5 types of copy that are costing you money

Lots of companies fill valuable space on their websites, brochures, emails, press releases and sales letters with rubbish.

Marketing has one purpose – to convince people to do what you want. But so much copywriting ignores this key principle.

Instead, it focuses on boastful nonsense that’s more likely to bore prospects than persuade them to buy from you.

Some of the mistakes on this list are so common you may not realise they’re hurting your business. Here are just a few types of copy your customers couldn’t care less about…

1. Mission statements

There was a time when every business website seemed to have a mission statement.

Lots of companies still have them. And they always seem to start with something along the lines of “we aim to become the number-one provider of widgets in the world”.

But your customers don’t care about your mission statement, brand purpose, manifesto (or whatever you want to call it).



The problem with mission statements

There’s nothing wrong with aspiring to be better, so by all means have a mission statement. There’s just no reason to tell your customers about it.

The main issue is your mission is about you – not the reader. Have you ever spent time with someone who only talks about themselves?

We all know someone like this.

These people usually have an inflated sense of their own importance and show little or no interest in what you have to say.

Mission statements often make companies seem like that annoying person you avoid because they bore you to tears.

People don’t choose to buy from you because of your “commitment to innovation” “or your dedication to customer satisfaction”.

Lines like this impress no-one – partly because they’re so common and partly because they’re dripping with self-importance.

As ad man Dave Trott says, if you really want to stand out, then be different. So in the case of mission statements, you can stand out by ignoring any urge to jump on the bandwagon.

Your customers buy from you because you provide a product or service that makes their lives easier. And it’s the job of your copy to tell them what you’re offering them and why they should choose you over your competitors.

Most mission statements also fail to set out a strategy that tells a company’s employees the way forward. All they amount to is pompous rambling with no real purpose other than to stroke the egos of those in charge.

2. Your feelings

Lots of businesses issue press releases and other marketing materials that start with the phrase “we are delighted to announce…”

But I’ve got news for you.

No-one cares about how you feel about the launch of your new product or website. They just want you to answer one simple question: what’s in it for me?

3. Solutions


So many companies use the word “solution”, either in their business name, their taglines, or in their descriptions of their service.

You see solutions everywhere. From plumbing solutions, to imaging solutions and outsourced client solutions (what does that even mean?).

But guess what.

No-one cares about your solution.

Some people seem to think that tacking solution on the end of their business name makes them sound more professional. But even if this were true, it’s now lost all its meaning because it’s so over-used.

Besides, any half-decent copywriter will tell you the same thing – the word “solution” is confusing to your reader.

When someone searches for someone to unblock their toilet, of course they want a solution to that problem. But I’m willing to bet good money that nobody thinks to themselves “oh, I must call a plumbing solution”.


Because all they want is a plumber! This all goes back to the idea that you should use copy to talk to your customers like you would face to face.

I’ll leave the last word on solutions to fellow copywriter Sarah Turner, who quotes a now-deleted statement from Wikipedia in an old blog post:


The word solution should be confined to its use in chemistry, mathematics and problem solving. It should not be used to refer to products, services, software or a combination of these things, since such usage implies that the product or service solves the problem it is intended to solve: the word “solution” should instead be replaced by a concrete descriptive term for the type of product, such as “software”. Solution often is used simply as a buzzword that can be eliminated altogether with no loss of meaning. 

4. Brand experiences

Legendary direct-response copywriter Drayton Bird has the following to say about much of the marketing world’s obsession with branding:


Please don’t spend your time naval gazing about branding. Nobody gives a monkey’s f— about your brand. Nobody wants to have a relationship with a brand. Nobody wants to f— a brand. Nobody wants to go to bed with a brand, or kiss a brand. All they care about is their sweet little selves.

Watch Drayton Bird’s talk at Copy Cabana 2016 (below) for more insight on marketing:

These caustic words certainly go against the grain these days. Especially at a time when companies spend millions espousing their “brand values” and agencies promise “brand experiences” that “drive relevance in a changing world”.

Yet consumers think about a brand in terms of how it makes their lives easier.

It’s daft to expect them to take the love they feel for family or friends and apply them to a brand. Let’s face it – it’s hard enough to maintain real human relationships. Still, companies cram marketing briefs with words like “loyalty” and “passion”.

The world may be changing, but one fact will remain the same until the end of time.

Your customers only care about what you can do for them. 

For this reason, your copy should put your product and its benefits at the centre of any campaign.

After all, if the product doesn’t fulfil your customers’ needs, your swanky branding won’t hide its faults for long.

5. Product features

Yep, I know this might seem like I’m contradicting myself here. But your customers don’t really care your product or service – they care about what it does.

The need to write about benefits over features is a well-worn topic among copywriters. However, it’s worth repeating as so much copy still ignores this principle.

Describe the quarter-inch hole – not the drill

As Harvard Business School marketing professor Theodore Levitt once said, “people don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!” As a result, a copywriter’s job is to understand what your customer really wants.

So if you’re selling paint, showing the wall with a gleaming new finish grabs attention better than just listing the features of the product.

If you’re selling a Ferrari, you can write copy to paint a picture of them living a VIP lifestyle. Or better still, describe the feeling of adrenaline pumping through their veins as they push the pedal to the floor.  

Sell more by making your reader see and feel all the great things they get when they buy your product.


The key to successful marketing is focusing on your reader. Your customers couldn’t give a rat’s arse about you or your business.

With this in mind, don’t waste their time by rambling on about brand experiences, mission statements, your feelings, or the features of your product or service. People don’t want to read your ad – to them, it’s junk mail.

Your reader’s favourite subject is him/herself. So to engage them, you need to make your copy about them and not you.

Brexit and copywriting: 7 reasons why feelings Trump facts (updated 2018)

When we talk about buying or voting choices, many of us stick to the notion that decisions are rational.

But this is wrong!

Political campaigners still canvass doorsteps and try to win over their voters with logic. Many copywriters do the same thing when trying to persuade consumers to buy.

Yet events in 2016 and into the present show us that logic doesn’t get the heart beating or the blood boiling. But copywriting is most potent when it does just that.

And this ability to rouse the emotions is probably why the Donald Trump and Leave EU campaigns won…

1. Facts don’t (always) matter

According to Politifact, 69% of Trump’s statements are either “mostly false”, “false”. or untrue (“pants on fire”)

Likewise, many of the Leave EU campaigns’ claims also proved untrue. Chief among these is the statement that leaving the EU would allow the government to inject £350 million into the NHS.

During the run-up to the referendum, Michael Gove said “we’ve had enough of experts”, which does sounds stupid. But while his rivals mocked him, it seems Gove captured what many people were feeling.

Let’s face it – politicians and the media swamp us with pie charts and digits come election time and it’s often hard to make head or tail of so much info.

This is especially true when it’s spun and spat at us in different ways from all corners.

So to make sense of it all, we look for ideas we can see, feel and grab hold of…  

2. Sizzling copy speaks of dreams, not five-point plans

When Martin Luther King made his most famous speech, he didn’t describe in great detail how he, or America as a whole, was going to achieve his aims.

In other words, he didn’t say “I have a plan”.

Instead, King drew a vision of a perfect future in the minds of his listeners. And this is exactly what Trump and those in the Leave campaigns achieved…

During the election, many criticised Trump for making promises without a plan. In the UK, Remainers lambasted Leavers for the same reasons.

But just like MLK, Trump focused on clear goals and outcomes.

Prime examples are the slogan “Make America Great Again” and the oft-repeated phrase “we’re going to build a wall”.

Meanwhile, the Vote Leave campaign used the slogan “Let’s Take Back Control”.

That’s ingenius copywriting. 

This approach was bound to pull on the heart strings and offer a sense of power to those who feel ignored by ‘The Man’. And it did just that for millions of voters on both sides of the Atlantic.

So it doesn’t matter whether you agree with the underlying message or not. These techniques work.

Effective communication relies on knowing what makes your reader tick and in finding ways to tap into those feelings. This is the essence of great copywriting.

Yet by contrast, both Hilary Clinton and the Remain camp stuck mostly to rational ideas. Remain focused on trade. Clinton hinged her campaign on her experience and Trump’s lack of it.

In fact, the two losing campaign slogans were very similar; Clinton led with“Stronger Together” and Remain went for “Britain Stronger in Europe”.  

The word ‘stronger’ does have power. Yet the issue is that there’s nothing in either slogan to paint a clear image in the reader’s mind. And for people who don’t like the status quo, there’s nothing to aspire to in more of the same. 

In his book Win Bigly: Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter, Scott Adams calls Trump a “Master Persuader”. And the president certainly did a lot of things right. Love him or loathe him, Trump’s election win was no accident; his ability to persuade arguably made him the most powerful man on Earth.

Here’s an example of Trump’s persuasive nous in action…

Oscar Wilde quote

The image of the “big, beautiful wall” was a masterstroke in persuasion. Critics decried both the ethics and the practicalities of building a wall and called Trump a clown for suggesting such a thing.

But this was good for the Republicans because it moved the media’s focus away from Clinton and on to Trump, who thrives on his knack for clickbait headlines and strong imagery. This is because, as Adams says, “people automatically gravitate towards the place they are imagining most vividly”. 

And as Stephen Fry states in the video below, the best way for the media to stop Trump would’ve been to ignore him, but his many inflammatory statements and use of social media made this impossible. 

Immigration is a key talking point for many Americans. And all of Trump’s attention-grabbing statements about building a wall led many to see him as the strongest voice on the issue. This was exactly what he wanted.

3. Simple concepts stick in the mind

An article on the Drum website talks about how “simplicity won the day for Trump”. And the same may be true of the campaigns to leave the EU.

In Trump’s case, he may not have the same grip on domestic or foreign affairs as his rivals.

But by refusing to describe the wall he planned to build, Trump showed he was far from a clown.

If he’d talked in great detail about the nuances of border control, this would’ve been harder for listeners to grasp and remember.

The lack of detail was a masterstroke because it forced people to picture a wall of their own making. This made the words he was using even more powerful and the issue (immigration) more important in people’s minds.

This works in both writing and speaking. As Stephen King says in his book On Writing, “description begins in the writer’s imagination, but should finish in the reader’s“. So by allowing the observer to fill in the gaps of his descriptions for themselves, Trump is also encouraging them to form a bond with him.

Albert Einstein

As we saw over the course of 2017, Brexit is a hugely complex issue that’s awash with many social, political and economic implications. Yet Gove’s statement about experts typified the Leave campaign’s simple approach.

The lesson here is that simple wins and confusion rarely cuts through the din. This has always been the case, but it’s ever truer in a world of clickbait headlines and soundbites.   

So, if you want to persuade people to do what you want, you can start with simple copy that stirs both emotions and people into action.

4. A bright future tops more doom and gloom

The Leave and Trump campaigns promised to restore something lost. This romantic vision of a long-lost past was retrogressive. But it was also easy – and for some, pleasant – to imagine. Meanwhile, the references to old times can stir our penchant for ‘seeing the past through rose-tinted spectacles’.

This contrasted sharply with the Remain campaign’s focus on fear of the unknown. There was nothing appealing in the stark picture of doom and gloom they said lay just around the corner if we dared to vote Leave.

You might say that was the point.

After all, fear is one Paul Ekman’s Six Basic Emotions and is a powerful driver. Both the Remain and Leave campaigns used fear to get their messages across. But as it turned out, fear of the status quo was probably scarier than fear of the unknown for millions of voters. 

As fellow freelance copywriter Tom Albrighton points out in this ace blog post, the Remain campaign may have had more impact by creating a vision of our glistening future as part of the EU.

Instead, it focused almost solely on the UK and on trying to discredit the other side of the debate.  

5. We love heroes and villains


Like all good copywriters, Trump and the Leavers know the power of storytelling. As another copywriter Andy Maslen points out in Persuasive Copywriting, there are four key ingredients to a good story:

  1. Hero
  2. Threat or problem
  3. Narrative
  4. Solution

Trump used this formula to a tee. He cast the threat as foreigners who, in his mind, are trying to change our way of life.

In his narrative, hardworking people have lost their jobs, homes and health at the hands of the threat or “villain”. Trump’s solutions are to build a wall and repeal global trade deals.

And the hero? None other than Trump himself.  

6. Repetition is good. I say repetition is a good thing

Foghorn Leghorn

Our brains are hardwired to respond to repetition. When we hear or read something over and over again, we’re more likely to remember or believe it.

There are YouTube montage videos of Trump saying the word ‘China’ ad infinitum. This gives some the impression that there isn’t any substance to his words. 

After all, repetition’s a bit Foghorn Leghorn or Fred Elliot, isn’t it?

Yet when Trump says things like “it’s a mess. At home and abroad, a mess. I inherited a mess”, this isn’t necessarily a sign that he doesn’t have a clue. In fact, it’s a proven technique that many copywriters use to drum home their message.

7. People like people who are like them

girls in yellow dresses

Much of the appeal of Trump and Boris Johnson (a key member of the Leave campaign) lies in the ways that voters identify with them as people.

A great book on persuasion is Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Dr Robert Cialdini. In it, Cialdini defines “Liking” as the fifth of his “Six Principles of Persuasion”.

The notion that anyone actually likes Trump confounds many of his critics, while Johnson is far from liked by all in the UK.

In Trump’s case, some argue that people like his policies more than they like him.

But as humans are irrational, personality beats policy when it comes to voting intention. Studies also show that people vote for candidates with “personality traits they value in themselves”.

So what is there to like about Trump?

Again, whether you love him or hate him, Trump’s a straight talker who doesn’t sound like a politician. This gives him a human touch and allows him to reach voters who feel ignored be the political elite.

And his ability to get to the heart of the issues on many voters’ minds shows them he understands their plight.

Meanwhile, Trump’s business background and extreme positions on some issues ensured many saw – and still see – him as the person most likely to both fight their corner and get things done.

In the UK, people like Johnson for very different reasons. While very much part of the political elite, his bumbling and blustering make people see him as a “character”. This ensures he stands out among a throng of bland politicians.

Boris johnson

This may not have been enough for Johnson to become Prime Minister after David Cameron resigned, but his status as “a laugh” surely helped him become Mayor of London.  

After Johnson announced his decision to back the Leave vote, the Remain camp saw it as a major setback; the fact that many voters liked Johnson made Brexit more likely.

If you want to be more persuasive, there are many lessons here.

First, you need to understand what keeps your reader up at night. You can then address their point(s) of pain to grab their attention, maintain their interest and stir desire for your product/service.

Second, it’s best to write like your audience speaks. Most professional copywriters agree that copy should address the reader directly and be written like a conversation between you and them. This ensures they not only understand your message, but find it easier to trust you because you’re letting them know you’re just like them.   


Trump’s election and Brexit show that emotions rule when it comes to making decisions. While facts can credit or discredit a message, they are not always important.

Whether you want to convince people to vote for you or buy from you, the principles of persuasion remain the same.  

This is the case whether in the form of an eye-catching headline, a story that stirs the senses, or in the shape of text or speech that addresses your readers’ pain points in simple, human terms.

The best copy persuades your audience to do what you want them to do. And any marketer looking to improve their skills of persuasion can learn a lot from both the Trump and Leave campaigns’ abilities to arouse emotions.


What did you think of this article? Leave your comments below:

You can’t start a fire without a spark: 4 ways Springsteen teaches you to write better copy

As I write this, I’ve just finished reading Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, Born to Run.

He packs his book with so much detail and colour that it puts you right in the moment.

And I just couldn’t put it down.

It’s clear Springsteen’s talent with words goes beyond just his songwriting.

A review of his book from the Independent says Springsteen “pulls us into his life with the panache of a thriller writer”. Yet any writer can learn a few things from him.

So if you want to be a better copywriter (or any kind of writer), here are just a few leaves to take from the Boss’s book…

Harness the power of storytelling

Everyone loves a good story.

Stories draw us into the pictures they paint. They make us feel like we’re there watching the events unfold right before our eyes. Check out some of the lyrics to the song ‘Born to Run’


In the day we sweat it out on the streets of a runaway American dream
At night we ride through the mansions of glory in suicide machines
Sprung from cages out on highway nine,
Chrome wheeled, fuel injected, and steppin’ out over the line
H-Oh, Baby this town rips the bones from your back
It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we’re young
`Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run


You will find compelling imagery like the above throughout Springsteen’s back catalogue. His lyrics are also full of promise, hope, and empathy.

As revered copywriter Joseph Sugarman says in his book, The Adweek Copywriting Handbook, stories help create “an emotional relationship… that keeps the prospect riveted and listening”.

Springsteen is no salesman. Yet his stories certainly helped him shift a few million copies of his albums over the years.

The point is that, in copywriting terms, a story can build your customer’s desire to buy whatever you have to offer.  

Know your audience

People relate to Bruce Springsteen. He’s a working class guy from New Jersey who followed his dreams and became a star. He embodies the American Dream in many ways.

For this reason people see him as authentic.

And he puts the people he grew up around in his small hometown at the centre of his stories. This is why many see him as “the Voice of Blue-Collar America”.

Going back to the previous point about the power of storytelling, Springsteen also knows that every good story has a hero.

From his confessions of love for the ‘Queen of the Supermarket’, to the story of the titular character in ‘Local Hero’, it’s clear that heroes play a huge role in his writing.

He may be rich and famous. Yet Springsteen maintains a keen insight into the hopes, dreams, and desires of his blue collar audience.

He knows what keeps them awake in the middle of the night.

And with that he knows how to write lyrics that resonate with them.

All good writers know how to tug on the reader’s heart strings. But this is an especially vital skill for any good copywriter.

Because without knowing what your customers want, you’ll be unable to persuade them to buy your product or service.

Use the present tense and the active voice

As I say earlier in this post, one of the great things about Springsteen’s autobiography is the way he adapts his familiar songwriting voice to prose on the page:  


When it rains, the moisture in the humid air blankets our town with the smell of damp coffee grounds wafting in […] I don’t like coffee but I like that smell.


Born to Run

The cover of the Born to Run autobiography
Credit: Bruce Springsteen

The use of the present tense and active voice play huge roles in putting the reader right in the moment.

You may never have been to Freehold, New Jersey. But when reading these words, you can see – and smell – it very clearly in your mind’s eye.

Both the active voice and the present tense make Springsteen’s word pictures more immediate. They help breathe life into the words on the page.

Every copywriter worth their salt knows these techniques. When describing the outcome of a future purchase in the present tense, you allow the reader to see it clearly for him or herself.

Adopt a ‘Human Touch’

Human Touch isn’t just the title of one of Springsteen’s lesser songs or albums. It also echoes the way Springsteen treats his fans as people, not as units, or things to exploit.

He always interacts with fans at his mammoth shows. He brings them on stage to dance with him. He poses for mid-concert selfies with them.

In everything Springsteen does, he shows deep respect and love for the people who buy his records or attend his concerts. In the age of social media, this type of customer engagement is vital to your marketing efforts.

A great way to engage with your audience is to adopt a conversational tone in your copywriting.

Writing with personality gives your business or brand a human voice and helps your readers to trust you more.  

SEO copywriting DOES exist (sort of)

SEO copywriting

At the end of 2014, I wrote a post called “SEO copywriting doesn’t exist”.

I felt compelled to write that piece because I was sick of people asking me to write web copy with a certain keyword density. 

Keyword stuffing is dead and it will stay that way.

I also still maintain that the reader should come first and that your Google page ranking should be secondary in all web copywriting and content.

Like I say in that post, it’s now the topic that counts.

You should always focus on creating great content that is useful to your readers in some way. Never shoehorn keyword phrases into your copy or content to appeal to the search engines – because it won’t!

Paraphrasing fellow copywriter, Andy Maslen, I said that the best copywriting has always been full of rich, relevant detail – which is true.

And with the likes Matt Cutts at Google stressing the importance of high quality content as a means of ranking in the SERPs, there is every reason to focus on quality over quantity.

This is why the quality of content we see on the web is getting better and better.

As a freelance copywriter who loves what he does, I think this is great. But I don’t think what I said in my last post was entirely clear…

Because those who think they don’t need keywords are WRONG.

Here’s why you need keywords in your copywriting…

Keywords give you an insight into user intent. They let you know what your audience is looking for.

You can then create content that gives them what they want. This, of course, is exactly what Google wants you to do!

Some sweeping, non-specific headlines might sound catchy, but they can be a backward step for SEO. For example, let’s say I called last week’s post “The awesome power of great copywriting”. 

Now this content includes a description of the differences between copy and content and the merits of hiring a copywriter over a content writer.

So those pondering these differences are more likely to find the post if it’s called “Content vs. copywriting services”.

You could create the best content in the world, but without the right keywords, your content “won’t rank for crap”, as SEO expert Rand Fishkin says in a post on the Moz website.

Rand Fishkin of Moz
Great content without the right keywords “won’t rank for crap”
– SEO guru, Rand Fishkin

It is the topic that is important, not keywords. Yet using keywords can help define the nature of your topic.

This is true both in terms of what you choose to write about and how you deliver the message to your readers.

Doing your research and using keywords wisely within a post shows your reader why they should care.

As a result, your website is likely to rank higher, gain more traffic and bring in more sales.

Content vs. copywriting services (and why you should care)

copywriting services
A lot of people don’t know the differences between web content and web copywriting services.

In fact, many people in marketing don’t even know the differences between the two things.

Copywriting services can help grow your business

The purpose of copywriting is to entice your reader (or listener) to perform a certain action. This could be anything from signing up to a mailing list, to buying a product, or grabbing the phone to ring you.

Copywriting always has an end goal in mind.

And copywriters need a certain amount of know-how to do their job well. As a result, those offering copywriting services in the UK command much higher rates than those bashing out content for a living.

This is because good copywriting boosts sales. It therefore provides a clearer and more direct return on investment.

What is content writing?

The purpose of content writing is to inform. It serves to show your readers you know what you’re talking about. This in turn builds trust (rather than sales). 

Many also use web content as a way of boosting the search engine ranking of their website.

Yet despite these differences, I still see copywriting jobs advertised by those who just want someone to spin articles for them.

And for me, this has been the main difference between what I do as a copywriter and what a content writer’s job is.

Whereas copywriting requires thought, the process of spinning articles for SEO purposes (which still happens on a large scale) doesn’t.  

Very often, a content writer will be expected to churn out lots of blog posts in a short space of time.

Some UK agencies refuse to pay more than £8-10 each per article for this type of work. Content mills tend to pay even less than this.

As a result, the quality of such work is often low. 

How do copywriters build trust in your brand?

A good copywriter uses their skill and knowledge of the reader (and of the product or service in question), as well as their understanding of psychology, to convince their readers to act.

Content writing didn’t require the same level of knowledge. This is unless the content writer was also the content strategist.

But this is rarely the case in marketing or SEO agencies (at least in the UK).

Up until recently, what would usually happen is this:

An agency would give the content writer a brief.

This may include a title and one or two resource links.

The writer would then fuse parts of the text within these two blog posts into one and rewrite it so that it passed a Copyscape run.

As I state in an earlier blog post, recent Google updates have ensured the death of keyword stuffing as a means of boosting search engine rankings.

More and more agencies now seek copywriters rather than content writers to write their blog posts. This is because it’s no longer enough for a blog post to include the relevant keywords a set number of times. Nor is it enough for the post to be written by anyone who knows how to string a few words together.

Now, on the post-Panda web, content should show a deep knowledge of both your brand and your readers.

The best content is also well thought-out and uses the right tone of voice to echo your brand and appeal to those reading it.

As stated in a post on the Copyblogger website, “content without copywriting is a waste of time”. Simply put, a good copywriter also makes a great content writer.

But a content writer won’t always make a good copywriter.

Why will a good copywriter always make a better content writer?

As I say earlier in this post, a boost in sales is not the end game of content writing.

But a rise in profit can be the result of engaging content. Rather than prompting consumers towards an end goal, good content teaches them and adds value to their lives in some way.

And who better to do this than a freelance copywriter?

After all, our job is to gain a sense of your readers’ wants and needs.

We can then use this insight to write content that engages your readers, fosters trust, and draws them towards your product or service.

Small business marketing: be an ‘X’ in a sea of ‘O’s

small business marketing

Making your business stand out in a crowded market place can be hard.

But the way to win business is to offer something that no-one else does. This is true whether in the form of a unique selling proposition (USP), or from a branding perspective.

Legendary ad man and copywriter Dave Trott explains this perfectly in a video filmed at the Pro Copywriters’ Network Conference in 2013

Here we see him writing a number of circles on an overhead projector, like so:




This represents the conscious desire to blend in that many businesses owners – especially small business owners – have.

In the figure above, each ‘O’ represents a business, every one the same as the next. Blending in is all well and good for local shops with a captive market.

But how do you entice people to choose your small business from the next?

The answer is by standing apart from the crowd like this:




As Dave Trott says, you have to stand out to be noticed.

And the way to stand out is to be different, like an ‘X’ in a sea of ‘O’s. You can see one of his adverts in the video below:

This is one of the most memorable TV adverts from my childhood.

And the main reason this masterpiece sticks in the memory is because it’s different.

Some people loved it and some hated it – my Dad used to shout at the telly when it came on – but most remembered it. This shows that retention is the key to successful marketing and great copywriting.

This simple ad stood out in a sea of similar products and marketing, 

Consequently, the unknown Ariston brand quickly became a household name.

The product went on to sell a million washing machines in the UK over the next four years. The ads were so memorable that then-Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, mimicked the “and on… and on” tagline in a speech. 

It’s true that Dave Trott mostly works with big brands.

But the same rule also applies to small business marketing. And in some ways even more.

Yes, there are plenty of successful small businesses without a USP.

But do you really want to give your business a boost? Then embrace your differences and shout them from the rooftops…

Before I start writing copy, I get to the root of what sets you apart from the rest.

I can then write in ways that shine a light on things that make you great.

Because even if you don’t think you have a USP, I bet you do.

In my role as a freelance copywriter, I stress this to some clients who either don’t want to stand apart, or who don’t feel they can. 

What is not a USP?

It’s never enough to simply say “I’m the best!”

Because no doubt many people in your industry claim to be better out of pure bias for their own product or service.

Nor is it enough to say ‘we offer a warm and friendly service’. This isn’t really a USP, as many others offer that too.

Be a local ‘X’ in a sea of local ‘O’s

Where I live in Leeds, a local business that stands out in its field is You Can Play Guitar.

Head honcho and guitar teacher, Owen Griffiths, stamps out his mission to make lessons fun for his students.

This works because it appeals directly to his core audience: teenagers with short attention spans who need to find something compelling to take it in.  

This makes Owen stand out among the legion of guitar teachers itching to teach scales before riffs.

Owen knows that kids often just want to learn songs. And they definitely don’t want to feel like they’re at school.

His business has an affirmative name and the website has a friendly tone.

And both highlight a true USP in Owen’s personality and teaching style.

The point here is that every business has its own way of doing things. This shows it’s possible to stand out in the market, no matter how small your business.

When it comes to local marketing, the little guy has the edge

Do you own a small local business? Then you have a massive amount of marketing power at your fingertips.

Local marketing is one of the few areas where the little guy can outfox the fat cat.

After all, most people feel more comfortable buying locally.

Why? Because it’s easier to trust someone when they’re within reach. This is evident in the fact that for every pound you spend, 63p stays in the local economy.

And as Matt Redford of Keyword Eye points out, local marketing is also vital for search engine rankings.

Even if you don’t express a USP as such, you can make your small business stand out by taking advantage of content marketing.

How? By finding ways to entice your audience in ways your competition doesn’t…

Get a website with sizzling copy on it.

Climb aboard the social media train and toot your horn.

Write about the things in your field that please or irritate you.

Speak to your audience and share your knowledge in ways that make them take notice.

Show the passion you have for your business and you have more chance of success.

The fact is that most of your competition doesn’t do these things. So if you take these steps, you’ll stand out from the crowd and send your sales flying in no time.

SEO copywriting doesn’t exist!

SEO copywriting - lies!

As a freelance copywriter who writes the bulk of his work for the web, I receive a lot of requests for SEO copywriting.

When I started out writing for a living by using freelancing sites, I would see jobs advertised saying things like this:

  • “Freelance SEO Copywriter wanted!”
  • “Articles must be rich in keywords!”
  • “The stipulated keywords should constitute at least 5-7% of the web page!”

Even post-Panda and Penguin, you might still see job ads calling for both “a good knowledge of SEO” and “a keyword density of at least 1.5%”.

This is a stupid contradiction in terms.

Because as stated in a video on the Moz website, keyword density is a “useless metric”.

 Keyword density is a dead horse – so stop flogging it!

According to Rand Fishkin of Moz in the video mentioned above, keyword density was becoming a pointless concern as far back as 2002.

As I say earlier in this post, I do a lot of web copywriting and follow changes in SEO with interest. So, of course, there are steps you can take to boost your search engine ranking. 

These include:

  • writing and posting good quality content on your blog
  • writing for the human reader 

Simply put, you should forget about keyword stuffing.

Yes, links to your website are valuable ‘link juice’, but only from trusted, ‘high-authority’ sites.

Never seek links from spammy websites which take money in exchange for mentions within useless content.

This black-hat technique used to work well for improving search engine ranking. These days, it does the opposite.

In fact, SEO experts charge a small fortune to remove bad links that have seen countless websites suffer ranking penalties. 

Some (hello, Interflora) were even stricken from the Google results due to sneaky attempts to boost their search engine profile.

By contrast, you get good backlinks by producing great content that people want to share or link to.

Topic not keywords…

Another video posted on the Moz website shows that it’s the topic, not keyword density, that’s important.

Yes, it’s still useful to place your keyword phrase in your headline, meta-title and meta-description.

But as long as the topic of your copy or content relates to your keyword, then you’re on the right track.

Why? Because Google’s become pretty good at sussing out what’s relevant and what’s not. 

Syntax and grammar are also much more important than the keyword.

So, if my keyword phrase were freelance copywriter Leeds, I shouldn’t use it exactly as written in either my copy, meta-titles or descriptions.

This is because it lacks the preposition ‘in’, as in freelance copywriter in Leeds.

Good SEO is good copywriting!

The purpose of content marketing is to engage. 

And that is exactly what well-written, persuasive copywriting does. It’s what prompts people within your industry – or one connected to it in some way – to link to your website.

The phrase ‘SEO copywriting’ has been bugging me for a while.

So I was pleased to read a post written by fellow copywriter, Andy Maslen, called “Lies, damn lies and SEO copywriting”. In his post, Maslen states that the best copy has always been “full of rich, relevant detail”.

A scornful comment from a reader of Maslen’s post points to its high Flesch score, and the use of alt text to undermine the argument against SEO copywriting.

But as Maslen states in his withering reply to that comment, good copywriting is “naturally optimised for the reader”. After all, alt text exists purely for their benefit.

Which is exactly why Google awards websites that use it right!

Bad SEO is dead, long live great copy!

I love words and take great pride in writing a catchy headline that engages readers.

And I think the death of spammy content, and the rebirth of great copy can only be a good thing. This is true not just for copywriters, but also for readers.

Because engaging your customers should always lie at the heart of your marketing efforts.

Hello From Wordwebb Copywriting!


Welcome to the new Wordwebb Copywriting website!


My name is David Webb and as you may have seen elsewhere on Wordwebb Copywriting, I am a freelance copywriter from Leeds. This site has been live for around a year now, but I have finally got it looking like I wanted. My services and the associated content have recently been updated to reflect the number of the services that I offer, as well as the nature of them. For those who don’t know me, I specialise in copywriting for the web, although I also do some print work. From here on in, I will posting at least once a fortnight. Stay tuned for my first proper post, which will be dedicated to my loathing of the phrase “SEO copywriting”.