Successful SEO Copywriting Tips for Catalog Marketers

catalogEvery once in awhile, I come across an oldie article that’s still a goodie – with a little updating.

I wrote this article around 2004 or so and wanted to update it because of its importance in today’s marketplace.

Catalog marketers are doing everything they can to get sales in the door and stay in business. Print costs are through the roof. Postage costs are expensive (and who knows if the post office will continue six day a week delivery?). If you’re a cataloger marketer, and you haven’t focused on your website and organic SEO, now is the time to get started.

One of the main ways catalog marketers can gain search rankings and site conversions is through well-written SEO content. Let’s get into the how-to – and discuss what catalogers can do, right now.

Catalog marketers face a unique situation: Every page means potential profit. Print catalogers have known this for some time, relying on talented copywriters to pen persuasive prose that gains qualified leads or eventual sales.

Unfortunately, what works in a print catalog (short product descriptions with multiple items featured per page), will not help a company gain online positioning in Google and Yahoo. The good news is that the same copywriters who create compelling catalog copy can master the SEO copywriting art – and you’ll see higher page rankings.

Once your marketing staff learns SEO copywriting best practices, your copywriters will produce text with a double-duty emphasis – a seductive call to action plus stellar search engine positioning. It’s simply modifying your copywriter’s existing process and learning how search engines work.

B2B or B2C catalogs – both can win with SEO copywriting!

Traditionally, B2C catalog marketers have seized the online space, knowing that search marketing lets them reach customers at every stage of the buying cycle. However, B2B catalogs can also benefit from search engine optimization techniques. For instance, if a company searches for a particular product, such as “decanter centrifuges,” top search engine positioning builds brand recognition and places your products front and center in the search engines. Although it’s true that “businesses don’t search,” individuals within those businesses need solutions – and B2B catalog optimization allows your solutions to be featured at the exact time your future customers are searching for the exact product you offer.

To simplify catalog SEO strategy, remember that you are reaching at least two distinct markets: Customers who are ready to purchase now and customers who are gathering information. Developing a content development strategy that satisfies both masters will help you drive additional targeted traffic at every phase of the purchasing process.

Let’s examine the content optimization steps catalog marketers and copywriters can take for stellar positions and conversions:

Laser-focus your keyphrase choices

Your customers use search phrases to find your products – and statistically, some search phrases are more searched upon than others. The key is to determine exactly what phrases your customers type into the search box and determine exactly how they search. Broad and specific keyphrases reach customers in different phases of the buying cycle. Once the marketing department understands user behavior and the psychology of search, this knowledge can be honed for search engine benefit.

Some searchers are close to making a purchase, know exactly what they want, and will search on highly specific phrases. For instance, one lingerie catalog site owner said that her site logs showed that women almost exclusively searched for lingerie names and stock numbers. Once they found their items (under searches like “ethereal half slip 8710”), they were ready and motivated to buy. Women were able to do their search, click through to a specific product page and immediately make a purchase. Search marketing helped this company reach women who were extremely motivated to learn about a particular product.

However, what about customers who may not have an item number – or who are in an earlier stage of the buying process? General keyphrases provide searchers an SEO road map, helping them narrow their search and gain new information. Examples of general keyphrases are “women’s half slips” (rather than the specific “ethereal half slip 8710”), “import auto parts” (rather than “FastCar body kit CX-3459”) or “decanter centrifuge” (rather than “Alfa decanter centrifuge 34X1”). Although these customers may not be ready to make an immediate purchase, your search engine presence alerts them to your site – and tempts them to click thru to gather additional information.

The best sites have a mixture of general and specific keyphrases that capture buyers in all phases of the cycle. Keyphrase research tools like WordTracker and Keyword Discovery will help your staff determine the best keyphrases for your site and will indicate how your customers search.

SEO copywriting best practice: Focus on 2-3 specific keyphrases per page, use synonyms, and (intelligently) repeat your keyphrases throughout the copy. You don’t have to worry about meeting a certain keyphrase density, but you do want to make sure that your copy reads well.

Short catalog copy won’t always work online

Google states in their Webmaster guidelines that site owners should create an “useful, information-rich site.” Additionally, the way the keyphrases appear in the body copy is incredibly important for search positioning. If your product page text is a mere 50 words pulled from the product box, the search engines may not consider your page as relevant as another site with well-written, original product copy.

Consider also that prospects are entering your site through individual product pages – not just your home page. These prospects may have no idea what your company benefits are, what incentives you offer (like free shipping) and what differentiates you from the competition. If your pages are short and benefit-free, you lose two crucial advantages:

  • Short text – especially for competitive keyphrases – typically does not position well.
  • If your landing page doesn’t educate your customer about your main benefits and provide complete product information, you’re losing an opportunity to educate your new prospect and help gain their trust.

Need another reason for your marketing department to embrace pages with a longer word count? Your customers, especially for larger-ticket purchases, require information before they will make a purchase or contact you for information. If they don’t learn what they need to know, they’ll surf to your competition. Fast.

Updated content tip: If your platform is such where you can’t edit the template – and adding new copy is impossible- a blog may provide the benefits you need. Check out this article about blogs for catalog marketers. If you don’t know what to write about in your blog, here’s a post by Google’s Matt Cutts discussing how to write useful articles.

SEO copywriting best practices for catalog sites: Although over 500 words is the SEO copywriting “sweet spot,” write as much quality copy as you can while integrating your main keyphrases.

Create unique Titles for each page

The Title does double SEO duty. Search engines consider them a highly important coding element and they index words in the Title to determine relevancy. However, Titles are also crucial to the conversion process. The words in your Title are what are displayed in search engine results as the clickable link.  If your Title doesn’t contain the main keyphrases found on your page – and fails to be compelling – you run the risk of losing positions or conversions.

Update: In a previous blog post, I discussed how Kitchen Kaboodle, a local Portland, OR retailer, could spice up their Titles for greater SEO and conversion benefit.

SEO copywriting best practices for catalog sites: Each page should have a unique Title, reflecting the keyphrases utilized for the page. Write around 50-75 characters and make the Title as compelling and keyphrase-rich as possible.

Creating keyphrase-rich content for catalog pages will help each page gain higher positioning and ROI. With just a little education, your copywriters will be kicking out keyphrase-rich copy in no time – and you’ll see top positions and sizzling conversions.

January SEO Content Marketing Challenge: Create an Editorial Calendar

Happy New Year! By now, you are probably knee-deep in emails, phone calls and a to-do list that seemed manageable before the break. But now. Not so much.

Sound familiar?

As early as the first week in January, it’s easy to let our good intentions (and resolutions) fall by the wayside. You may have swore to yourself and anyone else who would listen that you’d post three blog posts a week. And now you’re thinking, “I don’t have time to write a blog post – much less figure out what I’d write about.”

And yet again, your content marketing plan falls by the wayside.

I get it. I really do. Heck, I don’t know how many times I’ve meant to write a blog post – and then a client calls, the day is wacky, or (and I bet this sounds familiar,) I just don’t feel like writing.

This year, 2010, is the year to get over it. Here’s the secret to making it happen: Create an editorial calendar.

I’ve waxed poetic before on the benefits of editorial calendars. Basically, what they entail is sitting down and planning what you’ll write about, who’s responsible for the writing, and when you’ll upload the work.

Editorial calendars force you to get your ideas out of your head and on paper. They force you to plan in advance (which is challenging for many “write by the seat of their pants” writers.) And they force you (or your writers) to be accountable.

After all, if you have a blog post on, say, creating editorial calendars due on Tuesday – and you’ve known about this deadline for awhile – you don’t have much of an excuse to say, “I don’t have time.”

Creating a calendar is simple. Some people use their Outlook calendars to plan. Other people use spreadsheets. Plan on spending at least an hour every month researching the latest and greatest information in your industry, reviewing your site for pages that need updating and developing content ideas.

Maybe you know that you’ll need to write at least two sales pages this month. Or you plan to create an article every week. The point is to get all plans down on paper so you can look at a calendar and immediately say, “If it’s Thursday, that means I’m writing the new home page.” Or, if you’re an editor working with multiple writers, you can instantly see who is writing what article and the associated deadlines.

The main kickback I get when I talk about “editorial calendars” is the time argument. If you are already time-strapped (and really, who isn’t,) spending an hour plus every month on “planning” can often make you feel like you should be doing something different. Say, responding to the 50 emails waiting for you. Or updating your Facebook status.

But the reality is, editorial calendars not only save you time – they can actually make you money. I’ve seen clients sit on old, stagnant pages for years because they “didn’t have time” to update them. However, the problem wasn’t one of time. It was overwhelm. Once they sat down, generated a content calendar and created a game plan, they could more easily integrate the writing tasks into their normal day-to-day.

The result? Piping-hot fresh content that helps drive traffic and – more importantly – conversions. Isn’t that worth an hour a month?

So for this month’s SEO content marketing challenge, create an editorial calendar. It doesn’t have to be fancy. You could literally take a monthly calendar, hand-write in the writing deliverables and deadlines, and zip it to other folks on your team. That’s it.

And hey, I’m taking my own medicine this month. Before I started writing this post, I printed out a January 2010 calendar page and scribbled in my blog post topics through January 28th. Was it hard to sit for an hour and plan? Yes. Do I feel much, much better. You bet. Organization can be freeing like that.

Go ahead, try it. And let me know how it goes. It won’t be as painful as it sounds. Really.

Has your SEO copywriting strategy changed with the times?

The economy has shifted. Has your marketing message?

In today’s learned helplessness, recession-mindset economy, some business owners are moaning, “People just aren’t buying. There’s nothing we can do.”

The reality is that companies (and individuals) are buying products and services every second of every day. However, the marketing message that worked a year ago may not be applicable now. When money is tight, prospects want to know they’re getting a good deal (read: value) from a company they like and trust. Additionally, your prospects may have different objections than even six months ago – objections you need to overcome if you want to make the sale.

Although this article is written for salespeople, the principals apply to Web site sales copy – and how we all need to look at our messaging a little differently.

How has your company changed messaging (or developed new content) this year?

Do You Know What Your Prospects Are Really Thinking?

Want to know a secret?

When prospective buyers visit your website, they are looking for more than just their desired product or service.

The secret is; they’re looking for reasons to NOT buy from you.

Yes, that’s right. Your prospects – no matter how motivated they are – are coming to the virtual table with a chip on their shoulder. Like the person burned by too many bad dates (you dated that person too?), they want you to prove to them how you’re not just like all the others.

But the problem is, just like in the dating example, you have no idea what the “others” did to your prospect. She’s not coming to you and saying, “Here’s what happened to me – and I’m expecting you to pull the same stuff.”

Here’s what a prospect may be thinking…

…The last PR company I worked with took my 10K and didn’t generate a dime in buzz. How can you help me?

…The last time I bought something online, the package arrived late, and the company overcharged me for shipping. Will you do the same thing?

…The last time I hired a writer, he copied an article from Wikipedia and tried to pass it off as original content. How do I know that I’ll get what I’m promised?

…These prices seem high. Are your services worth it, or are you overpriced?

Think about your buying behavior. Do you jump into a new purchase willy-nilly, buying from the first vendor in the search results? Or do you carefully compare sites, send exploratory emails and check reviews so you can work with the right company?

(As a side note, that’s why well-written persuasive content is so important, It’s more than just “getting a good ranking.” It’s providing a fantastic customer experience through the power of the written word.)

The importance of overcoming sales objections in your web writing

Now that you know that your prospects have sales objections, it’s important to overcome them within your copy. Rather than waiting for your prospect to bring up every objection they have (guess what – they won’t,) you have to face the known issues head-on, showcase your value and create an active need.

That means knowing what freaks your prospects out about working with you.

Plus, if you don’t overcome these objections immediately in your copy, you may not get a second chance.

For instance, Domino Pizza’s old campaign of “Pizza in 30 minutes or less” was perfect for thousands of hungry pizza-lovers anxious for immediate-gratification food.

The U.S. Post Office’s campaign of “Celebrating a simpler way to ship” accomplishes a couple goals. It helps promote their online services, plus, overcomes the objection of “Will I have to stand in line for hours at the Post Office?”

Or FedEx’s, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight…guaranteed” – which is important for businesses who need on-time, trackable shipping.

How do you “figure out the known issues” if you can’t crawl inside your prospect’s brain and determine what she’s thinking? Simple. Do your homework.

Talk to the sales team

Your sales team are the folks “in the trenches” who hear what’s going on – and who overcome objections every time they talk to a new prospect. Ask them what their clients are worried about and any common questions they hear.

Chat with your new customers

New customers are a fantastic source of information. Task someone with calling selected folks who sign up. This is a smart strategy for a couple reasons:

  • Your new customer will be impressed that someone has called to check in – so your company gets some great customer service bonus points.
  • During the call, you can ask your customer questions about their past experiences, why they chose your company, why they love your product or service and more. In fact, you may even be able to ask them to provide a testimonial.

Read your testimonials

Testimonials provide great (yet, often ignored) information. Companies are often so focused on posting new testimonials to the site that they forget to mine the data.

And testimonials provide yummy data.

For instance, customers will tell stories like, “When I worked with XYZ company, it took one or two days before they would answer my email. When I work with you, I get an immediate response.”

Bingo! Now you know that a fast response rate is an important benefit. A sentence like, “We’ll return your email within one business day, guaranteed” perfectly overcomes the objection.

Additionally, if there’s something your company does really well, testimonials will often reflect that fact. Maybe it’s your cutting-edge knowledge. Or your great customer service. Those testimonial themes are marketing gold!

Review competing sites

Sometimes, your competition really does get it right. Comb through their copy and see if they’ve overcome objections your site doesn’t address. Does your competition talk about how many years of experience their consultants have? Does your competition mention a “no hassle money back guarantee?” Do they include customer reviews touting their superior service?

Although it’s not a smart idea to copy your competition (after all, you can do better,) you can learn from them.

What’s the best way research the objections you should overcome?

Easy. Just start.

If you have an in-house marketing manager, he can get the ball rolling and start gathering data. Although this process isn’t hard to do, it is time-consuming – so your marketing manager will want to set aside time to do it right. Otherwise, it will sit on the back burner and never get done.

Some companies choose to work with an SEO content strategist who can do the heavy lifting for them. This tactic is especially smart if your team members are time-crunched – or if you want a fresh perspective. It’s amazing how often an outside expert can find opportunities that were missed in-house.

The important thing is to get moving, especially if your site’s conversion goals are sluggish and you’re leaving money on the table.

Once you have the data, you’ll want to rewrite the content and incorporate the messaging changes. Depending on your existing content, this could be a simple tweak – or a more major undertaking. Consider A/B testing the new copy to further refine your pages.

Just imagine: After a few hours of research and some copy tweaking, you can gently move that chip off your prospects’ shoulder and drive more sales.

It’s that simple.

10 Tips for Scoring a Great Guest Interview

Want to avoid boring guest interviews? Are you new to interviewing experts and need a process?

Running expert interviews is a nice win/win for all parties. Your expert gets exposed to a new audience, and you get awesome, thought-leader content that drives links and gets shares.

Sadly, it’s not always as easy as that. Your expert may not be available. Your interview may come across as boring or downright awkward. If this has happened to you, know that you’re not alone.

Fortunately, weird situations can typically be avoided.

There’s a method to the guest interviewing madness.

Here are ten tips to get you started:

Do send a good pitch.

A good pitch makes all the difference. If you want your email to get trashed, send something that says, “Hi, my name is Bob and I run the XYZ blog. Can I send you some interview questions?”

Ain’t nobody got time for a pitch like that!

Most guest experts are happy to help, but they also need to make sure that it’s worth their time and fits their audience (which sounds harsh, but it’s true.) If you want a fast yes, you’ll need to send more details. Consider adding information such as your blog’s readership numbers, your target audience and a brief idea of the interview topic. This information will help. Trust me.

Don’t get offended if someone says “no.”

Even the best pitches get rejected. Maybe your guest expert is traveling and doesn’t have time. Maybe your readership doesn’t fit their target market. Maybe she’s just completed six interviews and doing one more seems daunting. Whatever the reason, take it in stride and don’t bash the person on social media. Heck, I’d keep the interview door open – I’ve said “no” to some folks only to say “yes” a few months later.

As a side note: If you send an email and don’t hear back, send another “check-in” note. I recently missed an interview opportunity because I accidentally trashed the original message. My bad. But had the person emailed me back, I would have been happy to help.

Do research your guest, read their bio and check out their site

It goes without saying that you should know your guest’s work, their background and what their site offers.

Believe it or not, this doesn’t always happen.

From the interviewee’s side, it’s weird when the person who is interviewing you seems to know nothing about your work. Yes, it’s happened. Yes, it’s awkward, especially during a podcast. And yes, this will alienate your guest and ruin your podcast.

Don’t ask “how did you get started?”

“How did you start your career”  is a valid question. But I promise you unless the expert is brand new to their field, there are already 10+ interviews with him or her that outlines their career trajectory. That information is already out there.

Over my career, I have answered that question at least 100 times (and I’m probably estimating low.) Unless you can put a different spin on the question, asking about the expert’s past will do nothing but bore the audience and your guest expert. Try another lead instead – you can always summarize your guest expert’s achievements somewhere in the interview.

Do ask thought-provoking questions.

To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, why let your post blend in when it can stand out? The key to conducting a strong guest interview is to ask the questions nobody else has thought to ask before.

James Altrucher is the master at this. Whether he’s interviewing Coolio or Tony Robbins, he throws in a question (or more) designed to make his guest think. It’s obvious that James isn’t looking for a canned, “this is what your handler said is OK to say” response. He’s looking for something deeper. And his interviews are fascinating because of it (this is from a person who hates listening to podcasts.) You don’t need to make the entire interview sound like a therapy session. But a couple of deeper questions is good.

Planning a podcast? Do send the questions ahead of time.

Want your guest to love you? Send your questions a few days in advance and ask for feedback.Sending the questions early ensures the questions you’re asking are in the interviewee’s “sweet spot” and your guest can provide great information. Otherwise, you may ask them about a topic they aren’t as comfortable with, and the interview may take a very weird turn.

Conducting an email interview? Work out the deadline ahead of time.

You’ll want to confirm with your expert prior to sending the questions that he can meet your deadline. If you’re on a tight deadline, tell them immediately – and promise only to send a few fast questions. Otherwise, you may slave over your interview questions only to learn that your expert can’t meet your deadline. I’ve been there and the situation is no fun for either party.

Don’t lay out a strategy question and then ask,”Can you outline what you would do, step by step?”

I’ve received some very detailed emailed questions that have made me think, “Is this person asking for their readers, or are they asking for their site?” Strategy questions take a long time to answer. There are a lot of moving parts that make providing a specific answer impossible. Certainly, your guest can provide an overview of the process. But asking them to “dig into” a site and figure out how to handle something is consulting, not an interview.

Give your guest expert a lot of social love.

Now that the interview has posted, it’s time to promote it to the masses. Let your guest expert know that the post is live. Tag them on Twitter and LinkedIn. Re-promote the post to your followers. This technique not only drives more traffic to your site, it also gives your expert a lot of well-deserved social love. Plus, your expert will (hopefully) promote the post on her network and drive more traffic to your site.

Say “thank you.”

It’s amazing how rarely this happens. Thank your guest expert for their time. You don’t need to send a long email. Just a short “thank you,” just like Mom taught you. It makes all the difference.

What tip would you add? Please leave it in the comments below!

The C-Word And Why Content Isn’t King

You know what I’m tired of hearing?

The oft-repeated mantra “content is king.”

“But wait Heather,” you may say. “You train people how to write content. You consult on SEO content development. Heck, your entire career was built on content.”

True. But I think the mantra “content is king” has done more harm than good.


Even in today’s brave new Google world, some people still believe that it’s the quantity of the content – not the quality – that’s important. The primary goal of content is to help a site be seen in the SERPs.

But being seen only works when there’s something else in play.

That “something else” is the C-word.

Read more

5 Ways to Write Killer Headlines from 5 Experts

As an online writer, you’ve surely come across many a post about how to create a stellar headline. And you’ve likely found that it’s not as easy to do as prescribed.

Should you go for the sexy headline that invites clicks? Or for the one that is sure to position in the search engines with optimization? Or perhaps the one that is choice for social sharing?

But…what if you could accomplish all of the above with one headline?

We called on five copywriting wizards to share their strategies for writing an amazing headline, posing this question:

Obviously, a “good” headline should clearly convey to readers what they can expect from a post and serve their interests. Given that, what is your strategy for writing a headline that captures clicks, leverages SEO and invites social sharing?

Their illuminating responses are as brilliant as their headlines…


Larry Kim (@larrykim), Founder & CTO of WordStream, Inc.

 I optimize for insanely high social sharing that in turn, generates the links that will make this asset rank very highly. Months later, after the links have been acquired, I can revisit the content and do some on-page SEO tweaks. Take this recent article about working mothers, for example:


This thing got 23 thousand shares in just a few days – why? Child rearing is an INSANELY powerful emotional trigger. You can bet that every mom that saw this thing wanted to confirm or defend their life choices by sharing this thing. You really do only get milliseconds to grab a reader’s attention and convince them to share or click through and read the rest of your article.

Do your research. It’s totally pointless to spend an hour or more writing something and then slap whatever title you came up with off the top of your head on it. I do the opposite: I use BuzzSumo to see what else is most popular right now and research a topic that I know will do well. From there, I just fill in the article. Meaning, the title comes first, not last.

Leave a “knowledge gap” to pique the curiosity of your readers; this is why those crazy “You Won’t Believe What Happens…” titles work. You need to find your hook — that unusual, different, original take on it that makes your content really awesome — but then don’t forget to highlight that in your title.

Of course, you want to use relevant keywords, but watch the length, too. Keep it short and punchy. If there are any unnecessary words, cut them out. Resist the urge to be too descriptive; you don’t want to give away the whole article in the title. Most importantly though, make sure your content delivers on the promise of your title so you can keep that engagement and sharing high.

Take a look at this tweet that leverages the curiosity gap idea and got over a thousand retweets, which then generated hundreds of thousands of pageviews:



See how that works? Boom!



Ian Lurie (@portentint), CEO of Portent

Here’s my shot:

  • I start by writing a headline that’s fully descriptive. It has to tell the reader exactly what they’ll see when they start reading.
  • Then I work to provide a ‘hook.’ That may mean including one of the basic power words: What/how/win/lose etc.
  • Then I think about my audience. This sounds backwards, I know, and I don’t mean that I ignore my audience at step 1. I mean I look for inside jokes, hot buttons, pet peeves, etc. that might help me connect more directly with them.

That’s it. I try to keep things simple. But I do quite a bit of work tweaking and changing. I believe the content matters a lot, but the headline is the entry point into the larger piece, so I really want to get it right.


Brian Massey (@bmassey), Founder of Conversion Sciences

 Headlines are hard because they are burdened with great responsibility. We think a great conversion-oriented headline must do the following:

1. Keep the promise. Whatever was promised in the ad, link, email or social share should be reiterated in the headline. If the page is receiving organic traffic, the keyword is the promise. Be sure your headline contains the right words for searchers.
2. Chase away the wrong visitors. Writing a great headline means knowing who you want to draw in to the page. By definition, this means letting go of almost everyone else.
3. Include the phone number. If you want visitors to call, including the phone number in the headline is a great way to entice that.
4. Test and retest. You will be surprised by what works for you.



Glenn Murray (@divinewrite), Founder of Divine Write

 Headlines are a creative thing for me. So it’s hard to describe how I craft them. I don’t follow rules or even have a conscious strategy. That’s not to say I don’t have a strategy at all; I’ve just never tried to articulate it. Indeed, I wasn’t even able to answer this question without deconstructing some of my old blog headlines. You may as well see that deconstruction…

Here’s a collection of some headlines I’ve written that seemed to drive traffic and prompt people to comment on the headline itself. Along with each, I’ve written a quick description of why I think it was successful.

  • Why I prefer ass – This would be confronting for a lot of people. And it’s completely unexpected in a copywriting context. Some people will click on it because they want to see what it’s really about. And some will click because they’re hoping against hope it’s sexual.
  • The second-most important copywriting rule – Everyone talks about the number 1 rule for things. Rarely about the number 2. So that’s kinda unexpected. It also suggests that the post will be understated (people get sick of overselling and sensationalism).
  • For 13 years my website was missing one critical ingredient. Is yours missing it too? – Even after running my copywriting business for 14 years, I still make mistakes. Some of them quite big. And I’m more than happy to admit it when I do. People are engaged by self-effacing headlines or headlines that expose your weaknesses and vulnerabilities. It draws people closer. Plus readers might worry they could be making the same mistake themselves.
  • I’m no Don Draper. So am I still a copywriter? – I think every copywriter has wondered this. I just voiced their insecurity. So they’d be curious to hear my answer. And again, they could be drawn closer by my vulnerability.
  • Some writing that’s so good it made me cry – All copywriters love good writing. So curiosity will get the better of a lot of people here. And again, there’s the vulnerability thing.
  • Kate Toon & Belinda Weaver asked what my copywriting fetish is. Bet you can’t guess the answer… – Like the ‘ass’ headline, this one is sexually suggestive. Especially if you know Kate and Belinda. Some people will be drawn to it for that reason alone (that often works on me!). Others will be curious to get an insight into a copywriter they see as an old dog of the industry.
  • If working with your copywriter was a breeze, you just wasted your money – This is counter-intuitive, which will intrigue readers.
  • Get off your high-horse. You only hate clickbait headlines ‘cos you wish you wrote ’em – Confrontational. Many copywriters have a thing against clickbait headlines, and I insulted them for it. They’ll click through to see how I could possibly justify that insult and maybe even argue with me (if only in their heads).
  • Dead scribe a-thinkin’: How Missy Elliot’s hips cured my writer’s block – The incongruent elements here are a bit surprising (intriguing). How could Missy Elliot’s hips even be relevant to copywriting, much less cure writer’s block? Also the sexual innuendo will get a few people curious.

So if distill the summaries above, here’s what I end up with:

  • confronting
  • unexpected
  • sexual innuendo
  • unusual headline approach
  • understated
  • self-effacing
  • expose your weaknesses / vulnerabilities / insecurities / private personality
  • imply the reader might have the same weaknesses as you
  • curiosity
  • counter-intuitive
  • confrontational / invite argument
  • incongruence

Obviously you can’t just treat this list as a recipe. It has to be appropriate for your audience (even if confronting) and it has to match your personality. Perhaps a good litmus test is to ask yourself if you’d say it at a party with friends and kinda-friends (for me, that’s a party with the other parents from my kids’ school). You have to be able to shock / intrigue / engage without sounding like that sleazy bloke who always snickers about boobs and threesomes.


Kate Toon (@katetooncopy), Founder of Kate Toon Copywriter

I firmly believe a click-worthy headline beats an SEO-optimised headline every time.

Many readers will share a post simply based on its headline, and many won’t have read the rest of the article. Ogilvy had it right when he said, “When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar”.

Of course, we all want to please the Google gods. But it’s people who truly drive the Internet, so if we can suck them in with a winning headline then Google will most definitely follow.

I like to use a mix of slightly odd, quirky headlines and more straightforward no-nonsense approaches.

So one week I might try:

“How my vagina helps me write better copy”

And the next:

“How to write a copy deck in five easy steps”

I follow up the headline with a sub-header. If the headline is quirky, the sub will be more focused. And if the headline is practical, the sub-header will be more conversational.

But whatever headline I choose, I always make sure my article delivers on that headline quickly and comprehensively. Because I don’t just want readers to click. I want them to read, like, comment, share and link, link, link!

SEO Writing: Are You Making this Dangerous Mistake?

Once upon a time, there was a sad and lonely website.

Its owners were recognized experts in their fields. They had written books. They blogged. They spoke all over the world.

From a marketing standpoint, they were doing everything right.

Yet, their site wasn’t positioning for any important keyphrases. None. Zip.

This made the site owners quite unhappy, so they found a consultant to help.

The consultant noticed quite a few “old school” SEO errors:

–  There were very few keyphrases on the page

–  There were no keyphrase-rich headlines (H1)

–  The Titles were keyphrase-free and most of the pages didn’t have meta descriptions.

Once these errors were fixed, the site started positioning within three days. Rankings are still building for the super competitive phrases, but even those are coming along nicely.

Conducting some basic optimization on the site unlocked its potential.

I tell this story because there are (still) dissenters who believe that you can just “write naturally” and Google will “get” what your site is about. Meaning – you can skip all the foundational SEO steps and still do well.

That’s a pretty dangerous mistake.

In fact, the site owners had “written their site naturally.” You would think that an internationally-known consultant could write high positioning content just because.

But that wasn’t the case.

I bring this up after reading the latest SearchMetrics 2014 rankings factors report (you can read a great summary of the report here.)

The takeaways? Quality content matters. Keyphrases in the Titles, H1, description and body copy matters.  

You know. The stuff that smart SEO writers have been discussing since the beginning of SEO time.

If my story is hitting home with you (that is, you know your site copy wasn’t written with SEO in mind,) know that you can fix your situation. It will take some time. And it will take some budget. But there are things you can do.  For instance:

– You can add keyphrases to old blog posts to help snag better search positions.

– You can rewrite pages to make them more reader-centered (and yes, so you can add keyphrases too!). This is an especially smart tactic if you can’t add keyphrases to your existing content without it sounding unnatural (which is often the case with short content.)

– You can tweak your Titles so they are unique to the page and better for Google – and more importantly, better for your readers.

– You can improve upon your meta descriptions. Especially if your descriptions are the same on every page.

So here’s a reality check:

“Writing naturally” without at least an inkling of solid SEO writing knowledge can hurt you. It’s cool if you want to write your own content. Just know that someone will need to add some SEO sizzle when you’re done.

If your in-house writers aren’t trained in SEO writing, you are doing your site (and your revenues) a disservice. Without some SEO knowledge, the more your writers write, the more that will need to be fixed later.

If you are a freelance writer selling “web writing services” – and you aren’t versed in SEO writing – you are doing yourself (and your clients) a HUGE disservice. Not to mention, you’re missing out on a nice profit center.

Sure, hearing “you need to go back to the basics” isn’t sexy.

But what is sexy is more traffic. Higher sales. A more qualified readership.

And your site will no longer feel sad and lonely.

Want more tasty SEO writing information? Why not sign up for my free weekly newsletter? It’s fluff-free, fun and provides fantastic info!

Photo credit: © Scott Griessel |

Why You Should Question The Experts

Do you engage in a content marketing strategy because your favorite guru wrote about it in a blog post?

It’s time to stop.

Let’s face it — we all do this from time to time. We have our content marketing expert favorites. We read their success stories, case studies, and in-depth blog posts. We feel like we’re part of their tribe.

But are they really giving us the advice we need?

I thought about this as I was reading an article in Marketing Profs (this article requires a PRO membership to read the whole thing.) One of the writing tips that struck me was “Stick to 1,500-3,000 words; you’ll balance effort with traffic, and you’ll be golden.”

I understand the writer’s point. He backs up his “longer posts are better” statement with stats from BuzzSumo, CrazyEgg, and Marketing Experiments. The research is sound.

However, I’d have a hard time believing that this “rule of thumb” metric is true for every business across every vertical. Some audiences may prefer and share shorter posts. Maybe even your industry. In this case, writing a 2,000-word post may be counterproductive. After all, why bother putting all that work into a post if your audience won’t read it?

Instead of thinking of your marketing guru’s opinion as fact, stay open and be curious. Maybe their suggestion would work on your site. Maybe something else is a better approach.

You won’t know until you try and measure the results.

Testing assumptions also helps to solve the “we’ve always done it this way” syndrome. If you feel like you’re not making the marketing gains you want, reviewing your assumptions is a very smart move.

Think about all the assumptions you can test. Here’s just a small collection I’ve collected from industry gurus:

  • Your business must blog every week for maximum impact.
  • You must blog multiple times every week.
  • You must provide a value-added giveaway to increase your newsletter subscribers.
  • Pop-ups are bad, and you should never include them.
  • You must create an online course to capture leads.
  • You must run free webinars.
  • Your business must start a podcast.
  • You must create a Title tag using X format.

I’m sure you can name some assumptions too.

Be aware that some colleagues may find “testing assumptions” extremely threatening. Although you may be pumped to throw pop-ups on your site, someone else may hate the idea. They may resist it. They may tell you no.

That’s OK. Instead of an all-or-nothing scenario, offer to run a small test and report on the results. The more you can confirm your assumptions (or blow them out of the water,) the more on-target your marketing.

Why did the MarketingProf’s article hit home for me? It’s because I’ve been questioning my assumptions and looking closely at my own gurus’ advice. I’ve been in business a long time, and it’s easy to fall into the “this is just the way I do it” trap. Sometimes, it’s easier to listen to others rather than being 100% sure a strategy works.

However, just because I’ve been doing it a long time doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement. It just means I have a process.

I’ll be making some small tweaks here and there (some you’ll notice, and some will be behind the scenes.) When I discover a tasty morsel of marketing knowledge, I’ll share it here. Not because it’s something you should do too. But because it will give you something to think about – and an assumption to test.

What about you? Did you follow a guru’s advice only to have the situation end badly? What “we’ve always done it this way” processes do you want to test? Leave your comments below.

Is Your About Us Page a Real Yawner?


Does your about us page make your readers yawn?

Well-written about us pages can increase conversion rates.

So why do they often suck so bad? Instead of making a connection, they sound as dry as Ben Stein’s delivery in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.


Is this the impression you want to give your prospects? Nope. I didn’t think so.

Your SEO content marketing challenge: Show some personality

Why be boring when you can let your corporate freak flag fly? Review your about us page and check out these tips. Then, consider how you can actually connect with your readers – not just give the bare-bones company information. Would pictures help? Video? Think out of the box.

After all, if it was a real-life conversation, you’d share your company story. You’d discuss how you’ve helped other customers. You’d focus on the connection – not the corporate talking points.

Just a few changes can transform your sucky page into a stupendous one.

Need to outsource your SEO content to a company that gets it right the first time? Let me help. Learn more about my SEO copywriting services today.