Google ‘copywriting trends 2023,’ and you’ll get more than 4 million results hitting you back up. That’s a serious amount of intel to suggest that there is lots for enthusiastic copywriters to get stuck into to produce considered, catchy, canny content that keeps them on top of their game.
But when you dive a little deeper, you might soon find yourself stuck in a hellhole of endless deja vu. In fact, scrolling through the pages of results, you might even be tempted to ask yourself, when it comes to copywriting advice, is anything actually ‘new’ at all?
Copywriting trends -the not so helpful content update
Google released its first helpful content update back in the heady summer of ’22 with the primary intention of weeding out any content that appeared crafted primarily to rank highly in search engines rather than provide genuine value to the reader. They presented their ‘people-first’ proverb suggesting to copywriters far and wide that it would be a good idea to write content that people actually wanted to read.
While this shocking revelation may have had some picking their jaws up off the floor, would it be remiss to suggest that the majority of copywriters worth their salt might just have been doing that already? The ‘provide genuine value’ rule is hardly a new sentiment, and it’s not as if Google’s content update shunned writing for SEO altogether; it just shouldn’t be the sole motivation for content creation.
But the truth is that good copy takes care of this naturally anyway. Copywriters craft content based on user intent, and do their best to provide the information they are looking for in the most helpful, engaging way possible. Hasn’t that been the brief all along?
However, there are always exceptions to the rule, and, let’s be honest, if you’ve had a career in copywriting that’s lasted more than a minute, you’ll likely have found yourself creating content for a wide range of businesses and their respective audiences. Some products and services lend themselves beautifully to the creation of genuinely interesting, insightful, thought-provoking content, others not so much.
While there is no denying that human beings have a range of interests, it’s going to take a special sort of individual to sit down with eager anticipation to read the latest blog post on the benefits of drain protectors or a new range of non-slip coat hangers. But people still need these things. So what’s a gal to do? In these instances, you can be as ‘people-first’ as you like, but the truth is you are writing that blog piece for the SERPs (and maybe one weird dude who likes to catch people’s drain-hair and weave it into little dolls).
Other takeaways from the helpful content update were just as patent; don’t write about topics you don’t know anything about, don’t promise to answer questions you don’t know the answers to, and don’t just copy what a million other people have already said before.
Hardly seminal stuff.
Sure, we used to get away with keyword stuffing. Way back when we could stuff our content real nice. Some wily writers even went as far as to hide paragraphs of text in their pages, making the font the same colour as the background, so it disappeared. This gave the impression of presenting one thing, with actually a whole lot more going on within, much like when you put a bird into another bird into another bird at Christmas, (no it’s not just a turkey Aunty Pam, there’s a whole freakin’ aviary in there). But keyword stuffing became frowned upon yonks ago. In fact, it was the 2003 Florida update that began to pull the reins on sites using spammy techniques to conquer the SERPs. Then in 2011, Google launched the Panda update targeting low-quality sites and thin, low-value content, and in 2013 the real bomb diggity came in the form of the Hummingbird update, bringing about the first introduction to natural language search, giving users free rein to type it like they might say it – imperfectly and imprecisely. It was a rewrite of the core algorithm that affected 90% of search queries – now that was worth paying attention to and shifted emphasis away from writing content purely to please search engines and instead thinking about how you might write to please the people who used them.
But that was a decade ago, so why are we being told the same thing now?
The other not-so-trendy copywriting trends in 2023
Just a brief flick through some of the top results for copywriting trends in 2023 will see some more golden oldies doing the rounds as if they were fresh on the scene. The advice is littered with the same old buzzwords – personalise, authenticity, simplicity, consistency, and, somewhat ironically, being unique. It’s all good advice, but it certainly isn’t anything we haven’t heard before.
So what’s the reason for this? The answer is quite simple. People like to read well-written, engaging content that matches or exceeds their expectations. No one wants to search for the best ways to reduce their energy bills and be directed to a blog post about the cutest dog breeds of all time* – they didn’t 20 years ago, and they still won’t 20 years in the future. They don’t want to be misled; they don’t want to be overwhelmed with jargon; they don’t want to be pushed into a purchase they didn’t want or need. So writing helpful content that addresses the reader’s needs is always going to make good sense.
So, will we ever emerge from this neverending Groundhog day?
While the above remains true, some changes have recently come about in copywriting best practices that are worth a second look.
Bye bye AI
For a brief period, there was concern amongst copywriters that our services would become wholly redundant thanks to the arrival of pesky AI writing assistants churning out content on every topic under the sun in a matter of seconds. Google has recently released a statement with regards to its approach to assessing AI content. Whether user or AI generated, the criteria remains the same, with content that demonstrates expertise, experience, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness taking precedence. For writers this must come as some comfort, as, in our experience, AI content generators have, for the most part, been unusable for creating content that’s anything more than surface deep. This may not hold true forever though, in which case we may have to engage in some sort of word-off, Pitch Perfect style but a lot less jazzy, writers Vs robots -a fight to the literal death.
The world is a changin’
In this post-Covid, post-Brexit landscape, we find ourselves cautiously, yet somewhat hopefully, teetering on the precipice of significant change. Content writers, and the clients they work for, now more than ever, have an opportunity to exert their influence over their readers, to be responsible with what they write, and to position themselves as people who care – not just about their customers, but the communities within which they operate, and their impact on the world around them. Customers now actively discover what a business stands for, with studies repeatedly concluding that ethics do matter and matters such as corporate environmental sustainability are becoming increasingly important and influential in people’s purchasing decisions.
While a copywriter might only need a trusty laptop and a head full of ideas to create epic content, there is no getting away from the fact that the way people like to consume content has changed. If we want to remain ahead of the curve and truly embrace a people-centric approach, we may have to accept that ‘words on paper’ isn’t the only way to get our messages across. The rise in popularity of video content over the last couple of years, for example, is difficult to ignore. By choosing to work with, rather than against, changes in technology and upskilling ourselves accordingly, we can continue to deliver effective, creative content in a way that suits our audiences best.
Respecting the customer
While providing authentic value to our customers through our writing is nothing new, it’s worth emphasising that consumer habits have changed in recent years. The cost of living crisis means that cash-strapped customers will be more careful with how they spend. They won’t be bullied into purchases, and old ‘tried and tested’ methods such as the PAS formula may need a rethink. Customers are clever and cunning, so you need to get fox-like with how you write if you want to nudge them along that sales funnel.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
At the end of the day, the old saying if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it is more than apt here. Most of the so-called copywriting trends of 2023 simply echo best practices that have been around for ages. But that’s not to say they aren’t worth paying attention to. While it’s unlikely that we are going to see any groundbreaking changes in what, at its essence, makes good content, being aware of which direction your customers are heading may well mean your copywriting practices will inevitably, instinctively adapt with them.
So in conclusion amongst the noise of updates, latest trends and best practices of SEO – before you completely rework the way you do things, always research and learn.