So, what’s in it for me?

When faced with an offer, an action step or a request, we all want to know one simple thing: What’s in it for me?

For instance, how many times have you received an email like this one:

“Thank you for (staying at our hotel, talking to our customer service rep, buying something from us.) We’d like to invite you to fill out a form so we can improve our customer service.”

And how many times have you junked that email as soon as it hit your in-box?

Chances are, your first thought is, “Why should I spend my time filling out your survey.” And really, why bother? Even if it takes “just five minutes,” that’s five minutes you could spend working, answering email, or watching The People’s Court reruns.

In short, filling out the survey wouldn’t benefit you one iota. So why bother?

But even as we laugh at the survey example, how often are we violating the “what’s in it for me” rule on our own Websites? It’s easy for us to rest on our online laurels and figure that “hey, everyone knows our brand,” or, “our specials are listed on the “specials'” tab” – why list them again?

Think about this behavior offline. Imagine walking into a store looking for new tennis shoes. Would we want the salesperson to grunt and say, “All shoes are on that wall. Pick the ones you want.” Or would we want her to tell us about the different brands and how they’ll make us run faster, tone our legs while walking and improve our game?

If you really think about it, you’ll realize that we’re often missing the benefit boat. We don’t tell our customers what’s in it for them. We don’t mention how our service will exceed expectations. We sit back and hope that our prospects will figure it out.

This point really came clear during the DMA’s ACCM conference last week. We evaluated many catalog sites with:

  • Pages chock- full of thumbnail pictures with no benefits nor calls to action
  • Benefits like “free shipping” hidden towards the bottom
  • Feature-based product pages with no benefits

If you consider the inverted pyramid style of online writing, your most important information (think benefits) should be near the top of the page. Additionally, we know from Jakob Nielsen that people first scan Web pages horizontally and across the top of the content. So, it’s not just that people need to know what’s in it for them. They need to know right away.

Scour your site for benefits and see where they appear. Do you shout your benefits on every page? Or do you hide them below the fold? Just one “what’s in it for me” statement could make the difference between sluggish sales and a top-converting page.

The secret way to get exactly what you want

Imagine this: You’ve been hinting around to that hot guy (or gal) in the office that you really, really want to go out. You’re friendly and scintillating within a 1 mile radius of his voice. You’ve highlighted your hair within an inch of its life. You’re putting out some major vibes…

…But why won’t he pick up what you’re putting down and ask you out, already?

We’ve all met these folks and there’s always one constant: If you don’t come right out and tell the clueless object of your affection, “I want to date you,” the date won’t happen. In marketing terms, you won’t convert.

And you know whose fault that would be? Yours.

My father used to say that you have to ask for what you want (he called this theory “Get it and growl.”) No hidden agenda. No, “Well, I just assumed they knew how I felt.” No passive/aggressive “Well, if you REALLY understood me, you’d get it.” If you want it (whatever it is), pipe right up and ask.

And that includes asking for the sale on your Website.

Fast forward to yesterday. My dear friend and owner of the soon-to-be-uploaded forwarded over his Web copy. Some background: This man is a consummate salesman. Professionally, he’s at the top of his sales-training game. Yet, he didn’t ask for the sale in his copy because, in his words, I made the incorrect assumption that most people would hit the “contact us” button if they wanted more info.”

That’s like assuming that the hot girl will go out with you. Someday. If you don’t ask, you may not get.

“Wait,” you may say. “Isn’t it obvious that my site is trying to sell something?” Yes, that’s true. People wouldn’t be on your site (assuming you sell a product or service) if they didn’t want to buy something. However, think about when you bought your last new car. You were obviously on the lot to purchase a car. Yet, the salesman probably still said something like, “Let’s draw up the paperwork so you can drive this baby home today.” He probably also handed you a pen so you could sign the contract. That’s about asking for the sale, baby. That salesman wanted to sell the car, and he asked you to buy it. Guess what — you did.

Another real-life example are infomercials. The cutaways that discuss the products features, benefits, price and how-to buy occur at least four times in a 30-minute spot. “Call now — special pricing for the first 100 customers” and “Call right now and lose 10 pounds by next Saturday” are all about asking for the sale. And just think — how many times have you watched an infomercial and actually — gasp — bought something. That’s the power of the call-to-action.

Asking for the sale (and creating calls-to-action) is easy. Simply tell people what you want them to do and give them a reason to take action. Here’s how to find opportunities on your site and to leverage those opportunities for SEO purposes.

  • Review your own site. Are there any calls-to-action within the text such as “learn more” or “contact us today” or “buy now.” If not, why not?
  • If you do have calls-to-action sprinkled throughout your site (good job,) did you pair them with benefit statements? For instance, would you rather read “call today” or “save $100 on your order if you call today.”
  • Remember that hyperlinks are, by themselves, calls-to-action. That is, the hyperlink text encourages (that is, persuades) people to click through to the next page. From a SEO copywriting perspective, hyperlink the keyphrase whenever possible.

Sprinkle some calls-to-action through a Web page and see what happens. Chances are, you’ll find that people are happily willing to take your desired conversion step. And all you had to do was ask.

When to hire an intermediate-level SEO copywriter

In our last post, we discussed newbie SEO copywriters — when they’re fantastic hiring choices, when they aren’t and what you need to know before you hire them. But what if you need someone with a little more SEO copywriting street-savvy? Enter the intermediate-level SEO copywriter — the perfect choice for many clients.

Profile of intermediate-level SEO copywriters:

This category describes the vast majority of SEO copywriters. Competent, smart and experienced, intermediate-level copywriters are the perfect choice for a good chunk of clients. These folks have risen up through the newbie trenches, learned from their mistakes and have a decent portfolio under their belt. From a direct-response writing perspective, they’ll serve up a solid and skilled (yet usually not stellar) Web page. From the SEO side, the skill-set depends on the person. In most cases, that’s OK. The intermediate-level copywriter typically works under a SEO supervisor, so they don’t need to worry about being SEO experts.

These folks are fantastic for most content jobs. Need monthly articles on a certain topic? Do you have 50 Web pages screaming for a makeover? Intermediate-level copywriters provide the perfect go-to guy (or gal) solution. Yes, you will still have to look over their shoulder some, and no, don’t expect them to come up with create anything that’s unbelievably awesome or think out of the box. But that’s just fine.

Unlike the newbie SEO copywriter, intermediate-level copywriters can set some content strategy in conjunction with the SEO firm. That would mean working with the SEO to establish a keyphrase list, strategizing the per-page keyphrases and developing a content template. Although some intermediate-level SEO copywriters could easily set a small-business content strategy, they are more effective as collaborative partners with agencies and SEO firms.

Additionally, intermediate-level folks usually have clear strengths in either direct-response copywriting or SEO — but typically not both. That doesn’t mean that they are great writers and are clueless about the engines (or techs who can barely type a legible sentence.) Both types of folks can write a good Web page and understand how the engines work. It’s just something to watch for and notice. By the type a writer reaches an expert SEO status, they enjoy equal (and superior) SEO and writing skills.

Intermediate-level SEO copywriters are good for:

  • General Web page writing (both sales and information pages)
  • Keyphrase research
  • Collaborative campaigns (working under an existing SEO

Sometimes, a more experienced intermediate-level SEO copywriter can:

  • Service a small-business SEO campaign (only if they have the requisite SEO skills)
  • Some content strategy (depending on the copywriter and the client)
  • Supervise/mentor other copywriters (especially if they are more advanced).

Somewhat like the newbie SEO, the intermediate-level SEO copywriter doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. However, unlike the newbie copywriter, that shouldn’t make a whole lot of difference — unless you need strategy or training. If you are a big-brand company — or a company with highly complex technical, marketing or tone and feel needs — hiring an expert copywriter would be your best bet.

Because the skill-sets can be so variable, make sure to ask for clips before letting your intermediate-level SEO copywriter loose. Some folks will pen a really good page, while others are somewhat so-so. Although great writers can write anything for any vertical, intermediate-level folks are typically really good at writing certain types of copy. If their clips don’t turn you on, check out another copywriting choice.

Wondering if you should hire the cream of the SEO copywriting crop? Stay tuned for more information about expert SEO copywriters!