The Importance of Research in the Copywriting Process

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The man many consider to be the greatest ad man of all time, David Ogilvy, used to always preach the importance of conducting thorough research before writing a single word of copy. Research is the best foundation for coming up with profitable ideas and the right angle for your copy. Without it, you’re like a blindfolded drunk trying to throw a bull’s-eye while playing darts at the local bar.

Because this is an SEO/Internet marketing blog, I’m only going to discuss the importance of research as it relates to writing your website copy.

•    Understanding your product—You’d be surprised how many companies have a skewed view of their product. Either they think it’s way more impressive than it really is (because they’re biased) or they don’t truly understand which features/benefits their target audience cares about. In Ogilvy’s book Ogilvy on Advertising, he discusses an advertising campaign he created to increase tourism to Britain. One prominent British government official told Ogilvy he should feature trout fishing in his ads to the U.S. market. Ogilvy responded by pointing out that research indicated there were 49 other benefits of traveling to Britain that interested Americans more than trout fishing. Know the true appeal of your product!

•    Analyzing the competition—
A careful study of your competition is a crucial step to take before writing your web copy for several reasons. First, you need to identify exactly who your competitors are. Next, you need to know what their online presence consists of. In other words, are they active in social media? Have they optimized their website? Lastly, you need to examine their actual website copy. What benefit are they playing up?  Who do they seem to be speaking to? What’s their USP? Knowing all of this will help you create the right angle for your copy.

•    Getting to know your target audience—
I’ve said more than my fair share on identifying your target audience, so I won’t bore you with more details.

•    Keyword research—Effective keyword research is the gateway for bringing qualified traffic to your website. When doing your keyword research, you should not only determine the common search queries related to your products and services, but you should also try to identify keyword opportunities your competition is overlooking. Remember, SEO isn’t a one-time process. Keyword research is something your should be doing on a regular basis to ensure your search engine presence is at its maximum potential.

•    Web usability research—When it comes to writing for the web, Jakob Nielsen is the chief authority on usability. Spend time browsing through his web usability studies so you can make certain your copy is getting read (or scanned) and your readers are taking action.

How much research did you do before you wrote your web copy?

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