SEO copywriting Q & A from my Writer’s Digest Webinar

pens for writing seo contentYesterday, I had the pleasure of running a Webinar for Writer’s Digest. The presentation ran ten minutes overtime, so I promised  audience members that their questions would be answered in today’s blog post.

If you were on the Webinar – thank you so much! And if you’re a freelance (or in-house) writer wondering if SEO copywriting would be a smart skill set to have, read on. You may find the answers to your questions here!

Have a question that I didn’t address? Please feel free to contact me. I’m happy to help!

Q: How often does a new Google algorithm come out? Does every new algorithm mean you change your copywriting style?

Google is constantly tweaking their algorithm. Some are minor updates – and some are pretty far-reaching (such as the Panda update.) However, that doesn’t mean that you need to change your copywriting style. Focus on your readers first, and follow SEO content writing best practices.

Having said that, it’s very important that you keep up with what’s happening in the industry. You may learn that you need to handle certain situations differently (such as hyperlinking keyphrases or using synonyms in your content.) You won’t need to spend hours a day digging into the latest SEO news. But do plan to spend some time every week reading the trades.

Q: When choosing a keyphrase, as on Google keywords, is there an ideal number we should look for? How much weight should we give the “high” competitive terms? What if we need to go after those terms?

This depends on a lot of factors. For instance, an authority site that’s been up for years has a better chance of scoring a competitive keyphrase than a brand-new, small business site. Additionally, it’s always nice when you can go after the keyphrase “sweet spot” (highly trafficked keyphrases that aren’t as competitive.) For instance, the keyphrase [freelance writer] may be tough to position for. However, the phrase, [lab supply freelance writer] will be much easier.

You may want to check out the Writer’s Digest tutorial for more information about keyphrase research.

Q: How do you access the Google keyword research tool.

Easy! You can find it here.

Q: How does the SEO Certificate program work (cost, length, etc.)?

Thanks so much for asking. You can learn more the SEO Copywriting Certification training here.

Q: I’m hearing a lot of rumbling that search is changing dramatically because of mobile, and that within a couple of years Google will be moot, because everyone will be using mobile apps. True?

Ah yes. This is a variation of the “SEO is dead” conversation that happens a couple times a year. 🙂 It’s true that mobile is changing the game – but people still use Google (and Bing) on their Android devices, iPads, iPhones, etc. And even if Google did suddenly go away (doubtful,) whatever solution would be left would still be providing answers based on content.

Search has been “changing dramatically” since I’ve been in the business. And actually, that’s one of the fun things about search. If you like working in an industry that’s ever-changing, SEO copywriting could be a great career choice for you!

Q: Does hyperlinking around two different keyphrases in a blog post help or hurt your SEO?

You should optimize for two to three keyphrases per page. Hyperlinking is fine – the key is to do it intelligently and mix up your anchor text. If you’re hyperlinking every instance of “cashmere sweaters,” that won’t help your SEO (it could actually hurt it.) Here’s an interesting article about how Google’s Penguin update impacted hyperlinking the keyphrase.

Q: Do you have any recommendations for raising your ranking for seasonal sites (like Christmas only) since they’re only seasonal, they aren’t updated as often, even though it’s formatted as a blog (santa’s elf’s blog for children).

Ideally, you’d create content year ’round. If you’re just looking for seasonal traffic, PPC (pay per click,) may be a better marketing avenue. You may also consider building a social media campaign to drive traffic (say a Facebook or Twitter campaign.)

Q: Approximately how many days/weeks, fulltime, of SEO training and beginner’s work would it take for an experienced writer/journalist to reach a level of competency to work professionally with corporate clients for $100-plus/hour?

It depends on the type of “issues” you want to deal with. If you’re a great writer and understand SEO content, you could accomplish this in a few months. If you want to work hand-in-hand with the IT department, consult on content changes and deal with more “hairy” issues, you’ll need a year (or more) of increasing experience under your belt. Having said that, one of the big issues that writers have is charging what they’re worth. Case studies and testimonials will help showcase your value (and congratulations for thinking ahead – that’s great!)

Q: Are there ways to include key phrases as hidden text?

Yes, but Google will spot it and punish you with a spam penalty. The “hidden text” trick is an old one that has been around as long as I’ve been in SEO (and that’s a really long time!) Anytime you’re thinking of “hiding” text (or including light grey text on a white background so it’s less noticeable,) you’re walking on very thin ice. It’s better to focus producing quality content instead.

Q: Is it true that Google is putting less emphasis on inbound links, and penalizing sites for having link wheels, etc.?

Google has certainly cracked down on spammy link campaigns. Gaining quality inbound links is still important – and the key word is “quality.” Submitting your content to random article sites won’t help you.

For some great advice on link building, check out Debra Mastaler’s site Alliance-Link (and sign up for her newsletter.) You’ll learn how smart link building is more about smart PR and marketing than “I’ll link to you if you link to me.”

Q: How do you find out about the algorithmic changes?

Here’s a fun way to learn more about the “weather” patterns of Google’s algorithm. You’ll also want to pay attention to the trade sites such as:

Search Engine Land

Search Engine Watch

Search Engine Roundtable

Matt Cutt’s blog (Matt works for Google and is known as “Google Guy.”)

Q: My google analytics usually blocks the keywords that people have typed in to get to my site – is there any way around this, as I’d like to know how people find me.

Ah, yes. That is irritating, isn’t it?  If folks are logged into Google (and a huge number of folks are,) their keyword data won’t show in your analytics. Here’s a way around it, compliments of Jill Whalen (I would recommend signing up for her newsletter, too – it’s a good one!

Thanks to @writersdigest for inviting me to speak!

Are you looking for a fast, low-cost way to learn about your SEO content opportunities and problems? Check out my new SEO Content Site Review.



Is learned helplessness screwing over your SEO content?

Last week, I wrote a rant-filled post about an SEO firm filling up their client’s site with crappy blog posts because “that’s what Google wants.”

It was one of my most popular posts ever.

I started thinking about this from the client’s perspective. The content obviously sucked, so it’s not like the SEO could pass this off as “quality.” And I couldn’t figure out why the hell the client wouldn’t fire the SEO – or at least say that they were no longer in charge of sourcing the content.

And then, while I was doing pushups during my morning bootcamp class, it hit me.

Learned helplessless has way too many companies by the balls.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard…

…We want to write more content, but we’re afraid that we’ll do something wrong.

…We’re not sure if this is the right content, but our SEO company says it’s working – so it must be OK.

…I don’t have time to measure content effectiveness. I’d rather just pay $20 or so per page. That way, if it sucks, I’m not out a lot of money.

…We want to create more content in-house. But we don’t know what to write about or how to set up a workflow. And who has time to figure it out?

Sound familiar?

I understand. I really do. With the 1,000 other things on your plate, it’s easier to “set it and forget it” than really dig in to your SEO content plans.

But here’s the thing:  You are  leaving money on the table by NOT having a content plan in place. And if your writing doesn’t connect with your reader, it’s not doing you any good.

Unless you want things to stay where they are, you need to take action. Now. Right now. Quit screwing around and get yourself the help you need.

…If you have the capabilities to bring your content in-house, get your writers trained in SEO copy development best practices.

Yes, this has an upfront cost. But over the long run, it will literally save you thousands of dollars. Hell, even over the short run. Plus, you’ll learn how to create content that positions well and gets more social shares. You won’t piss Google off if you learn exactly what you should do.

…You should never have to settle for stinky content. If your SEO company (or SEO copywriter) is writing crap content, find someone else to write it.

There are many firms that specialize in SEO content development (mine included.) An excellent writer will ask you questions about your customer persona, your benefits, your brand “voice” and your competition – and craft what your readers want to read. Here are some questions to ask – and some red flags to avoid – if you want to hire a Google-savvy SEO copywriter.

…If you plan to dominate the world with your so-so  $20/page for 1000 words of content, get over yourself.

As I mentioned last week, your site doesn’t need more words – it needs the right words. If you need someone to write a kick-ass sales page – or research and write a blog post – that’s going to cost you more money. The good news is that it will also make you more money too. Again, if you find a firm that you love and trust, the additional fee you’ll be charge will be way worth the ROi.

…If you want to create content in house, but you’re not sure what to write about – hire a consultant.

I’m working with more companies in this capacity. I may not write a word of copy, but I do make content recommendations, set up an editorial calendar, teach the marketing team how to find topics and help measure effectiveness. With a good plan in place, those content marketing initiatives start screaming along.

It’s time for you to take control of your SEO content. You wouldn’t settle for a so-so salesperson. Or a customer service rep who didn’t perform. The same goes for your content.

The moment you stop settling is the moment that you’ll start seeing the results you really want. It will take some work and effort on your part, sure.

But it will be worth it. And you’ll be able to break free of the learned helplessness trap.

Need help setting up a workflow and editorial calendar? I can train your team in best practices, set up your editorial calendar and make sure that you’re set up for SEO content success. Contact me for details.



Hey, @GordonRamsay01 – what about the Hotel Hell Websites?

Hotel Hell is my new television addiction.

Maybe it’s because I travel so often, and what I see confirms my worst fears (now my husband understands why I never use the comforter.) Maybe it’s because I love Gordon Ramsay’s in-your-face method of business consulting. Whatever it is, I find the show addicting.

If you’ve never seen Hotel Hell, Ramsay visits hotels around the U.S., and transforms them from “hellish” into “heavenly.” After he’s done, the property is beautiful, comfortable, modern and bug-free (ugh, bugs….)

I enjoyed a Hotel Hell marathon over the weekend. After the episode aired, I would visit the hotel’s Website to see if they were “Ramsay’ed” as well.  After all, he stresses how important it is for the hotels to provide a lasting (and positive) good first impression. A hotel Website should do the same thing.

The properties may be beautiful, but the sites could use some improvement. Here’s what I mean:

When I went to view the guest rooms at the River Rock Inn, there were no pictures – none. There was copy outlining that every room had a “private bath” and air conditioning, but there weren’t any images that helped me get a feel for the property. Instead, there was a numbered list of the type of bed and the rate. The copy literally says, “A Queen sized bed – $110.”  Yeah, that doesn’t really sell me…

The Roosevelt Hotel has a page dedicated just to weddings (smart move.) Instead of telling a story and using the content to promote how unforgettable the wedding would be, only the features and prices are listed. Granted, the photos are beautiful. But the copy needs to be equally stunning and tell a story.

The Juniper Hill site also has a dedicated weddings page. But if the copy reads a little too “optimized” to you – well, you’re right. The headline reads “Classic Vermont Wedding at Juniper Hill Inn” (hmm, I don’t know what a “classic Vermont wedding” is, but I can certainly guess the keyword!)  When I clicked on a hyperlinked keyword, it took me to New England Bride Online…WTF?

The Keating Hotel actually does a fairly good job with their site – and I like their home page Title. However, the copy that describes the rooms is short and full of features (not benefits.) It’s great to read “Oversized walk-in shower with overhead rain fixtures.” But what would really wow the reader (and help them picture themselves staying at the property,) would be something like, “Step into your oversized shower and melt your stress away with two powerful rainfall shower heads.”  (Notice the use of “you” in the revised version?)

(And I’m not even mentioning the scads of SEO opportunities that these sites missed.)

One hotel did get a site makeover, which modernized the design and made it possible to check guest in online. But I would have taken it one step further. Ramsay talks about how the reception area sets the stage for the rest of the hotel experience. I would argue that every page on your site should do the exact same thing. If the Website doesn’t wow the reader, why would she bother checking out the property on Trip Advisor or Yelp? Especially when other sites do it better?

Hotels (and other businesses) need writing that’s customer-centered, persuasive and personal. It should draw the reader in and help them think, “I need to book here now.” Pretty pictures are great. Pretty pictures paired with fantastic content is better.  If you don’t have that going for you, you could be losing conversions without even knowing it. And causing your own “Website hell.”

And, Gordon, I’m available next season as your “Website content expert.” Just ask. I, too, can creatively swear like a sailor – especially on camera. And I am unbelievably blunt. Call me. 🙂


Want to learn how to make more money without writing until your fingers bleed? Now, you can save 70% on the Copywriting Business Bootcamp. Very limited spots available – apply today!

Seeking a talented SEO copywriting intern!

Looking for one-on-one SEO copywriting mentoring? I need an intern – and you may be the perfect candidate!

I’m looking for a super-smart SEO copywriter who can help me 5-8 hours a week. This is a great position for a new copywriter who is looking for hands-on experience within the SEO copywriting industry.

The position is unpaid, but the payoffs in terms of exposure, making invaluable industry connections, and learning the day-to-day realities of managing a high-visibility, online SEO copywriting blog are truly priceless!

I will be giving preference to SEO Copywriting Certification students/graduates.

Besides possessing excellent writing skills and a passion for SEO copywriting, it is imperative that you have the following qualities down:

  • Spelling, grammar, punctuation, and syntax
  • Spelling, grammar, punctuation, and syntax (yes, I wrote it twice)
  • How to link to sources, e.g., SEO Copywriting
  • The importance of deadlines (x2)
  • WordPress: Uploading documents, editing, and adding media
  • How to write tight, compelling headlines and post descriptions
  • Working knowledge of the SEO and content marketing industry
  • A healthy sense of humor

Add double bonus points for knowledge of AP Style, and triple bonus points for common sense! 🙂

Does this sound like something you’d love to do? If so, please email me a brief letter of introduction describing why you think you are the perfect candidate for the internship, along with two recent samples of your writing (either links or better yet, Word.doc or pdf attachments to your letter):

And if you are an SEO Copywriting Certification student or grad, be sure to note that in your email!

Thanks so much! I will be reviewing applications throughout the week, and will be the first to let you know if you’ve been selected for the position this Friday, September 14th!


photo thanks to andjohan (Andreas Klinke Johannsen)



The A-B-Cs of SEO copywriting

Today’s post goes back to the SEO copywriting basics. If you’ve been in the business for awhile, this will serve as a great refresher (and it’s a great post to share with your  clients, too!). 🙂 And if you’re new to SEO copywriting, this post is a good way learn your SEO copywriting A-B-Cs. Enjoy!

Always test your content (or in the words of Brian Eisenberg “Always Be Testing.”) Yes, a piece of content may work “just fine.” But what if you could turn that content up to 11 and REALLY make it perform?

Be picky about the content that comes out of your company. “Thin” content written just for Google – or so-so content that’s not very good – reflects on your brand.

Content curation is a fantastic way to provide value to your readers, without having to write your own content. Beware – although this sounds “easy,” content curation is time consuming. Read Laura’s tips on how to do it well.

Don’t worry about keyword density. It’s been a myth for years (and even Matt Cutts has said the same thing.) Finally, it’s safe to let this one go. Really.

Examine ways that you can repurpose existing content. This is a great way to save time, extend the reach of your content assets and reach people across platforms. Here’s how to do it.

Focus on the benefits (what’s in it for your prospect) rather than company and product features. You’ll sell much more product that way (or capture many more leads!)

Get educated! If you’re writing SEO content, learn everything you can about SEO, copywriting, neuromarketing and consumer psychology. The more you know, the better your content.

Hire smart, talented copywriters – not the cheapest one you can find. Make sure they know exactly what they’re doing, and that they keep up with the latest SEO news. Here are some tips about how to hire an SEO copywriter.

In-house training is a super-smart investment if your company employs copywriters. Why outsource when your training investment can pay for itself in just 10 pages?

Just say “no” to making sure that your articles/sales pages/blog posts are a certain word count “for Google.” Google will not give you the keys to their algorithmic kingdom if every page on your site is  500 words. How long should your copy be? As long as it needs to be to clearly explain the topic and make the desired impact.

Keyphrases are still important. Some writers ignore this step, figuring “I know exactly how our readers are searching.” Quit fooling yourself. Unless your name is “Google,” you don’t have access to this information. Don’t fall into this trap.

Long-tail keyphrases are golden – especially for blog posts and FAQ pages. Learn why you should learn to love the long tail. 

Mine your analytics for cool content opportunities. As soon as you learn what kind of your content your readers love, you can make sure to create more of it!

Never spam Google figuring that you won’t get caught. Techniques like invisible text or link spam has been bad for many years (and yes, Google will catch you eventually!).

Optimizing Web pages is only half the battle. It’s one thing to make them “good for Google.” It’s another to make them great for your readers. Know the difference.

Personas are soooo important. After all, how can you write targeted content if you don’t know who you’re writing it for? If you haven’t created a customer/reader customer persona document, do it now (and here’s how!)

Quit obsessing over Google’s latest algorithmic change. You can “chase the algorithm” or you can write great content.

Rest is important. It does no good to crank out Web pages when you’re tired, hungry, cranky or just plain burned-out.

Title tags are exceptionally important. Well-written, “clickable” Titles get the clicks from the search engine results page. Plus, they help with positioning. Learn how to write Titles right.

Understand the difference between writing to sell, and writing for social media. They represent two different skill sets (and may require two different writers.)

Vary your keyphrases. Focusing your very large site on a very few keyphrases will cause you to miss opportunities. And yes, synonyms are OK, too.

Winning in SEO copywriting means more sales, more shares, happier readers and more money in your pocket. Focus your efforts around those elements – not what Google may do next.

You is an incredibly powerful marketing word. Use it in your copy. A lot.

Zzzzz is the sound your reader makes when your copy is limp, lifeless and drab. Put some personality in your copy (check out 37signals as an example. You’ll find that people will read more of your content (and even convert at higher rates, too!)



How to stop worrying about Google updates…

…and learn to love writing really great SEO copy!

Greetings & welcome back! In today’s SEO copywriting video how-to, Heather discusses a most timely topic since Matt Cutts’ recent, ominous-sounding pronouncement that the next Google Penguin update will be “jarring” to SEO’s and Webmasters – and that is, how to stop worrying about Google updates and start writing really great SEO copy!

Tune in and learn how to set yourself free…

Fear is counterproductive

The thing is, around all the Google updates and the stress that comes with them, that fear is really counterproductive.

  • Get out of the learned helplessness trap!
  • Google updates are not an excuse to stop writing content.
  • Think of this as an OPPORTUNITY. Good content is still good for Google.

What this fear of Google updates does is get a lot of companies stuck in this learned helplessness trap: they don’t know what Google is going to do next and so they use that as an excuse to stop writing content. They completely freak out within the organization!

But instead of being all fearful about what Google is going to do next, think of what’s going on as an opportunity: Good content is still good for Google.

I know that it’s not sexy news, but there are a number of sites out there that never got penalized by either Panda or Penguin – they came through just fine! And that could be you.

The key is to focus on what your customers and readers are looking for, and stop focusing so much on what you think Google might want!

Focus on making your content better

So think of ways you can focus on making your content better, and this will help you ride through those algorithmic updates. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What questions do our prospects/customers ask? Do we answer them on the site?

That’s a great way to be able to get folks to come to your site that might not know anything about you! You might also want to ask…

  • Does our content really represent our company?

I’ve talked with a number of people who’ve said: “Yeah, we don’t really love the content that’s there – it doesn’t really sound likes us – but it’s what we have, so we’re stuck with it.”

No! You’re not stuck with it! If it doesn’t represent your company, then change it!

  • How can we create quality content within our organization?

If you’re not satisfied that your website copy represents your company, you can change it either in-house, and write that quality content within your organization, or if you are maxed out internally and that’s not an option – then outsource it!

Find someone you can trust to work with: just last week, I talked about how to find a (Google-savvy) SEO copywriter.

  • Do we have low quality content on the site that we need to fix?

You might also want to evaluate your site and see if you have low quality content that you need to fix.

On the lower left-hand side of the slide there is a link to an article written by Jill Whalen about other types of low quality content – those things you might want to evaluate on your own site to see if it’s something that you might want to tweak.


  • You also want to look at your analytics!
  • Think of ways to increase your conversion rates!

Wouldn’t it be better to focus on “how can we drive more sales?” and think of ways that you’re able to do so, rather than “Oh my goodness, what is Google going to do next?”

Because at the end of the day, Google does not pay your bills – your customers do.

So if you can figure out how your content can make your site more money, then that is a much better discussion to have than “Oh my goodness, what is the next update going to do to our site?”

Focus your content around your readers, and when the next update rolls around, then you are probably going to be much more relaxed about it, because you’re coming at it from a different angle – rather than trying to tweak your content to fit what you think Google wants today.

That said…if you have questions about what Google wants and are looking for a checklist for evaluating your content, simply sign up for my free weekly SEO Copywriting Buzz newsletter, and/or choose to receive daily blog post updates, and receive my free “How to write for Google” whitepaper!

Thanks so much for tuning into today’s SEO copywriting video how-to!

As always, if you have any questions at all, or if you are interested in the SEO Copywriting Certification training, please let me know – I’m happy to help! I can be reached via, or via Twitter @heatherlloyd.


photo thanks to marklarson  (Mark Larson)



Last call for SEO Copywriting Certification scholarship contest entries: if you haven’t entered to win a full scholarship to the SEO Copywriting Certification training yet, you have until 11:59 p.m. Eastern today to do so! Enter now at: Win an SEO Copywriting Certification Scholarship!

And remember – you have absolutely nothing to lose! Everyone who enters receives 20% off the certification training, plus 10% off the Copywriting Business Bootcamp training, through September 7th!








9 questions writers ask about SEO copywriting

Got SEO copywriting questions? I’ve got answers!

Thinking about jumping into the wild and wooly world of SEO copywriting?

You have questions – and I have answers!  Today’s post is the first in a two-part series where I answer the most common SEO copywriting questions that I hear from writers. Enjoy!

So, what is “SEO copywriting” anyway?

SEO copywriting is an umbrella term for any type of “keyphrase-based” writing. That means understanding how your prospects search – and strategically including those search terms on the page and in the code.  You can read this post to learn more.

Placing search terms on the page? Oh no – so,  SEO copywriting means writing really bad articles that repeat the same words over and over?

Goodness, no.  That’s spam.  Good copywriting is good writing, period – and it was never about keyphrase stuffing (although that’s what some people did.) Thankfully, Google is focusing more on content quality. In fact, a Google update (code name: Panda) emphasized good content, and kicked the “thin,” keyphrase-stuffed content to the search engine curb. Here’s more information about how to write copy after the Panda update.

What about blogging or tweeting? Is that SEO copywriting?

You bet. Some people call this “social media writing,” and call writing a sales page “SEO copywriting.” Whatever you call it, you’re still researching keyphrases, determining the reader’s intent and making sure that those words appear in the content and code. Here’s the difference between social media writing and “traditional” SEO copywriting.

What kind of people make the best SEO copywriters? 

I’ve met SEO copywriters from all walks of life – and they all love to write, love to research, love to learn and love working online.  They also tend to have a high tolerance for  change – which is good, since Google (as well as other providers) love to change things up on a regular basis. If you are the kind of person who gets bored easily, SEO copywriting is a great gig. I can guarantee that it’s never boring. 🙂

Hmm…will people actually pay for this?

Yup! You could work in-house for a company, or you could freelance. Some people do both. It’s up to you.

How much will they pay?

That depends on quite a few factors. The freelance SEO copywriting range can be anywhere from $75-$1,500 a page. I’ve heard of in-house SEO copywriters making anywhere from $35,000- $100,000+ a year.  How much you make depends on who you want to work with, where you want to work, what kind of copywriting skills you have, and how much SEO knowledge you have.

How do I learn this stuff?

In a perfect world, you work with a mentor who can guide you through the process, check your work, and help you hone your craft. That’s why some people prefer to work in-house – they figure that they can earn while they learn. You’ll want to do a lot of research on traditional copywriting techniques (Bob Bly is a fantastic resource,) read everything you can about how people search online, and also consider taking my SEO Copywriting Certification training to learn best practices and the latest information.

Do I have to do all that? Can’t I just figure it out myself?

Not easily. SEO copywriting is an ever-changing skill set – and it can be somewhat overwhelming to learn for new (and even experienced) writers. You’ll need to put in the time to learn how to do it right. I can’t stress how important it is to know what you’re doing before you work with clients. If you do something wrong, it can hurt your client’s Google ranking – and damage your professional reputation.

Why should I spend all that time “honing my craft.” Isn’t Google just going to change everything anyway?

It’s true that Google loves to keep us all on our toes. However, the SEO copywriting fundamentals have stayed the same over time. Yes, strategies have changed – and there are definitely some new opportunities – but you won’t have to worry about the knowledge being obsolete in six months.

I’ll be answering even more common SEO copywriting questions next Thursday – stay tuned! In the meantime, if you have a question, please include it in the comments and I’ll make sure that I cover it next week. Thanks!

Contest alert! Be on the lookout for a special announcement – one lucky person will win a free subscription to the SEO Copywriting Certification training, and everyone who enters will receive 20% off the training. Stay tuned for details!



What spam can teach you about copywriting

What copywriting tricks can you learn from spammy emails?

Have your clients ever fallen for the “Your website isn’t ranked in the top Google results” emails? You know. The type of email that you receive multiple times a day from multiple companies.

There’s a reason for that.

One of my clients sent one of those emails with the note, “My CEO wanted me to forward this to you. What do you think?”

At first, I started questioning the client’s business savvy, thinking, “They fell for this? Really?” And then I looked at the email a tad more closely.

We may not like spammy emails. But we can learn why they work (because they do work), despite the typos and poor grammar.  Let’s break down what they do – and discuss how you can (ethically) use this technique in your own writing.

For instance, here are some common “spammy” statements:

We noticed that you are not at the top of the search engines for a number of your key words related to your business or within your page currently.

This plays on every marketer’s fear. In their heads, they’re wondering,”What do you mean that I’m not at the top of the engines? What did this company search for? I thought I was doing OK.” This sentence exposes a raw nerve of fear and doubt. And the business owner is left thinking, “No matter how well I thought I was doing, maybe I’m not doing well enough…?”

I particularly enjoy the phrase “we noticed that you are not at the top of the search results.” It almost makes it sound like a team of people were reviewing the site and were compelled to send this email. Now, you and I both know that this is automated spam. But from a copywriting perspective, “we noticed,” gives the phrase slightly more street cred.

Fear is definitely a marketing hot-button that you can push. If your target market’s main concern is fear-based (for instance a security company may know that a main sales point is the fear of getting robbed,)  playing on that fear can instantly grab the reader’s attention.

We have helped companies similar to yours to achieve the top position (1st Page) on many search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc.

Whew! The company has told me that my rankings sucked – but they can help.  The email has brought up a problem, and the company has countered with a “Don’t worry, we can help” solution.  This “We understand your problem/here’s the solution” is a very tried and true copywriting technique that’s applicable to B2B and B2C sites.

Additionally, this sentence showcases an OK use of the bandwagon approach. The bandwagon approach is when the copy emphasizes that other people are doing/buying X – so you should too (as a side note, this is why testimonials work so well.) A better approach would be if they could target the emails by vertical. Then, the company could change up the text and say things like, “We’ve helped other heavy equipment manufacturers like you.” See how making the sentence a tad more specific provides a bigger impact?

Next week, I’ll share two other content “tricks” that you’ll learn from spam emails. Plus, if you have a favorite spam email to share, send it over. I can break it down and discuss how and why it really works (who knew?).

Want to learn how to write better content that is shared, linked to and loved? Check out the SEO Copywriting Certification training!

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

What’s holding you back?

Who knew that my post, “Why do freelance writers hate SEO copywriting” would stir up so many comments?

After the post, I received a bunch of emails and blog comments like this one:

I like being able to work from home, but I really do despise the articles that I write. I would run away from these articles as quickly as possible if I had a client willing to pay a decent wage for excellent content.

Unfortunately, I cannot find these clients. To be honest, I don’t really know where to look because the only thing I find are the companies wanting quantity and care very little about quality.

Ugh. This writer is obviously in misery. Writing bad copy for low wages can’t be fun – at all.

But here’s the deal: If you’re in an uncomfortable situation, the only person holding you back is you.

That’s not an indictment. I have certainly been in scads of situations where I felt hopeless. Every day, I would wake up with a knot in my stomach. Instead of feeling excited about my day, I’d feel a huge sense of dread. Sometimes, I’d hear my father’s voice asking, “How long are you going to put up with this?”  There were times that I immediately snapped to and quickly changed my situation. But there were many more times that I didn’t.

Why? I may have hated where I was – but I was comfortable. The misery I knew was better than “putting myself out there” and doing something else. That seemed way too scary (and in my depressive way, I figured that it wouldn’t work out anyway.)

In short, I was stuck.

If this is you, I encourage you to change your outlook right now.  There is always something you can do to change your situation and exercise your “control what you can control” muscles. That power is always available to you.  You may not be able to do much…but you can take baby steps towards a goal

For instance, let’s consider the “I’m writing stuff I hate for hardly any money” situation. Here are some steps that person can take:

– Figure out his copywriting niche. What type of client does he want to work with?

– Figure out his value proposition. How can he demonstrate to his prospects that he produces extremely valuable work (hint: testimonials, case studies and testimonials can certainly help.)

– Determine his income goals. Steve Wilkinghoff does a great job during the Copywriting Business Bootcamp discussing how to figure out your yearly income goals – and how to break them down into attainable bite-size chunks.

– Develop a fantastic Website. If he wants Web clients, he’ll need to have a killer site with compelling copy. ‘Nuff said.

– Figure out how to reach his desired market. Is his target market on Twitter? LinkedIn? Or is direct mail better?

– Develop an airtight sales strategy. What will he say to prospects? What’s his process?

Is this easy? No. Will it take some time? Yes. Could it mean some hard decisions and sacrifies? You bet. But it’s taking action. It’s moving forward towards a goal. It’s using smart planning and baby step momentum to propel him in the right direction.

In short, it’s exercising the power he already has.

So, next time you’re feeling stuck, consider what you want the end goal to look like.

Do you want to lose weight?

Do you want to make more money?

Do you want to take a long vacation?

Do you want a better relationship with your partner?

Then, consider the things that you can do that are within your control. That could be signing up for an exercise class. Or working with a consultant to help you improve your income. Make a list of all the little tasks you can take towards your goal – big and small.

Then, start taking those baby steps towards your goal. Every day. No negotiation. No “Well, I don’t feel like it today.” Do it. That’s when you’ll start seeing results.

I guarantee that taking action – and reclaiming your power – will make you much happier.

Plus, you’ll make so much progress towards your goal that you’ll start feeling in control. You’ll know that you pulled yourself out of an uncomfortable situation and made it better. You’ll have exercised those “control what you can control” muscles and made them bigger and stronger. Next time you face a challenge, you’ll be that much better prepared to deal with it.

And that’s a wonderful thing.