Do You Know What Your Prospects Are Really Thinking?

Want to know a secret?

Want to overcome common sales objections? You'll need to crawl inside your prospect's brain.

Want to overcome common sales objections? You’ll need to crawl inside your prospect’s brain.

When prospective buyers visit your website, they are looking for more than just their desired product or service.

The secret is; they’re looking for reasons to NOT buy from you.

Yes, that’s right. Your prospects – no matter how motivated they are – are coming to the virtual table with a chip on their shoulder. Like the person burned by too many bad dates (you dated that person too?), they want you to prove to them how you’re not just like all the others.

But the problem is, just like in the dating example, you have no idea what the “others” did to your prospect. She’s not coming to you and saying, “Here’s what happened to me – and I’m expecting you to pull the same stuff.”

Here’s what a prospect may be thinking…

…The last PR company I worked with took my 10K and didn’t generate a dime in buzz. How can you help me?

…The last time I bought something online, the package arrived late, and the company overcharged me for shipping. Will you do the same thing?

…The last time I hired a writer, he copied an article from Wikipedia and tried to pass it off as original content. How do I know that I’ll get what I’m promised?

…These prices seem high. Are your services worth it, or are you overpriced?

Think about your buying behavior. Do you jump into a new purchase willy-nilly, buying from the first vendor in the search results? Or do you carefully compare sites, send exploratory emails and check reviews so you can work with the right company?

(As a side note, that’s why well-written persuasive content is so important, It’s more than just “getting a good ranking.” It’s providing a fantastic customer experience through the power of the written word.)

The importance of overcoming sales objections in your web writing

Now that you know that your prospects have sales objections, it’s important to overcome them within your copy. Rather than waiting for your prospect to bring up every objection they have (guess what – they won’t,) you have to face the known issues head-on, showcase your value and create an active need.

That means knowing what freaks your prospects out about working with you.

Plus, if you don’t overcome these objections immediately in your copy, you may not get a second chance.

For instance, Domino Pizza’s old campaign of “Pizza in 30 minutes or less” was perfect for thousands of hungry pizza-lovers anxious for immediate-gratification food.

The U.S. Post Office’s campaign of “Celebrating a simpler way to ship” accomplishes a couple goals. It helps promote their online services, plus, overcomes the objection of “Will I have to stand in line for hours at the Post Office?”

Or FedEx’s, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight…guaranteed” – which is important for businesses who need on-time, trackable shipping.

How do you “figure out the known issues” if you can’t crawl inside your prospect’s brain and determine what she’s thinking? Simple. Do your homework.

Talk to the sales team

Your sales team are the folks “in the trenches” who hear what’s going on – and who overcome objections every time they talk to a new prospect. Ask them what their clients are worried about and any common questions they hear.

Chat with your new customers

New customers are a fantastic source of information. Task someone with calling selected folks who sign up. This is a smart strategy for a couple reasons:

  • Your new customer will be impressed that someone has called to check in – so your company gets some great customer service bonus points.
  • During the call, you can ask your customer questions about their past experiences, why they chose your company, why they love your product or service and more. In fact, you may even be able to ask them to provide a testimonial.

Read your testimonials

Testimonials provide great (yet, often ignored) information. Companies are often so focused on posting new testimonials to the site that they forget to mine the data.

And testimonials provide yummy data.

For instance, customers will tell stories like, “When I worked with XYZ company, it took one or two days before they would answer my email. When I work with you, I get an immediate response.”

Bingo! Now you know that a fast response rate is an important benefit. A sentence like, “We’ll return your email within one business day, guaranteed” perfectly overcomes the objection.

Additionally, if there’s something your company does really well, testimonials will often reflect that fact. Maybe it’s your cutting-edge knowledge. Or your great customer service. Those testimonial themes are marketing gold!

Review competing sites

Sometimes, your competition really does get it right. Comb through their copy and see if they’ve overcome objections your site doesn’t address. Does your competition talk about how many years of experience their consultants have? Does your competition mention a “no hassle money back guarantee?” Do they include customer reviews touting their superior service?

Although it’s not a smart idea to copy your competition (after all, you can do better,) you can learn from them.

What’s the best way research the objections you should overcome?

Easy. Just start.

If you have an in-house marketing manager, he can get the ball rolling and start gathering data. Although this process isn’t hard to do, it is time-consuming – so your marketing manager will want to set aside time to do it right. Otherwise, it will sit on the back burner and never get done.

Some companies choose to work with an SEO content strategist who can do the heavy lifting for them. This tactic is especially smart if your team members are time-crunched – or if you want a fresh perspective. It’s amazing how often an outside expert can find opportunities that were missed in-house.

The important thing is to get moving, especially if your site’s conversion goals are sluggish and you’re leaving money on the table.

Once you have the data, you’ll want to rewrite the content and incorporate the messaging changes. Depending on your existing content, this could be a simple tweak – or a more major undertaking. Consider A/B testing the new copy to further refine your pages.

Just imagine: After a few hours of research and some copy tweaking, you can gently move that chip off your prospects’ shoulder and drive more sales.

It’s that simple.

What A Rafting Trip Taught Me About Business Planning

Have you ever had a <headdesk> moment when you realized your major business problem

Morning on the Middle Fork. I obviously love my coffee.

Morning on the Middle Fork. I obviously love my coffee.

was…you?

I just had this happen to me. In fact, I see this happening every day to writers and other entrepreneurs.

Let me explain…

I recently returned from a seven-day rafting adventure to the Middle Fork of the Salmon River. Unlike last year, when I was scrambling down 25′ Grand Canyon rock walls, this trip was relatively uneventful. No huge rapids. Nobody died. It was easy to let my brain drift away with the current.

Prior to leaving, I had a conversation with a couple organizations that wanted to purchase my company. This scenario is nothing new – when you’ve owned a business for almost 20 years, the occasional suitor is fairly expected. Although I have rejected suitors in the past (as well as outside funding,) I let myself imagine life if I sold my business and remained as a training figurehead.

  • I’d be able to let go of the irritating administrative work behind the scenes.
  • I’d be able to reach more people with my Certification training (and other training options.)
  • I’d have a bigger team of people helping me.
  • All of the up-and-down business insecurities would be gone. Poof.

(If you’re self-employed, you probably understand my pain. My work fantasies are far from common.)

As we floated along, I imagined myself as an employee of my business rather than the owner. I was fully immersed in the fantasy and imagining myself leading a relative life of leisure…

…until I was suddenly doused with cold water. We had hit a minor rapid, which meant I got very wet, very fast.

But with that momentary “ACK” reaction came a <headdesk> moment of clarity.

The only person holding me back was…me.

(Which, from an emotional standpoint, felt like another cold, wet wave hit me.)

I really like where I am now. I’m happy and incredibly grateful. But there are some things I could do to take my business to the next level and have even more fun.

Where my realization hit. Just imagine a big wave crashing over me.

Where my realization hit. Just imagine a big wave crashing over me.

As writers and entrepreneurs, it’s easy to get into a learned helplessness mindset. For instance, have you ever said (or thought) something like this…

  • I’d need more time to make more money. My clients keep me too busy to think about that right now.
  • I’d love to hire help, but I don’t have the cash flow right now.
  • I’ll start business planning after I make X. Right now, I’m just trying to make ends meet.
  • I don’t have time to work on my business right now. It’s all I can do to finish work and meet my obligations.
  • I. Am. Exhausted.

My thoughts tend to come from the “too busy” excuse mindset. I don’t “have time” to plan. I’m “too busy” with other things. I’ll “get to it later” (and later never comes.)

At the same time, real life wasn’t matching my thought process. For instance, I had to shove two weeks worth of deliverables into the week prior to my trip. On top of that, I needed to rewrite two chapters of the SEO Copywriting Certification training. To say I was busy was an understatement.

Is it any wonder that having a benevolent overlord running my business sounded attractive?

What’s striking is — despite the stress, I finished all my tasks. I got out the door with a minimum of drama.

The problem wasn’t because I was “too busy,” or “too stressed” or something external.

The problem was with me. I could obviously get everything done. I just needed a plan.

I was holding myself back.

How? Instead of focusing on big-picture items, I spent my time on mindless minutiae.

  • I would pay bills, but not pay attention to long-term financial goals.
  • I would personally handle tasks (like writing and formatting emails,) that someone else could easily do for me.
  • And, perhaps the absolute worst thing…instead of contacting influencers, I focused on clearing my email every day.

WHY was I focused on email when I have other, more cool, opportunities to consider? As Ramit Sethi said in a recent email discussing this very thing, “Screw that. I decided to grow, so I’m going to do what I have to do.”

(And thank you, Ramit, for sending that email the exact moment I needed to read it and confirm my thought process.)

In short, I needed to take control. I needed to be more proactive rather than reactive.

Brainstorms and “satori moments,” as Dr. Wayne Dyer calls them, are all well and good. The important thing is taking action. So what does that mean?

  • Blocking off at least a half day (preferably a full day) where I do nothing but long-range planning, contacting influencers and working on my business. I do this on a more sporadic basis, so this is an easy tweak.
  • Finding people who can help me with minor tasks I shouldn’t handle myself. Heck, that may even be reading and responding to my email. I get over 500 emails a day…so you can imagine the time investment. That also means figuring out what I can outsource. When you’ve done it yourself for years, finding those opportunities is harder than you’d think.
  • Setting clear and measurable financial and business goals that I work towards in an organized fashion. I do this now, but I can tighten up my process.
  • Scheduling time for rest, relaxation and general rejuvenation. My husband, who has worked for Starbucks for over 20 years, gets six weeks of vacation. Shouldn’t I, after 20+ years of self- employment, give myself the same benefit? (Um, that answer is not just “yes,” but “hell yes!”)

In short, it’s time for me to separate myself from the business minutiae, organize a more cohesive team and focus 100% on what really matters. It’s not about working even harder (we all do that.) It’s about working smarter.

In short, I can be my own benevolent overlord. How cool is that?

If you’re in the same boat, I challenge you to figure out how to be your own benevolent overlord. What would make your business life easier? What do you need to do to make it happen? As you’re brainstorming, know that excuses will come up. It’s easy to think, “I can’t,” and “not right now,” and “this isn’t the best time.”

Here’s the deal: You can. Just pick an “official” time to start. Then, keep yourself on track, no matter what. Do what you need to do to keep yourself accountable. Maybe that means hiring a coach or participating in a mastermind group. In the words of Nike, just do it.

When is my “official” start date? July 1, 2015. I have some traveling to do beforehand, and a customized SEO copywriting training to give. After that, my time is more “mine” again…and I don’t have any excuses.

Isn’t it time to take control of your business and finally get it on track?

Who’s with me?

 

 

Going Beyond Shareable Content with BuzzSumo’s Steve Rayson

children-sharing-milkshakeToday we’re happy to share our interview with BuzzSumo’s Steve Rayson. As BuzzSumo is a relatively new company, we asked Steve to talk a bit about its founding before answering the seven specific questions we had for him. You’ll want to be sure to read his intriguing take on the future of social sharing. Enjoy!

When was BuzzSumo founded?

The first version of the free product was created in 2013 by James Blackwell and Henley Wing. This tool allowed people to search for the most shared content published over the past 6 months.

At the time they were employed and developing the product in their spare time. I was so impressed by the tool that I approached James and Henley about developing a paid product, creating a company and working on the product full-time.

We first met face to face in December 2013, where I agreed to invest to allow James and Henley to work full-time on developing BuzzSumo Pro as a paid product.

We established BuzzSumo as a company in March 2014, with the three of us as directors. The first paid product, BuzzSumo Pro, was launched in September 2014. The paid version includes content alerts, reports and influencer analysis. We have continued to add to the product, including our latest trending features.

What was the inspiration for its creation?

In essence it was about searching for content that was resonating with people. Google is great, but it is based on authority sites. Thus if you search for, say, e-learning, it will start with Wikipedia. We were interested in the content that was resonating, e.g., what was the most shared content during this week or that month.

We were also interested in how content gets amplified, meaning who shares and links to the content and why? Our tool will show who shared an article and who linked to it so you can understand how it is being amplified. I think promotion is a much neglected area — people should spend as much or more time on promoting content as researching and creating it.

We are a small team so we tend to cover lots of bases. I tend to focus on marketing and strategic development, and relationships with partners. We have recently done joint webinars with Cana, Hubspot, Uberflip and Wordstream. On any given day I can be doing anything from researching new feature ideas and talking to customers about what would be helpful to them, to writing articles and answering support queries.

Any milestones in BuzzSumo’s growth that you’d like to share?

We recently passed 100,000 subscribers to our free product and more importantly 1,000 paying customers.

The key to any successful SaaS (software as a service) product is minimizing churn, which is the turnover of paying customers. Thus you want to make sure you have a product that provides value and that people use as part of their daily work.

You need to track things like active daily users and your ongoing churn rate, as well as your monthly growth in revenues and users.

It is important to focus on customer service as you grow and help your customers to get the most out of the tool. They are also your greatest asset in that they can help you identify features that will be really valuable to your audience.

BuzzSumo was once described as a “fusion of human intelligence and digital intelligence”. That seems to be a good descriptor – can you talk a little about that?

I am not sure where that came from but I understand the sentiment. It is difficult to define “good content” but we can define content that is resonating with audiences as we can see people share it and link to it. We can draw insights from this data.

Thus we can see that posts with images get more shares than posts without, that infographics are well shared in some areas, that list posts get more shares than other content formats, that quizzes get well shared, etc. We can then improve our odds of producing content that resonates by understanding this data.

We have found that the best content formats depend a lot on the topic and the audience. It is important to research what works with your audience.

Tracking content trends is also important. A BuzzSumo top content search will show you the most shared content in the last month or last 24 hours so you can see what is resonating. The BuzzSumo trending section will show you today’s most shared content for any topic, providing real time insights into the content that is engaging your audience.

We are fundamentally about helping people create better content: content that resonates and gets shared. We hopefully do that by providing insights through data such as what is working in your area or for your competitors.

Many companies push out large volumes of content to “please Google.” How can big data streamline a company’s content marketing efforts and gain better results?

I think you need to start with content research and produce a content plan. I think one of the most important aspects of content marketing is being consistent. You need to consistently produce content as the benefits accrue over time. You need a schedule, whatever that is — e.g. one blog post a week — and you need to stick to it.

Data helps you to focus on creating content that works, and getting a balance of content to support the various stages of the sales funnel. Here are some examples below:

sales-funnel-content

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What matters as much as the content itself is distribution and promotion, which we come to below.

Some experts believe that it’s better to write one really good piece of content a month (that’s properly promoted,) than multiple pieces of content with little or no promotion strategy. Have you seen data that supports this?

All content should be “good” and it can be better to produce one really good, well-researched article than four poor pieces of content. The key is that you are producing something of value to your audience. If you have limited resources you need to be realistic about what you can produce.

Sites like the Harvard Business Review produce good content but it doesn’t mean they only publish one blog post a week. In fact they average 50 blog posts a week. They do this through guest authors. Guest authors and curation are one way you can seek to increase the volume of content.

The key is that you promote your content. It doesn’t matter how good your content is, people will simply not find it if you don’t promote it. My view is that you need to spend as much time, if not more, promoting and amplifying content as creating it.

You need to think about this before you write your post. For example, can you involve influencers in the research or interview them? Be clear how you are going to promote the post – which social channels, how many people will share it for you, which forums are you going to submit your content to, what paid promotion you will use, etc.

From your research, how does the underlying emotion of a blog post impact its shareability? What can this mean for, say, B2B content that’s typically considered “boring?” Is there an opportunity there?

Emotion can help improve shareability. Last year we analyzed the top 10,000 most shared articles across the web, and mapped each one to an emotion, such as joy, sadness, anger, amusement, laughter, etc. Here is how the breakdown of how the emotions looked:

popular-emotions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, I don’t think you need to focus on emotion to get good shareability. In B2B, people are time pressed and want to do their job better and faster. Thus if you can produce content that is helpful, people will value it and share it.

So you can identify the key questions people are asking and produce good answers. The aim really is to be the best answer to the question. The top ten thousand “how to” posts this year were shared more than 19,000 times on average.

You can also experiment with list posts and picture lists. List posts provide a promise, such as “5 steps to improve your landing page”.

Posts that are well structured and skimmable also do well. Below is a good example. This post has clear numbered steps, links to further resources, good use of images to explain points, and top tips to make the post actionable.

skimmable-content

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Images work well because we process images much faster than text and they help us to skim articles faster. They also work well if you are taking someone through a process, telling a story or making comparisons. One post format I think will continue to do well is a picture list post, i.e., a curated series of images.

You conducted an interesting interview with SEMrush where you outlined how BuzzSumo and SEMrush go hand-in-hand for competitive intelligence efforts. Are there other tools you’d recommend for writers?

I use tools like BuzzSumo and Feedly to keep on top of new content and to generate content ideas.

On BuzzSumo, I use top content searches to find new content ideas, but what works better for me personally is setting up content alerts and custom trending feeds. I then turn each of these into RSS feeds that I pull into Feedly. I then get a constant stream of posts on specific topics such as data driven marketing.

For trending content, I will also use Hashtagify to see related trending hashtags.

Many smaller companies are direct competitors of large brands with big followings. What are some competitive intelligence steps their writers could take that could build authority faster and increase their content’s shareability?

There has never been a better time for small companies. They can move faster than larger brands and can achieve reach through web publishing combined with promotion and influencer marketing. They can really punch way above their weight.

Smaller companies can also jump on trends much faster and engage in relevant discussions.

They can build a personal voice, as well. I feel social is very much about people. I rarely follow someone unless they have a face; I don’t like to follow logos. When you think about whose articles you want to read on the web it is normally a person not a corporation.

If you peer into your crystal ball…where do you think social sharing is headed?

I think it is interesting that more people discover content now via social than via search. Social overtook search for the first time last year — in fact the volume of Google searches fell last year for the first time. A recent research project published by the American Press Institute found that young people get most of their news from social channels.

Social media’s role as a content discovery platform is only just beginning. I think people will become more sophisticated in how they build personal learning networks using social media and how they mine social data for trends.

social-and-search

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can connect with Steve Rayson via Twitter and LinkedIn

A Powerful SEO Strategy for Crazy Conversions

SEO Conversions Strategy

Drive conversions with this mini-USP strategy!

When I work with new clients, I send them a creative brief so I can gather the best information for my SEO copywriting project.

And quite often, when I receive the completed brief from my clients, the following scenario unfolds:

Me: “I reviewed your creative brief, and I see that you left your company’s USP section blank.”

Client: “Yes, we need help with that. What’s a USP again?”

Me: “That’s your company’s Unique Selling Proposition — the main, unique reason a customer will choose your company, products or services over other options in your market.”

Client: “Oh… OK. So our USP is that we’ve been around since 1975.” (Or) ” Our USP is that we’re the leading manufacturer of [fill in the blank].”

Me: “Cool! Let’s dig deeper to find something exciting for customers; something that will stop them in their tracks and choose you now.”

Client: “OK, sounds good.”

This is where your genius work as an SEO Copywriter truly begins.

Let me be clear: you’re not just helping the client articulate a single company-wide USP.

For each page of a company’s website, you’re writing “mini USPs” that set each product, service or offer apart from the competition so customers will become excited and make an immediate choice.

I’d guess that about 80% of companies (maybe more!) never consider their USP when writing web content for products, services, free trials, enewsletter sign-ups and other offerings. They just put it out there as a flat statement (“We have this product…”) It seems that way, anyway, when I search for various things in Google.

For instance, if you Google a specific topic on any given day, you’ll probably find that most search result descriptions simply list what they do (“We’re the leading supplier of…”). Or include a list of keywords with no context or inviting sentences. Or say something like, “Save 25%!”

They don’t make an effort to set themselves apart with mini USPs. And therefore, potential customers scan right by them, searching for something special.

I tried this with all kinds of keywords, from “dental equipment” to “party supplies” to “corporate training programs.” Most descriptions in the search results look very similar; it’s hard to tell them apart.

In contrast, Southwest Airlines does a great job of standing apart from other airlines with mini USPs. For example, they offer “Bags fly free” and “No change fee.” I love that about them, plus these are great examples of mini USPs — unique reasons to fly Southwest. And guess what? Southwest shows up first in Google search results for “free bags” and “no change fee.”

To give you some more ideas, here’s a variety of website headlines that articulate mini USPs in customer-friendly ways, using keywords:

• Nest Protect: “Programs Itself. Then Pays for Itself. Meet the Nest Learning Thermostat.”

• ShopKeep: “ShopKeep Point of Sale transforms chores to child’s play, while providing genius reporting and analytics.” (I also like this cheeky line: “Make sure that ‘love’ is the only four-letter word you associate with business.”)

• The Honest Company: “Honest Organic Baby Powder: Extra gentle natural dusting powder with probiotics.

So, how do you create mini USPs for your SEO copywriting projects?

Here are three simple steps to help your clients help YOU identify mini USPs for each product or service, and then articulate them beautifully (with keywords) through SEO content.

1. Create a mini USP table for the products or services you’ll be writing about.

• Column A lists each product, service or offering (free trial, watch our demo, etc.).

• Column B lists the USP(s): the benefits or attributes that make the product or service better than any other relevant options. There could be 1-5 or even more mini USPs. (Saves more time, easier to use, delivers more robust reports, etc.) You’ll work with your clients to go through each one and confirm that you’ve covered the best possible USPs.

2. Match up the USPs with keywords you’ve discovered during your keyword research.

For instance, if the USP is “this tool is the only one that eliminates manual data entry” — perhaps there’s a keyword for “automated data entry.”

3. Review the list with your client to make sure the keywords accurately reflect the prospect’s intent.

We all know that keywords can have various or ambiguous meanings at times, so this is a good time to do a gut-check: would potential customers truly use these phrases when searching for the products/services your client offers?

That’s it! Now you have a roadmap for creating mini USPs for each page of your SEO copywriting efforts in headlines, bullets, photo captions, page title tags, meta descriptions, calls to action and other strategic locations.

Here’s to your web success!

Pam Foster is a SuccessWorks Certified SEO Copywriter and the owner of ContentClear Marketing and PetCopywriter.com. She works mainly in the highly competitive pet-veterinary industry and enjoys helping her clients drive conversions by creating mini USPs.

Photo credit to SEOPlanter | Flickr.com

How to Avoid Boring Blog Interviews

Want to avoid boring guest interviews? Are you new to interviewing experts and need a process?

Running expert interviews is a nice win/win for all parties. Your expert gets exposed to a new audience and you get awesome, thought-leader content that drives links and gets shares.

Sadly, it’s not always as easy as that. Your expert may not be available. Your interview may come across as boring or  downright awkward. If this has happened to you, know that you’re not alone.

Fortunately, weird situations can typically be avoided.

There’s a method to the guest interviewing madness.

Here are 10 tips to get you started:

Do send a good pitch.

A good pitch makes all the difference. If you want your email to get trashed, send something that says, “Hi, my name is Bob and I run the XYZ blog. Can I send you some interview questions?”

Ain’t nobody got time for a pitch like that!

Most guest experts are happy to help, but they also need to make sure that it’s worth their time and fits their audience (which sounds harsh, but it’s true.) If you want a fast yes, you’ll need to send more details. Consider adding information such as you blog’s readership numbers, your target audience and a brief idea of the interview topic. This information will help. Trust me.

Don’t get offended if someone says “no.”

Even the best pitches get rejected. Maybe your guest expert is traveling and doesn’t have time. Maybe your readership doesn’t fit their target market. Maybe she’s just completed six interviews and doing one more seems daunting. Whatever the reason, take it in stride and don’t bash the person on social media. Heck, I’d keep the interview door open – I’ve said “no” to some folks only to say “yes” a few months later.

As a side note: If you send an email and don’t hear back, send another “check in” note. I recently missed an interview opportunity because I accidentally trashed the original message. My bad. But had the person emailed me back, I would have been happy to help.

Do research your guest, read their bio and check out their site

It goes without saying that you should know your guest’s work, their background and what their site offers. Believe it or not, this doesn’t always happen. Especially when there is one person handling “guest acquisition” and another person runs the interview.

From the interviewee’s side, it’s really weird when the person who is interviewing you seems to know nothing about your work. Yes, it’s happened. Yes, it’s awkward – especially during a podcast. And yes, this is a great way for that guest expert never to talk to you again.

Don’t ask “how did you get started?”

“How did you start your career”  is a valid question. But I promise you unless the expert is brand new to their field, there are already 10+ interviews with him or her that outlines their career trajectory. That information is already out there.

Over my career, I have answered that question at least 100 times (and I’m probably estimating low.) Unless you can put a different spin on the question, asking about the expert’s past will do nothing but bore the audience and your guest expert. Try another lead instead – you can always summarize your guest expert’s achievements somewhere in the interview.

Do ask thought provoking questions.

To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, why let your post blend in when it can stand out? The key to conducting a really good guest interview is asking the questions nobody else has thought to ask before.

James Altrucher is the master at this. Whether he’s interviewing Coolio or Tony Robbins, he throws in a question (or more) designed to make his guest think. It’s obvious that James isn’t looking for a canned, “this is what your handler said is OK to say” response. He’s looking for something deeper. And his interviews are fascinating because of it (this is from a person who hates listening to podcasts.) You don’t need to make the entire interview sound like a therapy session. But a couple of deeper questions is good.

Planning a podcast? Do send the questions ahead of time.

Want your guest to love you? Send your questions a few days in advance and ask for feedback.Sending the questions early ensures the questions you’re asking are in the interviewee’s “sweet spot” and your guest can provide great information. Otherwise, you may ask them about a topic they aren’t as comfortable with and the interview will take a very weird turn.

Conducting an email interview? Work out the deadline ahead of time.

You’ll want to confirm with your expert prior to sending the questions that he can meet your deadline. If you’re on a tight deadline, tell them immediately – and promise only to send a few fast questions. Otherwise, you may slave over your interview questions only to learn that your expert can’t meet your deadline. I’ve been there and the situation is no fun for either party.

Don’t lay out a strategy question and then ask,”Can you outline what you would do, step by step?”

I’ve received some very detailed emailed questions that have made me think, “Is this person asking for their readers, or are they asking for their site?” Strategy questions take a long time to answer. There are a lot of moving parts that make providing a specific answer impossible. Certainly, your guest can provide an overview of the process. But asking them to “dig into” a site and figure out how to handle something is consulting, not an interview.

Give your guest expert a lot of social love.

Now that the interview has posted, it’s time to promote it to the masses. Let your guest expert know that the post is live. Tag them on Twitter and Google+. Re-promote the post to your followers. This technique not only drives more traffic to your site, it also gives your expert a lot of well-deserved social love. Plus, your expert will (hopefully) promote the post on her network and drive more traffic to your site.

Say “thank you.”

It’s amazing how rarely this happens. Thank your guest expert for their time. You don’t need to send a long email. Just a short “thank you,” just like Mom taught you. It makes all the difference.

What tip would you add? Please leave it in the comments below!

[Updated] Freelance SEO Copywriting: The Ultimate Guide for Beginners

New to SEO copywriting? This guide will help.

New to SEO copywriting? This guide will help.

Thinking about starting a career in SEO copywriting?

Here’s a reality check.

Making a living as an SEO copywriter (whether you work in-house or freelance from home) is hard work.

First, there’s a learning curve – it takes some time to master SEO copywriting best practices.

Second, you’ll need to keep up with (and understand the ramifications of) Google’s ever-changing whims.

Plus, you need to know how to write. Well.

But you know what else?

Working as an SEO copywriter is incredibly fun.

Once you master the best practice basics (and yes, you can do it!) you can work from anywhere, choose your clients and make a darn good income. Prefer to work in-house? According to MarketingProfs, Web editors (which often requires SEO content skills) can make upwards of $90,000 a year.

If you love working in a fast-moving industry filled with brilliant folks, SEO copywriting is a perfect choice. I’ve been working as an SEO copywriter for over 17 years. It’s been a blast.

Wondering if SEO copywriting is the right career for you? These 25+ posts will give you a small taste of the SEO copywriter’s life. Enjoy!

Considering a career in SEO copywriting? Check these posts out first:

Want to be an SEO copywriter? Check out these FAQs. Here’s a list of the most common questions I get about launching an SEO copywriting career. Good resource for folks who want to work from home or in-house.

What does an SEO copywriter do, anyway?  Learn how SEO copywriters are an important part of SEO and social media success.

Want to be an SEO copywriter? Here’s how to do it! If you’re new to this field, this post can help you figure out what to do first.

7 tough love tips to boost your freelance income. Don’t make the same mistakes I did. Learn from them instead. Please.

SEO copywriting vs. social media writing: What’s the difference? Do you love blogging and feel so-so about writing sales copy? Use your SEO copywriting skills to write for social media. Here’s the difference between the two writing styles.

Why do freelance writers hate SEO copywriting? The SEO copywriting industry has its haters. Learn why and what the misconceptions are (there are a lot of them!).

9 questions writers ask about SEO copywriting. Have a question? There’s a good chance I’ve covered it here.

It’s all about the Benjamins! Ways SEO copywriters can increase their income.

How to make money as a freelance SEO copywriter. Wondering what to charge for your freelance writing services? Let this video be your guide.

The business side of starting a freelance SEO shop. You may know how to write jaw-dropping online copy. But if you don’t have the “business side” of your business sewn up, you’ll leave money on the table.

Discount your rates? No way! Try this instead! Learn why bidding low can work against you in many ways.

How to charge for freelance copywriting services. Wondering how to charge? Here are some tips.

Quit getting paid peanuts! Making money is the name of the game. Here are some income-boosting things to consider.

How to wow your freelance copywriting clients.

When should you hire newbie SEO copywriters? Brand-new to the industry and wondering what your clients want? Here’s more information on what to expect.

When to hire intermediate-level SEO copywriters. Looking for higher-level SEO copywriting work with higher per-page fees? You’ll need certain skills to command a higher rate.

How to land more clients with a killer proposal. The better your proposals, the more work you’ll get through the door. Check out these client-grabbing proposal guidelines.

Freelance copywriting proposals: 10 questions to ask first and 4 types to write. Long headline. Great article.

Your client is wrong. Now what? Your client is asking for something that you know will hurt their SEO copywriting campaign. Here’s how to handle it.

Don’t assume your clients need you. News flash: you are not irreplaceable no matter how good you are.  This great guest post by Amy Teeple tells you why.

Are you making your clients fire you? Don’t sabotage your success! Learn what not to do when you start your SEO copywriting shop.

How to fire a client. It’s never fun when you have to fire a client, but it will happen. Someday. Here are some survival tips.

Are you a content strategist or an SEO copywriter?  Yes, there is a difference between the two (hint: strategists make more money.) Learn what the differences are and why they matter.

Your secret to landing great clients. It’s one thing to land a client. It’s another to bring on a client who you love and who pays you well. Here’s how to score more of the second type.

Living the freelance online SEO copywriter’s life has it’s ups and downs. Here’s a reality check.

Climb out your comfort zone. What does crawling down a rock wall have to do with your business? A lot. Read this post if you’re feeling stuck.

Surviving the business dark times. Running a business can be scary. Here’s some perspective.

3 cures for freelance writers burnout. For those days when the thought of writing another blog post makes you want to stick pencils in your eye.

Overcoming the overwhelm monster. Being busy is a good thing, but it can also cause you to burn out fast. Here’s how to avoid feeling overwhelmed in your freelance copywriting career.

4 ways SEO copywriters can increase their income – fast.  Sometimes, you need to make lots of money fast. Here are some ways to do it.

SEO content writers’ manifesto.  You are more than “just a writer.” Much more.

What resources would you add to the list?

Want to start your career in SEO copywriting, but need specialized training? Check out the SEO Copywriting Certification training course.

Photo credit to © Iqoncept | Dreamstime.com – Tips Tricks Helps And Advice Gears Words Help Assistance How To Photo

Your Content Marketing Guru Could Be Wrong. Here’s Why.

 

Do you engage in a content marketing strategy because your favorite guru wrote about it in a blog post?

It’s time to stop.

Let’s face it — we all do this from time to time. We have our content marketing expert favorites. We read their success stories, case studies, and in-depth blog posts. We feel like we’re part of their tribe.

But are they really giving us the advice we need?

I thought about this as I was reading an article in Marketing Prof (this article requires a PRO membership to read the whole thing.) One of the writing tips that struck me was “Stick to 1,500-3,000 words; you’ll balance effort with traffic, and you’ll be golden.”

I understand the writer’s point. He backs up his “longer posts are better” statement with stats from BuzzSumo, CrazyEgg and Marketing Experiments. The research is sound.

However, I’d have a hard time believing that this “rule of thumb” metric is true for every business across every vertical. Some audiences may prefer and share shorter posts. Maybe even your industry. In this case, writing a 2,000-word post may be counterproductive. After all, why bother putting all that work into a post if your audience won’t read it?

Instead of thinking of your marketing guru’s opinion as fact, stay open and be curious instead. Maybe their suggestion would work on your site. Maybe something else is a better approach.

You won’t know until you try and measure the results.

Testing assumptions is also for combatting the “we’ve always done it this way” syndrome. If you feel like you’re not making the marketing gains you want, reviewing your assumptions is a very smart move.

Think about all the assumptions you can test. Here’s just a small collection I’ve collected from industry gurus:

  • Your business must blog every week for maximum impact.
  • You must blog multiple times every week.
  • You must provide a value-added giveaway to increase your newsletter subscribers.
  • Pop-ups are bad, and you should never include them.
  • You must create an online course to capture leads.
  • You must run free webinars.
  • Your business must start a podcast.
  • You must create a Title tag using X format.

I’m sure you can name some assumptions too.

Be aware that some colleagues may find “testing assumptions” extremely threatening. Although you may be pumped to throw pop-ups on your site, someone else may hate the idea. They may resist it. They may tell you no.

That’s OK. Instead of an all-or-nothing scenario, offer to run a small test and report on the results. The more you can confirm your assumptions (or blow them out of the water,) the more on-target your marketing.

Why did the MarketingProf’s article hit home for me? It’s because I’ve been questioning my assumptions and looking closely at my own gurus’ advice. I’ve been in business a long time, and it’s easy to fall into the “this is just the way I do it” trap. Sometimes, it’s easier to listen to others rather than being 100% sure a strategy works.

However, just because I’ve been doing it a long time doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. It just means I have a process.

I’ll be making some small tweaks here and there (some you’ll notice, and some will be behind the scenes.) When I discover a tasty morsel of marketing knowledge, I’ll share it here. Not because it’s something you should do too. But because it will give you something to think about – and an assumption to test.

What about you? Did you follow a guru’s advice only to have the situation end badly? What “we’ve always done it this way” processes do you want to test? Leave your comments below.

Photo thanks to © Iqoncept | Dreamstime.com – Question Everyting Message Board Don\’t Trust Rules Authority Photo

 

 

7 Tough Love Tips to Boost Your Freelance Income

You'll want to pay attention to these tough-love freelance business building tips.

You’ll want to pay attention to these tough-love freelance copywriting  tips.

Freelance writers receive a lot of happy-crappy “how to increase your income” advice. There are thousands of  blog posts online outlining tips like:

“Charge more money.”

“Find your niche.”

“Package your services.”

It’s not that the advice is wrong (heck, I’ve discussed those tips, too.) It’s that the advice only goes so far.

“Charging more money” doesn’t mean anything if you don’t know your numbers. And there are a lot of writers out there making six figures without a niche.

So, how do freelance copywriters boost their income?

Over the past 20+ years, I’ve learned a lot of hard business lessons the hard way. Sometimes, I was warned about a course of action, and I stupidly did it anyway. Why? Because I’m stubborn. Did it work out? No.

So please consider this my tough love writing advice to you. If you want to increase your income, you have to get your business process tight and wired.

Here’s what to do.

Fire the clients who no longer serve you.

It may be the client who pays you late every single month. Or the client who sends you work Friday at 4:30 and expects it to be finished by Monday. Or the client that likes to call and “check in.” A lot.

Or, sadly, this can be your very first client. You outgrew them years ago, and they pay you far below your normal rate – but you have a hard time letting them go.

Let them go. It’s time.

Your clients may not bring you joy every single day, but you should at least enjoy working with them and feel respected. If you keep clients on who drive you nuts and suck up your available bandwidth, you won’t have time to help future clients you’ll love.

Here’s some more information on how to fire a writing client.

Ruthlessly budget the time you’ll spend on a project.

How many times have you calculated your hourly wage after completing a project and realized you could have made more working at McDonalds?

Yeah. We’ve all been there.

Yes, it’s OK to spend a little extra time polishing a project. But if you find yourself spending hours more than you originally budgeted, you have one of two problems:

– Your client is demanding additional work than what was originally contracted for (and you’re not kicking back as you should.)

– You need to stop being a perfectionist and get work out the door faster.

Remember, you cost yourself money every time you spend too much time on a project. It could be a few dollars. Or a few hundred. Either way, this is something you’re doing to yourself.

If your client wants something that’s out of scope, tell them that it’s an additional charge and ask if they still want to proceed. Easy. Here’s the difference between “out of scope” and a revision.

If you’re taking too long to write something, it’s time to tighten down your process. Remember, your copy is never going to be perfect. No matter how many times you tweak it. Really.

Know your numbers and stick to them.

Quick: How much money do you need to make to cover your monthly bills, including your insurance costs, vacation time and taxes? How many pages do you need to write every month to make that happen?

If you can’t immediately answer that question, that’s a huge red flag.

A huge mistake freelancers make is pulling pricing numbers out of the air without thinking about their hard monetary needs. Sure, you can charge $15 a blog post. But if your monthly expenses are $1,000, you’ll have to write an average of 17 articles a week just to break even.

The purpose of owning a business is to make money. If you’re constantly stressed about cash flow, your life will be a very unhappy place.

Remember, as a freelancer, you are responsible for everything – your own retirement, your own vacation, your own salary and your own health care. If you set your hourly rate at what you used to earn as a full-time employee, you’ll come up short every month. Carol Tice outlined the expenses you’ll need to cover in her pricing-savvy blog post.

Also, here’s a calculator that helps you set your hourly freelance rate.

Think out of the box

You don’t have to offer the same services as every other writer. One competitive intelligence secret top writers use is to talk to people in their target market (yes, on the phone) and ask them what their main challenges are. A quick 15-minute conversation can provide you a wealth of insider information you can use to craft future service offerings.

Need other ideas? Here are four ways you can increase your freelance income – fast.

Focus on your business first.

How many hours a week do you spend on your business? Not just administrative stuff like paying bills – but profit-driving things like setting up your marketing plan, connecting with influencers, planning new services and making your website shine.

For many writers, the answer is, “I don’t market my business.”

And that’s a huge mistake.

Your most important client is you. Period. That means you need to set aside time every week to strategize and plan (you know, just like you do for your clients.) You can set aside a half day to make it happen (Fridays tend to be good days.) Or, you can spend 30 minutes a day on business planning.

Do this. Do this now. Even if you think”you don’t have the time.” If you go out of business because you didn’t plan correctly, you’ll have plenty of time on your hands. But that’s not really what you want, is it?

Are you so overwhelmed with must-do tasks that you can’t figure out how you’d even find 30 minutes a day for marketing? The next tip is for you…

Let go of your need to control.

As freelance writers, it’s easy to believe that we have to do it all. We write the content. We research the keyphrases. We handle the back end of our businesses, like marketing, bill paying and invoice-wrangling.

Is it any wonder that balls get dropped?

Give yourself permission to think about tasks you could delegate to someone else. For instance:

  • You can bring on another writer and supervise their work. This strategy works to your advantage. You can make more money for much less work.
  • You can outsource tasks you don’t enjoy (like bookkeeping or keyphrase research) to someone else.
  • You can hire someone to post on social media for you (and yes, you can approve the posts first, you control freak you!)
  • Do you hate sales? Consider bringing on a commissioned sales person.
  • Is client communication driving you nuts and eating into your time? Bring on a part-time project manager.
  • Is your day taken up by administrative tasks? Hire a VA for a few hours a week.

The most successful freelancers I know work with a team of smart, talented people. Bringing on team members is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it’s the complete opposite – you are so laser-focused on your strengths, you recognize there are things you shouldn’t handle yourself. Yes, this is money that’s out the door. But you will make more money – and have more free time – if you bring on the right people to help. Trust me.

Think bigger

When I first started my SEO copywriting career, I’d look at the SEO cool kids like Danny Sullivan, Disa Johnson and Shari Thurow and want to be just like them. They were speaking at conferences. They were working with major clients. They had some major SEO street cred.

My goal back then was to push myself out of my comfort level and speak on the national circuit. And yes, I made it happen!

Am I happy where I am today? Yes. Do I think I can do even more? You bet. I just set a big business goal for myself today – one that, yet again, pushes me squarely out of my comfort zone. I’m not sure how I’ll make it happen yet. And I have a feeling I’ll need to find help. But hey, that’s part of the fun!

Consider how you can take your business one step beyond. Maybe you want to make 50% more this year. Maybe you want to double your newsletter subscribers. Or maybe, you want to work your tail off ten months out of the year so you can vacation for the other two. Don’t let yourself think, “This sounds fun…but…” No excuses. Your mind (and your intentions) are much more powerful than you think.

Now get out there and start making some of that Internet money (thank you, South Park!).

Photo thanks to © Astrid228 | Dreamstime.com – Big Cats Eyes Photo

Are you writing dead end conversion pages?

Does your content send your readers on the road to nowhere?

I wrote this post in 2011 and realized it needed updating. I hope you enjoy the revised version! – Heather To paraphrase the Talking Heads – is your content sending your readers on the road to nowhere? You see this issue frequently pop up in blog posts. Although the site navigation is there, the body copy is link-free – and there’s nothing that encourages readers to go deeper into the site. There’s no link to a related web page. There are no sales page links. From a conversion perspective, the content is a dead-end. Granted, some pages (like squeeze pages) are built like this on purpose. Their purpose is to force the reader to take a particular action. However, what I’m talking about is regular site content – for instance, FAQ content, blog posts and articles. Here’s what I mean.

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