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Helpful content: The role of the user in copywriting

Your website isn’t about you or your business; it’s about the user. Never has that been more apparent than in the wake of the Google helpful content update. 

Why is the user so important in copywriting?

Businesses know they need website copy, but it’s not just a case of populating your pages with content. Copywriting is intentionally created with the purposes of marketing, advertising and selling in mind. This is received wisdom, but what’s yet to be acknowledged by many is that copy must enhance the user experience and not just tackle what an organisation believes its USPs are.

Who is website copy for?

It’s easy to think that your company’s website works for you, but you’re not the one it needs to satisfy. After all, you already know the messages you’re trying to get across to your audience and how beneficial your products and services are. The role of your website is to convince potential customers of this too and that’s where UX copywriting comes into play.

When thinking about why the user is so important in copywriting, you’re essentially defining the actions you want them to take. Your content design should reflect this at all times, guiding readers through the sales funnel to convert. Any web copy that doesn’t contribute to this overall goal is a wasted opportunity.

Good UX writing should be a feature of every element of your content strategy, whether you’re creating posts for social media or landing pages for your website. Apply this focus to your copywriting and you’ll soon see how the little changes all add up to improve your performance.

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How does a business identify its users?

Deciding to address your user directly is one thing, but truly great content that focuses on the user experience requires research. For a start, you need to know who your users are, and crucially, they are often different to the demographic many businesses assume they’re targeting.

While it’s safe to say that all of your users won’t look and behave in exactly the same way, creating a persona that reflects your ideal customer can be a useful tool when designing UX content. So, how do you go about building this profile?

Segment your audience

Divide your potential customers into broad groups based on demographics like age, gender, occupation, education and marital status. Add in geographical and behavioural traits to help round out the profile of your user.

Analyse the competition

Don’t be afraid to look at what your competitors are doing to enhance the user experience. This can be achieved by seeing what they post on social media, the content marketing tactics they use and issues that are brought up in reviews.

Speak to your existing customers

The customers you already have can tell you a lot about those you could be attracting, as well as how to improve the experience for them through SEO copywriting. Collecting feedback and sending out surveys is an effective way to obtain this data.

What questions should copywriting be trying to answer?

Well-written UX copy should always be created with a clear idea of the questions it’s trying to answer. These should be the queries posed by potential customers, as addressing them will overcome any barriers to a sale and exemplify why your products or services counteract the user’s pain point.

In the same way you shouldn’t guess who your users are, you don’t want to leave their questions up to chance either. Good UX writing should be based upon research, including the keywords customers search for, topics mentioned on social media and questions posed to you as a company, directly.

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Answering these questions should also be an ongoing process, as a single post about a topic won’t set you apart as a thought leader. Your content marketing strategy should set out how to link articles to create a comprehensive body of copywriting that enhances the user experience and tackles relevant subjects.

A professional UX copywriter will also be able to tailor their content to address customers at different stages of the marketing funnel. A user who has just come across your business online will expect an entirely different experience compared to a loyal customer who’s returning to buy from you again, so be sure you have copy that addresses both segments of your audience.

What is the helpful content update?

How search engines evaluate content has a big impact on copywriting. After all, organisations employ copywriters in part to help move them up the search rankings and to make them more discoverable to users. Undoubtedly the biggest player in this arena is Google and an update to its algorithm put additional focus on quality content that meets the needs of users.

The helpful content update was rolled out in 2022 and is just one in a long line of amendments to its algorithm. Some of these updates can have a huge impact on search engine results, while others are more nuanced and add to the overall evolution of Google’s services. As the specifics of the search giant’s algorithm are kept secret, it’s up to SEO experts to interpret best practice as a result of such updates.

Google’s helpful content update does what it says on the tin and rewards content that is beneficial to those using its search engine. This is great news for everybody, because content creators get to write more interesting blogs, articles and guides, while readers get more quality copywriting to read.

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What does the helpful content update mean for copywriting?

Knowing what the helpful content update is and its implications for copywriting is vital for content creators to do a good job. The Google algorithm is getting better at identifying low-quality content that has been created solely for the purpose of gaming search engines and not with people in mind.

Effective copywriters should be trained in SEO and understand the features that help to rank well, but shouldn’t be writing search engine-first content. Instead, they should be creating pieces that are designed for humans, answer their queries and, as a result, are rewarded by performing well in search.

As the Google algorithm becomes more sophisticated, it’s bringing the best interests of all parties together. Users want to find what they’re looking for and the search engine giant aims to take them to that content as quickly as possible. Businesses shouldn’t be trying to use tricks to attract users, because this traffic simply won’t convert into sales. 

Why is the update good for users?

One of the ways that companies find themselves with unhelpful content is when their marketing strategy tries to cover too broad a range of subjects. Believing it will propel them up the rankings in Google searches, some businesses try to include copywriting on topics outside their niche, which dilutes their reputation as experts in their industry.

In the wake of the Google helpful content update, users can expect to be directed to the best sources that will deliver them real value. Such clear-cut distinctions will reassure them they’re in the right place and they’ll be far more likely to convert. Stick to your intended audience and the primary purpose of your site for maximum effect.

Typical indicators that your content is aimed at search engines instead of people include:

  • A disparate selection of topics are being covered that don’t link together
  • Untargeted content that you’re hoping some of which will perform well
  • Following trends as opposed to what your audience is truly interested in
  • Publishing content to do with an area where your business doesn’t excel

None of the above will service your users well and search engines now know this. Lean into the Google update and ensure the content creators you work with are writing with your audience in mind. Such helpful content will improve your reputation and help attract more relevant traffic to your site.

How should businesses adapt their copywriting to suit the update?

Hopefully, the helpful content update hasn’t seen your business drop significantly down the rankings in search engine results pages. If it has, then this highlights a much larger problem and it’s time to rethink your copywriting provider, as the tools and techniques they’re using are churning out low-quality or unhelpful content that has no place on your website.

Even if you haven’t seen a dramatic shift, Google Analytics may pinpoint some areas that could do with improvement. Website copywriting is an area that’s constantly developing and those who offer the service should be continually updating their skills and best practice to ensure they’re offering the best possible content to their clients.

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As a business, you should be speaking to your content creators regularly and always open to a new and innovative approach. Your copywriters should align their writing with the aims and goals of your company and search engine practices are likely to be relevant to your strategy. While Google’s helpful content update shouldn’t necessitate huge changes, it’s worth acknowledging.

How can copywriting improve the user experience?

When you think about it, copy powers all of the functionality on the internet. Without writing, there’d be no ability to interact with any user interface from search engines to call-to-action (CTA) buttons. So, while many of us are aware of the UX writer behind a product description page or blog article, it’s easy to forget that microcopy across all digital platforms has been designed and implemented by a human being.

In fact, it’s often only when this UX text falls down and fails to do its job seamlessly that questions about its provenance start to emerge. As a business, you want your UX design, which includes everything from copy to graphic elements, to perform so intuitively that potential customers use it without thinking. Great UX writing fits so perfectly into its setting that the user doesn’t question it at all.

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How to put the user at the heart of your copywriting

UX text doesn’t stand on its own and must be part of the wider design thinking to ensure it fulfils its potential. This requires a joined-up strategy that helps you to fully understand who your user is, what their motivations are and how they will use your website, social channels and apps. Only then can you create content that truly suits your reader.

Some key elements to bear in mind before you even start writing are:

Understand different stages of the funnel

Where your potential customers are in the buying process will impact your copywriting. A UX designer will think about how users will travel through the funnel and the writing on different pages must help to facilitate that. Clients who are ready to buy will not need the same information as those who are being introduced to your product for the first time.

Highlight the benefits of your product or service

While it’s the job of a copywriter to encourage users to take a particular action, stressing this repeatedly is not necessarily the best way to achieve that aim. Instead, great UX writing focuses on the benefits a customer can expect to get from your business, making them want to take actions as opposed to being coerced into it.

Segment your users

Learn more about your ideal customers by conducting research into everything from where they live to how they interact with digital products online. Not all of your clients will be identical, so segmenting your audience in a number of groups and building several personas is a good way to start.

Use appropriate language

Copywriters should make your website seem authoritative, but this doesn’t mean loading it full of complicated terminology and industry jargon. Simplifying language, keeping the structure easy to understand and explaining things properly are all key to building the best user experience.

Facilitate the flow of information

Your UX design should always keep in mind how information will be conveyed as your reader moves around the site. You want it to flow in a natural way, with prompts such as ‘learn more’ and ‘click here’ to guide them in a logical direction. Make sure that navigation is an integral part of your plan and not an afterthought when creating UX copy.

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Why professional copywriters are user-centric

The art of copywriting is constantly developing and professionals in the industry know they must write for the user or risk falling behind the competition. Digital copy differs from traditional mediums, such as print adverts, in that it’s interactive. This means content is no longer a one-way process where writing is simply consumed, but affected by those reading it too.

Fail to take the user into consideration and they will go elsewhere. After all, marketing is now experiential and customers expect so much more from a brand than simply purchasing a product or service. Companies must monopolise on the opportunities presented by UX content well after the initial transaction to turn customers into loyal advocates of their brand.

Is the user experience all that important?

To fully understand why user experience is important, you need to put yourself in your potential customers’ shoes. Nobody likes to be sold to without having their needs and desires listened to or with their questions going unanswered. This is the same in the real world as it is online, but it’s easy to forget that when creating content for a website or app.

Writing with the user in mind is beneficial for all parties involved. It allows readers to have their questions answered and enjoy an improved experience; search engines can direct users to the most relevant content; and you as a business can convert more leads into customers and hopefully, loyalists of your brand. Put the user experience at the heart of your copywriting and reap the benefits.

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