I am sure you will agree, Seth Godin is one of the best writers on the web.
His articles are both short and sweet, yet profound and interesting.
So, in this post, I break down the writing style of Seth Godin and pick out some strategies that we can add to our copywriting arsenal.
Let's dive in.
First, Why You Shouldn't Write Like Seth Godin
Before you digest this article, I need to say this.
Your aim shouldn't be to write like Seth Godin.
Your writing should be your voice, not his.
The aim here isn't to teach you to copy Seth Godin's style and tone.
But to examine what makes Seth's writing so great, so that you can apply this to your writing.
As such I will be drawing on some of Seth's tips and link to the sources of these.
OK, so with that out of the way, here goes.
Seth has some of the most unusual headlines in the world.
To show what I mean, take a look at the all-time most popular posts on Seth's blog (the numbers are stars from his rating system).
- Quality and effort (255386)
- Don’t Shave That Yak! (17439)
- Learning without doing (15478)
- The world’s worst boss (15031)
- Facing our fears (13817)
- Ode: How to tell a great story (9331)
- Busy is not the point (9021)
- Make a habit/break a habit (8125)
- The ends and the means (7875)
- Social media is a symptom, not a tactic (7825)
- Zoom & Skype call tips (the secrets of video conferences) (7779)
- Invisible insulation (7549)
- A note from 2030 (7393)
- The elegance of nothing (7358)
- 1000 true fans (7248)
- The Spiderman Paradox (7130)
- This one simple trick makes everything faster and easier (6872)
- The top 5% (6808)
- Avoiding the GIGO trap (6800)
- How to be remarkable (6570)
- First, ten (5921)
- Good intentions (how to be on time) (5776)
- “A good product at a fair price” (5772)
- Difficult decisions (5734)
- Thirty five + years of projects (5704)
But it turns out that there is a bit of method to the Seth Godin headline system.
It is something I am going to start to apply to my own email and article headlines with immediate effect.
But to sum up.
If your headline can't meet one or more of these tests, don't use it for a blog post or email.
And here they are:
The Seth Godin Headline Test
Your headline should contain one or more of the following elements:
A Foundation To The Message You Need To Send
Announce The Purpose Of The Post
Now, I am not going to tell you there is a formula to all of this. That is where your skill as a content creator/ writer comes in.
But the absence of the formula is the key here.
It requires you to come up with the headlines yourself, and then run them through the Seth Godin test to see if they are any good.
Also, this isn't about going viral or creating clickbait.
Every day there are thousands of viral articles written by people whose aim is to get clicks rather than engaged readers who seek out your content.
The result, I bet you can't name a single writer on any of the top viral sites.
So, stick to the Seth Godin headline test, and you should start to gain more clicks and happier readers.
But what about the actual content?
How do you create killer content like Seth Godin?
Create The Unexpected
In Seth's Blah, Blah, Blah article, he explains that content can be grouped into 2 areas.
The expected and the unexpected.
So, what does this mean?
Well, take this article on the Investing blog.
The title "Bought and Sold: The World’s Most Expensive Yachts & Their Owners" announces the post in a clear and simple message.
So it does pass the Seth Godin headline tests.
And the content is exactly what I was expecting. It's a post that shows you the most expensive Yachts.
It does what it says on the tin.
I won't remember the writer of this post. I won't seek out their work, and I won't subscribe to read more of their content.
However, that doesn't mean that there isn't a place for 'expected' work like this.
Expected work often pays the bills for writers.
Expected work is what turns websites into media machines worth millions.
And expected work is what answers search queries that people type into Google.
But the content that Seth creates is unexpected.
In almost all of Seth's articles, you learn something that you didn't know.
And that creates value in the minds of the reader.
This doesn't have to be new information. It can be your unique take on a subject.
Your unique way of doing something.
Your tips, strategies or methods.
Your worldview and your experience.
And here is where being unexpected comes in.
It is your ideas and voice that makes the content unexpected.
So, how do you create 'unexpected content?'
Luckily for us, Seth has left a tip that works brilliantly.
"Cross out every sentence that could have been written by someone else, every box check, every predictable reference. Now, insert yourself. Your truth and your version of what happens next."
Create Content Daily
I have been a student of Seth's on several of his online courses, but it was The Marketing Seminar that made me commit to micro blogging on an almost daily basis.
As a result, I create content on my own Facebook feed and almost daily posts on LinkedIn.
The daily LinkedIn content especially, has helped my business to grow to levels I never thought possible.
So why does daily content work?
I don't have a magic answer, other than to ask you a question.
'Who are you closer to, people you speak to and see daily, or people you haven't heard from in months?'
Generally speaking, we are closer to those who put more effort in.
Also as a writer, the more you challenge yourself, the more you will improve, and daily writing focuses your mind, your views and your thoughts.
Change The Offer Not The Hype
In his post about smart copywriting Seth tells the story of a bad coffee advertisement.
The ad read.
"Unlike Any Coffee You’ve Ever Tasted Before."
If you are in copywriting, you will know how bad this line is and to check out Seth's breakdown, read the article.
But in the improvement Seth came up with, we can learn how we can improve our own ads..
"FREE TASTE TEST
Are we better than Starbucks?"
Firstly our eyes are drawn to the word FREE. Everyone likes free.
And then there is the challenge, 'are we better than Starbucks?'
This works because the offer creates an anchor.
You don't even need to add the word coffee in there because Starbucks is so well known that you instantly know what the ad is about and what you are going to judge the coffee shop against.
This is something that Seth talks about in his post about marketing and relativity.
As marketers and copywriters, we like to frame things so that people can quickly understand the product or service.
"An alternative to (insert product)"
"Cheaper than (insert competitor)
And yes, while this does make things easy for the reader, it doesn't engage them.
As copywriters, we need to get people to take action.
Again, Seth's advice on content creation filters into offers.
In a world full of people bragging that they are the best. Encouraging people to decide for themselves is going to stand out.
It turns out, receiving an unexpected offer can go a long way.
The Pay Off
The pay off is perhaps the part of Seth Godin's writing that keeps us coming back for more.
So what exactly is the payoff?
The pay off tells you why what you have just read matters to you, and it is the satisfying ending to your content.
It is that profound wisdom that makes your content worth reading. And Seth does this masterfully.
I have read many of Seth's posts where the pay off was just a single line and others where it was a full paragraph.
The length of the pay off is not important.
What matters is that the reader has something nice and neat to take away from the post mentally.
So there you have it.
My attempt to break down the writing style of Seth Godin.
I once heard that Seth considers himself someone who 'notices things'. And I think that is why his writing is so unique and creative.
This is perhaps the most crucial point to take away from this entire article.
Seth's content is different.
So, to write like Seth, aim to be different.
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