Viewing all posts by Heather Lloyd-Martin.

Are Your Online Sales Slipping? This Could Be Why …

Women on slip-and-slide

Don’t let your customers slip away!

It’s never easy to lose thousands of dollars every month to your competitors.

The company (let’s call it Company X) used to be at the top of their game. Product sales were brisk. Their testimonials were excellent. They dominated Google search results for their main keyphrases.

Then, things started to slow. “It’s seasonal,” thought the CMO. “There’s nothing to worry about.”

Two years and many seasons later, business was down by 50%. The product quality hadn’t changed. In fact, nothing internally had changed.

And that was the problem.

Externally, the marketplace had changed – a lot. There were new competitors. Some trends had shifted. The target audience was looking for slightly different benefits presented in a slightly different way.

People were still buying. But not from Company X. The fantastic reviews, great testimonials and top search rankings weren’t enough.

What happened?

Many companies look at outside causes when sales slow down. It’s the economy. It’s a seasonal slowdown. Times are tough “everywhere.”

Yet, the problem can often lie with something completely controllable.

The site copy.

If your sales are slowing and you don’t know why, it’s time to take a hard look at your site content. Here are some steps to take:

Pay close attention to new competitors. What is their unique positioning statement and how does it compare to yours? How well do they discuss their benefit statements? Are they using a tone and feel that resonates better with the target audience? You don’t want to copy a competitor’s strategy. But you can learn from them.

Consider how the marketplace has changed. A major benefit two years ago may get a “meh” response from prospects today. Survey (or preferably, chat with) current customers and learn what’s important to them now. The information you learn can help you A/B test different benefit statements and see what resonates with your audience.

Review your keyphrase research. When’s the last time you reviewed your keyphrase research? Phrases that worked great a few years ago may be too limiting today. See if you can capitalize on new keyphrases, especially ones that target prospects at an earlier phase of the buy cycle.

Review all of your marketing collateral. ALL of it. This means your autoresponders, your site copy, your LinkedIn profile – everything. Chances are, you’ll find some cringe-worthy blog posts, some typos and some messaging that’s outdated and stale. Figure out a plan for addressing your copywriting blind spots and fix them.  If you think your site sounds stale, just imagine what your readers think.

Get an outsider’s opinion. It’s easy to let our egos get in the way of smart sales copy. We may love our writing. But our readers may not. Your copy may be perceived as “too overwhelming.” You may not be providing enough information. Or, your content could be so filled with marketing speak that your reader doesn’t really know what you’re selling. Hiring a consultant (or even asking a trusted colleague to help) can often uncover some quick, easy fixes you can make.

Does this mean you may have to revamp all of your site content? Perhaps. Or, you may be able to make some strategic SEO and content tweaks that can have a huge impact. The key is to immediately develop a strategic plan and start doing something.  After all, there’s no reason to let your so-so content result in lost sales opportunities.

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Creative Commons licensed photo thanks to Jeffrey Smith.

5 Ways to Spice Up Your B2B Content

SpicesNews flash: B2B content doesn’t have to be boring.

I know, I know. Writing for B2B sites isn’t easy. Products like lanyards and construction helmets aren’t necessarily sexy. Your competitors’ sites are probably just as boring. And the powers-that-be may feel more comfortable with “just the facts” feature-filled content.

Yet, for many (most) B2B sites, there’s room for so much improvement. By adding just a little bit of spice, you can connect with your readers and boost your conversion rates.

Here’s how to do it:

Use the word “you” in your copy

You are not selling to robots. Nor are you selling to a “company.” You are selling to people. And people (otherwise known as your target readers) respond to the word “you.”  Using the word personalizes your message and makes your content more compelling. For a great example, check out Basecamp’s homepage. Their line, “Our job is to help you do your job better” is a fantastic mission statement. It’s punchy, personal and implies a pretty big benefit. Plus, it makes you want to look more closely at their services – so the content is definitely doing it’s job.

Shorten your sentences

Many B2B companies are guilty of zombie run-on sentences. You read one endless sentence and BOOM you see another one. They’re everywhere. And they suck the life out of the content.  Guess what? Nobody wants to read your 35+ word sentences.  If you find yourself writing long, paragraph-like sentences, mix up your sentence structure, stat! Write one longer sentence and then follow it up with a shorter one. Experiment. Your copy will be much punchier as a result.

Get inside your readers’ heads

What is your reader really thinking? It’s not, “Hey, I’m going to purchase these firefighting helmets for our team.” It’s probably something like, “I need to find the safest, most comfortable helmets for the best possible cost.” You shouldn’t start writing until you have fleshed out what your unique sales proposition is, what’s driving your reader to make a purchase and what motivates them. If companies in your industry are known for poor customer service, play up the fact that you have staff on call 24/7. If your solution is high value (and more expensive,) overcome any price objections within your copy and show how paying more is a great investment. The more you know what your reader is thinking when he or she reaches your landing page, the more persuasive your content.

Boost your benefit statements

Have you ever wanted to scream “HOW DOES THIS PRODUCT HELP ME?!” Yeah. Me too. Features are nice but they don’t tell the whole story. It’s one thing to sell a hard hat. It’s another to discuss how your hard hat won’t slip off, is ultra comfortable and won’t cause headaches. Statements like that will cause your target reader to sit up and take notice.

Dare to be different

I am so tired of people saying that their content has to be boring. Why? It’s “industry standard.” If they write it any differently, their target market may respond negatively. Look at companies like AppSumo. Their content for their Piktochart product not only tells a story, it tells a funny story – plus weaves in some impressive benefit statements. They even use the words “you” and “your.”  Their sales copy shows being different works and can truly differentiate your product line. Sure, I’m sure they’ve tested their results to confirm that the tone and feel is spot on. But at least they took a chance rather than following the herd.

Instead of making excuses, why not go out on a limb? Try one (or more) of these spicy techniques and see what sticks. Rewrite a landing page. Test new approaches via social media.

You may be surprised at the results. And you may make more money, too.

Photo thanks to Clyde Robinson. 

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New to SEO writing? 5 Essential Things You Need to Know

Are you new to SEO writing and wondering if it’s right for you?

You may fear that SEO writing is too technical. Or it’s too unnatural to write “how Google wants.”

Relax. SEO writing is much easier than you think.

If you’re looking to build a new skill set, here are the essential things you need to know.

- You need to be a good writer. Period.  

Can you tell a compelling story? Can you keep readers on the edge of their seats, salivating for more information? Good. SEO writing is more than “giving Google what it wants.” It’s being a good writer – period.  That means years of writing, practice and good old fashioned trial and error. Understanding Google’s “rules” doesn’t mean a thing if your site copy sucks.

- What you think is SEO writing may not be accurate

I’ve talked with many writers who say, “SEO writing is so unnatural. I don’t want to worry about keyphrases, meta descriptions and search engine stuff.” I get it. I do. At the same time, the definition of good SEO writing has changed over time. It’s no longer about sticking as many keyphrases into the content as you can. It’s about writing tremendous content and making it easy for people to find it. Once you learn the “rules” of SEO writing, you’ll see that they aren’t as restrictive as you thought!

-  Geek speak? No problem. You’ve got this.

HTML. Meta descriptions. rel=author. SEOs’ alphabet-soupy terminology can be scary – especially if you’re a new writer. After hearing the terminology, some writers decide right then to never learn SEO. After all, SEO is what “geeky people do.”

Although the terminology is a bit propeller-head geeky, it’s actually easy to figure out. Yes, there’s a learning curve. No, you won’t understand everything in a day. But you will understand it. It just takes practice.

- You really do need to learn this stuff.

If you write in-house, mastering SEO writing will give you the skills to really shine. The content you write will be sharable, seen by the right people and drive lots of yummy traffic. That means great job security (and more opportunities) for you. If you’re freelancing, offering SEO writing services to your clients gives you another profit center. After all, if you don’t offer it as a service – your competition will.

- No matter what, it will help your career.

Are you selling a book? Understanding SEO will help you reach more people, build your authority and create a killer author platform. Starting a side business? Why pay an SEO consultant to drive traffic when you can do the work yourself? Want to get a better writing job? Companies love working with experienced writers with proven track records. A few hours of learning time could result in a huge income jump. That’s some pretty powerful ROI.

I love teaching people how to be better writers! If you sign up for my newsletter, you’ll learn about the latest blog posts, be first in line for exclusive sales and more. Join me!

 

Photo thanks to © Edwardsamuel | Dreamstime.com

9 (more) questions writers ask about SEO copywriting

Would being an SEO copywriter make you smile?

Wondering if you’d be happy as an SEO copywriter?

In a previous blog post, I discussed 9 common questions writers ask about SEO copywriting. But what about SEO copywriting as a career choice? If you’ve wondered how you could find a job as an SEO copywriter – or how you can start a freelance shop – this post is for you.

I originally wrote this post in 2012 and I’ve updated it to reflect other questions I answer every day. Enjoy!

I’m a print copywriter.  Are you sure that I can learn this? Or can an old dog really learn new tricks?

Yes, this is a skill that you can learn and master (check out Lynda Goldman’s interview for a real-life success story.)  Online writing is much different than print copywriting – so there will be a learning curve. At the same time, if you know how to write and connect with your audience, that’s half the battle. The main challenge I see with print copywriters is that they think that SEO copywriting is too “technical” to learn. Here’s how I answer that question …

I’m not a really technical person. Can I still do this?

Yes, you can. It’s true that the more you know about the “techie” side of SEO (and SEO copywriting,) the more opportunities that you’ll have. I highly recommend reading everything you can about SEO (including how to code) and upgrading your skills. Having said that, there are many SEO copywriters who partner with SEO firms. The copywriter writes the copy – and the SEO firm takes care of the “techie stuff.”

There seems to be a lot of SEO copywriters online. Is the market too saturated?

Nope. Granted, if you want business, you’ll have to learn how to market yourself – and ideally, you’ll choose a niche. But there are still many opportunities to make money.

But I’ve heard that SEO copywriting is dead. Is that true?

Nope. Certainly, the SEO writing “rules” have changed. And it’s more important than ever to keep up. But companies (and clients) are still begging for smart SEO writers who can help make them money.

What kind of companies hire in-house SEO copywriters?

All types of companies, including B2B, B2C and publishing companies. If you’re looking to work in-house, think about sites that produce a large amount of content every month – and consider those companies possible employment targets. For instance, ecommerce sites are constantly updating their product pages and blogs. A publishing company may require you to write SEO-optimized articles. Some in-house writers may also create newsletters, emails and white papers. Others focus just on SEO copy. It depends on the employer.

I’ve seen job titles like “Web content writer,” or “SEO content writer.” Is that the same thing?

Yup. There are quite a few different job titles for SEO copywriters. The main thing is choosing a job that fits your skill set. For instance, if you love blogging – but sales pages aren’t fun for you – you’ll want to choose a job that’s more social media related. If you can write high-converting sales pages, you may want to look at jobs that allow you to write landing pages, product pages and service pages.

Can I find a job that can teach me this stuff?

Yes, but don’t expect to get paid a lot. Many companies are looking to turn this over to an “internal expert” – so you’ll make more money if you have training, experience and fantastic clips. Having said that, starting out as a “copywriting assistant,” can fast-track your knowledge. Some of the best copywriters I know had someone helping them expand their skills. The pay may be lower, but the experience will be fantastic!

How can I find clients (or someone who would hire me full time?)

If you’re looking for an in-house job, you can certainly check out online job boards and see what’s out there. However, I recommend getting out there and actively networking – especially within your local community. Many writing jobs are “insider hires” that aren’t posted. The more you can connect with people, the more you’ll learn about secret opportunities and can position yourself as the perfect candidate!

Networking (whether it’s local or on social media) is also important if you want to freelance. In a perfect world, most of your clients come from referrals and you have a steady stream of business. Many freelancers love LinkedIn for copywriting leads. Pam Foster has said that LinkedIn “has been more fruitful … by far, than any other marketing method.” Why not give it a shot?

I want to be my own boss and work as a freelance SEO copywriter instead. How do I do that?

Read my “Ultimate Guide for Beginners.” it will tell you everything that you want to know.

I’ve heard that SEO writing is a low-paying gig. Tell me why I’d want to do this.

It’s true that some companies pay a paltry $5 per blog post. Having said that, some companies pay $250 or more per post – especially if the writer is truly top notch. I know many SEO writers who are happily writing content and making a fantastic living. You won’t make 100K starting out (whether you freelance or work full time.) But you can find clients (and employers) who value great writing. As your skills improve and you can demonstrate results, you can make more money over time. That’s pretty cool.

Wow, I’m sold! I want to quit my job tomorrow and freelance full time. What do you think?

Um, don’t do this. Not unless you have a pretty flush savings account, have clients already lined up, or have other income coming in. No matter how “hot” SEO copywriting is as an opportunity, it takes time to get your business off the ground. Having said that, learning everything you can about running a successful copywriting business will help you make more money, faster. For instance, check out my Copywriting Business Bootcamp classes for all of the topics that you’ll need to master.

Are there other ways I can use my SEO writing skills?

Heck yes. If you ever want to launch a side business, your SEO skills give you a competitive advantage. You’ll know how to drive more traffic and convert it into paying customers. Want to help out a friend who owns a business? Yes, you can do that, too. I’ve even heard of SEO writers bartering their skills for Pilates lessons, haircuts, landscaping … you name it. Plus, if you ever write a book, you can easily build an author platform with your SEO know-how.

Are you sure this is fun?

Oh yeah. It’s really fun. If you enjoy a fast-paced career – and you love working in an ever-changing industry – you’ll love SEO copywriting. If it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t have been doing this for the last 16 years. :)

Want step-by-step SEO-writing training and personalized help? Check out the SEO Copywriting Certification training!

Climb out of your comfort zone!

I'm the one in the blue, hanging on for dear life. And yes, I was VERY scared!

I’m the one in the blue, hanging on for dear life. And yes, I was VERY scared!

I have an incredible fear of heights.

Bouldering makes every muscle I have tighten up with anxiety.

And I don’t do heat well. If it’s over 75 degrees, I feel like I’m melting.

So of course I spent 16 days rafting the Grand Canyon – the land of sheer drops, lots of bouldering and 105+ degree temperatures.

Why?

Because catapulting myself out of my comfort zone provides me incredible clarity.

Some backstory: About a year and a half ago, my husband won a river rafting permit for the Grand Canyon. Some people wait a lifetime to win a permit. My husband has won two. If only he could use his superpowers to win the lottery, but I digress …

Mind you, Ron (my husband) and I are the Odd Couple of marriage. I love the city. He prefers living in the suburbs away from people. He’s quiet. I am … not. He loves camping. I would prefer a spa with daily massages. We make it work.

So when this trip became real, I knew I’d have to push myself. I’d rafted the Canyon before and I knew all the ways I’d be pushed:

- I’d have to take about three weeks off work – with no access to anything electronic.

- I’d be dealing with searing (and shadeless) heat for hours every day.

- I’d be around my fellow group members almost ALL THE TIME. For someone who is used to having hours of alone time, the social obligations were daunting.

- I would not be able to enjoy five minutes of my “normal” home routine – from what time I got up, when I would go to bed, what I would eat and how I would spend my time.

- I’d have to be careful all the time. I found a scorpion in my pants on day three. I almost broke my toe day 12. Not to mention the other bumps, bruises and general klutziness I experienced.

- And oh yeah. I could die. Or another member of my trip could die. There were two deaths within the 3-week period I was there.

Did I lose it during the trip? Yes (day three, 11 and 13.) Did I secretly wish I had stayed home and enjoyed my air conditioning? Yes.

Despite the pain (and yes, there was pain,) the experience was worth it.  Jumping out of my comfort zone provided me some incredible gifts I wouldn’t have learned any other way.

Although I’m awfully good at providing well-meaning advice, I get stuck. And scared. And confused. I go on autopilot when I can’t think of what else to do. Instead of feeling energetic, my energy sits there and stagnates.

Maybe that’s something you go through, too.

Once I was back home and settled, I realized I could think more clearly. It wasn’t a case of “Heather finally took a real vacation.” It was more “Heather pushed herself and realized the benefits.”

- Things that seemed “impossible” before seem challenging now … but doable.

- I’m more able to let go of the things that don’t serve me (clients, busywork, emotions.)

- I feel less fearful and more confident. Heck, I crawled down a 25-foot rock wall. After that, I feel like I can do anything.

Plus, I feel like I can finally start making some pretty major changes. They don’t seem as daunting anymore. If anything, not making these changes seems like a scary alternative.

I’m sharing this with you because you may also need to jump out of your comfort zone and hang out on a virtual ledge. Instead of trusting your fears, you’ll need to “trust your feet” (as I heard over and over) and know that they’ll lead you where you need to go.

Granted, that’s harder to do when you’re home. You probably have set times you write, when you spend with family and when you work out (because you do exercise – right?) You may eat the same thing for breakfast because it’s easy. You may rely on your routine because it’s safe.

(I do the same thing.)

My challenge to you is to do something a little different every day. Work at a different cafe. Take a new route home. Write copy for a new vertical.

Then, see how you can really push yourself. If you’ve never run before, start running and sign up for a 5K. Jump out of an airplane. Take a few days off and refuse to check anything electronic.

The more you push yourself, the more you’ll learn. Sure, it will be scary. And you’ll kick back a number of times.

But the experience will be well worth it.

Where do I go from here? I’m still percolating on my options. There are times when I want to make a drastic change. Other times, I realize that I can make a bunch of little changes and see some big results.

All I know is, I’m ready to climb off that comfort-zone ledge.

C’mon. Why don’t you climb down with me? It will be fun. :)

Have you been wanting to start your own copywriting business? It’s time to take the leap! (With help.) Sign up for Heather’s Copywriting Business Boot Camp course today and finally experience the freedom you’ve been looking for.

How to charge for freelance copywriting services

Probably the most common question that freelance copywriters ask me is “How much should I charge?”

I know what these folks are really asking. They want me to gaze into a crystal ball and reply, “You should charge $X per page. If you charge that rate, clients will love you and you’ll make lots of money. Now go forth and write.”

If it was only that simple.

Pricing for copywriting services will always be a challenge. When you’re just starting out, you don’t know what you don’t know – so it’s very easy to undercharge (or price yourself too high.)

When you’ve been in business for a few years, raising your rates can be a very scary experience. You’re afraid of losing the clients you already have (or not being able to land new ones.)

Of course, it doesn’t make sense to stay in business if you’re never able to raise your rates…so you’ll constantly be facing this dilemma.

Then, there’s always figuring out the best way to charge the client. Per page? Per project? Come up with a magical number and hope the client goes for it (yes, we’ve all been there!) ;)

If you’re stuck in the “how should I charge for services” quandary, here are some guidelines to get you through.

First, you’ll want to start by asking yourself four questions. These questions are applicable if you’re brand new to freelancing, or if you have an established business. In fact, you may want to revisit these questions every six months or so and confirm that you’re still on track.

Question #1: What are your income goals?

This is an incredibly important point that many freelancers ignore. I’ve seen freelancers charge $10 a page just to get business in the door – without realizing the long-term impact of that decision. Think about it: If you have a $750/month rent payment, that means that you need to write 75 articles a month just to make your rent. That’s not counting food, electricity, gas, taxes…you get the picture.

Do you really see yourself writing 150 articles a month just to make $1,500? Nope. I didn’t think so.

To come up with an income goal, you’ll first want to determine what your monthly expenses are (both business and personal.) Then, increase that number by 35% (which represents what you’ll want to set aside for taxes.) This is the base amount you’ll need to make just to keep your doors open.

I would recommend adding another 10% to that number, too. That way, you can put money aside for a new computer, travel, or any other business expense that may pop up. Better to put that money aside now than put a purchase on a credit card later.

Question #2: Who is your target market?

Is your heart with small, local businesses? That’s fantastic! Just know that small businesses have smaller budgets  – and if you’re expecting mom and pop businesses to pay you $300 per page – or $250 an hour -  you’ll need to adjust your expectations. However, if you’re working within a specialty niche market, it’s possible to charge much more money.

Question #3: What’s your experience level?

Here’s a reality check: If you are new to copywriting, your rates will need to reflect that. You are not going to start out making $500 a page, no matter how many books promise “huge profits” in your first few months.  Once you can show results (happy client testimonials, rankings, case studies, etc.,) you’ll be able to charge your target audience more money.

Experienced copywriters can (and should) charge more. Have you gone through specialized training (such as the SEO Copywriting Certification training?). Have you written a book? Are you the recognized copywriting expert in a certain niche? Are you a recognized speaker and trainer? These feathers in your cap can (and should) translate into a higher per-page rate.

Question #4: What are other writers charging?

This one is trickier. Some writers will share their pricing information. Others consider it competitive information.  Chris Marlow developed a copywriting pricing guide that provides some guidelines. And sometimes, clients are very open about what other writers have charged in the past. Just remember – just because a writer is charging X doesn’t mean that you should charge the same thing.

So, now that you hopefully have a better idea of how to charge, let’s consider the various ways you can work with clients.

Hourly pricing:

Some freelancers love hourly pricing. On the surface, it looks like a great way to make sure that you’re getting paid for all of your research and writing time. However, this approach can backfire in a number of ways.

First, it works against you as a writer. When you first start out, it may take you five hours to write one page. A year later, it may only take half of that. That means that the better and faster you write, the less money you’ll actually make. You can compensate for this by raising your hourly rate, but the other challenge is…

…hourly pricing doesn’t showcase the value of what you offer. Since clients don’t know how much work goes into writing a page, they’ll often ask you to “only spend an hour” or “just a few minutes” to save time (and money.) That means you’ll be turning in sub-standard work and making less money. No fun.

Per-page pricing:

Most freelancers I know operate on a per-page basis. This structure is easy for clients to understand – they know that every web page you write is going to cost X.  It also allows freelancers to charge for the value of their work. After all, if you spend 10 minutes writing a page – and that page results in $10,000 worth of sales – charging $300 is a pretty solid investment.

The challenge with per-page pricing is that you need to have very clear boundaries. If your client asks you to “make just a few extra tweaks” (that weren’t originally in the scope of the agreement,) – you’ll “lose” money. Your contract should include information about how many revisions are included, how long you’ll spend on the phone with their team and what work is considered in and out of scope.  Be warned – a client who needs to chat with you 30 minutes a day to “make sure we’re on the same page,” will eat up your budget quickly – so make sure that you set expectations up front.

Project-based pricing:

This is also a popular way of pricing client projects. Rather than outlining your services and how much they cost, you’d quote a price for the entire project.  This can be an excellent pricing method if you’re afraid that the client will slice something out of the quote that you’ll need to do your job well (such as cutting out keyphrase research in order to save a few bucks. Yes. it happens.)

The challenge with project-based pricing is you may underestimate the time you’ll need to spend – so what you think will take you 10 hours may take you 25.  Sometimes, you can go back to the client and ask for more money…but usually only if you’re already addressed this in your agreement. Otherwise, it looks like a bait-and-switch.

Like per-page pricing, you’ll have to set some really clear boundaries. If this is your preferred pricing method, just make sure that the client understands what’s included – and what may trigger an additional fee (with the client’s approval, of course.) That way, you’re protected – and the client knows exactly what they’re paying for.

One final warning…

My final piece of advice? Don’t sell yourself short.  It’s tempting to charge a rock-bottom rate just to get business in the door – or be too afraid to raise your rates. As my father used to tell me, “If nobody is complaining that your prices are too high, you’re not charging enough.”

That’s excellent advice.

What about you? What pricing advice would you add?

 

Time’s running out to save $150 on the SEO Copywriting Certification! Sign up now to add skill that raise your rates with the code CATSAWAY until June 17.

Photo thanks goes to 401K.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 SEO copywriting tips for B2B companies

I love working with B2B companies. Many times, they have scads of unique content opportunities – they just need someone to point them out and send them in the right direction.

If you work for a B2B company and you’ve been wondering, “Why are people bouncing out of our site so fast” or “Why don’t we position for X keyterm,” read on. You may benefit from one (or all) of these five SEO copy tips.:

  • Do you know who you’re writing for? Who is your target audience? Do you serve multiple target audiences?  For instance, you may serve real estate agents, solopreneurs and large corporations.  That means three different audiences (or personas) – and each persona will have different goals, motivations and needs. Creating personalized content for your company’s different personas allow you to customize the content around what they need to see – and can help conversion rates skyrocket. For instance, Paymo clearly outlines their target markets on their home page, and lists persona-specific benefits.

  • Qualify your keyphrases for the B2B market. Many B2B keyterms can cause “keyphrase confusion” if they aren’t qualified for your market. For instance, when you think “blades,” you may think “server blades.” However, “blades” could also mean “hockey blades,” or “razor blades.” If you were a B2B company focusing on the single term “blades” when you really mean “server blades,” you’ll be missing the search engine boat.

Adding the qualifying word (in this case, “server”) will help the page position for the B2B phrase. Here’s how Dell does it:

  • Consider your tone and feel. One of the easiest ways a B2B company can differentiate itself is through well-written, engaging copy. That doesn’t mean that the content should sound “fluffy” or be inappropriate for the brand. But it does mean that you probably have more room to move than you think. For example, check out FreshBooks’ home page. I never thought an invoice could “Earn the awe of your clients,” but hey, the copy gets the point across in a fresh, snappy way.
  • Create clickable Titles. A common B2B Title is structured like this:  keyword | keyword | keyword| (insert company name here.) You wouldn’t write a headline like that – so why would you let the first opportunity for conversion (getting the click from the search engines results page) pass you by?  Create a compelling, “clickable” Title by including a benefit statement or even a call to action. For instance, check out this example from PSPrint. Their Title has keyphrases. It has a benefit statement. And it positions in the top ten, too. Triple score!

  • Leverage the content you have. B2B companies tend to have many content opportunity. For instance, newsletter content can be re-purposed for a blog post. You could create transcripts of past Webinars and post them online. Existing site copy could be transformed into top-positioning SEO copy through strategic keyphrase editing. The possibilities are out there – it’s just uncovering them, setting an editorial calendar and making it happen.

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5 SEO Client Types to Avoid at All Costs

Mullet

Is your prospect all business in the front and a party in the back?

Do you instantly hit the “ignore” button when you see a certain client’s name come up on caller ID?

Do you write “please shoot me” notes during client calls?

Choosing the wrong clients is a slow, sure path to insanity. Fortunately, these folks throw up some pretty obvious red flags during the sales process. The key to business success is noticing those red flags in the moment – and not deluding yourself into thinking you can “fix” the client (yeah, right!)

Here are five common SEO client types to avoid at all costs:

- The “Taylor Swift” client

“All of my past SEO providers did me wrong and I want to tell the world!”

If a prospect is outlining her grievances about every SEO firm she’s worked with – and this is your first phone call – you may want to steer clear. It’s true that people can make bad SEO-provider decisions. And it’s true that there are bad SEO companies out there – and you may need to repair some legitimate damage. At the same time, you’ll want to proceed with caution when you notice that blinking neon chip on her shoulder. Especially if the prospect is ranting about her SEO exes instead of discussing the project.

With a “Taylor Swift” client, the real problem may not be “bad” SEO companies. Instead, the client may have some … issues. Just know you will never be her SEO knight in shining armor. No matter how well you perform, you too will “do her wrong” eventually - and she’ll add your story to the mix.

Do you really want to get involved with that hot mess?

- The mullet master

“I know a lot about SEO. I need doorway pages and article spinning.”

Does your prospect’s site scream 1999? Are they talking to you about doorway pages, keyphrase density and submitting to article directories? Your client could be so stuck in the SEO past that educating them will be a full-time job.

Assuming they listen to you.

Justin Timberlake may be able to bring sexy back, but you won’t be able to bring keyphrase density back. In a perfect world, you’re able to educate your prospect - and she actually listens to you and takes your advice. Unfortunately, many SEO prospects who are stuck in the past stay that way. They like it there. And they’ll keep calling providers until they reach someone who says, “Article directories? I love it! Yes, I can help!”

The “Yeah … but” prospect

“Yeah … but are you really sure that will work? My mother’s uncle’s cousin said I should try something else.”

Feeling like you’re talking to a brick wall? Do you have tiny bald patches from ripping out your hair? You’re talking to the “Yeah … but” prospect.  This person will shoot down any idea you have, even if they are the one who called you for help.

Unfortunately, this prospect is so pessimistic that making a decision is impossible. You’ll send proposal after proposal, but none of them will be right. Follow-up calls won’t help. Client education won’t help. This prospect is stuck in a deep hole of indecision and there’s no way to dig them out. Nor will you probably ever sign a gig with them. Walking away is the safest thing you can do for your sanity (and your bottom line.)

- The “Wimpy” client

“I don’t pay deposits. I’ll pay you the entire invoice when the job is complete.”

This is the client who would gladly pay you Tuesday for SEO work you do today.  When asked about paying a retainer, their flat answer is “no.” Maybe it’s because they’ve been “burned by a bad SEO provider” (see my earlier point above.) Perhaps it’s not “how accounts payable does things.” That puts you in an uncomfortable situation. If you want the gig, you have to trust that the client will pay you – and pay you on time.

Your response to this type of client should be something along the lines of “No freakin’ way.” Paying a deposit is a standard practice that shouldn’t freak out a possible client. If it does freak them out, that’s a huge red flag. Essentially, the client is asking you to extend them credit and take on all the risk. If things like paying rent and eating are important to you, always get a deposit up front.

The “shiny objects” client

“I need help with my SEO copywri … Look! A squirrel!”

One day, your prospect is pumped about Pinterest. The next, she’s talking about adding new blog content. The following week, she’s changed her strategy entirely and feels it’s time for a redesign. In the meantime, you find yourself sending multiple proposals and spending hours chatting about your prospect’s “cool idea.”

On the positive side, these prospects are extremely excited about the SEO and marketing opportunities. On the negative side, they often want to implement them all. Right now. And then change their minds.

Shiny-objects clients are notoriously difficult to work with. Sometimes, you can pin them down and get them to sign a contract. Just be prepared for lots of forwarded emails promising to “submit your site to 1,000 directories” or “help your guest posts get more exposure.” If something new catches their eye, you’ll be the first to hear about it.

What other SEO client types would you add to the list?

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Photo thanks to Jennifer Boyer. Love the mullet pic!

 

 

20 Copywriting Blind Spots All Web Writers Should Avoid

What are your copywriting blind spots?

What are your copywriting blind spots?

Do you ever read a blog post and cringe? “I don’t know how they missed that,” you think. “It’s such an obvious mistake!”

The truth is, we all suffer from copywriting blind spots. We’re so close to our own writing that it’s hard to see the mistakes.

It’s important to get a handle on your blind spots, and do it fast. We may not see these boo-boos, but our readers will. Depending on the severity of the mistake, it can cost us (or our clients) readers or even sales.

Here are the most common blind spots that I see:

- The content doesn’t include any keyphrases. Sure, it’s good to “write naturally.” But that also means you’ll still need to conduct keyphrase research and place those keyphrases (and related synonyms) in the content. I still see copywriters guessing at what keyphrases are relevant to the page … with disastrous results.

- The content includes too many keyphrases. New SEO copywriters typically make this mistake. Your best way to check for keyphrase overuse is to read your copy out loud. You’ll be able to hear where you’ve overloaded your keyphrase usage and editing will be a snap.

- Ignoring the Title. Remember, the search engine results page is your first opportunity for conversion. Rather than [keyword] | [keyword] | [keyword], why not write something clickable and compelling instead?

- Focusing on “us” “we” and “our company.” The key is to tell prospective readers what’s in it for them. If your copy is peppered with company-centered content, rewrite it so it focuses more on the reader.

- Odd sentence fragments. Sure, using the occasional sentence fragment can be a cool copywriting technique. But only if you know how to use it well. Don’t write sentence fragments unless you are very sure you can pull them off.

- Repeating concepts. Ever talk to someone who says the same thing in five different ways? It drives you nuts, doesn’t it? It’s the same with your content writing. If you’ve said something once, you typically don’t need to repeat yourself.

- The subheads don’t make sense. The purpose of the subhead is to give the reader a preview of the following paragraph. If you write a subheadline about “saving money,” but the following paragraph is about “saving time,” you’ve created a copywriting disconnect.

- There are no subheads. Subheadlines allow readers to quick-scan your writing and decide if they want to go deeper. Plus, if your readers are on a mobile device, subheadlines make your content easier to read. Don’t forget about them.

- The subheadlines are benefit-free. If you are writing sales pages, benefit-rich subheadlines help your prospect quick-scan the page and immediately understand how you can help them.

- Hyperlinking the keyphrase every single time. Yes, once upon a time, this technique was OK (within reason.) Now, you’ll be walking a fine spam line if you do it. Mix up your hyperlink usage and only use them where they’ll make sense to the reader.

- Writing too much content. It’s important to ruthlessly edit yourself (or have someone else edit for you.) If you take 750 words when you could have used 500, you’ll lose the reader.

- Forgetting the call-to-action. Every page should have a call-to-action (for instance, reading another article, making a purchase or signing up for a newsletter). Don’t forget to tell the reader what you’d like them to do. If you don’t ask for it, they probably won’t do it.

- Writing endless, scrolling copy. There’s a lot of truth to TL;DR (too long; didn’t read.) If you tend to write long-form content all the time, ask yourself if you could split up the content into separate pages. Especially if the content is sales content.

- Writing “too short” content. Brevity is not always a good thing, especially if your copy doesn’t fully say what you need. If you find yourself writing 50-word product descriptions that are “just the facts,” consider if you need to beef up your content.

- Discussing features, not benefits. People don’t care about your state-of-the-art technology. What they want to know is how will your product or service help them. Features are nice, but benefit statements are what sell.

- Writing long, scrolling paragraphs. Long paragraphs are overwhelming and hard to read. When in doubt, split up your paragraphs into smaller, easier-to-digest chunks. Your readers will thank you for it.

- Ignoring your customer persona. How your copy sounds and how it’s written depends on your customer persona document. You’d write different content for a self-described “computer nerd,” than you would for a self-described “club-going player.” The more specific your content, the better your sales.

- Repeating words. If you’ve already used a word in a sentence, don’t repeat it in the same paragraph. Repeating the same word looks repetitive, and readers will catch the fact that you’re repeating the same words repetitively. :)

- Fluffy claims. Be careful of saying things like “everyone loves this product.”  There’s not a product on this earth that is universally loved by “everyone.” Fluffy claims will trip the readers B.S. meters and they’ll unconsciously distrust everything else they read from you. Instead, use specifics (like percentages) whenever possible.

And the top writing blind spot to avoid?

-Boring copy. Content doesn’t have to be boring (and yes, I’m looking at you, B2B companies!) After all, one of the easy ways you can differentiate your company is with customer-centered, engaging content. If your content doesn’t sing, it’s time to add some zing!

What copywriting blind spots would you add?

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Photo thanks: Nimish Gogri

Should Content Always Be Free?

I’m going to suggest something radical.

You know that content you’re creating? Your blog posts, white papers and other assets you use for SEO and lead generation?

What if you sold that information rather than giving it away for free?

I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Back in the “early days” of the web, we didn’t have blogs or Twitter (ah, the wonderful days when we didn’t worry about social media.) Yes, we talked about the importance of “fresh” content and recommended publishing articles and white papers. But there wasn’t this massive push around “company as publisher.”

What’s more, people were used to paying for smart, premium content. They may not have paid a lot, but they paid something. And were happy to do so – after all, they were receiving fantastic information at a fair price.

Then blogging came on the scene. People quickly realized that blog posts = additional Google-positioning opportunities. This started the massive blogging craze we see today. It’s not enough to write a few articles a month. Today, companies feel pressured to write a LOT of quality content all the time.

You’re probably feeling the content-pinch yourself.

The question is: Is this still smart to do in today’s content-heavy (and time-scattered) world?

Sure, there are certainly SEO benefits to content generation. And there are certainly lead-generation benefits, too. From a branding perspective, writing fantastic content positions you as a market leader.

However, thinking about this from another perspective, “free” content may be seen as throwaway content that doesn’t have as much value as, say, a moderately-priced ebook.

I’ve been told many times that I’m “giving away too many secrets” on my blog. Before, I didn’t really agree with that perspective – after all, I love to educate and help people succeed. And the content did generate leads, so it was all good.

Today, I’m rethinking this position. Sure, giving away some content is a smart move – and I still agree that companies should maintain an active blog. But isn’t monetizing some of that content even smarter? This strategy may not work for all companies, but it could certainly work for some. Perhaps your company is one of them.

So, some discussion questions for you (and your in-house team) are:

- How often do you really have to blog (hint: it may be fewer times than you think.)

-  What would happen if you backed off on free content and created small ebooks and sold them for a small fee?

-  Are your existing content assets helping you meet your conversion goals? Or are you blogging/producing white papers/etc. because you feel you have to?

- If you did sell content, what information are you happy giving away for free – and what information is valuable enough where charging for it would be the smarter option?

I’d love to know your thoughts! Please post them in the comments below.

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Photo thanks to walknboston.