Research is arguably the most important aspect of web writing. Without knowing what we’re talking about, a copywriter can’t appeal to anyone, let alone the target audience.
As important as it is to read up on the topics we are hired to write about, a lot of us copywriters greet this phase of the copywriting process with a less than ecstatic welcome.
Good research takes time, and time is a copywriter’s most valuable asset. Some swear by setting their rates to reflect the time they put into researching each project. But you just never really know how deep you might have to dig when you’re looking to write the perfect sales page, blog post, newsletter article, etc.
In this week’s Quick Tip, Paul Lalley of Webwordslinger.com shares his 7 tips to research time. See what you can do to streamline the research phase and produce copy quicker. Enjoy!
As copy writers we have to learn a lot of stuff, from quonset hut fabrication to urology to the biases of the Japanese university system, and that means a lot of research. Innate curiosity goes with the job, but research time costs money and we’re in the business of learning stuff fast, writing about it and cashing the check.
Here’s seven ways to cut research time down to size.
1. Google the heck out of it. Don’t just use primary keywords, conduct searches using secondary key words and key words SE users enter into query boxes.
2. Use industry specific search engines. We all know Google, Yahoo and Bing but there are more than 4,000 search engines crawling the web. To find the latest on “smart doors” use a construction industry search engine. A good place to start is http://www.searchengineguide.com.
3. Use local search for local businesses. If your client has a service area of 25 square kilometers, enter your search term and the zip (postal) code where the client is located. You’ll see the competition, local news, local attractions and features of Westport 06880.
4. Skip the academic treatises, white papers and in-depth analyses. Someone has already read them and synthesized key content into a 1,000-word piece. Find the breakdown piece and save time.
5. Use forums. There’s a forum for everything. Need to know the latest on Caribbean vacations? Here’s the link to a forum: http://www.fodors.com/community/caribbean-islands/. Forums are sources for quick information and highly-specific info. Post a question and get a few dozen answers in a few hours. And the FAQ sections are up-to-date with the most current topics.
6. Read. Learn the language of the trade or industry so you use it in your writing. Every industry has insider jargon. Reading a lot of short articles also provides a list of what insiders are talking about. Join a LinkedIn group associated with your research topic and get up-to-the-minute information on what’s happening.
7. Spin it. Spinning has a bad reputation but, let’s face it, we all spin content. We have to. How much can you say about pre-fab concrete? And the news isn’t all that exciting in the cement sector, either.
Learn the basics, learn the concerns, learn the jargon, and you not only become a better copy writer, you know stuff that you can sell again without a lot of research time.
What tip(s) stand out most to you as a time-saver?
Do you have any techniques already in place to reduce the amount of you spend researching?
What topic required the most time to research over the course of your copywriting career?
Nikki Robinson is a freelance web copywriter and a member of American Writers & Artists Inc. Her background and experience includes business management, sales & marketing, telecommunications and legal writing. Contact her at Nikki@RobinsonWriting.com or visit RobinsonWriting.com for more info.