Ignite Your Copy with This Hot Strategy

Greetings! You will love this week’s Web-writing video, as Heather takes it waaaay back old school with her SEO copywriting how-to on writing content the AIDA way.

So what is AIDA? Glad you asked. It’s an acronym for: “Attention, Interest, Desire, Action” and is one of those tried-and-true, powerful copywriting strategies that when skillfully applied, can take your Web writing from lukewarm to smokin’ hot!

Tune in as Heather reveals the magic and mojo of this old-school copywriting strategy:

What’s AIDA?

  • Acronym developed in the late 1800’s.
  • Describes the common phases people go through when viewing an advertisement (or a landing page!)
  • Oldie but goodie – AIDA is still relevant today.

AIDA is an acronym created in the late 1880’s by an advertising executive, describing the common phases most people go through when viewing an (effective) advertisement: attention, interest, desire, then action.

So the elements that you want to have in your copy move people through the sales funnel, from “Oh, this is kinda interesting” to “Oh! I need to buy this right now!”

AIDA is an “oldie but goodie” and still highly relevant today, especially in terms of your landing pages. When people do that search and click on your SERP listing, and then hit your site’s landing page, you want that page to be completely relevant to their needs – particularly if it’s a sales page!

This means that you’ll have to write your content in a certain way that grabs their attention and compels them to take that next conversions step.

So, let’s talk about what AIDA means:

A = Attention

  • It’s important to immediately grab the reader’s attention.
  • Think about your headlines. Are they compelling?
  • To be truly effective, you need to write something that resonates with your target audience.

The first “A” is for Attention: you want to immediately grab the reader’s attention. A lot of times this is done with a compelling headline, although certainly your body copy has to be really powerful, too.

To be truly effective, you need to write something that resonates with your target audience. Heather’s discussed the importance of developing a customer persona and creating content that clicks with your target market many times before, via the SEO Copywriting blog and her YouTube SEO Copywriting channel.

So instead of writing this generalized copy that appeals to everyone, you need to think about the person who is actually going to be visiting your site and looking at your products and services: you want to be sure that your copy speaks to her, directly.

I = Interest

  • You’ve got their attention. Now you have to grab their interest.
  • This is where your benefit statements and “what’s in it for me” comes into play.
  • The benefits need to be targeted towards your specific audience.

You’ve got their attention: you’ve written that killer headline and drawn them into the copy – now, you have to grab their interest.

This is where your precision benefit statements and targeted “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM) messages come into play. You’ll notice Heather’s got her WIIFM guy in the screenshot, because again, you’re writing content in a way that is going to resonate with the specific folks who are coming to your site: your target audience. Your benefit statements have to be directed towards them.

So when you’re developing your customer persona, think about who these people are and what is important to them, and make sure your content speaks to that.

D = Desire

  • You’ve got their interest. Now it’s time to spark their desire.
  • Special pricing, additional features and testimonials help build that desire.
  • You’re psychologically helping your prospect feel better about the purchase/contacting you.
  • Help them picture working with you/using your product.

So you’ve got their attention and their interest: now it’s time to get your prospects really thinking that they want your product or your service.


Special pricing offers, bonus goodies and testimonials can be highly effective in nudging your prospects towards making the buy decision. What you’re doing is moving them along the conversion funnel, from “Yeah, you’ve got my attention” to “Yeah! I think that this is something I’m really interested in!”

You want to help your prospects to picture working with you, or using your product.

And finally, it all comes down to….

A = Action

This is where that main conversion happens!

  • Your prospect is ready to buy/convert. Make it easy for them.
  • Add calls to action to your content.
  • Don’t clutter the page and make it confusing.

Your prospects are now ready to buy, to convert, to do whatever it is you want them to do – the key is to make it easy for them.

And this is where a lot of sites fall down: they want people to buy that product, but they make it hard to do so, or they want people to contact them, but then they bury that contact information so it’s really difficult for folks to take that next step.

So make sure that it’s really clear what your prospects need to do to take action, and make sure that it’s really easy to do so!

Some e-commerce folks have that “add to cart” icon on the upper right corner of their home page, which is great. But you can also consider adding a call-to-action to your content.

Another mistake some site owners make is assuming that since their prospects are ready to buy, then it’s an opportune time to throw a bunch of other things at them. This is not the case: you don’t want to confuse or overwhelm your would-be buyers by cluttering up the page. Keep it clear, clean and simple.

Thanks for tuning in to this week’s SEO copywriting how-to, and have a great week (and for U.S. folks, a great holiday weekend)! We’ll be back with another hot SEO Copywriting video tip on the Monday following Memorial Day – June 4th. See you then!

Related reading: Angie Nikoleychuk wrote a fantastic guest post for us about AIDA as it relates to link bait. Check out How to seduce readers and woo – bait – links. Thanks for the inspiration, Angie! :)

Want to learn how to Google-proof your Web copy post-Panda & Penguin? Sign up for the free SEO Copywriting Buzz newsletter, either daily or weekly, and get your free copy of Heather’s How to write for Google whitepaper!

photo thanks to EvanLovely

Which Should It Be: Pinterest or Google+?

Pinterest or Google+?

Both of these social networks have broken up the Twitter/Facebook monopoly. In the last year, Google+ has gained 100 million active followers and Pinterest has expanded rapidly to become the 3rd most popular social network.

Not surprisingly, marketers have taken notice. Making Google+ and/or Pinterest part of your social media strategy is a smart move. Based on their early performances, these social networks will be an integral part of an effective social strategy from here on out.

Choosing one or the other isn’t necessary – but it’s a smart move if you want more targeted social media marketing. Each social network has distinct user groups, specific benefits and a few drawbacks.

Taking a Look at the Stats

Understanding the difference between Google+ and Pinterest is as simple as looking at the stats for each social network:

What to know about Google+:

  • As of April 2012, Google reports that Google+ now has 170 million active users. (Google)
  • As of January 2012, American users spent an average of 3.3 minutes on Google+. (eMarketer)
  • Websites using the +1 button generate 3.5x the Google+ visits than sites without the button. (HubSpot)
  • Two of the biggest user groups on Google+ are college students and software developers. (Remcolandia)
  • 63% of Google+ users are male. (Remcolandia)
  • Over 40% of marketers report that Google+ is “useful to critical” for their business. (HubSpot 2012 State of Inbound Marketing Report)
  • Google+ is expected to attract 400 million users by the end of 2012. (Remcolandia)

What to know about Pinterest:

  • As of February 2012, Pinterest had accumulated 10.4 million users. (AppData)
  • As of January 2012, American users spent an average of 97.8 minutes on Pinterest. (eMarketer)
  • As of January 2012, Pinterest accounted for 3.6% of referral traffic. (Shareaholic)
  • The top interests on Pinterest in the U.S. include crafts, gifts, hobbies/leisure, interior design, and fashion designers/collections. (Ragan.com)
  • 80% of Pinterest’s users are female. (comScore)
  • Pinterest referrals spend 70% more than visitors referred from non-social channels, including search, according to industry reports. (Wayfair)
  • With over 11 million unique monthly visitors (and counting), Pinterest became the fastest standalone website to eclipse the 10 million per month mark ever. (PR Daily)

The growth of both social networks has been impressive – but they clearly have different audiences and different benefits. In order to use one or the other effectively, you need to evaluate your goals.

Know What You Want from Social Media

Knowing your organization’s needs and capabilities for social media marketing will help you select between Pinterest and Google+.

Is your business targeted specifically toward a particular industry, job or gender?

Use the social network that your ideal clients are using. For example, if your target market is developers and other marketers, Google+ is a natural fit. For crafts based businesses, food related companies and products for a female audience; Pinterest would be a much better choice. Speak to the crowd by picking the right platform.

What Type of Traffic are You Seeking? 

Google+ has some unique search engine optimization benefits. Sharing your own links and resources can improve your quality score for your entire site. Having Google+ can enhance your chances for a higher search engine ranking.

Alternatively, Pinterest is a terrific referral traffic generator. If you have some interesting visual elements, product pictures or infographics that you want to spread across the social web, Pinterest is the way to go. Sharing visuals and images can bring more targeted visitors directly to your website.

Can You be Involved Enough to Make an Impact?

Before diving in, do you have the resources to manage another platform effectively? Although Google+ users spend less time on the site than Pinterest users do on their social media platform choice, both require investment and community involvement.

You can’t expect to start a profile, update it infrequently and reap any benefits. It’s better to be involved on a few platforms effectively than spread your resources too thin.

Pinterest vs. Google+ isn’t an issue that will go away anytime soon. With their meteoric rise in users and traffic potential, one or the other is worth your businesses’ time. It just depends on your target market, your traffic goals and your resources.

Do you use Google+ or Pinterest? Or both? Why?

About the Author – Courtney Ramirez

Courtney Ramirez is a proud graduate of the SuccessWorks’ SEO Copywriting Certification training program, and CEO of Six Degrees Content. She is passionate about helping small businesses compete with the big boys with skilled SEO copywriting and content marketing. You can connect with Courtney on Twitter @CourtneyRamirez.

photo thanks to TheBusyBrain

Does Your Copy Suck the Life out of Your Conversions?

What’s scarier than zombies, witches and vampires combined?

Bad sales copy that sucks the life out of your conversions.

You may say, “Well, our sales copy is performing OK – I check our analytics.” And that’s good. But I want to teach you how to transform your “good” sale copy into “great” – and turn your sales up to a Spinal Tap 11.

And all it’s going to take is a little bit of time.

It’s easy to develop a blind spot around our sites. Although we may see it every day, we probably aren’t looking at it very closely. Spending some time reviewing your site can uncover a huge list of opportunities – and help you decide what to tweak.

So let’s get started!

For the purposes of this initial review, focus on your top sales pages first. Then, you can repeat the exercise around other site sections (for instance, your blog or resource pages.)

First, you’ll want to read your copy as if you were a prospect.  Ask yourself:

  • Does the copy adequately explain what you do? If you were talking to someone in person, would you provide the same information in the same way?
  • Is it so stuffed with keyphrases that it detracts from the flow?
  • What if your prospects have questions? Is it easy for them to contact you?
  • Does the content address common prospect questions (Note: If you keep hearing the same questions from prospects after they’ve read the content, the answer to this would be “no.”)
  • Does the copy pop off the page? Or is it so-so?
  • Is your sales copy the same as other sites (this is especially important if you’ve been using content provided by the manufacturer.
  • Are the benefits still important to your prospects? Or, are your prospects responding to different benefit statements now?
  • Does your content even have benefit statements? ;)

Next, you’ll want to go through the ordering process as if you were a prospect. Here are some things to consider:

  • How easy is it to take the next conversion step (usually making a purchase, or contacting someone for more information?) Do you have to hunt for a “contact us” or “order now” button?
  • When you place an order or make contact, is there a confirmation email or page? What does it say? Does it manage expectations (when the order will ship and/or when you will contact the prospect.)
  • Does your follow-up information help or hurt your brand? Is it written well, or was the copy quickly thrown together?  (Here’s more information on why your marketing collateral is so important.)

Finally, it’s time to look at your page from an SEO perspective:

  • Is the content optimized for keyphrases? Or was it written without them?
  • If your copy does include keyphrases, when is the last time you conducted keyphrase research? A keyphrase focus that was applicable one or two years ago may not be applicable today.
  • Does the copy read like it was overoptimized? If you’re not sure, try reading your copy out loud. If it sounds like “keyphrase, keyphrase, keyphrase,” your answer is “yes.”
  • How are your pages ranking in Google currently?
  • Do your pages have original, keyphrase-rich Titles? Consider if you need to rewrite them for better positions and click-through.
  • How are your meta descriptions (this is a HUGE opportunity for many sites.)

If you’re feeling stuck, see if another team member can review your content and make suggestions. Or, if your internal team is “too close” to the content, consider hiring an expert consultant to help. An SEO content consultant can quickly point out your successes and challenges – and then your team can make all the necessary tweaks. It may cost your company a little bit of cash, but the results (and the improved sales) will be well, well worth it!

Your Client Is Wrong. Now What?

Sometimes, it’s not so fun to be right.

Recently, Search Engine Watch ran a great post called, “How to Help SEO Customers Who Aren’t Always Right”.  If you’ve been working as an SEO consultant or SEO copywriter, you’ve come across this issue. Your client insists that you should do things one way. You know that it’s not a good idea. And suddenly, you’re faced with a dilemma – how can you burst your client’s SEO bubble and still keep the gig?

I’ve had clients insist on keyphrase density percentages, specific word counts (1,000 words for a product page…really? REALLY?) and poorly-designed site structures. A few people insisted that they were right because they “read about it in a forum” or “learned about it in a class.” Still others believed that they could somehow game Google with their sneakiness.  I still hear folks saying things like, “I just had this great idea. What if the text was the same color as the background”

It’s so tempting to say, “Hello, 1995 is calling and they want their SEO technique back.”

I don’t, though. I restrain myself from making snarky comments (which is always a challenge for me.) But I do address the issue. If you’re facing a similar challenge, here are some tips on how to handle it:

  • Treat your client like you would treat your partner or spouse. Would you tell your partner, “Not only are you wrong, but you are so incredibly wrong that I’m questioning your intelligence?” Sure, you may think it. You may mutter it to yourself. But (hopefully) you don’t say it.  Instead of popping off, take a deep breath and keep your mouth shut.
  • Let your client explain their strategy without interrupting I know. It’s really hard to keep quiet while your client waxes poetic about a 7.3% keyphrase density. Just let them talk. If you start interrupting them with “Yes, but,” and pointing out all the ways that they’re wrong, your client won’t feel heard and she’ll go on the defensive.
  • Listen for the real reason behind the stupid strategy. It could be something like, “We don’t want to change our code, and this strategy means that we don’t have to.” Or, “it’s going to cost a lot to do it your way. This way is cheaper.” Giving your client an opportunity to “talk it out” helps you figure out what to say next.
  • Acknowledge their real concern.  Saying something like, “I hear that you’re worried about the cost…” goes a long, long way. It helps the client feel “heard” – and it puts you and your client on the same page. Then, follow up your acknowledgement by…
  • ….showing your concern and providing a solution. This is when you can share how their strategy isn’t workable (but in a nice, friendly way.) You could say something such as, “I’m concerned about the keyphrase density percentage, as many sites lost their search rankings because of content like that – and it typically doesn’t convert well. I know that driving traffic is important to you. Here’s what we could do instead…”
  • Spend some time educating your client. If your client was set on a certain strategy, it will take some time before they’ll see the light. Take some time to explain Panda, best practices and solid strategies. Then, back up what you’re saying with articles and case studies. That way, the client understands why you’re suggesting an alternative and can learn more about your solution.

What should you do if your client insists on their suspect SEO strategy after you’ve tried to talk them out of it? You may want to walk away from the gig. Or, if the strategy isn’t too bad, you could still work the gig and do your best. The way you deal with it will depend on the client and the situation.  It’s never an easy decision to make – especially when you know that your options are “walk away” or “I’ll never be able to include this work in my client portfolio…”

What situations have you faced where the client’s SEO strategy was completely off base? What did you do?

Want to read more? There’s a similar discussion in the LinkedIn SEO Copywriting group! Join the conversation (and the group, too!).

Balancing SEO and Copywriting Best Practices: A True Story

Guest Author, Nick Stamoulis

I was working with one of my social SEO clients on their blog. My SEO company, Brick Marketing, was responsible for writing two blog posts each week, which we would then promote through the client’s various social networks as they went live.

We were specifically instructed to make sure the blog posts were “SEO friendly” and would do well in the search engines. However, before we even scheduled the blog posts I would send the new posts over to my client for their approval. If they had any changes or comments about the post, they just had to email me back and I would have my writing staff change the post as directed.

One day, they sent back a blog post with so many edits, changes and corrections that you could hardly discern the original article. When I asked them what they didn’t like about the original post, my client responded “Oh no, we really liked the post. We just didn’t understand why you had put those links in there. The blue text is really weird looking. And we thought we should only focus on the same keyword through the whole post, so we removed the variations so as to not confuse our readers.”

They essentially threw the SEO component of the blog post out the window!

I’ll be the first to say that any content, whether it is a blog post, article or webpage, should be written for the reader first and the search engines second. But even great content needs a little help getting found and read by your target audience. That’s where SEO and content optimization come into play.

Here are 4 ways to balance content optimization and traditional copywriting:

1. Don’t dumb it down.

Have a little faith in your readers. Writing generic and generalized content so you can target broad keywords won’t do anyone (you or your readers) any good. Don’t be afraid to target long-tail keywords that someone further along in their research process might be using to find related information. The most specific audience you can write your content for is the best chance you’ll have of earning their business.

2. Incorporate keyword variations.

Speaking of specific keywords, there is no rule that says you have to target the exact same keyword throughout the entire blog post. Obviously you want to stick with keywords that accurately reflect the theme and messaging of the content, but don’t be afraid to throw some variations in there. This not only makes your content much more natural sounding, it also helps your content appeal to more searches. Not everyone searches for the same thing in the same way, so variations help ensure you aren’t accidentally alienating a segment of your target audience.

3. Use anchor text to get the link.

Interlinking your blog posts is a great way to keep your readers engaged, educate them further on related topics and show off your industry savvy. No blog post is an island! Obviously you don’t want to pepper your blog posts with dozens of links (it can get a little distracting for your reader) but incorporating 2-3 links via anchor text is a great way to beef up your blog’s SEO! By using anchor text instead of the full URL to direct readers to another blog post (or even a page on your site) you are keeping the flow of your content intact and spreading the link juice from more popular posts across your blog, lending more value to other posts.

4. Write first, optimize second.

Getting the words down on paper is probably the hardest part about writing a blog post. Yet some site owners seem like gluttons for punishment and think that every word has be to perfect for SEO before they can move onto the next. You don’t have to sacrifice great content in order to make a blog “SEO friendly!” In fact, site owners should write the post first and THEN go back in and see how you can tweak it for SEO. If you can’t make a keyword fit, then don’t force it in. If you can’t find a reason to link, don’t bother. Trying to stuff SEO into a blog post is only going to ruin the integrity of the post.

About the Author – Nick Stamoulis

Nick Stamoulis is an SEO consultant and President of Brick Marketing. With over 12 years of B2B SEO experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his knowledge by posting daily SEO tips to his blog, the Search Engine Optimization Journal, and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 160,000 opt-in subscribers.

4 Content Optimization Tips for E-commerce Websites

Guest Author, Nick Stamoulis

E-commerce sites often struggle with their SEO. Boring, bland product descriptions make up the bulk of the content, the URL structures are often a mess and because they rely so heavily on graphics the site speed is very slow and most of the site looks blank to the search spiders. However, that doesn’t mean that there is no hope for e-commerce sites when it comes to optimizing their content! SEO best practice guidelines still apply, but an e-commerce site might have to approach it differently than another site.

Here are 4 content optimization tips for e-commerce websites:

1. Make the product descriptions unique.

One of the most common problems plaguing e-commerce websites is that they all use the same product description sent over from the manufacturer. How are you going to make your website stand out when your content is duplicated across a dozen other e-commerce sites? Why should a potential customer choose your site over the competition? Rewrite the generic product descriptions so they include your unique selling point! Don’t be afraid to beef up the product description if you need to; the more content you have the more information there is for the search spiders to read and index. It is also easier to incorporate keywords naturally when you have more content to optimize.

2. Add customer reviews to product pages.

Customer reviews can help from both an SEO and user-experience standpoint. Online buying has become a very social activity. Consumers want to read peer reviews BEFORE they make a purchasing decision so they know it’s the right decision for them. Why let your potential customers venture off site to read a peer review when you can build it right into your website? This helps build consumer trust in your e-commerce site and might be the last push a visitor needs to become a customer. Consumer reviews also gives your site more unique content for the search spiders to read and index.

3. Create Meta data templates

If your e-commerce site is relatively small, writing unique Meta tags, Meta descriptions, title tags and H1 tags (elements of on-site SEO) might not take that long; if your site has 3,000 pages it’s another story. One way to help speed up the content optimization process of an e-commerce site is to create a dozen or so Meta data templates that you can use at random throughout your site. For instance, a Meta description template for a furniture e-commerce site might look something like this:

Shop online with [COMPANY NAME] to find unique [ROOM] furniture sets in a variety of wood types and stains. Click here to order your new [ROOM] furniture.

They could use that Meta description (and slight variations) for the dining room, bedroom, living room or kitchen furniture pages of their site. Over a large enough site, it won’t read like duplicate content. By changing up the targeted keywords depending on the page you can optimize them accordingly.

4. Try different call-to-actions

At the end of the day, an e-commerce site’s job is to sell your company’s products. One way to help your conversion rate is by changing up the call-to-actions throughout your site. For instance, with the holidays rapidly approaching you could incorporate call-to-actions such as “Buy now and guaranteed delivery by Christmas” or “Spend $50 or more and receive free holiday shipping!” There is no “perfect” call-to-action or incentive that is going to make all of the visitors to your site buy right then and there; so change it up! Find the right call-to-action that seems to resonate best with your target audience. Remember, each site is different so what works for your competition might not always work for you.

About the Author – Nick Stamoulis

Nick Stamoulis is the President and Founder of Brick Marketing a Boston based full service SEO firm. . You can contact Nick Stamoulis at [email protected]

Why Content Optimization Is Key – Thoughts About the InboundWriter Report

Recently, InboundWriter released a report called The Impact of Real-Time Content Optimization: Does Access to Search and Social Intelligence Make You a More Effective Writer?  Of course, you can guess that I’d be all over an SEO content writing study, so I definitely had to check this out.

The report discusses three different content scenarios – category landing pages for eBeanstalk.com, a new blog network (Link Orbit,) and new and rewritten blog posts on Jay Baer’s Convince & Convert. Users were provided InboundWriter’s tool to help them optimize Web content, and the results were measured over a certain period of time (the report outlines the exact methodology and study steps.)

The results were impressive…

Just a quick snapshot of a few statistics from the report shows some impressive results. ebeanstalk.com saw a 29 percent increase in their search engine rankings, and their time on page increased 153 percent. Link Orbit’s readers spent 112 percent more time on the content-optimized domains. Even Jay Baer’s posts got higher search engine rankings and an average 33 percent traffic increase. It’s important to note that none of these pages were optimized prior to the report, so the users were starting the optimization process from scratch.

…but were the results that surprising?

Well, no. If you’ve been in SEO for more than five seconds, the results make perfect sense. Adding keyphrases to content is a basic SEO step. Of course the pages saw higher rankings (and more search engine positions.) That’s exactly what good SEO content optimization is supposed to provide. The tool just facilitated the process.

Additionally, the time on site increase didn’t surprise me either. SEOs have been talking about “search scent” for a number of years. The concept of search scent grows out of information scent, which was developed by scientists at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC.) Kevin Lee says in a 2007 ClickZ article:

The research illustrates that humans forage for information on the Internet in much the same way animals follow scent and visual cues to find food. Scent is essentially an application of user interface optimization best practices, and search scent is a specific niche based on the fact searchers are even more wedded to a particular information-gathering mission than surfers or casual browsers.

Say a searcher is looking for blue widgets. If the landing page has the words “blue widgets” in the copy, as well as pictures of “blue widgets,” searchers should engage with the page for a longer period of time.  If a page doesn’t have this “search scent,” readers will hit the back button and boogie out. Shari Thurow wrote about this in a 2009 Search Engine Land article.

On a website, orientation is a behavior where searchers determine their position with reference to another point, establishing a “sense of place.” In other words, searchers quickly establish whose website they are visiting, and what section of the site (if any) they are viewing. If searchers do not believe they have “landed” in the right place, they will leave the website. Web searchers orient very quickly, sometimes within 1 second after a page loads.

Landing pages should always validate searchers’ scent of information, both textually and graphically. For example, if an online shopper wants to purchase a pink Burberry cashmere scarf, then the product landing page should contain a product photo of a pink Burberry cashmere scarf. The product page’s title-tag content should contain those keywords as well as other on-the-page text.

So, does this study tell us something we don’t already know? Not really. Does it help validate how important content optimization is to a site’s success? Definitely.

SEO copywriting isn’t just knowing how to write well

There’s one thing I love about this study. For folks who still don’t “get it,” or who don’t want to “ruin the content with keywords,” this is a fantastic wake-up call. If your company has held off on SEO content optimization, this study proves that you should jump in with both feet – and jump quickly. Otherwise, your unoptimized content is costing you money, no matter how fantastic your content is. After all, If Jay Baer saw a rankings and engagement improvement when he “SEO’ed” his blog posts, so will you.

As one of the authors of the study said:

“Good writing is a necessary but not sufficient ingredient for increasing content reach and engagement,” said Pelin Thorogood, managing partner at Schulman + Thorogood Group, a business consulting group. “What we observed is structuring an article or webpage around the words readers use while searching and sharing increases content relevance for both search engines and target audience – resulting in significantly higher online visibility and reader engagement for the writers who participated in our study.”

This makes perfect sense. Think about all of the fantastic sites out there with great content – but those sites are almost “invisible” in the engines. If you want to play the SEO game, that means optimizing your content. It’s as simple as that.

Here are some things to consider…

Of course, InboundWriter’s angle is that their content optimization tool is simple to use – so writers can produce the content faster and easier. At the same time, I would argue that any writer with access to reliable keyphrase research (and who understands the SEO copywriting fundamentals.) can achieve the same (or better) results without a real-time content optimization tool. Having said that, if InboundWriter helps you optimize your content, cool. I’m all for it. I’ve checked out the tool, and I can certainly see how it could help someone master the basics – especially someone who doesn’t know much about SEO.

Secondly, any tool – even one that’s easy to use – isn’t going to suddenly transform bad content into high-performing content. Or a so-so sales page into a top-converting superstar. It’s still important to work with talented writers who can make your site shine.  If your copy doesn’t connect with your readers before the optimization process, adding keyphrases isn’t going to make it any better. Or, as my father used to say, “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”  A recent Vertical Measures blog post by Barry Feldman discusses this very point:

Forgoing copywriters is not the answer. It’s a formula for failure. Copywriters specialize in persuasion. You can make the case (as many spectacular authors have) that in the inbound era effective marketers wisely choose not to cram their content full of product-centric messages. However, if building a relationship or connecting with the customer trumps generating an immediate sale, you’d be crazy to suggest persuasion is disposable. Or at least you’d be wrong.

At the end of the day, it’s all about providing your readers high-quality, relevant content. If using a tool like InboundWriter makes sense to you and your team – go for it. At the same time, a tool will only get you so far. If you want to rock the search engines and get people talking about your content, you need good writers, engaging content and an air-tight strategy. It’s as simple as that.

SEO copywriting 101: A guide for clients

SEO Copywriting 101Whether you’re hiring copywriters in-house, or outsourcing to freelancers,  finding and working with SEO copywriters can be challenging – and a little bit scary, too.

First, you have to find the “perfect person” who will make your Web copy sing. Once you’ve found the perfect person, you have to give them direction, evaluate their content and make sure that it’s right for your site.

If you don’t know SEO, the entire process is confusing. How can you figure out who to hire? How do you get the SEO content quality you need?

If you need to hire a copywriter, this guide is for you. Here’s what to do.

How to hire the perfect in-house or freelance SEO copywriter

Looking for an SEO copywriter? Whether you’re looking to hire in-house or outsource, it’s tempting to ask, “How much do you charge,” and go from there. That can be a dangerous mistake. Would you work with an attorney because she was the cheapest around? Or a doctor? Heck no. Rather than focusing on price, focus on results and reputation. That way, you’ll find the right vendor (or employee) for your needs. (If you’re wondering how an SEO copywriter can help you, here’s a great resource.)

Many smaller businesses prefer to outsource their SEO copy. You can outsource to a freelance SEO copywriter, or sometimes your SEO company has someone on staff. Larger businesses – or companies that kick out a lot of content – may be better served with an in-house hire.

Questions to ask are:

  • What kind of experience do you have (here’s some guidance on working with a newbie and an intermediate SEO copywriter.)
  • If you’re outsourcing, ask the writer if she will be writing the content? Or will someone else?
  • What’s your process? If the copywriter doesn’t say, “I’ll need to start by asking a bunch of questions,” that’s a huge red flag.
  • Do you know how to write to sell (called direct response copywriting.) Or, are you primarily a blogger? There is a big difference between the two styles, so make sure you ask.
  • Can I see case studies and testimonials?

And here are some other questions to ask to get the best quote.

You also want to consider if you need a copywriter or a content strategist.  Here’s the difference between the two job descriptions.

You’ve found the perfect copywriter? Great. Here’s how to get started…

If you are giving the SEO copywriter direction, you want to give them the right direction. Where a lot of good campaigns go bad is when the client dictates the article length and makeup based on SEO copywriting myths and misconceptions.

Beware the SEO copywriting myths, such as:

Plan to spend quite a bit of meeting time with your new copywriter so you can explain your unique sales proposition, your customer persona and what’s important to your customers. Your copywriter will also bombard you with a list of questions (here’s a list of 52 questions your copywriter may ask.)

This part of the process will take some time. You may be tempted to skip this step and think, “He’s smart. He’ll ‘get it’ and write great copy.” Don’t do it. Spend the time to get your writer up to speed. Your copy will be much better for it.

Your writer completed her first rough draft. Here’s how to evaluate it.

The most important question you can ask is, “Does the content make me want to buy?” If the answer is, “Meh,” that alone may dictate a rewrite. Whether your copywriter is writing sales copy or posts for your blog, the writing should showcase your benefits, be engaging and – yes – include keyphrases. Here’s some things to consider.

Now that you know exactly what to do, you can safely find the right in-house or freelance SEO copywriter who meets your needs – and start gaining benefit from well-written content. What could be better?

Overwhelmed? Go Back to the Marketing Basics

Feeling like you’re suffering from marketing ADD?

Maybe it’s time to take a step back and get back to basics.

Marketers are slammed with all sorts of shiny online marketing options. Ooh…there’s Instagram. And Twitter. And Facebook.  It’s not enough to just have a site. Now, companies are “supposed” to add all sorts of other bells and whistles to their online marketing mix.

The challenge comes when marketers try to jump on the latest online marketing bandwagon without shoring up their marketing foundation. Some folks chase latest and greatest opportunity and ignore the half-assed campaigns they started a long time ago (how many deserted Facebook pages have you seen?). Or, new opportunities are put into the “yet another thing that I should be doing” category. Chris Brogan talks about social marketing fatigue – and I think that’s a real phenomena.  Many site owners are so overwhelmed with options, they choose to do nothing.

Both scenarios are bad for business. So here’s what to do.

Rather than chasing the next big shiny social media thing, why not shore up your current marketing foundation? That way, you know that the basics are covered – and then you can check out new opportunities. For instance:

  1. When is the last time you reviewed your company’s autoresponder copy (or your other marketing collateral?). Is it up to date? Are there typos? Are there ways you can use your autoresponders to drive more leads or sales?
  2. When is the last time you checked your site’s analytics (c’mon – be honest!). Are there pages with high bounce rates that you can revamp and relaunch? The best social media campaign can’t help you if your site sucks.
  3. If you’re a local business, have you considered advertising in local publications (display advertising – although a tad bruised – is still alive and well.) Would it make sense to pitch an article idea to a local publication to see if you can drive traffic? Are there free or low-cost marketing alternatives?
  4. Did you start a social media campaign (such as a Facebook page,) only to leave it half-done (perhaps to go chase the next shiny social media thing..) :) Either fix it up and measure it – or let it go and decide to focus on other things.
  5. When’s the last time you revised your company’s features and benefits list? A lot has changed over the last few years – and what was a benefit statement 2 years ago may not be as powerful today.
  6. How often do you follow up with your existing customers, especially your “big fish”evangelists? If you don’t have a follow-up procedure in place, set one up. It’s always less expensive to upsell to an existing customer than acquire a new one.
  7. How often do you poll your clients/readers and ask them what products/services/features they’d like to see? You have all the market research capabilities you need – you just have to ask the questions.
  8. Are there a bunch of low-hanging SEO fruit opportunities that you can leverage? This list of headsmacking SEO copywriting opportunities may spark some ideas.
  9. Consider if your customer persona (s) has changed. Or, if you haven’t created your customer persona documents, now is an excellent time to start. After all, if your customers aren’t on Facebook, you can probably stop worrying about a Facebook campaign – and focus your efforts on getting the biggest bank for the buck

What “marketing foundation” steps would you add to this list? Please “like” the post and let me know your thoughts – thanks!

Photo credit gratitude to garryknight

The ‘No Time’ Myth

I recently attended my 25th high school reunion (You want to feel old? Go to your 25th reunion. Wow.) :) All in all, it was a very fun experience. I got to see people who I haven’t seen in years. I chatted with folks I didn’t know well back in the day. And I learned how everyone was balancing work/home/family/other obligations.

One of the sentiments frequently expressed was, “I would love to do X, but I don’t have time.” Some of the “X’s” were as simple as getting away for the weekend or reading a new book. Others were more serious. I don’t know how many conversations I had with people who said, “My doctor said that I should work out more, but I don’t have the time.”

The discussions made me think of how many site owners and marketing departments want to launch an SEO content initiative – but their excuse is “no time.”

  • Instead of rewriting sales pages with super-high bounce rates, they let them sit on the site because “they don’t have time.”
  • Instead of finally starting an organic SEO campaign, they do what they’ve always done because “they don’t have time.”
  • Instead of outsourcing their writing to update their years-old Web copy – or hiring a freelance SEO copywriter to help produce pages – folks get stuck and do nothing.  Why? You guessed it. They don’t even feel like they have time to figure out a plan, much less do anything else.

I get it. I really do. We’re all doing more with less and time is at a premium. If you have a choice between cranking out a new sales page and leaving the office at a decent hour, what sounds the most appealing?

It’s amazing how we can find the time – if we really want to.

I used to fall into this trap. Heck, before I met my husband, I said that “I didn’t have time to date.” Then I met my man – and suddenly, I made time. Hanging out with him became a priority. Needless to say, my life took a major turn for the better – and I really did have the time to make it happen.

Then, I used to say that I “didn’t have time to work out.” After a major paradigm shift, I worked working out into my daily routine. Today, I’m healthier and happier than I’ve ever been. Sure, my workday can be crunchy some days – but I found that I do have the time.

You’ve probably experienced the same thing. You find that you do have the time for certain things – and when you do them, you feel so, so much better (and see some amazing results.)

Your SEO copywriting challenge…

Today, I challenge you to pinpoint ONE SEO content-related thing that “you don’t have time for” and see how you CAN make time for it.

  • Maybe that means you spend 25 minutes a day working towards your goal (check out my post on the Pomodoro technique – it’s a great way to baby-step your goals.)
  • Maybe that means you outsource some writing so you can realize the benefits a bit faster.
  • Maybe that means slicing your non-productive Google+/Twitter/Facebook/Angry Birds usage so you can free up a few minutes here and there.

The trick is: You identify what you want to accomplish, and figure out how to make it happen.

What’s cool about this technique is – it’s addictive. Once you’ve sliced one longstanding to-do off your list and realized the results, other opportunities seem much more “do-able.” There’s nothing like seeing the fruits (and profits) of your labor to shake you out of your “no time” comfort zone and help you see new opportunities.

So, choose one “no time” task to focus on this August and get ‘er done. If you’d like, post your to-do in the comments field (after all, writing down your goals and holding yourself accountable is a great way to start.) Hopefully, you’ll see that you can make time to focus on these highly-important tasks – and you’ll start seeing more traffic, more followers – and yes, more of that Internet money.

‘Cause who doesn’t have time for more money? :)

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