7 Tasty Copywriting Languages

How tasty is your copywriting? Taste-related words and figurative language can be more deliciously persuasive and sumptuously effective than literal words with the same meaning. Words that stimulate taste-activated areas in the brain are known to be associated with emotional processing. Language that frequently uses physical sensations or objects that refer to abstract domains, such as time, understanding or emotion, actually

How tasty is your copywriting? Taste-related words and figurative language can be more deliciously persuasive and sumptuously effective than literal words with the same meaning. Words that stimulate taste-activated areas in the brain are known to be associated with emotional processing. Language that frequently uses physical sensations or objects that refer to abstract domains, such as time, understanding or emotion, actually requires more brainpower, resulting in more engagement and comprehension.

To illustrate the point, the sentence, “She looked at him sweetly,” sparks more brain activity in emotion-based regions, like the amygdala, than, “She looked at him kindly.” Why? Because “sweet” amplifies a more physical experience, according to new research from Princeton University and the Free University of Berlin.

Figurative language can be more persuasive and effective in copywriting because your message is more imaginable in the reader’s mind.

For direct response copy, when practical (and without going overboard), a few tasty, figurative language uses can create more emotional reaction from your prospective customers. Figurative language works because the copy goes beyond the actual meanings of words. This way, the reader gains new insights into the objects or subjects in the work. Here are seven types of figurative language to consider using in copy and messaging.

1. Simile
A simile compares two things using the words “like” and “as.” Examples include:

  • Clean as a whistle
  • Brave as a lion
  • Stand out like a sore thumb

2. Metaphor
When you use a metaphor, you make a statement that doesn’t make literal sense, like “time is a thief.” It only makes sense when the similarities between the two things become apparent or someone understands the connection. Examples include:

  • Time is money
  • He has a heart of stone
  • America is a melting pot

3. Personification
Personification gives human characteristics to inanimate objects, animals or ideas. This can affect the way your customer imagines things. Examples include:

  • Opportunity knocked on the door
  • The sun can greet you tomorrow morning
  • The sky was full of dancing stars

4. Hyperbole
Hyperbole is an outrageous exaggeration that emphasizes a point, and can be ridiculous or funny. Hyperbole is useful in fiction to add color, but should be used sparingly and with caution in marketing copy. Examples are:

  • You snore louder than a freight train.
  • It’s a slow burg. I spent a couple of weeks there one day.
  • You could have knocked me over with a feather.

5. Symbolism
Symbolism occurs when a word which has meaning in itself, but it’s used to represent something entirely different. In this case, work with your graphics team, as images can express symbolism powerfully. Examples are:

  • Using an image of a flag to represent patriotism and a love for one’s country.
  • Using an apple pie to represent an American lifestyle.
  • Using an apple to represent education.

6. Alliteration. Alliteration is a repetition of the first consonant sounds in several words. An example:

  • Wide-eyed and wondering while we wait for the other ones to waken

7. Onomatopoeia. Onomatopoeia is the use of words that sound like their meaning, or mimic sounds. They add a level of fun and reality to writing. Here are some examples:

  • The burning wood hissed and crackled
  • The words: beep, boom, bong, click, clang, click, crunch, gobble, hum, meow, munch, oink, pow, quack, smash, swish, tweet, wham, whoosh, zap and zing.

Regardless of the type of words used, figurative language can help people visualize your product or service more instinctively. With tasty copy, you heighten senses that immerse prospects and customers to more powerfully see themselves possessing what you have to offer.

3 Copywriting Paths to Train the Brain

How the mind learns is vital for every marketer and copywriter to understand. Today we take a deeper dive into three approaches that sync together copywriting with brain function. Use these, and you can transform how your prospects absorb your copywriting and content messaging. These three pathways play on our brain’s hardwiring, mirroring neurons and

How the mind learns is vital for every marketer and copywriter to understand. Today we take a deeper dive into three approaches that sync together copywriting with brain function. Use these, and you can transform how your prospects absorb your copywriting and content messaging. These three pathways play on our brain’s hardwiring, mirroring neurons and chunking.

1. Repetition Hardwires New Learning
It’s difficult for people to learn a new behavior. That’s how we’re hardwired. To create new grooves in the mind and solidify new learning, use repetition. If you’ve written or evaluated a direct mail package, most likely you’ll observe repetition within a letter or across various components, such as a brochure, lift note, buck slip or order form. How many times have you heard feedback about copy along the lines of, “it keeps saying the same thing over and over.” When you repeat a thought (you might call it a golden thread), you shift the conscious absorption of information to the unconscious. Soon the brain is imprinted with new learning. Repetition can hardwire the brain for new learning.

2. Create a Metaphorical Mirror
One of the best ways to learn is by hearing a story or watching others. When we watch a video of a demonstration, our brain is activated in the same region as the person we’re watching. It’s the same with hearing a story. It’s a mirror neuron. Our basic survival depends on understanding the actions, intentions and emotions of others. We do it by feeling, not by thinking.

3. Chunking
It’s said the way to digest overwhelming data is to break it into chunks. That’s why, for example, this column is three approaches to leverage how the mind works through training. You can do it, too, in your messaging. Numbers, bullets, whatever structure you can use to chunk information for your prospects and customers will help them absorb it faster and more accurately.

Leveraging these three processes, and using them in copywriting, can train the brain and transform how you convey your message, and convert prospects into paying customers.

LinkedIn Profile Makeover for Sellers

Are you appealing to emotional and tangible desires of buyers on your LinkedIn profile—in ways they cannot resist acting on? Reinsurance broker, Paul Dzielinski is. That’s how he’s enticing prospects to talk about buying his products. Dzielinski is generating leads with his LinkedIn profile using a system to get the job done faster. Once again, the process is rooted in traditional direct response copywriting. There are three components.

Are you appealing to emotional and tangible desires of buyers on your LinkedIn profile—in ways they cannot resist acting on? Reinsurance broker, Paul Dzielinski is. That’s how he’s enticing prospects to talk about buying his products.

Dzielinski is generating leads with his LinkedIn profile using a system to get the job done faster. Once again, the process is rooted in traditional direct response copywriting. There are three components.

  1. Solving customers problems in ways that
  2. are designed to provoke a response and ultimately
  3. foster buying confidence in customers (convert the lead).

Give Prospects a Reason to Act
Dzielinski knows that prospects are lazy. That’s why he gives them a reason to take action. There is no better reason than a pain, fear or goal his customers have.

Smart sellers like Dzielinski are placing videos and Slideshare presentations on LinkedIn that invite customers to act—to be taken on a journey. A trip where the prospect identifies as a buyer and then chooses to steer toward or away from products.

As it turns out, engagement is not the goal. Response is. But you’ve got to give customers a clear, compelling reason to act.

Design Slideshare Decks to Provoke Response
Dzielinski ‘s customers are asking him questions—the questions he wants to answer for them. Here’s how he’s doing it. It’s all about what and how prospects encounter content on his profile. For example, buyers are asking for advice, short-cuts and practical know-how based on a Slideshare deck on his profile.

What makes Dzielinski ‘s Slideshare deck work? Success is all about how the content is structured around the three-step process. Paul is successful because he exploits classic copywriting techniques via Slideshare.

Dzielinski is giving prospects temporary satisfaction. He’s answering questions in ways that satisfy for the moment, yet provokes intense curiosity, which creates more questions.

“It’s Copywriting 101,” says Copyblogger Media founder, Brian Clark. “You know, in copywriting, the purpose of the headline is to get the first sentence read. The purpose of the first sentence is to get the second sentence read.”

Get Prospects to Lean Forward
Clark says, when you apply the idea to SlideShare, “the purpose of each slide is to get the next slide advanced … and the next thing you know, your finger is just moving. Advance, advance, advance.”

Clark wisely points out, “It’s very engaging because it’s not a lean-back experience. It’s a lean forward. I want to see what the next slide says. And when it’s really well done, it’s fascinating. The next thing you know, you’ve gone through 70 slides and read the entire thing.”

In Dzielinski’s case, he’s offering prospects pithy, useful advice about captive insurance. Do they need it, why they might benefit, why not (what’s the “best fit”) and the kind of costs involved.

Using his PowerPoint presentation, he’s getting buyers curious about the details behind his solution. At the end he makes a call to action for a free assessment.

Is a deadly simple idea. Plus, it’s effective and repeatable.

The Truth About Sharing Content on LinkedIn
Your prospects don’t need engaging stories. Buyers have nagging problems and challenging goals that are far more important. What they need is a better way to achieve goals—or an insurance policy against risk. Thus, your job is to leverage this need and get customers curious about your remedy.

How can you help customers overcome the challenges they face, reduce the risks they need to take or find a short-cut to achieve a goal faster?

Make sure your words are making customers respond.

Make sure you LinkedIn profile is answering questions in ways that makes potential buyers think, “Yes, yes, YES … I should take action on that. That will probably create results for me. Now, how can I get my hands on more of those kinds of insights/tips?”

Need some help making this happen on your profile? View the 12-minute video training here.

Getting customers curious about you is the key to using LinkedIn for lead generation—effectively. This simple idea is the difference between wasting time on LinkedIn and having it pay you.

Good luck!

Copywriting for Social Media Marketing: 3 Best Practices for 2014

Effective copywriting for social media marketing was the game changer in 2013. Still trying to prove ROI on social media? Make 2014 the year you stop obsessing over measuring trivial stats—and start generating leads with social media. Do it without sacrificing brand integrity or annoying prospects. Use these three, proven social media copywriting best practices.

Effective copywriting for social media marketing was the game changer in 2013. Still trying to prove ROI on social media? Make 2014 the year you stop obsessing over measuring trivial stats—and start generating leads with social media. Do it without sacrificing brand integrity or annoying prospects.

Use these three, proven social media copywriting best practices.

Yes, You CAN Sell on Social Media
“People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it,” said George Bernard Shaw. He’s right.

Effective social media and content marketing attracts, engages and takes customers on journeys to better places—where they decide how, when and were to get there. Effective copywriting for social media powers each stage of the “attract, engage, nurture” process.

Effective copywriting for social media is all about helping customers:

  • believe there is a better way (via your short-form social comments)
  • realize they just found part of it (on your longer-form blog) and
  • act—taking a first step toward what they want (giving you a lead)

Best Practice No. 1: Re-think the Role of Your Blog
“Gating” your best knowledge and tips is less and less effective each year. For example, buyers are becoming more likely to offer fake or “un-attended” email addresses in exchange for your whitepaper. What’s the answer? Long-er form content that proves you are worth a real relationship to the buyer.

According to sources like InfusionSoft (and my own experience!) buyers are registering less and less. Why? Because competitors are increasingly giving-away their best knowledge. Where?

Blogs.

We cannot keep forcing readers to give up their contact and purchase intent details in exchange for our content marketing assets. So my first social media copywriting best practice for you is strategic.

Becoming a better social media copywriter starts with the right strategy.

Converting readers to leads demands the best copywriting on social platforms plus effectively written, long-form content. Your best tips, tricks and advice that helps customers achieve a desired goal, avoid a risk or solve a problem.

Your blog is the content marketing hub. It is where your short-form social media copywriting directs prospects. Facebook and Google+ updates. LinkedIn group discussions, status updates, company page posts, your LinkedIn profile call to action.

Social media drives visitors to blog content that proves you’re worth a real email address!

Best Practice No. 2: Follow a Process, Not Just Passion
Don’t get caught up in the “show you’re human” and “tell a good story” nonsense. Having personality and being interesting is the entry fee. It’s essential. The force multiplier is an effective copywriting for social media process.

Start here. Write a solution (answer) to a problem (question) your target market needs solved on your blog. Follow these guidelines to make sure your words get acted on-prospects see your call to action and ACT on it.

1. Get right to-the-point
When you write be like a laser. Don’t make readers wait for the solution. Hit ’em with it in the first paragraph. Give them everything up front at a high level. Then, in the body of your article …

2. Reveal slowly
When it comes to all the juicy details of your remedy take it slow. Slow enough to encourage more questions—to create curiosity in the total solution. When you do this, make sure you …

3. Provoke response by leveraging the curiosity you just created
Yes, be action-oriented and specific. But avoid being so complete in your blog, LinkedIn or Google+ post that readers become totally satisfied with your words.

Remember to:

  • start with customers pains, goals, fears, ambitions or cravings in mind … and …
  • structure blog posts to teach, guide or answer in ways that …
  • create hunger for more of what we have to offer (a lead generation offer).

Focus on following this structure. Form the habit. You can do it!

Best Practice No. 3: Get back to basics
I know it sounds trite, but hear me out. There is one copywriting tip (habit) that consistently produces new business using social media. It’s an old direct response marketing rule.

Give customers a clear, compelling reason to act immediately—resolve, experience or improve something important to them.

This is why your blog is so critical.

At the most basic level, customers need help:

  • believing there is a better way
  • realizing they just found it (on your blog) and
  • acting-taking a first step toward what they want (giving you a lead)

Blog or video content that makes customers respond does one thing really well: It answers questions in ways that makes potential buyers think, “Yes, yes, YES … I can take action on that. That will probably create results for me. Now, how can I get my hands on more of those kinds of insights/tips?”

This is the key to using a blog to sell. This simple idea is the difference between blogging for sales and starving! Make it your goal. Good luck in 2014.

Content Marketing and Copywriting in Tandem

What differentiates the content marketing writing style from direct response sales copy? We hear a lot about content marketing these days, and, at first glance, it seems to be a distinctly different approach than direct response sales copy. But is it really all that different? Shouldn’t there be a plan to move the reader to action with the ultimate result of

What differentiates the content marketing writing style from direct response sales copy? We hear a lot about content marketing these days, and, at first glance, it seems to be a distinctly different approach than direct response sales copy. But, is it really all that different? Shouldn’t there be a plan to move the reader to action with the ultimate result of monetizing the marketing effort? As direct marketers, most of us would agree that getting the reader to buy should be the ultimate objective of any kind of marketing. But each of these skills—content marketing and direct response sales copywriting—can lead from one to the other.

Today we share five recommendations to strengthen both. Before we do that, let’s define each:

  • Direct response copywriting is all about leading the reader to action. It might be a sale on the spot, but it could also be lead generation, or perhaps an action as simple as getting someone to opt-in to a series of emails. Likely media used: direct mail, email, landing pages, video sales letters, print ads and direct response broadcast.
  • Content marketing, on the other hand, is about writing and freely delivering content of value to the reader. It builds trust, confidence and leads into selling from a softer angle. It may not get a sale on the spot, but it should have the reader predisposed to buy when the opportunity is presented. Likely media used: blogs, articles, online press releases, social media, white papers and video.

Content marketing should inform, build trust and credibility with the prospective buyer, so that when harder-hitting, persuasive direct response sales copy with a call-to-action is presented, the response rate is higher. In other words, when both approaches are used in tandem, the sum can be greater than the parts.

Copywriter Chris Marlow suggests, “the term ‘content’ should be reserved for writing that does not have the express purpose of getting a lead or sale.” But she adds that, “sometimes you need ‘content’ to get the lead or make the sale.”

Whether you’re using content marketing or direct response copywriting, here are five recommendations to make both approaches stronger and logically flow from one to the other. Inspiration for this list comes from American Writers and Artists (where I teach a copywriting course), copywriting clients and personal experience:

  1. It all starts with the headline and lead. Use proven direct mail formulas like the four-Legged Stool (Big Idea, Promise, Credibility, Proven Track Record), or the four U’s (Useful, Unique, Urgency, Ultra-Specific), or any one of many other direct response copywriting formulas. The headline formula often works better when you fit your main idea within eight words or fewer. Using a proven direct response letter writing formula can make all the difference in your success.
  2. What’s the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt)? Get the attention of the reader and quickly demonstrate you understand their pain. Most everyone has on their minds fear, uncertainty, and doubt in their personal lives, relationships, finances, career, retirement or health.
  3. Is the message confusing, unbelievable, boring or awkward? Review the copy with a small inner circle of people. Reading copy aloud with someone listening and evaluating it is a must. If it’s confusing, unbelievable, boring or awkward, you’ll hear it when voiced. I was again reminded of the importance of this step after logging several hours by phone when reading a long-form letter aloud with a client so we could both hear it. The extra investment of time strengthened the story, benefits, false close and call-to-action items for the right flow to build the sales message.
  4. Gather a small group to review copy and the lead. Ask each person to assign a numerical ranking (1-10 scale) on whether they’d keep reading or not. If less than 80 percent of the responders wouldn’t read beyond the headline and lead, then the writer needs to fix the headline and lead, or start over.
  5. Is it clear? When your customer or prospect reads your copy (whether using content marketing writing style or direct response copywriting), has the issue been laid out clearly? Was a complex message simplified? Did the message build rapport and trust? Does the copy naturally flow so that the prospect concludes that your product solves the issue? And check the call-to-action. Is there one? Keep in mind that if you’re using introductory content writing, the CTA may be only to opt-in, subscribe or click a link to request or read more in a series.

Bottom line: what are you asking the prospect to do? Is it advancing the prospect along in a planned spaced-repetition contact strategy that leads to your ultimate desired action: a sale?

Whether your copy style is content marketing that is conditioning the reader to make a future purchase, or direct response selling asking for an action on the spot, what you write ultimately needs to justify its existence with a strategy that leads to monetization.

6 Questions to Ask Your SEO Copywriter

Have you decided that outsourcing your SEO copywriting and content development strategy is the best bet for your business? (If you’re not sure, see last month’s blog post.) Now here comes the hard part: Finding the right SEO copywriter for your needs.

Have you decided that outsourcing your SEO copywriting and content development strategy is the best bet for your business? (If you’re not sure, see last month’s blog post on how and when to outsource your SEO.) Now here comes the hard part: Finding the right SEO copywriter for your needs.

SEO copywriting professionals can have a wide variety of skill sets, from the newbie who is just getting her virtual feet wet to the uber-experienced direct response professional who is also a whiz at SEO. If you’re ready to take the plunge, here are six questions to ask any prospective SEO copywriter.

1. What kind of experience do you have?
SEO copywriting is different. Someone may be a fantastic direct response copywriter. But if he doesn’t have SEO copywriting experience, he may not be your best choice. Why? Because SEO copywriting is part geeky knowledge, part creative brilliance. Not only will your new hire have to have “normal” copywriting skills, but he’ll also need to know how to choose keyphrases, set a strategy and weave keyphrases into your copy the right way. Some folks are self-taught, but the best SEO copywriters have had some hands-on training. A combination of solid experience plus additional training (for instance, being Certified in SEO copywriting) ensures that you have a quality candidate.

2. What do you charge, and what’s included in the price?
You may think that a writer’s price is incredibly inexpensive, but make sure that you know what’s included in the rate. Just like when you buy a plane ticket, some writers charge a low per-page rate, but then add on “extras” like keyphrase research, a per-page keyphrase strategy, and creating titles and meta descriptions. That’s great for some clients. But if you need lots of extras (such as when you don’t have a per-page keyphrase strategy in place), know that you’ll be paying more per page.

3. How has your writing boosted your clients’ revenues?
Yes, we all want top-10 search engine rankings, and your SEO copywriter plays a huge part in making that happen. However, there’s a bigger question to ask: Will your copywriter make you money? Ask your copywriter how her writing has helped to increase conversion rates. She may tell a story about how one landing page generated $25,000 in almost instant revenue. Or how SEO copywriting training helped to increase revenues by 27 percent. If a copywriter can’t give you specifics, dig deeper. Sometimes, the copywriter doesn’t have access to analytics, so his non-specific answer isn’t his fault. At the same time, he should have one heck of a testimonial portfolio and other street-cred to make up for it.

4. Do you outsource to other copywriters?
You may have felt an instant connection when you chatted with the copywriting agency. But will the outgoing and whip-smart woman you spoke with on the phone be the same person writing your copy? Maybe. Ask your copywriter if she outsources. If she says “yes,” ask for a writing sample from the person who will be doing the writing. Outsourcing isn’t a bad thing. But as the client, you have a right to know the players and the process. (Side note: If you don’t hear the “main” copywriter discuss how she evaluates every piece of copy before a client sees it, run away fast.)

5. What kind of ongoing education do you receive?
SEO copywriting is not a “set it and forget it” kind of skill set. The search engines are ever-changing and what worked six months ago may not work today. Plus, new neuromarketing, eye-tracking and information-processing research is changing the way copywriters write content. Ask what kind of sites, conferences and research your copywriter is tracking. If she says, “I don’t keep up with techie stuff,” she still may be an awesome copywriter … but she may not have the necessary SEO skills to really do the job (depending on the skill level you need).

6. What other skills do you bring to the table?
Some SEO copywriters can take on a full-scale SEO campaign and thrive, replacing your need for another SEO company (this is especially true for small businesses.) Other SEO copywriters can train your team, build links and even write that e-book that’s been on your “to-do” list for years. Once you love and trust your new writer, explore how else she can help you. You may find that your SEO copywriter can help you grow your business in many additional ways—and you’ll have a trusted marketing partner who can create killer, high-converting (and positioning) copy.

Should You Outsource Your SEO Copywriting? 5 Ways to Find Out

Last month, I discussed how to successfully bring your SEO copywriting in-house. However, what about businesses sitting on the other side of the in-house versus outsourcing fence?

Last month, I discussed how to successfully bring your SEO copywriting in-house. However, what about businesses sitting on the other side of the in-house versus outsourcing fence? Yes, outsourcing means “relinquishing control” of your copywriting. However, getting outside help can make a huge impact on your campaign—plus it allows your in-house team to focus on your core competencies rather than SEO copywriting.

If you’ve been wondering what to do, consider these five “You should outsource if …” scenarios.

… You need new marketing content—fast!
Strategic outsourcing can help you reach your content marketing goals faster, even if you have an in-house SEO copywriting team. Consider what writing makes sense to keep in-house (such as important branding pages,) and outsource the rest. For instance, writers can quickly add keyphrases to existing copy and make your pages more “search-engine friendly.” Finding freelancers for a short-term writing fix is a smart, strategic move.

… Your team has no idea how to write optimized content—and doesn’t want to know.
Some marketing departments eat up SEO copywriting theory like candy and relish every training moment. Some prefer to stay far, far away from it, keeping within their copywriting comfort zone. And that’s OK. Just because you can DIY doesn’t mean that it’s a smart move. You’ll make faster progress if you let a professional make your optimization dreams come true. Besides, if you don’t want to write something, it’s easy to let it fall off your desk … and your site’s search engine rankings suffer as a result.

… Your team tried writing the content—but something isn’t working.
Maybe your conversions are tanking and you can’t tell why. Or your rankings dropped after Google’s May Day update, and you’re not sure of a safe next step. In this situation, outsourcing your content marketing provides you two huge advantages. From a SEO standpoint, an expert copywriter can “see” opportunities (and yes, challenges) that your team doesn’t. Rewriting the content will allow them to revisit your keyphrases, check your strategy and tighten up your SEO. Secondly, a fresh perspective can lead to some amazing discoveries. You may have thought that your site copy was just fine—but your copywriter can show how to make it even better. I’ve seen some amazing transformations (and conversions) when a company lets an outside copywriting take the reins.

… Your content screams for a strategy—and you need an expert to help.
Too many companies launch their content initiatives willy-nilly without asking themselves a simple question: “Why?” Rather than launching everything content marketing-related, a strategist can help you decide what to focus on now and oversee the process. Your in-house team would still be doing all the work. But you’d be focusing on the right work for right now—and your strategist would be helping you every step of the way.

… You need a fresh start.
I hear, “I hate the content, but we don’t know how to fix it” way more than I’d like. It’s sad how companies wear their site content like a bad haircut: They know it doesn’t flatter them, but it’s what they’re stuck with. Just like you’d (hopefully) visit a new hairstylist if the old one continued to give you a “bowl cut,” a new-to-you SEO content writer can take your existing writing and make it better, snazzier and more SEO-friendly. Imagine: You can actually start to like your content again, rather than apologizing to prospects. How would that feel?

Outsourcing your SEO content marketing will cost you more money as compared to keeping everything in-house, true. But at the end of the day, “relinquishing control” and letting someone else master your messaging can drive some impressive revenues—and create content that you finally enjoy. It’s well worth it.

Successfully Bring Your SEO Copywriting In-House

The marketing manager of a large e-commerce site recently filled me in on a challenge she was having. She knew her content needed an SEO copywriting intervention—but she didn’t have the budget for a keyphrase editing or rewrite campaign.

The marketing manager of a large e-commerce site recently filled me in on a challenge she was having. She knew her content needed an SEO copywriting intervention—but she didn’t have the budget for a keyphrase editing or rewrite campaign.

So I asked her, “Have you ever thought of bringing your SEO copywriting in-house?”

And I could almost hear the light bulb flickering on above her head.

The reality is, SEO copywriting is one task that can often be brought in-house. With the right people and a little training, your existing team members can produce your content—and your company will save money on your search marketing campaign.

If this is the direction you want your company to go, here are some things to consider:

Decide who does the writing. This may seem like a no-brainer, as it’s easy to think, “Well, we have five people in our marketing department, plus all of our sales staff. They can all write copy.” However, some folks are more qualified to write than others—and choosing the best writers will help make your campaign much more successful.

Try to pinpoint possible in-house SEO copywriters by:

  1. Experience: Print/online copywriters and journalists are the easiest to train.
  2. Being realistic: Just because someone is an awesome salesperson doesn’t mean he knows how to write. Review a person’s past writing and be very, very honest about his capabilities. You can train a good writer in SEO copywriting. But you can’t train a naturally bad writer to write better copy—at least, not without putting in some major effort.
  3. Interest: Some folks don’t like to write. Period. They’ll do it when they’re forced to, but the results are less than stellar. Giving writing tasks to these folks won’t help you a bit.

You may decide that you have to hire someone on a full or part-time basis to handle some of the writing. That’s OK. Better to hire someone with experience to fill in the gaps, then transform people into writers who, well, really shouldn’t be the ones writing content for your brand.

Make sure your writers have time to write. SEO copywriting is not an “other duties as assigned” gig. I’ve seen the best campaigns go bad because the SEO copywriters had other tasks to complete—and those duties took precedence over creating content. If you want your SEO copywriters to churn out premium content, that means they need the time to write. And that means good, uninterrupted time-free from meetings, phone calls and e-mail. If you honestly can’t give your writers space to write, you may see better (and faster) results from outsourcing.

Get the right training for your team. This step is crucial. Yes, it is possible to train your writers in SEO copywriting best practices. Yes, you can train folks to write benefit-rich copy that converts like crazy. But the operable word is training. I’ve seen too many companies send their writers to a conference with the task of “learning everything they can about SEO copywriting.” Guess what? I’m usually speaking at those conferences, and the information panelists can provide in 60 minutes or less is basic at best—and it’s certainly not customized for a company’s unique situation.

The right training depends on how much copywriting knowledge your writing team already has. If they are experienced online writers and strategists who just need to understand the SEO copywriting nuances, reading some books and taking a course like my SEO Copywriting Certification training should get them up to speed. If your company currently doesn’t have an in-house SEO copywriting strategy and your writers aren’t experienced online writers, a customized training that discusses copywriting theory as well as SEO copywriting is probably your best bet.

Whatever your company chooses, remember that it’s not fair to push someone into SEO copywriting who has no experience and no training. Not only will it be frustrating for your writer, it’s bad for your business—who wants Web pages written by someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing?

Determine your content marketing opportunities. It’s one thing to task people with handling your online content. It’s another to tell them exactly what they should be writing. I’ve trained a lot of in-house copywriters, and the key to success (other than training) is having a clear action plan. What initially seems easy, “We’ll just send out some tweets, create a Facebook page and start editing pages,” is actually much more complex. Questions to ask are:

  1. What are our analytics telling us about our current content? What keyphrases are working?
  2. Do we need additional keyphrase research?
  3. What do we expect to gain from (insert content marketing strategy here)? For instance, if Twitter is part of your strategy, make sure you know how you’ll actually measure success.
  4. What pages can be edited for keyphrases (some folks call this “on-site optimization”)? Which pages should be completely rewritten?
  5. Is the tone, feel and benefit statement focus still appropriate for today’s marketplace?

If your company doesn’t have a content marketing strategy in place, I would highly recommend hiring a content strategist who can help you determine your content marketing opportunities and figure out next steps. This person doesn’t have to be a permanent member of your team; bringing on an outsourced vendor is fine. But as I mentioned in a previous post on my business blog, these folks will “see” opportunities that a technical SEO person won’t (which makes sense—technical SEO folks focus on code, not marketing.) Yes, this will cost some money, but much, much less than outsourcing your content. Plus, you’ll have a step-by-step plan for how to proceed.

Create an editorial calendar. The best-laid plans mean nothing without implementation. It’s one thing to know what to do. It’s another to actually do it. Determine who is writing what and the deadlines, then work with IT to figure out when new/edited content will be uploaded. A monthly editorial calendar is a great way to stay on track—plus, having everything written down makes everyone accountable.

Keep the momentum going. I know how hard it is to keep the content marketing momentum going when business is booming and everyone is swamped. Even if you have more business than you can handle right now, I encourage you to stay the course and keep cranking out quality content—even a few pages a month is good. And if your business is going through a natural slow time, using that time to build content is a powerful way to prepare for the upswing. Think about it: There is a high probability you’re getting the business you are because of your content marketing strategy. If you start to pull back and push content to the back burner, you’ll lose momentum—and possibly allow a competitor to “catch up” with you. Just remember the formula Momentum = Money, and you’ll be fine.

Is Your Catalog Site Missing the SEO Copywriting Boat?

Yesterday, the marketing coordinator for a well-known catalog site contacted me about SEO copywriting services. “Our product pages aren’t ranking,” she said. “We heard we should ‘add keyphrases to our copy,’ but we’re afraid that keyphrases will make the copy sound spammy.” Ah yes, the old “keyphrases are bad” myth.

Yesterday, the marketing coordinator for a well-known catalog site contacted me about SEO copywriting services.

“Our product pages aren’t ranking,” she said. “We heard we should ‘add keyphrases to our copy,’ but we’re afraid that keyphrases will make the copy sound spammy.”

Ah, yes, the old “keyphrases are bad” myth. If this was expressed in a mathematical equation, it would look something like this:

Keyphrases + Content = Bad Copy That Doesn’t Convert

And that’s just not true. In fact, adding keyphrases into site copy can do more than help the page position in the search engines (although that, by itself, is a huge benefit). Good SEO copywriting is seamless. It’s powerful. And yes—despite those pesky keyphrases—it can help conversions. I discussed this quite a bit in a previous post called, “SEO Copywriting Is Dead. Long Live SEO Copywriting,” on my site’s blog.

Unfortunately, scads of catalog marketers are missing out on search engine rankings. Rather than realizing that a Web site is a completely different medium (requiring a different approach), they instead upload their print catalogs’ text and images without changing a word of copy. Then, when they check their search engine rankings, they’re convinced that “this SEO stuff doesn’t work.” When told they have to change their copy to make this “SEO stuff work,” they jump back in alarm: “Why should we change our copy when we already spent a lot of money writing it for our catalog?”

Um, because you wrote it for your catalog … not for an online environment. Those are two different marketing avenues. People don’t have to search for your products when they have your catalog in their hand, they can just flip to a page. But if you want folks to find your pages in the search engines, you’ll need to play the search engine game … and play it well.

But heck, don’t take my word for it. Let’s take a peek at a “traditional” brick-and-mortar site that does it right: Brookstone.

Brookstone is a master at creating value-added, intelligent content that also happens to be keyphrase rich. Its product pages are written from scratch, with keyphrases skillfully woven into the body copy. User-generated product reviews help encourage conversions (people feel more comfortable about making a buying decision when they can read what other people like and don’t like about a product). Brookstone includes a well-produced product video. Heck, even its product names like “Tranquil Moments Sleep Sound Therapy System” and “Fold-A-Way Rowing Machine” contain keyphrases.

Does it work? Heck, yes. Brookstone’s “Fold-A-Way Rowing Machine” page is positioning in Google’s top 10. As is its “Sleep Sound Therapy System” page.

And go figure … the site copy can’t be considered “spammy” in the least.

Some takeaways to consider with your own catalog/e-commerce site are:

  1. Is your product copy directly uploaded from your print catalog—or is it the “standard” product description appearing on the product packaging? A smart rule: If you see multiple sites with the same product copy, rewrite yours so it’s completely original. Yes, it’s time consuming. But this one act alone can immediately differentiate you from the hundreds (or thousands) of other sites offering the same thing.
  2. Know that user reviews are good for more than just reviewing the product; they can be incredible helpful for search engine positions. Every time someone posts a review, it provides your site “free content” that you didn’t have to source somewhere else.
  3. Keyphrase usage matters. You don’t want to repeat your keyphrase incessantly within your copy. But it is important to research your keyphrases, set a keyphrase strategy and use keyphrases on the page. Otherwise, your page probably won’t be found.

At the end of the day, catalog sites can definitely benefit from smart SEO copywriting techniques. Not only do SEO copywriting strategies help your pages position better in the engines, the additional, in-depth information gives your prospects the information they want (which, ultimately, encourages conversions). Everyone wins.

Why You Should Beware the ‘Quick SEO Copywriting Fix’

The question comes up during almost every conference at which I present: “I hear what you’re saying about writing quality content. But I need immediate results. What’s a quick SEO copywriting fix I can try?”

The question comes up during almost every conference at which I present.

“I hear what you’re saying about writing quality content. But I need immediate results. What’s a quick SEO copywriting fix I can try?”

I understand this mindset. I really do. Now that the recession is easing its iron grip on marketing budgets, companies are trying to make up for lost time. Now, more than ever, forward-thinking businesses have the opportunity to make a huge impact on their search engine rankings. And they’re doing what they can, where they can—as fast as they can.

But here’s the thing. There is no “quick SEO copywriting fix.” There’s no “easy way to get to the top of the search engines” like the spam e-mails promise. You can’t wave a magic algorithmic wand and transform your copy into search engine goodness.

You just have to roll your sleeves, do the hard work and get it done.

Unfortunately, many companies fall prey to this quick fix mentality and do stupid things that mess up their SEO campaigns, branding or both. For instance:

  • Building out stand-alone “SEO pages” geared to pull rankings

  • Hiring $10/post bloggers to write keyphrase-stuffed posts

  • Tweeting incessantly about their products or services without becoming a part of the Twitter community

Although these folks feel like progress is quickly being made (“Woo-hoo, now we have 50, poorly-written posts about legal services”), what they don’t realize is the unforeseen consequences. Poorly written content doesn’t convert. “Stand-alone” pages typically are over-optimized messes that search engines ignore. Splattering your sales message all over Twitter makes your firm look like a spammer.

So, what can you do to start seeing the search results (and conversions) you crave? I am so glad you asked …

1. Evaluate your existing content. Every marketer can leverage its own low-hanging fruit and focus on what specifically matters for its site. For some sites, penning new page titles can drive amazing results. For others, keyphrase editing (adding keyphrases to existing content) may be appropriate. Consider bringing in a consultant for this part of the process. The reason? The consultant doesn’t “own” the copy and can see it with fresh eyes. Because he’s not close to it, he can notice opportunities your marketing department may not.

2. Check your keyphrase research. It’s easy to let your keyphrase research stagnate when you don’t have the time (or funds) to spend on your site. Now that you’re planning a content overhaul, it’s crucial to examine what other keyphrases opportunities you can leverage – especially keyphrases that represent the research phase of the buy cycle. Research tools like WordStream, Keyword Discovery and Wordtracker can help you see what phrases people type into the search box to find products and services like yours.

3. Develop a (workable) content schedule and budget. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your site won’t be rewritten overnight. Work on your most important pages first, and set up a schedule where you’ll work on a certain number of pages a month. Or, if you know that writing content in-house isn’t your style, hire an experienced SEO copywriter and have him help. Creating content in baby steps is completely OK – and gives you the satisfaction of seeing continued improvement.

It’s tempting to fall prey to the SEO copywriting quick fix. But when you take strategic baby steps and focus on what’s really important to your site’s success, you’ll finally realize the search ranking (and conversions) you crave.