Table of contents:
Read to know why we believe 2020 will be characterised by conversational copywriting - content which speaks to its audience in ‘natural language terms’.
Content marketing is predicted to be the most commercially impactful advertising approach for the third year running.
So if you’ve not at least started thinking about your 2020 content marketing strategy, then it’s time to get cracking!
But between pillar content plans, social media schedules, evergreen blog posts and SEO copywriting skills... it can be hard to see the wood for the trees.
What is the right content marketing approach for your business? Where should you invest your digital marketing spend, to see the best ROI? Which copywriting trends and techniques will really matter in the coming months?
That’s why we want to cut to the chase; to make it simple for brands, businesses and other content marketers to plan for 2020. Because there’s one major trend that will be important to get right, no matter which content channels you’ll be advertising in.
At Scribly, we’re predicting that 2020 will be characterised by conversational copywriting. Or, in other words, content which speaks to its audience in ‘natural language terms’.
Of course, this is nothing new. innocent drinks inspired a wave of ‘wackaging’ (its own, idiosyncratic form of conversational copywriting) way back in the early 00s. And it’s not exactly radical to say that brands need to act more human.
So why is conversational copywriting so crucial in the near future? It’s all down to technology...
As digital channels continue to evolve, natural language terms will become increasingly important to connect with customers
When innocent drinks started printing “Stop looking at my bottom” on the base of their smoothie cartons it was cute, it was clever and it helped sell fruit juice.
That was how brands could converse with their customers back then — through packaging and physical, held touchpoints, to either add value post-purchase or as a final clincher to seal the deal
Then came the commercial opportunity of social media, which dramatically changed the dialogue. Now, through Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and all the rest, brands are in on-going, human-to-human conversations with their audience, every day.
So technology has hugely influenced the way that businesses communicate with buyers, and that will continue to be true in 2020 and beyond. But — as we’re cutting to the chase here — there are 3 game-changing digital capabilities which make the need for conversational copywriting especially important next year:
- SERP position zero
- Voice powered search
- Next generation chatbots
Conversational copy via new technology can help you better serve your customers — but only if it adds real value to your relationship
In 2020, brands will be able to use these 3, increasingly more accessible, digital platforms and channels to answer a consumer need. After all, people want to have conversations with brands, both in how they find information and how they interact with the products they buy, and now these digital solutions are affordable enough for many businesses to utilise them.
But — and this is crucial — we are not recommending you flood your blog with voice search optimised copy, just because everyone else is doing it.
Content for content’s sake does no one any good. In fact, it only serves to make the internet a noisier place, meaning your brand will have to fight harder to cut through.
Instead, for businesses to stay competitive they need to adopt new technologies in a way that provides real value to their audience and makes commercial sense for the future.
Because, when done well, copy and content bridges the gap between companies and consumers, building and nurturing meaningful, long-lasting relationships (and delivering ROI!).
So, never mind what your next competitor is up to in their 2020 marketing meetings. If you want to maximise your marketing strategy in the coming year, you need to decide how you’ll use these three technologies, why it would be worth your investment and what you need to do to get it right.
Ready? Let’s dive in…
Writing For SERP Position Zero
Google has been less of a search engine and more of an answers engine, for years. Users either type in specific questions, e.g. “how to write a content marketing plan”, or implied questions, “copywriting skills” (abridged from “what skills do copywriters need?”) to get results
But recently, you may have noticed the answer you seek is presented very quickly and clearly right in front of you. No longer must you scroll through even the first page of search engine results: Google selects the most relevant, useful and direct answer for you and displays it as a snippet right at the top of the page.
This is called Position Zero, and it’s a highly coveted spot.
After all, if you can get Google to select your content for P0, then you leave other SERPs in the dust.
How do you write copy for SERP Position O?
There are a number of content types which work well for P0, but the most transferable are: the 5Ws, terminology definitions and simple how-to instructions.
And for each of these, conversational copywriting is absolutely essential.
The 5Ws — answering who, what, when, why and why — is the most like having a conversation with your reader. Whether it’s written in full, “When will the new season of The Crown come out?”, or abridged as an implied question, “new The Crown”, businesses have a unique opportunity to lend a helping hand and quickly answer the question, and save the reader time and energy.
The same goes for helping a reader understand complex terminology; if you Google ‘SERP’, the P0 spot is taken by a snippet which explains, in a few simple sentences, exactly what search engine results positions are and why it’s an important strategy. ‘SERP’ is an implied question, which P0 quickly answers.
That’s why, when it comes to crafting this content, a copywriter needs to consider how the audience will phrase the question in natural language terms. If a writer can echo the reader’s voice in their content, there’s a far greater chance of taking over the P0 spot.
Problem is: the 5Ws strategy can slow down traffic generation. If a reader is getting the answer they need from your content’s snippet in P0, then they don’t need to click through to your site.
So that’s where how-to guides add a great deal of value in a content plan. The kinds of questions answered via detailed instructions are difficult to convey in a snippet alone. A business can still dominate P0 with this content, but the reader will almost certainly need to click through to learn more.
The bottom line?
A great Position Zero content strategy will use natural language terms to match a reader’s full or implied questions, and mix up the kinds of content which provide instant gratification as well as encourage time-on-site.
Voice Powered Search: Are You Ready For It?
“Hey, Siri. How many search queries now take place through voice search?”
The answer is 20%, according to Google. And this is particularly important for brands with young, tech-savvy customers: 71% of smartphone users aged 18-29 use voice assistants to search on mobile.
So whether its Siri, Alexa or Cortana, virtual assistants are becoming more and more at home, in the home. Users are talking to them exactly the same way they do their friends and family — to the extent that kids have accidentally (or not!) purchased toys and treats, simply by having a chat with their parents’ home assistant.
And the commercial opportunity for voice powered purchasing is phenomenal.
If the growth of home assistants goes as expected, by 2021 there will be almost as many of them as there are people on this planet. To give that stat some context: it took around 30 years for mobile phones to outnumber human beings.
How Do You Write Copy For Voice Search?
There’s an interesting dichotomy for content marketers to balance when writing voice search optimised copy.
For one, people are going to use more words when verbalising their search requests. But results will need to be more to the point, at the same time.
Think of it this way: when you’re stood in the kitchen planning how to stock up the cupboards for the Christmas break, you’re not going to say, “Hey, Alexa. Best roast potato recipe”.
You’re going to speak, using natural language terms, and say something along the lines of, “Hey, Alexa. What’s the best way of making roast potatoes so that they go really crispy on the outside but are still really fluffy on the inside?”
We use far more words when we talk than when we type, but that doesn’t slow us down. In fact, the average person can type roughly 40 words per minute, but verbalise 150.
And voice powered search results need to reflect that speed of conversation.
Simply because a user may communicate using more complex, longer phrases, doesn’t mean they’ve got the time to wait for a home assistant to decode that and respond back. Considering the key reasons people use voice activated speakers are the ability to multitask, get instant answers to questions and make day-to-day life easier all round… it’s safe to say that Cortana better return the pace.
So, the secret is being conversational and strategic at the same time.
An understanding of how your target talks about your brand and product in their everyday life is crucial for voice powered search — you need to be able to predict the phrases they’ll speak in order to gain exposure.
For example, if a dry skin sufferer cries out to an assistant bot, “How do I stop my skin from itching so much?” or “What are the best products to get rid of dry skin?”, as a skincare brand you need to make sure your web and blog copy is optimised to these types of questions.
Using conversational copy and natural language terms ensures a much greater chance of driving traffic, versus fragmented keywords like “dry, itchy skin” or even certain medical terms like “eczema” and “atopic dermatitis”.
Next Generation Chatbots
In 2020 over 85% of marketing interaction between customers and businesses will be via non-human support, like chatbots.
That is a huge amount!
But whilst consumers love the idea of chatting with a brand — 9 out of 10 want to use messaging software to talk with businesses — they don’t particularly want it to feel like a AI-powered discussion.
In fact, almost 50% of customers want to switch from a bot to a real person when it comes to discussing anything personal to do with their order or account history.
Fortunately, the new wave of chatbot training includes natural language processing and tonality particularities. This means businesses can soon start to close the gap between what a human customer service representative and an AI counterpart can do in conversation.
Until then, though, there are some quick and easy wins in conversational copywriting for chatbots...
How do you write copy for chatbots?
Sure, the machines are smart. But they aren’t capable of the nuance of natural human language just yet. That’s why the number one rule for today’s chatbot content is: keep it simple
It’s better to have a useful chatbot, with basic functionality, than one which asks too many questions and ends up short-circuiting with confusion. Try to overreach, and you’ll just end up with a broken bot and a frustrated customer.
Conceptualise and a set number of conversations a user would have with your chatbot (and this will vary depending on how and where you’re applying the tech). Then, bring it back to natural language terms.
How are users realistically going to phrase a question? Do away with any internal jargon — write for the customers’ vocabulary, not yours.
We love this example from Lidl’s ‘winebot’, Margot. Not only does ‘she’ quickly understand a question, even if phrased in natural language terms — e.g. “under 5 pounds”, without a Sterling symbol — but ‘she’ helps make the sometimes stuffy world of wine more accessible to everyday shoppers.
Nice one, Margot!
Two more chatbot copy tips: allow your bot to repeat things back to the user, especially if it’s taking orders. Humans seek confirmation through repetition all the time, so use this conversational structure to humanise your chatbot content.
Lastly, update the script regularly.
Remember, you want to use chatbot technology to support on-going, informal and useful conversations with your customers — so they don’t want to hear the same questions, the same quips, the same quirky sign offs over and over again. Keep it fresh; keep it real.
Make Conversational Copywriting Your 2020 Marketing Mission
As a copywriting technique, writing in natural language terms is truly adaptable; it’s going to deliver value, in whichever content channel you use it.
That’s why conversational copywriting is our #1 trend for the coming year.
Now, it’s over to you to decide how best to use this copywriting skill for your business. Maybe you’ll talk your way to the golden Position Zero, maybe you’ll just take small steps to make your chatbots feel more like friendly sidekicks than scripted software.
If you can find a unique angle that answers your customer needs, then that’s the secret to a commercially valuable content approach.
And, if you need a little help — or just fancy a chat about conversational copywriting — drop us a line. We’d love to help.