August 12th, 2021

Copycat's Anatomy #1

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Written by Rebecca van Laer

At Copycat, we’re always in the process of creating new professional development resources for working and aspiring copywriters. The below blog post is adapted from our in-house manual on all things copy-related, Copycat’s Anatomy. Read to the end to find out more.

Answering the Article Prompt as Quickly as Possible

When you’re writing SEO blog content, it goes without saying that your posts should be:

  • Well-written
  • Thoroughly researched

But we’ve noticed that beginning copywriters sometimes turn in articles with a dozen credible sources and twice as many razor-sharp witticisms, only to miss the third criteria of effective copy. Aside from articulate and informative, copy should also be:

  • Highly relevant to the topic

If you Googled a question like “What is SEO?” and didn’t find a definition in the first paragraph, would you really keep reading? We doubt it. That’s why it’s important to meet the readers’ implicit expectations for the article ASAP. In this short guide, we’ll explain how.

Step 1: Understand What Your Client is Asking For

As you receive article assignments from your client, it might seem like you’re traveling to a new universe each and every week.

One day, you’re writing a piece on “How to Make Your Dog’s Hair Shiny.” Next, you’re delving into a topic like “How to Interpret Virtual CISO pricing.”

The one thing these articles have in common? Their basic genre. In both cases, you’ll probably guide readers through a series of steps. 

The more you write SEO content, the more you’ll find your assigned article titles fit into one of four categories:

  • How to perform a task – Some articles—like the one you’re reading now!—guide readers through a series of steps that lead to their desired outcome. 

  • An introduction to a topic – Others answer a direct question, provide a definition, or serve as a “101” guide.

  • A matchup or versus between two options for solving a problem – From pros and cons lists to “Marvel vs DC,” many article topics require you to compare and contrast two competing options.

  • A listicle – Articles asking for “X benefits of” or “X tips for” will always take the form of a numbered list (usually for at least half the article, although you may sometimes need to include other information to build it out).

While some SEO blog post titles fall into a gray area, you can usually group any assignment into one of these four categories. 

And by identifying the appropriate article genre, you start out on the right foot for effectively answering the topic.

Writing that article on how to make a dog’s hair shiny? Your first heading is probably going to start with “Step 1: Identifying the Right Diet” not “Dog Hair vs. Human Hair” or “The Composition of Canine Keratin Strands.”

Step 2: Plan Your Introduction

If you can answer the article prompt in a sentence or two, do so in the intro.

If the title of your article starts with a question—“What is nearshoring?”—or an implied question—”Benefits of reishi mushrooms”—answer the query as directly as possible. 

You know how Google often answers the questions you search with a short paragraph excerpted from a web source? If you don’t include a clear answer in your intro, you erase the clients’ chance of showing up as a snippet.

Otherwise, you should begin your answer in the H2 immediately following. 

Step 3: Figure Out Where to Provide Context and Background

Are you writing a listicle or a how-to? 

In some cases, your intuition tells you that you shouldn’t immediately dive into #1 or Step 1. For example, within the article “5 Benefits of SMS Marketing,” you might think it’s prudent to include a section called “SMS Marketing 101” before you start listing the value propositions.

In others, you have the sinking sensation that you can only write a few hundred words of your 1500 word article in the form of a listicle or step-by-step guide. How can you write 1500 words on “How to Make CBD Coffee” when there’s only one obvious step?!

In either case, you might be tempted to delay diving into your given article genre by providing a background section. 

But sometimes, that background section detracts from the stated goal of the article. If you’re writing about…

  • How to Stress Less
  • Top X Tips to Reduce Stress
  • 5 Step Stress-Reducing Routine

We want to get right to those tips or steps! After all, that’s why the reader clicked on your article.

Strategies for Incorporating Background Information

Instead of including a background section, “What Causes Stress” or “The Mind-Body Connection,” try to exercise the following:

  • Include the information throughout. Add background information on the roots of stress throughout the individual sections, letting the reader learn as they go. 
    • Options include: Tweaking step 1 or Tip #1 to suit your ends, e.g., “Tip #1: Understand the Roots of Stress” or making use of a subheading underneath your first tip or step.

  • Rearrange the outline. Introduce background information after you’ve listed out your steps or tips in a section with a title like “How Stress Affects Your Overall Health.”

  • If you do include a background section, exercise brevity—two paragraphs or ten lines maximum, with no H3s. If you still have more information, revert to one of the strategies above.

Step 4: Check Relevance During Your Self-Edit

Many writers say that they “can’t edit themselves.”

And while it’s true that we have various degrees of jitters when looking over recent writing and varying abilities to identify mistakes or inconsistencies, you can definitely check your articles for relevance!

Here are our top two tips for checking relevance:

  • Identify the place where you address the prompt – While some articles take 1500 words to fully explore the topic, it’s easy to make sure you’ve answered the direct question in an article title, chosen a winner in a versus battle, or actually provided numbered tips for your listicle.

  • Review your headings – When reading back through your headings, make sure you’ve organized them for relevancy. Then, continue to look for ways to tie other information back to the article title throughout.

The Answers to Your Burning Copywriting Questions

Long story short? If your client asks you to provide a specific definition or compose a list of tips, your #1 priority is making sure your article actually addresses that directive.

Only then does all the hard work you put into logical organization and soaring feats of prose begin to matter.

Have a question about improving your articles’ relevance or addressing a particular genre of blog post?

At Copycat, it’s our mission to help creative, dynamic writers of all backgrounds hone the craft of copywriting. Reach out to and subscribe to our writer newsletter to receive an alert the next time we post an excerpt from Copycat’s Anatomy!

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