8 FEB

Digital copywriting trends for 2012

Copywriting Trends for 2012

2012 is here. Happy new year!

Now, I’m no Nostradamus. I’ve got no psychic powers, as far as I’m aware. I’m not even a publicity seeking analyst. Not by trade.

But I am a working digital copywriter who keeps his ear to the ground. So why on Earth shouldn’t I share my predictions for the most significant copywriting trends of 2012?

Here goes.

A new set of rules will emerge for online marketing copy

Web copy used to mean written content for a website, as designed to be viewed on a desktop or laptop computer. Audiences developed certain habits in how they used this content, and copywriters have often tried to describe the best methods for appealing to those habits. Like this fella. “Make it easy to skim, anticipate users’ questions”… all that stuff.

Now the devices we use to read websites are diversifying. It’s not just smartphones. It’s Internet TV, it’s tablets, it’s games consoles and who-knows-what-next. Here at the beginning of 2012, use of these devices has reached a point where the web is all around us.

Perhaps we’ll need to design most “web copy” to be read aloud (i.e. in video). Perhaps text will get shorter and typefaces bigger, to accommodate reading on the TV. There’s already evidence that both these things are happening. One thing’s for sure: web copy conventions are changing in 2012.

Google Plus will take off and change SEO copywriting

There’s a lot of suspicion and dislike of Google Plus around. Personally, I like it. And given how deeply Google is embedding it within its services, it looks like the search giant will stick with Plus and make it work.

With its `+1′ buttons, and simply because Google is the West’s most popular search engine by miles, Plus has the power to change organic search results. +1 is a public recommendation of a web page, which already shows up in friends’ search results if you’re signed in to Google. That means with enough active Google Plus users, search results on Google will look very different.

If that happens, pages that are shared often will become much more valuable, and the rules of SEO will change drastically. And because we tend to share online the things we find entertaining and practical, I predict that corporate website copy (which is usually neither) will shrink further into the background. It won’t necessarily happen in 2012, but it will happen.

Demand for video script writing will increase

Video content is becoming ever more important to web users, and increasingly prominent in Internet search. SEO people are getting excited about it. And when SEO people get excited, demand for content follows shortly behind.

If you’re a digital copywriter who isn’t prepared to tell clients “I write brilliant video scripts,” you need to do something about that now. Go on, get your voiceover/script writing skills in order. You’ll make more money in 2012.

Email marketing will bring in much less cash

Email has issues. People are sending them far less often, because they’d rather share on Facebook and Twitter. Email is even getting a bad rep as a business time waster – and I believe it’s deserved. I spend way too much time reading and writing them, when often a phone call would be quicker and friendlier.

So while email marketing isn’t dying, copywriters probably shouldn’t put too much stock in this kind of work in 2012. One major brand I write for has definitely gotten much tighter with its email project budgets lately. What have you noticed?

Performance data will be easier to come by – so get some ready

The economy is still gasping for breath, and will continue to pant heavily this year. Corporations are still obsessed with efficiency, and probably always will be.

As a result, marketing plans in 2012 will be keenly focused on measured, meaningful results. And thanks to the dominance of online advertising, campaign performance is very easy to measure.

Copywriters who can prove their writing gets results, preferably with hard data, will get more work. That was always true of course, but it’s more relevant than ever in 2012. Ask clients for feedback and testimonials on successful projects, and always get performance data where possible.

Well, those were my tips for the copywriting trends of 2012. I’ll be back in December with another article that triumphantly celebrates their accuracy.

In the meantime, feel free to dissect or pooh-pooh them in the comments below.

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Written by Neil Wheatley

Neil Wheatley is a Sheffield-based freelance copywriter who writes for agencies and marketing depts across the UK. He isn’t this grumpy in person. Neil can be hired via his website. Read more posts by Neil Wheatley

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8 Comments

  1. Anne

    February 08, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Great post Neil – it’s always interesting to read other content writers’ opinions on the way things are going.

    Only one point I don’t necessarily agree with and that’s email marketing. Speaking from a work point of view our email newsletter subscriber list grows daily, click through rates are good and we have an extremely low unsubscribe rate. I’m also selling much more advertising space on our emails than on our website and one or two companies have mentioned that they’re moving their advertising budgets away from print towards online – that’s not surprising but I think the fact that they’re choosing email rather than web is significant.

    From a personal point of view I’m increasingly finding email alerts to be a useful way of keeping on top of things – it’s especially handy for LinkedIn. Similarly I find certain digest emails really useful like Brainpicker or Smashing Mag. I don’t always make time in the day to look at these sites, other than clicking the odd Twitter link, but I find it much more manageable and enjoyable to spend a few minutes reading a condensed summary of new material they’ve added to their wesite or links they’ve enjoyed that week. More often than not these emails contain a hefty amount of content about other companies’ products, but because a trusted source is telling me about them, I don’t mind, in fact I actually appreciate it.

    Anyway, that’s just my two-penneth. Essentially I’m saying that I think email is still important, just that perhaps the content of those emails is changing (or should change to be more effective).

    Anne

    • Neil Wheatley

      February 13, 2012 at 7:52 pm

      Great to hear your thoughts about email Anne. You’re right as well – there is still plenty of value in email marketing, even if it’s popularity is waning a bit. I obviously let my personal frustrations get the better of me there!

  2. Mike Robinson

    February 08, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    Great post Neil – I really liked it and I would agree with all your web/SEO points. I’m not so sure about email marketing, for reasons similar to Anne’s above. And yes, as clients have to justify spend that much more, they’ll definitely go with copywriters who can prove their worth.

    • Neil Wheatley

      February 13, 2012 at 7:53 pm

      Thanks Mike. I wish I knew of more ways to prove that worth, beyond having a good portfolio and client testimonials. Perhaps a topic for a future blog post :)

  3. Dan Morris

    February 08, 2012 at 1:19 pm

    Nice article Neil.

    One area I think copywriters (and clients, planners, designers etc) need to consider more is the content that forms part of any right-touching strategy. In my experience/opinion this is often overlooked (i.e. in its simplest form …. the ‘thank you for xxx’ messages being added by the dev!) and should really be right at the top of any copywriters agenda – if anything just to prompt the client, agency etc to start thinking more about it. That’s my copywriting trend prediction for 2012.

    There’s a good article here for anyone interested – http://www.mycustomer.com/topic/marketing/right-touching-biggest-challenge-digital-marketing-2011/127388

    Ps – I shamefully hold my hand up to the example above!

    • Neil Wheatley

      February 13, 2012 at 8:12 pm

      Good read, that. Right touching certainly seems to be a useful concept for copywriters to be aware of (and to show that we’re aware of) in 2012. It’s not a phrase I’d ever paid much attention to, despite having written that kind of content, so thanks for the heads up!

  4. Karen Comer

    February 11, 2012 at 11:15 pm

    I tend to agree. Stats show that younger people don’t do email, they communicate more via Skype, FB, texting and other means. I think email marketing will go away. Slowly.

    I like Google+ although I haven’t started using it in earnest. Twitter is completely pointless, I’ve always hated it and, well, FB is just a necessary evil.

    Good post. Thanks.

    • Neil Wheatley

      March 29, 2012 at 11:21 am

      Speaking from a personal point of view, I don’t like Twitter either. It’s like being in a room full of millions of people, all shouting. Still, it has its uses.

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