Copywriters: Choosing the right words

CopywritingAll copywriters struggle with word choice. 

Sometimes it’s trying to find the right word or phrase to precisely and concisely convey a specific point.  Other times, it’s trying to choose from a variety of words that seem to say the same thing.

For the latter, it may be just a flip of the coin.  But there is another way …

Recently, I was trying to come up with some titles for four workshops I am planning to present in the fall.

For one of the workshops, I eventually settled on the following title:

Online Marketing:  How to market your business on the Internet.

Seems pretty straightforward, but it took me a few tries before I ended up with this title.

Let me explain:

In my earlier drafts, I used the phrases “digital marketing” and “web marketing.” I thought they sounded better than “online marketing” or “Internet marketing.”  They seemed more current.

But which would be more effective?  Which would connect with more people?

I decided to let the public tell me which phrase to use.  I went to Google’s Keyword Tool and looked up the comparative search volume for each of these phrases, and here’s what I found:

The numbers represent the average “Global Monthly Searches”

Digital Marketing  (450,000)
Web Marketing (301,000)
Internet Marketing (673,000)
Online Marketing  (7,480,000)

Well that made things pretty easy.  Online Marketing was more than 10 times higher than the second place term.

I realize not every copywriter is thinking about SEO and search volume when they choose their words, but these results should also indicate which words or phrases are most familiar to your readership.

Obviously, you want to choose words that most accurately say what you’re trying to say and some words are more precise that others.  But these phrases are pretty much synonymous – so I think the decision here is simple.


Inbound Marketing vs. Online Marketing

In recent years, marketing automation software firm HubSpot has coined and promoted the term “inbound marketing” to describe a form of online marketing that fits with the functionality of its software.

The firm has done a very good job of building its brand around “inbound marketing.”  But it still gets a relatively low search volume – just 49,500 searches vs. Online Marketing’s 7.5 million searches.

I’m sure that the people at HubSpot will tell you how different “inbound” is from “online” – and they may be right – but does the public understand the difference?  Or care?


Lead Generation vs. Demand Generation

For years, the term “lead generation” has been used to describe the many activities designed to generate inquiries before a sale is made.  Lead generation is the centerpiece of sales and marketing for most businesses – especially on the B2B side.

For most of us, lead generation is more than just the first step in the process.  It also includes lead qualification and lead nurturing.

However, during the past few years, someone decided a new term was needed so we started seeing the phrase “demand generation.”  I struggled with this for a while because I could see that “demand generation” was the new “hot” phrase that was being used by the larger, more sophisticated firms – and I worried that using “lead generation” might cause me to be viewed as “old-school” and not up with the times.

But then I looked at the numbers:

Demand Generation (12,100)
Lead Generation (135,000)

 My concern about being viewed as old school might still be legitimate, but how can you argue with these numbers?


Direct Marketing vs. Direct Mail vs. Direct Response

Finally, we have phrases related to my primary work – direct marketing.

For many most people, direct marketing means direct mail.  They are interchangeable terms.

But I see direct marketing as more of a multi-media function and direct mail as one of those media channels.

And then there is direct response which I see as the discipline of generating response across all media. It is not synonymous with direct marketing or direct mail.

But these are nuances for me and others within my field.  Those outside the industry (who may be in the position to hire us) don’t care about the nuances.   So how do they compare?

Direct Marketing (301,000)
Direct Mail (368,000)
Direct Response (49,500)

What about your industry?  What terms do you routinely use to describe your business?  Are they the same terms that your target audience is using?

This is an exercise would need to go through if you are writing for SEO, but it can work for other forms of writing as well.

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Written by Bob McCarthy

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Bob McCarthy is a direct response copywriter and lead generation specialist.

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About Bob McCarthy

Bob McCarthy is a direct response consultant and copywriter with a focus on direct mail, email and digital marketing. Bob works with B2B, B2C and Non-Profit clients. You can download his free ebook, "Making Snail Mail Work: 13 Lessons in Direct Mail Strategy."

2 comments to Copywriters: Choosing the right words

  • Bob,

    I like your approach to looking at the numbers when it comes to writing your titles. That’s a savvy idea. It would be interesting to track the history of searches for these terms and see if you can predict when the “tipping point” would come that one phrase overtakes another.

    Keep up the clear, concise writing!

  • Thanks Lance
    Ultimately, you want to have additional articles (either blog posts or regular web pages) that focus on all of the other top terms as well. But if you’re only doing this once, go with the most popular terms.

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