How Many Times Should You Exact Match the Keyphrase?

Here’s a quiz for you…

How many times should you exact match the keyphrase in your web copy?

a. Five times

b. At least once every 100 words

c. At least once per paragraph

d. At least seven times, but no more than 15 for a 700-word article

The answer?

None of the above.

OK, I know that was a trick question. But, I phrased it like that to showcase the weird rules some SEO writers follow. There is no reason to tie yourself (and your copy) up in knots anymore.

In short: You can throw the “exact match” rule out the window!

(It’s time to do a little happy dance!) :)

Google has grown up (a little bit)

“But Heather,” you say. “I thought you had to exact match a keyphrase multiple times. Otherwise the page won’t position well.”

In fact, one man from the SEO Copywriting LinkedIn group complained that one client forced him to exact match multiple long-tail search terms in the content. Imagine stumbling over [Dallas TX carpet cleaning emergency 24 hours] in a sentence.

Yeah. That’s not good.

This thinking is closely related to that old “keyword density” concept which WILL NOT DIE.

What’s keyword density? 

Count the number of keywords/keyphrases on a given page, then divide it by the total word count.  Voila:  keyword density.  For example, a 500-word page with 10 keywords/keyphrases =  a keyword density of 2-percent.

Keyword density hasn’t been a “thing” for over 15 years. Matt Cutts from Google debunked this back in 2011:

And I talked about it, too:

Here’s the thing: Once upon a time, when Google was young and dumb, you had to exact match the keyphrase multiple times to make Google “notice” your page.

Plus, some writers would optimize pages for just one keyword. One page would be about [running shoes], and another page would be about [running shoe], while yet another would discuss [shoes for running.]

Yes, it was that bad.

via GIPHY

Unfortunately, that’s where SEO writing got its bad rap. Companies — even major ones — kicked out content that read like an AdWords keyword list. The keyword was repeated so many times, it ruined the content’s readability.

What’s happening today?

The Panda algorithm shakeup in 2011 was Google’s first major swipe at keyphrase-stuffed content.

Since then, Google’s algorithm refinements and the advent of RankBrain means Google will return relevant results where the search term isn’t even on the page.

Newsflash: We’re optimizing for entities now. Yes, keyphrases are still important. But, that doesn’t mean you repeat the keyphrase over and over.

You can (and should) use synonyms and related words in your web content.

You should fully answer your readers’ questions without worrying about a following false writing formula.

In short, focus on writing solid copy.

Need more help? Here’s a great article by Ann Smarty discussing four tools you can use to discover and optimize for related keyphrases. Even Ann says, “SEO moved beyond exact keyword matching long ago.”

 

In today’s world, as long as the individual words in the long-tail keyphrase appear somewhere on the page — and the page is relevant to the searcher’s query —  you’re good.

What’s more, Google considers unnatural-sounding copy “poor content.” Here’s an exact quote from Google’s Quality Raters Guidelines:

“Pages may be created to lure search engines and users by repeating keywords over and over again, sometimes in unnatural and unhelpful ways. Such pages are created using words likely to be contained in queries issued by users….Pages created with the intent of luring search engines and users, rather than providing meaningful main content to help users, should be rated Lowest.”

Still not convinced? Here are some common questions I hear about exact matching the keyphrase:

My client insists I exact match the keyphrase ten times in a 500-word blog post. What can I do?

I feel your pain. I still receive emails that say, “I would like you to write a 1,500-word blog post, and include the keyphrase every 100-words.” Ugh.

You can try to educate your client, by showing her this post and Google’s guidelines. However, there are some clients who won’t “get it,” no matter how much you try. In that case, you can either do what your client wants — or, you can walk away and find another gig.

Help! We’ve exact-matched the keyword too many times! How can we fix our web copy?

Does your copy sound like a laundry list of exact matched keyphrases? You’ll want to track those pages down and de-optimize them. This may mean rewriting the page, or it could mean pulling out some keyphrases until your copy sounds normal again.

Our copywriter/agency/web designer says we have to exact match the keyword multiple times “for Google.” Are you saying they’re wrong?

Yes. They’re operating on outdated information, and that can cost you search traffic. Consider finding another vendor who can help.

A competitor’s site is way over-optimized, and they’re out-positioning our site. Does that mean we should add more keywords to our web content?

Possibly, but proceed with caution. Your content may have some tasty optimization opportunities, and tweaking your content and Title could mean some big wins.

However, if you’re adding keyphrases just because — and they’re messing with the readability — you need to back away from the keyboard. There are other ways to drive search volume without resorting to spammy techniques.

What do you think? Have you had a client (or boss) insist on exact matching the keyphrase multiple times? Leave your comment below!

Should You Rewrite Your Web Copy? Or Hit Delete?

Do you look at photos of yourself from high school and think, “My hair! What was I thinking?”

Yup. Me too. In fact, a photo of 1980’s Heather — complete with BIG perm and beret — was on the screen during my AWAI Bootcamp presentation. 

(The conference organizers asked for old photos, and that’s the best one I had. Here it is, for reference. Feel free to laugh.):

 

I bring this up because, sometimes, we look at old blog pages and think, “Man, that’s not a good post, at all. What was I thinking?”

For instance…

 — You may not have realized that keyphrase stuffing is bad, so you excessively repeated the same keyphrases.

 — Some pages may be super-short and read less like an authoritative article and more like, “I wrote this in five minutes.”

 — Or, you may have accepted a guest post that wasn’t so great. 

Maybe these pages are lurking on your site, and you’ve forgotten all about them. Or, maybe you land on them from time to time and think, “I should do something about this post.” 

But you don’t, because you don’t know what “do something” means.

Heck, even Google disagrees on what you should do. Here’s a great post from Search Engine Roundtable outlining Google’s mixed messages.

(Mixed messages from Google? Never! HAHAHAHAHA!)

Like your high-school hair, you’ve got to do something about those posts. 

Here’s what to do:

Get in the habit of keeping a list of “bad” pages so you can deal with them later.

I don’t know about you, but I’ll look at a not-so-great post, cringe, think, “I should fix this,” and immediately forget about it. Maintaining a living document will help you build fixing (or deleting) pages into your editorial calendar.

Does the page have good information that wouldn’t take long to update/fix? Fix it.

You can strip out the keyphrase stuffing, update your data, and turn the so-so paragraphs into copywriting gold. You can freshen up the header image, too. (I’m doing this with my old blog posts now.) Easy.

Is it a super-short page that’s poorly written? Trash it.

Let’s face it: writing a new article would probably take less time. As my father used to say, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”

Is it a poorly-written guest post? Let it go.

Sure, you can ask the original author to revise it for you. But will they say yes — or even respond to your email? Doubtful. Feel free to send this content to the great beyond.

Does the article have some bright spots, but you don’t have time to revise it right now?

Keep it — unless those bright spots are few and far between. Sometimes, a few minor fixes (for instance, a new opening paragraph or new subheadlines) can help. You can always revisit the post when you have more time.

And yes, my freelancing friends. Helping clients evaluate and fix content is a possible new profit center! Go for it!

What do you do when you see bad content on your site?

Cover your eyes and scream, “I can’t see you!”? Immediately click away? Wonder what you were thinking back then?  Leave a comment and let me know!

Is There a Secret SEO Writing Formula?

Want to know one of the things that grinds my gears?

“SEO experts” who claim they have a “secret formula” that’s “100% foolproof.”

Why am I ranting so early in the morning?  Let me explain…

Earlier this week, I received a note from a super-smart SEO writer who ran into a…challenging…prospect.

Why was the prospect challenging? Because he wanted her to write and to structure the content exactly how [fairly well known SEO “expert”] said to do it. 

But, here’s the problem.

The writing formula she was supposed to follow made the content sound weird. The writer was concerned that the content (and the keyphrases) would sound clunky if she followed the SEO writing formula.

And, when she gazed into her client crystal ball, she realized that all the articles she’d create for this guy would sound exactly the same.

Ouch. 

As soon as I read her note, I wanted to update this blog post and to add one more client type to avoid. 

Some clients attach themselves to an expert’s writing and believe everything he says. If the expert says, “hey, add 20 additional keyphrases into your content,” the client would say, “great idea” without questioning it.

And this is sad.

Here’s why…

Meet the new “expert.” Same as the old “expert.”

I’ve been in the SEO writing game for over 20 years. If there was a “no-fail” SEO writing formula, don’t you think I would be on a beach somewhere counting my Benjamins and watching the waves?

Of course I would!

The reality is, there IS no sure-fire SEO writing formula.

Why?

The “best” approach depends on the keyphrase, the target reader, the query intent, and the current competition. 

What works for your site may not work for mine. Creating content for a smaller business is different than creating content for a competitive industry.

Plus, SEO (and SEO writing) is always in flux. Cookie-cutter approaches don’t work.

The thing is, there are always SEO “experts” who pretend they have all the answers. There are always sexy, well-branded folks touting their way of doing things.

Often times, these folks are immensely popular. They’ve got the branding stuff down. Folks cite them all the time. Their SEO skills…well…they may not be the best. Heck, these folks may not even work with clients.

In short, I’ve seen many “experts” come and go. 

What’s my best advice?

Think critically.

If you read an article that insists there is only one way to do X…run away.

If you try something you learned from an expert and it makes your copy sound weird — don’t upload the copy. Change it until it’s right.

If you’re reading conflicting advice, and you’re not sure what to do — hire someone you trust and ask them.

Just because someone has 15,000 followers on your favorite social network, it doesn’t mean they know their stuff. It means they’re good at branding. 

Don’t let the cult of personality mess up your SEO content. 

Whew. Rant over.

What experience do YOU have with SEO experts? What grinds your gears? Leave a comment and let me know! :)

How Often Should You Publish New Content?

Have you heard that publishing more often makes the Google gods smile upon your site and bless your content with top rankings? 

You’re not alone.

Many companies require their writers to post multiple time a week — sometimes even multiple times a day — because they believe it helps with search rankings. Their reasoning isn’t driven by what their readers want. Instead, it’s all about what they think Google needs to see.

Unfortunately, this can have an unintended side effect. 

I’ve chatted with many writers — and worked with many companies — who saw the quality of their content decrease after their publication schedules ramped up. There was less of a focus on creating authoritative content, and more focus on, well, more.   

The writers were writing as fast as they could, trying to keep up with “Google’s demands.”

Were the writers (and powers-that-be) comfortable with the approach? No. They knew the content wasn’t the best, and often felt embarrassed about the quality.

They just thought that publishing more often was the “magic bullet” that got Google’s attention.

Fortunately, they were wrong.

Here’s what Google says about publication frequency… 

In March 2018, Search Engine Roundtable’s Barry Schwartz reported on a Twitter interaction between Google’s John Mueller and another Twitter user.

Here’s what went down.

The Twitter user asked:

“Do Google’s algorithms take into account the frequency/volume/schedule of publishing new content for a site? Say a site publishes 5 new URLs daily, but then begins to publish 2-3 instead. Does that make Google looks differently at the site?”

Good question. After all, it seems like a sudden drop in a publication schedule could be a negative signal to Google. It’s not like a print publication can suddenly change its publication schedule. Is a website any different?

Here’s what John Mueller said in response:

“Nope. A site isn’t a machine that pumps out content at a fixed rate. Well, it shouldn’t be :-).”

This means Google doesn’t care about your publication frequency. (Woohoo!)

And, your focus should be on quality — not on content quantity.

So, what does that mean to your content strategy?

If your company publishes a lot of content, and you feel the quality is slipping, it’s time to take a hard look at your analytics.

Check your bounce rates, your time on site and time on page statistics. Are people interacting with your content? Or taking off after a few seconds? Is it getting traction on social? Or is it falling flat?

You may find that you get better traction (and better positions, and more social shares) from publishing bigger, meatier content assets than from writing multiple, low-quality posts.

(Isn’t that why we create content in the first place — so people actually read and enjoy it?)

What’s more, you can easily repurpose a strong content asset. A large guide can be repurposed into multiple blog posts. You can use quotes and statistics for Instagram and Twitter. You can create PowerPoints that dovetail with parts of the main content asset.

Why not do it right the first time — and save yourself loads of time?

 What do you think?

Does reading, “Google doesn’t care about your publication frequency” make you breathe a sigh of relief? Or is your company (or your client’s company) stuck in the MORE CONTENT mentality?  Let me know in the comments!

Why Do Keyphrase-Stuffed Pages Position?

In a perfect world, our well-written content always positions top-10.

In reality, well, weird things happen.

Sometimes, a keyphrase-stuffed page makes it to the top of Google’s search results. And stays there.

How can that be?

Did someone pay Google for that listing? (No.)

Is repeating the keyphrase over and over a viable SEO writing tactic again? (Thankfully, no.)

Or, is there something else going on? (Yup.)

Here’s your answer…

We all know that keyword stuffing is bad, m’kay? 

Google advises against keyphrase stuffing. It’s old-school, spammy SEO.

Plus, from a conversion aspect, your readers don’t enjoy it, either. People don’t like to read keyphrase-stuffed pages. People don’t like to buy from sites that keyword-stuff their copy.

It’s not a good tactic.

Yet, last week on Twitter, Google’s John Mueller said that keyword stuffing, “shouldn’t result in removal from the index.”

In fact, some keyword-stuffed pages may still position because there is “enough value to be found elsewhere.” 

Here’s the Search Engine Roundtable post sharing the news.

Um, what? 

So, what does this really mean?

This doesn’t mean that Google is giving keyword stuffing a pass. It’s still bad, and Google still calls it out as spammy.

What it does mean is Google is smart enough to ignore repeated keywords and look at other factors. Maybe the keyword-stuffed page has a lot of good information, despite the bad SEO. Or, the page has some quality links pointing to it.

Is this a mixed message? You bet. When Google says, “thou shall not keyword stuff,” we expect there to be consequences if a site does stuff.

Maybe not total removal from the index….but spammy pages shouldn’t position. 

So yes. This is frustrating.

On the flip side, this is Google’s circus and Google’s monkeys. We can’t control what Google does. We can only control what we do…so…

Here’s what I would recommend…

I wouldn’t try stuffing just to “see what happens.” Best-case scenario, it DOES work…and new visitors read your spammy copy and immediately surf away. Remember, Google doesn’t buy from you — your readers do. Poorly-written copy reflects poorly on your brand.

Period.

Now, what if you have a spammy legacy page that’s still positioning?

That’s a different story.

If we extrapolate what John Mueller said, and Google can “strip away” excess keyphrase use when evaluating page, that means the page should stand on its own.

Which means that it should be fine to rewrite it, dial back the keyphrase usage, and see what happens.

Notice the word “should” in there. I even italicized it twice. There’s a chance your page position drops after fixing the spam, despite what Google says. 

Annoying, isn’t it?

Is it worth it? I would argue yes. At the same time, I’d check the page analytics to see if people are taking action on the spammy versus non-spammy version.

Let the data be your guide. You may find fewer people visit the rewritten page, but they are taking action. Or staying on your page/site longer. Or even making a purchase from you.

After all, there’s no reason to celebrate a top-10 position if you find people are immediately leaving the page when they land on it.

What do you think?

Have you encountered a keyphrase-stuffed page, and wondered, “why is Google letting this fly?” Have you had to patiently explain to your boss why you shouldn’t repeat [b2b blue widget] 50 times in 250 words…even if your top competitor is positioning with the same tactic?

Sigh. I hear you. Share your tale of woe in the comments!

Did someone steal your content? Here's what to do

Did Someone Steal Your Content? Here’s What to Do

Imagine this…

You’re checking positions for a page you wrote, and you see something that stops you in your tracks…

Another site has taken your content and has claimed it as their own. There’s no link, no byline, nothing. They copied your page and pasted it into their site.

What’s worse, the page is positioning for the keyphrases you targeted.

AHHHHHH!

Unfortunately, content theft happens all the time — even to smaller sites.

Sometimes, it’s because the offender is totally clueless and thinks it’s OK to post your content on their site.

Sometimes, it’s because the site owner paid for “original” content and an unscrupulous writer copied your post and sold it as their own.

Sometimes, it’s because someone wants to steal your content (and traffic) because they are too lazy to do things the right way. I had a large SEO agency do this to me.

And sometimes (fortunately, not as often,) someone is doing it to target your site specifically and to hurt your rankings.

Fortunately, you DO have recourse — and there are things you can do.

Here’s how to handle content theft (ugh)…

Best case scenario, all it takes is an email to the site owner that says, “The article originally appeared on my site. You need to take it down.” 

The site owner may email you back and beg for forgiveness. Or, you may not hear a peep out of them — but the post magically disappears. 

When the above SEO company swiped my article, it took a couple emails to the CEO to set things right again. But, I got it taken down. (Oddly, the CEO kept insisting he wrote the article, and he only took it down after “agreeing to disagree.” That still irks me to this day.)

So, what happens if your “hey, take it down” email goes into a deep, dark hole and nobody responds? 

Fortunately, you have the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) on your side. This means you can do two things:

You can file a signed DMCA notice with the offending site’s web host. This site helps you track down the host and has an easy-to-use DMCA notice generator. Some hosts may require you to mail this information, while others have an online form.

You can go straight to Google and file a complaintGoogle is typically very responsive and will sometimes respond to DMCA notices the same day (at least, that’s what happened when I’ve had to do it.)

Here’s what the form looks like — and you have the option of choosing, “I have found content that may violate my content” on another page:

How to remove content from Google

If you’re short on time, there are also companies that will handle this for you. You can Google [DMCA takedown companies] for a list. 

Know this process can be extremely time-consuming. It takes a long time to research URLs, to make a list of offending pages, and to submit notices.

Plus, the process is like playing wack-a-mole. You may “beat” one content thief, just to have another pop up in its place.

That’s why some people choose not to bother with it unless the stolen content is out-positioning theirs. 

Sigh.

The good news is, it’s extremely fun to see stolen content disappear from Google’s search index. And oh-so-satisfying when it’s gone.

What about you?

Have you had someone steal your content? What did you do? Is it still there? Hit “reply” and let me know!

Why Answering Questions Is a Powerful Content Play

How many of you get stuck in the “what should I write about” trap?

::raising my hand::

Fortunately, there’s a simple way to create highly useful content that’s great for your readers.

Plus, Google LOVES this kind of content, and it even gives it special billing in the search results.

What’s the secret?

Answer common questions your readers ask every day. 

Why is answering questions such a powerful content play?

Easy. Because your readers have questions. Shouldn’t your company be the one that answers them?

Think about it. How many times have you signed up for a newsletter after reading a particularly helpful blog post? Or, downloaded a white paper for more information? You may have even made a purchase.

Strong, question-oriented content can cause conversions.

For instance, let’s say you were planning a trip to San Diego with your family.

You’d probably start typing in question-oriented queries like: 

[best time to visit San Diego]

[average San Diego temperature January]

[things to do in San Diego with kids]

You may not know exactly when you’d visit, what you’d do or where you’d stay. You’d just type your questions and explore the opportunities. 

Now, imagine finding a San Diego hotel website with a great, “Explore San Diego with your kids” guide.

After reading the guide, wouldn’t you examine that hotel property more closely — even if you’ve never heard of it before?

You bet. You may even book a stay, too. 

Providing helpful content wins the game. 

(And yes, this is the same for B2B companies. Writing content that answers your prospects’ common questions is a smart move — and your prospects will appreciate it!) 

What about Google’s stance?

Remember my blog post on voice search? I gave folks a heads up that question-oriented queries written in a conversational tone is a smart move. 

In fact, Google pulls out popular questions and features them at the top of the search results page. Clicking a question provides the “best” answer (as decided by Google) with a link to the source page.

For instance, like this:

search results for what is seo copywriting

What’s more, those featured snippet answers may turn into voice search responses, too.

How cool would it be if YOUR content was read back to you by Alexa, Google or Siri? 

I don’t know about you, but I get gleeful goosebumps even thinking about it.

(Want to learn more about featured snippets? Check out this recent study by SEMrush. It even breaks down the average paragraph length for featured snippet content.)

How can you find question-oriented queries?

Easy!

Check out KeywordTool.io and Answer the Public. Both tools offer great, free data (and the dude on the Answer the Public home page always make me laugh.)

Reddit, Quora and specialized forums are chock-full of questions.

Many paid tools have a “questions” feature.

And don’t forget to ask the folks in the trenches  — the people who answer customer/prospect questions every day. These people may include: 

 – Receptionists and administrative assistants

 – Customer service team members

 – The company’s owner, especially if the owner is also handling sales

 – The inbound and outbound sales team 

Ready? Go forth and start answering questions — and please let me know how it goes!

Do you have questions about answering questions?

Or, is there something else on your mind? Post your reply in the comments!

10 must-read resources for SEO writers

10 Must-Read Resources For SEO Writers

Let’s talk about a big SEO secret.

Once upon a time, I was sitting around a table with a bunch of other SEO experts. At one point, someone said, “Do you have a hard time keeping up with all the SEO news?”

As I looked around the table, I saw everyone was nodding. And, yes, I was nodding too. Because, once upon a time, I could keep up with all the SEO news. I could read every article, check out every newsletter and stay extremely informed.

That conference was 17 years ago. This was before blogging blew up and before social media ruled our lives…

Is it any wonder we have problems keeping up with the latest and greatest?

In fact, one of my SEO Copywriting Certification students asked for my “must read” short list. Why? Because he was feeling overwhelmed and needed a way to focus his efforts.

I get it.

His question prompted me to brainstorm my short-list resources I keep up with no matter what. Do I read and follow others? Heck yes. But, I find myself returning to these resources when time is tight.

Here’s my short list of 10 must-follow resources:

The SEM PostJennifer Slegg, the publisher, is a long-standing SEO expert, speaker and fantastic journalist. Her posts, like “How Google Handles Rankings for Identical Products on a Site,” can be a tad on the geeky side — but, they are worth the read. Plus, she can get guys from Google to talk to her on record. I cite her blog posts in my Certification class all the time.

Search Engine Land. This site was founded by search marketing’s O.G. Danny Sullivan (did you hear he works at Google now?) and Chris Sherman, who programs the SMX conferences. SEL is a great all-around source covering SEO, SEM, local search and more. Their news editor, Barry Schwartz (who also runs the slightly more technical Search Engine Roundtable), has been reporting on the industry for years.

Stonetemple’s Digital Marketing Excellence BlogEric Enge and Mark Traphagen, the dynamic duo behind the blog, are two smart guys. When they’re not running studies to determine what SEO technique really works, they will get down and dirty with in-depth posts like, “The Three Marks of Great Content.” Check out their videos, too — they’re delightfully geeky.

Neuromarketing, by Roger DooleyLearning about neuromarketing will turn your copywriting knowledge up to a Spinal Tap 11. Roger Dooley takes an extremely geeky subject and makes it accessible and fun. Plus, he understands the SEO side of the street and has presented at search marketing conferences. You will learn a lot. Trust me.

Anything by Larry Kim. Larry. Is. Brilliant. He dives into the data and serves you up a hot helping of “wow, I never thought of that.” He frequently publishes on his Medium account, with viral post titles, like “13 Easy LinkedIn Hacks That Will Boost Your Profile Views” and “Five Facebook Power Tips That Will Make You Shout For Joy.” You’re going to dig Larry. I just know it.

The BuzzSumo blog. I’ve said before that I’m a Steve Rayson fangirl (he’s the Director of BuzzSumo.) He combs through big data, pulls out the tasty bits and serves them up in extremely detailed (but not too geeky to read) blog posts. If you want to know the top words to include in headlines or how to amplify content, you must read this blog.

Moz’s Whiteboard Friday. OK, the entire Moz blog is good — let’s get that out of the way first. But, Rand’s Whiteboard Fridays are off-the-hook awesome. In his funny, mustachioed way, Rand answers questions (some of them, highly technical) in an easy-to-understand style. Plus, for those of us who hate sitting through videos, there’s a nicely formatted transcript for us to read. Enjoy! Rand has since moved on to another company, but the Moz team has kept Whiteboard Fridays alive.

Content Marketing InstituteThe CMI site has everything an SEO content marketing strategist needs. Do you need content marketing stats for management buy-in? Check. Looking for writing tips? Yup, you’ll find them. You’ll also find a wealth of other information, too, like training courses and case studies. When I’m training clients, I always have at least one slide listing CMI as a resource.

Marketing ProfsThis site, like the CMI site, has it all. Salary surveys, marketing tips from expert authors, original research and more. Ann Handley, the chief content officer, is a marketing genius. If you get a chance to see her live, go! She’s great!

What about you?

What are your must-read blogs and folks to follow? Let me know in the comments!

What Nike Can Teach You About Bullet Points

Answer me this…

Why do copywriters create boring bullet points?

You know what I mean. Many product and service pages (maybe even on your site) highlight statements, like:

  • Imported
  • Washable and stain resistant
  • Comes in green, blue or black

YAWN. Are you still awake?

Me neither.

Here’s the problem:

In a perfect world, bullet points pop off the page and are quick-scan gold. Writing them right can boost conversion rates.

The problem is, most writers write lazy, feature-filled bullet points.

Sometimes, they’ll even make the features sound super-technical to “impress the reader.”

But, that’s going about things the wrong way.

After all, your reader doesn’t care about your “washable” blouse.

She does want an easy-to-care-for blouse that’s wrinkle-free and great for travel.

Features don’t sell. Benefits do.

It’s time to kick feature-oriented bullet points to the curb and write smart benefit-focused bullet points, instead.

Here’s how…

Just do it like Nike

I love to give copywriting credit where credit is due — and Nike has mastered bulleted benefit statements. Their sales copy is fun to read.

Why?

Hardcore runners KNOW their shoe specs. These ultra-athletes care about the latest advances designed to help them run faster, better and with less stress.

So, it would be easy for Nike to geek out in their sales copy and write things like:

  • Contoured Lunarlon insole
  • Laser-cut outsole

Those features sound pretty cool – right?

But, Nike doesn’t take the easy way out. They don’t write lazy bullet points. Instead, they take it one step further and promote the benefit — not the feature.

In this example, they write slightly more copy so they can weave in the features and what’s in it for the customer. When you’re running 30+ miles a week, these are BIG benefits.

Here’s another example of how Nike uses benefit-filled bullet points and subheadlines. Even if you quick-scan the page and barely glance at the content, the benefit statements still pop — even the tiny bullet points under “more details”:

great example of bullet points

 

Nice, eh? Nike is doing it right.

Of course, I have one suggestion…

You can often skillfully weave a keyphrase or synonym into a benefit-rich bullet point. Sometimes, you can even find a long-tail search term you can slide into the bullet point copy.

It wouldn’t work all the time. But, if it made sense for the occasional subheadline or bullet point — cool.

Check your keyphrase research and play with the possibilities!

Here’s one more copywriting tip…

How to build a bullet point sandwich

What’s a bullet point sandwich? I’m glad you asked…

Based on research, folks have found there’s an optimal bullet point order:

  • Most important thing
  • Another good thing, but not the most important
  • Necessary thing(s) to mention (in the middle)
  • Second most important thing.

See how it works? In a bullet point sandwich, your less flashy (but still important) benefits are the filling.

Your BIG benefits – the ones folks will notice first — are the slices of bread (mmmm….carbs) holding everything together.

Tasty, eh?

What do you think?

Does writing bullet points and subheadlines bore you — or do you have fun fleshing out the benefits? What sites offer your favorite copywriting examples? Let me know in the comments!

Why Writers Should Look for “Easy” Content Wins

Did you grow up hearing, “If it’s easy, there must be something wrong with it”?

Yeah. Me too.

Instead of looking for the easy way out, we often look for the most challenging, brutal way to do things. We work harder. We work longer hours. If we’re not suffering, we aren’t trying.

It’s all about the hustle.

Granted, this mentality helps us to a certain extent. Busting out of our comfort zones is important. Sometimes, we have to go through some pain to see some gain (for instance, starting a new workout routine.)

But, what does this mean to our content marketing strategy? Should we always push the content marketing envelope?

My answer: Nope.

Here’s why…

Easy has a huge benefit.

A parallel I like to make is around exercise.

I love high-intensity exercise. It’s the only thing that makes my brain turn off.

But, it’s hard.

The only way I can do it is to build in rest days. I go to yoga. Or I take a walk. I’ve even thought about Zumba (don’t laugh.) If I push myself too much, I burn out, get sick and have zero energy.

Now, think of this in terms of your content marketing campaign.

Constantly writing (and researching, and promoting) detailed long-form posts is hard.

Publishing daily (or even weekly) for some companies may be the equivalent of engaging in high-intensity exercise without a break.

Balancing search and social without a sustainable plan can cause burnout — fast.

The result? The post quality goes down. The writers (you!) burn out. Sales go down.

You’re pushing so hard towards your goal, you don’t realize you don’t have to push so darn hard all the time.

So, what can you do instead?

Look for easy.

Here are some ideas:

  • Repurpose old blog posts and turn them into an email series.
  • Re-optimize old blog posts that have so-so positions.
  • Send social traffic to old posts (hey, those old posts need love too.)
  • Revise older posts and republish them as new.
  • If a task has been challenging in the past (say, getting subject matter experts to blog,) work around it (for example, interview the experts instead and post the transcripts.)
  • Slice your publication schedule (it’s OK. Really!)

If you’ve been hitting roadblocks, find the easy workarounds rather than beating your head against the wall.

You’ll be happier. Your content will be better for it.

And yes, you still want to stretch yourself and try new things. Challenging yourself to try something new is a good thing  (I’m challenging myself to hold more webinars this year.)

But, you still need those “rest days.” You still need the easy to balance out the hard.

(Need a place to start? I updated my post on how to conduct a content audit – please check it out and share it with your friends.)

What do YOU think?

Are you feeling like you’re on a never-ending content creation hamster wheel? Does it feel like “easy” isn’t good enough? What are you doing to simplify your SEO content creation efforts? Leave your feedback below — I’d love to hear from you!