In 2018, New Challenges for SEO Await

In December 2016, I wrote about search trends for 2017. As 2018 is about to begin, it seems appropriate to look back at how accurate my trend analysis was and peek forward into what challenges await in 2018.

voice search
“Sorry, didn’t catch that,” Creative Commons license. | Credit: Flickr by Ruth Hartnup

Moving into the digital age has left me regretting my tradition of breaking out the new desk calendar during the last weeks of the year. I have kept both daily and weekly calendars for many years; and each year, I would spend an hour or two moving birthdays and significant dates to the new calendar. I also used the time to pause and reflect on what the new year would bring. The blank pages in the calendar were always an invitation to set lofty goals and make large plans.

In December 2016, I wrote about search trends for 2017. As 2018 is about to begin, it seems appropriate to look back at how accurate my trend analysis was and peek forward into what challenges await in 2018.

At the start of 2017, three strong trends/challenges stood out:

  • The imperative for faster site speed
  • The need to put mobile first in all SEO plans
  • The push for secure sites

How have these played out? Did site owners move on these imperatives? What new imperatives await in 2018?

Site Owners Are Still Working on Making Their Sites Faster

Site speed is now a confirmed ranking factor particularly for mobile sites — which is where most of the traffic growth is. If your site does not load in less than three seconds, you still have work to do.

The SEO literature is filled with information on how to speed up the venerable desktop search, but the frontier is mobile. It is a frontier that is increasingly settled by those who have understood the linkage of speed to success in search, usability and conversion.

Achievements are being made. But just as world records will fall in the 2018 Olympics, so, too, will site owners achieve even greater speed in 2018.

To stay in the game in 2018, don’t let up; continue to seek improvements on site speed.

Mobile Is First, It Hears a Voice

The continued growth of mobile is now being fueled by voice searches. Faster than fingers and perfectly adapted for multi-tasking searchers, voice-driven mobile searches will be a major trend in 2018.

Voice search is showing strong adoption by younger searchers, the digital natives, who think off of the box on the desktop.

Highlighted in my 2017 analysis, the need to go fast and mobile is still an imperative in 2108. This has not changed. Mobile is still a fast-hot trend.

The use of accelerated mobile pages (AMP) has been growing, but there are still significant challenges for creating these thin, fast pages for feature-rich commerce sites. The use and applications for AMP will continue to grow and improve over the next year.

Google has recently announced that starting in February 2018, it will be enforcing content parity for AMP users. Some site owners looking for the proverbial easy way out have been creating teaser pages that are AMP that require that user to click again to get all of the page content.

An example might be a news site that gives just a single paragraph on the AMPed page, but forces the user, who wants to see the entire story, to click again.

AMP was developed as a means of creating fast, lean pages — not teaser pages. In 2018, expect to see Google continue to protect the integrity of the AMP initiative by insisting that AMP users play by the rules.

As an SEO Trend, Secure Sites Have Jumped the Shark

A quick breeze through search results will show you that most top-ranked sites are now secure. If your site is still not secure, a pity to you and your impaired search results.

Today, having a secure site is a must if you want to enjoy the fruits of holding top spots in the search results. It is no longer trending. It has gone mainstream.

What New Challenges Lie Ahead for 2018?

For 2018, the question is the answer. As voice search grows, the language and syntax of search is changing. Search queries are no longer just short syntactically challenged typed Boolean strings.

Increasingly, queries are conversational questions: “Where is the nearest supermarket?” This query might be spoken into a handheld device or even a nearby digital assistant.

In response to this new line of questioning, Google now features question-and-answer snippets in the search engine results page. These featured snippets include links to the source of the answer. This is highly prized real estate, and search marketers will be well-served in 2018 to focus on having quality content that answers questions.

In 2018, the changing SERP page cannot be overlooked. Google recently expanded the length of the descriptions that appear in the results to provide more descriptive and useful information for users. This is a key must-do assignment for 2018. Review what Google is presenting in the results page for your key performing pages. Look at the snippet. If it generated by Google, consider if it is what you really want to see. For key pages, give them a rub and scrub, buff them up a bit so that they perform better and watch the results.

From this view, 2018 will be more challenges, but the results will be incremental. It is time to review your individual responses to this changing industry and turn the page to the new year with new, big plans in mind.

Does Your Copy Have a ‘Human’ Voice? Or a ‘Copywriter’s’ Voice?

The other day I got an email from someone I hadn’t heard from in a while. The subject line was a casual “Hey Gary.” Wow, I thought! I haven’t heard from this person in a long time, so I eagerly opened the email. But in a split-second, I realized this wasn’t a personal email. It was an autoresponder. And it didn’t sound like the person I know who sent it. It felt like it had been written by a copywriter.

The other day I got an email from someone I hadn’t heard from in a while. The subject line was a casual “Hey Gary.” Wow, I thought! I haven’t heard from this person in a long time, so I eagerly opened the email. But in a split-second, I realized this wasn’t a personal email. It was an autoresponder. And the voice didn’t sound like the person I know who sent it. It felt like it had been written by a copywriter.
business_personalThat experience jarred me into wondering about my own copy: Does it sound human? Do I capture the right “voice” of either the sender or the organization?

Sometimes copy gets lost by overthinking it, making sure every “t” is crossed and “i” dotted. Sometimes the tone gets lost through input from other marketing team members, rounds of approvals, and review for compliance, where the tone degrades into being less human and more unnatural — to the point of being distracting or off-putting.

So today I share a few thoughts about copy’s “voice.”

I’ve come up with a scale that might help guide you to the “voice” or tone of copy for you. It’s a scale of 1 to 3. One is the most casual. Three is the most formal. You might find there are more than three for your situation. These are examples of how you might greet someone, ranging from a close friend, to casual acquaintance, to someone you’d meet for the first time:

  1. ‘Sup my brother/sister?
  2. Hey there, <name>! How are you?!
  3. Hello, <name>, nice to meet you.

In the example email from a friend I cited earlier, the subject line was a casual “Hey Gary.” But the tone shifted, once the email was opened to a more canned, more formal, “Hello, nice to meet you” approach.

It was distracting. And disappointing. These unintended — but very real — impressions overwhelmed whatever impact was hoped for about the message content. So my advice is this:

  • Know your audience. When you know your audience, you’ll know if your voice can be casual or formal. Settling on the appropriate voice can be based on past transactions, the type of product or service you offer, or what you know about your customer’s age, demos or behavioral data.
  • Distinguish the level of relationship and product awareness. The voice of a subject line of an email, and headline of any copy (website, landing page, letter, etc.), should be based on the awareness and relationship your prospective customer has with your product or its category.
  • Choose the right type of lead. The relationship and awareness (or lack thereof) dictates if you should use a direct lead (offer, promise or problem-solution) or an indirect lead (secret, declaration or story). I’ll share more about these six lead types in a future blog post.
  • Be consistent. Don’t shift from one voice type to another within the same promo. If the copy has been significantly edited, be sure to read it aloud so you can hear if the voice is consistent throughout.
  • Be consistent across channels. If you’re using email, make sure the voice is consistent from the subject line to the email body, and from the email to the landing page, and yes, consistent all the way through the order page.

Finally, let someone read your copy who is unfamiliar with what has been written, to make sure the voice is appropriate and, probably most importantly, that it sounds like it was written by a human.

Just curious: do you feel my “voice” in these blog posts is appropriate? I invite your feedback.

Gary Hennerberg’s latest book is “Crack the Customer Mind Code: Seven Pathways from Head to Heart to YES!,” available from the DirectMarketingIQ Bookstore. For a free download with more detail about the seven pathways and other copywriting and consulting tips, go to Hennerberg.com.

Tuning Into Voice Search

The big question for search marketers is: What must be done to make sure that a site comes up in answer to voice search queries? This is both a simple and difficult question, but one that must be addressed.

SEO Is Dead — 5 Rules for Winning in the New World of SearchHave you met Siri, Cortana or Alexa yet? If you haven’t, you will soon. Perhaps you’ve used Google Voice or Amazon Echo. The market for voice-activated search is poised to explode. Users are rapidly embracing this technology.

I expect that we will see rapid adoption, because voice-activated search doesn’t have a huge user learning curve and the devices are increasingly affordable. It’s their simplicity of use that will drive rapid adoption.

The big question for search marketers is: What must be done to make sure that a site comes up in answer to voice search queries? This is both a simple and difficult question, but one that must be addressed.

In previous posts, I have urged site owners to prepare their sites for mobile search. My admonitions have been to increase site speed and to make sure that the site is mobile-compatible. This is the underlying technical architecture needed for search success in 2017. Faster is better, and not to be fast and mobile-ready is to be left behind from a technical standpoint.

Unfortunately with search, no matter how wonderful the content and offering is on a site, technical miscues can doom it to obscurity. With the technology challenges met, it is time to turn to the offering itself, and this is where voice search enters the picture. Voice search is all about the user, the user’s intent and the user’s challenges in articulating the query.

Voice Search Adoption Will Be Faster Than Mobile

Voice-activated programs have been in the technology marketplace for a number of years. They are finally maturing.

The original versions required extensive training before they would recognize the user’s commands. The results were sometimes comical. I once tried an early version when I was writing a book and decided that it would require more editing to make the results coherent than just keyboarding the text.

Fast-forward to today, and we have technology so simple to use that it is prudent to safeguard it from toddlers likely to place orders on their parents’ Amazon accounts.

Estimates suggest that one in five consumers use voice search on a mobile device. Younger users have adopted the technology faster and use it more often than older users. As mobile searches increase, so too will voice searches. However in my opinion, the proliferation of voice-activated devices with search capabilities will add a booster rocket to the adoption rates and the volume of searches.

How Can Search Marketers Respond?

The key to an effective response is to ensure that your content addresses the questions a user might pose.

This may require rethinking your content approach. Most SEOs have used keyword-based strategies for search. These have been quite effective; however, in the future they must be linked to what the user wants.

This requires an inside-out process. Content must be able to answer the types of questions users pose. Where, when, why, how, and what are often starting cues for a voice search. Searches for directions are “where is” something; events are the answer to “when is” queries; “why” and “how” are often signals for factual information. There are a number of other signals — best, near, open, etc. An individual searching on a voice-activated device is unlikely to search for a giant head term — computer. The user is much more likely to pose a question that would fall into the realm of long-tail search.

As site owners create content, they should carefully consider if the content does address these cues and what other questions might a user ask. This will result in voice-search-relevant content.

If you haven’t already done it, now is the time to implement structured data on your site. This provides a framework for the presentation of data in a format easily consumed by search engines and returned in answer to voice queries.

One More Tip

Here is a bonus tip — extra credit, if you will. Years ago, many sites included FAQ pages. They fell out of fashion, but it is time to dust them off, make sure that they are up-to-date, linked into the site structure (not orphaned, as happens with older, unloved content), and the SEO reviewed to make sure it isn’t outdated.

These pages often provide just the type of information a user wants and seeks on a voice-activated device.

Voice search will change how we search. Instead of keying in keywords, we can expect search to become more conversational. If we expect to succeed, we need to think about engaging in an informative conversation with our site users.

The Importance of Brand Voice

Brands are strong and memorable when they have a distinctive, consistent, relevant brand voice. The cultivation, management and protection of that voice requires a deep understanding of what the brand stands for and what it does not.

Mobile megaphoneBrands are strong and memorable when they have a distinctive, consistent, relevant brand voice. It is embedded in their ad executions across channels, in their public actions and PR, in the engagement with their fans and followers on social media, and everywhere they have a visible presence. It is expressed in their choice of language, of images, of topics, of media and of partnerships, among other things. Brands are strong and memorable when they have a distinctive, consistent, relevant brand voice. The cultivation, management and protection of that voice requires a deep understanding of what the brand stands for and what it does not.

It also needs an organizational commitment and a strong directive to be consistent. Brand voice should flow from a series of strategic, internal decisions that map back to the mission and vision of the organization. And yet, under the strain of distributed marketing functions and real time responses, all too often we see that voice falter.

Commonly, the voice wavers when some rogue agent forgets or neglects the brand DNA or is missioned to attract a certain demographic. Misguided attempts to speak in the voice of the audience or to directly address a disrupting competitor can lead a brand astray. It is painful to watch, and can make recovery difficult.

Consider the immense investment in a brand like CNN over decades, across different media channels around the globe. The CNN I watch every morning on cable TV is filled with political commentary, national and world news, and is the go-to resource for many people for real-time updates when catastrophe strikes around the world. It’s not always in-depth reporting, but it is timely and accurate, and I trust CNN as an information source.

The CNN I know online is dedicated to the news, but incorporates a fair amount of fluff and human interest in the form of sponsored content, celebrity news, and various pandering polls. But still, the news remains primary and the online experience puts the consumer in charge of their content mix so they can choose fluff when they want it. Importantly, the fluff remains segregated from the news to a large degree.

Recently, I signed up for a CNN daily email. It’s delivered with a cheery “Good Morning” from CNN and purports to deliver the five things I need to know to get up and out the door each morning. But the voice is jarringly off for a journalistic news source.

CNN's Five Things for Your New DayThe cutesy, sarcastic tone and intentional use of slang and misspellings to discuss serious world issues doesn’t fit the CNN brand as it has come to mean and this direction erodes trust. To their credit, in the aftermath of recent terror attacks when the news was particularly somber, they consciously adjusted that tone for a day or two.

The Voice of Reason

I was completely taken aback by the voice on the other end of the line. He sounded weary—like he might be having a bad month. And he spoke slowly, as if he were having trouble gathering his thoughts. I was feeling impatient. It was the middle of the business day and I had answered my phone in between meetings.

I was completely taken aback by the voice on the other end of the line.

He sounded weary—like he might be having a bad month. And he spoke slowly, as if he were having trouble gathering his thoughts.

I was feeling impatient. It was the middle of the business day and I had answered my phone in between meetings.

By the time he finally laid out his sales pitch, I had already been multi-tasking for a few minutes: dashing off an email, signing off on an expense report, and scribbling down a headline that had popped into my head for a client project.

I politely thanked him for his call, told him I wasn’t interested and hung up. His style was such a turn-off, that I couldn’t recall his name, the company he represented, or the reason he thought I might be a good prospect for his product or service. Net-net, he had wasted my time and his.

So, I have to ask: when was the last time you audited your sales team? I don’t mean their stats—number of calls, number of connects, number of leads, etc., but actually listened in on their calls? Evaluated and provided tips on how an individual might improve with regard to tone and style? It may be the downfall of your telemarketing program.

So here are a five tips to share with your team:

  • Rev the vocal chords before you start dialing for dollars. Just like an athlete warms up before starting to practice, your voice needs time to get ready. Humming, singing or talking to coworkers is a great way to get your chords warmed up.
  • Adjust your pace. A great speaking voice/style includes particular attention to rhythm, pacing, intonation and inflection. Adjusting your tone to find the warmth in your voice that can match your company brand is critical to making your listener feel the same positive energy about your product/service that you’re feeling.
  • Stand up and be heard. Many experts agree that a voice carries more range, resonance and power when the diaphragm isn’t folded over. I often find myself pacing around my office, headset on, participating in a conference call or consultative conversation. It helps me to think clearly and listen more carefully.
  • Step away from the mic. Too often, callers sound muffled or difficult to hear because of their VOIP network, cell phone coverage or background noise. Test out your line/microphone/headset on others so it doesn’t detract from your call.
  • Adapt and reflect. People love to work with people who are like them. As you listen to your prospect, try to match their volume, speed, style and tone without sounding over the top. I was taught to nod while listening (even though they can’t see you) and that “agreement” will come across in your voice.

As for the sad-sack who called me, I’d suggest he find another line of employment. It was clear he didn’t like what he was doing and these tips probably won’t help.

Calling Any Ideas for a Postal Service Future!

I read a review of a recently published biography of President Calvin Coolidge by Amity Schlaes, and it was the first reference I have found to a President who objected to public ownership of the Postal Service. That was nine decades ago! Nothing so earth-shattering is in the works these days, but the Postal Service itself is very much trying to tune up for a future look

Looking for ideas about the Postal Service’s future is very much in vogue these days. I thought I’d curate a few recent media discussions.

I read a review of a recently published biography of President Calvin Coolidge by Amity Schlaes, and it was the first reference I have found to a President who objected to public ownership of the Postal Service. That was nine decades ago!

Nothing so earth-shattering is in the works these days, but the Postal Service itself is very much trying to tune up for a future look. It recently held its third take on PostalVision 2020, and I was enjoying a read by Harte-Hanks resident Postologist Charley Howard on the conference and its idea generation about future revenue streams for the Postal Service, much of the pdf focuses on the digital platform and secure message delivery: http://www.harte-hanks.com/postology/Harte-Hanks_PostologyReport_2013_May.pdf.

Picking up on one of Charley’s questions: Do people in their 20s give the Postal Service a second thought? I was frozen a minute by this recent ReadWrite post: “My Teenage Son Does Not Know How to Mail a Letter, and I Blame Technology.” This is fascinating to a 50-something!

Recently, USPS Office of the Inspector General’s David C. Williams, who participated in PostalVision 2020, issued a public call for proposals—so to speak—on what Americans might expect from the Postal Service going forward. He thoughtfully cataloged some ideas on the office’s blog, citing white papers undertaken by the office: “Giving America a Voice: Digital Services,” “Giving America a Voice: Revenue Generation Opportunities,” “Giving America a Voice: How Best to Cut Costs?” and its initial “Giving America a Voice” post.

Clearly, America has invested in its Postal Service—and continues to do so—so why not build a bridge to a secure national digital delivery platform? To access and procure e-government services? Or the bevy of other ideas brought on the presence of this network, assuming efficiency in execution. When you have a single service that enters every delivery address in the nation almost every day, it’s certainly not a system we should be walking away from.

Getting Your Email Heard Above the Roar of the Holiday Crowd

Getting your message heard above the roar of the holiday crowd requires a different approach. Instead of being the loudest voice, you have to be the voice your customers and prospects want to hear. This requires a marketing shift from one-off deals to providing the service that people want when they need it. The better the relationship between company and customers, the easier it is to connect with them in crowded channels.

The noise in the marketplace is almost deafening under normal conditions. It reaches a high point during the holiday season. Every marketing channel is filled with offers and one-off stunts designed to capture people’s attention, if only for a nanosecond. Frenetic cries from marketers desperate to generate revenue overwhelm the senses of the customers and prospects they seek to engage. Enjoyable shopping experiences become a crazy event that people dread.

Good marketing messages get lost in the attempt to outshout the competition. The constant barrage of screaming marketers becomes white noise to recipients. They become adept at filtering out the extraneous information to only hear the messages they need. This ability is similar to athletes who hear their coaches over thousands of fans.

Getting your message heard above the roar of the holiday crowd requires a different approach. Instead of being the loudest voice, you have to be the voice your customers and prospects want to hear. This requires a marketing shift from one-off deals to providing the service that people want when they need it. The better the relationship between company and customers, the easier it is to connect with them in crowded channels. If your past marketing strategy included provided highly targeted messages your customers are already tuned into your messages. If not, here are a few things you can do now to be heard above the crowd:

  • Make everything as easy as possible. When it comes to making people happy, easy trumps exceptional. This is especially true during the holiday season when time is limited. Create emails that include everything needed to make a buying decision and minimize the number of click from the email link to check out.
  • Be available. Sometimes people have questions that are not addressed in the email, catalog or online. Put your telephone number on every piece of marketing materials, in every email and on every web page. It will increase your sales without significantly increasing your calls. If you offer click to chat service, include a link to it in your emails.
  • Preselect items to simplify the shopping process. Buying patterns change during holiday season because people shift from shopping for self to shopping for others. Review historical data for seasonal purchases and make appropriate recommendations for similar products or services.
  • Offer reassurance. The best delivery and return policies cannot influence purchase decisions if people don’t know about them. Provide specific “order by to receive in time” dates during the shopping process. Send transactional emails that include expected delivery dates and shipping confirmation numbers with a link to the carrier. If there are any issues with the order, notify the buyer immediately.
  • Follow up on abandoned carts. Life gets a little crazy during the holidays. It’s normal to see a bump in abandoned carts since people are ordering more and trying to be secretive about it. Browsers get closed quickly when others walk into the room. Double check your online and email reminders to make sure that they are working. If you don’t have a reminder process in place, add one.
  • Show appreciation. After enough time has passed for the order to be delivered, send an email to verify receipt, thank the customer for the order, and offer assistance if needed. Doing this distinguishes you from the competition, encourages feedback and improves trust. Be sure to use a valid reply address. Test using an individual’s email address versus a generic corporate one. People tend to respond to other people better.
  • Prepare for next year. Create and implement a strategy that is designed to keep people engaged and listening for your voice. The more they are tuned in to your marketing messages the less they will hear the competition.

6 Video Presentation Tips to Elevate Your Online Marketing

The video you create is but one component of your online direct marketing campaign. Yes, the video is what viewers are driven to—it’s the vehicle that delivers your story. However, without lists, email and landing page copywriting and design, blog comments and posts, social media entries, pay-per-click ads, YouTube advertising, etc., your video

Online Video Marketing Deep Dive co-author Perry Alexander takes over this week while Gary is away.

The video you create is but one component of your online direct marketing campaign. Yes, the video is what viewers are driven to—it’s the vehicle that delivers your story. However, without lists, email and landing page copywriting and design, blog comments and posts, social media entries, pay-per-click ads, YouTube advertising, etc., your video stands little chance to be viewed.

Think of the parallel: We know that without the intentional series of steps to get our direct mail package into readers’ hands, opened and scanned long enough for them to catch the lead, there’s slim chance it’ll make any impact.

Just as the direct mail letter headline and lead must drive the reader to stick with it, so must the first few seconds of your video. Your video must create and instantly set the visual and auditory tone that will draw the viewer through those precious first few seconds and into your story.

My co-author and business colleague, Gary Hennerberg, is the master copywriter of our team and, as he says, I “make stuff look good.” I make sure the story isn’t overshadowed by lousy presentation or distractions, which can repel, or at least divert the reader. Let’s go through some of the ways to make your video command attention—during the first few seconds and beyond.

  1. Bad audio will douse viewers’ interest long before bad video will. Don’t rely on your on-camera mike or, worse, your computer mike. You’ve heard these videos—they sound like they were recorded in a barrel or a cave. Viewer’s interpretation: Your presentation was slapped together, therefore your product or service is, too, so why should I bother listening?
    The Deep Dive:
    If your camera has a mike input, use a lav mike (Gary and I each use a $25 Audio-Technica). If there’s no external mike input on your camera, use a digital voice recorder to record quality sound, either through its built-in mikes or plug the lav mike into it (we both use the same $100 Sony recorder). Then, in editing, sync the audio from both the camera and voice recorder, then mute the camera audio. The mechanics of this are tricky at first, but once you’ve done it a couple of times it becomes routine and your sound is crisp and clear.
  2. Bad video won’t help matters. A webcam video looks like, well, you used a webcam—even an HD webcam. Not only is the image soft, but exposure is usually off, color isn’t great, and what about all that stuff in the background behind you? The message struggles to get out. Again, it screams that your story doesn’t deserve the viewer’s consideration. It’s just a throwaway webcam production about a throwaway idea. What does your viewer do? Click away to something else after just a few seconds.
    The Deep Dive:
    You wouldn’t dream of tossing a half-baked direct mail piece out into the market, expecting it to convince your audience of the value of whatever you’re offering them, would you? Anything that distracts from the message must be stripped away so only the message is noticed. Same with video. Get a $100 Flip or Sony camera and a tripod, or even the latest iPhone. Better: spend $400 for an HD video camera for long-form videos. If your shots are under 5-10 minutes each, use your DSLR. (We use a $100 flip-type camera on Gary’s videos.)
  3. On-camera jitters? Maybe the prospect of speaking into a camera lens is frightening, or at least off-putting. Really, though, after several miserable attempts, you will improve. Evenutally you get to where you imagine you’re just talking with another person in the room, and your fear melts away.
    The Deep Dive:
    Your job is to tell the story. How? Reveal your personality and mastery. Build trust. The call-to-action will produce nothing for you until after that’s all been established. Consider being in front of the camera just long enough to introduce your premise, then moving into slides, charts, photos, graphics or other images that tell your story. That way, you don’t have to memorize a long script. You can refer to notes as you narrate what’s on screen. On-camera script reading is usually deadly, anyway. If you’re on screen for a quick 20-30 seconds, know your stuff. Roll through several takes until you’ve looked that monster in the eye (lens), and said your piece naturally, completely, and with relaxed authority. Now you have their attention and trust!
  4. Stock photos, stock footage, stock music, stock sound effects? You’ve seen the websites with stiff and trite stock photos. Somebody, please explain what that might ever accomplish, because we’ve all seen that picture a thousand times. Filler doesn’t move the story along. But, relevant graphics that work can emphasize a point quickly and vividly. An occasional “foley” sound effect can emphasize a point, just don’t overuse transition swooshes, or they’ll become distracting gimmicks.
    The Deep Dive:
    Map out your storyline. What images will support or clarify what you’re saying? Use images that are specific to your product, service, technique, timeliness, etc. Short of that, invest time finding stock images, footage, music or sounds. It’s all online, and for not much money. YouTube and Vimeo even offer stock music beds you can use at no cost. But be careful in your choices. Be brutal in editing. Anything that distracts or detracts from your story and message, leading to your call-to-action, must be cut.
  5. Go short or go long? Conventional wisdom, born out by YouTube analytics, is that video viewer falloff is precipitous after the first 30 seconds or less. So, does that mean we must never consider creating a 3-minute or, horrors, a 15-minute video? Perhaps. Remember, everything must serve to support the story. Do that right, and they’ll stay with you.
    The Deep Dive:
    Conventional wisdom has always warned us not to use long-form copy in letters. However, seasoned, successful copywriters know that a well-told story will hold interest across 2, 4, even 16 pages. Same with video. Don’t rush to push features, advantages, benefits. Find the relevant hook, then reveal, build and educate about the issue. Lead them to want—then crave—the answer to the quandary or dilemma you’re setting up. Now, the sales copy tastes like good soup.
  6. Editing is half the storytelling. Putting up an unedited video is like mailing the first draft of your letter. It’s probably loose, meandering, dulling to the senses. Resist, revise and remove whatever doesn’t move your story along!
    The Deep Dive:
    Video editing brings clarity and precision to your story. The pace and direction are honed so the viewer is drawn in and held through the call-to-action. It’s an interwoven dance of timing, splicing, movement, color, design, sound, mood and the ruthless removal of what’s not contributing. But, you need two things: A) the knack to know when it’s right and when it’s not and, B) mastery of a video editing program, so you can accomplish your vision.

There’s so much more to cover, but perhaps you’re getting a sense of how online video marketing requires many skills and decisions so familiar to the direct mail pro. Different tools … different vehicles … similar foundational concepts. As always, we invite your comments, criticism or questions.

Drop me an email, and we’ll get you the list of resources, brand names, part numbers and such of what we’ve found works in our ever-evolving video marketing tool chest: perry@acm-initiatives.com