How to Find Your Content Marketing Focus

One of the most most exciting things about SEO content marketing is that there are so many possibilities. Companies can start blogs, create white papers, produce an e-book, tweak their Titles, revise their content and tweet to their corporate heart’s delight.

Feel overwhelmed yet?

I realized that with all this talk about, “see how many ways your company can leverage content marketing,” there’s not a lot of talk about what to do when. I’ve seen too many companies with half-assed content marketing campaigns because they’re doing everything rather than the one really important thing. Instead of baby-stepping their way into a a robust content marketing campaign, they throw everything against the virtual web wall and sees what sticks.

Sound familiar? Take a deep breath and see if your site fits into the following categories. Here’s four typical scenarios for “what to do when”:

People are visiting your site, but they aren’t converting. This is a writing/usability issue (there may be some SEO elements in there as well, but they probably aren’t the primary cause.) What this is suggesting is that your target audience doesn’t “like” your pages. Maybe it’s because they can’t figure out how to take action. Or maybe it’s because the writing turns them off. Google’s Website Optimizer is a great way to A/B split test your pages and develop content that helps people convert like crazy.

And for goodness sake – if you’re writing to sell (or hiring someone to do it for you,) do it right. If you’re wondering why direct-response copywriting skills are crucial, this post explains it all. And if you’re a B2B company, here are some SEO copywriting tips just for you.

You company owns a catalog/retail site, and your product page rankings suddenly plummeted.

You may have been caught in Google’s May Day algorithmic dance (for more about May Day, watch Matt Cutts’ video  and Dave Davis’s perspective from “the other side.”) One of the takeaways: Additional product content could provide a lifeline. If you’ve been relying on the “stock” manufacturer product description – and you haven’t enhanced your pages with reviews, additional value-added content and even video – now is the time. Brookstone is a great example of a company that’s doing it right – fantastic product descriptions, customer reviews and smartly optimized text. If you’ve craving more catalog marketer-focused information, check out 10 stupid things catalog marketers do” and these successful SEO copywriting tips.

In the meantime, consider other options. Google is a demanding mistress, and she will always withhold her ranking affections from time to time. Instead of relying solely on Google, consider other traffic-driving options such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. I just spoke with Greg Jarboe from SEO-PR today, and I’m reminded why he’s the YouTube master. If you haven’t read his book, “You Tube and Video Marketing: An Hour A Day,” check it out.

You need “fast” results.

Who doesn’t love instant gratification? At the same time, a content marketing plan is a long-term endeavor – and getting rankings is rarely achieved “instantly” (although, when it works, it sure seems like it!). Although I’ve said that there is no “quick fix” in SEO copywriting, it is true that there are some quick ways to “spruce up” your content. Keyphrase editing (where you’re adding keyphrases into existing content) and optimizing page Titles can have a (fairly) quick effect. Once you see a faster win, you can revisit your messaging, create Titles that garner a higher click-through rate, and rewrite your copy with a better conversion focus.

You’re not seeing the rankings you want – and you never, ever have.

This is one of those times when an expert’s outside opinion can make a huge difference. You may think you’re doing everything right from a SEO perspective. But, there’s (obviously) something that’s hurting you. And if you haven’t figured it by now – and please know that I mean this with the utmost respect – what makes you think that you’ll “figure it out eventually.”

Even if you do, how much money are you willing to lose in the meantime?

You can purchase SEO content marketing evaluations from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars – depending on how deep you want your consultant to dig. Heck, you could even consult with a content marketing strategist for a few hours and figure out your options.  Plus, the strategist could give you a “sneak peek” on other future content marketing opportunities. The key is – don’t just wait for things to magically fall into place. Get help. You’ll make more money – faster – if you do.

How (Good) SEO Writing Helps People Connect With Your Brand

Let me put it out there right now: I used to hate Crocs.

Actually, Crocs (and their ugly footwear twin, Vibram Five-Fingered Shoes) are one of the few things my husband and I used to argue about. Every time he’d put on his Crocs, or his Vibrams (which have been described by his co-workers as “creepy toe shoes”) I’d encourage other shoe choices. Or going barefoot. ANYTHING but the Crocs.

Confession time: I don’t think that the (cuter) Crocs are that bad. And I even have a pair of Vibrams (and there is photographic evidence of me wearing them, too.) Why did I have such a fashion-backwards change of heart? Turns out, by being “everywhere” Crocs and Vibrams actually seem more attractive.

Let’s talk about why that is.

In the book Buyology, Martin Lindstrom discusses how “mirror neurons” influence our buying decisions by making us mimic other people’s buying behavior (and yes, he used Crocs as an example.) If we see cool, sexy people wearing Crocs, our unconscious minds go into overdrive. We think, “Maybe if I wear Crocs, I’ll look cool and sexy too.” And suddenly, what seemed like an unthinkable purchase (Really…Crocs?  Really?) now because a must-buy. As Lindstrom says, “Just seeing a certain product over and over makes it more desirable.”

And this got me thinking about SEO copywriting and how good writing can make a company seem more “desirable.”

Today, companies have multiple online content marketing channels. You can create a video. You can send out snappy tweets. You can distribute a newsletter, write a white paper – or heck, even optimize your site content for better rankings. All of these channels allow you to be “found” a different way.

Now imagine, a prospect who is looking for a product or service like yours. Maybe they see one of your brilliant tweets, which causes them to investigate your company. Then, they see an article your CEO has written. Then, they find your company in the search results. Once they reach your site, they watch your video and sign up for your newsletter.

The cool thing is, in this scenario where your content is everywhere, your prospect is being encouraged to “like” you a little bit more. Your company seems more desirable.

The psychological concept of “familiarly fosters likability” states that we tend to like people (or companies), when we are continually exposed to them (this only applies if the information is useful and provides value.) So, to a prospect, your informative tweets, how-to white paper and newsletter would be highly valuable information – and every time they “see” your company again, the prospect is reminded, “Hey, I know these guys. I like these guys. I should read this.”

(At the same time, if your content is crap and your tweets are more sales-focused than sharp, you’ll actually turn off your readers.)

In terms of a SEO content development play, it means that the more places your (quality) content can “live” online, the better.  In a brilliant blog post by Dr. Rachna Jain, the author explains, “you should syndicate your content widely and be out in front of your target audience every chance you get. As people see you ‘everywhere,’ they start to pay more attention. And as they pay more attention, you become more familiar.”

What does this mean to your company? Two things:

  • Quality content is key. Although it’s tempting to kick out low-quality articles just to get search rankings in your virtual door, resist the urge.
  • Just because you’re everywhere doesn’t mean people will like you (hello, Jesse James.) They’ll only like you if you give good content.

NOW is the time for a SEO content development strategy. Not later. Not when you have time. But NOW. If you know that folks are clamoring for content that helps solve a problem – and they’ll “like” your company the more that they’re exposed to your content, isn’t it time to get moving? Like..now?

Good content is more than just “search engine fodder.” It’s about ensuring that your prospects see your brand when they are searching for a solution to their specific problem. The more your company is “out there” with compelling, problem-solving content, the more positively you’ll be perceived…

…Now, if you excuse me, I have some Vibrams to put on…

The Dark Side of Facebook Fan Pages

Picture this: I’m working away in a cramped London hotel room. I’m there for SES London, along with many other of my geeky SEO friends.

Suddenly, I get a Facebook fan page request from a person who shall remain nameless.

And then I got another. And another. All from the same person.

At the end of the deluge, this person had sent out about eight “become a fan” requests (it could have been more, actually,) all within five minutes.

A few minutes later, I head downstairs for dinner. One person checks his iPhone and groans about all the “become a fan” requests. Another person checks his email and makes the same comment. We compare notes and realize, yup, these requests were:

  1. All from the same person, who was…
  2. In our industry, so he was probably…
  3. Setting up Facebook fan pages for his clients (most of which were local to this man, and therefore, we had never even heard of the companies)  and…
  4. Sending out bulk “become a fan” email requests to everyone in his Facebook network on behalf of his clients. You know, the companies that none of his Facebook friends had ever heard of.

Within five minutes, this person was “unfriended” by five people. Probably more – I’m sure we weren’t the only folks in his network to feel this way.

Folks, I am all for Facebook fan pages.  I think they offer businesses a fantastic way to reach customers and engage in a two-way dialogue. Heck, even I have a SEO copywriting Facebook page.

But when it comes to promoting your fan page (or your client’s), please, please use some common sense. Sending out client fan requests to everyone on your friend network is just plain irritating. How could I have any kind of “connection” to a company that’s across the U.S. from me? How is that targeted? It reflects poorly upon the marketer and poorly upon the company.

If you’re cringing a bit because you’ve done the same thing, I know you meant well. You really did.  I’m sure the guy who sent out all the Facebook notifications meant well.  I’m sure he wanted to build up his client’s fan network and show some initial success.  The thought was nice. But there are other ways to reach that goal.

So, before you send out “bulk-fan” notifications, ask yourself:

1. Does my friend have any connection to the company that I’m promoting? If you’re promoting your own company, it may be appropriate to email more folks within your network. But if you know that your friend lives in California, and you’re asking them to become a fan of a small, local Vermont-based business, you probably aren’t going to get much play.

2. Do I have a page that’s worthy of fandom? If it’s a brand-new fan page without much interaction, consider bulking up your content before trolling for fans. Otherwise, you’re asking folks to fan (otherwise known as “recommend”) a page that’s not even ready for prime-time.

3. How would I feel if I received this fan request? Just because people can easily ignore a request doesn’t mean that you should make them spend the time to do so. If you’re on the fence, don’t send it.

Friends don’t let friends send spammy Facebook spam requests, m-kay? Think about it.

Why Some SEO Firms Don’t Employ Copywriters

Last week, I heard from a very frustrated prospect.

This nice man had been working with a SEO firm for a few months. The firm had been doing all the back-end stuff that needed to be done: Cleaning the code, creating new Titles, building links and generally sprucing up the site. In general, the company did an OK job making the site more visible to search engines.

But here’s the thing: The prospect comes from a marketing background. He knew his existing copy didn’t “pop.” And he knew that better writing would equate into higher conversion rates.

When he expressed his concern to the SEO firm, they handed him a list of “SEO copywriting best practice guidelines” and told him that they “didn’t do SEO copywriting – he’d have to write the copy himself.”

His question to me was: “Shouldn’t all SEO firms employ SEO copywriters? Isn’t it such an important part of SEO that they’d want to have that part covered?”

Well, yes and no. It depends on the SEO.

Many SEO firms are technically focused, meaning that they are masters at untangling the most ugly bits of code, making it easy (or easier) for search engines to access the site. A savvy technical SEO shop can work wonders with a site – and a few technical changes can unlock the positioning floodgates.

However, technical SEO firms aren’t filled with marketers. Their job isn’t to help your copy convert better. Their job is to make your site better for the search engines.

There’s a difference.

Other SEO firms work with copywriters, but the copywriters mostly add keyphrases into copy and create new Titles. Granted, keyphrase editing (or what some firms call “on-page optimization”) is very valuable to the SEO process. But the focus again is to make the existing copy “better for search engines.” They aren’t addressing the conversion aspects of the page. That’s not their job.

This is a challenge for clients who really need writing help. After all, if your copy wasn’t converting before it included keyphrases, adding keyphrases without changing the copy won’t magically help. It won’t make your writing “pop” to the user and entice them to read more (or buy more.) It’s just that the page is better for search engine positioning.

This is where asking the right questions before you sign with a SEO firm comes in…

If you know that your conversion rates are low (or maybe you’re not sure – but you know that your copy is dirt-dull boring,) ask the SEO firm about their approach to SEO copywriting. They may say that they don’t handle the copywriting. Or that they “edit” copy – but they don’t rewrite it. In that’s the case, you have some options:

1. Handle the writing in-house, and give the new copy to the SEO firm. If you have smart in-house copywriters, they can learn how to create top-converting and keyphrase-rich copy. There are also resources such as (shameless plug) the SEO Copywriting Certificate Program that will teach you the ropes.

2. Find a technical SEO firm that does employ SEO copywriters. They are out there – you just have to be very specific about what you need (content marketing services.) If you do go this route, it’s important to gain writing samples from the writer who will be handling your account. That way, you can request another writer if the original writer’s work doesn’t “speak to you” (and don’t worry – the original writer won’t take it personally. Different writers “click” with different clients, so it’s OK to be picky.)

3. Work with your “technical SEO” and hire a SEO copywriting and content marketing agency for your content creation. This may seem clunky at first, but it’s actually very workable. The technical SEO worries about your site architecture and links – and the SEO copywriter focuses on your customer persona and your conversions. Since good SEO copywriters are also SEOs in their own right, they can easily work with other SEO providers. Plus, both firms get to focus on what they do best.

Whatever option you choose, you can easily have the best of both worlds – a technically-savvy site and top-ranking copy that converts like crazy. Once your copy and site are top-notch, you’ll truly enjoy the power of “good SEO” – and you can start building on that success.

Going Beyond Linkbait – Why You Need Good, Original Content

Content link baitLast week, I read an article in Mediaweek that warmed my heart. The title? “Marketer Must-Have: Original Web Editorial.” The article profiled how AT&T hired an outside firm to create value-added content that’s “something of value and more than just an advertising message.” Why? Because they realized, according to the article, “Search and social media are the main modes of information discovery, and both engines live off vast pools of content.”

Yes, yes, yes!

To that I say two things: Hear hear, and what the hell took you so long?

Original content provides companies an incredible opportunity to provide value to their readers, connect with their customers – and yes, get more search rankings for more keywords. Zappos is an excellent example of a site with fantastic content – product pages, blog posts, articles – even Tweets.

At the same time, there are some misconceptions about what “original content” can mean. Here are some things to think about when you’re planning your SEO content marketing campaign:

Know your audience and write for them. One of the first questions I’ll ask a prospect is “what is your customer persona?” About 75% of the time, the response is “what’s a customer persona?” The first step in any content marketing campaign – which includes your SEO copywriting campaign – is to focus on who you’re writing your copy for. Is it a middle-aged woman in the Midwest who loves domestic travel, Dancing With The Stars and Oprah magazine? A single male city dweller who lives in a condo, digs the latest electronics and eats out every meal? These nuances are important. How you write what you write is just as important as what you write. If you miss the customer persona boat and write general copy, you’ll see general (read: so-so) conversion results.

Beware the cognitive trap that controversial “linkbait” equals quality content. I think the term “linkbait” is an unfortunate one, as it implies “baiting” a site to link to yours. Listen, quality content is quality content. Thinking of terms of “what content will drive the most links and stir up the most controversy” is a short-sighted strategy that ignores other forms of useful content. For instance, should you not include a FAQ page about your product because it’s not a good “linkbait” article? It sounds ridiculous to read – but this is something I hear about every day.

I am the first to admit that some of my more controversial posts are my most popular. At the same time, I hear clients wanting to create nothing but snarky content, believing that controversy is what gets viral link love and makes sales. Yes, if you are passionate about a topic, by all means, let it fly. But if your blog is filled with rants, slams and sexy headlines with no content, you’ll lose your readership – or cause them to rail against you. If you must rant, rant responsibly – and make sure that your content marketing strategy encompasses all sorts of content.

Good content means a good content marketing strategy. It’s tempting to read the Mediaweek article and think, “By gum, I need to kick out a bunch of articles.” And that’s half right. The other missing element is how those articles (or blog posts, or Tweets) fold back into your content marketing strategy. And on a broader scale, how your writing dovetails with your television ad spots, radio ads, Yellow Page ad and newspaper/magazine display ads (yes, people still do advertise in newspapers!). Your content strategy gives you a roadmap so you know exactly what to write, who you’re writing it for, and how the writing integrates with the rest of your site and your overarching marketing strategy. If you’re kicking out “onesie twosie” articles in an attempt to halfheartedly gain search rankings and build buzz, you’re not leveraging what you can leverage. Good planning = better search rankings, better conversions and a better connection with your customers.

And at the end of the day, isn’t that what it’s all about?

What Stephen King Taught Me About Online Writing

I love Stephen King books.

“Carrie.”  “It.” “The Stand.” As a teenager, I had them all.

Heck, I even had them in hardback.

Whenever I’d make a new book acquisition, I’d crawl into bed, turn on my reading lamp and faithfully turn to the introduction before chowing down the main story.

Why? Because the introduction was just as creepy, scary and weird as the rest of the book – sometimes, even more so. It warmed me up to the book’s theme and set the stage for what I’d find next.

Sure, Stephen King would go through the normal stuff every author does in an introduction. He talked about the inspiration for the book. He talked about what was going on in his life when he wrote it. He mentioned a few characters, and thanked a few people.

But, where most book authors make the first few pages a dull litany full of “thank yous” and factoids, Stephen King seamlessly folded fact and emotion into the copy.

In essence, King made a book introduction – the most mundane part of every tome – spooky. And expertly set the stage for the rest of the story, placing the reader on the edge of her seat before she reached the first chapter.

Stephen King is a master of eliciting an emotional response through his writing’s tone and feel.

Direct-response SEO copywriting is a type of storytelling. Every web page – whether it be about industrial blenders, women’s coats or gardening shears – is there to draw the reader into a purchasing frame of mind.

If your prospect is at the consideration phase of the buying cycle, he’s looking for information, comparing features and kicking the virtual tires. If your prospect is ready to buy, she wants to purchase from a company she feels she can trust.

Read the text on your website, and ask yourself these questions:

  • Would I feel comfortable reading this text to a prospect?
  • Would these be the words I’d use to showcase our services?
  • Does the wording sound way too formal for your “family owned, small business” atmosphere?
  • Do the words inspire trust and confidence?
  • Do you feel energized after reading the copy? Or does your site sound exactly the same as all your competitors?

Isn’t it time to erase mediocrity from your SEO content?

Your website copy is your front-line, virtual salesperson. Never, ever be afraid to be engaging.

Copywriting Challenge: Write for 15 Minutes a Day

You stare at the screen, fingers poised over the keyboard. That brilliant writing idea you had last night over a glass of merlot doesn’t seem so brilliant in the light of day.

You answered your email. You made some calls. You procrastinated as much as you possibly can.

And now, it’s just you and the computer and the pressure.

It’s not like you don’t like to write. You like to write. Hell, some days you love to write. If the writing Muse just visited a tad more frequently…

Think of it this way: getting in the writing habit – whether that means blogging or creating your latest SEO copywriting masterpiece- is like getting in the exercise habit.

Starting fresh is hard work.  You sweat and strain and hate every moment of it.

Then one day, it all clicks.

You realize that you start feeling “off” if you don’t take that lunchtime Pilates class (or write your latest blog post.) And without knowing it, you’ve suddenly replaced your old habit (being a literary couch potato) to one that’s much more productive.

So, here’s your SEO copywriting challenge: Write for 15 minutes before you do anything else tomorrow and keep that habit going every business day for a solid month.

Don’t check email first (checking email and the anxiety it provokes can be the biggest writer’s-block cause of all).  Don’t stress about the “perfect” topic.

Just write. It’s OK if all you write is “this is stupid” over and over. It’s OK to create a grocery list if nothing else comes to mind.

Just write.

Set a timer and tell yourself you can stop the second the timer buzzes. Don’t worry about form or tone or structure.

Just write.

You’ll notice three things:

  • Like exercise, your 15-minute writing assignment will seem torturous some days. You will be staring at the clock waiting for the pain to end. But just like exercise, the writing process will gradually start feeling better and better.
  • Some of your writing will be absolute drivel. Be OK with that. Just know that within that drivel, you’ll discover gems of absolute copywriting brilliance  Learn to appreciate the brilliance when you see it and be gentle with yourself other times.
  • Amazingly enough, some days you will write longer than 15 minutes. Your fingers will fly over the keyboard while you experience the writer’s high. Enjoy it. The more you write, the better your writing days will be – and you’ll be writing faster (and better) than ever before.

Are you ready to take this copywriting challenge? How do YOU get yourself into the writing flow? Leave your comment below!

The #1 Deadliest SEO Copywriting Sin

dreamstime_7297345Recently, a couple blog posts have focused on the “deadly sins” of SEO copywriting and content marketing. Michelle Bowles from TopRank Marketing showcases five tips for avoiding deadly SEO copywriting sins. An old (now offline) post from GrokDotCom reminds us that “Nobody wants to read your sh**! These articles are funny, informative and (for some) may hit very close to home.

Yet, I was surprised that no-one pointed out the #1 SEO copywriting sin. And that’s creating keyphrase-stuffed copy.

I’ve ranted about this SEO copywriting sin before. Somehow, people really do believe that SEO copywriting means seeing how many times you can force-feed a keyphrase into site copy. They aren’t worried about creating a customer persona. They aren’t worried about developing persuasive benefit statements. Heck, they aren’t even worried about their online image (after all, keyphrase-stuffed copy tends to read like it was written by a third grader.) Instead, it’s all keyphrases – all the time. And as a result, conversions suffer.

If you’re guilty of this sin (and a lot of companies are, both big and small,) here’s how you can repent:

  • Locate your “most sinful” pages. They may be the articles you paid $15 for that repeat your main keyphrase over and over. It may be your home page that you made more “keyphrase heavy” in an attempt at a higher ranking. Simply start out by figuring out what pages could use a rewrite – and you can develop the editorial plan later.
  • Find a new writer (or train your existing one.) Some writers keyphrase-stuff their copy because they honestly don’t know any better. If you’re working with a in-house writer, it may make more sense to sign her up for a SEO copywriting training or conference to refine her skills. If the “sinful” writing was created by an outsourced professional, consider hiring someone else. If you’re paying good money for SEO copywriting services, you deserve to have a quality product.
  • Plan your writing/editing schedule. Rewriting web pages just feels overwhelming, doesn’t it? After all, once you’ve created them, it seems frustrating that you’d have to create them again. The rewriting process goes much more smoothly if you figure on rewriting X pages a month, rather than thinking you have 50 pages to revamp right now.
  • Review your keyphrases again before you start writing. Don’t assume that they keyphrases you currently have on the page are the “right” ones.  Depending on the person who did your keyphrase research and how long it’s been since you’ve done it, there could be a plethora of more targeted phrases you could use. Once you’ve chosen your per-page keyphrases, it’s always a good idea to spot-check them in Google to see the other results that come up. Sometimes, what seems like the “perfect” keyphrase may not be as relevant as you think.
  • Consider other SEO content marketing strategies to help reinforce your keyphrase relevancy. Once reason people keyphrase stuff is because they want a high ranking on that phrase – but they do that at the expense of what their copy sounds like. Remember that you can create blog posts, articles, press releases, FAQ pages and other web page that contain your “money” keyphrases – and seeding the phrase throughout your site will help increase relevancy.
  • Always, always write copy for your customers -not the search engines. I guarantee you that Google doesn’t care about the money you make from your site (unless it’s being moved to their side of the table.) But you do. You care a lot. If you want your web pages to both position well and convert, take the time to write your pages right the first time (or hire a SEO copywriter who will.) Develop your competitive analysis. Figure out what’s in it for your customer. Work with your benefit statements. Develop an engaging tone and feel – whatever that means to your audience. The hardest part of SEO copywriting is preparing to write. Believe me, once you have this part down – the rest will flow easily. And you’ll have the perfect combination of well-written, keyphrase-rich content that converts like crazy.

Ten Stupid Things Catalog Marketers Do to Mess up Their Sites

catalog-marketer-frustrationCatalog marketers – wake up! It’s time to “get” SEO – or run the risk of having a poorly-performing site and subpar search visibility.

Last week, I enjoyed the honor of speaking at the Direct Marketing Association’s ACCM conference.  And it was an excellent reality check for me. Although I’ve been talking about SEO copywriting for over 10 years, there are many catalog marketers who just don’t “get it.” Maybe it’s because they just started to think about SEO copywriting. Maybe because they tried to do it themselves without having a clear understanding of what they’re doing.  Either way, the results range from so-so to dreadful…and these marketers are frustrated.

“Getting it” is incredibly important for catalog marketers right now.  Multichannel Merchant reported that online-only catalogs in March 2009 totaled 2,011 – up from 1,868 in March 208. During the same time period, print-only formats decreased from 1,574 to 1,347. This means that the online catalog competition is getting more heated…and catalog merchants need to do everything they can to stay on track.

Does your catalog company “get it?”  Here’s 10 of the most stupid things that catalog marketers do to mess up their site.

  1. Uploading your print catalog content without rewriting it for the online market. Yes, I know that rewriting every product page sound prohibitive from a content management and cost point of view. The reality is, the sites that have unique content are typically the ones that position better for the keyphrases they target (plus, they see higher conversions.) Focus on your top 20% pages and rewrite those first. You’ll definitely see an increase in search rankings and conversions.
  2. Wanting to put every applicable keyphrase on your home page, figuring it’s “the most important page.” The goal of SEO copywriting isn’t to get folks to land on your home page. Instead, you want prospects to land on a page that more closely matches their search query – and that’s typically an inner page.  Besides, shoving every keyphrase you’re targeting on your home page will make the page impossible to read.
  3. Same Titles across all site pages. One of the fastest ways you can quickly improve your search engine visibility  is to create unique, keyphrase-rich Titles for each page. Unique Titles help the search engines understand what your page is about – and well-written, “clickable” Titles help encourage conversion off the search engine results page.
  4. Not researching keyphrases. You may think you “know” how your customers are searching. However, keyphrase research allows you to double-check your hunches, plus find other keyphrases you may not have thought of. Ignore this step at your peril.
  5. Focusing on only 5-10 keyphrases (and the site has over 5,000 products). Most ecommerce sites have hundreds – if not thousands – of applicable keywords (depending on the site’s size.)  Although some keywords are higher value than others, don’t focus on a few at the expense of the many. If you do, you’re missing out on the opportunity to reach folks at all phases of the buy cycle.
  6. Making the “add to cart” button impossible to find. If you want people to buy from you, you have to ask for the sale. Hiding the “add to cart” button (or making it hard to find) will do nothing but force people away from your site.
  7. Hiring cheap writers who write poorly. I spoke to an e-commerce site owner who went offshore for his SEO copywriting – and he complained that he wasted over $2,500 on bad writing that didn’t help him. Unfortunately, that’s a common story.  SEO copywriting – like any form of direct marketing writing – is a “get what you pay for” proposition. If you can’t hire it out, consider training your marketing staff, instead.
  8. Not updating the site. Every see someone with a mullet and think “That’s SO 80’s!”  A Website mullet (old, outdated content) is just as off-putting.  Make sure that your blog posts, press pages, articles and product pages reflect your most current information.
  9. Assuming that people will call you for more information. No, putting up “teaser” content to trick people into calling for more information is not a good idea. People rely on your Website to help them make an informed decision. Forcing people to call your company for more information is a good way to lose conversions. Not to mention, sites with little-to-no content typically don’t position well.
  10. Not leveraging other types of customer communication and content. Can’t change your content template? Start a blog. Want to keep in immediate touch with your customers? Consider a Twitter campaign. Having an e-commerce site is just the first, foundational step. There are many more ways that you transform surfers into spenders and expand your online branding. The key is setting a strategy, controlling what you can control and making it happen.

Three Free Ways to Get Your Online Marketing Butt in Gear

marketing buttA post by Bob Bly got me thinking…

Bob posed the question, “Are your customers tightening their belts?” The DM News study he cited said that 84 percent of people surveyed have “cut back their spending.”  Bob even mentioned his own experience – higher returns, less robust sales – the normal “we’re all in this recession together” blues.

But let’s think about this.

The reality is – no matter how bad things are, people are still buying. Yes, companies are going out of business and yes that is sad.

But people are still buying. Maybe not as much. Maybe not as often.

But there is money to be made.

Listen to your own self-talk. Are you saying things like, “We have to hunker down and get through this. We’re slicing all spending and new projects until the economy gets better?”

Or are you saying, “OK, we have to slice our budget – but what creative things can we do right now? Where should we focus our efforts?”

See the difference? One firm is making the best of what they’ve got, and the other is too scared to move.

Which firm would you rather be?

Start thinking of some ways you can start gaining a little more market share. They don’t have to cost money – they just need a little work and a strategy. Here are three free ways to get started:

  • Call some of your best customers just to say “hi.” My father taught me that it’s the little things that build customer loyalty. It’s remembering a client’s birthday. It’s asking about their husband and kids. And it’s calling them when times are tough just to say hi – even if they haven’t ordered from you recently. The economy isn’t just hitting people’s pocketbooks – it’s hitting their self esteem, too. You think that they don’t feel bad that they sliced their order with you by 75%? They do. You think that they like slow-paying you? Nope. There are people behind those irritating corporate policies. They’re scared too. And they would really appreciate a friendly voice at the other end of the phone. You may not talk about business during that conversation. But you will help cement a relationship. And you never know what you’ll learn from a customer that could spark a new idea or strategy.
  • Examine marketing avenues that are heavy on strategy – but not a lot of cash. It doesn’t cost anything to build a Facebook fan page. A Twitter account won’t set you back a cent. If you’re a local business, have you submitted to Google My Business, Yelp and other local sites? Granted, not every business can benefit from a Facebook or Twitter account. And your customers may not Yelp. But that’s something to research and consider, not figure “it won’t work.” Especially since you can do all that for, yes, free.
  • Try different SEO copywriting approaches. It could be that the old tone and feel isn’t working anymore – and that’s hobbling sales. If you have a SEO copywriter on staff, pick a sales page and experiment with something completely different.  You can try changing the headline, the offer – even the tone and feel.

So, what free marketing tactics would you add to the list?

Photo credit: © Mona Makela | Dreamstime.com