Posts

Create Killer Content: Copy These Powerful Formulas

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

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

Copywriting Formulas: Acronym Soup 

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

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

By Joanna Wiebe via Copy Hackers

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

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

The Ultimate Guide to Copywriting

By Hassan Ud-deen via Kissmetrics

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

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

By Henneke Duistermaat via Enchanting Marketing

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

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

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

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

Master This Copywriting Formula to Dominate Any Social Media Platform

By Demian Farnworth via Copyblogger

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

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

Compelling Headlines: Key to Conversions

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

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

A Simple Formula for Writing Kick-Ass Blog Titles

By Corey Eridon via HubSpot

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

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

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

#Copywriting ALERT! 902 Headline Banging Words, SRSLY

By Marty Weintraub via aimClear

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

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

How To Create Headlines That Grab Attention And Convert

By Michael Brenner via Marketing Insider Group

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

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

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

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

By Barry Feldman via Kissmetrics

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

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

Email Subject Lines: Stand Out in the Inbox Crowd

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

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

By Megan Marrs via WordStream

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

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

Your Turn

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

3 Ways to Re-Ignite Your Web Copy Right Now

Welcome!  Today we’re introducing a fun new feature to Heather’s Monday how-to video blog series: answering your questions!  Yes, Heather is accepting questions you may have regarding anything SEO, content marketing, and web writing, then answering via her video blog post.  How cool is that?  

Today’s post answers one of Heather’s most frequently asked questions:  “I’ve had this website for awhile and I want to make some changes, but I don’t know what to check out or where to start.”

Listen in, as Heather addresses what you should be checking out right now, and other tips to ramp up your web copy and content marketing!

1. Revisit Your Marketing  (A Good Thing)

It’s an inescapable truism: with any website or marketing material that we’ve been looking at for awhile, we tend to lose the “fresh” perspective of our prospect and it simply gets stale.  But this sticking point is actually a fantastic opportunity to revisit your marketing, and the starting point for that is analytics.

2. What’s Working?  What’s Not?  (Check Your Analytics)

For those of you who are averse to analytics, please don’t be!  No need: it’s not too difficult or techie. Really! Embrace analytics as your friend!  Analytics offer incredible information at your fingertips that shows you what pages are resonating with your audience, as well as those that are “clunky” and could be improved upon to do more for your conversions.

But if you’re simply allergic to analytics, consider bringing on some one who can help you.  Once you’ve a handle on the data, you can start making some really smart, informed decisions about what is working for your site as well as what needs tweaking.

3.  Are You Boring Your Readers or Engaging Them?  (Customer Persona, Tone and Feel)

It’s always a smart move to revisit the tone and feel of your site: is it resonating with your customer persona?   How does your content “sound” to your perfect prospect?  Are you engaging your reader?

Now that companies have begun to emerge from the recession, it’s delightful to see them want to reinvest in their website copy, and especially to re-invest in their sites’ tone and feel.  This renewal presents a fabulous opportunity for reviewing and updating their customer persona — or begin to build one — by figuring out what makes their prospects tick.

This doesn’t mean that you have to sound “corporate” in your tone and feel.  But by all means, play with the tone and feel and see what happens, then write content that is tightly wrapped around your customer persona.

Again, this is where you check your analytics to see what is working and what is not.

4.  What New Opportunities Can You Explore?

Some folks may have had to hold back due to tight finances, and so haven’t invested the time, energy, or other resources necessary to building a blog, a Twitter presence, or other social media profile.  Maybe now is the time to do so, as blogs and other social media platforms present great new opportunities to:

  • Connect and engage with your customers
  • Show prospects that you have what they’re looking for
  • Prove yourself as an “expert resource” for your customer

And that is when your customers are going to feel more comfortable and confident in buying from you, asking you for more information, or otherwise converting!

5. Think of Content Opportunities That Might Make Sense for You

Some social media platforms or venues may make far more sense for you than others.  There are so many opportunities out there, and it truly is up to you to decide what works best for you! For instance, Facebook might be best for B2C, while LinkedIn and white papers may prove the best venue for B2B.

Thanks for tuning in to this inaugural Heather Q&A how-to!  

 

3 signs that your SEO copy is over-optimized

Greetings!  Today’s SEO copywriting video tip addresses the three telling signs that your SEO copy may be over-optimized.  Yes, there is such a thing, and it happens when you’ve geared the copy so heavily towards the search engines that you’ve forgotten about the user experience.

Join Heather as she discusses the three telltale signs that your web content is over-optimized, and the three ways to fix the problem:

1) Too Many Keyphrases on the Page

  • Pages like the one shown are easy to spot: it is pretty obvious that the keyphrases are New York City and gift baskets.  But for the folks who are trying to read the page, and determine whether or not they want to work with this company, it’s flat-out bad copy:
  • User experience = bad. Too much emphasis on SEO: There’s nothing in the copy for the reader, and there’s nothing that speaks to benefits. Plus, the copy is so hard to wade through that anyone reading the page would be tempted to bounce out and find another site.

In trying to achieve ranking, the writer has created a user experience that is so bad that it’s actually hurting conversions.

  • The fix?  Reduce keyphrases: You have to pare down the keyphrases in the copy.  In some cases, this might mean that you have to re-write the page altogether.  But when you do that, and bring focus to what you’re doing, you’re going to see a huge jump in sales.

2) Too Many Hyperlinks on the Page

Sometimes copywriters pepper the page with hyperlinks for the perceived SEO benefits, thinking all those hyperlinked keyphrases will automatically get the page top ranking.  Others overdo it with the hyperlinks because they want to give their readers lots of choices, so they end up giving them all the choices and assume the reader will pick one.

  • Again, the user experience = bad.  Too many choices cause overwhelm.  Plus – what’s in it for the customer?

From the search engine perspective, hyperlinking users all over the place is not going to help you in your SEO ambitions – it’s not going to help you increase your rankings. From the users’ perspective, they are overwhelmed with too many choices and they find it difficult to make a decision.

  • The fix?  Focus on your conversion funnel

What you want to do in this case is to think about what’s in it for the prospect — the customer benefits – and then focus your copy around that.  On a landing page, narrow down the decisions facing the reader and hone it to a few educated choices.

In removing the “overwhelm” factor for readers, you’ll see a higher conversion rate as you help move the prospect along the conversion funnel:  you’ll achieve an increase in ROI.

3) “Fluffy” SEO Copy

  • The content is longer than it needs to be, so it loses conversion flow
  • Local pages and e-commerce product pages are typically the worst offenders

“Fluffy” SEO copy is often a result of the writer or site editor being instructed to conjure 500 words for a web page in order for it to be recognized by the search engines.  This 500-word rule has never been true – it’s a tenacious misconception.  So the writer ends up trying to say something in 500 words that may ideally need only 250 words.

The result is that the content is not only too long, but that it really isn’t written for the readers.  Instead, it’s stuffed with fluff to meet a mythical search engine word count.

  • The fix?  Write great sales copy and weave in the SEO elements.  Not the other way around.

This requires a change in thinking.  Approaching your web page copy this way, you’ll have really good, tight, benefits-oriented copy that will not only help folks to take action, but you’ll have what you need for the search engines too.

 

What Stephen King Can Teach You About Editing

Welcome back! In today’s video how-to, Heather picks up on the literary theme she began last week with “What Dr. Seuss can teach you about copywriting.” In that post, she featured five lessons for good copywriting via the books of Theodor Geisel (a.k.a. Dr. Seuss).

This week, Heather turns her attention to editing with what Stephen King can teach you about the art. So, tune in to learn how to edit your copy like Stephen King…

Stephen King has some great advice for writers…

His book, On Writing, will teach you a lot about the craft. But Mr. King has a lot to teach us about editing, too…

Tip #1: Get it out

  • Write a first draft – and don’t stop to edit your writing. Just write.
  • This allows our creative brains a chance to play without being stifled by our “inner editor.”

Tip #2: Fix the big stuff

Make sure your writing has impact:

  • Do you have benefit statements?
  • Is there a call to action?
  • Does the writing “flow”?
  • Will the voice “click” with your reader?
  • How much text can you slice?

Tip #3: Tweak the little stuff

Get the copy into almost-final draft shape by:

  • Adding subheadlines
  • Fixing misspellings
  • Deleting any additional repeated words/concepts
  • Revising your headline
  • Fixing grammatical errors
  • Shortening long paragraphs
  • Adding bullet points (if needed.)

Tip #4: Print it out, read it out loud and edit again

Don’t skip this step…

It’s amazing what you’ll notice when you read the copy out loud!

 

photo thanks to phozographer

5 Freelance SEO Copywriting Business Tips (+ Video!)

Welcome back to another “slice of Heather,” featuring the best of her best blog posts grouped by theme.

Last week, we covered small business freelance copywriting, which had to do more with the personal struggles we as small business owners face in trying to cobble together a viable career for ourselves.

Today…we cover the same topic, but from a decidedly different angle: so get ready for another slice of Heather, focusing on the strictly business part of small business freelance copywriting!

1) How to spend less time writing proposals (and still get the gig!)

In this reader favorite, Heather delineates 7 specific strategies for getting that client to say “yes!” without spending precious hours laboring over a proposal. Learn how to save yourself time, energy and grief by simplifying your client proposal to give your prospects what they really want!

2) What to do when you don’t get the gig

So what happens when you don’t get the gig? Facing rejection sucks, especially if you’ve spent hours examining a prospect’s site and writing up a detailed (and what you thought, a killer!) proposal (see above). However you’re taking the news, what’s important is what you do next. Here, Heather shares 10 actions to take to move on when you don’t get the gig.

3) Are you charging enough for your time?

As a freelancer and small business owner, you know that your hours are precious. But you may be stuck in a place, especially if you’re new to the online writing market, where you don’t dare charge more than mere peanuts for your hard work. Heather declares: stop it! And encourages you to consider if you’re perhaps not selling yourself short with 5 clearly illustrated scenarios – and dares you to believe in yourself.

4) Are you making your clients fire you?

In this post, Heather warns you to remember that your clients’ needs come first: they are paying you to make their problems go away, and timely and responsive communication is the way to keep them happy and yourself employed. If you’ve been “fired” by a client, here are some things to keep in mind so that it doesn’t happen again.

5) Your SEO is not the problem

Sales slow? Don’t be too quick to blame your SEO, link builders, competitors or Google. It’s your content. All the marketing and optimization in the world can’t save you from bad content. Here, Heather discusses 4 common bad content issues, and suggests to be highly mindful of them when writing your site copy.

photo thanks to Better Than Bacon

Copywriting Lessons from the Masters

Greetings and welcome back! Today we’re featuring Heather’s 3-part video series on “lessons from the masters,” in both copywriting and editing.

From the disparate worlds of literary fiction, psychology, and television, Heather pulls valuable insights for the Web writer from Stephen King, Abraham Maslow, and infomercials. (Plus, a bonus post about what the creative genius behind Dr. Seuss, Theodor Geisel, can teach you about writing).

Tune in to learn what these masters can teach you…and enjoy!

What Maslow can teach you about copywriting

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

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

What Stephen King can teach you about editing

Following through with the literary theme of last Thursday, on “What Dr. Seuss can teach us about copywriting,” this week’s video is on what Stephen King can teach us about editing.

King has already shared great advice for writers, but there’s far more to tap from this master storyteller. Learn the 4 solid tips for smart and successful online editing, via the example set by Stephen King!

What infomercials can teach you about copywriting

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

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

Learn how watching infomercials can improve your writing…

What Dr. Seuss can teach you about writing engaging copy

In this (non-video) post that started it all, Heather writes:

“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.”

Read more on what Dr. Seuss can teach you about writing engaging copy.

photo thanks to Enokson

What to Do Before You Start Writing

Welcome back! Today’s Web-writing video addresses a fundamental copywriting step that a lot of people choose to blow off: researching the target audience you’re writing for before you start writing.

That most folks ignore this critical step is actually a huge advantage for those that do invest some time into getting to know their customer: those copywriters who know their audience are going to write content that will blow their neglectful competitors’ copy right out of the water!

So tune in and learn what it is you need to do before you start writing. And while this is a foundational step for all great copywriting, it is especially crucial if you’re working with a new client or if you’re revising a lot of web pages in-house.

Make your content stand out!

  • It’s one thing to “write a blog post,” or “write a sales page.” That’s OK…but…
  • successful writing is highly customized for your reader.

What a lot of folks do when tasked to write something is they just start writing. And while that’s OK, there is a way to take that writing from merely “okay” into really, really good copy that is highly customized for your reader.

Imagine you are writing web content for the character with the zodiac medallion at the top of the slide: you would most likely write your copy in a slightly different way, and present your information in a slightly different way, than if you were writing for the fairly average-looking guy on the bottom of the slide, no?

What you are doing is matching your content to the folks who are visiting your site. And when you do this, you’re going to see:

  • Higher conversion rates
  • Visitors staying on your site longer
  • People sharing more of your content

Because the content is written just for them.

I’ve referred to this before when discussing customer personas. Ideally, when you’re writing copy you should have a picture of the person who is going to be reading your content in your head.

My joke is that you should be able to walk into any Starbuck’s anywhere and look around and say: “You! You are my target audience!” because you’re so familiar with that person, and writing for that person, that you would be able to pick them out of the crowd.

The secret?

  • You need to ask a lot of questions.
  • This applies if you’re working with a client, writing in-house marketing copy or creating copy for your own business.

So the “secret” is asking a lot of questions. You want to really dig in and figure out what your target audience wants to read, and what it is they need to see.

Again, it’s really tempting and all too easy to simply blow off this step, figuring “Oh, I’ve been at this for 10 years, of course I know this.” But I would encourage you to go back and go through this exercise anyway. You might even want to consider doing it every six months to a year, just to make sure that everything’s on track and that your target audience hasn’t changed.

Common questions to ask are…

(And you might want to modify this list to suit your own business)

  • Who visits the site?
  • What types of content appeals to your target audience? Text? Video?
  • What benefits are important to your readers?
  • What objections do your readers have?
  • What kind of “voice” appeals to your readers? Formal? More casual? Are you sure?

Concluding thoughts…

Knowing your target audience is a critical, foundational step that distinguishes merely “okay” copywriting from truly great content.

I guarantee that if you’ve just been writing copy to write it before, that if you invest just a little bit more time at the very outset to understand your target market, it will make your content much better in the end – and your readers will definitely thank you for it!

 

photo credit: Suvodeb Banerjee

 

So What “About Us?” How to Awaken This Top-Converting Sleeper Page

Welcome back!  Question for you:  Did you know that your “About Us” page is a sleeper page waiting to be awakened and optimized for conversions? Or even that it is a heavily-visited page that sparks conversions?  Today Heather addresses how to write a conversions-driving “About Us” page in her ongoing video series on writing a killer website, citing a case study as well as sharing her own expertise.

In her previous “how-to” video posts on writing a profitable website, Heather addressed how to write a killer home page, a sales-driving e-commerce products page, and a conversion-driving services page.  While these pages are obviously directly tied to profitability, there remains the un-sung hero of website conversions:  enter the often-overlooked, usually boring, yet highly-trafficked and (potentially) conversions-generating About Us page!

1.  So What “About Us” – Check Your Analytics

So what about the “About Us” page and why should you care?  Check your analytics:  you may well find that they are pivotal to the conversions process.  In fact, you may find that the “About Us” page is one of your top-trafficked pages.

Why?  Because when people are looking at your company and determining whether or not they want to buy your product or contact you for more information, they want to know:

Does this company really have the expertise that I think they have?  Or the product that I really want?

If you’ve convinced them that indeed you do with a well-written “About Us” page, then via analytics, you clearly will see the prospect “convert” to other pages of your site.  So think of your “About Us” page as a conversions nexus — because it is!

2. Typical “About Us” Pages Are Boring – You Can Fix That

Yes, you want to demonstrate your expertise, but consider breaking away from “corporate-speak” and trying something different.  We’re all guilty of this, just spitting out the usual stuff we’d submit for a bio, and talking up our awards and the recognition we’ve garnered, and that’s okay.

But!  Knowing that your “About Us” page is critical for conversions and traffic, why not consider mixing it up a bit, as evidenced by this…

3. WordStream Blog Case Study – How Changing the “About Us” Page Raised Conversion Rates by 13%

Yes, 13-percent!  How did this happen?

In the WordStream case study, the top part of the “About Us” page was very formal, and representative of what you usually expect to see on a website’s “About Us” page.

However, the bottom half of the “About Us” page was dramatically different, speaking to the reader with powerful and personalized copy such as:  “Perfectionist Workaholics”;  “Passionate Linguistics”; and “Personable Personnel.”  This copy packs a conversions punch – it’s interesting, catchy, and grabs the readers’ attention.

So, the reader thinks, “Wow!”  It’s more than just another corporation honoring itself:  Suddenly, the “About Us” page has personality.

4.  Additional Thoughts & Take-Aways for the About Us Page

  • Your “About Us” page can have a very personable tone and feel, especially if YOU are the BRAND:  no matter your specific niche, if you’re at a place where folks know you, then you can play up your personality.
  • But DO showcase your expertise: The sad thing is that so many folks don’t do this, and stick to the most general and banal “facts” about them. The “About Us” page is a great opportunity for you to shine:  think of all the cool things you’ve done and tie them back directly to your target audience, specifically addressing what your expertise means to them and what is in it for them.
  • Consider A/B testing: If you’re worried about changing up that staid corporate tone and feel for something different and refreshing, consider doing an A/B test to see what happens by directing folks to an alternative “About Us” page with a completely divergent tone and feel.  Then see what happens to your conversion rates.
  • Badges are great: If you’re part of a recognized organization, have won awards, or have been/are a speaker at a conference, definitely include these credibility sources in your “About Us” narrative.
  • Consider adding video: If you are THE Brand and want to really distinguish yourself, consider adding video to your content, but be sure your supporting copy is exceptional!

Glad you joined us for this peek under the hood of conversions-driving web copywriting!  Be sure to check in next time, when Heather will discuss the second un-sung hero of conversions-driving web copy:  FAQ pages.  See you then!

Balancing SEO and Copywriting Best Practices: A True Story

Guest Author, Nick Stamoulis

I was working with one of my social SEO clients on their blog. My SEO company, Brick Marketing, was responsible for writing two blog posts each week, which we would then promote through the client’s various social networks as they went live.

We were specifically instructed to make sure the blog posts were “SEO friendly” and would do well in the search engines. However, before we even scheduled the blog posts I would send the new posts over to my client for their approval. If they had any changes or comments about the post, they just had to email me back and I would have my writing staff change the post as directed.

One day, they sent back a blog post with so many edits, changes and corrections that you could hardly discern the original article. When I asked them what they didn’t like about the original post, my client responded “Oh no, we really liked the post. We just didn’t understand why you had put those links in there. The blue text is really weird looking. And we thought we should only focus on the same keyword through the whole post, so we removed the variations so as to not confuse our readers.”

They essentially threw the SEO component of the blog post out the window!

I’ll be the first to say that any content, whether it is a blog post, article or webpage, should be written for the reader first and the search engines second. But even great content needs a little help getting found and read by your target audience. That’s where SEO and content optimization come into play.

Here are 4 ways to balance content optimization and traditional copywriting:

1. Don’t dumb it down.

Have a little faith in your readers. Writing generic and generalized content so you can target broad keywords won’t do anyone (you or your readers) any good. Don’t be afraid to target long-tail keywords that someone further along in their research process might be using to find related information. The most specific audience you can write your content for is the best chance you’ll have of earning their business.

2. Incorporate keyword variations.

Speaking of specific keywords, there is no rule that says you have to target the exact same keyword throughout the entire blog post. Obviously you want to stick with keywords that accurately reflect the theme and messaging of the content, but don’t be afraid to throw some variations in there. This not only makes your content much more natural sounding, it also helps your content appeal to more searches. Not everyone searches for the same thing in the same way, so variations help ensure you aren’t accidentally alienating a segment of your target audience.

3. Use anchor text to get the link.

Interlinking your blog posts is a great way to keep your readers engaged, educate them further on related topics and show off your industry savvy. No blog post is an island! Obviously you don’t want to pepper your blog posts with dozens of links (it can get a little distracting for your reader) but incorporating 2-3 links via anchor text is a great way to beef up your blog’s SEO! By using anchor text instead of the full URL to direct readers to another blog post (or even a page on your site) you are keeping the flow of your content intact and spreading the link juice from more popular posts across your blog, lending more value to other posts.

4. Write first, optimize second.

Getting the words down on paper is probably the hardest part about writing a blog post. Yet some site owners seem like gluttons for punishment and think that every word has be to perfect for SEO before they can move onto the next. You don’t have to sacrifice great content in order to make a blog “SEO friendly!” In fact, site owners should write the post first and THEN go back in and see how you can tweak it for SEO. If you can’t make a keyword fit, then don’t force it in. If you can’t find a reason to link, don’t bother. Trying to stuff SEO into a blog post is only going to ruin the integrity of the post.

About the Author – Nick Stamoulis

Nick Stamoulis is an SEO consultant and President of Brick Marketing. With over 12 years of B2B SEO experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his knowledge by posting daily SEO tips to his blog, the Search Engine Optimization Journal, and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by over 160,000 opt-in subscribers.

7 Hot Tips for Writing a Top-Converting Services Page [VIDEO]

Want to know the secrets to writing a top-converting services page?

Unlike product pages, which are all about landing the sale, service pages are different.

It’s all about getting the lead.

With that in mind, here are seven smart strategies for capturing leads with savvy SEO copywriting.

Watch the video for all the juicy information, or check out a summary of the tips below:

1. Focus on benefits, not features

Don’t bury your benefit statements! It’s important to address how your service can specifically help your prospect. For instance, will your service save your customers money? Help them make more money? Streamline their operations? Tell them!

Features are important– but it’s your unique sales proposition (U.S.P.) and benefit statements that will grab your prospect’s interest and make them contact you. Merely listing features makes you sound the same as everyone else providing the same or a similar service. Who wants that?

2.  Consider persona-specific landing pages

Creating landing pages specifically addressing your main targeted audiences is a powerful strategy.

Constant Contact, an email platform, used to show vertical-specific landing pages targeted towards individual industry niches. I LOVE this approach. Why? Vertical-specific pages have very cool SEO and reader benefits.

From the SEO side, vertical-specific landing pages allow you to target highly specific keyphrases, for example [email marketing for real estate agents].

From the reader side, you can tie your writing back to your customer persona and drive home the “what’s-in-it-for-them” benefits. For instance, in the case of Constant Contact, people won’t just read about how cool email marketing is — instead, they’ll read an entire page focused on the benefits of email marketing for their industry. That’s a pretty powerful message!

3.  Don’t write skimpy copy

67% of the B2B buyers’ journey is done digitally, according to Forrester Research. That means if your site offers skimpy information and little copy, you run the risk of prospects leaving your site and checking out another vendor. Remember, people won’t “just call” or send you an email. No solid services information = no sale.

4. Include solid, vertical-specific testimonials

Yes, testimonials are smart to have on your site as social proof — but they are only as credible as you make them. Whenever possible, use the full, real names of your testimonial clients rather than just initials.  The latter can look fake (however real they might be) and could prove counter-productive.

5.  Highlight your company’s overarching benefits, too

Besides individual, specific service benefits, you want to highlight the larger, big-picture benefits that your company has to offer on every single page of your website.

Do you offer free, fast shipping? Does your company offer “white-glove” services, while your competitors offer a DIY solution? Shout your overarching benefits from the rooftops!

Boring B2B and B2C companies list technical features and facts, assuming that’s all their prospect wants (or needs) to know. Don’t be like those companies! In the words of Theodore Levitt from Harvard University, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.”

6Pay close attention to your page Titles

Yes, Titles are very important to readers and for SEO purposes — and it’s crucial to write them right.  If you create vague, non-descript Titles with broad keywords, such as “marketing services” or “web design,” you won’t see the positions you want — nor will you see much organic search traffic.

If your Titles are so-so, consider revisiting your keyphrase research and making some strategic tweaks. You may see a boost in page positions (and search traffic) if you do!

7.  Consider conducting keyphrase research before you name your services 

A cool-sounding, unique service name may seem edgy — but it may not be intuitively searchable. Naming your service something like “Revenue $ucce$$” when you offer “accounts payable services” may make your service hard to find online.

Some companies will conduct keyphrase research before naming a service. That way, they know what words people are using to search for what they offer — and they can consider using those search terms as part of the service name.

Looking for more how-to information? Learn how to write a killer home page and a revenue-driving product page!