Does Your B2B Content Strategy Target All the Key Influencers?

I came across this great post on HubSpot the other day that answered and negated the commonly cited shortcomings of inbound marketing their sales teams often hear from site owners and marketing managers.

This section in particular really stuck with me:

Claim: Decision-makers don’t spend their time online researching products and services…The idea is that the typical C-suite executive doesn’t spend his or her time online reading blogs, conducting searches in Google, or participating in social media.

Rebuttal: Decision-makers are influenced by online channels when it comes to purchasing decisions…Even if a C-suite executive doesn’t spend a lot of their time reading blogs, using social media, and conducting research online, that doesn’t mean there aren’t others within their company who are doing those things. And chances are, these people have some level of influence on the decisions of those C-suite executives.

The B2B content marketing challenge: multiple influencers throughout the buying cycle

A lot of B2B companies struggle with content creation in one way another, whether it be coming up with topics to write about or having a hard time publishing a steady stream of content. Either way, most B2B companies realize the importance of content marketing but some still struggle with the actual implementation.

One of the most common issues I see is that B2B content marketing doesn’t take into account all of the possible influencers, nor each stage of the buying cycle.

B2B content marketing campaigns might be too heavily weighted at the beginning of the buying cycle, which is great for driving information-seeking visitors to your site, but not as good at actually converting them. Or, they are too heavily weighted at the end of the buying cycle, so companies are missing the opportunity to connect with potential customers early on.

For instance, say your company sold various enterprise software products. Your end decision maker is probably the CIO or CTO, right? But is that CIO the one actually doing the grunt work and investigating all the possible vendors out there? Probably not.

Perhaps the Director of IT is the one that does a lot of the leg work and presents the CIO/CTO with the top few choices. But is the Director of IT the only one involved in the research and information gathering process? Again, probably not.

A B2B content strategy scenario…

Say one of the products your company offered was a contact center software product. The CIO isn’t the one actually using that product, your enterprise’s contact center agents are. But they don’t have the authority to make a buying decision, so they turn to their contact center manager with their needs/complaints about their current system.

The contact center manager in turn might look up the chain of command to the Customer Experience Executive or the Chief Customer Office, and explain why/how a new contact center software solution can help improve the customer experience. They, in turn, have to get the okay from the CTO or CIO to make sure this new software will work within their existing system that in turn might have to check-in with the CFO to get the budget approved.

Each person, from the contact center agent all the way up to the C-suite, can influence the final decision in one way or another, and each individual is looking for different pieces of information.

The call center agent wants to make sure that your software will actually make their jobs easier, not harder. The contact center manager wants to know that your software will easily integrate and “play nice” with other applications already being used so their agents don’t have to waste time learning a new program.

The CCO wants to see how a software program can actually impact the customer experience and everyone wants to know how spending money on new software will help them make or save money in the long run.

Content marketing that targets all of the influencers

Does your B2B content marketing campaign hit each of those influencers and their needs? If not, you’re missing out on valuable opportunities to connect with and influence each member of your target audience.

In a large enterprise, unlike a small business, no one person makes a decision that impacts the rest of the company on his or her own. Many B2B sales and buying cycles are extremely long and involved, and require a substantial monetary investment from your potential clients.

You don’t want them to have any lingering questions or doubts regarding your product or company, and your B2B content marketing campaigns are how you answer those questions.

About the Author ~ Nick Stamoulis

Nick Stamoulis is the President of Brick Marketing, a Boston-based search marketing firm that specializes in B2B SEO services. With over 13 years of industry experience Nick Stamoulis shares his SEO knowledge by writing in the Brick Marketing Blog and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 120,000 opt-in subscribers.

3 Simple Steps to Creating Buyer Personas

Buyer personas are important to every business with an online presence. That’s a fact.

We also know that personas are always evolving and should be updated on a continual basis. Keeping up with your consumers’ interests and needs will prove to be a smart content marketing strategy in the long run.

Think of personas as templates from which you can craft all of your marketing content.

So how do you go about creating a buyer persona for your target customer?

Below are three resources to help you get started.

1. Ask the Sales Department

Enlisting the help of your company’s sales representatives is probably the easiest way to get to know your clients. Sales representatives are often on the front lines when it comes to obtaining new clients, so they routinely field a lot of recurring questions.

Ask the sales representatives for a list of questions they receive most frequently. From there you can take the top five most common questions asked and use them to start a persona.

The sales team can also give you insights about the type of people that call in most frequently: job role, level of education, interests, pain points, etc.

That information is going to be important when building your personas since you need to define precisely who it is you’re targeting.

Pro Tip: This also presents a great opportunity to create content based on the email and phone replies to customers from sales representatives.

2. Use BuzzSumo and Social Media

BuzzSumo is a great (free) tool you can use that will show how many times a particular piece of content in your niche or industry vertical has been shared.

From there, you can take a look at the social media accounts of the people sharing the content.

This will give you direct insight into your target audience and will help you assign a gender, education level and job role to your personas.

Head over to BuzzSumo, then using the “Content Analyzer” content research option, type in the search term that you’re looking to use to optimize a particular piece of content. Depending on the query, you may be supplied with a lot of results.

The best thing to do next is to sort by Twitter shares. This will allow you to see which piece of content has been shared the most. Then click on “View Sharers”:

view-sharers

You can now see the Twitter handles of the individuals or companies that have shared this particular article:

buzzsumo-twitter

From there you’ll be able to view the profiles of each person, or company, who has shared this content

Pro Tip: Limit the amount of profiles you use as you can spend hours or days on this part. To get started, begin with 3 to 5 profiles.

3. Speak With Customer Service

As with the sales department, the customer service department holds scads of data about your clients beginning with the moment they became customers. Here you can learn about customer likes and dislikes and apply that knowledge to your personas.

The best approach would be to ask each customer service representative the five most frequently asked questions he or she receives and start from there.

This will help you to not only build your personas but to create strategic content for them as well.

After all the information has been collected, take 3 simple steps…

Now that you have a stockpile of info on your existing and target audience, here are the steps you can take to create your personas:

1. Assign a gender and name to each persona.

Doing this will help you in the content creation process as you can write as though you’re speaking to an individual.

2. Give that persona a job title, responsibilities and pain points.

This step is crucial, as you need to know at what stage of the buyer’s journey potential customers are.

Pain points will inform you as to what their specific needs are. Addressing your audience’s pain points is a great way to capture their initial interest and guide them along the buyer’s journey.

3. Add a location.

Geo-targeting your audience is very important, as doing so allows you to generate content that can speak to local events and use the vernacular specific to that region.

To recap, researching buyer personas is a great way for you to get to know your audience. Once built, customer personas can help you create content that can be used to attract a new audience. Finally, keep in mind that once a persona is created, it should be updated to remain relevant.

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What’s the ‘Best’ Word Count for Google? [Updated for 2019]

Have you wondered what the perfect word count was for a blog post or landing page?

Over the years, that number has been a moving target.

Twenty years ago, I would recommend that every page be at least 250 words.

Back then, people considered 250 words “too much content.” “Readers won’t like it,” folks complained. “I don’t want that many words on my page.”

My, how things have changed.

Here’s a (very) general word count guideline for 2019:

  • For landing page content, I’d recommend a minimum word count of 350 words.
  • If you’re writing a blog post that you want to position, the minimum (in most cases) would be 500 words.

Why is there no hard-and-fast rule? The true “best” word count for a post or landing page depends on many factors. I’ll talk about them soon and show some examples.

Having said that, many companies think “shorter copy is bad.” Instead, they focus almost exclusively on long-form content — for instance, 5,000+ word, in-depth skyscraper guides.

Why so many words?

Because the people who write the content think that’s the only way to grab search positions. If the copy is longer, it must be better — right?

So, what does this mean for content producers? Is the age of short copy dead? Does Google reward super-long content?

Well…not really.

You don’t need to write 5,000 words every time. At the same time, longer copy has specific SEO benefits.

I’ll talk about what this means to content producers and how to figure out the best word count for your posts. But first, I need to get this out of the way…

Let’s talk about Google’s stance on word count

Google’s John Muller said in August 2019 that “word count is not a ranking factor.”

There’s no magical word fairy who reviews your word count and positions your page accordingly. The Google Quality Raters aren’t counting every.single.word.

In fact, Google has also said that word count does not indicate quality content.

This is good news — content producers aren’t forced to create long-form content every time we sit down to write.

We can write the right amount of content that satisfies the user’s query and provides the standout answer she wants.

But (because there’s always a “but” in SEO…..)

Google may not have an official word count stance, but research does show that longer copy can position better.

What’s the latest word-count research?

A 2017 study by ahrefs found the average #1 ranking page will also position for about 1,000 related keywords — which is something super-short content can’t do.

In a 2018 study, ahrefs found that longer copy positioned better:

HubSpot, in their 2017 post, found their blog post sweet spot was 2,500 words:

A joint study by BuzzSumo and Brian Dean found that long-form content gets more links than short blog posts:

This shows that long-form content does have benefits. It will position for more keyphrases and gain better backlinks over its shorter-copy brethren.

Viola Eva discussed this in a 2019 Search Engine Journal article. Her take:

The path to ranking success looks like:

  • Longer content leads to more links.
  • More links lead to better rankings (and more organic traffic).

It seems what might be ranking the website is not so much the content length itself (though it for sure helps to be competitive with the Page 1 results), but firstly the amount of links the page received. Guides, skyscrapers, pillar pages, and content hubs make the most interesting link targets.

This makes sense. Especially when you consider that over 91 percent of content gets no traffic from Google. None. Nada. 91 percent. Ouch.

Is it any wonder why companies think that long-form is the only way to go?

But…

Should you always write long-form copy? No. 

Shorter content can and does position.

For instance, the top-positioned page for the query [how to brew black tea] is 798 words. That’s still a lot of words — but the page has a number one result and position zero.

The top result for [how to restart a Fitbit versa] is a scant 94 words:

Remember that Google Quality Raters link I included earlier? The article is just 171 words long and positions at number two for [google quality rating guidelines].

So, there’s no hard and fast rule.

How should SEO writers determine the best word count?

Your answer: Quit wondering “what Google wants” and focus on your reader.

The content length should depend on the user query and what your reader needs to see.

That means:

Plan on conducting some competitive research before you start writing.

SEO writing is more than shoving keyphrases into content. In today’s world, you also need to check out your top-10 competition. Things to look for include:

  • How have other sites approached the content?
  • Do their posts provide videos, graphics, or lists?
  • What makes their page an authority page?
  • Does the page link to other authority sites?
  • Who is the author? Are they a recognized expert in their field?

The key isn’t to copy a top-10 page. However, it is smart to see what’s currently positioning. This way, you can develop a writing strategy and make your content even better.

Throw your assumptions out the window.

One of the biggest SEO writing challenges is dealing with people who “just know” what works for their readers — but they don’t back up their opinions with data.

For instance, many writers think sales pages should be short (under 250 words) because “readers don’t want to scroll.”

However, companies create long sales copy all the time. And it works.

For instance, this product page from Brookstone is over 688 words long. This HubSpot sales page is over 1,300 words.

Plus, Neil Patel found that long-form copy positioned better, plus provided a higher conversion rate and better-quality leads.

Long copy can indeed clunk and be visually overwhelming. But, that’s true of any poorly-written page. As Seth Godin says, “Please, give me something long (but make it worth my time.)”

Dive into your analytics and roll around in the data.

SEO writers can’t ignore analytics anymore. The data is too tasty, valuable, and fascinating to ignore. Google Analytics and Search Console provide the in-depth information you need to know. And, you can always dive into specialized solutions like Serpstat, ahrefs, or SEMrush for more information.

Analytics will tell you:

  • What are your most popular posts?
  • Which posts get great Google positions — and which ones are ignored?
  • Which posts are positioning?
  • What are your post bounce rates?

If you’re freelancing, don’t be afraid to ask your clients for their analytics information. The data will help you better understand what’s working — and how to make their SEO content strategy even better.

Write as much as you need to — and not one word more.

Godin may write a 150-word post one day and a 1,500-word post the next. And that’s OK. Either way, his word count represents how long it takes to get his point across – and no more. 

“Fluffing up” a page just to meet a certain word-count requirement is horrible for your readers and it won’t help boost your Google rankings. Plus, since we’ve seen that shorter copy can still position, there’s no percentage to adding more content “just in case.” Focus on answering the query, instead.

Finally, think about this when you’re writing the copy:

  • Have I said everything I could?
  • Have I overcome all objections?
  • Have I showcased the product or service?
  • Is the keyphrase usage seamless?
  • Does the copy encourage the next conversion step?
  • Have I connected with my reader?

If your answer is “yes,”you’ve done your job.

It’s as simple as that.

(Note: This post originally ran 11 years ago! Wow! So much has changed since then.)

Now, you can get the latest SEO writing tips sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for the SEO Copywriting Buzz newsletter today.

What Does an SEO Copywriter Do, Anyway?

Welcome back!  In today’s video post, Heather answers a question from the LinkedIn SEO Copywriting group:  What does an SEO copywriter do, anyway? It is an excellent question, as many folks are somewhat mystified by the words “SEO copywriting.”  Whether you’re in the online writing profession, or are considering hiring a SEO copywriter, you will learn a lot in just a few minutes,  as Heather tackles this question in her second Q & A video post.

What Do They Write?

  • An SEO copywriter may create content for blogs, Facebook posts and tweets (often know as a social media writer), or…
  • She may create sales and informational copy for Websites, writing content that helps people take action and buy the product or service offered.

The common denominator is that in SEO copywriting, all writing is “wrapped around” keyphrases.  The SEO copywriter knows how to research those keyphrases, or knows what the keyphrase research means, and she also knows how to skillfully incorporate those keyphrases within the page copy in a way that they fit and flow smoothly.

SEO Copywriters Are a Crucial Part of the Equation in a SEO Campaign

The image of the well-known marketing expert, Seth Godin, is shown because he is quoted as saying that “the best SEO is great content.”

How he meant that is, when you have a really well-written page, people will want link to it, because they want to link out to good quality content.  Well-composed, high-quality pages tend to attract more readers, and keep them on the site longer.

This is important to consider when hiring or working with a SEO copywriter, because you need to have solid, quality content on your site.  The writing needs to be good, and read smoothly.  You want to steer clear of clunky, keyphrase-riddled copy.

The Words SEO Copywriters Use Help Drive Traffic and Make Money

SEO copywriters are also crucial to the equation from a sales and conversions perspective, because their incorporation of keyphrases within the copy helps to drive traffic and income.  Their skilled writing will help visitors take that next conversions step, whether it’s going to another page in the site, or buying a product, or requesting more information.

SEO Copywriters Work in Conjunction with a Great SEO/Social Team

The chart by Matt McGee aptly demonstrates the many components that make up a successful SEO campaign.  The SEO copywriter plays an essential role in the overarching campaign, as noted, and may work with a number of team members such as programmers, web designers, social media and content strategists.  Ultimately, it is the SEO copywriter that creates the content that attracts traffic, engages the audience, and encourages site conversions.

 

SEO Copywriting Overwhelm? What to Focus on First

Greetings! Today’s video post answers the common reader question: “What should I focus on first in an SEO copywriting campaign?” This question is asked ever more frequently, by businesses both large and small, because there are so many SEO copywriting and content marketing opportunities out there that it can be overwhelming.

Back in the day, SEO copywriters were primarily concerned with creating websites and producing content for those sites. Now, there’s that plus social media venues like Facebook and Twitter, blogs, perhaps e-books and white papers, all vying for your attention. While all these opportunities are great, the typical content marketer can get completely overwhelmed by all the competing options and lose her momentum because she has no idea where to start first.

Tune in as Heather suggests solid ways to find your focus and get the SEO copywriting and content marketing ball rolling again:

You can figure out ideas for a starting point for your SEO copywriting campaign based on:

1. Analytics

If you don’t have any kind of website analytics installed on your site (such as Google Analytics, which is free), then it is strongly recommended that you do so. Analytics helps you make informed decisions about your website and related marketing content – anything else is only an educated guess. Analytics allows you to drill down into your data so you can figure out exactly what is going on.

2. Site Goals

What are your website goals? What do you want to be when you grow up with your site? After creating your website, it’s easy to want to move on to the next big thing, such as starting a Twitter campaign, when really – considering where your business is at right now – it may not be the best thing to focus on first. It may be a smarter and more cost-effective move to start with smaller, readily do-able things which many companies have realized great gains from…

A sampling of low-hanging fruit tasks includes:

  • Conduct keyphrase research/revise your current research: While this especially applies to new sites, if you haven’t revisited your analytics for awhile this may be the time to do so.  You may well find that some keyphrases that worked when you started out are no longer performing.
  • Train your staff in the latest Web SEO writing techniques: This particularly applies to those of you stuck in the “I need to produce content but don’t have the budget” track. It can prove very cost-effective to have a staff member involved with your content marketing trained in SEO copywriting best practices.
  • Determine what content is working and write more of it.
  • Repurpose existing content (e.g., turn a blog into tweets).
  • Poll your customers/readers and ask what they’d like to see.
  • Guest blog: this is a great way to get exposure to other markets.
  • Get outside help: We all sometimes suffer from being so close to our work that we don’t see content opportunities. There’s no shame in having someone on the “outside” review your content with a fresh perspective.

Here’s an Easy Way to Test New Messaging

Does your site’s tone and feel seem…off…somehow?

Maybe your current copy is too formal, and you know you’re losing your audience. (I’m looking at you, B2B, legal and financial sites.)

Or, your target audience has changed — and what worked for your Gen X audience doesn’t quite click with your new Millennial market.

Or, you may just hate your content. That happens too.

Sure, you may be motivated to make some big changes. But, let’s face it. Rewriting pages to reflect a new voice is time-consuming, expensive and a huge gamble.

After all, your challenge is figuring out the right tone and feel that grabs your reader’s attention and doesn’t let go. 

So, how can you easily (and safely) test different “voice” approaches — plus, get almost instant feedback?

This is where things get interesting…

As many of you know, I launched a side hustle business called Pivot Hacks. I coach entrepreneurs who want to have more fun, make more money, and not work so darn hard.

This is a brand-new business with a brand-new target audience, so I’m still playing with the messaging.

To get better data, I’ve been running a little experiment over the past six months…

LinkedIn is where I see the most social leads. So, every week, I post different “types” of posts with slightly different messaging. Some of my posts are SEO-related (I test those posts, too.) Some of them are more motivational and “coachy.”

My goal?

I wanted to see what “clicked” with different target audiences and sparked great conversations.

I tracked the comments, reactions (including who reacted), sentiment, and who was reading my content. Granted, LinkedIn doesn’t give the greatest metrics — but I had enough.

Here’s what I learned:

What do my SEO readers love?

This won’t surprise you. My readers love irreverent musings with a dash of snark.

Yes, my newsletter already reflects this style. (I know you love my snarkiness.) Now, I’m experimenting rolling it out to my main site pages.

For instance, I’ve made some tweaks to my in-house SEO training sessions page. So far, the response has been positive — even from larger brands. 

That makes me happy.

Now, here’s what really surprised me…

Remember how I said I posted some motivational and “coachy” posts? 

Those posts outperform my SEO posts every. single. time.

Especially, my recent posts about taking a digital detox and #rewindthegrind. One of my posts even trended (#hustle.)

Which teaches me what people really want.

People are craving a digital detox. They don’t want to “check in” while they’re trying to relax. Instead, they want a true vacation from their businesses. And, they are looking for systems and processes to make it happen.

I had no idea.

(If you feel this way too, please leave a comment. I’m curious to know who else is feeling the grind.)

So, what was cool about this test?

It was free (other than the time it took to write the posts.) Free is good.

I felt free to experiment. I wasn’t worried about SEO or Google.

I learned things. Sure, I’ll keep posting my SEO posts. But, now that I know my more motivational posts reach a wider audience and spark a different conversation, I’ll post more of them. Which is a fun challenge after 20+ years of SEO.

What do you think?

How do you test your messaging? Is this something you could try for your own site? Leave a comment and let me know!

SEO Content Marketing Roundup, Week Ending January 19th, 2011

Cultivating your competitive edge is the theme of this week’s latest and greatest web writing news.  It’s a proverbial jungle out there, and advice on how to successfully pen and market your way through it — from content and social media marketing to SEO and search – dominates the buzz.  Get your competitive edge starting with this week’s selections:

Content Marketing:

2011 is going to be the year of the tablet, from the Kindle to the iPad to smart phones, according to this Seth Godin post that looks at the evolution of internet marketing.

Copyblogger posts its latest weekly wrap, including an exceptional piece about creating exceptional content.

Great article at iMedia Connection about building the buzz to boost your brand, and a second smart read at Harvard Business Review discuses the new calculus of competition.

This Neuroscience Marketing post reviews the book, The Price of Everything: Solving the Mystery of Why We Pay What We Do, by Eduardo Porter.

And speaking of things print, Content Marketing Institute announced the launch of its Chief Content Officer magazine, available in both print and digital.

SEO & Search:

An SEO checklist for social media marketers is posted at SEOmoz, as well as more traditional SEO fare such as exploring the challenge of doing SEO for sites and products with no search demand.

Ross Dawson discusses the kinds of context that will define contextual search on his blog, and Lisa Barone addresses dumb SEO mistakes at Outspoken Media.

Speaking of Google antics, did you receive a negative review on Google Maps?  Looks like you may be stuck with it, according to this post by Barry Schwartz.

Search Engine Journal posts a how-to on maximizing your existing content for link-building purposes, and Search News Central discusses how to perform a competitive link analysis.

Social Media Marketing:

More competition: Blog World recommends doing a competitive analysis to improve your blog, while Social Media Examiner discusses how to gain competitive insight via social media.

SME has announced the 2011 winners of its Top 10 Social Media Blogs competition.

In the meantime, Problogger released its list of the 40 bloggers to watch in 2011.

eMarketer predicts that social network advertising in the U.S. will explode this year, driven  by Facebook.  Meanwhile, Mashable reports that StumbleUpon recently set a new record of 27.5 million stumbles in one day.

This Click Z column by Liana Evans shares tips for optimizing and integrating your social media across channels.

Jon Rognerud recommends 20 tools to help measure social media user engagement and track ROI at his blog, and Sexy Social Media discusses social media trustbait (think social media’s version of linkbait) as the future.

Finally, a fun SEOmoz post by Dan Zarella addresses the different makeup of Twitter vs. Facebook users.  The blog title is precious.

SEO Copywriting vs. Social Media Writing: What’s the Difference?

It’s not often that something leaves me speechless.

I was chatting with someone who said, “SEO copywriting is so 10 years ago. Now it’s all about social media writing.”

Uh, what?

That’s when I realized that some people believe that SEO copywriting and social media writing are two different skill sets.

Back in the day (around 2001,) “SEO copywriting” was more commonly referred to as “writing for search engines.” It encompassed any keyword-based online writing, including directory listings (I remember when getting a Yahoo directory listing was a big deal,) articles, PPC ads and sales-oriented pages.

The term “SEO copywriting” came about to differentiate the unique direct response writing style that grew out of this new niche. Copywriters were forced to satisfy two target audiences:

  • The automated, soulless search engines (making sure the right keywords were in the right places the right way,)
  • Prospects (using proven direct-response techniques to encourage the sale.)

As far as I know, SEO writing is the first time copywriters were “forced” to include certain words in the main content to make the content searchable.

Granted, us “writing to sell” copywriters were still creating articles, white papers and other types of “non-sales” writing. We just lumped any keyword writing service under the SEO copywriting umbrella.

Now, we have blogs, Twitter and Facebook. We’re communicating with folks in real-time, breaking down the stuffy corporate Website walls and humanizing our companies. We write linkbait posts to drive traffic, send targeted tweets about our companies (knowing that tweets appear in Google search results, too,) and pray that people like and share our latest musings.

From where I sit, social media writing is just SEO copywriting in a different wrapper.

  • Social media writers need to understand keyphrase research (like SEO copywriters.)
  • Social media writers need to understand the audience and write incredibly engaging content (like SEO copywriters.)
  • Social media writers create content to meet a specific goal: More subscribers, more search engine traffic, more referrals from Twitter, more interest in a product or service. Sure, we talk about “engagement.” But at the end of the day, it’s all about driving income.

Having said that, there are some important differences.

  • Not all social media writers know how to write to sell. Direct response copywriting is a very unique skill set that’s based in neuropsychology, psychology and years of testing. A general blogger (who doesn’t usually write sales copy) may not write copy that converts as highly as a dedicated copywriter. To paraphrase Austin Powers, direct-response writing, “may not be their bag, baby.”
  • By the same token, some copywriters can’t shake the sales out of their writing no matter how hard they try. They try to write an informative blog post and make it sound like a squeeze page. The immediacy of Twitter, (“What do you mean I can’t edit my Tweet once I’ve hit send. What if I think of another way to say it?”) freaks them out. Sales copy keeps them happy. Anything else…not so much.

What do you think? Are there any other major differences between SEO content writers and social media writers? What do you call what you do for a living (or what your in-house copywriters do?). Copywriter or social media writer?

What’s the Best Keyword Research Tool to Use?

Are you looking for the best keyword research tool out there — but there are too many confusing options?

You’re not alone.

A popular thread in the SEO Copywriting LinkedIn group is “what’s your favorite keyphrase research tool?” People recommended 11 different tools, ranging in price from free (if you’re willing to forgo search volume information) to around $100 a month.

What’s more, there are way more than 11 keyphrase research tools on the market – so, is it any wonder it’s hard to find the best one for you?

Trying to make a choice? Here are some things to think about:

What’s your budget?

The reality is, you can’t conduct keyphrase research for free — especially if you’re working with more competitive industries. Consider what you can pay as a monthly (or yearly) cost, figuring you’ll need at least $50 a month for something decent.

If you have zero room to move, start increasing prices $25 or more a month to cover your keyphrase research costs. The cost shouldn’t be enough to freak out your clients, and it should mostly (or completely) pay for the tools you need.

Do you need the basics or all the bells and whistles?

Some keyphrase research tools just provide keyword data (such as KeywordTool.io.) Other tools are more robust and provide positioning information, competitive intelligence and site audit capabilities (like SEMrush.)

If you don’t need the bells and whistles, and you focus mostly on blogging/web content writing, save yourself some money and look for a basic platform. You can upgrade later.

If you’re helping clients with their content strategy, running content site audits and working with larger clients, a more robust tool will be your best friend. Yes, they cost more (Moz Pro, for example, is $99/month, paid monthly.) But, they will make it easy for you to find the competitive data you need more quickly.

Is it a platform you enjoy using?

Most keyphrase research tools give you a free trial, whether it’s a limited freemium account, or a 7-day free deal (sometimes, you can even find 30-day trials!). In many cases, you’ll have to give up your credit card information. It’s worth it.

The last thing you want to do is get stuck with a keyphrase research tool you hate using. Check out a few platforms and get a feel for the process. Is it easy to use? Is the data easy to find and understand? Does it provide all the data you need — or, does it confuse you with “too much” data? The best keyword research tool is the one you enjoy using.

Is the price too good to be true?

Beware of inexpensive tools that say they’re “just as good” as a more robust alternative. These tools may provide basically the same information as Google’s Keyword Planner, just in a different package. (Side note: I beg of you. Don’t use Google’s Keyword Planner for keyphrase research. Please.)

You’re looking for companies with high-quality databases, not one with a limited data set that won’t give you the information you need.  To be sure about your choice, ask yourself…

Do other experts recommend the platform?

Search experts love test-driving (and recommending) good SEO tools. If you see experts recommending the same tool, it’s definitely one to check out. On the flip side, if a company’s testimonials are sketchy-sounding, like from “Bob S. site designer,” you may want to investigate further before typing in your credit card number.

(And yes, good, low-cost (and even free) keyphrase research tools is a topic I cover in the SEO Content Writing: Step-by-Step course.)

What keyword research tools did the LinkedIn group recommend?

Good question.

Here’s the list of recommended keyword research tools. Starred entries (*) are better for content brainstorming than finding search volume information.

*KeywordTool.io (free) KeywordTool PRO does provide search volume information.

SEMrush

Keyword Finder

LongTail Pro

SE Cockpit

*Answer the Public

SerpStat

Amazon reviews (as one poster called them, “keywords straight from the prospect’s mouth!”)

SpyFu

Quora (to see your audiences’ pain points based on their queries.)

Moz

What about you?

What’s your favorite keyword research tool? Share it in the comments!

Learn from the Experts: Tips for Creating & Promoting Stellar Content

Recently, we shared several evergreen resources for creating conversions-driving content that featured copywriting formulas and how-tos for crafting compelling headlines and email subject lines.

Today, we follow up with expert strategies, tips and tools for writing persuasive web copy, including home and landing pages, as well as engaging, shareable blogs and articles. We also share some great resources for content promotion.

Writing Powerful & Persuasive Website Copy

How to Create Landing Pages That Convert

By Kiera Abbamonte via Kissmetrics

Describing how a manufacturing company increased their conversion rate by a whopping 1250 percent, Kiera Abbamonte credits their landing page redesign.

Specifically, she writes, the company switched out a crowded, confusing web page for a landing page that adhered to “four basic tenets”: doing one thing really well by giving visitors only one option; using visual elements to guide viewers’ eyes to the call-to-action; being reasonable about the amount of information requested of visitors; and finally, focusing on the benefits customers will receive.

Abbamonte lists what should and should not be included on a landing page, as well as a number of best practices. She then offers examples of what successful landing pages look like. Definitely a keeper!

A Practical Marketers Guide to Writing for Conversion

By Joanna Wiebe via Unbounce

If you want to write great copy, swipe it from your visitors, customers and prospects…” writes Joanna Wiebe. The more your website’s home and landing page messages reflect what your customers are thinking, feeling and experiencing when they come to your site, she continues, the more they’ll trust you, believe you’ve created the solution to their problems and buy from you.

Wiebe replicates the five questions she asks when conducting a customer survey, and details how she uses responses to write high-converting landing page copy for her clients. Readers are encouraged to download her free template and follow the four-step process she outlines. It’s an ingenious system that has clearly worked well for Wiebe, right at your fingertips.

8 Ways Your Home Page Is Like A Multiple Choice Test

By Brian Massey via Marketing Land

Your site’s home page should follow the form but not the function of a multiple-choice test, writes Brian Massey (a.k.a., The Conversion Scientist™). Rather than challenge your visitors to select the right choice, your home page should “get the visitor into the site and on the right path – not distract or confuse”. Its job is to answer the question: “why did your visit our website today?”

The “right” answers you provide (with links to your site’s internal pages) are the ones that makes sense, Massey continues, while all other answers (notably, social media links) are distractors. Other multiple-choice test principles that you can apply to optimize your home page include writing the “correct” answer first and providing three to five answer choices (i.e., internal links) for your site visitors. You’ll want to keep this gem handy for reference!

11 Copywriting Tips: How to Turn Marketing Drivel into Serious Sales Copy

By Henneke Duistermaat via Enchanting Marketing

Marketing drivel has its tells, mostly in sounding insincere and sleazy, writes Henneke Duistermaat. She challenges copywriters to eliminate the fluff from their sales content by implementing 11 tips that include using specific numbers, slicing out superlatives and eliminating unnecessary adjectives. Before you hit publish, edit your copy at least once more with Duistermaat’s tips fresh in your mind.

Creating & Promoting Content for a Conversions-Driving Strategy

Generating blog posts or long-form articles is an integral part of most any content marketing strategy, both for B2B and B2C companies. So how do you create content that is “engaging” and “shareable”? And how do you go about promoting it?

Here are eight strategies, tools and other resources for everything from content ideation to promotion:

Content Ideation & Creation: Inspiration & Instruction

Staring at a blank screen while staring down a deadline? Don’t stress out… Here are tips and tools for coming up with ideas, as well as for the nitty-gritty of creating great content.

8 Blog Topic Generators for Blog Post Idea Inspiration

By Megan Marrs via WordStream

In this candid review of content idea generators, Megan Marrs assesses those by familiar sources such as HubSpot and Portent as well as those with names like Link Bait Generator and Content Strategy Helper. She provides examples and tips for when and how you might use each, but concludes they are more the same than different. Try them out to see which best suit your needs!

6 Tools to Help Turn Trends Into Valuable Content

By Ann Smarty via Content Marketing Institute

If you’re looking for timely, newsworthy content ideas, Ann Smarty suggests sources that include Reddit, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Trends.

To best leverage each platform, she recommends tools such as IFTTT (If-This-Then-That) recipes for email notifications on relevant Reddit updates, DrumUp for crawling the more traditional social media sites, and WordPress RSS aggregator to combine your favorite content sources into one feed. Smarty provides helpful details about how to best use each tool; you’ll definitely want to investigate them firsthand.

The Single Best Way to Create Hit Content in Record Time

By Demian Farnworth via Copyblogger

Demian Farnworth points out that the most readily available source of excellent content is the high-performing evergreen posts you’ve already created.

He writes that republishing – meaning, updating and polishing an old article for publishing on a new date — is a strategy that reaps several benefits. The five he lists include attracting more links and social shares by exposing old content to a new, larger audience, and punching “Google’s freshness button”.

Farnworth illustrates how to republish in WordPress with screenshots, and shares a checklist of what you should do to breathe new life into your old content. A handy guide to keep around!

How To Go Viral: Lessons From The Most Shared Content of 2015

By Steve Rayson via Buzzsumo

Reporting on Buzzsumo’s analysis of over 1 billion pieces of content published in 2015, Steve Rayson writes that like the previous year, viral posts remain “insightful outliers” and there is “no magic formula”.

However, their analysis (of mostly B2C posts) did reveal four “different elements” frequently found in viral content that may help in creating more engaging and shareable posts. The elements fall under emotional, topical, formatting and content categories. For example, topical elements included health and fitness, emotional elements “surprising” and “shocking”, content elements images and video, etc.

Rayson suggests using combinations of these elements in both content and headlines, and underscores the importance of a composing (and testing) a compelling headline. He further notes that their research indicates that it’s not only the content per se, but its amplification that are key to significant sharing. (For Rayson’s report on the best performing B2B content of 2015, see this related article.)

60 Steps for Your Content Writing Checklist

By Leslie Vos via Convince & Convert

Admittedly, 60 steps to anything seems a bit much until you realize that the author, Leslie Vos, organizes the checklist into three categories. She begins with topic ideation and ends with “content support”, such as responding to reader comments.

In the center “prelaunch” stage, she discusses the heart of the matter for creating your content. Starting with headlines, Vos covers media files (such as images) and copyright, on-page optimization and links, mobile-friendliness, as well as overall content structure.

Her checklist is sprinkled with links to authoritative sources for more information, and definitely worthy of bookmarking for reference.

Content Promotion: Tools & Strategies

As you’ve likely heard more times than you care to remember, it is no longer enough to simply create stellar content. Now, for it to reach your target readers, you have to promote it. The common stat quoted in content marketing discussions is the 80/20 rule: for any given blog post or article, you should spend 20 percent of your time creating it, and the remaining 80 percent promoting it.

Here are tools and strategies to help with content promotion:

Blog Promotionology, The Art & Science of Blog Promotion

By Mike Allton via The Social Media Hat

Get ready to get educated: Mike Allton’s mega how-to is a thorough schooling in all you need to know about promoting your blog, beginning with “prerequisites” such as social sharing icons, RSS feeds, Rich Pins and Twitter Cards – as well as a discussion of actual blog content.

Allton offers a detailed description of his blog promotion process, complete with the social sharing tools he employs and how he uses them. He discusses alternative social platforms like Blab and Periscope, and promotion techniques such as teasing out an upcoming post on social media and (delicately) notifying Twitter followers about a new post with direct messaging.

Allton also covers paid promotion options and influencer marketing, as well as repurposing and syndicating blog posts. His tutorial is full of links and helpful tips – a rich resource for your how-to library.

Infographic: The Optimal Length for Every Social Media Update and More

By Kevan Lee via Buffer Social

This infographic post by Kevan Lee is accompanied by data-backed text discussing the ideal length of social media updates and the reasoning behind the numbers.

The “more” from the post’s title encompasses most all of the online content you can think of, with optimal word counts for blog posts, headlines, email subject lines, hastags, domain names, SEO title tags and paragraphs (width-wise).

The ambitious post also delves into the ideal length of podcasts, YouTube videos, SlideShare and speaking presentations, and concludes with the ideal image size for Pinterest posts. Yet another great resource to bookmark!

Want More Effective Content Promotion? Choose From These 15 Tools

By Neil Patel via Quick Sprout

Noting that promoting content often consumes more time than creating it, Neil Patel shares 15 tools to help writers “achieve efficiency” in their efforts, as well as better, more consistent results.

The tools he details fall under email, social media, and SEO (linking). They are designed to boost conversions and/or give you analytical insights into relevant data while sparing you from repetitive, mind-numbing tasks.

The six email tools he discusses will help with either improving open rates, saving you time, or increasing conversions (meaning, from views to reads and responses). Patel also shares five social media tools to minimize that time suck, including a nifty image sharer plugin by SumoMe.

Finally, he discusses tools for acquiring more links to your content, four of which are from Citation Labs. Patel describes how to use the tools for checking broken links, link prospecting, and scaling link building via accessing a link database.

All of the content promotion tools he reviews have their own merits, and he notes which ones carry a price tag. You’ll definitely want to explore them and see which ones might work best for your needs.

Your Turn

And that’s a wrap of our review of copywriting resources. As with Part 1, there were a plethora of sources to sift through so if we missed one…or 5…that you’d like to share, please do so in the comments. Thank you!