You’ve heard a lot of talk about content being “king” – but how do you make sure your content stands out from the rest?

You probably already know the standard tips for great online writing:

  • Use active verbs
  • Keep sentences short
  • Eliminate every weak word
  • Avoid adjectives and adverbs
  • Use “power” words in sales copy
  • Break up the text with bullet points and sub-heads

These are all highly relevant, but you need one more thing…

Rock-Solid Research

As someone with a magazine and newspaper background that spans 30 years, I’m constantly amazed at the amount of unoriginal material recycled into product after digital product.  I suspect it has nothing to do with using PLR and everything to do with hastily lifting data from online articles and calling that “research”.

It’s not.

If you truly want your articles to be original, make use of the 3 cardinal rules of writer’s research taught in journalism courses at every university:

  1. Keep a note of all sources – Even if your client isn’t interested in citations, you need to be able to back up your facts. Besides, you may wish to contact that particular expert or consult that particular government department for a future project.
  2. Be meticulous in your quotes and attributions.   Don’t change one word of a subject’s quote, be sure to cross-check spelling on names, and verify titles and dates. (Triple-check your spelling, while you’re at it…)
  3. Triple check your facts.  Where you are giving factual data, make sure it’s accurate.  Then make sure again.  And again.  (Assumption is the enemy of authoritative writing.)

To that I’d add my own # 4:  Learn to question every fact you dig up online.  Is this the originator’s post?  Is this the source?  Can this fact be cross-checked?  Disproven?  Is there any hidden twist to it no one else has uncovered yet?

I can’t stress this enough:  If you come across a fact on the net, don’t just lift it from the site – go back to the source.  Find the originator and get your facts from the horse’s mouth.

“But Online Copywriting is Different

You’ll always find those in online copywriting who scoff at being thorough:  They’ll tell you that online copywriting is “different”, and that grabbing a quick fact and pumping it out is okay – even necessary – in order to satisfy clients.

I won’t kid you:  Some of this fraternity make a lot of money.  Some are “successful”:  But if you care about your reputation as a copywriter, you won’t go for the easy buck.

It may surprise you to know that lack of quality is not exclusive to the world of online copywriting.  In offline journalism, those who are sloppy researchers are usually called “hacks”.

Making a Living vs. Ethics

There has always been a war between deadlines forcing people to “pump it out” and make a living, and the ethical duty of responsible, truthful writing.

After 30 years in publishing, both behind the scenes and on the scene, all I can tell you is this…

If your research is not original — if you don’t schedule time into your projects to go the extra mile — you won’t stand out.  Your copy will be exactly the same as 90% of all other copy on the net and you’ll drown amid the sea of competition.

And sloppy research always comes back to bite you in the patoosh, in the end.

Next post, we’ll cover 7 meaty offline sources of research material.

And if there’s anything else on copywriting you’d like discussed, just leave me a comment and I’ll be happy to schedule a post.

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Filed under: Sales Copywriting