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Traffic Jam Alert: Your Social Media Search Results

Pam Foster, Guest Author

Google just announced that they’re beefing up social search results. The official 2/17/2011 Googleblog stated, “Today we’re taking another step forward—enabling you to get even more information from the people that matter to you, whether they’re publishing on YouTube, Flickr or their own blog or website,” and then, “social search results will now be mixed throughout your results based on their relevance (in the past they only appeared at the bottom).”

Wow – think about this for a moment.

If you and your company’s fans are talking about your business, products and services in social media… in a compelling and inviting way… this news could mean a big boost in your website traffic and your bottom line.

BUT — is your website ready to capitalize on all that potential new traffic; ready to turn all those new visitors into loyal and lucrative customer relationships?

Or will it become a virtual traffic jam where people arrive at your site all excited… and then get stuck on your web pages and take a detour somewhere else?

It would be shame to quickly gain more attention for your website through social search, but then lose it when people arrive there.

Here are 5 strategies for turning all that new traffic into paying customers:

1. Relevance: Make sure your web pages are 100% relevant to your social media conversations. This will help you keep website visitors, not turn them off. For example, if you own a restaurant and your social media posts talk about a fantastic new spring menu, be sure your website link also brings people to your spring menu online, not the home page or a page about your chef or something else disconnected.

2. Promise: Whatever you post in social media (helpful tips, a new or better way of doing something, an exciting problem-solver, or even a special sale), make sure the web page delivers on that promise. There’s nothing worse than seeing a promising solution in Google search and then arriving at an unclear or disappointing web page.

3. Clarity: Confusion can kill even the most enthusiastic prospect. Make sure your social media posts drive people to web pages that offer clear solutions, clear navigation and an easy, clear way to buy your products, download a report, etc.

4. Conversion Focus: Remember to ask for the order on all your web pages! Let’s say you offer a great gift idea or new product through your social media post. And as a result, people may flock to your web page to see that great gift – and even buy it. Make sure you take that opportunity to guide your eager visitor to a sale. Show them the easy path to buying.

5. Engagement: Something you said in your social media search result has piqued the prospects’ interest and brought them to your website. Now you have a fantastic opportunity to extend the conversation and keep it going. Be sure to have a system on your website for capturing the prospects’ email addresses, or inviting them to comment on your blog, share feedback in some way and begin building a relationship with your brand.

By offering content on your website that complements and strengthens the impression you project in your social search results, you’re in for an exciting outcome.

Have you already seen great results with prospects who arrived at your site via your social media efforts? We’d love to hear about them. Thanks, and best of luck!

Pam Foster

Pam is the author of The Web Copywriter’s Clear Path to Profits.  She is the owner of ContentClear Marketing, a Certified SEO Copywriter and a Sr. Content Marketing Consultant

How to Create Clickable Page Titles

Welcome back!  In today’s video post, Heather discusses how to create compelling, clickable page Titles for your website.  Page Titles are important to master, as they not only weigh heavily in search engine positioning but also serve as your first conversions opportunity on the search engine results page.

So take a few moments and join Heather as she discusses the dual purpose of page Titles and shares tips for crafting them:

The highlights of today’s lesson are…

Titles have a very specific structure:

  • Page Titles are limited to 50 – 75 characters, including spaces.  Try to keep them to around 69 characters.
  • The Page Title “lives” above your browser window, and appears in the backend code framed as <title>My Cool Web Page<title>
  • Every Title should be unique to each and every page on your site – and yes, this does mean each page, however deep your site!  Think of your page Titles as book titles that distinguish the different books in a library or bookstore.
  • Be sure to include the keyphrases you used for the page in the Title for that page

Titles serve a dual purpose:

  • Well-written Titles paired with strong content help pages position well on the search engines results page
  • Clickable, compelling Titles tempt your prospects to click on your link rather than the nine competing ones on the search engine results page, improving your website’s click-thru rate

Using the example of the search engine results for “business cards,” it is clear that while all the page Titles are written well from an SEO standpoint, positioning for the keyphrase “business card,” and all do a good job of describing the page, the Vistaprint Title is the most “clickable” with its reader appeal:  it features its “sale,” and further lets the user know that there are discounts available throughout the site.

The Vistaprint example underscores the power of pairing the page Title with a benefit statement or call to action.  Local businesses have experimented with including their phone number in the Title, encouraging their prospects to call them.

That’s a wrap for today’s mini-lesson on creating compelling, clickable page Titles.  Thanks for joining us, and be sure to tune in next week when Heather will go into more detail on writing powerful benefit statements.  See you then!

 

Testing, Testing: How Does Your SEO Copywriting Fare Out There?

Welcome back!  In this year’s final post of our SEO copywriting “how to” series, we’re going to wrap up our discussion of measuring our success.  Last week, we looked at search engine ranking as one way to gauge the success of our SEO copywriting efforts.  Today, we’re going to look at the second way, conversion metrics:  sales, leads, and ROI from our SEO campaign.

The groan is almost audible.  No worries.  This is simply a matter of using free Google Webmaster tools, and it only requires a snippet of code on your site to access all kinds of truly valuable conversions data.

Before we launch into Google Analytics, let’s quickly restate what we mean by conversion metrics.  Simply put, it is a measurement of success in terms of conversions, be it in increased dollars, average order volume, lead generation, number of subscriptions or donations, whatever your end goal may be.  After all, while it’s fabulous to achieve a top-ten SERP ranking, it’s even better to also realize profits!

Sales/Leads as a Measurement of Success

Going into your Webmaster Tools screen, you can then access Google Analytics.  Some of the cool insights you can glean are:

  • How many unique visitors you’re getting, compared to last month, or even last year  — are those numbers going up? Down? Holding steady?
  • The average time spent on your site – if folks are clicking off after 30 seconds, then you know there is a problem needing your immediate attention.
  • The page/s that people tend to exit from.  If you notice a lot of visitors are leaving the site from a particular page, a rewrite may be in order.
  • The links that people are clicking…or not:  if they’re not clicking those links at the bottom of the page, they’re probably not reading through all your copy.
  • The main sources of your traffic and the performing keywords driving that traffic.  Did your Twitter campaign drive any traffic to your site?  Or you new Facebook Business page?  You can readily find out!
  • Is the keyword that’s positioning well also helping you gain leads?  Or should you be focusing on other, higher-value keyphrases that actually convert?

Google Analytics can seem overwhelming, and it’s not something you’ll master in one sitting.  But it is well worth your while to just take your time, go through the tutorials, and read their blog.  Your investment of time and patience can save you marketing dollars.  For instance, if a keyword isn’t making you money, you’ll know.  The same can be said for links and campaigns.

The knowledge gained is powerful.  You’ll know exactly where your traffic is coming from, and what folks are doing once they visit your site.  Yes, knowledge is power!

A Note for Local Biz Site Owners:

If you’re strictly local and prefer low-tech — and your customers tend to contact you by phone rather than use the “contact us” form — a super simple way to measure conversions is to assign a unique phone number to your site.  The operative word here is unique – it has to be different than the phone number you use on other marketing materials, or in the phone book.  Then every time your “website line” rings, you’ll know to count the lead towards your overall site success.

The Power of the A/B Test

Another powerful tool, the A/B (“split”) test, is as old as direct marketing itself.  Then, marketers would mail out two slightly different variations of a direct mailer and watch the results to see which one performed better.  Now, we can do the same online by testing out two slightly different versions of a web page.

The A/B test gives you actionable insights into your target market’s psyche, and takes the guesswork out of copywriting.  You can see what works, and what doesn’t.  After testing your top sales and lead generation pages, you can figure out how to hone them even sharper, and use that knowledge to tweak and test your other pages.

A low-tech way to create an A/B test is to write two different variations of a web page, and drive traffic to the first version (A) through a PPC campaign.  Then, after at least 100 unique visits, run version (B) through the campaign and compare the conversions data from each version.  It’s not a perfect measurement, as people who click on an ad may behave differently than organic visitors, but it can be done with minimal time and effort on your part.

Another way to run an A/B test is through Google’s Website Optimizer.  You’ll find the Optimizer link on your Google account home page.

Setting up your A/B test is relatively simple.  Again you will need to copy and paste a bit of code on your site (which is different than the Analytics code).  It will take at least 100 conversions per page variation to gather reliable data – for some sites this could take only a day, while for others, it might take a couple of months.

Be prepared for a learning curve.  You’ll see terms that at first may make no sense to you, like “multivariate” and “conversion rate range,” but in time you’ll become familiar with the jargon and find it comprehensible.  Google has loads of helpful resources that will help demystify the process for you.  Once you’ve a handle on it, you can transform your web pages from good to golden!

That’s all for today, and for our SEO Copywriting “how to” series of 2010.  Thanks for checking in!  Let us know how you’re doing with your SEO copywriting campaign in the meantime, and as always, your comments and questions are welcome.

Have a wonderful holiday, and we will see you in the New Year!

Healthy, Holistic Measurement of Your SEO Copywriting Success

Greetings!  Glad you’re here, as today we’re going to discuss how to measure our SEO copywriting success. Even after all our market research, competitive analysis, keyword research and per-page strategizing, Title and meta description optimizing, killer copywriting and content marketing, there is always room for improvement and refinement.  How do we know if our copy is working?  To answer that, we need to test what we’re doing.

Enter measuring our website’s success.  Holistically.

When folks think of a successful SEO campaign, most think “higher rankings.”  But that’s only part of the story.  There are actually two ways to measure success:

  • Search engine rankings:  Are you positioning for the keyphrases you’ve targeted?  Do you have keyphrase visibility for your main phrases?
  • Conversion metrics:  Are you making sales, generating leads, and seeing ROI from your campaign?

Yes, search engine rankings are important, and “back in the day,” search engine rankings were the only measurement available to us.  But the obsession with ranking fails to consider that a site on page two of the SERP’s actually may be doing much better with conversions than a higher ranking site on page one.  Even though Google’s Webmaster Guidelines specify the caveat that “no SEO firm can guarantee rankings,” clients still clamor for top ranking and of course, we still strive to get their sites on the top 10 listed on page one.

Now, our thinking has evolved along with the profession – and the introduction of conversion metrics.  Now we take a more balanced view of rankings, with the wider perspective of overall search engine visibility.  A healthy SEO campaign looks at both rankings and conversions holistically.

That said, let’s turn our attention to measuring our SEO copywriting success first in terms of keyword ranking.

Manual SERP Check:

Although an incredibly simple process, hand-checking your ranking takes time and no small amount of patience.  It doesn’t provide for instantaneous results.

  • First, make note of your keyword positions before you begin your SEO copywriting campaign, or before you introduce a new keyphrase.
  • Then, check your rankings within two weeks of uploading new copy and every month after that.

While you may be tempted to check your rankings daily, or even weekly, it won’t tell you anything useful.  Rankings will fluctuate from day to day, and from datacenter to datacenter (in the latter case, often according to your relative geographic location).  If you have the luxury of time and access to your server logs, you have the option of gathering data on keyword performance and ranking that way, although it may prove a daunting and tedious task and make little sense in terms of ROI for your efforts.

Similarly, you may be tempted to purchase rank-checking software, but be aware that Google specifically prohibits using such software in its Terms of Services.  The good news for us is that Google provides a free alternative in the form of its Webmaster Tools.

Using Google’s Webmaster Tools:

Google’s Webmaster Tools offers a way to streamline your SEO copywriting campaign and measure its success.  If you don’t already have an account, take a moment and sign up at Google Webmaster Central.

Once you’ve signed up and Google has verified your site, you’re ready to check your ranking via Google’s ranking report.  Simply go to Statistics > Top Search Queries.  You’ll see a ranking report for both “impressions” and  “traffic.”

The impressions show the top 20 search queries in which your site appeared, how your site positioned for those keywords, further broken down into the relative percentage of your site impressions returned per query.  The traffic statistics reflect the top 20 search queries from which users reached your site, your site’s relative positioning for those keywords, further broken down into the relative percentage of clicks per query.

Don’t be thrown off if some of the data looks quirky or otherwise odd.  That’s the inherent problem with anything automated – human common sense doesn’t factor in.  Overall, the ranking report does provide you with data quickly, as well as actionable statistics (for instance, you’ll know immediately that you could improve positioning for this or that keyword or keyphrase).  But it’s still a good idea to double-check the results manually – and to keep in mind that the ranking report alone should not be the basis for any major changes or big decisions.

Again, there’s no cause to obsess or worry over small fluctuations.  But if you notice a sharp decline in your ranking for a particular keyphrase for a significant period of time (say a month), and/or if you’re seeing more competition from new sites or familiar competitors, then you may want to put your content marketing strategy on the fast track.  If that doesn’t turn things around, you may need to think about a linking campaign and/or adding fresh content or otherwise re-working your site.

An important side note before we wrap this up:  if you have a store or office, then you’ll definitely want to optimize for Google Local Places with your business listing, map, and even videos and coupons.  It’s a free way to generate that much more visibility, traffic, and conversions.  And “free” is always fantastic in the ROI equation!

Thanks for checking in!  Hope you’ll return next week, when we’ll explore the second way to measure our SEO copywriting success with conversion metrics.  See you then!

SEO Content Marketing Roundup, Week Ending December 8th, 2010

In this week’s latest and greatest web writing news, it ‘tis the season to tune up, make a plan, take stock of 2010, and note the forecasts for 2011:  content marketing will become ever more critical, SEO and search will increasingly integrate social signals, and social media marketing will continue its expansive growth (in spite of the rumors, Facebook doesn’t “own” the internet…yet…)

Content Marketing:

First, a recommended read from eMarketer on why “magnetic” content marketing will be crucial to your success in 2011.

Yet another smart post on content marketing — Sonia Simone addresses conversions at Copyblogger.

Content Marketing Institute offers 13 inspirational content marketing examples “in action.”

A noteworthy interview with industry leaders:  Bernie Borges (of Find and Convert) posts a podcast interview with the co-authors of Content Rules.

“Game-changing” trends in mobile marketing for 2011 are discussed at iMedia Connection.

Record-breaking numbers are in from last Cyber Monday and they’re music to e-commerce marketing ears, to the tune of over $1 billion in U.S. spending according to Comscore.  For an insightful analysis of Black Friday from a digital perspective, see this post at Digital Marketing Strategy.

And for some levity, Conversation Marketing posts its vision of the best way to launch a web site.

SEO & Search:

A great read on holistic SEO web design and usability is posted at Search Engine Land, as well as a revealing piece on what social signals from Twitter and Facebook are being counted by Google and Bing in their regular search results.

Search Engine Journal discusses “the sweet spot” of an SEO audit in its ongoing series on the subject.

Tuning up for 2011:  Are you aware that you have keyword research data that you’re not putting to use?  Search Engine Land explores this untapped goldmine, and in a second post, outlines a 9-step SEO checkup for your site.

In related posts, Wordstream looks at advanced query-mining in data analysis, and how to generate custom Google analytics reports for your website.

In a follow up to Matt Cutt’s advice to SEO’s to take a long-term view towards where Google is heading, Michael Gray adds his warning that Google is becoming the answer — rather than the search — engine.  Provocative angle.

Rand Fishkin applies the truism of the rich getting richer to SEO, social, and all organic marketing at SEOmoz, while Danny Dover gives a presentation on the sibling rivalry between SEO and PPC.

It’s all the buzz: in classic David & Goliath fashion, Groupon refused Google’s incredible $6 billion acquisition offer, while Amazon invested $175 million in LivingSocial, reportedly to counter Google’s bid.

Speaking of the big G:  Google held a much-tweeted You Tube event/press conference announcing the release of its Chrome OS Netbook.  Coverage of the conference can be found at Search Engine Land.

Damage control:  In response to last week’s well-publicized gaffe (rewarding a socially hostile merchant with top ranking) the big G announced changes in its Google Places algorithms and is now suspected of using online merchant reviews as a ranking signal.  Google News is also getting cleaned up, as the big G is reviewing its inclusion standards.

At the same time, Google is trying to protect site owners by verifying edits to their Places listing by others.

Social Media Marketing:

Of course, the dominant news was Facebook’s launch of its new user profiles pages.  You can read the full 60 Minutes interview with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg if you missed it Sunday night.

The explosive growth of social media is nicely summarized in this Harvard Business Review article, which also forecasts 6 social media trends for 2011.

Social Media Examiner posts a how-to on creating a social media marketing strategy, and Content Marketing Institute discusses creating a social media conversation calendar for implementing that strategy.

Conversation Marketing explores ways to keep the conversation going (in its way), and Top Rank ‘s Lee Odden asks the real social media pr consultant to please stand up.

How to effectively manage your online reputation is posted at Social Media Examiner, while eMarketer discusses the value consumers place on positive word-of-mouth advertising.

Copyblogger posts scientific tips to getting more reader comments on your blog, and in a closely related piece at Problogger, Dan Zarella offers his insight into the best time of day to publish your blog posts.

Barry Schwartz reviews Google’s new social sitelinks at both Search Engine Land and Search Engine Roundtable.

How the Fortune 500 use social media in their marketing is posted at Mashable, and iMedia Connection lists the best social media campaigns of the year.

I’m sure I’ve missed something – do you have any blogs or articles that you’d like to add?  Please feel free to share, and thank you!

Marketing Content with Social Media: Tweet This!

Welcome back!  Today marks our fifth and final post on leveraging content development opportunities – and hark! The choir of angels sings Twitter. It’s far from breaking news that social media is a content marketing force that’s only growing in its impact and reach, and while it won’t replace a conventional blog, Twitter is a fantastic way to build relationships, meet new people, and drive traffic back to your site.  So let’s talk about leveraging Twitter as a content marketing strategy (that you can’t afford to ignore)!

If you haven’t already explored Twitter, do it now.  It’s an incredibly simple social-sharing platform with decidedly powerful, real-time SEO content marketing mojo.

Twitter Pros & Cons

Twitter Pros:

  • Twitter is a ripe medium for showcasing your expertise, answering questions of potential partners and prospects, generating leads, and networking with those in your industry.
  • Twitter allows you real-time announcements of new blog posts, articles, and other content that link back to your site.
  • Retweets of your blog posts and content can exponentially – as in three times or more — drive traffic to your site.

Twitter Cons:

Like writing blogs, Twitter takes time, work, commitment, and planning.  And, like blogs, it’s not about blasting your sales message.  It’s about building relationships.

  • Be prepared to build a Twitter editorial calendar, and to rein in any overly promotional tweets.  Sales-y tweets are a sure way to lose followers.  Consistency and conversation are the watchwords.
  • Be aware that not everyone will see your tweets – or retweet your posts — all the time.
  • Know when not to tweet:  If you haven’t the time or resources to cultivate your Twitter presence with any consistency, then it’s probably not the medium for you.

How to Structure Your Tweets

Although it’s wise to first commit to a content marketing strategy and editorial calendar, don’t be shy to simply “try out” Twitter:  check out what others are chirping about and float out a few tweets of your own!

  • Think conversational:  offer a well-balanced diet of quality information, insights, and observations, as well as the occasional sales message. You will be rewarded with followers, mentions, and retweets.
  • Remember to keep it short and sweet:  you are limited to 140 characters (including spaces) to relay your message.  To encourage re-tweets, it’s in your best interest to tighten your message even further, say to 130 characters, minus your user name.  That way, most of your message will stay intact when re-tweeted.
  • Pay attention to your @mentions:  those great people replying to or mentioning you in their tweets.  In the interest of cultivating relationships, be sure to tweet them back.
  • Use hashtags (#):  to identify your topic so that folks can find your specific tweets more easily.  For instance, if you were tweeting your new blog post about SEO, you would want to use the hashtag #SEO after your tweet.

That’s a wrap for the leveraging content development opportunities.  Thanks for checking in!  Next week, we’ll discuss how to measure our content marketing success….and as always, we’ll keep it simple!  See you then!

Blog About It! A Smart Content Marketing Strategy

Greetings!  Today we’re picking up our discussion of content strategy, specifically, how to develop and leverage our content by writing blogs.  As you’ve surely noticed, blogging is big and is only getting bigger, and with good reason:  besides helping to build search rankings and an online brand, blogs present a fantastic content marketing venue!  And because they’re relatively simple to set up and publish, blogs lend themselves well to providing new content on a regular basis.

As covered in some detail in the previous two posts (“Are you leveraging these content strategy opportunities?” and “Content Strategy: building out your content with articles”), the smart SEO content strategy seeks to capture prospects while they are actively searching for information and resources on our product or service.  This research phase of the buying cycle is where we meet them with fresh, useful content that (hopefully) leads them back to our site.  Blogs are an excellent platform for doing just!  So let’s look at building out and leveraging our content with blogs.

Blogs:  Pros, Cons, and Community

Blog Pros:

  • Blogs are highly malleable, allowing you to write about any subject you choose in as many words as you choose.  You’re not beholden to a word count – whether less than 100 or over 1,000 words, the only “rule” that applies is what works best for your target audience.
  • If you have an inflexible site template that doesn’t lend itself to adding new content, such as an e-commerce site, a blog gives you a forum to do so.  Similarly, if you’re dealing with a site that feels a bit “uptight” or you find yourself bored with its “corporate” tone, a blog allows you to unleash your personality and express your bad self!
  • Blogs allow you a rapport with your readers, and real-time feedback via comments: good, bad, and spammy.  Your community of loyal readers can help you with your business; their comments can guide you in making product or service decisions, and provide insight into what your target market is interested in.  As for spam, it can be deleted.  And negative comments can also enlighten you: even if it stings, it’s better to receive such comments directly than have them circulating beyond your radar.  You can at least deal with them when they’re right in front of you.

Blog Cons:

  • Blogs require consistency and commitment.  And they are work, make no mistake.  Writing a blog can feel especially burdensome when you’re crazy-busy, but it’s critical you stick to your editorial calendar and publish your blog regularly.  It doesn’t have to be daily, but then again, if you’re only posting once a week, you need to be sure that it is substantive:  it has to count!
  • Blogs require monitoring and attention.  You need to be responsive to your readers’ comments; it’s bad practice to publish then forget it.  It’s a certain blog-killer when your readers find their thoughtful, well-considered comments ignored.

Voice and Community:

  • If you plan to delegate your blog-writing to another, you need to provide a very clear outline of your editorial guidelines:  what’s okay, what is not, and what specifically is expected of them.  Not to advocate smothering their creativity, just underscoring the importance of being reasonably clear and ensuring consistency with your “voice.”
  • Whether it’s you or your delegated blog-writer, networking with other bloggers within your “circle” is an integral part of effective blogging.  Blogging is about community, and while simply blogging for the sake of it is okay, sharing your input with others via guest blogs, commentary on other blogs, linking out, and mentions will encourage others to help you with the same: linking out to your content, mentioning your work, promoting your offerings, etc.  You have to earn your blogger love!

How to Structure a Blog Post

Structuring a blog post is much like structuring an article.  You can check out Twitter and Google Insights to see what folks are discussing, as well as what they want to know.  As with articles, you’ll want to use the same keyphrase and linking strategy:  use your main keyphrase in your headline, and whenever it is possible and makes sense, hyperlink the keyphrases.  Smart blogging will also link seamlessly to your site’s product or service pages – again, when it makes sense to do so.

There, the similarities end.  There are several ways blogs differ from articles, notably:

  • Unlike the monologue of an article, a blog post encourages discussion and seeks to build a rapport with a community of readers.  It provides an ideal venue for soliciting feedback, running interviews, and offering your (informed) opinion.
  • Blog writing is personal, real-time, and spontaneous.  And a great way to measure your blog-writing success is by the number of people commenting on your posts.  Ideally, you want to get folks discussing and sharing your post with others in their network.  It follows that if you’re looking at having to run every word by the corporate legal department or are otherwise stymied, a blog is not going to work for you.
  • As opposed to articles, it’s perfectly okay to write short, snappy blog posts interspersed with longer, in-depth ones.  (This actually can be a highly effective strategy, as evidenced by Seth Godin’s success with this style).  Another perk of this kind of flexibility is that you can give yourself a break every once in a while!  It’s not easy to conjure 500 words about such-and-such topic every day; grinding them out regardless of your muse invites a slow and painful burnout.  Here’s where the editorial calendar comes in to save your sanity:  setting it up around your schedule, going easy on the blog posts on your busiest days, is a great strategy.

Well, folks, that’s a wrap for today.  Thanks for visiting, and please feel free to leave a comment :-) Next week, we’ll discuss the art of writing news releases in our ongoing series on savvy content marketing strategy.  See you then!

How to Use Articles to Supplement Your Content Strategy

Welcome back!  Today we’re continuing our discussion of content strategy, namely, how to develop and leverage our content by writing articles.

As you may recall, an essential part of our ongoing content strategy is to reach our prospects in the research phase of their buying cycle, when they’re actively gathering information about our product or service before honing in on their final purchase decision.

The research phase of the buying cycle represents a HUGE content marketing opportunity!  By building out our content, we can capture our targeted customers at this pre-purchase, “window shopping” phase.  So let’s turn our attention to writing articles.

Articles:  Pros and Cons

You’ve heard it time and again, “content is king.”  Yes it is, and especially fresh content.  It is elemental to a well trafficked website.  Informative articles are a simple and highly effective way to provide your target audience with the content they’re seeking in the research phase, and ideally will also lead prospects to your site!

An important point to keep in mind is the tone and feel of your articles – they should match that of you site.  If your site “sounds” and “feels” warm and easy-going, then so should your article.  And if your company doesn’t blog, then publishing articles is the most powerful strategy available to you to add fresh, ongoing content and capture targeted traffic.

Article Pros:

  • Like FAQ pages, well-optimized articles can generate incredible search engine rankings.  If your research shows that your target audience is searching for “massage therapist advice,” then show off your expertise and give them that content!
  • You can break into the article creation process slowly.  You needn’t overwhelm by thinking you have to produce x number of articles per month. (Depending on the size of your site and your SEO ambitions, your fresh content strategy could be as modest as adding a few new pages to your site each month).
  • Link love:  folks like to link to well written, informative articles.  Not only can these quality links to your content translate into higher rankings and brand exposure, the lovely person who linked to your article is introducing your site to their readers and sending new traffic your way!

Article Cons:

  • You may find it difficult to commit to your “continually produce fresh content” strategy. After setting up your editorial calendar (outlining what articles will be written for the month, by whom, and when they’ll be published to the web), you’ll find that a hundred fires have started that need putting out before you can get to that article, guaranteed.  Do it anyway.  Remember that the only thing worse than having no articles is having the “latest” article dated from three months ago.

How to Structure an Article

This is easy:  you’ll follow the same process you did when writing your sales pages.  You’ll craft a compelling headline, including your main keyphrase and a benefit to the reader.  That brings us to the second step: ask yourself what the target reader would want to know, and simply structure your article around that.  A few specific tips are:

  • Stuck for article ideas?  Try the tools we used to generate keyphrase ideas:  Google Insights and Twitter.  As you did then, brainstorm some basic ideas, enter them into the search box and see what folks are discussing!
  • Remember to hyperlink your readers back to your site’s product or service pages whenever possible.  Of course it’s great when someone lands on your article pages, but it’s even better when that person takes the desired conversion step.
  • Are you creating a PDF white paper that you want readers to download?  While it’s true that search engines can’t read images, they can read the text in a PDF document.  For greatest success, open your PDF and click File > Documents > Custom.  This will open a dialogue box that allows you to create an optimized Title, “description” (Subject), and meta keywords tag.

And voila, a well-optimized PDF white paper!

That’s all for today — thanks for dropping by!  Check in again next Monday, when we’ll discuss blogging as part of our evolving content development strategy.  See you then!

Are You Leveraging These Content Strategy Opportunities?

Greetings!  In today’s post, we’re moving beyond the mechanics of SEO copywriting (and editing) and venturing into content strategy.  Specifically, we’re going to discuss how we might develop and leverage new content opportunities, no matter the size of our business.

As with a smart keyphrase strategy, a savvy SEO content strategy seeks to capture folks at all phases of the customer buying cycle: awareness, research, and purchase.  And like your keyphrase strategy, the goal of your content strategy is to keep your brand/product or service front and center throughout all phases of the prospect’s buying cycle.

Unfortunately, many sites (especially ecommerce sites) focus almost exclusively on the (“ready-to-buy”) purchase keyphrases of the buying cycle, neglecting all those targeted keyphrases – and content marketing opportunities — that reflect the consumer research phase of the cycle: product/brand reviews, how-to pieces, and top ten lists are examples of common research phase opportunities.

It’s relatively simple to “widen the funnel” that leads prospects to your site by building out content that reaches those window shoppers in the research phase.  Tried-and-true content development strategies are:

  • FAQ pages
  • Articles
  • Blog posts
  • News releases
  • Twitter

If you’ve stashed your keyphrase research Excel sheet (or legal pad) now’s the time to dig it out. Take a look at your “research” tab, and note all those keyphrases that didn’t quite work for your subcategory, service or product pages: they represent SEO content marketing gold!  You already know that folks are searching under those keyphrases.  You already know the answers to their questions.  And you have a whole bunch of other useful information to offer them… so why not meet them where they’re at?  To neglect to do so is to leave money on the table, and no one wants to do that, right?

Let’s start with your FAQ pages.

FAQ Pages: Pros and Cons

FAQ (frequently asked questions) pages are usually associated with dry, dull copy — rote answers to bland questions pertaining to shipping, delivery, returns policy, etc.  (Useful, yes, but not particularly riveting content).  But these “sleeper” pages actually present a prime content marketing opportunity.  By simply creating a keyphrase-focused FAQ question such as, “Who would benefit from keyphrase?” and following with an equally keyphrase-focused answer, you’ve transformed the boring into brilliant!

So, if you don’t have FAQ pages on your site, build them.  They really are that powerful.

FAQ Pros:

  • Super quick and easy to write (about an hour) and even easier to edit
  • Offer a great resource for folks who are seeking information, but aren’t yet ready to buy
  • Lend themselves to a hyperlink strategy, whereby many of your answers can include links to specific product or services pages, leading the reader deeper into your site
  • They do get read!  FAQ pages provide a fast, quick-scan way for people to get the information they’re seeking

FAQ Cons:

  • Some site owners “spam” their FAQ pages with keyphrase stuffing, cheesy self-promotion dressed up as information, and otherwise poor copywriting.  Even though they’re not sales pages, quality still counts.

How to Structure FAQ Pages

Because the format is straightforward question/answer, FAQ pages are relatively simple to write.  Some specific tips are:

  • Keep your word count anywhere from 300 – 750 words.  If your FAQ page is looking too long, it’s perfectly acceptable to split it into two (or more) pages.
  • Keep the questions and answers on the same page.  You have the option of including the answer directly under the question, or you can hyperlink the questions so that the reader is sent directly to the answers  (this route gives you slightly more search engine mojo, as you are hyperlinking keyphrases).
  • Focus on two to three keyphrases per FAQ page, and include your main keyphrases in the questions whenever possible.
  • Whenever you have the opportunity to hyperlink from a FAQ page to an inner page, then by all means do so – it leads readers deeper into your site.

This last tip suggests the stealthy power of the FAQ page:  besides providing the reader with useful information and showing that your business understands their needs, it helps you to capture prospects at an earlier phase of the buy cycle.  Linking your answer to a product or service page gives you the opportunity to show prospects that you have what they’re looking for, and could even directly accelerate them to the purchase phase!

Five Steps to Creating Compelling, Optimized Webpage Titles!

Greetings web writers and online marketers!  With Halloween just around the corner, it’s appropriate that today we’re venturing into that (seemingly) scary and mysterious realm of creating code for optimizing our Title, meta description, and meta keywords tag!  Fear not: we’re just walking through the basics, and you’ll see that it’s actually pretty easy. Really!

In last week’s discussion of simple keyphrase editing, we noted that combining optimized keyphrase edits with a strong, persuasive title and meta description makes for powerful results!  So let’s start with how to create a compelling, well-optimized webpage Title.

First, what and where is this mysterious code?  Code is simply computer language that communicates to the browser what the webpage should look like, from font size to layout.  It is programming that underlies each and every page on the web, and you can view it by right clicking your mouse and then selecting “view page source.” (Mac users, simply click “View” then “view source.”) You’ll see daunting stuff such as this:

<head>

<title>SEO copywriting training, content marketing and copywriting: Increase sales with powerful content!</title>

<meta name=”description” content=“Drive more web traffic. Boost your search engine rankings. Make more money. Online SEO copywriting training classes for freelance writers, small businesses and marketers.” />

<meta http-equiv=”Content-Type” content=”text/html; charset=UTF-8″ />

<meta http-equiv=”Content-Language” content=”en” />

Notice the emphasized (added) text?  It is the code located at the very top of the page, under <head>. Unless you’re a web designer, that is all you really need to concern yourself with: the Title and the meta description.

The Title is that text that appears above your web browser when you click on any given web page. The home page of this site will display the Title:

SEO copywriting training, content marketing, and copywriting:  Increase sales with powerful content!

It’s also the clickable link on the search engine results page:

SEO copywriting training, content marketing and copywriting

And unless you type in different text, the Title will describe the page in your bookmarks.

As a critical coding element, the Title is an incredibly powerful tool for search engine optimization. So it’s absolutely essential that you craft a compelling, unique, and keyphrase-rich Title for every page on your site.  Yes, it’s that important!

Search engines determine what your web page is about from the Title, much like how you figure out what a book is about from its Title.  So potent is the Title for search engines that creating (or editing) a Title rich with keyphrases can often give rankings an immediate boost!  Regardless of whether (or not) you have excellent, keyphrase-rich content on your web pages, it is the (coded) Title that the search engines will “read” and register on the results page.

Also, the Title functions just like a headline on the search engine results page: think of it as your first conversions opportunity, enticing searchers to click on your Title link — visiting your site as opposed those of your competitors’ sharing the same search results page.  You don’t necessarily have to be ranked number one on the page to be competitive with this conversions opportunity!  As with the headline on your web page, your Title should include a benefit statement that encourages the reader to take action (in this case, click on your website’s link).

Here are five steps to creating clickable Titles:

  1. Keep in mind that you’ve about 70 characters — including spaces — to work with, although it’s no big deal if you go slightly longer. Google will just cut it off at 70 characters and end it with”…”
  2. Include your most important keyphrases for that page in the Title. You may or may not be able to gracefully fit in all (three) of your keyphrases, and that’s all right.  Just be sure your most important keyphrase is represented.  (Keyphrases that don’t appear on that specific web page should not be included; they’ll only detract from those keyphrases you’re targeting for that page).
  3. While you can switch the order of your original keyphrase wording, it’s best to try for an exact match.  For instance, “Copywriting, content marketing, and SEO copywriting training,” would probably work, but it’s best to stick with the original order (“SEO copywriting training, content marketing, and copywriting”).
  4. Whenever possible, include a benefit statement.  In this example, it’s “Increase sales with powerful content!”  Short words conveying benefits such as “free,” or “discount” work well, if applicable, as they’re easier to accommodate within the 70-character space allotted.
  5. Don’t be afraid to be creative and explore what works:  Titles can always be changed!  Some Titles ask a question, while others engage in word play.  Ask yourself what can set your Title apart and capture the browser’s attention! Hint: think about your unique selling proposition (U.S.P.)!

Thanks for checking in, and please come back for next week’s code-breaking discussion of meta descriptions and meta keywords tags, and how to best optimize for these other basic SEO elements!