Should You Publish Shorter Posts More Often?

Does the thought of writing a 3,000-word blog make you want to curl up in a small ball and rock back and forth?

What if I told you a recent study said writing shorter posts, more often, is a way to gain more social shares — even if that copy was written by a machine?

Recently, Steve Rayson from BuzzSumo wrote a post called, “The Future is More Content: Jeff Bezos, Robots, and High Volume Publishing.

The article throws out stats detailing how publications like BuzzFeed and The Washington Post are cranking out more short-form (under 1,000 words) content than ever before. Heck, even robots are jumping in the game and assisting with content generation.

Is more content, more often, really the key to content marketing success?

Are we back to the “bad old days” of low-cost content mills?

Let’s unpack this and talk about the opportunity.

Keep calm and ignore the robots (for now)

Hearing “computers can create content now” can strike fear in even the most experienced freelance writer’s heart. Why? Because many freelancers already complain how writing is a commodity (don’t believe me — check out typical writing fees on Freelance.com.)

Are writers now competing with content-writing robots as well as offshore writers?

The reality: Not necessarily (unless you’re a journalist, in which case you’re unfortunately living in your own hell.)

Yes, computer-generated content is a “thing.” However, computers aren’t evaluating micro-moments, researching keyphrases and developing reader-centered content. They won’t use, say, textural metaphors or employ other neuromarketing techniques.

That’s what humans do.

Will there be an uptick in computer-generated content? Yes. Will the average business have access to their very own writing robot? Not for a long time.

So, let’s put this fear aside and talk about another important point…

Brands are not publishers

Yes, we’ve all heard the “content is king” mantra. And yes, publishing quality content is important. But, does that mean the average company should turbocharge their content volume?

Newsflash: Brands are not publishers. Publishers are publishers. The average company is ill-equipped to crank out more content.

I couldn’t say it better than Ronell Smith from a recent Moz post:

“Publishing content no more makes you a publisher than running 26 miles makes someone a marathoner. Newsrooms are built to produce lots of content.”

For the average business, a sudden increase in content quantity will make the quality plummet. No one (including Google) wants to go back to the days of content mills, keyphrase-stuffed articles, and thin content.

Yes, many companies need to publish more often. Especially companies that only release one big piece of content every few months — leaving their blog a cold, empty place in the meantime.

But, does the average company need to crank out multiple pieces of content a day or week — even if that content is “just” 1,000 words or less?

Unless there is a solid reason to do it, I say no.

So, what’s a company to do?

It’s easy to chase your tail with the word count studies. This is because:

– The “perfect word count” has changed over time. It used to be 250 words, and now we say 250 words borders on “thin” content.

– It’s important to differentiate between shares and positions. Getting shares is wonderful, but it’s often a transitory bump. Companies also want their content at the top of the search engine charts.

– Different studies may have different findings, causing a WTF reaction if you’re trying to keep it all straight.

So what should you do?

Should you go weeks (or months) without publishing because you’re working on the perfect long-form, in-depth post? No.

Should you publish a bunch of little, crappy posts every day, trying to tease out as much long-tail traffic as you can? Nope.

The answer is so simple.

Instead of publishing content based on what other companies do — why not focus on what your readers want, and what achieves your marketing/brand awareness/sales goals?

That means, stop worrying about your word counts and check your analytics instead. Survey your readers and find out what they want to read.

See what clicks and do more of it. 

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel every time you write something. Repurposing content is always a smart idea.

For instance, many companies write one big of content every 6-8 weeks. Once it’s created, they slice, dice and repurpose the piece into:

  • A SlideShare deck
  • A podcast (or podcast series)
  • Serialized blog posts (as Steve Rayson suggests)
  • Tweets and Facebook posts
  • Webinar content (don’t forget to include the transcript!)

Plus, you can fill in any “content holes” with other, shorter pieces your readers would love to read.

The key takeaway: Keep calm and keep writing.

Nobody (including Steve Rayson) is recommending you crank out crappy content for Google. Sure, there will always be studies discussing the “perfect” word count and content distribution frequency. But the real test is, what works for YOUR readers (and still gets seen in search results?).

Once you’ve nailed that down, you’re golden.

Want actionable sales and SEO writing tips? People think my weekly newsletter is pretty cool — why not sign up today?

 

How to Give Your Readers a Squirt of Dopamine

Imagine writing so sticky that people hang on to every word, spend more time reading your copy – and How writing wordplay can give your readers a squirt of dopamineeven remember it later?

How?

Because every time they read your content, their brains are squirted with dopamine happy-juice.

Squirt

No, it’s not black magic.

In fact, coming up with smile-producing content is incredibly fun!

It’s all about the wordplay.

Let me explain.

My discovery (and “doh” moment)

Like a good marketer, I was checking out my article backlinks and saw someone linked to 14 SEO Copywriting Tips in Haiku. Cool.

When I checked out the backlink, the article discussed how haiku word play was popular.

NYC uses haiku street traffic signs:

Oncoming cars rush
Each, a three-ton bullet
And you, flesh and bone

Jonathan Schwartz, ex-CEO of Sun Microsystems tweeted a haiku to announce his resignation:

Financial crisis
Stalled too many customers
CEO no more

Why does haiku wordplay – especially around such serious topics – make us smile?

It’s all in our brains.

Enter neuromarketing research. Using words in unexpected ways makes our writing more persuasive, more easily remembered – and can even provide pleasure.

Yes, that’s right. Funny wordplay gives your readers’ brains a squirt of pleasure-enhancing dopamine. People want to hang on your every word because it makes them feel good.

How cool is that?

Was I aiming for a mass reader dopamine squirt when I wrote the blog post? Nope. It never even crossed my mind. Doh!

I wrote the post because it was fun to write. In a career universe full of meta description how-to guides (it’s a really great guide, but wow) and algorithms and RankBrain, you gotta shake it up somehow.

How you can light up your readers’ brains

Working with wordplay is fun. The key is thinking out of the box.

For instance…

I was driving behind an airport hotel shuttle with the slogan “Suite Ride” on the back. I laughed – but more importantly, I remember the brand (Marriott.)

Duluth Trading Company has a popular line of comfortable men’s work pants called Ballroom Jeans (I’ll let you figure out the wordplay.)

If haiku and unexpected word combinations aren’t your style, try textual metaphors like:

It was a hairy situation.

Learn to sell without feeling slimy.

Are you having a rough day?

Textural words like hairy, slimy and rough activate the sensory parts of our brains. While we’re reading the copy, our brains metaphorically feel slime, hairiness and roughness.

See? There are lots of ways to make your writing fun again.

Ready to play with wordplay?

What do you think of today’s post? Can you work some fun wordplay into your writing? Contact me and let me know (or leave a comment.) I’d love to hear from you!

It’s time to sign off
Enjoy playing with wordplay
Talk to you next week!

This info-packed post originally appeared in my weekly newsletter — it’s where I share my best stuff. Here’s how to sign up!

21 Ways a Copywriter Can Help a Small Business

Opportunities for small business copywritersIf you ask a small business owner to give a presentation in public, you can see beads of perspiration forming almost immediately. That is, if your attention isn’t drawn to their knees knocking or their leg imitating a piston right where they sit.

While public speaking is a known and easy-to-admit fear of many, writing is a more subtle fear. Accepting the task is easy, but when it comes to stringing words together, many business owners are like a deer in headlights.

Just as the best speakers value speech writers, and professional athletes have coaches, business owners need copywriters and copy editors. Here are a few areas where most small businesses could use a wordsmith:

Writing Big Pieces

  • Web Page Copy: There are plenty of small business web pages filled with mangled text, piecemealed and pasted from multiple sources, not always from their own pages or brochures.
  • Ebooks: Every business owner likes to think they are an expert in their field (ask their employees). Every business owner would like a bigger mailing list. Ebooks can prove the former while building the latter.
  • Press Releases: While some writers think press releases are a thing of the past, small business owners (your potential clients) do not. In smaller towns, well written press releases can mean local media coverage.
  • Blog Posts: This type of writing is the mud where many businesses get stuck. Providing conversational copy, relevant to a targeted audience, with a clear call-to-action, often means bigger profits in less time (and agony).
  • Articles: Most business owners are not familiar with terms like article marketing, advertorials, or native advertising. They like the concept, but shy away from the writing.
  • Sales Pages and Landing Pages: Most small business owners are familiar with the concept of long-form sales letters. Few are adept at putting the copy, the callouts, and the calls-to-action together.

Small Bits & Pieces

  • Commercials: Television and radio remain a popular platform for small business advertising dollars, especially in smaller local markets. As you know, short-and-quick is not always synonymous with clear-and-concise.
  • Catalog or Product Descriptions: Small blurbs like product descriptions, catalog copy and menu items are often difficult for a small business owner. It becomes an exercise of the ketchup trying to read its own label – from inside the bottle.
  • Email: Canned responses are time savers. Template sales emails or inquiry emails can also save time and increase outreach. When written clear and concise, a small business can send these emails with confidence.
  • Display Ad Copy: From taglines to internal signage, chamber directory ads to phone books, some small businesses haven’t changed their ad copy in years.
  • Brochures: Still viewed as an expected leave behind, sales collateral like brochures and sales cards hold a lot of value to some businesses. Creativity can be a key in creating a library of copy to be used elsewhere within the business.
  • Status Updates: If a small business is active in social media, status updates read more like commercials than conversations.

Mouth Pieces

  • Speeches and Presentations: Whether the full body of the speech or an outline, some of the best presenters tap into the strengths of a writer. Presentation slideshows are often in need of a good writer or editor.
  • Profiles and Bios: A lot of business leaders have difficulty writing about themselves. Bio pages on the web, in print or media kits, and social media profiles can all use the touch of a professional writer.
  • Video and Podcast Scripts: The “ums” and “ers” along with the always popular “so” and “basically” fill video voice overs and podcast episodes across the mediums. Good writing and a tool like CuePrompter will make your clients sound eloquent when they say the words you’ve written.
  • Transcription and Re-purposing: Smart business owners are starting to realize the value of recorded presentations or conversations, capturing large portions or small money quotes they can use elsewhere. A writer or editor who can extract the value from the whole is an asset to the company.

Specialty Pieces

  • SEO Copywriting: Writing title tags, headlines, and meta data is a specialized writing skill all its own. Recognizing how to improve copy for findability is also a strength many business don’t have internally. SEO copywriting is one of the most sought after types of writing.
  • Infographics: This style of writing also requires talents for both research and design. Being able to partner with a graphics person can strengthen the copy and the flow.
  • Tutorials: Technical writing or instructional manuals are very important to many kinds of businesses. Small businesses with a high turnover of employment are often seeking operational guidelines for new employees. Manufacturers are always on the lookout for a simpler way to teach customers how to use their products.
  • Grant Writing: If writing blog posts strikes fear into the minds of a business owner, grant writing can send them running for cover.
  • Policies: Terms of service, disclaimers, and codes of conduct are sought after as more businesses launch their own websites. This type of writing often includes a back-and-forth approval process with a legal department.

A lot of small business owners will avoid writing at all costs, sometimes delegating to someone within their company. Not every business will use all of the writing types listed above. It’s likely they haven’t yet considered the possibility of most of them.

As I work with small business owners daily, writing is clearly one of their weakest areas. If you’re a copywriter, or learning to build a copywriting business, I strongly encourage you to reach out to the small business owners in your area and help them in these areas.

About the Author

Mike Sansone works with small business owners and solopreneurs in building a better business presence online and offline through his company, SmallBizTracks. He has authored the ConverStations blog since 2006. You can connect with Mike on Twitter or Google Plus.

Did you like this post? I save my best SEO writing and business-building tips for my newsletter. Sign up today!

 

14 SEO Copywriting Tips — in Haiku! [Revised]

stencil.blog-post-feature

I often tell writers to have fun with their content. Whether you’re a B2B or B2C, you can get your point across — and establish your expertise — without sounding boring.

Today, I thought I’d take my own advice. Below you’ll find common SEO copywriting tips – written Haiku-style. Enjoy!

SEO copy
Doesn’t mean “keyphrase stuffing”
Write for people first.

Don’t “write for engines”
Google doesn’t buy from you
But your prospects do.

Know your customers
Write informative content
Focus on their needs.

Do keyphrase research
Before you write your copy
Don’t ever skip it.

Focus your content
Think about reader intent
Choose words carefully.

Synonyms are OK now
And related words
Writers can rejoice

Include benefits
Tell folks what’s in it for them
Show how you can help.

Looking for an edge?
Research long-tail keyphrases
Answer the questions.

Another idea
Experiment with headlines
Play with your wording.

Watch your messaging
Pushy sales copy won’t sell
Folks will tune you out.

Don’t talk about YOU
Talk about your customer
Focus on her needs.

Titles are crucial
Always include keyphrases
Write to get the click.

Measure your results
See what works and what doesn’t
Change up your copy.

Have fun with writing
It’s a great way to connect
Thanks for reading this!

Did you have a fun time reading this post? Cool! You’ll learn even more fun SEO writing goodness if you sign up for my free newsletter (hint, hint!)

Photo thanks to M161m161 | Dreamstime.com

Rapid Results, Lots of Fun: Growth Hacking Tips from Ann Smarty

Ann Smarty

Do the words “rapid results” make your heart rate pitter patter with glee?

Are you looking for a fun way to help your clients?

If you don’t know Ann Smarty, you’re in for a treat. Ann has been on the forefront of blogging and content marketing for years — plus, she knows her SEO stuff (@seosmarty is even her Twitter handle!).

Read what Ann has to say about growth hacking strategies, why building your brand assets is so important — and why you may not need a blog. Enjoy!

The topic of “growth hacking” is hot – but I run into people who don’t know what it is. Can you please define growth hacking and tell us how it differs from digital marketing?

I am not aware of any formal definition. Here’s how I understand it: Growth hacking means coming up with efficient tactics to grow your business.

Growth hacking can be part of digital marketing but while the latter is more long-term and strategic, growth hacking is usually about rapid results, lots of experiments and fun.

Moreover, while digital marketing is comprehensive (it aims at building all kinds of aspects of your business including sales, reputation, usability, etc.), growth hacking is about mostly doing whatever it takes to grow the site user base.

Growth hacking is also less about watching competitors and more about developing unique growth ideas.

I’m asking this for all those businesses out there who really don’t want to blog. Is having an on-site blog a prerequisite for digital marketing/growth hacking? Or, are there any non-blogging “hacks?”

Blogging is just one growth hack. There are many more 🙂

For examples, growth hacks in my newsletter include YouTube tricks, ways to obtain natural links that bring traffic and users, creating brand assets that generate user base of their own, etc. It’s not just about blogging, though blogging usually makes it easier!

Do you run into people who insist email marketing is dead? Is it really? Where does email marketing fit into an overall growth hacking strategy? Or does it?

The death of email marketing was a thing a few years ago when social media sites were just emerging and many people thought social media communities would eventually replace email marketing.

Well, guess what, social media platforms are mature now, they are useful for marketers but they definitely never replaced email marketing. In fact, the two are most effective when combined!

You discuss increasing Google search exposure by answering niche questions. Are there any specific ways of doing this or Q&A forums you’ve found work better than others?

The most effective way to earn traffic by answering questions is to answer them on your site and build up a resource.

One of the most efficient scenarios I’ve come up with so far is the following:

  • Any time you plan to create and publish content, use SERPstat to find related questions people tend to type into Google’s search box
  • Break those questions into generic ones (those that deserve creating a separate page to address them) and specific ones (those that should be covered inside an article)
  • Do some more digging to research search volume and competition (SERPstat can show you both) to pick the best generic questions to create content around
  • Use specific questions as subheadings as well as a clickable table of contents within each article.

Here’s a good example of the above scenario in action.

Also, make a good habit of covering each customer’s questions on your site as a FAQ question. Not only will it increase your chances to rank higher, it will also decrease the amount of customer support emails.

You’ve also discussed creating alternative web traffic sources by building brand assets. Are you saying that Google traffic isn’t enough? How can that be? 😉

Even if we forget about the (always) disturbing Google whims (manual penalties, ever-growing list of tools), depending on one source for traffic, leads and customers is never a good idea! 🙂

What are the best hacks for building these assets? And what “alternative web traffic sources” should an agency or individual consider?

I’ve discussed my favorite platforms to build brand assets here. In short, brand assets can be any page or resource that can be bring you traffic (preferably on auto-pilot).

For example, a must-build brand asset is an email list (which you can scale by using automated workflows. Here’s more info on all the ways to automate your email communications and grow engagement with GetResponse).

Social media accounts are more brand assets to consistently develop.

Creating on-site brand assets is another great idea. Think eBooks, apps, aforementioned FAQs. These will bring return traffic from bookmarks and downloads.

The sky is your limit really… Creating an online course and publishing it throughout educational platforms is one idea, for example. Or publishing an instructional download, such as a pdf. Or even maintaining an author column at a high-profile niche publication.

The more you do, the more traffic sources you build!

It sounds like writing good copy (newsletter copy, email copy, web copy) is a needed growth-hacking skill – which is great for SEO writers! Is there anything else folks should know?

Content has always been the foundation of any other marketing efforts. It’s never “build it and they will come” though (unfortunately). Creating good copy is a necessary step 1, then there come many more steps including publicizing and marketing that content using your assets (e-newsletter, social media channels) or paid placements (search and social media ads).

What’s your top growth hack tip for snagging some “low-hanging fruit” success?

My favorite growth hack won’t work for everyone but it will hopefully inspire many. I have found that re-packaging old content is an easy and absolutely awesome way to create new traffic sources.

For example, I went back to my old content, ordered voiceover on Fiver and created three premium courses on Udemy. Now they work great for bringing brand recognition and site visitors.

What’s your favorite music to listen to while you’re writing?

I am not listening to music when writing. I am a multi-tasker. I am writing, monitoring Twitter and feeding baby – all at the same time. I cannot also add background music to all of that 🙂

Is SEO Copywriting the Career for You? 12 Questions, Answered

FAQs

Want to be an SEO writer? Check this out!

Have you thought about dipping your toes in the SEO writing waters, but you figured it was “too technical” to learn?

Or, have you shunned SEO writing because you’ve heard it was spammy, maddening and not worth your time?

Let me calm your fears…

SEO writing has been around for a long time — close to 20 years now.

A lot has changed over those 20 years.

No longer does Google reward keyphrase-stuffed, spammy writing (woohoo!)

In fact, quality, authoritative writing is what scores a sky-high ranking. You know, the kind of writing you already love to create.

Wondering if you should add SEO writing to your services mix? Here are the 12 most common questions I hear  — and my (sometimes blunt) responses. Enjoy!

1. I have zero copywriting experience. Can I still write SEO copy?

Yes…but…

There will be a learning curve.

You don’t have to be a technical wizard who enjoys coding sites in your spare time. But you do need to understand the SEO copywriting basics.

Otherwise, you are doing your clients a huge disservice. Not understanding SEO best practices means you’ll miss important opportunities (or make mistakes) that can cost your client money.

(Fortunately, SEO copywriting skills can be picked up fairly quickly.)

You’ll also need to learn the basic copywriting ropes.

If you want to help your clients succeed (and that means helping them make sales,) it’s crucial that you understand how to create conversion-oriented copy. It will help you write better Web pages, improve your email campaigns – and even help you drive more traffic to your site.

2. I’m an established copywriter. Should I learn SEO writing, too?

Yes. SEO writing is a service you can offer established clients, increasing your profit margins.

Plus, why wouldn’t you want to help your client drive more traffic to her site? After all, if you don’t provide this service, your client may be forced to find another vendor who can.

3. Do I need to go back to school?

I don’t know of any universities that incorporate SEO copywriting into their curriculum. Some writers choose to get a certificate in ad or business writing — but it’s not required.

4. So, if I can’t go to school to learn SEO copywriting, how will I learn the ropes?

You have a few options.

Unlike some careers, don’t figure that you’ll “learn SEO copywriting” in a few months – and that’s all you’ll need to do. I’m still learning. I’m still researching. It’s a never-ending process.

If you enjoy learning in a conference environment, events like Pubcon and Search Marketing Expo run SEO copywriting panels. AWAI runs web writing workshops.

Occasionally, there are local workshops too – you can always check with an SEO copywriter you like and see if he/she is running anything in your area.

If you prefer to learn from the comfort of your comfy couch, there are online training classes, too (such as my SEO Copywriting Certification training.) Going through a training course can even help land you your first gig.

What should you avoid? Learning the ropes from message boards (where the information could be wrong) and books (where the information may be outdated.) Stick to constantly-updated resources and you’ll be fine.

5. What about working with a mentor? Can I learn that way? 

Some folks prefer a mentor/mentee relationship, where the “master” SEO copywriter reviews your work, answers your questions and helps you learn the art faster and easier.

Some mentors will work with writers for free — but that means you’ll probably be paying in other ways (such as helping your mentor with tasks.) Other people will charge money.

Although “free” is a great price, don’t reject a paid mentor relationship if you have the funds available. You’ll probably be able to work with an SEO copywriter faster (and receive more consistent feedback) if you’re able to pay.

6. I’d rather learn on the job. Will anyone hire a newbie SEO copywriter?

Yes! Although most companies prefer to hire folks with some experience, you can work as an assistant at first — and gradually work on writing projects as your skills improve.

A recent 2016 study found that the average web writer salary is $77,500 — so the income projections are excellent.

7. Won’t what I learn go out of date in just a few months?

Yes…and no. It’s true that Google keeps changing the rules. Having said that, many of the basics (like write for your reader) are the same.

It’s crucial to stay educated in this fast-moving field. If you love to learn, SEO (and SEO copywriting) is a great career choice.

8. How can I find SEO copywriting work?

That depends – do you want to work in-house or freelance? If you want to freelance, think about business owners you know (for instance, your hairdresser, a restaurant owner or a plumber.) Is there some way that you can help them?

You can also work with advertising agencies, SEO firms, copywriting agencies and even web design companies. In short, freelance SEO copywriters have lots of options.

9. How much should I charge for SEO copywriting services?

That depends on a lot of things, including your experience level, your local area (assuming that you are focusing locally,) and the types of clients you want.

If your heart is with small business owners, it makes sense to charge small business prices. If you love working with corporations — and you have some experience under your virtual belt — you can charge much more.

I know some SEO copywriters making 20K a year – and others making over 200K. It all depends on your income goals.

Here are some things to think about when you’re setting your freelance copywriting rates.

10.  Can I be a part-time SEO copywriter?

Yes. Many people when they are first starting out have a “real job” during the day – and work on SEO copywriting assignments at night. Working part-time can be a great way to build up a client base while having the security of a regular paycheck.

11. How can I get paid more money?

That’s up to you. Top notch SEO copywriters understand how the search engines work, and keep up on the latest and greatest algorithmic changes.

Plus, they’re researching topics like NLP, neuromarketing, consumer psychology — anything that will help them write better copy faster.

The more you know, the more you can get paid.

If you love learning and uncovering the latest search engine burp is fun for you, you can look at expanding your skills into content marketing, social media and even consulting and training.

Some SEO copywriters even take on full-scale SEO projects, handling everything from technical to analytics and everything in between.

If this is the route you plan to take, know that you’ll need to spend a lot of time educating yourself. As I mentioned earlier, your lack of knowledge can hurt a client,so be very honest about what you can do – and what you can’t provide.

12. The most important question of all: Is SEO copywriting a fun career choice?

Yes, SEO copywriting is a darn fun career choice.

Some folks choose to turn SEO copywriting into a lifestyle business, where they fit in copywriting gigs around family, fun, and other responsibilities.

Other people dream of having a full-fledged SEO copywriting and content marketing agency, complete with employees, downtown office, and signage.

Still others would rather work for an agency and be part of a fantastic team.

If SEO copywriting is your desired career choice, you have the freedom to create the work environment you’ve always wanted. And having that kind of freedom, combined with doing the work you want to do, is a great gig. 🙂

How To Write Meta Descriptions For SEO

Do you want more people to click on your search result — even if you’re not #1?

dog with pencil

See? Even Fido wants you to write good meta descriptions for SEO!

Masterfully-written meta descriptions have tremendous traffic-boosting powers.

In fact, Neil Patel has stated, “The meta description is the most important feature for improving click-through rate from search results pages.”

What’s more, you can write a great meta description in five minutes or less!

Here’s everything you need to know:

What’s a meta description?

The meta description is an HTML attribute summarizing the page content. In less geeky terms, the meta description proves a mini-summary of the page and describes what it’s about.

The meta description does not have an SEO benefit, although a strong meta description may entice people to click on your search listing.

(And this is where the magic happens!)

Here’s what the meta description looks like on the search engine results page:

SERP meta description

If you’re using an SEO plug-in, you’d insert your meta description in a field like this (this is from the Yoast SEO plug-in):

Post meta

 

Or, if you’re checking out the behind-the-scenes code, the meta description looks like this:

<meta name>=”description” content=”Wondering how much you should charge as a freelance copywriter? Use this guide to figure out your rate!” />

Now, here’s where things get really interesting…

Remember I mentioned the magic in meta descriptions?

Here’s why:

The meta description shows up when you share a post on social networks:

Social meta description

Plus, a masterfully-written meta description can tempt users to click on your listing over others on the search engine results page:

meta description comparison

See what’s happening here? The meta description helps “sell” the listing and encourages readers to click through.

Think of the meta description as “ad copy” rather than “back-end code,” and you can really grasp the importance.

The better your meta descriptions, the more of a chance you’ll see search and social traffic — especially when paired with a killer Title.

Plus, they’re fun (and easy) to write.

Here’s how:

5 masterful meta description-creation tips:

You’ll want to create an unique meta description for every page on your site, so it’s important to write them right.

1. Know your (character count) limits

In the past, we had about 156 characters (including spaces). Recently, Google has been testing longer descriptions — and now, you have approximately 200 characters (including spaces.) More than that, and Google will slice off your listing and show the dreaded ellipses (…)

Want to make sure you don’t push the character count limit? SEO plug-ins like Yoast’s and tools like Snippet Optimizer show you what your meta description will look like on the search engine results page.

2.  Think “clickable”

The meta description helps your listing pop off the search results page — so you’ll want to write to get the click. Use action-oriented words and a call to action to invite readers to learn more.

For instance, let’s unpack Moz’s meta description:

moz meta description

This masterful meta description for the Moz home page includes:

Social proof: “the largest community of SEOs on the planet”

Benefit statement: “Moz builds tools that make inbound marketing easy”

A call to action: “Start your free trial today!”

That’s a lot of brilliant writing within a very limited character count.

3. Clearly describe what the page is about

Yes, you want to be compelling — but you don’t want to write a cutesy, click-bait meta description that doesn’t match the page’s intent.

Think about it: people are busy. Why would your reader click on something when they weren’t 100% sure it would answer their question (or solve their problem.)

After all,

via GIPHY

Am I right? 🙂

4. Include keyphrases, but don’t keyphrase stuff

Keyphrases in your meta description won’t help your SEO. However, it could help your click-throughs. Here’s why:

  • The keyphrases will be bolded in the search listing. So, if someone searched for [blue widgets], the words “blue widgets” will show in the meta description.
  • Using keyphrases and related words reassures searchers your landing page contains the information they want.

So yes, include a keyphrase if it makes sense…but focus more on getting the click. Including…

5. Experiment with different CTA formats

Adding a CTA to your meta description can drive more eyeballs to your site — or even calls to your company.

For instance:

  • Does your business thrive on phone calls? Try including your phone number.
  • Raven Tools recommends action-oriented verbs like, “buy,” “shop”, “click.” “Read more” is a popular blogging CTA.
  • Neil Patel discusses how the meta description should “spark curiosity.” For instance, here’s a description that makes you want to learn more:

Match the CTA to the page’s intent and don’t be afraid to try different things. You never know what will spark the click and drive fantastic results!

Do you need more back-to-basics SEO writing tips? I share my best secrets in my free newsletter. Sign up now!

 

Proven Ways To Open The Curiosity Gap: Writing Tips from Henneke Duistermaat

Henneke Have you wondered why your blog post titles are falling flat, and folks aren’t taking action?

Are you looking for a way to simplify your writing process?

If you don’t know Henneke Duistermaat, you’re in for a treat. Henneke is the owner of Enchanting Marketing and has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine and Copyblogger. 

In fact, Copyblogger’s Brian Clark has said, “You should listen to Henneke’s every word!”

Learn what Henneke has to say about her streamlined writing process, what sales writing mistakes make her cringe and ways to open the curiosity gap. Enjoy!

You write books, develop courses, blog and (sometimes) take on copywriting clients. That’s a lot of writing!  What kind of productivity processes do you have in place to help you accomplish so much?

Firstly, I write over a series of days – even for smaller projects. My first stage is gathering the information required. For copywriting projects, I focus on (1) who is the customer, (2) what is the expected action on this page, (3) why would the customer care about taking this action, (4) why might the customer hesitate, and (5) why would he trust me. I leave the research for a day before I plan the content, which means arranging what content goes where. On the next day, I write a first draft. Then on the next day again, I edit. Sometimes I edit over a couple of days.

When you spread writing over several days, you take advantage of incubation time. You become more creative. Also, your editing goes faster when you look at your draft with fresh eyes. I also suffer less from procrastination when a writing task is relatively small!

For blog posts, I often use a standard structure which helps speed up writing, too. Most of my posts have an opening in which I empathize with the reader and promise how I’ll help them. Then I have a series of tips. And lastly, I have an upbeat paragraph in which I encourage readers to implement my tips.

What also helps is that I write in short bursts of time (25 to 30 minutes) and take a lot of breaks. This keeps my energy levels up. And I spend relatively little time on social media. I don’t even have a Facebook account. I focus on what I do best – which is content creation.

You are an incredible marketer and your posts can get thousands of shares! Well done! Do you have a favorite marketing technique that helped you go from “a good writer” to “a well-known influencer?”

Thank you!

What has helped me most is being focused. So rather than write about a variety of topics, I tried to establish my credentials as an expert in web writing and business blogging. I rarely write about other topics. I tend to write in-depth content, sometimes focused on ultra-specific topics like how to use adverbs, how to create smooth transitions, or how to eliminate weak words from your writing. Such in-depth posts about the nitty-gritty of writing help me stand out as an expert. I didn’t think people would be interested in such detailed posts, but my readers have encouraged me to write them.

Another often underrated skill is listening. We think of ourselves as writers, but getting to know our audience and listening to their needs helps connect with them. I often get emails from people saying that my blog post came exactly at the right time. “Was I reading their mind?” I love those emails because they show me I’m in tune with my audience’s needs.

You must see sales pages that make you cringe. What are the most common sales page errors you see? How can a writer conquer common sales writing mistakes and write some serious sales copy?

One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is using generic statements like “We’re passionate about creating awesome websites” or “We’re committed to customer service excellence.”

Such generic statements don’t help persuade readers to buy because everyone says the same. Even more importantly, such statements don’t help readers visualize what you’re talking about—they don’t really tell us something. What is so special about their customer service?

As soon as you add a specific detail, the credibility of the copy is boosted. For instance, a headline like “Our world class widgets help you increase email sign-ups” is a generic statement, and while the benefit (increasing email sign-ups) is good, it lacks persuasiveness. Try for instance: “549,333 websites use our widgets to increase email sign-ups” or even: “So-and-so used our widget to increase sign ups by 79%.”

Some writers swear by sales writing formulas like PAS and AIDA. Other writers think that sales formulas are outdated and won’t work online. What’s your opinion? If you do use sales writing formulas, what’s your favorite one and why?

I find PAS and FAB the two most useful copywriting formulas.

FAB stands for Features – Advantages – Benefits.

FAB reminds us that our customers aren’t interested in features, and they aren’t interested in specifications, they don’t even care about advantages. All they want to know is what you offer to them. How do you make them happier or richer?

In my book How to Write Seductive Web Copy, I use the following example to describe the difference between features, advantages, and benefits:

Imagine you’re selling an oven. One of its special features is a fast preheat system. The advantage of this system is that the oven heats up to 400º F (200º C) in just five minutes. The benefit is that a cook doesn’t have to hang around until the oven is finally warm enough. It makes cooking less stressful and you have a much better chance to get dinner ready in time even if you’re extremely busy.

FAB tells us to always focus on customers. Specific features and specifications add credibility to your copy, but benefits sell because they connect to human emotions. You always need the combination of facts (features and specifications) and emotion (benefits).

PAS is in a way quite similar to FAB. Instead of focusing on the positive benefits of your copy, you focus on what problems you help avoid. PAS is powerful because problems can attract even more attention than benefits. People want to avoid pain, hassle, risks, glitches, and problems.

PAS stands for: Problem – Agitate – Solve. First you describe a problem, then you agitate by highlighting the emotions that go with the problem, and then you offer your solution. Once people believe you understand their problems and how they feel about it, they’re more likely to believe you have a good solution for them, too.

PAS and FAB are simple and persuasive. You can write persuasive web copy for any product or service using these two formulas.

What’s your favorite site for sales copy inspiration (and no, Apple doesn’t count!) 🙂

Haha! Apple doesn’t count? Why not?

Other copywriting examples? It depends on what you’re looking for. For simplicity, I think the UK government’s website is interesting to study. It covers a huge number of topics in a pretty clear manner. What I also like is that it reinforces the point that FAQ pages are pretty useless. You need to answer questions when they come up in people’s mind. That’s usually when they’re reading about a product or service.

For writing with personality, I like Man Crates. They write great copy for a clearly defined avatar (or ideal reader profile). If you’re interested in stories, then J Peterman is a great website to study.

One of your blog posts discusses the “curiosity gap” and its importance. Can you talk a little bit about what the curiosity gap is, and why “minding the gap” is so important during the age of content shock.

Curiosity has a bad name. We associate it with either nosiness and clickbait titles. But curiosity is a healthy human trait. Without curiosity, we wouldn’t learn and innovate.

To use curiosity in an ethical way, we appeal to people’s desire for learning about a specific topic, and then we open up a gap by pointing out there might be something they don’t know yet. This way we can write subject lines and headlines that entice people to click through.

For instance, here’s a subject line that did really well for me recently: 

A Pain-Free Copywriting Process: 5 Key Questions You Must Answer

The first part (A pain-free copywriting process) refers to something a lot of my audience desire. Copywriting is hard—who wouldn’t like to make the process pain-free? The second part (5 key questions you must answer), then opens up the curiosity gap because we get curious to know which these 5 key questions are.

You don’t have to do this in two parts. Here’s another example:

Do You Know This #1 Fiction Writing Trick For Compelling Business Content?

This subject line appeals to people’s desire for creating compelling business content; and it arouses curiosity by referring to the #1 fiction writing trick. (What’s the trick? This post is about the principle of Show. Don’t tell.)

Speaking of content shock…I don’t know how many super-long emails I receive every day. Do I read them? Usually not. What are some things writers can do to write more “snackable” emails that actually get read?

Emails tend to get wordy because people are trying to communicate too much information. You see this with companies a lot. They want you to fill in a satisfaction survey AND like them on Facebook. They want you to reply to an email AND click to read the latest post. They share three or four tips in one email when one tip is enough. Everyone is overwhelmed already, so let’s keep life a little simpler for our email recipients.

So, the key to being “snackable” is to focus on just one action per email. This action can be to click through to read your blog post, to reply to your email with a concrete answer, to click to buy a product or to fill in a questionnaire. Whatever it is, limit it to one action.

Once you decide which one action you want from the email, it becomes easier to cut out all the irrelevant parts. Often you can reduce the number of words by 50%.

If writers only remember ONE thing from this interview, what’s the big takeaway? 

Let me mention again this point about generic statements because as copywriters it can be difficult to write persuasive copy because often we don’t know enough.

To write good copy, it’s important to get as much input as possible from your clients or their customers or to do your own online research. Ask as many questions as you can and when a client gives you a generic statement, ask for an example. For instance, I remember a client telling me they had state-of-the-art facilities; and I had to probe him for quite a long time before I finally got some specific statements about his facilities. These specific statements included explanations about his machinery plus I asked him to explain why his customers would care about this machinery. So, again, each fact about the machinery was connected to a benefit for buyers.

Bonus question: What do you listen do while you’re writing? Music? Nothing? White noise?

I like silence. Music distracts me.

Want to learn more from Henneke? She’s our featured Certification training guest speaker next Wednesday, June 29th. Learn more about the SEO Copywriting Certification Training.

Want to Write A Sizzling Services Page? Check Out These 7 Tips!

Want to know the secrets to writing a top-converting services page?

Unlike product pages, which are all about landing the sale, service pages are different.

It’s all about getting the lead.

With that in mind, here are seven smart strategies for capturing leads with savvy SEO copywriting.

Watch the video for all the juicy information, or check out a summary of the tips below:

1. Focus on benefits, not features

Don’t bury your benefit statements! It’s important to address how your service can specifically help your prospect. For instance, will your service save your customers money? Help them make more money? Streamline their operations? Tell them!

Features are important– but it’s your unique sales proposition (U.S.P.) and benefit statements that will grab your prospect’s interest and make them contact you. Merely listing features makes you sound the same as everyone else providing the same or a similar service. Who wants that?

2.  Consider persona-specific landing pages

Creating landing pages specifically addressing your main targeted audiences is a powerful strategy.

Constant Contact, an email platform, used to show vertical-specific landing pages targeted towards individual industry niches. I LOVE this approach. Why? Vertical-specific pages have very cool SEO and reader benefits.

From the SEO side, vertical-specific landing pages allow you to target highly specific keyphrases, for example [email marketing for real estate agents].

From the reader side, you can tie your writing back to your customer persona and drive home the “what’s-in-it-for-them” benefits. For instance, in the case of Constant Contact, people won’t just read about how cool email marketing is — instead, they’ll read an entire page focused on the benefits of email marketing for their industry. That’s a pretty powerful message!

3.  Don’t write skimpy copy

67% of the B2B buyers’ journey is done digitally, according to Forrester Research. That means if your site offers skimpy information and little copy, you run the risk of prospects leaving your site and checking out another vendor. Remember, people won’t “just call” or send you an email. No solid services information = no sale.

4. Include solid, vertical-specific testimonials

Yes, testimonials are smart to have on your site as social proof — but they are only as credible as you make them. Whenever possible, use the full, real names of your testimonial clients rather than just initials.  The latter can look fake (however real they might be) and could prove counter-productive.

5.  Highlight your company’s overarching benefits, too

Besides individual, specific service benefits, you want to highlight the larger, big-picture benefits that your company has to offer on every single page of your website.

Do you offer free, fast shipping? Does your company offer “white-glove” services, while your competitors offer a DIY solution? Shout your overarching benefits from the rooftops!

Boring B2B and B2C companies list technical features and facts, assuming that’s all their prospect wants (or needs) to know. Don’t be like those companies! In the words of Theodore Levitt from Harvard University, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.”

6Pay close attention to your page Titles

Yes, Titles are very important to readers and for SEO purposes — and it’s crucial to write them right.  If you create vague, non-descript Titles with broad keywords, such as “marketing services” or “web design,” you won’t see the positions you want — nor will you see much organic search traffic.

If your Titles are so-so, consider revisiting your keyphrase research and making some strategic tweaks. You may see a boost in page positions (and search traffic) if you do!

7.  Consider conducting keyphrase research before you name your services 

A cool-sounding, unique service name may seem edgy — but it may not be intuitively searchable. Naming your service something like “Revenue $ucce$$” when you offer “accounts payable services” may make your service hard to find online.

Some companies will conduct keyphrase research before naming a service. That way, they know what words people are using to search for what they offer — and they can consider using those search terms as part of the service name.

Looking for more how-to information? Learn how to write a killer home page and a revenue-driving product page!

Want to learn how to work where you want, when you want and make the money you want to make? Discover profitable SEO writing tips, business strategies, and proven productivity hacks.

Learn how to be a rebel writer — sign up for my weekly newsletter!

 

7 Call-To-Action Techniques and Examples That Work

When it comes to your website, if you want your readers to do something, you have to ask them – but do you know how to do it the right way?

Call us

Want people to contact you? Try these tips!

If there’s a way to direct your readers to action that works better than others, do you know what it is? How do you get your audience to click, download, subscribe or purchase? What can you do to improve overall response rates?

To help answer those questions, here’s a look at seven specific call-to-action examples and strategies that work.

To boost the power of your advertising and click-throughs, try these techniques!

1. Offer Something of Value
Screen shot of Free Photo Editing call to actionWhether you offer a “Free Download,” a “20% Off Discount,” or something else, giving your audience something of value is a perfect way to get them to respond to your call to action. This sort of request speaks directly to a reader’s sense of motivation, encouraging him or her to complete a task because of what comes in return. To use this option, ask yourself what’s in it for your reader and emphasize that in your call to action.

2. Speak to Objections
Shutterfly Photo Prints call to actionYou know what your customers’ main objections will be in making a purchase, so why not head them off before they happen? Speak directly to these biggest objections by responding to them right in your call to action. If it’s worry about product satisfaction, include “Money-back Guarantee” in your link or advertising. If it’s cold feet about commitment, assure them of what they have to gain. Think through the drawbacks, from a customer’s perspective, of responding to your request, and figure out a way to alleviate those concerns.

3. Rouse Curiosity
eatreal.org call-to-action exampleThink about what makes you click an ad or respond to a call to action – isn’t it often because something in it made you curious? You wanted to find out more or learn something. Use this to your advantage: make it easy for your readers to do what you want them to by making it hard to resist. Pique their interest. Make them want to learn more. Ask a question to which they want to find the answer and you will see better responses.

4. Use Social Proof
Free Email from MailChimp cta examplePeople are much more likely to click something when they know other people have done it, too. When possible, use social proof to your advantage. Try a call to action that references the approval of other customers and fans. “See why 9 out of 10 clients choose our company!” or “Join the 5,100 readers subscribing to our newsletter!” are good examples of this sort of call to action. Show your audience that doing what you’re asking will make them part of the group.

5. Customize to Your AudienceamazonPrime cta example

Not every reader is alike, so your calls to action shouldn’t be either. Rather than sticking to a one-size-fits-all strategy, think about the people you’re trying to reach. The better you know your audience, the better equipped you are to reach them. If your goal is more sales, craft your calls to action to appeal to your most common demographics. To be even more effective, create different calls to action for the different stages of the sales cycle in order to coax readers through their purchases.

6. Include a Timeline
A sense of urgency adds importance to your call to action.
When there’s a timeline on your request, readers Freshman Admission Process call to action example know they have a limited window in which to act, and that prioritizes a decision. To encourage readers to respond to your request, give them a deadline. Try an “Act now to receive our 20% discount!” or a “This deal available for 7 days only!”

7. Sweeten the Deal
Example CTA: Add $4.52 of eligible itemsThink about the famous PBS commercials where they ask viewers to increase their donations – they always offer extra incentives. The same principle works online. When you want your readers to give a little more money or buy another product or take their action one step further, use a call to action that sweetens their incentives when they do.

Your thoughts?

What is it that you want your readers to do? Follow the advice in this article, and find a strategic way to ask. By using proven tactics to ask readers to follow a step or take an action, you make it easier to improve results.

About the Author ~ Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon is a writer for Straight North, a marketing agency providing specialized SEO, Web development, blog marketing strategy, and other online marketing services, with headquarters in Chicago. Follow Straight North on Twitter and Facebook.