5 ways an ethical copywriter can improve your marketing
Why should you use a professional ethical copywriter and proofreader to work on your marketing materials? Expert proofreader Emma Hewlett and I have produced a helpful guide and a quick toolkit on this – exclusive for our readers!
So, check out Emma’s seven reasons why businesses should hire an ethical proofreader, and read my thoughts below on why ethical copywriting can do wonders for your marketing.
A quick definition first: an ethical copywriter (or content writer) is not just someone who shares your moral values, only writes for eco-friendly or activist brands, hates fossil fuels and climate change, or who simply loves helping ethical and sustainable business succeed. They will also always do their work with integrity and full transparency. We’ll look at some examples in more detail below.
Don’t forget to read to the end to grab a copy of our top tips!
1. Get to know and empathise with your potential clients
Before anyone can (re-)write your web or marketing text, you – and they – will need a good understanding of your target audience. That’s why a copywriter asks you lots of questions, for example:
- Who are your website visitors and buyers (e.g. demographics, location)?
- How did they find your brand (e.g. social media, search engines)?
- Which of these channels has been most successful in bringing web traffic? Why?
- What are your most sought-after products or services? Why do you think this is?
Rely on more ethical analytics programmes
It’s true that you can find much of this information through analytics tools, e.g. Google Search Console and Google Analytics. However, for a more ethical alternative, you could give Matomo a go. It doesn’t collect as much personal data as Google Analytics, but is still very useful.
You may already know why customers buy certain products or services from you. But if you’re not sure, why not ask them? This works well via a survey or even a personal chat, depending on your business.
The information you gain from these key points will be valuable to you and your copywriter.
Avoid overuse of “pain point” formulas
Copywriters need to be very clear about what potential customers are looking and hoping for, and why. In traditional marketing speak, we want to address the clients’ “pain points”. These are “specific problems faced by current or prospective customers in the marketplace”.
Both marketers and writers are taught that they have to make clients “feel the pain” of their situation before finally offering a solution to them.
A common copywriting formula that uses this technique is the PAS method (“Pain” – “Agitate” – “Solve”).
- Show readers their problems in the minutest detail (causing them “pain”).
- Make them worry a lot more about their situation than they did before (making them “agitated”).
- Present your product or service as their only solution (“solving” their problem).
While psychological tricks like these work, there are less manipulative writing tactics you can implement for a more positive impact.
Bring in empathy and evidence
I’d suggest changing tack and focusing on being truly empathetic. A good freelance copywriter will draw on facts, come up with original creative ideas, and write with compassion.
So, instead of rubbing salt into your readers’ wounds, tell a true story and show how you understand their concerns. Perhaps you have been in your clients’ situation before. You also could use a happy customer’s case study to show how your service or product helped them. A professional copywriter will ask for proven evidence (e.g. stats). This way, you’ll use facts, not psychological trickery, to promote yourself.
Empathy and true understanding go a long way to winning new clients. If desired, your copywriter can use more subtle writing formulas like AIDA with this approach.
2. More “You”, less “I”: draw your audience in the right way
Successful web copy begins with addressing your customers and putting yourself into their shoes.
That’s why copywriters typically reduce the number of “I’s”, “me’s” and “ours” in marketing text. They’ll rewrite copy to emphasise the potential client’s needs instead, so they’ll use more “you”’s and “your”’s.
However, text must still flow and read well, and anyone in the copywriting business should be mindful of this.
Don’t say: “I worked for 10 years in a bakery and I now have my own successful birthday cake business. I offer 30+ cake designs, pricing options and flavours and cater for different diets”.
Instead, you could say something like this: “Choose from 30+ birthday cake designs and many delicious flavours! Happily catering for gluten-free and/or vegan diets for your special day. Fantastic value for money. Put your trust in 10 years’ baking experience and read what our many happy customers have to say. [Insert testimonials.]”
Of course, it’s crucial to keep to the facts and not overpromise here. If you only have one gluten-free or vegan option, a good copywriter would rephrase the above sales text, as it implies that all 30+ birthday cakes can be produced in gluten-free and vegan versions.
3. Drill down to the real benefits of your products or services
As we’ve seen above, it’s important to focus on the practical advantages of your goods and to back these up with stats, facts and honest testimonials.
An easy way to do this is to pretend to be a somewhat stroppy teenager. Ask: “So what? Why is that product/ service so great?” Then go into detail.
|Feature||“So what?” -> Key benefits||“So what?” – Drill down further to detailed benefits|
|Vibrant handwoven rugs with a choice of patterns and colours. Produced by a fair trade collective in India.||Practical.|
|Wipe-clean and stain-resistant.|
Customers can choose which patterns and colour combinations look best in their kitchen/hall/rooms.
Purchase supports a weaver’s family in India.
Customers can have a good conscience buying this.
Biodegradable but durable.
Shipping costs are offset.
Great value for money.
(Additionally, show images, facts, stats, case studies, testimonials and prices as evidence for each benefit.)
You can see how well this works. All copywriters will do this exercise for your services and products. They’ll then focus on the best keywords and benefits and emphasise them in your web copy. This helps convince your target audience.
Again, ethical copywriting won’t contain false promises (e.g. greenwashing). Truly ethical businesses should never use benefits that are not based on facts. Instead, they must draw on data, images, case studies and testimonials to prove their worth.
4. No repetitive, misleading or overlong sales copy
Have you ever come across an interesting Facebook ad but instantly regretted clicking on it when you saw how long the sales copy was? Typically, you’ll have to scroll through endless pain point formulas, charm pricing, apparent ‘discounts’ and repetitive text before you see one or more calls to action (CTA).
Lengthy sales copy like this isn’t meant to just persuade you to buy. It’s designed to overwhelm your brain – to wear you down psychologically until you ‘break’ and click on the CTA button to escape. (“Ok, ok, the product must be good, I’ll buy it. Just get me out of here.”) We often see this in email marketing, too.
We also convince ourselves that there are enough reasons to buy and equate the length of the sales copy with product quality. This gives us a false sense of security.
Again, ethical writers won’t use this trick.
Don’t overwhelm or bore your readers. Your marketing text, social media caption or website copy should be clear and easy to understand.
Hemingway is a useful app to check the reading age and complexity of the text. Many writers rely on this and similar tools.
Of course, depending on the target audience, you may need to use certain vocabulary that could be a little more complex. However, most of the time, it’s possible to simplify further.
No dubious discounts
We’ve all seen products that are sold for £27 but apparently have been marked down from £299 (or more) as a “special offer”. Don’t believe the hype. It’s much more likely that the product is worth what it was “discounted” to.
Also, be wary of “upsells” or “downsells” that trick consumers into buying even more.
Charm pricing and discount techniques like these are psychological tricks that should be avoided – especially by ethical and sustainable businesses.
5. Get discovered with the best SEO keywords
Ethical brands should never use “keyword stuffing” in any online copy. It doesn’t read well and Google’s algorithm punishes it, too.
It’s important to undertake proper SEO keyword research before writing anything. Your text must include keywords and phrases real people search for online. You can use free tools such as Google Ads Keywords for this. AnswerThePublic is also a great app to check what people ask about a certain subject.
If there are keywords or phrases that many people search for (“high volume”) but that a lot of other websites also use (“high competition”), then your content will have a hard time ranking.
It’s usually best to focus on low to medium competition keywords, though only if enough people search for these!
An honest copywriter and SEO specialist should warn you if they think there’s no chance of your site ranking with certain keywords. After all, there’s little point in optimising a whole page for a keyword that’s hardly ever searched for or too popular.
Note: if you’d like to learn more about SEO yourself, here’s a quick roadmap to get you started (graphic and content kindly provided by Crazy Egg). A quick summary for those with accessibility problems is given below:
- Start by understanding how search engines work and what people search for. There are great SEO courses available, some of them free.
- Learn about how different aspects can improve your ranking, e.g. on-page/off-page optimisation and technical SEO.
- Optimise content for your target keywords and improve your site’s overall ranking.
- Monitor your results regularly and adjust as needed.
Bonus resource: copywriting and proofreading fact sheet
I hope you’ve found this blog post useful. To assist you further, we’ve compiled a fact sheet with typical questions that freelance copywriters and proofreaders will ask before they start working on your text.
Do check it out below and let us know if we can help you!
Do you agree that it’s worth investing in ethical copywriting and proofreading?
We especially love connecting with ethical and sustainable businesses!
By the way: an ethical content writer like me can also help you polish your copy for any competitions and awards you may want to enter.