We’re grateful for our friend and content super heroine, Kate Toon, sitting down with us to discuss her experience and philosophy on copywriting for business success. Enjoy her wise and transparent perspective on how content can transform your business.
Nao Media: What inspired you to begin a career as a copywriter?
Kate Toon: I’ve always had a love of writing. I studied English Literature at University and spent my late teens and early 20s writing gig reviews and interviewing pop stars. I started my advertising career more on the production side but moved into copywriting while at Ogilvy in Sydney. It wasn’t until I became pregnant that I realised I had to make a break from the high-energy world of ad agencies, and so at five months pregnant I set up as a solo copywriter. I haven’t looked back!
NM: “Content is king” has been the go-to phrase of the last few years for digital marketers and content creators. In your opinion, is content the cornerstone of modern business?
KT: For many businesses yes, great content is a powerful way to engage users and convert them into customers. From a Search Engine Optimisation point of view, awesome content also helps you earn more links and shares. This drives authority, brand recognition and ranking.
But a ‘content is king’ strategy doesn’t work for, or isn’t tenable for, all businesses. Not many window cleaners have time to create infographics, or ’how to’ posts. For many businesses, networking, word of mouth and print advertising are still the way to go.
NM: The way we share content is constantly evolving. What content platforms are your favourites, and why?
KT: I know many people are celebrating the demise of Facebook, but I still love the level of love I received from my likers. I also love Google+; the communities there are great for making connections with like-minded business folk. But in truth, the most powerful platform for sharing my content and driving traffic to my site is still email marketing.
NM: What is the secret recipe for creating successful website copy?
KT: I think all the standard elements apply – so we need to be writing copy that’s:
Well written, grammatical and free from errors
Focused, concise and readable
Targeted, with a clear audience and goal in mind
Written to please humans first and Google second
But for me, the missing ingredient in lots of web copy is personality. A little humour, a little slang or quirky or unusual phrasing can lift your content above the rest: so much online copy is terribly vanilla.
NM: Years ago, businesses were told that in order to be successful they needed to have a blog. Presently, businesses are told that in order to be successful, they need to have a social media presence. Is blogging still a necessity?
KT: Well I believe the old ‘build a blog and the traffic will follow’ ethos is dead. Google now rewards the best content, not just the most recent, so it’s not enough to just regularly pump out ‘content’ and hope it will magically translate into converting customers. Social media engagement works well for many brands, but not everyone (who’s going to follow my window cleaner on Facebook). Also, in my experience, it’s often the most unrelated, inane content on social sites that goes viral – so having a heap of likes or followers doesn’t always mean better business.
I believe that blogs are still valuable for many businesses; after all, you need content to put on all your social media sites. But I think many take a ‘publish and pray’ approach, and forget to think about ways of amplifying their content and encouraging other people to share on their behalf. Half the battle these days is finding sites / brands and people who will take their awesome content and share it with the wider world.
NM: What do you see as the biggest mistake businesses are making with their content?
KT: Believing the hype. I’m asked at least once a week to write 20 x 200 word blog posts targeting a list of highly competitive, low traffic keyword phrases. They are just pure Google fodder and do nothing to address customer questions or solve problems.
Pumping out content for the sake of it is a big fat waste of time if you ask me.
NM: What has been the biggest risk you’ve taken professionally and how has it paid off?
KT: I think the biggest risk was letting people peep behind the curtain and see the human side of me. I’ve sacrificed a polished professional image for a more human and fallible one. I celebrate my wins, sure, but I also share my failures.
By opening up and sharing my real personality online (my odd sense of humour included), I believe I’ve won more genuine, long-term followers. And these followers are my biggest advocates.
Having advocates means my brand and my content is shared further afield and that drives more traffic and business to my site.
It wasn’t really a conscious business decision but often, the best ideas happen organically in my experience!