Do you ever find yourself torn between two options?

Sure, product A looks great…but product B has more bells and whistles.

Who you gonna call when you can’t decide?

GOOGLE!

(I so wanted to type “Ghostbusters,” but I stopped myself!) :)

When I’m in comparison mode, I love reading posts comparing X product to Y. Posts like that help me focus my brain and provide new perspectives.

Maybe you feel the same way.

But, did you know that “X versus Y” content represents a HUGE opportunity?

Not only can comparison review posts increase conversion rates — but, they also can position well in Google.

Here’s what I mean…

I’ve been deep-diving into the world of marketing funnels. After hours of research, I’ve narrowed it down to two big players — Kartra and ClickFunnels. They are both solid performers, are well-loved, and do what I want.

And, they both cost money.

Loyal subscribers know that I am a tightwad who questions and researches and sits on every purchase. For me, that means reviewing what I want from different angles until I have the information I need.

That’s why I love how Kartra has a comparison review post detailing the differences between Click Funnels and their product.

(And yes, I found this article while doing a Google search!)

Let’s break down the page…

When I hit the landing page, I was immediately greeted with a fantastic hero image.

Who doesn’t want to scale their business fast with tons of extra features?

Nicely done, Kartra.

It’s not just their headline that’s top-notch. The body copy does a great job showcasing Kartra’s most important differentiators and even includes multiple comparison checklists.

For instance, check out this screenshot. Although ClickFunnels and Kartra offer a similar service to a point, the checklist highlights what ClickFunnels doesn’t offer. For instance:

Of course, no comparison page would be complete without happy testimonials! Adding reader-specific testimonials to landing pages powerfully reinforces your message and is a must-add for any landing page.

Kartra takes this strategy one step further, focusing on testimonials from folks who have switched from ClickFunnels to Kartra:

Powerful, eh?

What’s more, Kartra didn’t just create comparison pages for ClickFunnels.  They have an entire section dedicated to comparing their product against competitors.

Again, nicely done.

Let’s talk about why this works.

If you dig into the buying cycle — especially the B2B buying cycle — web search is a major component.

And one that pops its Google-y head up multiple times.

People don’t buy in a linear fashion anymore. We’re searching Google, visiting sites, checking social, asking friends, searching Google again (this time, with more specific keyword choices), checking more sites, and narrowing down our options.

That’s why “X versus Y” content is so important. Readers are looking for this kind of comparison content when they’re figuring out what to do next.

Don’t believe me? Check out the Google autocomplete results for [Kartra versus]:

See? Users are searching for this kind of information every day — to the point that the results are part of Google autocomplete. Comparison review content is a huge opportunity for business…

…maybe even yours.

Still, there’s always going to be someone who asks…

But Heather, shouldn’t third-party review sites produce that content?

I can see why the question may pop up. Some folks may wonder if it’s ethical for companies to create comparison content, especially when you KNOW the company will always favor its own product.

My take: why NOT do it?

If you can honestly poke holes in your competitor’s offerings — why not? After all, there will always be people who gravitate to your competitor because of various reasons.

Maybe they like their blog better. Or their price point. Or a feature that your product doesn’t have.

That’s OK.

But for the undecided buyer, a comparison review post may be just the ticket. Why NOT have that information on your blog? After all, if you don’t, another site probably will.

(And if you think that third-party review sites are unbiased, think again. Many blog owners have affiliate relationships with companies, which guarantees they’ll get paid if someone purchases from their link. Just check out what happened in the mattress industry.)

Bottom-line, is this an opportunity?

Yes. People love this content, readers search for “comparison” content, and Google positions it. This is a win-win-win in my book.

Besides, if you don’t create comparison review content…your competitor will. Why let them take your traffic?

What do you think?

Do you love comparison review posts as much as I do? How could this kind of content be an opportunity for your business? Leave a comment and let me know!

Do you feel like voice search is a fad, and people will eventually tire of their Alexas, Siris and Google Homes?

Admittedly, I’ll typically type a search query before saying it — even if Alexa and Siri are right there. Old habits die hard.

At the same time, I know this tide is quickly turning. Every day, more folks are turning to voice assistants to find the information they need. Heck, even my husband uses voice search (and he’s not an “early adopter” of technology.) :)

In fact, according to Google, 20% of mobile queries were via voice search — and that was in 2016. ComScore says voice search will make up 50% of queries by 2020.

So, what does voice search have to do with how you write content?

A lot.
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I was happily binge-watching Letterkenny on Hulu, when a Peloton ad flashed on the screen.

If you watch live or streaming television, you’ve probably seen one of their ads. Beautiful people with amazing homes and zero body fat furiously pedal their Peloton bikes while somehow still looking attractive.

(How do those people do it? I look like a wet rat after a workout.)

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Do you struggle with headline writing?

Yup, me too. I think all good writers do. There are some days when I’m feeling on, and the headlines flow from my fingers.

And there are other days when I look at the page and think, “Everything I write is boring and nothing will work.”

Sound familiar? Well, do I have a tool for you — and it’s even free!

CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer

Why is Headline Analyzer so great?

Because it “scores” your headline from 1-100, and it gives you tips on how to improve it. For instance, here’s what it said about one of my original headlines for this newsletter:

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Have you ever wanted to purchase a product or service, but the price made you pause?

Sure, you think you’d love the purchase. But it’s expensive. And you’re not sure. And you don’t want to make a mistake and be out all that money.

It’s time to profile yet another company doing it right. 

Last week, my hot-sleeping husband sent over a link to Buffy. Buffy specializes in comforters and sheets for toasty sleepers. Since my husband is like a human furnace at night (and sleeps horribly because of it,) it’s no wonder he was checking out the sheets. 

I mean, check out this benefit statement. Wow.

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Do you sometimes feel like you’re just another cog in the SEO wheel, and what you do (or write) isn’t that important?

Recently, I was on a Live with Search Engine Land panel where one of the questions was:

“It’s probably clear why you need capable content writers, but, for publishers/audiences, what are the benefits of prioritizing your relationship with them?”

In short, why should companies spend time (and resources) on their writers? Are writers that big of a piece of the SEO pie?

Yes. In fact, writers like you aren’t just the biggest piece of the SEO pie — you’re the tasty topping, too.

Why?

Because YOU are the one who makes the SEO and conversion magic happen.

YOU write the content that grabs the top-10 Google position (and yes, content is most important for SEO.)

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Oh, how I hate when my snark comes back to bite me — but here we are.

Remember the Peloton television ads that ran last year? The ads would show a beautiful person in an amazing condo with their incredible $2,500+ exercise equipment…

…while a voice over would define what a “Peloton person” did every day, for instance, enjoy a “hard 20 after a hard day.” 

(Here’s my snarky blog post if you want to read more.)

I may have mocked their commercials, but I had to commend their marketing savvy. Despite their gag-me-with-a-spoon ads, Peloton is laser-focused on their target audience.

They know exactly what buttons to push. They know what will make their customer get off the couch and buy an expensive treadmill. It’s brilliant.

At the same time, it’s not just about making the sale. Delighting your existing customers can turn them into evangelists for your brand — plus, increase the lifetime value of the people who buy from you.

And yet again, Peloton does this right.

How do I know?

Here’s where the confession comes in: I’ve been a paid subscriber to their streaming service for over three months. (I know, I know.) They were a great alternative while my gym was shut down, and I like having an instructor tell me what to do. 

Granted, I am in their “cheap” customer tier. I only spend $12.95 a month for streaming. Under the circumstances, I don’t expect much in terms of customer service.

But…

Last week, I received an email that surprised me. It congratulated me on my 200th workout, and offered me a free (Peloton-branded) t-shirt as a reward. No shipping charges. No hidden anything.

Just a free t-shirt in exchange for a lot of sweat.

Mind you, I have 1,000 other t-shirts. I don’t need a new one. But you can bet I filled out the form for my freebie.

The offer made my day. I was…delighted.

But more importantly for Peloton, it made me more loyal to their brand. I felt like I was part of their tribe (I know that sounds sad — but I work out at home by myself.) I told multiple friends that I was excited about my free t-shirt. 

Heck, I’m even writing about their strategy!

Considering the shirt + shipping probably costs them all of $3, that’s a pretty darn good word-of-mouth ROI.

I bring this up because I’m recommending “delight your customers after the sale” to ALL my clients. It’s amazing how a little recognition can go a long way — especially now. 

We all need a little recognition.

So, how can you delight your customers after the sale?

Easy!

Think about what you can offer your existing customers that’s high-value to them — and easy (and low-cost) for you.

For instance:

  • An exclusive, customer-only webinar where you share your projections for the coming quarter.
  • A customer-only Facebook group where people receive early notifications on new products or services.
  • A special guide or e-book.
  • A special mention on your site for reaching certain milestones.
  • A special “just because” card that you mail and send. I once received a Postable thank you note and was thrilled. 

Another reason I love this idea is because it drives me nuts how companies will discount their products or service to get business in the door…

…but existing customers are never afforded the same benefits. Have you ever called your cable company and been told that only “new subscribers” can get a special rate? (I’m looking at you, Comcast.)

This makes zero sense to me. Especially when the odds of selling to a new customer are only 5-20%.

The odds of converting an existing customer? 60-70%.

In fact, according to Khalid Saleh from Invesp, “Existing customers are 50% more likely to try new products and spend 31% more, when compared to new customers.”

Wow. That’s pretty telling.

During a time when new customers may be afraid to commit, why not see how you can re-connect with your current customers?

After all, the grass is not always greener on the other side of the customer conversion fence. Taking care of and delighting your current customers may net you greater financial rewards — and even more evangelists for your brand. 

And if nothing else, a little unexpected delight will probably brighten someone’s day. Especially now.

What do you think?

What’s your favorite “just because” company gift? Leave a reply in the comments and let me know!

Sometimes, I receive an email that’s so compelling that I need to respond right away. This is one of those times.

The note said:

“I’m a freelance online copywriter. I’m busting my butt to get clients and doing all the necessary marketing (email, networking, social media, article marketing, etc.). However, I’m still not getting the results I desire, but I see my colleagues who do the same exact thing that I do, and they are making a killing.

I don’t want to sound like, ‘Woe is me,’ because that’s not me. I’m dedicated, passionate, and a fast-learner. I guess the question is, have you experienced this kind of ‘stuckness’ when you were just starting out? If so, what did you do to get past this phase? Please note, that I’m managing social media for two clients a month as well.”

Ah, I call this phase “surviving the dark times.” And yeah, it’s tough. I distinctly remember going through this about 14 years ago and feeling so frustrated that I threw a wicker chair against a wall. I knew what I wanted. I could SEE it. I just couldn’t figure out how to make the money flow.

Obviously, I pulled out of it. That doesn’t make me smarter or better. I just had a vision, and I stubbornly held on to it – and eventually, everything worked out.

You may have seen this in your own business – whether you’re a freelance writer, a small business owner, or even a partner in a corporation. You’re working mondo hours and not seeing the money you want. You’re waking up at 3 a.m. thinking about money.

And there’s a little voice inside of you whispering, “Give it up. You can’t do this. Close down and start over.”

Are you tired of hearing the “helpful” whispers?

 

Maybe you subscribe to a few newsletters in the hopes that they get you back “on track.” But the newsletters almost make it worse. Every headline talks about how much money everyone else (except you, of course) is making. You read inspirational stories about people who make it big within six months of opening shop.

And that little voice inside of you whispers even louder, “Forget it. You’re wrong. Other people know the secret, and you’ll never succeed.”

Then you try talking to friends or to your spouse. They try to be supportive. They really do. But when they say, “Maybe this isn’t the right time…maybe you should get a real job,” it tears you up inside. You don’t want to talk to them anymore. So you close down and give up.

And that inner voice that used to be a whisper is now a full-force 3 a.m. taunt. You’re so burned out and demotivated that it’s hard to get up in the morning, much less work.

Here’s your compassionate reality check: This process is normal. It sucks, but it’s normal. And you will go through this many, many times throughout your career.

There are some great books on this topic (The Energy of Money is a great one) but here’s my take:

Running a business – like everything else – is cyclical. Some days (or months) you’re super-creative, motivated and in the flow. Other days, you wonder why the heck you decided to go into business for yourself. Some months (or years) you can’t keep up with requests for business. Sometimes, you happily talk to phone solicitors because – darn it – it was the first call you’ve received in weeks.

There is dark, and there is light. There is super-busy, and there is super-quiet. It’s all part of the process.

Your freelance writing business will ebb and flow like the ocean. You may as well relax and enjoy it!

Plus – and this is just my opinion – most folks quit too early. They hit the dark times, and they freak out. The fear is too much. They lose too much sleep. Instead of following their passion, they do what’s “safe.”

Granted, there are times you do what you have to do to live – and there is no shame or judgment in doing that. Just know that it’s one thing to let your dream die and give up. It’s completely another to do everything you can (even if that means taking a part-time job) to keep that dream alive.

I strongly believe that we are rewarded for being passionate. When we’ve done the planning and we can see the goal on the “other side” – we will eventually get there. The trick is – and I know that this is easier said than done – stay calm, manage by facts, and take care of you.

Some positive steps that you can take right now are:

  • Take time away from your business. Seriously! It may feel like the “worst time ever” to do it, but you need the perspective. You need to be able to look at your business with fresh eyes (and a calm brain) if you want to move forward. Otherwise, you’re going to burn yourself out and involve yourself in “busywork” that doesn’t move your business forward.
  • Take a hard, hard look at your business focus. Hindsight is always 20/20 – and for me, I know that a lack of focus can decimate my business opportunities. You may be an “online writer” – but who is your target audience? Can you picture what she/he would look like? What her hopes would be? Her fears? It’s so easy to do “anything” to get money in the door that we stray away from what we really want to do (and who we really want to work with.)
  • Spend time every day with “the end in mind.” Allow yourself to feel what it would be like to work with that company you really want to work with. Or imagine writing the check that pays off that last credit card. Or finally having enough money to take a “real” vacation. Keeping that excitement and vision alive is paramount.
  • Celebrate your successes. It’s so easy to say, “Well, yeah, I’m making money – but it’s not the money I want to make.” So what? You’re making money! Congratulate yourself and pat yourself on the back. You’ll never be able to break out of your funk if you never feel “good enough” to celebrate your successes.
  • Don’t believe everything you read and hear. Although your colleagues may say that they’re “raking in the bucks,” know that it may not be true. After all, it’s very, very hard for entrepreneurs to admit that they’re losing money (in our minds, we call it “failing” – even if that’s not the case.) It’s a whole lot easier to say that things are “great” rather than admitting “Yeah, I’m feeling pretty scared.”
  • Take care of you. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, you’re all you’ve got. If you get sick from the stress, you’re going to put yourself in a worse situation. If you ignore exercise because you “don’t have time,” you’re going to feel worse and be less productive. I would watch every piece of food you put into your body and focus on high-quality meals. The better you feel physically, the better you’ll be able to handle any situation. (After typing that, I’m feeling a little guilty that I just munched the complimentary chocolate they gave me on the plane!).
  • Recognize the voices in your head. The voices telling you that you’re a failure at 3 a.m. aren’t real. It’s your fear coming back to bite you. Notice the voices. Laugh at them. Learn from them. But do not let them get to you. They are not real.
  • Know that your hard work is not in vain. At this very moment, someone may be discussing hiring you – you just don’t know it yet. Your life and financial situation can change with one phone call.
  • Get support from other entrepreneurs. My support network is comprised of search folks and local Portland business owners. I love them. I can go to them hurting and scared and frustrated and come away feeling fantastic. It helps to know that you’re not alone (and you know that you’re never alone, right?) Other people have gone through this multiple times. They survived. You will too.
  • Ignore the naysayers. They do nothing but sap your energy and make you feel bad about yourself.  If you walk away from a friend feeling drained and tired, you may want to keep that friendship “on hold” until you’re in a better spot.  You don’t have time for folks like that.
  • Finally, recognize that this is, in fact, a phase. It’s the darkness before the dawn. It’s miserable and scary and…a little bit exciting too. Once you’ve gone through this a few more times, the process does get easier. You start to recognize what’s happening and move through it a little bit faster. It doesn’t make it “fun.” Heck, I go through this phase kicking and screaming (sometimes literally!) But at least you may not take it quite so personally next time.

If you’re going through this – hang in there. Know that things will – eventually – be OK. And let me know how it’s going. We’re all in this together.

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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Raise your hand if you’ve ever thought SEO writing was “too technical” to learn and involved too much programming and geeky terminology.

Yup. That’s totally normal. And it’s certainly true that SEO writing has geeky-sounding elements.

Heck, I remember trying to wrap my head around what a Title was when I first learned over 22 years ago. Throw in weird terms like “meta description” and “H1” and “image tag,” and it’s enough to make some writers nope out of SEO writing.

(Obviously not you. You’re much braver than that.)

At the same time, one common question I get is — how much technical information do writers need to know? In other words, how geeky do you need to go?


The answer? Well, it depends.

 
For instance, if you’re new to SEO writing, you don’t need to bury yourself in programming blogs and code.

In fact, you only need to know the geeky bare minimums.

What are the bare minimums? I’d argue that a beginner SEO writer should understand:

• What a Title is, and how to structure one for maximum click-through.

• How to write a meta description.

• How to put keyphrases in the copy without the text sounding weird or stilted.

Is more knowledge better? Sure. The more you know, the more you can help your clients and the more you can earn. But when you’re just starting out and getting your SEO feet wet, you don’t need to immediately dive into the geeky side of the pool. It’s OK to stay in the shallow SEO end.

When does knowing geeky information come in handy?

Sometimes, smaller companies look to their SEO writers as their overall SEO expert. They know the SEO writer isn’t a programmer or coding ninja — but, they rely on the writer’s SEO expertise to at least point them in the right direction.

For instance, one of my clients had two versions of their site in Google — a www version and a non-www version. They thought their previous programmer had redirected the site…but it didn’t happen.

Although I wasn’t the one fixing the issue, I did flag it and show why it was a problem.

Should I strive to be an expert content writer and technical SEO geek?

Not necessarily. Most people I know are good at one or the other. Not both.

For instance, my brain tends to gravitate towards the content side. (Surprise!) It’s true that I did help a major site figure out their technical Title strategy once upon a time, but that’s because it was easy for me to translate their issue into content terms.

I know enough to communicate with technical teams and when something may be wrong. But I’m not going to program a site. If I look at my brain in Donny and Marie Osmond terms, my brain is a little bit technical…and a whole lot of content rock and roll.

(As a side note, I’ve met just one person who is equal parts technical and content. He’s like a unicorn, Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster rolled into one.)

Which skill is most important as an SEO writer — content skills or technical?

Well, you know how I’m going to answer this one.

In fact, this is one of the questions SEMRush asked me during their Twitter #SEMRushChat. I posted my answer below.

Q3. Creative skills or technical knowledge: which skill would come first for an SEO copywriter, if you had to pick only one?

A3: Creative skills, hands down. Writing smart copy is a unique skillset. In fact, a @conductor study said that 81% of SEO jobs require content skills. Having said that, a smart SEO writer who understands writing to sell and technical SEO is a powerful combination. #SEMRushChat

So yes, technical knowledge is a smart thing to have. You can do a lot to drive traffic if you understand the SEO strategy behind the words.

But let’s face it — the SEO may drive traffic to a page, but it’s your words that will cause people to convert.

And that’s a powerful skill.

What do you think?

How many of you remember Donny and Marie Osmond? (Sometimes, I have to throw in something for the old folks, you know?) On a scale from 1-10, with 10 being a super-level technical geek, how geeky are you? Leave a comment and let me know!