You’re on the most magnificent beach in the world.
There’s an idyllic burnt orange sunset doing its thing behind you. Blue string lights are hanging beautifully in the backdrop. You have some kind of red cocktail in your hand.
Well, this is a perfect photo opportunity, you very rightly think to yourself.
So your phone comes out (along with your pout).
And…every single photo you take is a blurry mess.
A silhouette with bright glaring blue flashes in the background.
You had all the ingredients for perfection at your disposal, but it just didn’t quite come into focus.
And the same goes for copywriting. You can have all the tools and ingredients, but if you don’t apply the right lenses, it may be off-piste and out of focus.
No one wants blurry copy. And even blurrier messaging.
When all the components of a photo come into sharp focus, you get the full picture. When all the words are strategic at every stage, you get a fully optimised marketing funnel.
Listen up: The words at every stage of your customer’s journey matter.
To make sure all copy and content – at every stage – is looked after as it should be, I’ve taken matters into my own hands.
I’ve developed a methodology that hones in on a way to analyse, cross-reference, and gauge the quality and effectiveness of your copy.
At every step of the funnel.
So that it’s sharply in focus, every time.
And your funnel is optimised within an inch of its life.
THE 13 LENSES© METHODOLOGY
The concept is that there are 13 lenses we can look through to analyse copy and sharpen every word and message into focus. So that every part of your funnel’s words is strategy-powered and optimised from all angles.
Powerful copy doesn’t just come down to throwing a few techniques into the mix.
It’s a masterful craft that marries an understanding of full-funnel marketing, psychology, UX/UI, and the algorithms and requirements of various platforms (which are in constant flux). And of course, writing best practices.
Using lenses to analyse copy and content brings together all the powerful techniques. All the relevant focus areas. And all the key considerations you need to make.
Your funnel will thank you.
Let’s dive in…
THE GOLDFISH LENS
Your prospects are busy. Their attention is being pulled left, right and centre at any given time.
Think of them as goldfish.
If your content or copy isn’t immediately digestible, their minds will find any excuse to drift away from your words.
So don’t give them one.
- Is your headline, title, or subject line instantly clear and compelling? Read about headline clarity and curiosity here.
- Are your paragraphs short and staggered in length? Remember, no more than three/four sentences per paragraph. Big, chunky ones are harder for the eye to digest. Especially when skimming or scanning.
- Are your sentences short and sweet? Ideally, one ‘thought’ per sentence. Long ones lose attention. Choppy copy keeps eyeballs gripped.
- Is the line length on your page between 50 and 75 characters for optimal readability? Here’s why it should be.
- Is the content easy to skim and scan: with subheaders and/or bullet points? (Kinda like this post).
- Is each sentence crystal clear? Don’t use a thesaurus to find fancier words. Use one to find shorter, clearer, more direct words.
THE REAL TALK LENS
Time and time again, conversational copy has been proven to get optimal results. The reason is simple: People buy from people.
And your customers don’t want dull, clichéd corporate speak.
A handy litmus test is: Would you talk like that at home?
If not, then consider revising it. You’ve probably fallen into the jargon trap.
- Are you talking directly to the reader with the words “you” and “your”?
- Are you asking questions to engage and include the reader? Read this post from our blog on how to do so effectively (without irritating them).
- For brand copy, are you admitting weakness and turning it into a strength? Kiss explains why this is powerful and gives some brilliant examples here.
- Are you steering clear of clichés and jargon?
- Does the flow of the copy make it sound like someone is talking? Read it out loud to check.”
THE CREATIVE SPARK LENS
Copywriting can make use of all the formulas and techniques in the world, with decent results. But if it’s lacking that creative spark, the copy will only stand out so far in a sea of competition.
A healthy injection of creativity is the key to crafting eye-catching, attention-grabbing copy and content.
- Are you using any storytelling to draw in the reader? Copyhackers show you how.
- Are there any metaphors, analogies, or similes to make the content tap-dance and sing, and make tough technical concepts more digestible? Thank you, Copyblogger.
- Have you tackled the topic in a refreshingly unusual way?
- Have you used any poetic devices like alliteration, personification, repetition, or wordplay?
- Are you tying up “extras” creatively, such as CTAs, subheaders, and often-overlooked things like menu items, autoresponder copy or Thank You pages?
THE ACTION LENS
Marketing is all about “selling the next step”.
Many companies make the mistake of trying to propose on the first date. But as content marketers, we know that in most cases a slower nurturing process towards conversion is needed.
And every piece of content or line of copy needs to play its role.
Thus, we should always put on our strategic hats and ask ourselves: Is this piece of content doing enough to push my reader to the next step in the funnel?
- Is there a strong and relevant CTA? Check this out from WordStream for guidance.
- Is that CTA taking them to the correct next step (rather than jumping too far down the funnel)? If they’re reading top-funnel educational content, for example, most prospects won’t be in “buying mode”. I.e., they’re not ready to walk down the aisle yet! Sprout breaks it down here.
- Are you using conversion copywriting and sales psychology techniques to help with that push, such as a sense of urgency, a sense of scarcity, and social proof? (Here’s a full list from Crazy Egg.)
This checklist may only be relevant for the CTA itself. But if you’re looking at a landing page through the lens, you may need to apply these techniques throughout the entire copy. Use your judgement.
- Have you done enough to remove barriers and build trust? E.g., by presenting yourself as a credible authority.
- Have you woven in persuasive copy subtly, so that you don’t sound like a car salesman? Get the balance right. Natural is always best. Don’t make it a cheese-fest.
- Does the content or page have a solid traffic-driving strategy in place? Here are seven content promotion tactics to whet your appetite.
THE CONTEXT LENS
Context is king.
Your readers will be at different stages of awareness. They might not even be aware that they have a problem that you can solve.
That’s why your messaging and content must be in tune with where they are in their minds, and with their relationship to your products/services.
And of course, with the context in which they are reading those words.
- Do you know what stage of awareness (the majority of) your readers are at? And have you addressed them with that in mind? Read this from ActiveCampaign to brush up.
- Are you using the right headline formula to resonate with and grip those particular prospects? Grab this eBook from Copyhackers to help.
- Are the prospects likely to be in a rush and just flick through? Bear in mind how much time they’re likely to spend reading. For example, social media doesn’t give you long to impress, so write with that in mind.
- Is there anything that may be happening in their lives that may affect how the message resonates? Like a COVID lockdown, for example!
THE BRAND LENS
Your brand voice needs to be consistent across the board.
If you’re talking one way on your website but then using a different tone in other comms, it’s going to create an uncomfortable dissonance.
Always keep your voice and key messaging in line. So your content resonates with your customers and you don’t go off-piste.
- Is your voice consistent with the rest of your marketing collateral?
- Is it in line with your brand voice guidelines? Check your chosen adjectives. Does your copy fit the bill?
- Are you using American English, British English, or another language or dialect consistently?
- Are there any brand voice nuances you should consider? For example, slightly different set of rules for different sectors (e.g., B2B vs B2C).
- Are there any words or phrases you should be including or excluding?
Have a read of this valuable Co-Schedule article on brand voice for inspiration.
THE ZIG-ZAG LENS
Content saturation is a very real and palpable problem. Your readers are bombarded with emails, ads, copy, and content constantly.
The result? Their go-to reaction will be to ignore, avoid, and delete. Ouch.
But you can combat this by having something unique and compelling about your content. By getting your content and brand messaging to zig while the industry zags.
- Have you done competitor analysis to understand the USPs, tones of voice, strengths, weaknesses, styles, formats, lengths, etc., of competitors? For a step-by-step, check out this how-to from HubSpot.
- Is the angle, approach, or perspective of your content unique?
- Do you have any other differentiators, e.g., a unique design style, a unique format, a unique tone of voice, etc.? Here are five clever ways to differentiate your content, from yours truly.
- Are these differentiators consistent across other bits of content?
- When it comes to copy and bottom-funnel content, are the benefits you’re pushing truly unique and compelling? Or could they just as easily belong to another brand? (If the latter, adapt them).
THE OUTSIDE-IN LENS
The best content strategies and most successful converting copy are built on the ACTUAL needs, desires, and pains of the people we are targeting.
Not just on what we think should resonate.
They are demand led, not assumption led.
Which is why we must truly try to get inside the heads of our customers.
And the best place to start is with both implicit and explicit data collection. I.e., listening to them and talking to them!
- Is this content based on insights, rather than just your own assumptions?
- Have you used voice-of-customer data? By this I mean words and phrases used by your actual customers and prospects. For the full picture, read this.
- Have you done keyword research to understand what prospects are searching for? Or discovered the actual questions they are typing in? There are easy tools like Answer the Public to help with this.
- Have you injected any insights from surveys, focus groups, and/or buyer interviews?
- Is the content truly and tangibly valuable to your prospects, or does it just scratch the surface of the subject? (More on that in “The Value Lens” later).
- Are you focused not just on features but on benefits as well? Do you paint a vivid picture of those benefits to help your prospects almost touch and taste the rewards?
THE INTRIGUE LENS
Intrigue is such a powerful copywriting tool. Gripping your reader with whatever form of copy you’re writing is essential.
If it lacks intrigue, they’re likely to metaphorically or literally walk right on by.
Don’t let them.
- Have you harnessed the power of the “Curiosity Gap” in your headline and/or teaser copy? Co-Schedule tell it like it is here.
- Have you tackled the topic in a fresh, unique way – and teased them with that intriguing angle in the title or header? E.g., “Caution: Stop Masturbating with Your Money” by Ashley Ambirge (and other intriguing headlines here).
- Are there any cliffhangers to help keep readers glued till the end? This article I wrote on storytelling techniques gives some perfect examples.
- Do you build anticipation in the intro of the piece by teasing what’s to come? For example, by explaining what value they are about to gain?
- Have you included any specific stats? For example, “67.9% of people who used this tool have changed their careers as a result”. Super-specific facts and figures are intriguing as heck!
THE PRIMAL BRAIN LENS
In simple terms, our brains can be broken down into two main parts.
The primal part, which is in control of our instincts and emotions. And the rational part, which governs higher-level cognitive processes and rational thought.
While we are of course rational beings, the primal (reptilian and mammalian) brain processes simply work faster. E.g., if a shark is coming for you, you don’t have all that much time to weigh up the pros and cons of being eaten alive.
So tapping into raw gut instincts and emotions, wherever possible, will help you quickly grab attention and influence decision-making.
- Have you connected with how your reader is currently feeling? Tap into powerful emotions like love, nostalgia, sadness, regret, etc. Yes, even with your B2B audience.
- Have you communicated how that product, service, or piece of content will make them feel?
- Have you used sensory words like “stink”, “bitter”, “silky”, and “shiny”? Here are heaps more.
- What about onomatopoeic words like “pop”, “bang”, and “sizzle”?
- Have you tapped into our strongest primal instinct: fear? One of copywriting’s most famous headlines, which plays on the fear factor, is Max Sackheim’s “Do You Make These Mistakes in English?”
THE HIERARCHY LENS
You can have the most perfectly written copy that hits all the right notes.
But if the messaging hierarchy is wrong and doesn’t make sense, you could lose the interest of your reader sharpish.
The messaging needs to be structured in the best way to make the most powerful impact.
- Are you ‘expectation-matching’ in the first 10% of the piece of content? By this I mean, does the copy or content match what the reader was expecting to read (including the keywords they may have typed into the search engines)?
- For conversion copy landing pages, are you following a proven framework such as PAS or AIDA?
- If you’re telling a story, is there a beginning, middle and end? What is the narrative arc? Check out this blog post on storytelling arcs and narratives.
- When you’re listing benefits, are the most important benefits at the top? Things that come first in a list stick in our minds more. It’s a psychological bias we call the primacy effect.
- Are you answering questions in the order that a prospect would need them answered? For example, are the most important questions answered first?
THE VALUE LENS
Humans are selfish beings. (Yes, you too.)
So copywriting is almost always about giving value to your reader. From highlighting benefits in website copy to a blog post that solves a burning problem.
Every piece of content should be focused on what value it’s offering. What does the reader get out of reading this? Why should they give a crap?
- Are you turning the product or service features into tangible, relatable benefits for the reader?
- Do blog posts and other top-funnel content solve a real problem for the reader? Do they steer clear of self-promotion?
- Does your content or copy teach the reader something? Does it offer knowledge they might struggle to find elsewhere?
- Do you use “YOU” rather than “WE” to address the reader directly and show them that the content is about them?
- Do you address the reader’s pain points in your copy? You’ll have this info from your competitor analysis efforts. But check out how to do it here.
THE SEO LENS (the bonus lens)
This is a lens for any copy or content that’s free for public viewing. As we need to consider the search engines too.
SEO is a careful balancing act these days. And to make sure you get it bang on, you need to follow some simple rules to win over the search engine’s algorithms.
- Have you used the primary and secondary keywords within the text in a natural way? I.e., without keyword-stuffing.
- Is the primary keyword in the first paragraph?
- If this is an SEO-focused article or landing page, is the exact keyword phrase in the H1 header (ideally near the front)?
- Are the H2 headers (subheaders) closely connected to the primary keyword?
- Do the images have ALT descriptions closely connected to the primary keyword – again, without blatantly keyword-stuffing?
- Are you interlinking between articles and landing pages in a way that is natural and helpful? Think Wikipedia.
- Are you linking out to other valuable resources too? Like in this blog post.
- Do you have a meta description and meta title, both containing the exact keyword phrase?
Here’s a handy article on how to nail your SEO by Neil Patel.
Blurry copy. Unfocused messaging. Off-point words. They’re all just plain unnecessary.
Look at your copy and content through the 13 Lenses© (remember, only SEO if it applies).
To be truly effective and all singing, all dancing, the marketing funnel needs to have strong, powerful copy at every single step.
From top-of-the-funnel PPC ads and social media posts to bottom-of-the-funnel drip campaign emails and landing page conversion copy, everything needs to be put through the 13 Lenses©.
Then you can be confident that your copy and content is as powerful as your brand needs it to be.
And the cumulative effect and ROI of sharpening your words at every stage of the funnel will be downright spectacular.