Still Using Google’s Keyword Planner? Your Time May Be Up.

Cover Photo by Caleb Woods on Unsplash

Over the years, I’ve joked that “Google giveth, and Google taketh away.”

Here we go again.

And this time, it may directly affect how you do business.

Here’s what’s happening…

The free ride is over

Years ago, Google’s Keyword Planner was considered a fairly viable keyphrase research tool. Accessing it was easy, the data was decent, and, most importantly, it was free. Sure, it was created for PPC ad research, but it (mostly) did the organic trick.

In fact, many writers (and even agencies) relied on Google’s Keyword Planner for all their organic keyphrase research.

Then, over the years, Google changed the game.

At first, you had to be logged into Google to use the tool. No big deal.

Then, you needed to create an AdWords account to access the tool. You didn’t have to spend money, but you did need to sign up.

Then, Google started to show search volume ranges rather than specific numbers (unless you were a major advertiser; then you got to see it all.)

Sure, search volume ranges made the data fairly worthless (especially compared to paid keyphrase research tools,) but some loyal folks stuck with it — probably because it was free.

Not anymore.

Good news: Google rebuilt the Keyword Planner from the ground up. Bad news: Google is deactivating all AdWords accounts with no active spend over the last 15 months.

What does this mean?

Photo by Nigel Tadyanehondo

If you’re not spending money with Google, you’ve been kicked off the Keyword Planner island. If you want back on, you have to reactivate your account, reinstate a PPC ad campaign — and yes, actually run it and pay money.

You don’t get to play with the latest and greatest Keyword Planner without paying (for a PPC campaign.)

Plus, Google is instituting the change this week. So, there’s virtually no warning.

How bad is this, really?

It depends.

Many companies and writers have dropped Keyword Planner in favor of another, more robust keyphrase research tool. This is a good thing.

However, if Keyword Planner has been your best keyphrase research buddy, it’s time to find another option — fast.  Check out tools like Keyword Finder, Moz, Ahrefs, and SEMrush. Try their free trials. See what feels the best to you.

Yes, these tools cost money. But look at it this way — you’ve been getting a free ride all these years. It’s time to see where a real keyphrase research tool will take you.

Once you roll around in all the juicy data a paid tool provides, you’ll never go back to free.

Besides, a good keyphrase research tool is just as important as your computer, your website, and everything else you need to run your business.

Photo by Kaizen Nguyễn

It’s time to take the plunge.

What do you think?

When I published this information in my weekly newsletter, the feedback was split down the middle. About half of my respondents were freaking out, and asking for my keyphrase research tool suggestions (here you go.) The rest said they stopped using Google’s Keyword Planner a long time ago, and enjoy the tasty data a paid keyphrase research tool provides.

How about you?

Are you shaking your fist at Google, cursing them for taking away yet another “useful” tool? Or, did you read this with Zen-like calm, knowing Google is … well … Google? Comment below and let me know!

Is Your Content Really Failing?

Does your content receive eight shares or less?

If so, your content is “failing,” according to a recent industry study.

I discussed BuzzSumo’s study during last week’s SEO Copywriting Certification training call. The author of the study, Steve Rayson, analyzed over one million posts and noticed a surprising trend. Popular, branded sites such as HubSpot saw a sharp decline in social shares. In fact, 50% of the content saw fewer than eight social shares.

The reason? “Content shock” — the demand for content has gone flat while the amount of content has exploded. The result? Less engagement.

(As a side note, some believe content shock is a myth. Whatever you believe, I think we can all agree that we’re bombarded by new content every. single. day.)

Many writers and marketers (maybe even you) panicked when they read the study. “EIGHT SHARES” they screamed. “Our company is lucky if a post gets retweeted a couple times.”

Sure, some of your content may enjoy a sharing explosion. But I’m guessing some of your content may not. Maybe even the majority of your content.

Does that mean that your content is “failing?”

Maybe. But let’s look a little deeper.

Social sharing is one measurement of content effectiveness. Things that are important (some would say more important,) are:

— Is the content driving conversions or otherwise making you money?

— Are people reading your content? Or are they immediately bouncing off the page?

— Did you match the content to where the customer is in the sales cycle? For instance, do you have high-quality content that helps prospects when they’re in the “research” phase?

— Do you hear, “Hey, I really like your content” from people in your target audience? For instance, I have a client who receives very few social shares (he’s in an industry that doesn’t share content much,) but he receives many “I faithfully read your content every week,” messages.  That’s more important to him than a retweet any day.

— Does the content position? You may have written a fantastic guide that gets some social love initially, but then fades into the background. If it’s still positioning in Google — and prospects are finding you through the content — do you care that you’re not receiving more social shares?

(As a side note, I find it funny that BuzzSumo’s initial Facebook post about the study has only received one share. Would that mean their content was “failing?”)

The reality is: Not all of your content is going to go viral. If you want 100% viral, all the time, specialize in cute cat videos. 

However, being the Steve Rayson fangirl I am, I think he still makes some excellent points. Although I may disagree with the “failing” moniker, I would agree with his other tips:

– Content research is crucial. Research time is a non-negotiable in today’s brave new Google world.  If you’re an end client, know that your writer may need to spend several hours researching your blog post topic. She isn’t padding her time. And yes, this is necessary (and billable.) You can give your writer a great head start by providing her trusted sources, white papers and anything else that will help her write the page.

– Post promotion is almost as important (some would say more so) as post creation (I talked about this in last week’s SEO Copywriting Buzz newsletter) Targeting influencers in a nice, non-pushy way is still important. Just know that influencers are being hit by 100 other bloggers asking them to promote their content, so approach them with care.

– It’s smart to leverage trends and be nimble. If you’re writing about a hot topic that happened two weeks ago, you’ve probably already lost the viral battle.

I would add my own tip to this, which is…

– You still need to optimize posts. “Write naturally” is a myth. If your posts aren’t positioning, there is a big disconnect you need to fix.

So, is the issue truly “content shock?” Or are people naturally tuning out content that’s poorly-written, poorly-researched and poorly-timed?

What’s the takeaway?

Whatever you believe around the “content shock” idea, consider this study a wake-up call. No, your content may not be “failing” if it receives eight shares or less. But that doesn’t mean that it’s working, either. If your content isn’t making you money somehow, it’s time for an overhaul.




SEO via Media Relations with @SpinSucks Gini Dietrich

pr-seo-handshakeYou’ve most likely heard of Spin Sucks and the force behind it, Gini Dietrich. She entered the public relations (PR) business after graduating from college, working her way up from her initial position as an account coordinator.

True to form, Gini eventually set out on her own and started her PR business (Arment Dietrich, Inc.) in 2005. The following year, she launched Spin Sucks (she quips, “embarrassingly so”). Fast forwarding to today, Gini has authored Spin Sucks: Communication and Reputation Management in the Digital Age and co-authored Marketing in the Round. She is also a co-host of the podcast Inside PR, and the primary voice of the Spin Sucks blog.

We were fortunate enough to grab some of Gini’s precious time for an interview, focused around her thoughts on leveraging media relations for SEO.


A few months ago, you hosted a fascinating webinar on leveraging media relations for SEO using a three-pronged approach (readers can download the free webinar on demand here). Could you summarize this three-pronged approach?

You bet! We look at earned media, as it relates to building brand awareness, increasing your search engine optimization, and generating qualified leads. If your efforts don’t do all three of those things, it’s not working for you. This gets a bit into one of your questions below, but you want to work with media outlets to write stories about you, interview you on topics of expertise, accept contributed content, or run OpEds.

In those stories—all of them—should be anchor text, as it relates to your targeted keywords, and a link to something on your website or blog. There are very few journalists who won’t do this for you. Once you have that link on a higher domain authority site than your own, you have the opportunity to track your own domain authority, your search engine optimization, the qualified leads hitting you up online, and your brand awareness.

In this webinar, you also discuss how to create content hubs around a specific keyword or phrase. What content hubs would you recommend for an in-house copywriter, versus a freelance business owner? Are there hubs that would perform better for B2Bs than B2Cs?

I hate this answer, but I’m going to use it anyway: It really depends. Your content hubs should be focused around your targeted keyword or phrase. For instance, PR metrics is a big one for us because I am focused on changing the way PR pros measure their efforts. Our content hubs are built from that. It’s less about the job you’re doing (in-house vs. freelancer) and more about the search terms you need to use. And no, B2B vs B2C does not matter. This is about content around your keyword or phrase.

Earlier this year on the Spin Sucks blog, you described how to use media relations to get on the first page of Google by demonstrating your expertise on a topic. Specifically, you talked about how to leverage media relations via guest blogging on a site with relatively high domain authority to earn a link from it. Given the amount of solicitations authority sites receive from link wheel spammers, what steps would you recommend an online writer take to successfully pitch a guest post to an authority site for an “unknown” client, or for that matter, his or her own new business?

The very best way, just like any other relationship, is to build trust. I get TONS of solicitations from the wheel spammers…and it’s gross. I also receive really bad pitches and integrated news releases from PR pros, which makes me very sad. However, if someone were to pitch me and say, “I know you’re on a mission to change the way PR pros measure their efforts. I have content that fits that perfectly. Here’s a quick outline.” That would most definitely get my attention.

There’s been a lot of SEO industry talk about making links “no follow” and avoiding keyword-rich anchor link text so as not to invite a manual penalty per Google’s Penguin. Have you encountered any issues with backlinks that use a keyword or specific website domain name? How do you deal with link fear?

Nope. I’ve never had an issue, but it’s because we approach it with a “white hat.” I can’t even speak to link fear because it’s never been an issue for us.

Returning to the question of how to establish authority in the eyes of Google: what would you recommend a “noobie” do to market her content to influencers, aside from pitching a guest post? How can a new copywriter demonstrate her credibility when trying to forge a relationship with an influencer?

I recommend you start a relationship online just like you would offline. You find something in common. You share content. You comment on their content. You scratch their back and, eventually, they’ll scratch yours. Every day we have new commenters on Spin Sucks. They’ll say things such as, “First-time commenter, long-time reader.” I love that because I can dig a little to see who they are, welcome them into the fold, and provide some context about them to our community. This always helps start the relationship.

Finally, in a recent Spin Sucks post referring to the Narrative Science genesis of news storytelling via computers – or more precisely, algorithms spawned from artificial intelligence software — you discuss how “[i]t’s a new world where algorithms and humans are working hand-in-hand to produce some of the world’s best content.” Assuming the trend towards algos and writers working together will only grow, where do you see this new world heading for content creators, SEO copywriters, and online communicators?

It scares me! I joke that a computer will win a Pulitzer before I do. But I’ve talked to the founders of lots of these companies, and they’re focused solely on creating content that humans won’t do. For instance, they’ll write stories about Little League games and the Fortune 450 company because it doesn’t make sense for the newspapers to spend resources on that type of content. It’s also impossible for an algorithm to add color, irony, or even sarcasm. So, even if you use an algorithm to pull the data and science you need for a story, you still need to do the human part of it.

Well said, Gini! Thank you for spending time with us here!

You’re welcome! :)

Connect with Gini Dietrich via Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+

Photo credit to Garfield Anderssen |

















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 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 |

Want to Create Irresistible Content? Be Sure to Do This First!

Let’s say you’re about to start a new SEO copywriting project, and as always, your mission is to write appealing sales copy that turns site visitors into customers.

Sure, you’ve worked on a creative brief with your client (or in-house team). Plus you’ve poured over company brochures, existing content, trade show materials and other helpful information. And yes, you’ve had meetings with the marketing manager, creative director or web team. That’s all great for getting ready to write excellent SEO content.

But it’s not quite enough.

To write authentic, powerful content that truly resonates with prospects and converts them into customers — you need to go beyond “arm’s length” research.

Read more

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 | – Seductive Athletic Girl In Tracksuit Eating A Red Apple. Photo

5 Easy-to-Give SEO Gifts that will Make You A Better Writer in 2014

You'll actually want to keep your SEO giftsYou’ve got a bunch of names on your gift list this year, but your name probably isn’t one of them. After all, we’ve been taught it’s better to give than receive. But what if you could do both? By giving yourself these 5 simple SEO gifts, you’ll also receive the boost you need to take your writing to a new level as we bid goodbye to 2013.

SEO Gift #1: Learn More About Your Industry

Some of us spend our careers writing for a single industry, while other SEO copywriters work across multiple industries on a daily basis. Either way, you need to know every detail you can about what your audience knows and what they expect. Learn the jargon, who the industry leaders are, unusual ways products or services are used and any other insider info you can get ahold of. This will make it easier to find low-competition keywords (especially long tail) that others may have neglected. It will also help you write more comfortably and honestly, and that’s something your human audience will appreciate.

SEO Gift #2: Tune up Your Basic Copywriting Skills

Just like practicing fundamentals is important in sports, focusing on copywriting basics can do wonders for your SEO writing. Search engine spiders aren’t very particular (yet) about well-written content. Your flesh-and-blood audience is. Write copy that is interesting and uses sentence structure (shorter is almost always better) and vocabulary that engages your readers. Keep paragraph structure and page layout in mind. Most people don’t really read online; they scan. Do them and yourself a favor by employing headlines, sub-heads, callouts, and paragraph breaks. And finally, always include a call to action. This is something we all learn in Copywriting 101, but many of us forget down the road. Help your site visitors by telling them exactly what you want them to do next. They’ll thank you with their dollars.

SEO Gift #3: Broaden Your View of Keywords

When it comes to keywords, many of us write with blinders on. We identify a few keywords we want to use and write without looking around. This gets the job done but causes us to miss semantic search cues, long-tail keyphrases, and partial matches that we should be picking up. The next time you identify primary keywords for a project, take a few extra minutes to look at related terms, synonyms and suggestions in your keyword tool. Make a secondary list of single words to be sprinkled into your copy as they fit. These words can help avoid keyword repetition, make your copy easier to read and help you pick up incremental onesie-twosie search traffic you aren’t specifically optimizing for.

SEO Gift #4: Trim the Fat

Raise your hand if you’ve ever written filler copy just to use a keyword a couple more times on a page. (Author sheepishly raises his hand.) It’s a crutch we’ve all used when writing for the spiders – and it can work well. Unfortunately, it’s a huge turn-off for your human readers. If you bring visitors to your site only to drive them away with long, boring or repetitive copy, you’re just shooting yourself in the foot. The next time you face the decision to fill or not, don’t do it. Only write additional copy if it is engaging and helpful to your human readers.

SEO Gift #5: Do Something for Yourself

Question: What is an SEO Copywriter without an optimized Web presence? Answer: Hard to find. Make it easy for prospective employers or clients to find you by creating and optimizing a website that’s all about you and your writing. If your name is fairly unique, buy that as a domain and set up shop there. If you have a common name or suffer the great online misfortune of sharing your name with a celebrity, you’ll need to take a different approach. Add location-based keywords to start and build your individuality from there. For example, I might go with something New Hampshire related, like or just Whatever you choose, be sure to optimize it just like you would a client’s site, and make yourself easier to find.

There you have it – 5 simple SEO gifts you can give yourself this holiday season. Best of all, you don’t have to wrap any of them.

What other SEO gifts do you recommend?

About the Author

Richard Hostler writes engaging copy that generates sales. He is currently the SEO Copy Manager at Brookstone, where he connects online customers with the best gadgets and gifts. When he’s not writing, Richard can be found training for and racing triathlons around New England. You can follow him through his websiteLinkedIn or twitter.


Photo thanks to waferboard (Tacky Gift Exchange-101219-03)


What Dr. Seuss can teach you about copywriting

Confession time: I love Dr. Seuss.

The words to One Fish, Two Fish are stuck in my brain. I have a Dr. Seuss watch. I have Dr. Seuss books on my iPad. I watch “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” ever year. I even have a limited edition print hanging in my bedroom.

Why? The words that Theodor Geisel (otherwise known as Dr. Seuss) wrote had an impact on me. Yes, his books taught me how to read (and they always bring back fond memories of my mother reading them to me.) But it’s more than that.

His books taught me that reading (and writing) is fun. And engaging. And interesting.

(I’m guessing that many readers feel the exact same way.)

What makes Dr. Seuss so great? Back in the day of Dick and Jane, he rejected the “normal” children’s book style and blazed his very own path. Heck, Geisel even made up words that are part of our every day vocabulary. Ever wonder where the word “nerd” comes from? The first reported usage is in the 1950 story “If I Ran The Zoo.” 

What’s more, his writing is spot on – 50+ years later. And that’s pretty cool.

Here are five things that his books can teach you about copywriting.

Good writing celebrates the written word. Feeling bogged-down by corporate-speak? Why not have fun with your writing instead?  I love the 37 signals site because the writing is lighthearted and personal. They don’t stuff their keywords. They don’t use buzzwords. It’s good writing that actually makes project management sound fun.

Good writing “speaks” to the reader. Geisel was challenged by William Ellsworth Spaulding, the director of the education division at Houghton Mifflin to write a book that first graders couldn’t put down. The result? The Cat in the Hat. Prior to that, kids were reading about Dick, Jane and Spot… which was not as fun (nor as creative) as a talking cat with a striped hat. The lesson? Think out of the box and try a different “voice” (and yes, that applies even if you’re a B2B company.) You may not be able to work Thing One and Thing Two into your copy – but you usually do something creative that grabs your readers’ attention.

Good writing is tight – not fluffy. Did you know that Green Eggs and Ham contains just 50 different words? The Cat in the Hat has 225 words – and that’s a much shorter word count than the average blog post or sales page. Think about how this relates to your own writing. If you find yourself adding extra words for some stupid “we think Google wants 500 word blog posts,” reason – stop it. Be like Dr. Seuss and write tight. Fluffy is only good for, well, green eggs.

Good writing is compelling.  Geisel was a master of getting a message across in a very low-key and powerful way. The Sneetches is a fun book – but it also talks about respecting folks who are “different” than you. The Lorax is thought to be Geisel’s take on environmentalism. Think about your audience, and consider how you can approach your topic just a little bit differently. Compelling writing is what gets shared, liked and cited. Boring stuff that you’ll find on every other site is just…boring.

Good writing is memorable.  How many of us can still remember Dr. Seuss’ Hinkle Horn Honking Club? Or can finish the sentence, “Look what I found in the dark…in the park…?” Good writing burrows into our brain and takes root. Think about the best book that you’ve ever read. Sure, the story was compelling. But it’s the writing that really brings it home. If your website copy sounds like Dick and Jane (that is, boring) why not try rewriting some pages? You may be surprised at how much people will want to read your content (and yes, even buy from you, too!)

I’ll leave you from a quote from The Lorax that perfectly applies to copywriting (especially SEO copywriting.)

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”

If you write crappy content, your readers won’t care, Google won’t care and your conversions won’t get better.

It’s time to care a whole awful lot.

Does your SEO copywriting sound like a bad date?

Before I entered the wonderful world of married bliss, I was the woman who always had the best (or would it be worst?) dating horror stories.

Still lives with his mother? Check.

Texting his ex-wife while sitting at dinner? Check.

You name it. It happened to me. People thought I was cursed.

As I was remembering those “bad old days,” I realized that going on a first date is a lot like visiting a site for the first time. In that split-second before you hit the site (or you see your date at the restaurant,) there’s always an anticipatory moment of, “I really hope they have what I’m looking for.”

And then, sadly, there’s the letdown when you realize, “Oh no. They are obviously not what I want.”

For all those “bad date” Websites out there, please stop doing the following. Immediately. Thankyouverymuch.

  • Quit talking about how hot you are. Ever been on a date where your partner’s conversation was all about them? They’ll talk about their cool executive job, their latest trip to London and their high-powered relationships…but they never, ever ask a thing about you. People visit websites to solve a problem – not to hear about how wonderful your company is. Focus your content on your prospect, and explain how you can solve her needs. The more customer-focused your content, the higher your conversion rates will be.
  • Don’t expect an immediate conversion. You want to think that after a first date (or a first site visit) that the other person found you so spectacular that they want to marry you (or in the case of a website, contact you for more information or immediately make a purchase.) But guess what? It rarely happens that way. Your prospects may need to “date” you a few more times first. There are a few more micro-conversion steps to take. Hope for the fast conversion, yes, but make sure that you have other site content that’s more than “buy now.” Articles, blog posts, white papers and tweets are a great way to showcase your expertise – and move your prospect closer to taking the action you want them to take.
  • Don’t repeat yourself, repeatedly. Ever had dinner with someone who said the same thing, three different ways, over and over and over? If you’re shoving your page full of keyphrases to meet some magical (and totally bogus) keyword density percentage, you’re irritating your prospects and causing them to tune out. Quit repeating yourself and concentrate on creating really awesome content. It will be much more powerful than repeating keyphrases. Trust me.
  • Know your target audience. Once upon a time, a man (who I had known for awhile) took me to Dunkin’ Donuts on the first date. Outside of the obvious huge miss (Really, Dunkin’ Donuts? Really?) everyone knows that I’m a Starbucks kinda gal – except for this guy, who obviously didn’t know a thing about me. It’s the same with your web copy. Create a customer persona before you start writing, and follow it to the letter. Writing that “misses the mark” often has so-so conversion rates at best.
  • Don’t be a bore. We’ve all gone on dates where the other person is nice – really nice – but just a little…boring. We feel bad for not wanting to date them again, but we just… can’t. I know that marketers (especially in the B2B space) are often afraid of “punchy” copy. But baby, don’t fear adding a little bit of personality to your writing! If your copy is dull, you run the risk of your prospects finding another site that’s just as qualified to help – but sounds much more interesting to work with. Remember, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression – and well-written, interesting content trumps “boring, just the facts” every time.

Side note: Great minds think alike. After I wrote this, it was brought to my attention by @lisabarone that she had written a very similar blog post – and the original pic I had for my post was the exact same one as hers (and no, I hadn’t read her post!) I switched out my pic, and highly encourage folks to read Lisa’s expert take on the topic. Enjoy!