Recently, one of my clients asked me to carry out user research to write content for her business. She wanted me to come up with keywords for SEO, find an appropriate title to catch the attention of her audience, prepare a content layout to give an excellent user experience, and come up with a compelling CTA to draw conversions.
You might have question that why I did it. The reason was obvious that she was unaware of user research and even unaware that it is a part of content strategist’s job more than a content writer’s job. I simply refused to work on the project and let her go.
Of course, many content writers, especially in big companies, participate in user research because they have budget for it and have the opportunity to join with UX team to carry out user research. So, we cannot imagine a freelance content writer working with a minimal budget and insufficient resources can go to extensive user research. You will learn why I have said so in further reading.
Elements of User Research:
Use research encompassing four essential elements:
It observes what people do.
It observes what people say.
It analyzes why people do things and what is the way to enhance them.
It analyzes data related to measurable metrics, such as traffic, engagement, and conversion.
Different Types of User Research for Copywriters
UX design teams often use different types of user research or combinations for their projects. Still, only certain types of user research are helpful for a content writer to create compelling copy for a brand. Let’s learn them.
Type-1: Ethnographic Field Study
Ethnographic research involves observation of user behavior in their natural environment. It helps content strategist to comprehend user distractions, daily influences, and their familiar user interfaces (UIs). So, it often carries in the homes or offices of users/audiences.
You can learn what your target audience reads and which vocabulary they use, mainly when they are online. Thus, copywriters can use a familiar tone that their audience likes. It also proves game changes when the copywriter is from a different culture, for instance, in the case of outsourcing the project.
There are two ways to conduct ethnographic research:
- Taking passive observation by using a CCTV camera on the wall or sitting aloof in a corner.
- Participating in the team as an active member for a period and observing closely how your audience team works daily.
However, the best way is active participation, taking valuable notes, and asking meaningful questions to the team member without disturbing them. Thus, it is not a group or personal interview but a personal conversation.
Ethnographic research demands a positive attitude from management and target-team in the organization but provides tremendous insights into user behavior.
Type-2: Personal Diary Study
Many users habituate writing personal diaries. Such a habit is beneficial to user researchers to know how the users use a product or service. They write their feelings in the journal without being self-conscious. Thus, it proves a vital way to explore their inner world and learn many hidden aspects of user behavior with the product or service.
Personal diary study proves highly useful for the healthcare industry when researchers want to know how patients use equipment or device to aid in diseases or personal hygiene. It is because people often refuse to explain their personal feelings/matters vocally, and a diary proves less intimidating for explaining many unique things in detail.
Moreover, the diary study gives a copywriter some valuable hints regarding what terminologies users use or how they perceive a technically intricate process of product usage that is different from standard company procedures.
However, copywriters cannot use all terminologies users use in their diaries because they often remain uncomfortable seeing such terms in a public place like a website. In such a scenario, apply your common sense.
Type-3: Customer Feedback
Most products or service companies run customer support services on a small to large scale. Content strategists or copywriters can use the customer service department to obtain information on various product or service use aspects from genuine users.
User researchers can ask many different questions to selected users or groups to unveil many hidden insights of product or service use by one-time to repeat (loyal) users through online questionnaires or direct phone calls. Direct phone calls also offer an opportunity for a content writer to know how users are speaking about the products and can learn about their preferred tones in their languages.
Customer feedback proves highly useful in the following cases.
- When a content writer is going to share a large volume of information on the company website.
- When a content writer is uncertain about user preferences.
- Companies where the target audience is long-time customers.
- Companies with a poor reputation in the market.
An interview is the best and most known way to interact with your audience. Today, online interviews are common and affordable for everyone, including copywriters, design teams, and strategists. Interviews with unknown prospects provide you immense opportunity to learn much about your audience, including their likes & dislikes, personal and professional needs, fears, and joys.
Interviews also enable a content writer to learn the tone and style of conversation of the audience so that they can include vocabulary, idioms, slang, and their natural way of conversation in writing content-like blogs where you have room for using some informal language.
Type-5: Focused Groups
Focused group discussion will help a content writer to address projects with shared goals. It is a tremendously useful way to learn how multiple members of an audience can communicate, think, and behave. You can encourage focused groups to share their valuable thoughts on a topic related to your products or services and address their concerns in your writing. A well-aligned team could be the best choice as a focused group for a content writer.
Type-6: Participatory Design
The concept of participatory design is gaining momentum thanks to the active involvement of users in the design process. For a content writer, attending a participatory design process could be helpful in learning about users and their behavior with design.
They might have design questions, and content writers can know about it as good stuff to produce compelling content. Participatory design opportunity for a copywriter is more than an interview or focused group discussion because users seem relaxed and creative.
However, it is helpful for companies building products and following the best design process.
Type-7: A/B Test
A/B testing is an excellent method to improve the copy for a copywriter. It’s useful for seasoned copywriters who know what to write and how to find the best option for style and voice. Copywriters can refine their terminology and wording style using A/B testing. A/B testing is also helpful for brands to redesign their copy and enhance their overall performance.
Tools to Convert User Research into Copy
Well, you’ve completed your user research. Now, it is time to convert your findings into a copy. However, you cannot do so directly but need some tools, and today we will learn about those tools aiding in copywriting. All tools are not helpful in all situations; you must pick the best one in your circumstances.
Tool:1 User Persona
It is a concept to develop an imaginary person that represents most of the traits of your actual audience. User persona includes user needs, wishes, preferences, goals, expectations, feelings, and even frustrations. Many writers create user personas pushing their imagination power, but not based on user research, and that is absolutely the wrong method.
So, first, conduct user research by adopting any handy method, such as interviews and gathering user information, and then translate that information into a user persona.
Tool:2 Core Model
The core model helps us recognize which content should go to the page and connects one page to another. So you can know where users will come and go. In a sense, the core model combines business goals with user tasks. The core model is helpful in the following situations.
- When you have clear business goals but unclear user goals.
- When a website has multiple content pages but not directly connected to each other.
- When a website has an unclear user path.
Tool:3 Nomenclature Chart
Nomenclature charts take keywords to the next level. It has four columns:
- Preferred terms: They are keywords defined by stakeholders or marketing departments.
- The definition is the term internal team use and not necessarily the same as found in the dictionary.
- Synonyms: It comes through user research and includes all terms users use.
- Attributes or related items: Suppose the keyword is an adjective; the associated objects are products.
In a sense, nomenclature bridges the gap between the audience’s and the business’s language. It allows copywriters to include all terms users use in the content. Thus, it saves copywriters from using the exact words repeatedly in the content throughout the page or website.
Tool:4 Content Mapping
What is a content map? It’s a plan to deliver the right content to the right people at the right time. Thus, content mapping is creating a content plan to address consumers at different stages of their customer journey that leads to a more cohesive and personalized customer experience (CX) at the end.
A copywriter can use ready-to-use content map templates to create a content mapping. A content map template helps you to decide where to place awareness, consideration, and decision content on your web page to create a smooth buying path.
Tool:5 The Five W’s
A content writer must learn to ask five basic questions before starting writing. Those questions are:
- Who are you writing for?
- What is your main message?
- Where does the action take place?
- When is it relevant?
- Why is it important?
Storytelling is an art that simplifies more complex things. Stories have a direct impact on the minds of listeners, and they inspire them to take intended actions. So, storytelling helps write highly technical pages, when you feel your idea is vague or abstract, and anything a content writer struggles to put into words.