Viewing all posts by Heather Lloyd-Martin.

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.

Save 20% on the SEO Copywriting Certification training while Heather’s out of town! Use coupon code CATSAWAY until June 17.

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. 

 

 

You inherited crap legacy content. Now what?

Does your company's site content make you cry?

Does your company’s site content make you cry?

Good news: You were just hired as the content manager for a well-established site.

Bad news: The content is horrible, it hasn’t been optimized for SEO and every page makes you want to cry.

This scenario is extremely common. Maybe it’s because the company has had various people overseeing the site’s content. Or, no-one “owned” the content before – so there’s no strategy, no cohesion and everything is a big, fat mess.

If this sounds like your company, take a deep breath and relax. The key is to tackle your site in baby steps. Here are some places to start:

Review the site’s analytics.

Even crappy pages can convert – maybe not to their full potential, but they can do it. Determine the pages that contribute the most to the conversion process. These top pages will probably be the ones you “touch” first. You’ll also want to review bounce rates and time on site. If people are clicking into your site and not taking action, you know you have a problem.

(As a side note, if your company doesn’t have analytics and goals in place, get those set up first. You can’t manage what you can’t measure.)

Review the existing customer persona.

Is it still relevant? Do you need to create a new one? If your company is serving a new vertical market, is there content just for them?

Check out your existing keyphrase document (assuming there is one.)

Do the keyphrases represent all phases of the buy cycle? Or are they mostly brand-specific terms that are only relevant when someone wants to make a purchase? Just to be safe, I’d re-run the data. You may find opportunities the previous person didn’t see.

Determine the overarching primary and secondary issues.

For many sites, the core issue is that the pages haven’t been optimized. This means poor Titles, and inconsistent (or no) keyphrase usage. Other sites may suffer from a variety of different writing styles that don’t fit the customer persona. Once you determine what the main problems are, you’ll be able to focus your efforts and get more done.

Are the pages written to sell? Or do you have a “meh” response?

A huge problem many companies (especially B2B companies) face is their sales copy is boring, benefit-free and basic. Tightening up the top sales pages and rewriting them can often result in an almost immediate “win” (that is, you’ll make money.) Consider testing pages with services like Optimizely. That way, you’ll KNOW what works rather than making an educated guess.

Can you find any easy wins?

Rewriting sales pages can certainly be an easy win. So can optimizing existing blog posts that lead to conversions. If you know a page is important to the sales cycle and it’s keyphrase-free, making it more SEO friendly can often have a huge impact. You’ll be able to drive more qualified traffic that should result in increased leads or sales.

Get organized – not overwhelmed.

Remember those top pages that drive conversion rates? Tighten those up and make those shine first. After that, have a plan for going through the site in organized, sequential chunks. That may mean focusing on your “easy win” pages next. Or focusing your efforts around a particular site section. Tie your efforts back to what you know makes your site money rather than doing a little bit of everything. You’ll see better results, faster, if you do.

Reviewing your site is something you can easily do yourself. Or, if you need an outside opinion, it sometimes pays to bring in a content expert who can develop an action plan. That way, someone with a fresh perspective (and perhaps a better understanding of the latest SEO content techniques) can help you along your path.

The good news is – even crappy legacy content can be transformed into a top-converting asset. It may take some time and you’ll be working in baby steps. But the end result will be a site that you’re proud to be associated with (and won’t make you cry when you look at it.)

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Thank you, migasun, for the great photo!

 

 

 

 

The lazy person’s guide to writing great copy – fast!

I love me my catnaps!

I love me my catnaps!

Would you rather be hiking a wooded trail rather than writing your latest blog post?

Or taking a quick catnap on the couch?

Or catching up with friends?

You can. You just need to learn how to write content the lazy way.

“Lazy” doesn’t mean that you write poor-quality content. Or you don’t write at all. It means training your writing brain to write top-notch content, faster.

Writing more efficiently has some pretty cool benefits. If you freelance, this means more money in your pocket. If you work in-house, this means you can tackle more projects more quickly and move work off your desk.

I’ve outlined the 5-step process I follow and what I teach other writers. If you follow these 5 steps, you can write a blog post in one hour or less. That should give you plenty of time to do the things you really enjoy.

Yes, you can do this. Even if you’re new to the writing life.

Here’s how to do it.

- Gather everything you need before you start writing.

When I say “everything” I mean “everything.”  You’ll want easy access to client interviews, product/service information, any notes you’ve taken and the competitive research. Having to stop what you’re writing to research one more keyphrase or check one more site is a huge time suck – plus, it breaks your flow.

- Don’t start writing until you’ve let the information “percolate.”

I spend about 10 minutes reviewing the material, making notes and determining how to approach the benefit statements or slant. If I have a brainstorm, I may even write some quick copy snippets. The goal during this phase isn’t to write the page. You just want to get some initial ideas on paper. Once you’ve finished …

- Set a time limit and write your copy.

Have you ever started writing a page around noon and – at 6 p.m. – it’s still not done? It’s a frustrating and tiring experience. Instead, set a timer for 25 minutes and write your draft. Don’t get into editing mode. Don’t worry if your paragraph structure is perfect. Just write. You’ll have time to edit it later.

(As a side note, it’s amazing how well we can write when there’s a time limit in place. There’s something about a ticking timer that gets our brains in gear.)

- Walk away from your draft.

Don’t edit it right away. Let it sit. You can come back to it in a couple hours, or even the next day.

- Tighten up your draft and send it out.

Again, I like to set a timer. I’ll review the content twice, spending 25 minutes each time. By the end of the second time block, I have a good-to-go final draft.

The more you tighten up your writing process, the easier it will be to write more content, faster. Finally, you’ll have more time for things you enjoy. Like sleeping. Or stepping away from your laptop and heading outside.

Have fun!

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Photo thanks to Mark Vegas

3 things Google can teach you about copywriting

Is Google more persuasive than Billy Mays? Perhaps…

What does Google have in common with the late Billy Mays?

Both are known for being extremely persuasive.

Google is a master at manipulating our emotions and changing our behavior. Think about it: How many of you use Google products because it’s easier, cheaper and – in the case of Google Glass – provides some awesome geek cred?

Yup. I thought so. And part of that reason is how Google markets their services.

Here are some copywriting lessons you can learn from Google – and how you can use them in your own business.

Everyone loves Google. Just ask them.

One of the reasons review sites are so popular is because we rely on them to help make our decisions. Should we go to a new restaurant? Better check Yelp first. Traveling? Check out Trip Advisor before booking that hotel room. We read reviews written by “people like us” to make our decisions.

If you check out Google’s Analytics home page, you’ll see that the first image is a testimonial. As you click into inner pages, you see well-known company logos as “success stories.”  If a company wondered if Google Analytics would work for them, they can read the testimonials and feel more at ease. Other people like Google. So they will too.

Here’s how to use social proof in your own marketing.

I’ve talked quite a bit about the power of testimonials. However, it’s amazing how many sites ignore this easy conversion tip. If you don’t have testimonials on your site, it’s time to add them. If you work with different vertical markets, make sure you have vertical-specific testimonials. It’s really that easy.

FUD Google

FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) is a big motivator. We want to minimize our pain and maximize our pleasure. So, when we hear about something that may be particularly unpleasant, we do what we can to make our world safe. Think of the millions of dollars people spent trying to calm their Year-2000 fears. Or how people will stop eating certain foods because they read one news article that said that they may be bad for you.

Google is all over the FUD approach. Once upon a time, algorithmic updates were sudden, violent acts. We may have had inklings that something was coming down, but Google didn’t warn us.

Today, Matt Cutts will drop hints about a “possible” update – which causes people to immediately freak out.  Some folks are so afraid of making a wrong algorithmic move that many site owners turn to AdWords in order to guarantee consistent traffic. After all, your main site’s rankings may bounce up and down and possibly plummet – and that’s much too unpredictable.  With PPC, your ads will keep running no matter what (within reason.) Is it any wonder many site owners ignore their main site and rely 100% on PPC? That’s FUD in action.

Billy Mays used to use FUD during his pitches. If you check out this old commercial for Oxyclean, you’ll see how bleach supposedly ruined a pair of jeans – yet, Oxyclean cleaned the jeans without mishap. The message? Other cleansers may hurt your clothes, but Oxyclean is the safe alternative.

How to use FUD on your own site

FUD can be tricky. It’s important to bring up the benefits of making the right decision (read: the decision you want them to make.) Yet, if you push it too far, people may kick back and ignore your pitch.

Check out the approach Gerber Knives uses.  They don’t come out and say, “If you purchase a cheaper knife, it may fail.” But they heavily imply it in the copy:

The message is pretty clear: If you need a knife for a “survival situation,” use a Gerber one. Or else.

Want Google Glass? There are only a few available …

You want me. I know you do.

You want me. I know you do.

The principle of scarcity teaches us that something becomes more attractive to us if we think we can’t have it. If something is only available for a limited time, or to a limited population, we want it more.

Now, think about Google Glass. The glasses are clunky, weird looking and are like the geeky eyeglass equivalent of a Segway. But people wanted their Glass. Badly. When you limit sales of a $2,000 product to “invite only,” it’s amazing how many people will immediately catapult the product purchase to a “need.” After all, there’s only a few invites out there. Don’t you want to be part of the chosen few?

How you can apply this in your business:

Are there ways you can make your product less available – for instance, reminding people that there are just “a few products at that price,” or making it a limited-time offer? If you provide services, you can tell clients that you’re only accepting X new clients every month. It’s amazing how products will compete for your time when they think that you may not have time to take them on.

The next time you read a Google announcement, think about how they positioned their content and see what you can learn. The Big G can be a wonderful teacher …

Are clients asking for SEO writing services – but you aren’t quite sure how to help? Does your company need a low-cost SEO writing training alternative?  Now, save almost $200 on the SEO Copywriting Certification Training. Hurry – offer expires April 30, 2014.

Photo credit: “Google Glass Explorer Exchange 36274″ by Ted Eytan

“HI, BILLY MAYS HERE!” by Don

Land the Gig with These 7 Freelance Copywriting Proposal Tweaks

proposalTired of spending hours writing proposals that never result in a sale?

A couple weeks ago, I wrote about how to get clients to say “yes” faster. Since writing the post, a number of people have said, “Heather, where I’m really stuck is how to write proposals. What do prospects expect? I feel like I’m doing it all wrong.”

You’re probably not doing it all wrong. But there probably are some things you can do to increase your odds of success. Here are some things to think about:

- Are your proposals detailed enough to be a DIY guide?

You’ve included a keyphrase list, a competitive analysis and a detailed explanation of the pages you’d rewrite and why. This process took you hours. You spent the time because you want to land the sale. After all, everything you wrote showcased your expertise. Right?

Wrong. Instead, your prospect could read your free proposal and easily do the work themselves.  Or hire a less expensive vendor. And yes. This happens.

Remember, the proposal’s purpose is to get the gig. Not give away your secrets. You may need to do some discovery to accurately bid on the gig. That’s cool.. Just save the meaty information for after you’ve cashed their check.

-  Do you include too many options?

Too. Much. Information.

Too. Much. Information.

Ever talk to a prospect and think, “Wow, there are so many ways I can help her.” That’s great. Just don’t put all 10 ideas in one overwhelming proposal. Why? Your prospect won’t know what to choose, what to do – heck, they may not even read all of it. After all, who wants to read a 20-page document when all they want to know is what you’ll do and how much it will cost.

The key is narrowing your options list way down. Remember, YOU are the expert – so choose what you think the prospect should do and focus on that. If your prospect needs options, limit them to three. You can focus on your other ideas after you’ve landed the gig and proven yourself.

- Should you have written a proposal in the first place?

Did you propose a $5,000/month agreement when the prospect has $500/month to spend? That’s a bad mistake. It’s crucial to prequalify the prospect and ask about budget before you get to the proposal stage. If the client can’t pay for your expertise, you can refer them to someone else before spending loads of time.

It’s true that many prospects don’t know their budget or don’t want to answer the question. One way to deal with this is by telling the client, “Most projects like this cost anywhere from $5,000-$8,500. Is that within your budget? If the prospect says, “yes,” you’ll know you can move forward.

- Did you include any testimonials or bio information?

It’s important to remember that the person gathering proposals may not be the decision-maker. In fact, your proposal may be emailed to multiple team members, all with their own ideas and agendas. You may not ever have a chance to talk to these team members or “sell” your services – so your proposal has to do it for you.

To put your best foot forward, create a “bio page” and include it in your proposal. I include mine as the last page. That way, if someone is wondering about my qualifications, they can turn to the last page and read them. They don’t have to visit my site or surf around (although I figure they do this anyway.) It’s a great way to sell yourself in an understated way. I’ll talk more about a proposal bio page in a future blog post.

- Have you explained your terms?

Um, what are you trying to say?

Um, what are you trying to say?

It’s easy to propose something like, “Instead of rewriting these pages, we can edit them for keyphrases.” Although that’s super-clear to you, it won’t be clear to anyone not living and breathing the SEO/online writing world.  The more questions that pop up during the proposal process, the easier it is to say no and work with the vendor who clearly spelled everything out.

Remember, even if your contact is SEO-smart, you shouldn’t assume everyone in the company (especially the decision-maker) has the same level of knowledge. If your proposal is passed around to multiple people, you want to focus the discussion on how you can help – not cause a huge email thread asking you to define your terms. It’s important to speak your customers’ language and use terms they can easily understand. One easy way to do this is …

- Have you templatized your proposals?

Why, oh why, are you creating every proposal by hand every single time? Especially when most of your clients request the same services? An easy way to save time is to create template copy discussing your service offerings, deliverables (yes, define your terms) and general timelines. That way, creating a new proposal is as simple as adding the relevant information, proofing it and clicking send. Which reminds me…

- Does your propozal have some funky typos?

Typos happen, especially when you’re kicking out a bunch of proposals at once. Prospects don’t dig typos, though – especially during the proposal process. And if you are using a template proposal, you better make darn sure that you erase the previous prospect’s name EVERYWHERE and replace it with the new client’s name. I’m paranoid enough that I don’t rely on Word’s find and replace function. I hand-check that stuff.

Spending time to freshen up your proposal is one of the smartest things you can do. If you’re stuck on what to change, it couldn’t hurt to hire a consultant to help. That way, an outsider can provide suggestions on how to take your proposal from so-so to spectacular – and you can land the gig every time.

Photo thanks to Doug Wertman (Proposal at the PBR)

Want to know how to get writing gigs without needing a proposal? Ivana Taylor spills her secrets in the Copywriting Business Bootcamp training. Now, you can save almost $100 if you use coupon code BOOTCAMP (though April 14th.) Sign up today!