Thursday, November 11th, 2010
As a copywriter, I get a lot of my work from SEO companies that need copy for their clients. Typically, they’ll send me an outline of what pages they need and which keywords need to be on each page. It’s then my job to create great sales copy while targeting the keywords per their instructions. Simple enough, right?
Well, most times it is. But sometimes, I’m asked to target keywords that are grammatically incorrect. For example, on one SEO project I’m working on now for a fashion company, there are keywords like “woman apparel” and “women fashion clothes.” In the past, I remember working on a real estate website where there was a keyword along the lines of “new homes real estate Houston.” Try using that naturally in your copy.
I’m a firm believer that SEO should never trump common sense and usability. Yes, it’s important that your copy is optimized and that you target the most profitable keywords, but there has to be a compromise. If a keyword just isn’t natural or it’s incorrect grammatically, you shouldn’t try to force it into your copy.
Think about it from a customer’s perspective. If you were a customer and you came across a website with really awkward content and lots of grammatically incorrect phrases, would you trust them? Would you feel comfortable giving them your business?
I know I wouldn’t. I’d be very suspicious that it was some sort of scam or something.
So what’s the solution?
In some cases, you may be able to add a “stop word” into the keyword to make it correct. For example, let’s say you’re targeting the phrase “new homes Houston.” If you add the word “in” into the keyword, you can make it “new homes in Houston”, a keyword that’s much more natural sounding. A few stop words that can typically be added without throwing off the keyword include “and”, “the”, “of”, and “in”.
The other solution is to not use awkward keywords in your website copy, but to still target them with your linkbuilding efforts. After all, links play a much bigger role in determining search rankings than your on-site copy. So, whenever you can get away with it, use those awkward keywords on offsite links you’re getting. This way, you can still target those keywords without it reflecting poorly on your brand.
What do you do whenever there’s a profitable keyword that’s grammatically incorrect?
Monday, September 20th, 2010
As a copywriter, I’m always working on sales copy for clients who need to get more leads and sales. Typically, clients come to me because their current copy just isn’t getting the job done…readers aren’t taking action and they aren’t making any money. It’s my job to fix that, and I think I’m pretty good at what I do.
Now, one thing I’ve noticed over the past few years is that a lot of companies are afraid to make the sale. They’re afraid to put anything they deem even remotely “pushy” or “salesy” in their copy because they think it might be a turn off to the reader. Instead, they encourage me to try to tone it down, stick to the facts and features, and let the reader decide for himself if he wants to take action. I’ve even had clients who I’ve had to fight tooth and nail with to get them to let me put a call to action in the copy.
I can’t help but find the entire thing a little silly and very misguided. If you’re afraid to sell yourself and play up the benefits and emotions created by your products, guess what’s going to happen? You’re never going to make any sales. Don’t get me wrong—your copy doesn’t have to read like one of those landing pages for a miracle weight loss drug, and you don’t have to claim your product will change the reader’s life forever. But you do need to persuade them into taking action and doing business with you. Just laying out the facts and features isn’t enough.
Monday, September 6th, 2010
When I was reading Adam Sherk’s list of the most overused buzzwords in press releases, it reminded me that most companies still don’t get it. They still don’t get that patting themselves on the back gets them nothing. They still don’t get that customers, quite frankly, don’t give a damn about them. And neither do reporters.
As a copywriter, I occasionally come across clients who are in this group of those who don’t get it. I’ll create copy that speaks directly with the reader, engaging them and focusing on what they stand to gain, but the client will send back notes and edits that change the focus of the conversation to how great they are. This involves a bunch of pat-yourself-on-the-back talk, using words and phrases like “industry leader”, “most trusted”, “top of its class”, and of course, “we”.
If you own a company, I have news for you. Nobody cares about you. Seriously, they’re not impressed. So, stop patting yourself on the back every chance you get. Because if your copy or your press releases are full of the typical buzzwords and focused only on yourself, you aren’t going to get the response you hoped for.
That’s because people only care about themselves. And for good reason. Put yourself in a customer’s shoes. Why should he care if your company is a “leader” or “best of breed” or “unique”? What does that mean for him? It means nothing. If he’s going to be handing over his hard-earned money to you, what he needs to know first is how he’ll benefit by doing so. What does he stand to gain?
Focus the content on the reader, not on yourself.
Same thing goes for press releases. Why should a reporter care if you think your company is the greatest? All he cares about is finding a good story that will appeal to his audience. A press release that reads like an advertisement isn’t a good story. The reporter has nothing to gain by running with it.
Again, focus the content on the reader, not on yourself.
One of my absolute favorite copywriting tools in the world is this simple WeWe Monitor. Just input your URL or enter the text here and you’ll be able to see where the focus of your copy really is. If you’re talking about yourself more than you’re talking about the customer, you’ve failed. (Note: The tool can’t analyze context. So, there are times where words like “I” or “me” are actually being used to refer to the customer, but they’re counted as self-focused. Keep that in mind.)
Do you pat yourself on the back too often?
Tuesday, August 31st, 2010
Whenever I interview a new client to help plan their copy, one of the questions I ask is this:
What are some common of your customers’ concerns and questions they have when talking to you? Objections, points of confusion, etc. How do you address these?
Why is this important? It’s simple. There are many roadblocks between your target audience and making the sale. If you don’t address these roadblocks and offer solutions in your marketing messages, guess what happens? They don’t buy from you.
It’s that simple. So, how can you destroy these roadblocks and make the sale? Let’s take these one at a time.
Objections are those things that make customers resist the purchase. Every company gets objections from customers when trying to sell their product or services. The key to overcoming these objections is to understand why the prospect objects, what you can do to negate their objection, and how you can turn that objection into the customer’s advantage.
Some common objections include:
- Price—This boils down to the customer having a problem justifying spending their money on your product. There are many things you can do to overcome pricing objections. Show customers why your product is a great value at its price point (no matter how expensive it might be), offer money-back guarantees, or show how the product is a worthwhile investment.
- Lack of understanding—Sometimes, customers just don’t understand what you’re selling. So, their kneejerk reaction is to say “no.” What can you do? Clarify your message. Make it as simple and to the point as possible. Write it so even your mom understands it.
- Lack of trust—Customers may not trust you. You can gain their trust by using testimonials, offering money-back guarantees, being easy to contact, sharing your expertise, and more.
- Questions—In some cases, the customer just needs to know more before they’ll give you the sale. Your copy needs to address the common questions your customers have. Pay attention to the questions you get asked most often, and find ways to answer them in your copy.
How do you overcome your customers’ objections?
Monday, August 23rd, 2010
As a freelance copywriter, a lot of the projects I work on involve SEO copywriting. Sometimes, I work with the client directly, and other times, an SEO company contracts the work out to me, giving me guidelines on what they want for their client. In the latter situation, I have a little less leeway to do what I want since it’s the SEO company’s client.
Usually, it’s not an issue, but some SEO companies are still stuck in the past, using silly metrics like keyword density and word counts to judge the worth of website copy. And here is where I have a problem. I’ll save the topic of keyword density for a future post, but today I want to talk about the problems I have with using a word count in SEO copywriting.
- There is no real evidence that word counts directly influence rankings. Thankfully, most SEO companies have gotten beyond the idea that copy needs to be between 400 and 800 words to rank well in the search engines. But there are still some out there that cling to this theory. Whether you believe in it or not, the simple truth is there is no real evidence that supports needing a specific word count to rank well. The top-ranked pages in Google for various search terms vary greatly in word count. I’ve seen pages rank well with 50 words or less and pages rank well with thousands of words. The truth is your rankings are largely determined by offsite factors, like link building. Word count does NOT directly influence rankings.
- Quantity and quality are not directly related. When it comes to copywriting, quantity and quality are completely separate from one another. Just because a page is long doesn’t mean it’s good or bad. And just because a page is short also doesn’t mean it’s good or bad. What makes copy good or bad is how effective each word is and how well it converts.
- Writing to a specific word count is restrictive and leads to forced copy. When you force a copywriter to come up with a set number of words, you’re just asking for trouble. The copywriter will either have to add fluff to meet the word count or cut back severely to meet it. Either way, it leads to unnatural copy, and forces the copywriter’s attention onto a trivial matter.
What do you think about word counts for web copy? Good idea or terrible idea?