Thursday, March 1st, 2012
As a writer, most press releases make me cringe when I read them. I feel like my soul dies a little bit with each one that I read. The simple fact is that most press releases are painfully difficult to read. Here are 5 reasons why.
- They offer nothing that’s truly newsworthy—It seems that many people have forgotten the original purpose of the press release—to share news. These days, companies crank out press releases at a feverish pace, but they rarely have any true news to share. Sending out a press release that you’ve added a blog to your website really isn’t all that interesting to anyone outside of your company. Before you write a press release, ask yourself honestly, “Who cares?
If you don’t think anyone else will care to hear your “news” then it’s probably not worth sharing.
- They’re littered with buzzwords—I swear, some companies must use this B.S. Generator to write their press releases, because they’re brimming with buzzwords like leading, implement, best in class, innovative, end-to-end, and revolutionary. I HATE BUZZWORDS. They’re pure B.S. that carries no real weight.
- They include lifeless, uninspired quotes—Take a look at just about any press release, and I can promise you it will contain a quote from a company executive that adds absolutely nothing to the story. The quotes used in press releases are often pre-manufactured, buzzword-laden, repetitive nonsense that offer nothing new or no insight into the issue being discussed.
- They’re little more than an advertisement for the company—Remember how I said the purpose of a press release is to share news? News is the keyword here. News is supposed to be factual and unbiased. It’s not supposed to read like an infomercial for your products and services.
- They’ve become a slave to the search engines—Several years ago, search marketers began to realize that online press release distribution could be an effective tool for link building and increasing search rankings. So, the press releases started coming out in droves, laden with keywords in the headlines, subheads, links, and body. The quality of the average press release declined even further because companies were solely cranking them out to satisfy the search engines.
Do you still send out press releases? Are you guilty of any of the above transgressions?
Wednesday, February 29th, 2012
As a freelance copywriter, I take on a lot of projects where I have to rewrite web copy for clients. Most of my clients already have websites, but they aren’t performing like they’d hope. In most cases, it’s because the copy…well, it sucks. It was clearly added to the website at the last minute as an afterthought, because the company assumed that a flashy design and functional website were all that they needed to be successful online.
After years of reading terrible web copy, I’ve identified the 5 most common problems I run into.
- It’s filled with industry jargon and nonsensical buzzwords—Corporate buzzwords have killed sales copy. Companies insist on using phrases and words like “best of breed,” “convergence,” “synergies,” and “paradigms.”What they end up with is a bunch of wordy nonsense that customers don’t understand and don’t respond to. Copywriting really isn’t all that difficult. Write copy in a language that your target audience understands. Write like they talk. How easy is that?
- Search engine keywords have created a robotic cadence—I’m not one of those copywriting purists who thinks keywords are of the devil, but I do believe that the approach most take to SEO copywriting is flawed. Keywords shouldn’t drive your writing. You should only include keywords when it makes sense and is natural to do so. Forcing them where they don’t fit and repeating them constantly throughout the content is a recipe for stiff, robotic copy that customers won’t respond to.
- It isn’t focused on the reader—The hardest thing for most companies to understand is that it’s not about them. No one cares about your company. Really, they don’t. They could care less about you. Customers care only about themselves. All they want to know is how you can help make their lives better. If your copy isn’t customer-focused, no one is ever going to get motivated enough to call you or order your products.
- It does little to distinguish the company from its competitors—I’ve literally had clients send me links to their competitors’ websites and tell me, “Just write me something like that. Change it around a little, and that will be fine.” Are you kidding me? When your copy sounds just like everyone else’s copy, you’re telling customers that you’re just like everyone else, and that means they may as well be doing business with one of your competitors.
- It doesn’t motivate readers to take action—How can you expect your website visitors to contact you or place an order if you don’t tell them to do so? You can’t just cross your fingers and hope visitors will magically figure out what step to take next. You have to encourage them to take action. Clearly tell them what you want them to do, and many of them will do it. It’s pretty simple, really.
Take a look at your website. How is the copy? Do you think it’s as good as it can be?
Tuesday, February 28th, 2012
I’m not going to lie and tell you that everyone can be a great writer. Writing is just like anything else—some people are great it at, others suck, and everyone else is just average. The good news is that writing is a skill that can be developed. There are certain things you can do to become a better writer. Here are 5 of them.
- Know the goal of the content—Before you start to write anything, figure out what the purpose of the content is. For example, if you’re writing a landing page, the purpose is probably to sell something. The purpose of this blog post is to instruct you on how to become a better writer. By knowing what you want to accomplish with the piece, you’ll have a clear direction for your words.
- Don’t overstate the obvious—Don’t tell your readers something they already know. I didn’t start this post by talking about how important it is to be a good writer. You already know that. Skip the obvious crap, and get to the meat and potatoes of the content.
- Cut the fluff—Every writer struggles with trimming the fluff from his or her work. Many experienced writers will tell you to print out your first draft, take a red pen through half of it, and then cut that in half again to get your final draft. Force yourself to find things you can cut from your content to help you create a tighter, more to the point draft.
- Don’t try to write like someone else—Too often, writers try to imitate the style of other writers they look up to, and they often do so poorly. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be an avid reader and study the craft of writing from others, but I’m saying that you do need to be yourself. There’s no one else quite like you, and if you try to be someone else, your true voice won’t shine through.
- Let your writing breathe before you finalize it—Everything that I write sits on the shelf for a day before I go back and edit it. You have to take a step back from your writing, let it breathe, and come back to it later with a fresh set of eyes. You’ll always find something that can be improved.
What’s your single best tip for aspiring writers? Share it with us by leaving a comment below.
Tuesday, January 24th, 2012
At some point, you may find yourself needing the services of a freelance writer. Maybe you need someone to create sales copy for your website or brochure. Or maybe you need a blogger to create a few posts each week. Or you could even need an article writer if you’re still relying on article distribution as an internet marketing strategy.
Whatever the case may be, one of the first things you’ll need to do is decide how much you’re going to pay a freelance writer for the project. Now, if you’re like a lot of people, you may want to know just how little you can get away with paying to get the job done. After all, the less you have to pay, the better, right?
Here are 5 reasons you shouldn’t hire a cheap writer.
- Quality will almost always suffer—There’s an old saying that applies perfectly—“You get what you pay for.” If you’re going to hire a cheap writer at rates far below the industry average, you’re almost certainly going to get work that’s well below the industry average in terms of quality. If you want good work, you have to pay competitive prices. It’s that simple.
- You may not get original work—How are some writers able to produce content for just a few bucks a pop? It might be because they’re actually stealing the content from somebody else. That’s right. Many companies have been burned by cheap writers who simply stole content off the web, maybe spun it a little bit, and passed it off as fresh and original.
- Cheap writers often lack experience—Think about this. If a freelance writer was good and experienced at their job, would they be scouring the job boards looking for work at dirt cheap rates? I didn’t think so.
- Cheap writers may also lack professionalism—If you’ve ever dealt with a bad freelance writer, you know how much of a nightmare it can be. They promise to deliver the work by a certain date, and then miss the deadline. They drop off the face of the earth and stop responding to emails for days or weeks at a time. They come up with insane excuses about why they’re behind on their work. Spend a little more money so you can hire a true professional.
- Good writing takes time—Writing anything takes time. It takes time to do the research, outline a plan, create a draft, edit the draft, and rewrite the content until it’s just right. When you’re paying someone a dirt cheap rate to write something, they’re not going to spend as much time on it as they should. Time is money.
Have you ever hired a cheap writer? How did things turn out for you?
Friday, January 20th, 2012
As a copywriter, I regularly get clients who want me to critique and rewrite their underperforming landing pages. Having taken on more of these projects than I can remember at this point, I’ve noticed that many people make the same mistakes on their landing pages, causing their conversion rates to plummet.
The good news is that these 5 common landing page mistakes are easy to fix once you recognize them.
- Headlines that lack benefits—There are many different elements that go into writing a great headline for a landing page. The headline needs to pique the interest of the reader, be clear and easy to understand, and relate to the ad that brought the visitor to your landing page. But most importantly of all, your headline needs to be benefit-driven. How will your product or service improve the lives of your customers? What needs does it meet? What do you provide that no one else can match? Focus on creating a headline that answers these types of questions.
- Conflicting formats—There are many different types of landing pages you can create, from sales letters to upsell landing pages. I’ve noticed that some landing pages try to blend formats, and the result is often an unfocused mess. Figure out a format for your landing page, and stick with it throughout the entire page to keep a consistent style.
- Hidden call to action—If you’re trying to get conversions on your landing page, you need to have a prominent call to action. Internet users spend 80% of their time looking at content above the fold. In other words, they don’t like scrolling down the page. That means you need a strong call to action placed above the fold in a spot where visitors can’t miss it.
- No strong offer—You have to make your visitors an offer they can’t refuse. Just telling them to fill out a form or sign up for your email list isn’t going to work. You need to have a strong offer, and you need to make it clear why they can’t afford to pass up your offer. Benefits. Benefits. Benefits.
- Nothing to establish credibility—Consumers have become increasingly cautious when shopping online. They know the internet is full of shady companies looking to make a quick buck, so it’s your job to earn their trust. Your landing page needs to establish credibility. One way to do this is by including testimonials from satisfied customers. Another thing you can do is to compare your product side-by-side with competing products to show exactly why it’s better.
What are some of the biggest landing page mistakes you’ve seen? Share them by leaving a comment below.