What Nike Can Teach You About Bullet Points

Answer me this…

Why do copywriters create boring bullet points?

You know what I mean. Many product and service pages (maybe even on your site) highlight statements, like:

  • Imported
  • Washable and stain resistant
  • Comes in green, blue or black

YAWN. Are you still awake?

Me neither.

Here’s the problem:

In a perfect world, bullet points pop off the page and are quick-scan gold. Writing them right can boost conversion rates.

The problem is, most writers write lazy, feature-filled bullet points.

Sometimes, they’ll even make the features sound super-technical to “impress the reader.”

But, that’s going about things the wrong way.

After all, your reader doesn’t care about your “washable” blouse.

She does want an easy-to-care-for blouse that’s wrinkle-free and great for travel.

Features don’t sell. Benefits do.

It’s time to kick feature-oriented bullet points to the curb and write smart benefit-focused bullet points, instead.

Here’s how…

Just do it like Nike

I love to give copywriting credit where credit is due — and Nike has mastered bulleted benefit statements. Their sales copy is fun to read.

Why?

Hardcore runners KNOW their shoe specs. These ultra-athletes care about the latest advances designed to help them run faster, better and with less stress.

So, it would be easy for Nike to geek out in their sales copy and write things like:

  • Contoured Lunarlon insole
  • Laser-cut outsole

Those features sound pretty cool – right?

But, Nike doesn’t take the easy way out. They don’t write lazy bullet points. Instead, they take it one step further and promote the benefit — not the feature.

In this example, they write slightly more copy so they can weave in the features and what’s in it for the customer. When you’re running 30+ miles a week, these are BIG benefits.

Here’s another example of how Nike uses benefit-filled bullet points and subheadlines. Even if you quick-scan the page and barely glance at the content, the benefit statements still pop — even the tiny bullet points under “more details”:

great example of bullet points

 

Nice, eh? Nike is doing it right.

Of course, I have one suggestion…

You can often skillfully weave a keyphrase or synonym into a benefit-rich bullet point. Sometimes, you can even find a long-tail search term you can slide into the bullet point copy.

It wouldn’t work all the time. But, if it made sense for the occasional subheadline or bullet point — cool.

Check your keyphrase research and play with the possibilities!

Here’s one more copywriting tip…

How to build a bullet point sandwich

What’s a bullet point sandwich? I’m glad you asked…

Based on research, folks have found there’s an optimal bullet point order:

  • Most important thing
  • Another good thing, but not the most important
  • Necessary thing(s) to mention (in the middle)
  • Second most important thing.

See how it works? In a bullet point sandwich, your less flashy (but still important) benefits are the filling.

Your BIG benefits – the ones folks will notice first — are the slices of bread (mmmm….carbs) holding everything together.

Tasty, eh?

What do you think?

Does writing bullet points and subheadlines bore you — or do you have fun fleshing out the benefits? What sites offer your favorite copywriting examples? Let me know in the comments!

How to Make Tightwads Gleefully Open Their Wallets

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

The flashy new iPhone 7 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!

 

 

 

 

How to Give Your Readers a Squirt of Dopamine

Imagine writing so sticky that people hang on to every word, spend more time reading your copy – and even remember it later?

How?

Because every time they read your content, their brains are squirted with dopamine happy-juice.

Squirt

No, it’s not black magic.

In fact, coming up with smile-producing content is incredibly fun!

It’s all about the wordplay.

Let me explain.

My discovery (and “doh” moment)

Like a good marketer, I was checking out my article backlinks and saw someone linked to 14 SEO Copywriting Tips in Haiku. Cool.

When I checked out the backlink, the article discussed how haiku word play was popular.

NYC uses haiku street traffic signs:

Oncoming cars rush
Each, a three-ton bullet
And you, flesh and bone

Jonathan Schwartz, ex-CEO of Sun Microsystems tweeted a haiku to announce his resignation:

Financial crisis
Stalled too many customers
CEO no more

Why does haiku wordplay – especially around such serious topics – make us smile?

It’s all in our brains.

Enter neuromarketing research. Using words in unexpected ways makes our writing more persuasive, more easily remembered – and can even provide pleasure.

Yes, that’s right. Funny wordplay gives your readers’ brains a squirt of pleasure-enhancing dopamine. People want to hang on your every word because it makes them feel good.

How cool is that?

Was I aiming for a mass reader dopamine squirt when I wrote the blog post? Nope. It never even crossed my mind. Doh!

I wrote the post because it was fun to write. In a career universe full of meta description how-to guides (it’s a really great guide, but wow) and algorithms and RankBrain, you gotta shake it up somehow.

How you can light up your readers’ brains

Working with wordplay is fun. The key is thinking out of the box.

For instance…

I was driving behind an airport hotel shuttle with the slogan “Suite Ride” on the back. I laughed – but more importantly, I remember the brand (Marriott.)

Duluth Trading Company has a popular line of comfortable men’s work pants called Ballroom Jeans (I’ll let you figure out the wordplay.)

If haiku and unexpected word combinations aren’t your style, try textual metaphors like:

It was a hairy situation.

Learn to sell without feeling slimy.

Are you having a rough day?

Textural words like hairy, slimy and rough activate the sensory parts of our brains. While we’re reading the copy, our brains metaphorically feel slime, hairiness and roughness.

See? There are lots of ways to make your writing fun again.

Ready to play with wordplay?

What do you think of today’s post? Can you work some fun wordplay into your writing? Contact me and let me know (or leave a comment.) I’d love to hear from you!

It’s time to sign off
Enjoy playing with wordplay
Talk to you next week!

This info-packed post originally appeared in my weekly newsletter — it’s where I share my best stuff. Here’s how to sign up!

Expert Tips for Creating & Promoting Stellar Content

Expert Content ResourcesLast week, 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!

Photo thanks: ID 4815205632 © Drew Coffman / Flickr.com

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 112 Best Email Marketing Subject Lines (so far) in 2016

By Joey Barker via Unfunnel

It’s not yet mid-January, yet Unfunnel has already sent out 1.25 million emails. Their analysis of the email open rates rendered a list of their best 112 email subject lines, organized as benefit-driven, logic- and threat-based types. In turn, each type is broken down into categories.

For instance, benefit-driven email subject lines may drive open rates by appealing to the reader’s self-interest, or pique her interest with news or by telling the beginning of a story. (Their benefit-driven email subject lines accounted for nearly half of Unfunnel’s most successful ones).

Logic-based email subject lines may arouse the reader’s curiosity, invoke social proof, or appeal to her humanity with a more one-on-one, intimate tone.

Finally, threat-based email subject lines play on the reader’s fear of loss, whether by implying scarcity or urgency.

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.

How Consumers Really Feel About Your Subject Lines

By Elyse Dupre via Direct Marketing News

To gauge the impact that emotional words and phrases in email subject lines have on reader engagement, Persado (an “automated persuasive language generator” software company) analyzed 436 of those from retail and e-commerce companies.

The specific subject lines studied were from last year’s Black Friday emails, and “engagement” was measured by open rates.

Elyse Dupre reports that Persado studied five performance-driving emotions: urgency, achievement, exclusivity, anxiety and excitement. Of them, exclusivity (such as, “Your exclusive $15 coupon is here!”) performed the best with a 28-percent average lift in open rates, and achievement (for instance, “…you’ve earned it”) a distant second with 18-percent.

An excited tone actually resulted in an 11-percent fall in open rates, compared to an 11-percent increase above the baseline in 2014. Paraphrasing Presado’s director of marketing, Julia Spano, Dupre writes that while it may seem counterintuitive, “excitement is rarely a top performing emotional category”.

[Note: You may be interested in this related story by Dupre on the impressive success Angie’s List has experienced in leveraging emotionally engaging email subject lines generated by Persado.]

Your Turn

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

Photo thanks: ID 59022955 © Wujekjery / Dreamstime.com

A Powerful SEO Strategy for Crazy Conversions

SEO Conversions Strategy

Drive conversions with this mini-USP strategy!

When I work with new clients, I send them a creative brief so I can gather the best information for my SEO copywriting project.

And quite often, when I receive the completed brief from my clients, the following scenario unfolds:

Me: “I reviewed your creative brief, and I see that you left your company’s USP section blank.”

Client: “Yes, we need help with that. What’s a USP again?”

Me: “That’s your company’s Unique Selling Proposition — the main, unique reason a customer will choose your company, products or services over other options in your market.”

Client: “Oh… OK. So our USP is that we’ve been around since 1975.” (Or) ” Our USP is that we’re the leading manufacturer of [fill in the blank].”

Me: “Cool! Let’s dig deeper to find something exciting for customers; something that will stop them in their tracks and choose you now.”

Client: “OK, sounds good.”

This is where your genius work as an SEO Copywriter truly begins.

Let me be clear: you’re not just helping the client articulate a single company-wide USP.

For each page of a company’s website, you’re writing “mini USPs” that set each product, service or offer apart from the competition so customers will become excited and make an immediate choice.

I’d guess that about 80% of companies (maybe more!) never consider their USP when writing web content for products, services, free trials, enewsletter sign-ups and other offerings. They just put it out there as a flat statement (“We have this product…”) It seems that way, anyway, when I search for various things in Google.

For instance, if you Google a specific topic on any given day, you’ll probably find that most search result descriptions simply list what they do (“We’re the leading supplier of…”). Or include a list of keywords with no context or inviting sentences. Or say something like, “Save 25%!”

They don’t make an effort to set themselves apart with mini USPs. And therefore, potential customers scan right by them, searching for something special.

I tried this with all kinds of keywords, from “dental equipment” to “party supplies” to “corporate training programs.” Most descriptions in the search results look very similar; it’s hard to tell them apart.

In contrast, Southwest Airlines does a great job of standing apart from other airlines with mini USPs. For example, they offer “Bags fly free” and “No change fee.” I love that about them, plus these are great examples of mini USPs — unique reasons to fly Southwest. And guess what? Southwest shows up first in Google search results for “free bags” and “no change fee.”

To give you some more ideas, here’s a variety of website headlines that articulate mini USPs in customer-friendly ways, using keywords:

• Nest Protect: “Programs Itself. Then Pays for Itself. Meet the Nest Learning Thermostat.”

• ShopKeep: “ShopKeep Point of Sale transforms chores to child’s play, while providing genius reporting and analytics.” (I also like this cheeky line: “Make sure that ‘love’ is the only four-letter word you associate with business.”)

• The Honest Company: “Honest Organic Baby Powder: Extra gentle natural dusting powder with probiotics.

So, how do you create mini USPs for your SEO copywriting projects?

Here are three simple steps to help your clients help YOU identify mini USPs for each product or service, and then articulate them beautifully (with keywords) through SEO content.

1. Create a mini USP table for the products or services you’ll be writing about.

• Column A lists each product, service or offering (free trial, watch our demo, etc.).

• Column B lists the USP(s): the benefits or attributes that make the product or service better than any other relevant options. There could be 1-5 or even more mini USPs. (Saves more time, easier to use, delivers more robust reports, etc.) You’ll work with your clients to go through each one and confirm that you’ve covered the best possible USPs.

2. Match up the USPs with keywords you’ve discovered during your keyword research.

For instance, if the USP is “this tool is the only one that eliminates manual data entry” — perhaps there’s a keyword for “automated data entry.”

3. Review the list with your client to make sure the keywords accurately reflect the prospect’s intent.

We all know that keywords can have various or ambiguous meanings at times, so this is a good time to do a gut-check: would potential customers truly use these phrases when searching for the products/services your client offers?

That’s it! Now you have a roadmap for creating mini USPs for each page of your SEO copywriting efforts in headlines, bullets, photo captions, page title tags, meta descriptions, calls to action and other strategic locations.

Here’s to your web success!

Pam Foster is a SuccessWorks Certified SEO Copywriter and the owner of ContentClear Marketing and PetCopywriter.com. She works mainly in the highly competitive pet-veterinary industry and enjoys helping her clients drive conversions by creating mini USPs.

Photo credit to SEOPlanter | Flickr.com

Does Your Writing Make Your Clients Money? With Brian Massey

Rock conversions with A/B split testing!

Rock conversions with A/B split testing!

Brian Massey is known as “The Conversion Scientist” for good reason, beyond the trademark and his signature lab coat. He has immersed himself in the science of conversions-driving online content for over 20 years, founded on hard data gleaned from analytics and testing.

We caught up with Brian to ask him about A/B conversion testing, as well as how and why writers should add this skill set to their offerings. His responses are candid and rich with details – you’ll want to savor and bookmark this one!

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4 Things You Can Learn From Fitmob’s Seductive Copywriting

I was completely seduced by fitmob’s seductive copywriting.

I went from “what the heck is fitmob,” to “let me give you my credit card number right now.”

Here’s what happened–and how you can use their sexy tactics for your own copywriting campaigns.

Fitmob is a new service targeted towards gym rats. Instead of having to purchase separate memberships for your Pilates studio, your CrossFit class, etc., you can work out at a variety of gyms for $99/month. The price is just $1 to start and $99/month after that.

I’m a gym rat. And $99/month is a darn good price. When I visited their site, I saw a list of some great Portland studios on their home page. And of course, there was a huge call to action prompting me to enter my email address and zip code. Figuring, “what the heck,” I entered my information and waited to access the site.

I was greeted with this message:

What do you mean I can’t sign up right now? I read this note and immediately felt frustrated. Not in the “what is this company doing” way, but the “I want to start this RIGHT NOW. How long will I be on this freakin’ waitlist” way.

My brain started calculating how I could save money if my gym bill was $99/month.

I imagined how fun it would be to try different workouts at different studios.

I started to pre-plan pockets of time when I could try out some new classes (and this was before I saw one class schedule!).

I was hooked.

Finally, I took a deep breath and started laughing. Yeah, I was the victim of some really great copywriting. Fitmob was making me want them.

They were playing hard to get.

And they were good.

I had to see what would happen next. I wasn’t just hooked on their product, I was hooked on their copywriting. I couldn’t wait for their next email.

The next day, I received the email I was waiting for. I was off the fitmob waitlist! But the email didn’t come from just anyone. The email came from “Raj, CEO of fitmob.”

Ooh, the CEO emailed me. I felt special. (OK, I know the CEO didn’t really email me. But it was a cool touch.)

Did I sign up right away? No. I can play hard to get too.

I received this note the next day:

(Oh no! I may lose my exclusive price to the next person in line? I better sign up right now!)

Did I finally give in and let fitmob have its way with me? Yes. Their copywriting (and overall marketing plan) was specifically designed to build momentum and get me excited. I did exactly what they wanted me to do. And I did it willingly. :)

So, let’s discuss why their campaign was so darn effective.

Scarcity drives desire. 

Do you book a flight faster when you learn there are only two seats left at that price? Yeah, I do too. When we think we can’t have access to what we want, we lust for that item even more. In my case, the waitlist got my engines revving. Knowing it was a (supposedly) hugely popular service made me want instant access.

Think about how you can integrate the scarcity principle into your own copywriting. For instance, saying “I only work with three clients at a time and I handpick my clients,” is a different value proposition than, “I’ll work with anyone, anytime.”

Limited-time offer? I better act now!  

Want your buyers to take fast action? Limited-time offers are a great way to give prospects a gentle kick in the pants and help them commit. I had 48 hours to give fitmob my credit card number, otherwise my deal would have “expired.” (I signed up again under another email address just to see what happens after the 48-hour deadline. I have a feeling the offer will be “extended.”) :)

Using limited-time offers to promote your products or services is easy. For instance, you can set a registration deadline for a training program. Or, offer a sale. Or give away something free for 24 hours (such as a Kindle book.) The possibilities are endless.

A taste of exclusivity. 

I didn’t receive a random note from a customer service rep. It came directly from the C-E-freaking-O (again, supposedly.) I felt like I was in an exclusive club where I could call up the CEO and ask, “What’s up, Raj. Remember me? You invited me personally.” We’d go out for coffee and bond.

Your CEO doesn’t have to send personal notes, but it is smart to make your customers and prospects feel like they’re part of the in crowd. Do you offer customer-only incentives? Do you give your newsletter subscribers exclusive discounts? Think about ways you can wow your customers and provide an unforgettable experience. It will make your loyal evangelists love your company even more.

Low barrier to entry.

I wouldn’t have signed up if fitmob would have asked for $99 up front. They’re an unknown service and I have no idea if I’ll actually use them. But getting a taste for just $1? Heck yeah. I wouldn’t mind losing $1. I would mind losing $99.

Providing your prospect a low-cost preview (for instance, the first lesson of a training, a Webinar or ebook,) can be a great way for them to “try before they buy.” For instance, software companies promote limited-time free trials. Or, some companies offer a no-obligation, 15 minute consultation. Creating a low barrier to entry can overcome a host of objections, so it’s smart to experiment with it.

Yes, fitmob is definitely doing it right. I haven’t used their service yet, but I’m hooked on their copywriting. I can’t wait to see how they’ll try to seduce me again around renewal time…

Have you fallen for a smart copywriting strategy? Do you have another example of a company that writes their content right? Discuss it in the comments!

Photo credit: © Nkrivko | Dreamstime.com – Seductive Athletic Girl In Tracksuit Eating A Red Apple. Photo

Read This Post While You Still Can!

Dunkin-YuenglingIt’s officially the Christmas (or winter holiday of your choice) shopping season! (Yes, I am aware that the Christmas sales started months ago, but I am old fashioned, and I am holding onto the notion that Black Friday is the kickoff of the holiday shopping season.)

So what are you doing to get your customers to not only buy from you, but buy now?

Take a lesson from coffee and beer

What does coffee and beer have to do with holiday selling? Let me explain.

I am a Jersey girl by birth, but I currently live in San Diego. I love living in Southern California, but there are some things that I love that I cannot easily get there, including:

  • Dunkin’ Donuts coffee (I mean from an actual Dunkin’ Donuts, not from the bags sold in the grocery stores)
  • Yuengling lager (beer from America’s oldest brewery – only available on the East Coast and only as far west as Ohio)
  • Real NY pizza (although I can get my fix from Bronx Pizza)
  • Hard rolls and real Jersey bagels (if you don’t know what I mean, then you’re not from the Tri-State Area)

This year, I was home (New Jersey) for a week to celebrate Thanksgiving. In addition to spending time with my family and friends, I:

  • Drank a lot of coffee
  • Had Yuengling whenever it was on draft and at Thanksgiving dinner because my family bought it for me
  • Got my fill of carbs via pizza, hard rolls and bagels

The amount of coffee and other Jersey treats I consumed was much higher than my normal routine. Why? It wasn’t because I was on vacation; it was because I knew I can’t get these things when I go back to San Diego.

Act now before it’s too late!

DunkinHoliday

I drank a lot of coffee … a lot. The availability of the Dunkin’ Donuts coffee is limited for me, so I got it while I could – pretty much whenever I drove by one.

If I lived in New Jersey or if Dunkin’ Donuts ever returned to Southern California (supposedly they will be returning in 2014 or 2015), I wonder if I would have needed to stop for coffee so often. My guess is that while I would have enjoyed a cup or two, I would not have been driven to have a cup at every opportunity.

It’s all about the principle of scarcity. If you tell your clients that there is a limited amount of product or that you only have a few spots available, they are more likely to buy from you (or hire you).

Remove the notion that your clients can get your products or services whenever they want. Be sure to increase their motivation by limiting the time of a sale or by telling them you only have so many items left. (Of course, don’t overdo it because eventually you will lose credibility if you always only have a few items remaining.)

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving and that you can end the year with an influx of business.

Let me know in the comments what you are doing to promote your business as the year ends. But make sure you comment soon because I will only be responding to comments that are left today! (Okay, not really, but I couldn’t resist.) Happy December!

Woot! Are You Having Fun with Your Copy?

Thesaurus Shirt from Woot!

Woot! Shirt

Have you ever visited Woot!?

You may think that it’s just another online bargain website. Technically, that is true. But, even if you don’t want to find a limited-time offer on some random item or find an awesome shirt, as a copywriter, you need to check out this website.

Why? Because Woot! doesn’t just sell merchandise – it sells stories.

Get the specs and more

When you check out a featured item on Woot!, you will be able to find the basic information you find on other websites: product specifications, warranty information, shipping notes, etc.

But wait! There’s more!

You also will be treated with a fun introduction. What do I mean by fun? The Woot! writers let their imaginations go!

For example, the content for a recent tablet named all 32 of the device’s gigabytes. Some of my favorites include:

  • Gigglypuff
  • Sir Gigsalot
  • Whoopi Gigberg

Each product has a unique, funny story … even if the writers admit that they really don’t have anything to say. No matter the product, they still say something that keeps you reading.

Let your inner Woot! writer loose

Chances are you can’t write exactly like they do on Woot! However, you can harness some of that creativity.

Even B2B websites have some room for creative copy. You don’t have to sound like everyone else. You can reach your target audience and still have some fun. You can spice up your writing and turn up your creativity.

Here’s your task for this week: check out Woot! Poke around a bit and see what their content is all about. Then, embrace your inner Woot! writer and rewrite one page or write a blog post using your Woot! muse.