How to brief a copywriter

So you've been working away at your big business idea for some months now, and your new business baby is just about ready to pop. It's an exciting time, and you're so overwhelmed by the excitement of it all that you're speechless. Literally. People are asking you where you've been hiding the past couple of months, and a smile begins to form on your face. "Well, I've been starting a new project/expanding my product mix/launching a new website, and gobbledegook fap fap meow purple monkey dishwasher".

Before you know it, you're left there holding the chip bowl as the other person slowly retreats and edges towards slightly more coherent company. It's not your fault - building buzz about who you are and what you do is hard. The words make sense inside your head, but when you sit down to write that press release, or that landing page, or that blog post, your prose sounds more like a recap of LOST. It's mega confusing, with waaaay too many ideas snaking their way through.

This is where a copywriter comes in. It's our job to flesh out your story and tell it to the masses. It's our job to make you sound so fan-freakin-tastic, we actually convince ourselves to use your services or buy from you.

Copy is more than just words on a screen or a page. They're carefully crafted sentences that combine all of your ideas, your purpose and your very own brand of sizzling panache. So before you hire a copywriter, there's a few key things you should think about before you even make that first phone call, and write a copywriting brief for your chosen one.

 

How to brief a copywriter

1.  Decide who your target market is

Who is your ideal customer or client? Are they single, female, time-starved with little financial knowledge? Or are they male, 35-50-years-old, with a high amount of disposable income and little pop culture knowledge? It's really important to think about who your people are and how you serve them, because a copywriter will be able to use an appropriate tone of voice that will appeal to them. Also, it's a real shame when Beyonce references go over peoples' heads.

2. Define the purpose of the copywriting - to educate, or to increase sales

To put it simply - what do you want and what are your goals? I know you're probably sitting at your computer thinking, "I'm a business owner, and I want some copy for my press release and I would like for it to sound good so people will read it. Duh.". But copywriting goes deeper than the simple act of typing. It serves a purpose, and part of its success lies in its foundational strategy. Is it for a landing page that people are sent to from an email and then used to capture leads for your personal training services? Is it instructional information that will help people perform a task better? Is it a spell-binding 'About Us' page that tells the world exactly why your business is the best in its industry? Knowing exactly what you want this copy to do is vital to giving your copywriter direction.

Seth Godin quote about brand marketing and copywriting

3. Be clear on your Ultimate Selling Point (USP)?

Seth Godin calls this your Purple Cow: "Today, the one sure way to fail is to be boring. Your one chance for success is to be remarkable." Now, you might not even know what exactly it is that makes your business so unique. Or, you might have a vague idea, but you're not quite sure how to articulate it. In my honest opinion, if you're not yet sure of your USP, it's part of a copywriter's job to help you find this out with you. If your writer of choice doesn't get you on a Skype call and probe you for the 411 about your business, they're not doing their job right. But before you begin your business discovery call with your copywriter, it's useful for both parties if you can summarise your wow-factor in a few, short sentences. Are you a solopreneur who's entirely responsible for all of your services? It's rare not to outsource, and that is very purple of you. High-five! Are you a fourth-generation yogi overflowing with almost a century of knowledge? That's insanely special (can I please steal your productivity secrets?). Maybe you're a close-knit family business who just want to share your wares with the world? That's a very warm and fuzzy story right there.

4. Pick a deadline

A copywriter will work with you to organise a time frame that benefits both parties, but having an absolute no-excuses deadline is also very useful. Before you even ask for a quote, work out a due-by date and let your copywriter of choice known in the first communication. That way, no one wastes time anticipating goal-kicking only to have to part ways to due conflicting schedules. As a rule of thumb, if you need a super-speedy turn-around, you're looking at an extra surcharge.

I'm Camilla Peffer, and I'm a Melbourne copywriter who creates engaging, results-driven content for fashion and lifestyle brands. From website copywriting, to fashion copywriting, content strategies and SEO audits, I've created clicks and conversions for the likes of Sportsgirl, Seed Heritage and Politix. Want to work together? Reach out! I'd love to hear about your next project.

How to hire a copywriter

how to hire a copywriter

Ever worked with a freelancer?

I have. Some good, and some not so good. Some overly precious, and some highly receptive to feedback. All freelancers are different, which makes finding the right one for you a Super Important Task. I even capitalised there, just to show you that I’m Very Serious.

So why would you hire a freelance copywriter, rather than doing it yourself?

Perhaps you’re already a good writer. Maybe you’re even learning to write your own website copy. And if so, then kudos to you! More wine up in here!

Copywriting is a skill that can be transferred to any industry, and it certainly comes in handy if you’re a start-up begging your friends for favours and staring at your bank balance as you weep upon your keyboard. I’ve been there! And I’ve done favours for weepy friends too. I have the free stuff to prove this.

But perhaps you’ve banged out a page of website content or two, and you’re not sure how to optimise your website content for search engines (SEO copywriting).

Or maybe you’ve made Google’s Keyword Planner your slave, and you’ve checked all the SEO boxes…but your page isn’t converting like you want it to.

There’s much to be said for learning to write your own website content. And there are a tonne of courses which can teach you the science behind transforming your hum-drum bursts of randomness into copy that hooks onto people’s hearts and their wallets.

But do you have the time to write it yourself?

Wouldn’t you rather spend time working in your business, rather than on it? Do you even like writing?

 

I’ll tell you what: hiring a professional copywriter saves you time and MAKES YOU MONEY.

I was like you once: DIY or die. I designed my own logo, I edited a simple Squarespace template, and I even got my business cards printed at my local university to save on cash. Yeeeeesh.

While my branding did ok – I got enough work, I guess – I wasn’t working with the fashion brands I wanted to. Which isn’t to say all of the clients I was already writing for weren’t great learning experiences, and pleasant to work with too. I’ve helped a lot of small businesses tell their stories online, but I wanted to niche down. It was only when I hired my graphic designer Dylan that I really started to feel a whole lot more confident, and began to work with big name fashion brands that I know and love.

And it’s the same for hiring a copywriter. You get what you pay for. And when you pay for a professional copywriter, you’ll get a professional copywriting job done.

 

How to hire a copywriter: my guide to getting your message SEEN, HEARD and FELT by the right people

Here’s the thing about copywriters – a lot of us don’t have degrees in copywriting. I come from a background in journalism, so I have a diploma in journalism and a bachelor degree in mass communications. I also studied English literature, so my grammar is top notch, unless I’m intentionally being a smart ass – which I often am.

So how did I learn how to write a sales page that converts browsers into buyers? It wasn’t by reading Jane Austen – it was by writing sales pages myself.

Forget looking for a tertiary qualified copywriter or English major. If your brand is in need of punchy headlines, email campaigns that actually get opened and clicked on, and sales pages that have people throwing their sweet cash at you, you need to think about more than a degree.

 

So what do you need to do to hire a copywriter?

There are thousands of copywriters who’d jump at the chance to write for you. You could easily just email one, and hey presto – there’s a copywriter for you. But why settle for a so-so word-wrangler for a great price, when you can find the best one for you?

 

Here’s my 5-step process for screening copywriters. Pay attention to them, and you’ll be far more likely to enter a creative partnership that boosts your brand and gets your message seen, heard and acted on.

 

1. Find out what you need, and know your business goals

Not all copywriters are alike. Some have better experience writing press releases, some are boss at writing website content, some excel at writing business proposals.

If you can, decide what kind of copy you need before you ask for a quote, and what goals this will fulfill. Why? Because it saves you time going back and forth to your copywriter. It’s quite common for copywriters to get a lot of requests from business owners asking for “a couple of lines” about their business, or a “one-pager” to hand out to potential customers.

If you’re unsure what you need, get your copywriter to help you decide! Start with the goal. Need to tell the world about your new fashion line? Hire a copywriter to write you a press release. Got a great product and need to see some sales? You could do with a sales page or a Facebook ad.

Once you know your goals, it’ll be a lot easier to brief your copywriter. And if your copywriter is briefed properly, they’ll do a much better job of boosting your profits with their prose.

Bonus points for the copywriter who’ll help with the briefing process!

 

2. Find the best match for your business, not the best copywriter on Google

I’m going to potentially shoot myself in the foot here, but just because I’m #1 for ‘melbourne copywriter’ on Google, doesn’t mean that I’m the best fit for every Melbourne business. Every business is different, and I work best with a very particular type of client. That’s why when I get a quote request from a business, I ask a few questions first to see how well we’d work together.

melbourne-copywriter

Do you want to work with someone young who can speak to a young audience? Or do you need a copywriter with automotive knowledge? Do your research first: get referrals, search Google, and find the right copywriter for YOU.


3. Find out their process

If you want your copy delivered to you on time and on brief, you’ll need a hyper-organised copywriter. When screening your copywriter, ask them how they work. Do they bill for 50% of the project up front before they even start looking at your business? How long will they give you to provide feedback? How do they try to get to know you and your business? How quickly can they work? Ask these questions, and you’ll avoid a lot of confusion in the long run.


4. Have a price in mind…but don’t focus on it

There’s a common misconception amongst those unfamiliar with hiring freelancers: copywriters are interchangeable. And for that reason, people often end up focusing on price. Why hire a copywriter for $75 an hour when you can hire one for $10 on Elance? Because you get what you pay for, dummy!

If you pay nothing, you will get next to nothing. Actually, you’ll likely end up losing money. Ouch. A good copywriter charges their worth. So while you should keep your marketing budget in mind, don’t put price first. Put value first.


5. Make sure they write for humans, not the machine

Does your copywriter keep on top of SEO news? They better, or your copy’s in grave danger, Robinson! But seriously, can the keyword stuffers and go for a copywriter who knows how to use emotive language that spurs action. Of course, keywords are vital for knowing what your prospects are searching for. I like to call it SEO-soning. Har har har. But if someone lands on your page and it’s written like a robot is talking with keywords stuffed in all willy-nilly, no one’s going to buy what you’re selling. Get a copywriter who reads voraciously and writes like Nabokov on crack. Or can at least spin a good yarn that makes people feel things.


Hiring a copywriter is a task that will take you a good two weeks. Whether you meet in person or it’s all done online, take your time in finding the right one for your brand. Do this, and you’ll turn your website, press release or Facebook ads into gold. Gold!

Because what you say is just as important as what you sell. And good copy written by a professional copywriter proves it.

I'm Camilla Peffer, and I'm a Melbourne copywriter who creates engaging, results-driven content for fashion and lifestyle brands. From website copywriting, to fashion copywriting, content strategies and SEO audits, I've created clicks and conversions for the likes of Sportsgirl, Seed Heritage and Politix. Want to work together? Reach out! I'd love to hear about your next project.

How does Google work?

how does google's algorithm work

You’ve heard that Google is the most popular search engine, much like the wizard of Oz, operating behind a curtain of mystery.

But how does Google work?

Why is Google so powerful?

And how on earth does Google rank your website?

If you’re new to SEO and want to get to the bottom of this marketing riddle, this post is for you.

Note: Google is a machine that’s forever changing. At the time of writing, all the information provided is up-to-date and relevant, as to the best of my knowledge.

 

Why is Google so powerful?

Google is the #1 search engine worldwide, and a BBC report from 2016 names it the most valuable company in world, worth nearly US$520bn. There are other search engines you can use, such as Bing and Yahoo, but Google is the only one that’s captured our cultural devotion, and gone on to become an official verb within the dictionary.

So what makes Google so popular? For starters, the Google homepage is incredibly user-friendly, and it loads quickly. Also, Google displays far less ads on its homepage compared to competitors, making it appear more like a tool than a business.

But that doesn’t account for its alleged reputation as the smartest search engine.

The question is, what makes a search engine valuable?

Compared to other search engines, Google is top of their game for the way they deliver relevant search results. As Ben Gomes, Google’s Vice-President of Engineering, said, “our goal is to get you the exact answer you’re searching for faster.”

 

 

Essentially, Google was created to crawl the web, and other search engines weren’t. Yahoo was created as a directory, and businesses paid to be listed. It's this industry-leading, world-first algorithm that sets them apart from the rest.

 

So how does Google do it?

You may have heard a few animal names bandied around when industry pros refer to Google’s search algorithm. Before we get into those names, let’s go through what an algorithm is.

The word “algorithm” refers to the logic-based, step-by-step procedure for problem solving. When we’re talking about Google, the problem is how to find the most relevant webpages for this particular set of keywords (or search terms) that a users types into the search field.

But here’s the thing: it changes every day, and Google’s algorithm today is a lot different from 2014.

 

A brief history of Google’s search algorithm

Google has always strived to deliver relevant search results, but it wasn’t always the best at managing those search results.

Before Google Panda and Google Penguin updates were introduced, a website could easily rank for a specific key word or search term phrase by ‘keyword stuffing’. That’s the black hat SEO practice (read: totally dodgy SEO practice), of placing keywords a bunch of times within a page to rig the search results. It’s totally un-useful, right?

Correct.

Eventually, Google's engineers decided things needed to change.

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus on four key changes that continue to impact how the search engine works today.

 

·       The Panda update - 2011

·       The Penguin update - 2012

·       The Hummingbird update - 2013

·       The Pigeon – 2014

 

Let’s get one thing straight before we power on ahead: there is just ONE algorithm, and all of these animal names describe specific updates to this ONE algorithm. Each update assists with a particular part of the search engine that Google is trying to improve.

 

  • Panda – An update designed to stop sites with poor quality content ranking in the SERPs (search engine ranking pages).
  • Penguin – Prevents spammy websites ranking through buying links, or using poor quality back linking tactics.
  • Pigeon – Assists with delivering relevant local search results.
  • Hummingbird – An update that was designed to help the algorithm focus on the meaning behind the words and the entire search term, rather than treat each individual word as distinctively separate from the overall sentence structure.

All of these algorithm changes and updates were intended to ensure that Google delivered the best possible content for users.

 

How does Google rank your website?

Google has one goal, and that’s to help each person find the most relevant, up-to-date information they’re looking for, as quickly as possible.

With Google changing its algorithm all the time, the most recent articles with the most factually correct information should be listed on the first page.

That said, Google is a machine that uses an incomplete science. And although Google’s engineers are developing a sophisticated machine that mimics the human brain, Google doesn’t get it right 100% of the time. It’s quite common to find very old SEO articles floating to the top of the search results, which contain information that’s no longer relevant.

However, for most search queries, the odds are in your favour. You’ll likely receive the most relevant and factual articles for your search query on the first page of the search results.

 

How do I work with Google’s algorithm?

There are many, many factors which Google uses to assess your website. In fact, there are over 200.

Now, I’m not going to list ALL of these here for you.

But, there are a few key ways you ensure that your content is deemed worthy by Google, and high quality by your website visitors.

When you your content is both optimised for search engines and for your customers, that’s when you’ll see an increase in traffic, happy customers, and your bottom line.

 

How to boost your Google ranking

Keep it fresh

Google loves fresh content.

Cyrus Shepard notes that “the freshness score can boost a piece of content for certain search queries,” even though it then degrades over time.

How to optimise:

  • Keep your pages up-to-date with new information. This could be updating blog posts with more relevant information, or changing your about page, or adding to your portfolio page.
  • Perform a content audit at least once a year to assess whether your copywriting needs a refresh, and prioritise pages with less traffic. They’re the ones that need a boost.

 

Consider content length

It’s a common myth that your articles have to be looooong in order to rank. Additionally, Google’s Panda update took aim at “thin” content. But length is relative. For example, if competitors within your industry features articles over 1500 words, you should use that word count as a bench mark. It’s all a matter of what you audience is receptive to. Copyhackers wrote a great article on blog length over here.

How to optimise:

  • Use content marketing tools like Buzz Sumo to search for industry-relevant topics. Buzz Sumo allows you to see the most popular articles first, and from there you’ll be able to manually explore these blogs to assess the right word length for your content.

 

Backlinks

Backlinks (that’s a link from another website that points to your website) remain an important ranking factor. But over the years, Google’s wised up and learned that not all links are created equal. If you have more backlinks, you can boost your Google ranking. Yet these links have to be more a diverse number of sources, and from authoritative websites.

Once upon a time, you were able to comment on blogs with your website URL, creating a backlink from high quality websites. This isn’t the case any more, and your SEO efforts require a more strategic approach.

How to optimise:

  • The first place to start is by guest posting on websites that have a similar authority to yours. Offer a blog post guest swap, or interview each other on related topics.
  • Reach out to high-quality partners for backlinks. Buzz Sumo is a great tool for this. I also have a resources page that lists a few select businesses that I feel confident enough in to recommend to my clients.
  • You can also join high quality directories: I’m a member of the Dream Big collective, Business Chicks, Women in Business and the League of Extraordinary Women. Join earns you membership to a community, and a high quality link back to your website.
  • Have an SEO audit performed to take stock of your current bank links, and to reveal any potential back linking opportunities.

 

Mobile-first UX

One of the biggest changes we saw in 2016 was Google’s shift towards mobile-first indexing. This means that Google prioritises your mobile website experience over the desktop version.

In 2017, your website’s SEO relies upon how responsive it is across all mobile platforms. Mobile-first is now the norm, and with 85% of all websites now meeting Google’s criteria for being mobile-friendly, it’s time to ensure your website is easy-to-use on the fly.

Page speed is another important ranking factor that ties heavily into a good user experience. Desktop websites should load in 3 seconds or less, while mobile websites should load in 2 seconds or less (according to SearchMetrics, the top-ranked mobile websites are approximately one second quicker than their desktop equivalents).

How to optimise:

  • Use Google Search Console to assess the mobile version of your website.
  • Use the Structured Data Testing Tool to ensure that the same structured markup exists on both your desktop and your mobile site.
  • Ensure that your mobile site is accessible to Googlebot using the txt testing tool.
  • Test your page speed using PageSpeed Insights. If your page is slow.
  • Have an SEO audit performed to assess what aspects of your website can be altered to improve the page speed.

 

In conclusion

SEO is an ever-evolving science, with the aim to provide a useful tool to solve searcher queries. Google isn’t out to ‘get you’ or your website, but is rather trying to master the art of problem-solving. Learn to play by Google’s rules, and your business will come out on top.

 

Want to learn how I got to #1 on Google? I’m hosting an SEO Workshop in Melbourne. AND, when you’re a member of Communique, you get a HUGE discount on ticket prices.

 

 

 

I'm Camilla Peffer, and I'm a Melbourne copywriter who creates engaging, results-driven content for fashion and lifestyle brands. From website copywriting, to fashion copywriting, content strategies and SEO audits, I've created clicks and conversions for the likes of Sportsgirl, Seed Heritage and Politix. Want to work together? Reach out! I'd love to hear about your next project.