Create Killer Content: Copy These Powerful Formulas

sales writingDo a search on “sales writing” or “copywriting” and you’ll see that the body of content around it is ginormous. And that’s no surprise. After all, copywriting is the substance of all the print and digital marketing materials out there, from headlines to calls to action (and all that stuff in between).

The art and science of writing persuasive copy as we know it has been around for some time, and the principles and best practices of David Ogilvy’s day still apply today. In part 1 in our 4-part series on conversions writing, we review some evergreen resources that feature time-saving copywriting formulas, as well as helpful how-tos on creating compelling headlines and email subject lines.

Copywriting Formulas: Acronym Soup 

Creating solid sales copy takes precious time and energy. To help you use both most efficiently, here are several resources for your virtual library.

The Ultimate Guide to No-Pain Copywriting (or, Every Copywriting Formula Ever)

By Joanna Wiebe via Copy Hackers

“Because only rookies write from scratch…” So begins Joanna Wiebe’s introduction to Copy Hackers’ ambitious taxonomy of copywriting formulas (as well as several templates, methods and checklists).

Beginning with the widely known AIDA (Attention-Interest-Desire-Action) model and its myriad variations to more obscure ones such as HELLYEAH (Holler-Empathize-Lambast-Legwork-Yes-Educate-Action-Handle) for long form sales letters, this guide is rich with links and examples. Definitely a keeper!

The Ultimate Guide to Copywriting

By Hassan Ud-deen via Kissmetrics

In this “ultimate guide,” author Hassan Ud-deen discusses the multiple elements that make for superlative copy. He offers a detailed description of how to apply the AIDA formula (including a great YouTube clip of Alec Baldwin’s tutorial from Glengarry Glen Ross), and delves into the psychology behind intriguing headlines, compelling openings and persuasive sales copy. Ud-deen even touches on the use of closed vs. open bullet points. A handy resource you’ll consult for most any copywriting project.

Why Most Copywriting Formulas Stink (and How to Really Write for the Web)

By Henneke Duistermaat via Enchanting Marketing

Authored by the self-described “irreverent copywriter and marketer” Henneke Duistermaat, this post takes aim at the AIDA copywriting formula. Her main objection to AIDA is the redundancy (and potential overkill) of the “attention” part. Unlike the days of print advertising when AIDA was conceived (circa 1900), you’ve already got the attention of readers — they’ve clicked on your site (several others echo this observation, including Wiebe).

Duistermaat favors the FAB (Features-Advantages-Benefits) formula (listed in Copy Hackers’ guide as “A single, solitary formula for body copy”), with the emphasis being on the benefits your product or service offers your prospect (which propels the desire called for by the AIDA model).

She also addresses the PAS (Problem-Agitate-Solution, or -Solve) formula premised on the avoidance of pain, whereby you describe a problem, stir up the emotions associated with it, then offer your solution. Regarding PAS, she quotes copywriting legend Dan Kennedy:

“When you understand that people are more likely to act to avoid pain than to get gain, you’ll understand how powerful this first formula is. (…) It may be the most reliable sales formula ever invented.”

Master This Copywriting Formula to Dominate Any Social Media Platform

By Demian Farnworth via Copyblogger

The applications for the PAS (Problem-Agitate-Solve) copywriting formula (above) are “endless”, writes Demian Farnworth, citing and linking out to examples of its use in product descriptions, landing pages and sales letters.

Farnworth then delves into how to apply the PAS formula to any text-based social media platform (rather humorously), including Twitter. He further notes that “PAS gives your writing consistency, precision, and persuasion” and is a tool you can keep handy to be an efficient writer because you “don’t have to recreate the wheel every time.”

Compelling Headlines: Key to Conversions

You’re most likely familiar with David Ogilvy’s famous quote about headlines: “On the average, five times as many people read the headlines as the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent 80 cents out of your dollar.”

Here are some resources to help you spend that 80 cents wisely.

A Simple Formula for Writing Kick-Ass Blog Titles

By Corey Eridon via HubSpot

Corey Eridon succinctly underscores the importance of creating truly compelling titles in prefacing his post: “Titles are what sell the content.” He continues, “They represent it in search engines, in email, and on social media.”

Guided by best practices, notably keeping the reader experience paramount by delivering on the promise of the title, Eridon’s headline-writing formula starts with the key step of distinguishing an overarching topic from a specific, working title that “guides the creation of a blog post.”

Other requisites of a stellar title include making it sexy while keeping it accurate, as deceptive clickbait titles are liable to backfire by alienating readers (they may well lose trust in you or the brand you’re representing). Additional steps entail optimizing the title for search while keeping it short, and then brainstorming with someone else to hone it to perfection. A smart, from-the-trenches formula!

#Copywriting ALERT! 902 Headline Banging Words, SRSLY

By Marty Weintraub via aimClear

aimClear CEO Marty Weintraub and his team share a list of 902 words to use when creating blog, article and ad headlines. According to Weintraub, these words are “likely to distinguish professional from amateur copy when well used.”

The list is divided into “an array of permutations” that include emotions, expletive punch words and a set of synonyms that serve as a kind of “headline-stemming lateral thesaurus.” Then to assist with ad headline and SEO title brevity, the list is color-coded according to the word’s character count. This resource is something best understood firsthand, so definitely check it out!

How To Create Headlines That Grab Attention And Convert

By Michael Brenner via Marketing Insider Group

A study conducted by HubSpot and Outbrain of more than 3.3 million blog headlines looked into those attributes that increased or inhibited content reach as measured by click-through rates (CTRs), engagement and conversions. In a nutshell, their analysis reveals that readers have become wary of clickbait, demonstrating a strong preference for transparent titles.

Michael Brenner summarizes the study’s findings, writing that headlines with the words “who” and “photo(s),” as well as those with clarifications in brackets (such as [Webinar]), generated higher CTRs, while the latter two also drove higher engagement. Bracketed descriptions were further found to generate more conversions.

The analysis found that overused sexy words such as “secret” and “magic”, those that directly address the reader (“you”) and those that convey urgency (such as “now”) all hurt CTRs by as much as 59 percent. You can download the full study (“Data Driven Strategies for Writing Effective Titles & Headlines”) at HubSpot.

Hate this Headline? You’ll Probably Share the Story.

By Barry Feldman via Kissmetrics

While an 8-word headline of a 1300-word post represents less than 1% of the content, I’m 99% sure it will be the line that dictates the destiny of your post,” writes Barry Feldman in his own post about how to get your content shared on social media…so much so that it delivers a “sudden and pronounced spike in traffic”. The key: giving your post an emotional headline to invoke reader response by using words that pack a powerful punch.

Such “power words” can be positive (connoting pleasurable feelings), or negative (i.e., painful feelings) and there are scads of them. Feldman shares links to CoSchedule’s “cheat sheet” of over 180 power words, and to PsychPage’s equally impressively list of feeling words, both pleasant and unpleasant. He also shares a tool that scores the emotional mojo of your headlines, so you can test alternative variations. Go forth and make that headline emote!

Email Subject Lines: Stand Out in the Inbox Crowd

Email marketing is one of the most effective content marketing strategies available. You can think of email subject lines as headlines for your reader’s inbox, with their open rates the equivalent of headline click-through rates. Here are resources to assist you in persuading your readers to open your email.

The 9 Best Email Subject Line Styles to Increase Your Open Rates

By Megan Marrs via WordStream

You needn’t look farther than your own inbox to know that subscribers are inundated with emails vying for their attention. Here Megan Marrs discusses nine types of email subject lines to boost open rates: simple and no-nonsense; funny; controversial/shocking; single-word; numbers and lists; personalized; questions and other punctuation; “missing out” and other scarcity tactics; and finally, mysterious.

She then lists several general best practices for writing email subject lines, including writing ten different lines for every email and then choosing the best, keeping the character count to under 50, playing with alliteration and using CAPITALS sparingly.

Your Turn

Have you come across any evergreen sales writing resources you’d like to share? Please include them in the comments below!

How to Make Tightwads Gleefully Open Their Wallets

Do you know someone who would rather save money than spend it?

The flashy new iPhone 11 doesn’t tempt him –- he’s happy with his old-school flip phone.

If he goes out to lunch, he’s ordering the cheapest thing on the menu and boxing up half for later.

He’s probably demanding the “best deal” when asking for a quote.

In the marketing world, he falls within the “tightwad” customer persona (really). Tightwads are 24% of all buyers – so almost one-quarter of your prospects fall into this group.

Does a tightwad ever spend money? Of course. Does he like to spend money? Nope.

But, what if your target reader is a typical tightwad? How can you transform his mindset from, “I’m not spending money on this,” to “Wow, this is a good deal.”

It’s all about writing tightwad-focused content.

The inner workings of a tightwad

Why is spending money so painful to a tightwad buyer?

His brain is wired a little bit differently.

In a tightwad’s brain, spending money = pain. Even if he’s spending money on something pleasurable – such as new clothes, a car or a vacation – opening his wallet hurts.

Every cent out the door is like shedding blood.

Having said that, tightwads will purchase your $350/post blogging services, your $10,000 training program and your specialized products.

Here’s how:

Tightwads are extremely analytical – and fluffy, non-precise sales copy will fall flat. Plus, phrases like, “you deserve it” – or anything that implies luxury — won’t work.

Things that DO work are:

  • Strong value propositions. What makes your product or service stand out? What do you offer that’s different than other sites? General statements like “We offer fantastic customer service,” mean nothing. What IS important is when your company is available 24/7 when your competitors are only open 9-5.
  • Specifics count. You’ll want to feed into a tightwad’s analytical nature. Instead of writing, “You’ll save money,” include a specific dollar amount or percentage (“you’ll save 23 percent!”). If you’re going head-to-head with a competitor, consider creating a comparison chart showcasing your differences (and your superiority.) Tightwads love graphs, charts and comparisons.
  • Reframing value is a great hack. There’s a reason UNICEF says you can sponsor a child for “just fifty cents a day.” Even if the total price is just $15 a month, fifty cents a day seems much more manageable.
  • Words matter. How you frame your copy can have a tremendous impact on conversions. In a Wharton study, three researchers framed a overnight shipping fee two different ways. One variation was telling respondents about a “$5 fee,” and the other variation said it was “a small $5 fee.” Guess which variation worked? Yup, a “small $5 fee.”

Want a great example? Check out Dollar Shave Club. The emphasis is on quick, easy and incredible value. To appeal to their tightwad audience, they break down their costs to $9/month, instead of saying “just $108 a year.”

Want another example? Check out Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ song Thrift Shop (warning, the lyrics are NSFW, so turn your speakers down!).

Want more? You can tweak your SEO, too.

Looking for every edge you can find? Here are some tightwad-focused SEO tweaks you can try.

  • Check out tightwad keyphrases. For instance, the phrase [cheap car insurance] sees over 90K searches a month, according to SEMRush. [low cost car insurance] receives 1,600 searches. If saving money is important to your customers, try targeting them with “cheap” keyword modifiers.
  • Consider placing your “tightwad” benefit statement in your Title. Things like “save 20%,” or “free shipping” can help your listing get noticed over others on the SERP. For instance, check out how Amtrak structured their Title:

save_20_percent-amtrak

  • Don’t forget a “tightwad” description. Granted, Expedia’s description isn’t the best — but the company does make it clear that folks can find the cheapest deals on Expedia. Compare this to Kayak’s description, which doesn’t quite fulfill the “cheap” promise.

cheap_airfares-kayak

Baby, don’t fear the tightwad

Writing great tightwad-focused copy is easy — once you know what makes the tightwad tick. Stay away from “luxury” references, target tightwad-focused keyphrases and experiment with word play. The result? Your readers are going to love you — and even feel OK about pulling out their credit card.

Well done!

5 Sure-Fire Ways to Create a Killer Home Page

Greetings! Glad you’re here, because today’s SEO copywriting how-to video is about creating a killer home page.  However powerful your copywriting and skilled your SEO, if you’re making these all-too-common, conversions-killing mistakes with your home page copy, your business will suffer.  The good news is, bad as it may seem now, it is easily corrected!

If you’ve been following Heather’s weekly how-to video posts, you’ll notice the progression from the inaugural 3 skills every SEO copywriter must have to this step-by-step series, aimed at providing you with explicit guidance to creating a fantastic website.

Beginning at the beginning, Heather first addresses the home page: what you should include on your home page to serve both the search engines and your target audience, as well as what tactics to avoid.

So let’s review:

Why Focus on the Home Page?

Because the home page is the most important page on your site!  It is your second conversions opportunity following the search engine results page.

The Home Page:

  • Is the page most indexed by the search engines
  • Sets the “tone” for the entire site
  • Orients people: they know they’re at the right “place” and that you offer what they want/need

Your Home Page is Like a Funnel:

From a sales perspective, you should assume that your prospects are coming to your site directly from search engine results, a link, or an offline source.  Your objective is to first, immediately let these folks know that they’re at the right place and then second, direct them to exactly where they need to go next.

Your home page serves to segment your audience and then prompt them to move around your site. Your home page is a great “preview” of all that you offer, not an index of every single benefit you offer.

Tried and true strategies for writing a killer home page, whether B2B or B2C, are:

  • Use overarching benefit statements & general, overarching keywords/keyphrases

A well-written home page should serve as a “teaser,” offering a preview of the great benefits your company has to offer.  It isn’t the place to discuss each and every benefit you offer, or list each and every keyword or keyphrase in your arsenal.  It is the place to offer your readers a taste, then clearly direct them to exactly where they need to go for the full entrée.

Trying to say too much too soon overwhelms the reader, dilutes your message, and detracts from those keywords and phrases that actually apply to the home page.  The same goes for your home page footer:  jamming keywords and phrases into your footer doesn’t do anybody any good, period.  Don’t do it.

It is better to sprinkle your benefit statements and related keyword/keyphrases throughout your site.  You’ve product/service pages to address specific product/service benefits, about pages to discuss your company and mission statement, etc., and to include the corresponding, relevant keywords and phrases for those pages.

  • Link intelligently from your home page to your product/services page

Again, your home page should serve as a funnel, directing your readers deeper into your site.  As with benefit statements and keywords/phrases, you want to avoid linking out to each and every product or service you offer.  It serves all concerned far better to link to main sections/categories of your site.

Far too often, otherwise well-written home pages go wrong with this “link-o-rama” (mal)practice, whereby your prospect is confronted with one big hyperlink.  It only sabotages your home page content to jam it up with numerous internal links.  For the reader, it is both visually overwhelming and psychologically overwhelming.  Easy does it!

  • Write copy that is focused around your customer persona

Write as if you were addressing an audience of one:  your ideal customer.  You want to reach and resonate with that one person.  Writing general, untargeted copy will get you general, untargeted results.

This is a great opportunity to change up your copy to increase conversions by honing your message specifically for your customer persona.  Even if you have multiple customer personas, you can readily structure your home page copy to address each persona and then direct the prospect to vertical-specific, niche landing pages within your website.

  • Create a fantastic, benefit-oriented home page title

We’ve already discussed the importance of creating compelling, “clickable” page Titles.  Far, far better to compose a powerful home page Title that couples one or two of the main keywords/phrases specific to the home page with a strong benefit statement, than to write a so-so title that is stuffed with keywords.  You want to match your targeted home page copy with an equally targeted, clickable page Title.

  • Get to the point

Stay on track and relay your message to your customer persona as succinctly as possible.  Ruthlessly edit your copy and strive for an economy of words:  if you can say something in five words as opposed to 25, do it.  Your home page isn’t the place for waxing poetic!

So, what information should you have on your products or services pages? Stay tuned, as next week Heather will discuss how to craft conversions-driving copy for your company’s products/services!

Thanks for checking in!  As always, your questions and comments are most welcome.

 

Want Better Conversions? Get Specific with Your Benefit Statements

Want to sell more?

Make your benefit statements specific. Very specific.

Heather developed this piece in response to a reader question about how to increase the effectiveness of their web copy. In looking through the reader’s web content, Heather realized that one of the opportunities the copywriter could leverage was to make their marketing copy more specific.

While the general reader benefit statements were powerful, honing them to highly tangible and specific “what’s-in-it-for-me” language is what this copywriter needed to do to improve their conversions. So for those of you who have been struggling with writing better sales copy and are looking for any advantage you can find, you should find this most helpful:

1. So these are so-so benefit statements. (Let’s make them better…)

  • Boost your revenue!
  • Let us help you save time!
  • Save money!

The challenge? People have different ideas about what “boosting revenue,” “saving time” and “saving money” mean. The web copy doesn’t paint a picture. This is where the specifics come in…

2. Specifics take a good marketing statement and make it sexy

  • Boost your revenue by 30%!
  • What would you do with an extra hour every day?
  • Slice your expenses by $2,000 a month!

So you can see how these highly specific benefits, expressed in such personalized, concrete and precise terms, can be something simple to leverage…

3. So what does this mean to your online writing?

  • Track how you’ve helped your customers – what specifics can you uncover?
  • Try to back up any “general” benefit statement with an exact number or percentage.
  • Don’t feel compelled to “round up.” If you’ve boosted profits by 27.6%, it’s OK to use that stat.

If you haven’t yet asked your customers for testimonials, now would be a great time to start. Ask them if they can provide you with any precise specifications in terms of numbers and percentages. Studies have shown that accurate, factual spec’s (e.g., 27.6% as opposed to 25- or 30%) are found to be more credible by prospects. And besides, it’s the truth of the matter!

Try these suggestions and watch your conversions improve!

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!

How to Use the Rule of 3 to Supercharge Your Writing

Greetings! You’re in for a fun treat: learning all about the secret awesome sauce of powerful copywriting, held dear and effectively applied by marketers, advertisers and speech writers alike…the rule of three.

Described in detail by Heather in this week’s SEO Copywriting how-to video, once you learn about this tip, you’ll think “Oh my goodness – this is EVERYWHERE!” And it is, because it is a tried-and-true strategy that has stood the test of copywriting time.

Tune in as Heather explains what the rule of three is, and shows you how to employ the rule of three in your Web writing, from creating killer benefit statements to engaging taglines to fantastic web copy…

What’s the “rule of three”?

What we know collectively as copywriters is that grouping things in threes tends to provide a greater impact, and when speaking it tends to roll off the tongue easily. This is something that speechwriters and marketers have been using since the beginning of copywriting time.

  • Grouping things in threes provides a greater impact – and makes the list easier to remember.
  • Old school marketers have been using this technique since the beginning of copywriting time (and speech writers, too!)

So if you think about the advertising messages or slogans out there, you see this rule of 3 happens everywhere:

  •  “Just do it” – Nike
  • “Tune in, turn on, drop out” – Timothy Leary
  • “Blood, sweat and tears” – The band, and the saying
  • “Words and phrases and clauses” – Conjunction Junction

Heather had to use the little screenshot from “Conjunction junction,” because if you grew up in that generation then you know the lyrics, “Words and phrases and clauses.” Again, the rule of three is used to make something stick in the readers’ or listeners’ minds.

So here are some ways that you can edge this rule of three into your copy….

Use three benefit statements

One of the first ways you can incorporate the rule of three in your copy is to use three main benefit statements. While this is especially applicable to your home page, it is actually something that you can do on your other web pages as well.

  • Rather than listing a bunch of benefits, limit yourself to your top three heavy-hitters.

The screenshot example shown here is from You Need A Budget (YNAB). As you can see, on their home page they have three main benefits bullets:

  • A Proven Method
  • Amazing Software
  • Free, Live Classes

So all of the benefits pop! They stand out, and as readers it’s really easy for us to quick-scan the page and see exactly what’s in it for us.

Create a “rule of three” tagline

  • Can you distill your company’s essence down to three main statements? Sure you can!

So here we have an example from GAIAM, with their tagline:  “live | learn | grow.” And Mind Body’s tagline:  “Love your business.”  See how well that those three-word groupings slide off the tongue, and provide a powerful impact?

Again, this is something you can do for your own business and for your clients’ businesses!

Think in threes when you write your copy

The third thing to remember is to think in threes when you write your content:

  • There are lots of ways to structure your copy so that you’re able to really leverage the rule of three.

So for example, here we have 37 Signals, presenting their web content in three main points: “Frustration free web-based apps for collaboration, sharing information, and making decisions.”

Another great example is from Despair, Inc. – Heather loves their demotivational posters. Again, we see three concise main points: “Demotivational Posters. Invented here. Perfected here.”

And even looking at Google’s copy, where they’re promoting Google Drive, they use three main bullet points: “Create and collaborate,” “Store everything safely,” and “Search everything.”

So again, once you’re hip to this rule of three, you will notice that it is everywhere – in advertising messages, in books, in magazines, and in speeches – and again, this is something that you can use in your own copy to help that copy pop and make a greater impact.

 

photo thanks to lrargerich (Luis Argerich)

How to Write Killer Sales Copy: A Video Guide

Greetings! Today we’re featuring our top three SEO copywriting video posts on how to write killer sales copy.

Writing sales copy can be difficult! The art of persuasive writing does not always come naturally or easily to copywriters, especially if they are not trained in direct response theory and best practices. Good sales copy does not need to be heavy handed – the key is to have it flow naturally, while providing a clear call to action to inspire conversions.

Tune in as Heather guides us through how to write powerful, conversions-driving sales copy – as well as what to avoid…

How to tell if your sales copy sucks

In this reader favorite, Heather discusses how to check your sales copy to avoid common and costly mistakes. If you are a DIY small business or new to sales copywriting, there are several ways you can inadvertently go wrong. Learn how to detect these deadly sales copy killers.

3 ways to transform your sucky sales copy into conversions-driving gold

Here, Heather builds on the original video above, with three more tell-tale signs of bad sales copy. Learn how to refine your website’s tone and feel, create specific benefit statements, and use keyphrases deftly to turn your sucky sales copy into conversions-driving gold!

How to translate testimonials into killer sales copy

Finally, Heather shows us how to drawn on customer testimonials to write better sales copy. The benefits conveyed by your happy clients in their testimonials are a fantastic resource to tap for writing your sales pages, providing you with specific benefit statements in a natural voice that can improve both the actual content and tone of your writing. How cool is that?

photo thanks to Vectorportal

What Maslow Can Teach You About Copywriting

Greetings! You’re in for an intriguing SEO copywriting video today, as we enter the realm of customer psychology – specifically, tapping your customers’ psyche to create truly engaging, powerful content!

Based on psychologist Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs,” Heather walks us through the emotional (and motivational) levels of the psyche and illustrates how to tie your copy into each one with specific website examples.

So tune in to learn how to make your copy resonate with your customers on their deepest psychological levels, from their most basic physiological needs to their lofty esteem needs and aspirations.

As you’ve most likely gathered from Heather’s webinars and/or some of her blog posts, she discusses the psychology of copywriting a lot. The reason?

  • People make their buy decisions based on psychology: they ultimately buy based on their emotion.

Granted, they do their research, talk to their friends, and do their due diligence, but at the end of the day, their buy decision is an emotional decision.

That’s why…

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

…is so important to copywriting.

  • If you can tie your ad or website copy to something that is part of your customers’ psychological hierarchy of needs, you can write more compelling and powerful copy – content that resonates with what your customers’ are thinking about, are worried about, and/or want to achieve.

This first graphic is a little reminder of what Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are, which you may recall from high school or college: at the base of the pyramid are the basic physiological needs for survival, then progressing (evolving) upwards through safety needs, social needs, esteem needs, and finally, self-actualization.

This psychological “needs” pyramid represents what Maslow thought we all experience, as we move beyond our instinctual physiological needs of food, water, etc., to the need to become self-actualized human beings.

So what follows is how Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can inform and improve your copywriting, illustrated with specific examples from the Web.

Physiological Needs

The Help-4-Homes (Save Your Home Today!) website is a great example of content that is targeted to basic, physical needs: it is geared towards people who are almost in foreclosure and face losing their house.

This is very freaky situation for folks to deal with – they’re confused, they’re scared, and they’re looking for options. The web copy reflects the readers’ feelings with a checklist of concerns: has your mortgage rate been reset (and you can’t afford it)? Have you suffered a financial hardship?

Then at the end of the copy is a really powerful testimonial from a client who affirms that she was going through this problem and contacted the company, and the company was able to help her.

  • The copy ties into those elemental physiological needs and hits those high points with a checklist of concerns, followed by reassurance via a strong testimonial.

If you’re in an industry where physiological needs are the motivating factor, you can look to this example as a template for writing copy that is far more detailed and compelling than just “We can help you save your house” or “We can help you beat foreclosure.”

Safety Needs

An example of a website that addresses the psyche’s need for safety is ADT: they “specialize in home security.”

If you’re in the mindset where you want to buy a home security system, ADT’s benefit statements are most reassuring: it is the gold standard in home security; they offer a personal emergency response system; there is video surveillance plus intrusion detection.

  • These benefit statements are crucial because they help the reader feel safe. They let the reader know that he’s at the right place, he’s working with a company that can help him, and that understands his needs.

So if you’re working with a company that deals with safety, ADT’s web content is a fantastic example of a different way to approach the copy. And again, it is far more powerful than just “We’ll help keep you safe”, as it details specific benefits to help the reader feel at ease.

Social Needs

Here is another core psychological need that we all have, and one that can be tapped in creating copy (and images).

In this example of Pottery Barn’s website, you’ll notice that it really doesn’t say all that much. The company’s writers could do a lot more to flesh it out and make it seem more social, certainly.

But what grabs you is the picture: this cozy table setting with four glasses of wine. It tells a story. Somebody has been there, hanging out with friends, and enjoying the view of the water (presumably Chesapeake Bay). It conveys a very comfortable, social type of environment.

  • So not only can you use words to tie into one of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, but you can also use images. Remember that you’ll want to make sure that your images are helping to reinforce what you’re saying in the copy.

Esteem Needs

Finally, we’re going to end our discussion with the psyche’s esteem needs: these are the people that want to impress, and that want the best of the best.

The website example here is Dream Homes Magazine.com, where you can browse these spectacular homes and luxury rentals located all over the United States and Mexico.

It is definitely about “living the dream.”

So if you’re working with luxury goods and things that are more exclusive, you could tie your copy into Maslow’s “esteem needs” in his hierarchy: that will help people connect better, because that is precisely what they’re looking for.

  • Folks with esteem-based psychological needs are seeking that exclusivity, that rarity and privilege of an experience that not everyone can have – one that they know they’ll be able to talk about and remember all their lives.

A Concluding Thought

If you’re a copywriter and want to learn how to write better, especially for conversions, then you’ll want to do a lot of reading around psychology. The more you understand about what makes people “tick” and the underlying psychology of their motivation, the better your content will be!

 

photo thanks to BetterWorks, Inc.

The Conversion Dilemma: AIDA in the Internet Age

 A marketer’s job is to reduce, and hopefully remove, any and all barriers to THE SALE.

The conversion drives everything we do.  Social standing, likability, awareness, fairness, law, order, kittens*, etc . –we care about these things because they potentially impact SALES.  Dollars.  Greenbacks.  Dead Presidents.  Moolah.

And while the AIDA (Attention-Interest-Decision-Action) model is about as new as spats and talkies, the cyber-sales era presents unique issues.

Never before have more sensory cues battled for attention, more products and services vied for interest and more factors affected the decisions of consumers.

And never before has the call to action suffered from more inaction – a national stasis rooted in Internet-capable plasma TVs, Snuggies and Cool Ranch Doritos.

The links of AIDA are rusty at best, snapped at worst; it is a web marketer’s challenge to repair them.

Tactics We’ve Outgrown

Times they are a changin’; we must change with them.  No longer can we count on:

  • Door-to-Door Sales

The only people approaching doors these days are Jehovah’s Witnesses and kids selling auto-renewing Allure subscriptions.  Today, we must communicate personality and likability virtually.

  • Advantage of Location

With a glut of competition accessible in a .27 second Google search, being physically proximate to your consumers is (generally) not good enough.

  • Ignorance

Savvy consumers are accustomed to advertising – this post-modern audience demands interesting and dynamic rationale for purchase.

  • Singularity

Multi-tasking killed the radio star.  Billboards, cellphones, email, IM, TV, streaming, THIS.  Stimuli, stimuli, stimuli… When’s the last time you focused on one thing?

How to Rebuild the AIDA Model

But enough gloom and doom.  Guiding a prospective consumer through the steps of AIDA in this climate is difficult, but not impossible.  Magic wand time.  Do I have your Attention?  Good.  Let’s proceed.

Attention/Interest

I know you’re there; I just don’t care.

Imagine I walk up and punch you in the face.  Do I have your attention?  Yes?  Would you like to buy this lovely purse filled with diamonds, fat free Cinnabons and peace?

Probably not so much.

While gaining attention is step one – and a necessary step at that – it doesn’t necessarily translate into interest.  If you annoy, aggravate and otherwise antagonize your target, attention can have the opposite reaction.  Hitler got Poland’s attention, but they certainly weren’t buying what he was selling.

The link between attention and interest is broken when:

The attention is negative –OR–The target becomes interested in the campaign, but not the product it’s promoting.

  • Solution

Unless you are SOLELY interested in awareness, avoid campaigns that are entirely reliant on entertainment value.   There are simply too many things competing for eyeballs today (YouTube / Tivo / Cats that look like Hitler).

Tether the advertising campaign to your product with social media, optimized copy and a brand personality consistent with the wants and needs of your target market.  Internet marketers must establish a direct connection between campaign and product that delivers consumer value.

Interest/Decision

I’m interested in what you’re selling… but not interested enough to decide to buy.

These folks are perhaps best described as fence sitters – consumers that need the cattle prod.  Absent using an actual cattle prod (which would be both impractical and illegal), internet marketers need to take the concept virtual.

  • Solution

INCENTIVIZE.  This is where “deals” and other drivers – flash sales, discounts on shipping, coupons for “liking” the Facebook page, sales aimed at specific groups – can tip the scale.  The internet is particularly good at creating a sense of immediacy; use it.  Emphasize that NOW is the time to buy and try.

Decision/Action

I’ve decided to buy this product, but…

You’re on the one yard line, but for some reason, you’re not scoring.  Your mission: ID that blocker and take him out.

  • Solution

Use Google Analytics to identify bounce / exit pages and gather stats on cart abandonment.  Isolate and remove major barriers to purchase, such as:

Annoyance

While follow-up is part of any successful sales strategy, MODERATE.  Asking too much of your customers (questions, password creation and the like) is a sure-fire way to provoke a hasty exit.  It is often difficult to recognize when assertive jumps track into annoying, so monitor interactions.  Just because you can’t SEE your target doesn’t mean the feedback loop doesn’t exist.

Expectations

Manage expectations early.  If there’s a big pill to swallow (for example, shipping is a zillion dollars), don’t sock customers with it at the very end.  If you find shipping fees prove to be a constant transactional impediment, build that cost into the item’s core price.  Also, keep in mind the “H” of S&H is regarded as highly suspect by many consumers.

Method of Payment

Make buying online as easy as possible.  Don’t expect consumers to hunt down credit cards – offer them options like (Godsend!) Paypal.

Sales and Delivery Models

Evaluate potential stumbling blocks to initial and repeat business.  Is auto-renewal scaring off sales?  Do deliveries require an in-person signature?  Is a slow website inducing customer comas?  All of these factors can affect an income statement.  A-B tests can answer some of these questions.

Thank you for wading through my webmarketacular.  Feel free to disagree (or even agree!) with me in the comments.

*I care about kittens.  Fundamentally.  Practically exclusively.

About the Author – Katie Fetting-Schlerf

Katie Fetting-Schlerf is a copywriter and all around marketing whiz-kid at Portent, an internet marketing company.  She would like to impress her employers, so feel free to ‘like’ the crap out of this post. You can find Katie on Twitter @KatieLFetting.

What Informercials Can Teach You About Copywriting

Greetings! In this SEO copywriting video, Heather discusses how watching informercials can help you be a better copywriter, and greatly improve your conversions.

Specifically, Heather demonstrates how informercials can inform your writing with structure, clear calls to action, and benefit statements that scream value to the prospect.

Heather admits that she’s actually addicted to informercials because of what they show you about the process of building excitement and getting people really pumped about buying a product, and showing that product’s value so well.

In fact, she’s willing to bet that if you’ve ever watched an infomercial, at least once in your life you’ve thought, “Huh! I want to buy that!” And that’s how powerful infomercials can be! Tune in to learn how watching infomercials can improve your writing…

Infomercials can teach you a lot about how to structure your copy

  • The scripts are carefully written and designed to build excitement and convert.

The reason why informercials are so powerful is that the scripts are carefully written and designed to build excitement and convert.  The folks involved in informercials know what they’re doing.

  • Everything is measured, so producers can see what works and what doesn’t.

And they know that because they measure EVERYTHING: they have a track record of what works, what doesn’t, and so everything they do is designed with conversions in mind.

  • Plus, they make companies a LOT of money.

With their amazing set of skills, informercial copywriters make companies a LOT of money.  Here are three things they do very, very well:

1. But Wait! There’s more…

  •  How are you promoting the value of your product or service?

We’ve all seen and heard the “But wait! There’s more!” and this is fun, because what they’re doing here is to sell you on the product and then some.

So when you’re watching the informercial you can get excited about the product, but then after you know the price, you find that they’ve added all this extra stuff and that helps pump up the value: so if your were already set to buy the product at $9.95, when you see all this other stuff that you can get for $9.95 then you’re more than ready to buy.

Really think about how you are promoting the value of your product or service!

  • Benefit statements are crucial. You need to tell your prospects “what’s in it for them.”

(Yep, that’s Heather’s WIIFM guy in the screenshot.) Are you really showing the customer what’s in it for him? Those benefit statements are crucial. If you watch informericals, you’ll notice that they may talk a little bit about the product/service features, but everything ties back into the benefit statements.

  • You want your prospects to think, “I NEED to have this. Now.”

So it’s not just building a little bit of a need – it’s showing that urgency and intensity so prospects are actually excited to contact you!

2. Call now! Operators are standing by!

The second thing that informercials do is the “Call now! Operators are standing by!” They have calls to action everywhere, throughout the informercial.

  • Check your copy. Do you make your call to action clear?

The typical format of the informercial is sharing a little bit of information about the product, and then interjecting “how to order.” Then it goes back to sharing a little bit more information about the product, and then again, cutting in with “how to order” with that phone number.

So when you’re looking at your Web copy, you want to check to see that your call to action is clear.

It’s amazing how many pages, both on the product side and the services side, make it hard to understand what that next action step would be, and how to take it.

  • Is it easy to take action?

You want to make sure that not only do you have a call to action (e.g., “buy now!” “contact us today!”) but that it’s easy to take action by providing hyperlinks and buttons, and that everything is very clear to the interested buyer.

  • Consider adding a call to action in the content, as well as “add to cart.”

If you’re selling a product, like a lot of folks you might have that little “add to cart” button, and that’s great – but consider that you can also include calls to action with the copy as well.

Amazon does this very well, with its checkout message of “Customers like you also purchased…”  That is another call to action for another conversion.

Maybe you want people to download a white paper, so if people don’t buy from you initially, at least they’ve downloaded something from you and/or they’re on your mailing list.

Make sure that Call to Action is in the content.

3. Hurry, this offer is only available for the next few minutes…!

The third thing about informercials that Heather really loves is that “Hurry…” message.

  • Limited-time offers add a sense of urgency.

Well, we all know that that “next few minutes” offer is most likely available whenever you call and you ask for it. But that ticking clock – where it shows that there’s a countdown – provides that sense of urgency that people really respond to.

  • If you’re running a sale, make sure that you mention the end date.

It’s funny, how you can run a sale and tell folks that the sale ends on Tuesday – and people may not buy anything until Monday night, because they know the sale is ending soon, and so they suddenly they have that sense of urgency,

So if you’re running a sale, make sure that you mention the end date: make it really, really clear because there are going to be those folks who procrastinate to the very last minute, and you want to let them know when the sale ends.

If you’ve been playing with sales and not mentioning an end date, try stating the end date and see how that boosts your conversions.

  • Email campaign? Consider sending another email to remind folks of your limited-time offer.

If you’re running an email campaign and it’s a really cool, exclusive sale, you might want to consider sending another email to remind folks that it’s a limited-time offer.

So for instance, send a brief email of “Just 24 hours left for you to purchase your X at this incredible price.”  And see if you get another bump in conversion rates.

 

photo thanks to S.wplunkett