’re looking to rank, and it’s more aligned with the way people speak. If you’re new at writing in an active voice, just practise until it feels natural.

    Use informal SEO keywords

    When researching keywords to optimise content for search engines, we analyse ‘reader intent’. So we put ourselves into readers’ shoes and try to predict what they’re going to type into the search engine. 

    This is great news for conversational writers because the best ranking keywords are often informal, casual and even slang. People favour a conversational tone when they type queries into Google.

    As I write this (and remember SEO is constantly evolving) 900 people each month are typing the longtail keyword ‘How to do SEO,’into Google. But only 10 of them are typing in ‘How to understand SEO.’ It tells us everything, doesn’t it? Conversational language is how readers actually think, themselves.

    Check: Are you telling a good story?

    We use stories to understand and find meaning throughout our lives. If the story isn’t complete, we often ponder the ending in our heads.

    There are tremendous benefits in having a story to tell in business writing. Prospective clients are known to make decisions based on the emotional impact they’re experiencing while listening to, or reading, a story. 

    Cassie Gillette, writing for Semrush’s 2022 Global Report, predicts that storytelling in content marketing will be key in 2022–23. ‘If you’re going to work on one skill this year,’ she wrote, ‘work on being a better storyteller’.

    You can use a storytelling structure for any type of business writing, providing the format works with the three components that make a good story – characters, conflict and resolution.

    Hubspot discusses how to elevate your brand and connect with your audience through storytelling in this free download.

    Dazzling conversational copy

    Finely crafted and delivered to your inbox

    Read it out loud

    Wondering if your writing actually sounds conversational, or  if you’ve got the conversational tone right? 

    Have an open mic for yourself and read it out loud! 

    Try reading your content aloud and recording it. Listen to see if it has a conversational flow to it, and if you enjoy hearing it. Another tip for reading out loud is to see where you pause to take a breath.

    A good rule of thumb is that if there is a pause, you should break it into two sentences. This is going to do wonders if you struggle with being super-wordy when you write.

    Watch this video from Kaleigh Moore on how to write conversationally.

    The bottom line

    To sum up, conversational writing is a necessary skill if you want to break through the tsunami of mediocre content on the internet.

    It’s a powerful tool in marketing that will help you stand out among competitors.

    People want personality to shine through when they’re reading content online. They appreciate shiny original text that hasn’t been seen a zillion times before. Sensory language will also add pizzazz, but don’t overdo it.

    Warm, human words they trust because you know them already, as well as what they’re looking for. Be a creative conversational writer, an original thinker with a warm-hearted tone and aim to both educate and entertain your audience.

    Before you leave

    Want to put some punch in your writing? Check out How to make your writing stronger.

    Looking to improve your content marketing writing? You’ll enjoy How to be a good content writer.

    For tips on writing awesome blog posts, see How to write a smashing blog post.

    Your business is important

    Let's find the right words for your brand.
    textshop

    About Sharon Lapkin

    Sharon is a content writer and award-winning editor. After acquiring two masters degrees (one in education and one in editing and comms) she worked in the publishing industry for more than 12 years. A number of major publishing accomplishments came her way, including the eighth edition of Cookery the Australian Way (more than a million copies sold across its eight editions), before she moved into corporate publishing.

    Sharon worked in senior roles in medical colleges and educational organisations until 2017. Then she left her role as editorial services manager for the corporate arm of a university and founded Textshop Content – a content writing and copyediting agency that provides services to Australia’s leading universities and companies.

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  • Is content marketing worth it?

    Woman's profile with IT tools depicting question is content marketing worth it.

    Is content marketing worth it?

    When it comes to marketing strategies, gone are the days of paying top dollar for a sponsored ad package. Businesses are moving their focus to content marketing strategies instead. But is content marketing worth it?

    Content marketing is not new by any means, but it’s been gaining popularity as businesses move to online-only models. This type of marketing strategy is going to include blogs, videos and podcasts.

    Outbound marketing strategies, such as sponsored ads, aren’t working as well anymore. Consumers have caught on to these marketing strategies, which tend to be disruptive and annoying. If a customer is bothered by your ad when they’re doing a search, it’s not going to turn into a lead. To acquire customers, you need to build trust and a connection.

    This is the reason content marketing is on the upswing. Businesses are learning that organic traffic is the best way to bring in new leads and get conversions. In fact, 70% of all businesses use content marketing.

    Currently, the content marketing industry is valued at $400 billion and is predicted to continue growing. So, let’s look at content marketing and why it’s worth it for your business.

    What is content marketing?

    Before asking yourself if content marketing is worth it, it’s important to understand what it is exactly.

    You may have some ideas about it that may be true, but content marketing is a complex idea.

    Content marketing is a form of inbound marketing that involves developing and distributing content, usually on the internet.

    Woman pointing finger asking is content marketing worth it.

    The content should be relevant to your audience and be directly related to your product. Blogs, videos and podcasts are some of the most powerful forms of content marketing that businesses use.

    While the concept of content marketing seems to be new, it isn’t. In fact, 92% of marketers and businesses view content as a valuable business tool.

    Typically, the goal of content marketing is to increase your brand awareness, engagement and loyalty. You not only want to reach your audience, but you also want to build a connection.

    There’s a huge difference between pumping out generic content every hour and creating well-researched, quality content that will generate more business.

    Think about this when you scroll through social media. Do you stop and read the sponsored ads? Probably not. Nobody does. We’ve learned that ads are bad, and we don’t want anything to do with them.

    That’s where content marketing comes in. Instead of seeing an ad that’s interrupting their search, turn your content into the result of the search.

    There are several methods of content marketing that work well. One of the best forms of content marketing is blog writing because it’s versatile and you can write a blog about pretty much anything.

    Watch the history of content marketing.

    Content Marketing Institute (2015). The story of content: rise of the new marketing.

    Types of content marketing

    So, now that we know a little about what content marketing is, let’s talk about the different types.

    It can be any type of content that you’re putting on your website and social media platforms. Keep in mind that throwing content onto your site just to have it there does not constitute a content marketing strategy.

    Content marketing is going to take some thought and a lot of work to produce results, but it’s going to be worth it.

    Blog writing

    A content marketing strategy worth having is going to include blog writing. No, we’re not talking about an online diary of your thoughts and feelings. Blog writing is a powerful tool that is the go-to for improving search engine optimisation (SEO.)

    Writing blog content that pertains to your product with well-researched and engaging content will draw in customers organically.

    Think about all of the times you’ve typed a question into a search engine and clicked on the first relevant blog. That could be you!

    The best part of blog writing is that it can be tailored to essentially any topic. If you have a way with words, you can write them yourself. But keep in mind that 90.63% of blog posts get zero or no traffic from Google.

    So, unless you’re a good writer with SEO knowledge, you might want to outsource your blog posts. Think about hiring an SEO wordsmith who can help you increase the organic traffic to your website.

    For example, if you’re selling microgreens, you could create a blog post with a longtail niche keyword that will be in searches regarding the topic. The blog post should be well-researched, with content-engaging content that will actually draw the reader in and get them clicking around your website. That way, those searching for information on microgreens will see your blog posts in the search, click on one, and end up on your page. This is likely to generate interest in your product that can turn into a lead or sale.

    The average blog is around 1100 words, but you can create shorter or longer blogs and see what works best for you. Along with blog writing, you can utilise other content marketing tools to enhance the user experience.

    Video content

    Another great tool to make content marketing worth it is creating videos. Video is a powerful and popular marketing device.

    Currently, 48% of customers rely on videos when searching for a product.

    Another great tool that makes content marketing worth it is creating videos. Video is a powerful and popular marketing device.

    Woman making video and asking is content marketing worth it.

    It’s easy to understand why people rely on videos when searching for a product. Not everyone wants to read a 2,000 word blog post on juicing celery, so a video that contains a how-to, or other content related to the blog, can help increase your engagement.

    Infographics

    An infographic is exactly what it sounds like. It’s an informational graphic that can be used to explain complex ideas. They’re a great addition to a blog post to help explain key points and will create engagement from the folks who don’t feel like reading the entire post. 

    When you’re deciding whether content marketing is worth it, it’s important to remember that everyone is different. While one person may want to read a long-form blog, others will benefit from being able to look at an infographic. The infographic below is a good visual summary of the different points we’re discussing in this blog post.

    Infographic-Is content marketing worth it?

    Podcasts

    According to a study in the US, 49% of 12 to 32-year-olds listen to a podcast at least once a month. Podcasts may not be the first thing you think of with content marketing, but they are a great tool. If you’re unfamiliar, a podcast is an audio recording that consists of spoken words and information surrounding a specific topic.

    One way to utilise podcasts is to create blog content summarising a podcast, or elaborating on a specific point. You can also turn it around, and create a podcast revolving around the blog post. This again will give your audience the option to choose how they are absorbing your content and engaging with it.

    Everybody's talking about content marketing

    Always go to an expert
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    Other types of content marketing

    A how-to is a practical guide or step-by-step instructions on how to do something or achieve an objective.

    A meme is a photo, illustration or/and text that’s usually humorous and spreads rapidly online, often through social media channels.

    A case is an in-depth study of a person, group, community or event. It serves to demonstrate a complex issue or to analyse it from a particular perspective.

    A checklist is a list of all the things you need to do. It’s a good way to organise and manage tasks, and to ensure things are not overlooked or forgotten.

    User-generated content is created by people rather than brands. It can include text, videos, podcasts, photographs, illustrations and reviews.

    Newsletters are used by businesses and organisations to share new information and news through their online mailing list.

    The mailing list is composed of customers and people who have signed up to receive this correspondence via email.

    Why do you need content marketing?

    Now, the big question is whether content marking is worth it or not. The short answer is yes, it is! We’ll explain why.

    You'll earn their trust

    Once deemed credible on subjects pertaining to your product, you’ll gain the trust of your customers. Trust is one of the biggest things you want to get from your customers. It creates loyalty, and they’ll be more likely to recommend your business to a friend or family member if they trust you.

    Today, it’s all about custom content. Creating a narrative around your brand and giving your customers a story and behind-the-scenes access makes them feel special. Providing credible and trustworthy blogs will keep them coming back for more information too.

    It's affordable

    Creating a content marketing strategy that’s worth it is 62% cheaper than other types of advertising campaigns. So, instead of paying for ad packages on social media platforms, you can create content in-house or hire freelancers.

    Most social media platforms are free to sign up for, and if you have a powerful content marketing strategy you may not find it necessary to pay for sponsored ads.

    Content marketing increases organise website traffic

    Those with successful content marketing strategies typically see 7.8 times higher growth in website traffic. Optimising blogs correctly using SEO will increase your rankings in searches for keywords related to your business.

    You'll maximise your views

    Using content marketing will increase your website views. If you have an extensive range of blog posts, users can spend plenty of time clicking through your content once they’ve found one post they like. You can create backlinks to keep them browsing, which will improve your views and traffic stats.

    Having SEO content on your platforms will help search engines pick up and show your pages. If you have video content attached to your blog, even better. Someone may read the blog, then spend time watching the video, as well. Google also tends to favour blog content that has videos and images.

    The bottom line: Is content marketing worth it?

    The bottom line is that yes, content marketing is worth it. If you’re wondering why you need content marketing, it’s simple.

    Consumers aren’t going to be swayed by a coupon or a paid ad these days, you need to give them something more.

    Creating engaging blog posts is a great way to start using content marketing in your business strategy. Try it out today!

    Like what you see?

    Let's talk about your content needs

    Before you go

    To learn more about content marketing check out How to be a good content writer.

    If you’re keen to improve your blog posts see How to write a smashing blog post.

    Want to learn how to correctly optimise your content? Read Is SEO really needed.

    And if you think your business is fine without a blog, take a look at Does my business need a blog.

    Your business is important

    Let's find the right words for your brand.
    textshop

    About Sharon Lapkin

    Sharon is a content writer and award-winning editor. After acquiring two masters degrees (one in education and one in editing and comms) she worked in the publishing industry for more than 12 years. A number of major publishing accomplishments came her way, including the eighth edition of Cookery the Australian Way (more than a million copies sold across its eight editions), before she moved into corporate publishing.

    Sharon worked in senior roles in medical colleges and educational organisations until 2017. Then she left her role as editorial services manager for the corporate arm of a university and founded Textshop Content – a content writing and copyediting agency that provides services to Australia’s leading universities and companies.

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  • Does my business need a blog?

    Smiling man with laptop asking 'Does my business need a blog?'

    Does my business need a blog?

    It’s almost impossible to run a business in 2022 without an online presence of some kind. Currently, there are about 12–24 million ecommerce sites around the world.

    With those numbers, businesses can expect a hefty amount of competition no matter their market. So, what’s a business owner got to do to stick out? One way to stand out is to start a blog.

    If you’re asking yourself, ‘Does my business need a blog?’ the answer is almost always yes.

    No, we’re not talking about a website resembling the online journal you kept as a teenager. Those days of blogging are long gone, and a blog now is defined as a regularly updated web page that fulfils personal or business needs.

    Blogging is one of the most powerful tools a business owner today can utilise to generate organic website traffic, which you can turn into sales.

    Still on the fence? Let’s look at some of the top benefits of a blog and continue to answer that question: Does my business need a blog? 

    You'll stand out among your competitors

    To start, you’ve probably researched your competition already.

    No matter your line of business, there are at least a few other websites selling a similar product.

    Companies that have a blog will get 55% more visitors to their page than a business without one. It should be a no-brainer that this type of traffic can ultimately lead to more sales.

    Customers searching online are more likely to choose a brand with more information on their website, than one with only a simple product description.

    A blog will also keep them reading and on your page for a longer amount of time.

    Blogging connects you to your customers

    The term ‘customer experience’ has replaced ‘customer service’ in the world of online business.

    If you’re unfamiliar with it, the term customer experience is all-encompassing of every single step in the process of a sale.

    It starts the second they find your website in a search engine and carries on until well after they have the product. Blogging is an essential part of the customer experience, and we’ll tell you why.

    If you answered the question ‘Does my business need a blog’ with a yes, then you’re opening a dialogue with customers. Including a comment section at the bottom allows people to engage with your post and you can directly reply to them.

    Pairing this tactic with other forms of social media creates a personal connection that is likely to create a loyal customer base.

    Does your blog post have all the right ingredients?

    That's where we can help
    Textshop

    Blogs improve SEO rankings

    Search engine optimisation, or SEO, is crucial for online marketing.

    SEO is the practice of optimising your website pages to make them rank in high positions in search results.

    Businesses do this in a blog by incorporating high-ranking keywords. Search engines pick up on the keywords of an optimised blog and will show them in results.

    For example, if your website is selling probiotic drinks, you may want to have blogs that have keywords such as ‘best probiotic drinks’ throughout the content so Google picks it up.

    Think about any time you’ve searched for something online. You most likely typed in a high-ranking keyword without even realising it!

    Another way to rank higher in searches is inbound links. Inbound links are links on other blogs and websites that bring traffic to your page.

    Laptop and magnifying glass reflecting the question: Does my business need a blog?

    Companies that blog will have around 97% more inbound links. That link right there is an inbound link to another website. You’re welcome!

    When your blog shows up as a resource link on another web page, it shows credibility. Search engines will pick up on that and know your website has what it takes to be shown in search results.

    Having a blog is a great way to increase your credibility with informative, well-researched content for others to use.

    Not only will this be useful for SEO, but it also shows your customer base that you’ve taken the time to research relevant content for your product.

    Knowing they can visit your website for related information will keep them coming back.

    Having a blog contributes to the longevity of your brand

    A blog is a valuable marketing tool, especially if you combine it with a content marketing strategy.

    To create a long-life business blog with its own community of readers, you need to do the following:

    Image of gold dot used for a bullet list

    Develop a content marketing strategy and make sure you use it.

    Image of gold dot used for a bullet list

    Always optimise each blog post for Google. Without SEO, Google will assign your post to the backwaters and only the very determined will find it.

    Image of gold dot used for a bullet list

    Remember this. Your blog posts need more than text. Think bullet lists, tables, videos, infographics and photos.

    Image of gold dot used for a bullet list

    Update your blog posts every so often. Add updated statistics, images and links. When you’re done, submit the blog post for indexing through your Google Search Console.

    How I updated my blog post and ranked #1 in a week

    Let me share something with you.

    My blog post ‘How to write an awesome blog post’ wasn’t ranking on Google.

    I’d put a lot of work into this post and knew it was good. So how could I get more people to read it? How could I get it to rank more highly in the search engine pages?

    It’s never a good idea to change the title of a blog post when you update it because it will cause broken links wherever it’s been posted. But this post wasn’t an oldie, and I was confident I could update the title in the places I’d posted it.

    I did a new keyword research for a niche longtail keyword. I wanted a keyword with a density under 40. Above 40 is notoriously difficult to rank for. I needed a narrowly focused longtail keyword that I could work with.

    I found the keyword I was looking for and this is what I did next:

    1.

    Changed the blog post title to How to write a smashing blog post, to include my longtail keyword.

    2.

    Update the numbered list of headings that runs throughout blog post. Why? Because Google has a preference for bullet lists when selecting featured snippets.

    3.

    Worked through the blog inserting my new keyword into paragraphs, headings and alt text on my images. 

    4.

    Proofread the blog post and submitted it to Google Search Console for indexing.

    Guess what happened next? My blog post shot straight into Google’s stratosphere! 

    Within one week, my updated blog post was ranking #1 on Google for my new keyword, AND  it was the new featured snippet!

    And here it is! How to write a smashing blog post on prime Google real estate.

    You can’t buy this authoritative space at the top of page one. All paid advertising and top ranked articles are pushed down the page.

    Example featured snippet for 'Does my business need a blog?'

    Blogs create content for other social media platforms

    When you have a new blog, what better place to promote it than your social media accounts?

    If you’ve hired a social media manager, they can create content around the blog post to encourage viewers to read it.

    Other content, such as videos to accompany the blog, can be created including interviews, instructional videos or whatever will relate to your blog content.

    The blog itself is something your followers can share on their own social media platforms, which will increase your visibility organically.

    Blogging will generate new leads

    How many times have you been searching for something, ended up on an informative blog that resulted in you signing up for their email list or free trial?

    If you liked the free trial, you most likely went back and purchased the product, right? This strategy totally works, and it’s referred to as lead generation.

    Lead generation is the process of generating consumer interest for a product or service with the goal of turning that interest into a sale.

    That free trial will most likely turn into a permanent subscription if enough interest was gained from your blog, just like that free trial you bought months ago.

    Once your blog is gaining a substantial amount of traffic, it’s a powerful marketing tool.

    Your posts should consistently have a call to action, which will generate all of those precious leads.

    The call to action should, of course, be related to your products and get them to sign up for a trial, or other freebies to get email addresses and other contact information.

    Like what you see?

    Let's talk about your content needs

    Yes, yes, your business needs a blog

    To sum up our question: Does my business need a blog? Yes, yes it does.

    The benefits of generating SEO blog content are endless. Even if your website isn’t flooded with traffic overnight, consistently producing high-ranking blog content is never going to hurt your business.

    You don’t have to be Shakespeare to write a compelling blog. Well-researched information in simple language will work.

    You might also like

    Your business is important

    Let's find the right words for your brand.
    textshop

    About Sharon Lapkin

    Sharon is a content writer and award-winning editor. After acquiring two masters degrees (one in education and one in editing and comms) she worked in the publishing industry for more than 12 years. A number of major publishing accomplishments came her way, including the eighth edition of Cookery the Australian Way (more than a million copies sold across its eight editions), before she moved into corporate publishing.

    Sharon worked in senior roles in medical colleges and educational organisations until 2017. Then she left her role as editorial services manager for the corporate arm of a university and founded Textshop Content – a content writing and copyediting agency that provides services to Australia’s leading universities and companies.

  • The difference between paraphrasing and summarising

    Woman holding a laptop with text discussing the difference between paraphrasing and summarising.

    The difference between paraphrasing and summarising

    By Sharon Lapkin

    We’ve all felt it.

    That YES moment when you find the right text to support what you’re trying to say.

    But how can you use another person’s written words while respecting their intellectual property rights?

    What are the rules that govern how to quote, paraphrase or summarise somebody else’s writing?

    To answer these questions, and know the difference between paraphrasing and summarising, we need to look briefly at quoting, copyright and ‘fair use’.

    What does copyright mean?

    Copyright grants legal protection of your work and prohibits other people copying and republishing it as their own.

    It protects the rights of authors, writers, photographers, painters, song writers and others who create intellectual property.

    You don’t need to apply for copyright. It’s automatically granted to you as the creator of literary work (yes, even business writing).

    The copyright symbol © is a good reminder to an audience that what they’re reading is under copyright. However, the symbol is not mandatory. The writing is under copyright even if the © is missing in action.

    It’s important to remember that you can’t copyright ideas, only the way those ideas are expressed.

    Can I copy content under the 'fair dealing' provision?

    In Australia, you can copy up to 10% of publications such as a chapter, an article, a song or a poem.

    In an online publication, you can copy up to 10% of the total word count of an online article, chapter or blog post.

    The Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) also allows the fair use provision for:

    –  research or study

    –  criticism or review

    –  parody and satire, and news reporting

    –  judicial proceedings or professional advice.

    A couple of points to remember:

    Fair use requires author attribution. You must provide author details and a link to the publication.

    If you need to reproduce more than 10%, you must seek permission from the copyright holder (usually the author.)

    Don’t be alarmed about seeking permission. It’s often as easy as writing an email. People are usually grateful that you asked!

    Keep a record of your correspondence with the copyright holder, including when they consented to your use of their content.

    Rule #1: Always accredit the writer

    The most important principle you must observe to protect your professional integrity and avoid legal liability is the rule of attribution.

    A person’s creative work is their intellectual property and you should NEVER use it without attributing them as the rightful owner of that content.

    The last thing you want is to be accused of plagiarism or copyright infringement – although fear is not the reason we respect the work of other writers.

    Keep reading because I’ll explain in this blog post how you can utilise someone else’s text and stay on the right side of the Copyright Act.

    Sparkly gold divider

    How to quote correctly

    A quote is a reproduction of a written or oral statement made by others.

    It’s essential that all quotes are exactly the same as the original. That’s right – 100% word-for-word.

    If there’s an error or a typo, leave it and insert [sic] after it, which is Latin for ‘thus’ or ‘so’. 

    The difference between paraphrasing and summarising is worth noting here. You’re more likely to use short or part quotes in paraphrasing than summarising.

    Quotations can be divided into two categories – short quotes and long quotes (also known as block quotes).

    Short quotes

    A short quote consists of fewer than 30 words.

    Short quotes are marked by single or double quotation marks.

    Double quote marks are used for dialogue (people speaking), and single quote marks are used for quoting from secondary sources (such as a newspaper or YouTube). Some writers and editors use single quote marks for emphasis.

    In Australia, full stops, commas, question marks and exclamation marks should be placed within the final quotation if they appear as part of the text.

    Example

    ‘Have you found my book?’ he asked.

    If the punctuation mark is part of the sentence outside the quoted text, it should be placed outside the closing quotation mark.

    Example

    Did your manager instruct you to ‘complete the job’?

    Quotes must always be accompanied by a source citation, also known as a source line.

    If you’re using a quote that’s not the writer’s work, but a quote from another publication, try to find the original work and quote from that publication (the original source). If you can’t find the original source present the quote in a similar way to the following:

    Example

    Joanna Fellows wrote about President Obama’s speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention, when he said ‘Do we participate in the politics of cynicism or do we participate in the politics of hope?’

    Keep these principles in mind as you use short quotes:

    –  The quote is short and is usually integrated within the sentence where it appears.

    –  Check your house style guide for citation policy.

    –  House styles can include citation references in the body of the text while others use EndNote or footnotes.

    – If the content with the quote is being published online, include a link to the original source.

    Sparkly gold divider

    Long (or block) quotes

    Longer quotes that include more than 30 words should appear as indented blocks of text without quote marks.

    Depending on house style, the font size of the block quote can be either the same size as the body text in the rest of the article, or one size smaller.

    Note, a long quote doesn’t have quote marks if it’s indented. But, if you’re indenting a quote, ensure you indent it on both sides.

    Keep these principles in mind as you use long quotes:

    Include some text to introduce the block quote in its proper context.

    –  The sentence immediately before the quote can end in a colon, comma or nothing at all.

    –  Indent the block quote on both sides.

    –  Use single spacing in the body of the block quote.

    –  Often the block quote will appear in font that is one size smaller than the body text of your article.

    –  Don’t use quotation marks.

    –  In academic writing, house styles can include citation references in the body of the text while others use end notes or footnotes.

    Sparkly gold divider

    How to paraphrase like an expert

    Think of a paraphrase as a translation or restatement of a piece of writing by another writer.

    When paraphrasing, you’re using your own words to convey the original meaning of another writer.

    This restatement is rendered to clarify or explain another writer’s work, to reproduce another writer’s ideas within your own writing, or to avoid copying another writer’s work (plagiarism).

    A synonym finder is an essential tool when paraphrasing. I use Word hippo and highly recommend it.

    By contrast, a summary is a precise compendium of the facts without fluff or fancy talk.

    A paraphrase and a summary will both be shorter than the source text and must credit the original author.

    Following is an excerpt from one of my blog posts. It’s been on page one of Google for the past two years, both as a featured snippet and in #1 position.

    Compare this to the summary (further down) where I use the same blog post to demonstrate the difference between paraphrasing and summarising.

    Original blog excerpt for paraphrasing

    In the early 1600s, when the Bibliotheca Angelica in Rome opened its doors, books were generally kept under lock and key, or in chained libraries – such as the 15th-century Bibliotheca Malatestianain Cesena and the Hereford Cathedral Library in England.

    It took thousands of hours of painstaking work to make a book – copying text by hand, adding decorative elements, illustrations, page numbers and indexes before binding the pages together and adding a cover. 

    This made books expensive and valuable items. Medieval books sometimes had ‘book curses’ placed at the front, warning people that if they stole or defaced the book they would be cursed.

    But, in a revolutionary step, the Angelica opened its door to all people with no class distinctions or government restrictions.

    All they needed to access this remarkable collection of volumes, rare maps and other material was a curious mind, a yearning to read and a thirst for knowledge.

    It was a momentous decision to grant ordinary people access to scholarly knowledge.

    Looking back we can see that Bibliotheca Angelica and other early public libraries, such as the Milan’s Bibliotheca Ambrosiana, helped bring about the democratisation of education when, rather surprisingly, ordinary people were free to embrace the archives of history and knowledge.

    Even for somebody accustomed to Rome’s ancient piazzas and cobblestone alleyways, it’s easy to get lost searching for the Bibliotheca Angelica.

    The library’s humble street presence belies its pre-eminence as Rome’s oldest public library – and one of the first public libraries in the world. 

    The entrance to the library provides no indication of its historical significance or the treasures within it. 

    Like the adjacent Basilica di Sant’Agostino, which is home to works by Caravaggio, Raphael and Sansovino, its riches are cloaked by a plain unassuming exterior.

    Completed paraphrase of blog excerpt

    The democratisation of knowledge in Europe over the 16th and 17th centuries occurred because the advent of printing press technology allowed books to be mass produced for broad public consumption.

    The establishment of public libraries was one manifestation of this process. Writing for her Textshop website, Sharon Lapkin describes the first of those public libraries, Rome’s Biblioteca Angelica, that opened its doors in 1609.

    She extols the ‘remarkable collection of volumes, rare maps and other material’ concealed behind the library’s unassuming façade in a Roman side street.

    For the first time in human history, the average Roman citizen was able to access independent sources of information rather than rely on the oral narratives spoken by others.

    Keep these principles in mind when paraphrasing:

    –  Make sure your rewritten words accurately express the ideas of the content you’re paraphrasing.

    –  While changing the sentence structure and wording, you should include any specific terms that are relevant to the meaning of the segment. For example, ‘consumer prices’ or ‘inflation’ are difficult to replace with similar words.

    –  Always include a source line and/or link so your readers can access the original writer’s work.

    –  If using three words or more in a row from the original work enclose them in quotation marks.

    Sparkly gold divider

    How to summarise like an expert

    The simplest way to reference the ideas of other writers is through a summary.

    A summary is a roundup of someone else’s written work. By definition, your summary will be shorter than the original work, although there are no hard-and-fast limits on length.

    Your summary will include the main points of the original work, while discarding its unessential details. 

    While you credit the original author of the work, make sure your summary is written in your own words.

    The difference between paraphrasing and summarising is that the former restates the writer’s ideas using synonyms and flair and the latter extracts the facts from the fluff. 

    Following is a summary of the same blog post excerpt that was used to demonstrate paraphrasing.

    This summary should help you see the difference between paraphrasing and summarising.

    Completed summary of blog excerpt

    In a blog post published on her Textshop website, Sharon Lapkin tells us the story of the Biblioteca Angelica, Europe’s first public library.

    Prior to the early 17th century, the expense of hand-copying and illustrating books made them precious commodities that were kept under lock and key.

    The opening of the Biblioteca Angelica to the public was part of the democratisation of knowledge that emerged during this period of history.

    For the first time, average people could access books that previously were restricted to the select few.

    The unassuming façade of the Biblioteca Angelica conceals a milestone in the evolution of human knowledge and education.

    Keep these principles in mind as you write a summary:

    –  Make sure you include the main point(s) while omitting unnecessary details.

    –  Use your own words while crediting the author of the work you are summarising.

    –  Always include a source line and/or link so your readers can access the original writer’s work.

    Sparkly gold divider

    To paraphrase or to summarise?​

    Understanding the difference between paraphrasing and summarising is an essential skill for any writer.

    Always read through the larger piece of writing before deciding whether to summarise or paraphrase.

    Both provide the opportunity to reproduce the ideas, writing and thoughts of experts without the risk of plagiarism.

  • Is SEO really needed?

    Circular sign with SEO written on it introducing blog post 'Is SEO really needed?'

    Is SEO really needed?

    So, you’re asking: Is SEO is really needed for your business?

    It’s a huge YES and here’s why.

    Search engine optimisation (SEO) is essential for the growth of your business and it begins and ends with your website.

    SEO gets you out in front of your customers and clients, and ahead of your competitors.

    If you’re clever about it and optimise your content well, your brand has a good chance of appearing in Google’s top pages when your potential clients search for goods or services.

    As you’ll read below, you can even score prime Google real estate – a featured snippet at the top of page one – if you put in the work. I’ll show you how I did it more than once.

    Large corporations know the answer to the question: Is SEO really needed, and they spend a lot of money manoeuvring their brands into Google’s best real estate.

    But here’s the thing. You don’t need a lot of money or extra staff to get to the top of the search pages.

    Is SEO really needed for your business? Absolutely yes.

    With a clever strategy and staying power you can achieve great results with SEO.

    Do it well and you can drive traffic to your website and grow your brand.

    Has SEO changed in the last couple of years?

    We still need SEO, but the procedures and methods have changed.

    Keywords were once the major component of the SEO story, now they’re just one of the ways we can optimise content.

    Over the years, Google has fine-tuned the tools it uses to evaluate content.

    Today those tools are sophisticated and focused, and Google’s capacity to assess the quality of content is more accurate than ever.

    Good SEO now requires you to focus on reading ease, image alt attributes, inbound and outbound links, text length, voice, sentence length, paragraph length, subheading distribution and more.

    Don’t worry, it’s not as complicated as it sounds.

    But remember that the quality and consistency of your content is important if you want to succeed.

    The relationship between clients and keywords

    If you publish good-quality, optimised content, your chances of ranking in the search engine results pages (SERPs) increases, and so do the chances you’ll be found by prospective clients or readers.

    The relationship between keywords and clients is intrinsic to your SEO.

    How?

    Well, to generate on-target keywords, you have to work out the words that potential clients are going to type into Google.

    People climbing a ladder to demonstrate the blog post 'Is SEO really needed?'

    These words are the basis for the long-tail keyword you’ll use to optimise your text, images, headings, alt text and meta.

    This is called ‘search intent’, and knowing the words they’ll use to define their needs is essential to SEO success.

    Watch SEO in 5 minutes: What it is and how it works

    Simplilearn (2020). SEO in 5 minutes: What is SEO and how does it work.

    Fully optimise your content

    Ideally, you want to be on page one of the SERPs, but that’s a big ambition right?

    It sure is, but with determination and hard work you can get there. 

    Is SEO really needed? Take a look at these organic search statistics that clearly answer the question.

    Just over half (53%) of website traffic comes from organic research.

    Almost one third of consumers in the US search for local businesses daily.

    Almost 99% of people click on one of the 10 links in the first page of the SERPs.

    Over 25% of people click the first Google search result.

    Now, let’s look at how to optimise your content step by step.

    Old blue tile divider

    Featured snippets and why they're SEO gold

    You’ve probably seen featured snippets in Google when you search for something. They’re at the top of page one, are often large and sometimes colourful.

    Seriously, you can’t buy this type of prime Google real estate.

    Below are two featured snippets from my blog showcased by Google at the very top of page one.

    Next time somebody asks: Is SEO really needed, you know the answer, right.

    Featured snippet to demonstrate 'Is SEO really needed?'

    The blog post used by Google for a featured snippet on Bibliotheca Angelica (left) was ranking at position two on page one for my keyword.

    Two years later, it’s ranking number three!

    The other featured snippet ‘9 common errors every writer should know about’ is drawn from a blog post that was ranking in position one on page one for my longtail keyword.

    Google places featured snippets at the top of page one, so readers can find the information they’re looking for without searching further.

    Featured snippet to demonstrate 'Is SEO really needed?'

    Ranking for a featured snippet is more valuable than ranking for number one.

    It’s a golden opportunity for your blog post to get worldwide attention.

    It actually pushes all the organic results further down the page.

    A featured snippet provides your business with greater visibility and a massive boost to your credibility.

    Often, but not always, you’re occupying Google real estate with world-famous companies and organisations.

    To land a featured snippet you need to focus on question-type search queries that are based on your longtail keyword.

    How to optimise for Google's featured snippets

    Featured snippets are selected by Google to answer searchers’ queries in simple straightforward ways.

    Here are five ways to to create featured snippets that work:

    1

    Aim to provide in-depth meaningful answers.

    2

    Write concisely and clearly. There’s no room for fluff words.

    3

    Research the questions readers have about the topic.

    4

    Provide the best answer – use tools like this great synonym finder to access perfect words.

    5

    Write at least 40 words and no more than 50.

    One long-tail keyword is all you need

    Long-tail keywords are groups of words or a question. They’re more specific than short-tail keywords, which are usually single words.

    Short-tail keywords such as ‘laptop’ have a high search volume; whereas, long-tail keywords such as ’13-inch Apple laptop’ have a lower search volume because they’re more focused.

    Long-tail keywords with less volume have less competition and are easier to rank for. They’re also more likely to convert to sales.

    Think about it. Who’s closer to purchasing a laptop – the person who searched for ‘laptop’ or the one who searched for ’13-inch Apple laptop’?

    Once you’ve researched and selected your long-tail keyword, insert it into the places discussed below.

    Keywords in headings and subheadings

    Include your long-tail keyword in the title of your story or article.

    Don’t place the keyword in every subheading, but ensure it goes into a few of them.

    Take care not to place the keyword where it doesn’t work. Make sure it fits into the text around it.

    SEO is important, but not at the expense of clarity or well-executed grammar. If your optimisation causes errors or clunky writing, then you’ll lose in the long run. 

    How do you rank on Google when 90% of content gets no traffic?

    Textshop

    Use active not passive voice

    Use active voice whenever possible in your writing.

    In a sentence written in active voice, the subject of the sentence is performing the action.

    In passive voice, it’s the other way around. The subject receives the action.

    A good tip is to always place the subject of the sentence as close as possible to the beginning of the sentence.

    Once you get into the habit of writing in active voice, it will be second nature.

    Elderly man in a straw hat on a laptop asking is SEO really needed.

    Example:

    Active – The man smiled as he typed the final lines of his novel.

    Passive: Typing the final lines of his novel put a smile on the man’s face.

    An active voice makes it clear who’s taking the action in a sentence. When the subject comes before the verb,  it places emphasis on the subject. This improves clarity and reduces repetition.

    Compress all your images for Google

    Publishing high-resolution (300 dpi) images on your website will dramatically slow down your page speed.

    If you use low resolution (96 dpi) images, your page speed will be faster, and your readers will stick around.

    To achieve the smallest files possible always compress your images.

    This ensures your page speed is as fast as possible.

    If you use Canva for images, there’s a ‘compress file’ function on the download tab.

    You can also open a free account with Shortpixel to compress your images.

    How to write alt text and your meta description

    Alt text is short for ‘alternative text’ and we write this as an image tag for screen readers.

    Alt text is used by people who are visually impaired. So write a clear description for these readers, but add your keyword so the alt text is optimised for SEO.

    Lastly, consider context when you add your keyword into the alt text. Adding random keywords may cause your site to be seen as spam.

    Focus on simple well-constructed sentences

    Women holding laptop asking is SEO really needed?

    The free Yoast SEO plugin has a good readability check that ensures content is easy to read.

    Yoast uses the Flesch reading ease formula to analyse two characteristics of good writing:

    First, it analyses how the number of words relate to the number of sentences. 

    Second, it analyses how the number of syllables relate to the number of words.

    These checks examine sentence length and word difficulty.

    Ease of reading is also achieved by keeping sentences concise and limiting difficult words. 

    Keeping it simple and easy to read increases the likelihood that readers will understand the content.

    Is SEO really needed?

    To learn more about writing SEO blog posts read How to write a smashing blog post.

    If you’re still wondering whether you should set up a blog for your business take a look at Does my business need a blog?

    And if you want to understand the connection between SEO and content marketing, check out Is content marketing worth it?

    Your business is important

    Let's find the right words for your brand.
    textshop

    About Sharon Lapkin

    Sharon is a content writer and award-winning editor. After acquiring two masters degrees (one in education and one in editing and comms) she worked in the publishing industry for more than 12 years. A number of major publishing accomplishments came her way, including the eighth edition of Cookery the Australian Way (more than a million copies sold across its eight editions), before she moved into corporate publishing.

    Sharon worked in senior roles in medical colleges and educational organisations until 2017. Then she left her role as editorial services manager for the corporate arm of a university and founded Textshop Content – a content writing and copyediting agency that provides services to Australia’s leading universities and companies.

    You might also enjoy

  • How to make your writing more powerful

    Superman opening his cape to show how to make your writing more powerful.

    How to make your writing more powerful

    By Sharon Lapkin

    Weak words and phrases decrease the authority of your writing and drive your readers away. 

    But you can make your writing more powerful by following a few simple tips.

    There are three main types of words and phrases that can damage your writing. 

    They are filler words, redundant words and adverbs ending in ‘ly’.

    We’ll look at all three below.

    What are filler words in writing?

    Filler words are words that add no value.

    They’re words you need to eradicate from your writing before your readers give up on you.

    Do you receive emails that commence with ‘I just wanted to write …’?

    When you use just in a sentence, you undermine your credibility and minimise your authority.

    This is because just is an apology word.

    ‘I’m just checking in,’ and ‘I just called …’ and I’ll just let him know.’

    Now look at how much stronger your writing could be without it.

    I’m checking in, I called and I’ll let him know.

    More wavering weasel words

    Other meaningless words are so and such.

    ‘It’s so healthy and such a great healthy snack.’

    Remove them and you have a strong sentence that communicates authority.

    ‘It’s healthy and a great snack.’

    Very and really also dilute and weaken your writing.

    They’re timid words that reduce the strength of sentences.

    ‘The book was really good’ – or the stronger version: ‘The book was good.’

    Really, very and quite are sometimes called intensifiers, but they weaken writing rather than enhance it.

    Jars of pencils and an eraser on a notepad demonstrating the importance of making your writing more powerful.

    Mark Twain disliked the word very, and offered the following advice:

    “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write very;

    your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

    Instead of think, feel and believe, use research to make your writing more powerful

    A writer doesn’t  need to tell their readers what they think, feel or believe about the topics they’re writing on. 

    Using these words makes it appear writers are trying too hard to impress their readers.

    For example – I believe content marketing is the most successful marketing strategy at the moment.

    A better version – According to a HubSpot survey, almost 80% of companies have a content marketing strategy. 

    Using proven examples, statistics and research makes writing stronger.

    To win readers’ trust and to build credibility always use research to support the ideas you’re writing about.

    Instead of ‘I think the federal budget will show a huge deficit,’ insert authority into your writing.

    ‘Economist Ken Henry said the federal budget will show a big deficit.’

    Jerry Weissman, in the Harvard Business Review, demonstrates some clever ways to Replace meaningless words with meaningful ones.

    Teal-coloured fabric strip divider.

    Keep your focus sharp by eliminating redundant words

    Redundancy is when two or more words are used together that mean the same thing.

    Using redundant words is a sure way to weaken your writing.

    For example: Let’s briefly summarise the story.

    Did you pick the redundant word?

    ‘Let’s summarise the story’ avoids repetition, and makes your writing more powerful.

    Examples of redundant words

    end result

    close proximity

    circle around

    difficult dilemma

    complete circle

    very unique

    new beginning

    free gift

    absolutely certain

    final outcome

    first began

    A result occurs at the end, so ‘end’ is unnecessary. 

    ‘Proximity’ is already close to something.

    Circle and around mean the same thing.

    Dilemma means ‘difficult’ so ‘a dilemma’ works fine.

    A circle is always complete.

    ‘Unique’ is an absolute’ so it can’t be modified by ‘very’.

    A beginning is always ‘new’.

    If it’s not free, then it’s not a gift.

    ‘Absolutely’ doesn’t add anything to certainty.

    An outcome should be final.

    If you begin it, then it’s the first time.

    Drawing of woman standing with sign that reads 'Why use two words when one will do?' How to make your writing more powerful.

    What's a redundant sentence?

    It should be easier now to identify words or phrases that say the same thing twice.

    For example – ‘Many homeless men, who had nowhere to live, were at the soup kitchen.’

    But don’t fall into the trap of repeating a concept or idea expressed in one sentence in another sentence.

    Powerful writing is concise in both words and ideas.

    The following two sentences say the same thing using different words.

    The survey was composed of questions with multiple-choice options.

    Survey recipients selected one of a series of answer options.

    If a single sentence lacks essential detail go back and insert more information, rather than adding a second sentence that duplicates part of the first sentence.

    The survey recipients selected one of the multiple-choice options.

    Powerful writing is learned through reading the work of strong writers and practising it yourself.

    In his book, The Elements of Style, Cornell University English Professor William Strunk Jr. wrote:

    “Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.”

    A good writer, he added, should “make every word tell”.

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    Avoid adverbs ending in 'ly'

    Author Stephen King said “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the hilltops.”

    Adverbs are words that modify verbs, adjectives or other adverbs. 

    Often adverbs end in ‘ly’.

    For example – happily, thoughtfully, slowly, easily and patiently are adverbs.

    These adverbs are usually formed by adding ‘ly’ to the end of an adjective.

    So, we’ve just formed adverbs from the adjectives – happy, thoughtful, slow, easy and patient.

    But technically, not all ‘ly’ words are adverbs.

    For example, in the sentence: ‘The lonely boy was sitting by himself,’ lonely is an adjective that modifies the noun ‘boy’, so it is not an adverb.

    Now that we know what an adverb ending in ‘ly’ is, let’s look at how we know these words weaken writing.

    Photograph of Ernest Hemingway sitting at a table writing while at his campsite in Kenya. How to make your writing more powerful.

    Hemingway used few adverbs

    Nobel Prize-winning author Ernest Hemingway’s novels and short stories serve as a good model for business writing.

    After high school, Hemingway went on to train as a journalist and he applied those skills to his fiction writing.

     

    In research for his book Nabokov’s Favorite Word is Mauve: What the Numbers Reveal about the Classics, author Ben Blatt used statistical tools to analyse text from 1500 books.

    Blatt found that books considered ‘great’ had fewer than 50 adverbs in every 10,000 words.

    Hemingway used only 80 ‘ly’ adverbs per 10,000 words. His writing includes both short and long sentences – but they are always simple, unadorned, direct and clear.

    “A writer’s style should be direct and personal, his imagery rich and earthy, and his words simple and vigorous.”

    – Ernest Hemingway

    Abolishing adverbs from your writing is easy when you know how.

    ‘She smiled happily, for example, is redundant because a smile is an expression of happiness.

    Jane was unhappy, she said angrily.

    Removing the adverb angrily makes your writing stronger.

    Strike out other adverbs from your writing such as definitely, truly, really and extremely and see how much stronger your writing is.

    Occasionally, you’ll use an adverb in your writing that works tremendously (yes, that was an adverb).

    By all accounts keep it if it’s the perfect word.

    But remember to use adverbs wisely and review your writing to check whether they can be removed. 

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    More tips to make your writing more powerful

     You might also be interested in reading How to be a good content writer, which shows how authentic storytelling is the best way to successfully promote your goods or services.

    For more writing tips read 9 common errors every writer should know about.

    If you’d like to chat to me about writing or editing please send me an email via the button below.

  • How to write a smashing blog post

    Woman working in florist shop on her laptop writing an awesome blog post.

    How to write a smashing blog post

    By Sharon Lapkin

    Wouldn’t you love a community of readers.

    Thousands of people who bookmark your blog and come back regularly to read your posts.

    Who click straight through to your website from every email you send because they can’t wait to read your latest blog post.

    They swoon over your products and services and, yes, they buy them too.

    To help you reach that goal, here are five well-researched ways to write a smashing blog post and build your online community.

    1. Write like a person not a business

    The most important thing you can do to build a community of readers is to be a person first and a business second. 

    Write from your heart. Be joyful and enthusiastic. Open up about your life to the extent that you’re comfortable. 

    You may never meet the majority of people who follow your business online, but you can still have an authentic and meaningful relationship with them. 

    If you base your business on transactions, that’s all you’ll give and all you’ll get.

    Write as if you’re having a conversation with your readers, and don’t make it all about you. Listen to what they say and make their needs your focus.

    Relax your tone of voice, loosen up and write as if you’re sitting on the sofa chatting.

    Study the column on the right below and you’ll be writing a smashing blog post in no time.

    Formal

    Formal writing is serious, business-like and it doesn’t address the reader directly.

    Generally written in a passive voice, formal writing is at arm’s length, using pronouns like he/she and they.

    Long form writing is common in formal writing. It avoids contractions and uses ‘I will’, ‘we will’, ‘do not’ and so on.

    Don’t get me wrong. There’s a place in the world for formal writing. But it’s not your blog, or mine.

    Informal

    Informal writing is more relaxed, conversational and addresses the reader directly.

    More laid-back and even tugging at your readers’ emotions, it speaks directly to people with pronouns like you and we.

    We use lots of contractions in informal writing. They’re carefree and breezy words that spell RELAX loud and clear.

    Bypass slang and don’t be too cheeky in your writing. Always be respectful, transparent and genuine.

    2. Address your readers' needs, not your own

    Who is your reader and what do they need from your writing?

    Do you know your typical reader, or are you assuming they’re just like you?

    It’s comfortable writing about what you know, and to assume your readers have the same questions, needs and goals as you.

    But this is where you can make mistakes. It’s like tailoring a suit without taking measurements, or like buying a house without inspecting it. 

    If you want your readers to become your clients, then you’ve got to know what they need from your blog posts.

    Are you digging deep enough and pushing sideways as well? Do you provide unique perspectives on the content your readers care about? Have you done enough market research to write a smashing blog post?

    During March 2019, over 4.4 million blogs were published every day. Two important ways to make your blog stand out are by your unique contribution to the subject matter and how well you’ve optimised that subject matter expertise for Google. 

    Another way to write a smashing blog post is to identify your readers’ needs through ‘the buyer’s journey’, which is the process buyers go through to reach a final decision to purchase a service or product.

    Woman thinking about the buyer's journey and how to write a smashing blog post.

    The buyer's journey

    The buyer’s journey is composed of three steps.

    One – the ‘Awareness stage’, where the buyer realises they have a problem.

    Two – the ‘Consideration stage’ where the buyer understands there’s a problem and researches ways to resolve it.

    Three – the ‘Decision stage’ where the buyer selects a solution.

    To understand your buyers and identify what part of the buyers’ journey they’re on, you need to communicate with them.

    When writing your blog post, make sure you align your content with the current stage of your reader’s buyer’s journey.

    Some marketing experts suggest addressing all stages of the buyer’s journey in every blog post you write.

    Download this free buyer’s journey template from Hubspot and learn to map the buyers’ journey of your readers.

    3. SEO – the keys to the Google kingdom

    If you’re not optimising your blog posts for search engines you should re-examine your online strategy.

    Search engine optimisation (SEO) has undergone a significant evolution, and we now need only one long-tail keyword (‘keyword phrase’) in our content to properly optimise it. 

    Avoid the keyword phrases at the top of the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS). There’s no way most of us will be able to compete against the big companies for these spots.

    Instead, be clever and use a keyword phrase that is niche, narrow and even a little quirky. Research has shown that narrowly focused keyword phrases result in higher rates of conversion.

    The truth is, people who narrow their online searches are near the end of their buyer’s journey and are looking for specific products and services.

    Don’t forget that SEO includes optimising your title, headings and alt text (image tag) with your keyword phrase or synonyms. Google rates these too.

    There’s a strong correlation between writing to address our readers’ needs and another important skill, which is identifying ‘searcher intent’.

    Julia McCoy at Content Hacker addresses both keyword research and searcher intent in this great blog post.

    Learning how to research winning keyword phrases is worth the time and effort it takes. Seriously, jump in and embrace the challenges, and aim to get near the top of those SERPS. 

    4. Ditch the cliches and be original

    Don’t do it!

    Whenever you reach for a cliche, stop and find your own words. 

    Cliches indicate a lack of imagination and a disregard for independent thinking. They’re plain lazy and your readers know it.

    Something else happens when you serve up a cliche. Your readers skip over it because they’ve likely read those words thousands of  times. They’re desensitised to them. Internally, a voice is telling them that you’re a boring writer.

    Enough said?

    Here’s a list of cliches to avoid in your writing. Use them and you’ll lose readers. Guaranteed.

    Read between the lines

    Better late than never

    Kiss and make up

    Only time will tell

    Lasted an eternity

    A bee in your bonnet

    Cat got your tongue?

    A blast from the past

    All that glitters is not gold

    A bed of roses

    5. Choose clarity over cleverness

    Do your blog posts align with the reading level of your website visitors, or are you writing above their heads?

    Sounds bewildering doesn’t it, but achieving harmony between your writing level and your reader’s reading level really is a deal-breaker.

    In 2015, a Deakin University study found that Australian health websites were too difficult for the average person to read.

    This was doubly concerning because it meant that websites weren’t delivering important health information that people needed. Information on dementia was the most difficult to read, while the topic ‘obesity’ proved the trickiest to read on government websites.

    An average person comfortably reads information online at grade 8 level, which is 13–14 years of age.

    But before you decide that writing at grade 8 level is not your thing, let me introduce you to the Flesch reading ease test.

    Man staring at screen trying to work out how to write a smashing blog post.

    The Flesch reading ease test will help you write a smashing blog post

    This tool evaluates your sentences on factors such as sentence length and the average number of syllables per word.

    Writing at grade 8 level isn’t about dumbing down your writing, but about composing sentences that have outstanding clarity.

    Your subject matter expertise stays intact.

    Yoast has an excellent free plugin that uses the Flesch reading ease test to measure the level of your blog writing.

    It provides you with a score and feedback that enables you to adjust your writing so that you meet the criteria for grade 8 level.

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    Want to write a smashing blog post?

    Remember this. You can’t write a smashing blog post without optimising your content correctly.  

    But SEO isn’t enough. You also need to write an authoritative well-written post that people want to read. 

    We don’t just write blog posts for our clients at Textshop Content Writing Services. It’s how we built our own business!

    Our own blog posts rank highly on Google and we’ve achieved featured snippets for several of our popular posts.

    If you’d like us to write blog posts for you, press the shiny red button to send us an email. We’d love to hear from you!