Do You Know What Your Prospects Are Really Thinking?

Want to know a secret?

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.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Connect with Steve on Twitter and LinkedIn

10 Tips for Scoring a Great Guest Interview

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 ten 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 your 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.

From the interviewee’s side, it’s 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 will alienate your guest and ruin your podcast.

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 strong guest interview is to ask 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 may 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 LinkedIn. 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!

Why You Should Question The Experts

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 Profs (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. 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 also helps to solve 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.

Are You A Content Strategist or an SEO Copywriter?

Hmm, maybe I’m an SEO content strategist after all!

Are you undervaluing your work — and selling yourself short?

I’ve talked to many freelance and in-house copywriters who claim that they’re “just” a writer. Sure, most of their time is spent writing copy. But they’re also setting the editorial calendar, using tools like BuzzSumo to find new topic ideas and even explaining Google’s latest updates to their clients or team members.

To me, it sounds like these writers made the leap from “writer” to “SEO content consultant.” They just may not know it yet.

Read more

The C-Word And Why Content Isn’t King

You know what I’m tired of hearing?

The oft-repeated mantra “content is king.”

“But wait Heather,” you may say. “You train people how to write content. You consult on SEO content development. Heck, your entire career was built on content.”

True. But I think the mantra “content is king” has done more harm than good.

Why?

Even in today’s brave new Google world, some people still believe that it’s the quantity of the content – not the quality – that’s important. The primary goal of content is to help a site be seen in the SERPs.

But being seen only works when there’s something else in play.

That “something else” is the C-word.

Read more

SEO Writing: Are You Making this Dangerous Mistake?

Once upon a time, there was a sad and lonely website.

Its owners were recognized experts in their fields. They had written books. They blogged. They spoke all over the world.

From a marketing standpoint, they were doing everything right.

Yet, their site wasn’t positioning for any important keyphrases. None. Zip.

This made the site owners quite unhappy, so they found a consultant to help.

The consultant noticed quite a few “old school” SEO errors:

–  There were very few keyphrases on the page

–  There were no keyphrase-rich headlines (H1)

–  The Titles were keyphrase-free and most of the pages didn’t have meta descriptions.

Once these errors were fixed, the site started positioning within three days. Rankings are still building for the super competitive phrases, but even those are coming along nicely.

Conducting some basic optimization on the site unlocked its potential.

I tell this story because there are (still) dissenters who believe that you can just “write naturally” and Google will “get” what your site is about. Meaning – you can skip all the foundational SEO steps and still do well.

That’s a pretty dangerous mistake.

In fact, the site owners had “written their site naturally.” You would think that an internationally-known consultant could write high positioning content just because.

But that wasn’t the case.

I bring this up after reading the latest SearchMetrics 2014 rankings factors report (you can read a great summary of the report here.)

The takeaways? Quality content matters. Keyphrases in the Titles, H1, description and body copy matters.  

You know. The stuff that smart SEO writers have been discussing since the beginning of SEO time.

If my story is hitting home with you (that is, you know your site copy wasn’t written with SEO in mind,) know that you can fix your situation. It will take some time. And it will take some budget. But there are things you can do.  For instance:

– You can add keyphrases to old blog posts to help snag better search positions.

– You can rewrite pages to make them more reader-centered (and yes, so you can add keyphrases too!). This is an especially smart tactic if you can’t add keyphrases to your existing content without it sounding unnatural (which is often the case with short content.)

– You can tweak your Titles so they are unique to the page and better for Google – and more importantly, better for your readers.

– You can improve upon your meta descriptions. Especially if your descriptions are the same on every page.

So here’s a reality check:

“Writing naturally” without at least an inkling of solid SEO writing knowledge can hurt you. It’s cool if you want to write your own content. Just know that someone will need to add some SEO sizzle when you’re done.

If your in-house writers aren’t trained in SEO writing, you are doing your site (and your revenues) a disservice. Without some SEO knowledge, the more your writers write, the more that will need to be fixed later.

If you are a freelance writer selling “web writing services” – and you aren’t versed in SEO writing – you are doing yourself (and your clients) a HUGE disservice. Not to mention, you’re missing out on a nice profit center.

Sure, hearing “you need to go back to the basics” isn’t sexy.

But what is sexy is more traffic. Higher sales. A more qualified readership.

And your site will no longer feel sad and lonely.

Want more tasty SEO writing information? Why not sign up for my free weekly newsletter? It’s fluff-free, fun and provides fantastic info!

Photo credit: © Scott Griessel | Dreamstime.com

5 Ways to Spice Up Your B2B Content

News flash: B2B content doesn’t have to be boring.

I know, I know. Writing for B2B sites isn’t easy. Products like lanyards and construction helmets aren’t necessarily sexy. Your competitors’ sites are probably just as boring. And the powers-that-be may feel more comfortable with “just the facts” feature-filled content.

Yet, for many (most) B2B sites, there’s room for so much improvement. By adding just a little bit of spice, you can connect with your readers and boost your conversion rates.

Here’s how to do it:

Use the word “you” in your copy

You are not selling to robots. Nor are you selling to a “company.” You are selling to people. And people (otherwise known as your target readers) respond to the word “you.”  Using the word personalizes your message and makes your content more compelling. For a great example, check out Basecamp’s homepage. Their line, “Our job is to help you do your job better” is a fantastic mission statement. It’s punchy, personal and implies a pretty big benefit. Plus, it makes you want to look more closely at their services – so the content is definitely doing it’s job.

Shorten your sentences

Many B2B companies are guilty of zombie run-on sentences. You read one endless sentence and BOOM you see another one. They’re everywhere. And they suck the life out of the content.  Guess what? Nobody wants to read your 35+ word sentences.  If you find yourself writing long, paragraph-like sentences, mix up your sentence structure, stat! Write one longer sentence and then follow it up with a shorter one. Experiment. Your copy will be much punchier as a result.

Get inside your readers’ heads

What is your reader really thinking? It’s not, “Hey, I’m going to purchase these firefighting helmets for our team.” It’s probably something like, “I need to find the safest, most comfortable helmets for the best possible cost.” You shouldn’t start writing until you have fleshed out what your unique sales proposition is, what’s driving your reader to make a purchase and what motivates them. If companies in your industry are known for poor customer service, play up the fact that you have staff on call 24/7. If your solution is high value (and more expensive,) overcome any price objections within your copy and show how paying more is a great investment. The more you know what your reader is thinking when he or she reaches your landing page, the more persuasive your content.

Boost your benefit statements

Have you ever wanted to scream “HOW DOES THIS PRODUCT HELP ME?!” Yeah. Me too. Features are nice but they don’t tell the whole story. It’s one thing to sell a hard hat. It’s another to discuss how your hard hat won’t slip off, is ultra comfortable and won’t cause headaches. Statements like that will cause your target reader to sit up and take notice.

Dare to be different

I am so tired of people saying that their content has to be boring. Why? It’s “industry standard.” If they write it any differently, their target market may respond negatively. Look at companies like AppSumo. Their content for their Piktochart product not only tells a story, it tells a funny story – plus weaves in some impressive benefit statements. They even use the words “you” and “your.”  Their sales copy shows being different works and can truly differentiate your product line. Sure, I’m sure they’ve tested their results to confirm that the tone and feel is spot on. But at least they took a chance rather than following the herd.

Instead of making excuses, why not go out on a limb? Try one (or more) of these spicy techniques and see what sticks. Rewrite a landing page. Test new approaches via social media.

You may be surprised at the results. And you may make more money, too.

Photo thanks to Clyde Robinson. 

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You inherited crap legacy content. Now what?

Does your company's site content make you cry?

Does your company’s site content make you cry?

Good news: You were just hired as the content manager for a well-established site.

Bad news: The content is horrible, it hasn’t been optimized for SEO and every page makes you want to cry.

This scenario is extremely common. Maybe it’s because the company has had various people overseeing the site’s content. Or, no-one “owned” the content before – so there’s no strategy, no cohesion and everything is a big, fat mess.

If this sounds like your company, take a deep breath and relax. The key is to tackle your site in baby steps. Here are some places to start:

Review the site’s analytics.

Even crappy pages can convert – maybe not to their full potential, but they can do it. Determine the pages that contribute the most to the conversion process. These top pages will probably be the ones you “touch” first. You’ll also want to review bounce rates and time on site. If people are clicking into your site and not taking action, you know you have a problem.

(As a side note, if your company doesn’t have analytics and goals in place, get those set up first. You can’t manage what you can’t measure.)

Review the existing customer persona.

Is it still relevant? Do you need to create a new one? If your company is serving a new vertical market, is there content just for them?

Check out your existing keyphrase document (assuming there is one.)

Do the keyphrases represent all phases of the buy cycle? Or are they mostly brand-specific terms that are only relevant when someone wants to make a purchase? Just to be safe, I’d re-run the data. You may find opportunities the previous person didn’t see.

Determine the overarching primary and secondary issues.

For many sites, the core issue is that the pages haven’t been optimized. This means poor Titles, and inconsistent (or no) keyphrase usage. Other sites may suffer from a variety of different writing styles that don’t fit the customer persona. Once you determine what the main problems are, you’ll be able to focus your efforts and get more done.

Are the pages written to sell? Or do you have a “meh” response?

A huge problem many companies (especially B2B companies) face is their sales copy is boring, benefit-free and basic. Tightening up the top sales pages and rewriting them can often result in an almost immediate “win” (that is, you’ll make money.) Consider testing pages with services like Optimizely. That way, you’ll KNOW what works rather than making an educated guess.

Can you find any easy wins?

Rewriting sales pages can certainly be an easy win. So can optimizing existing blog posts that lead to conversions. If you know a page is important to the sales cycle and it’s keyphrase-free, making it more SEO friendly can often have a huge impact. You’ll be able to drive more qualified traffic that should result in increased leads or sales.

Get organized – not overwhelmed.

Remember those top pages that drive conversion rates? Tighten those up and make those shine first. After that, have a plan for going through the site in organized, sequential chunks. That may mean focusing on your “easy win” pages next. Or focusing your efforts around a particular site section. Tie your efforts back to what you know makes your site money rather than doing a little bit of everything. You’ll see better results, faster, if you do.

Reviewing your site is something you can easily do yourself. Or, if you need an outside opinion, it sometimes pays to bring in a content expert who can develop an action plan. That way, someone with a fresh perspective (and perhaps a better understanding of the latest SEO content techniques) can help you along your path.

The good news is – even crappy legacy content can be transformed into a top-converting asset. It may take some time and you’ll be working in baby steps. But the end result will be a site that you’re proud to be associated with (and won’t make you cry when you look at it.)

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Thank you, migasun, for the great photo!

 

 

 

 

Is Your About Us Page a Real Yawner?

Yawn

Does your about us page make your readers yawn?

Well-written about us pages can increase conversion rates.

So why do they often suck so bad? Instead of making a connection, they sound as dry as Ben Stein’s delivery in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

Yawn.

Is this the impression you want to give your prospects? Nope. I didn’t think so.

Your SEO content marketing challenge: Show some personality

Why be boring when you can let your corporate freak flag fly? Review your about us page and check out these tips. Then, consider how you can actually connect with your readers – not just give the bare-bones company information. Would pictures help? Video? Think out of the box.

After all, if it was a real-life conversation, you’d share your company story. You’d discuss how you’ve helped other customers. You’d focus on the connection – not the corporate talking points.

Just a few changes can transform your sucky page into a stupendous one.

Need to outsource your SEO content to a company that gets it right the first time? Let me help. Learn more about my SEO copywriting services today.