Lead Nurturing Sequences

Leads need to be wooed, nurtured, brought along a journey. Digital marketing hasn’t changed that fact. No bullish, crass approach will do. Sometimes, web-oriented marketing efforts have businesses reducing leads to data points: a huge bucket (or funnel) full of tiny dots that, if filtered correctly, will result in revenue. They couldn’t be more wrong. And they will fail.

Every online lead represents a real human being, who will make a conscious choice to or not to buy from you. And it matters more than ever to consumers who you are and whether they want to make that conscious decision.

A Word About the Flywheel

A while ago, the great giant Hubspot published a notion that digital marketers (and regular marketers, I guess, if those still exist) had been theorizing about. Boiled down to its essence, the idea was to update the idea of a “sales funnel.” A sales funnel is simply a visual mechanism whereby you assign leads a different status in the sales process. You can go here to read more about a sales funnel.

While the funnel isn’t devoid of use or purpose, marketers ascertained that it was problematic and perhaps insufficient. Ultimately, any intelligent marketer knows that messaging and sales efforts are about people. Thus, the flywheel—born of customer-centricity—went viral. The central circle is the customer, around which all sales and marketing activities and other delineations orbit. The customer is king. The customer is core. The customer is all.

How to Nurture New Leads

Now, to counter that extreme language, it’s important to remember that customers (more than ever) are interested in a partnership. The idea that the provider and recipient are on equal footing and in cooperation is an important value proposition. What you can offer to a prospect, how you can improve their lives and support them, is now an integral part of brand messaging.

And lead nurturing sequences are how its done on a medium or large scale. For solopreneuers and start-ups, your lead count may be low enough that you can literally achieve one-on-one lead nurturing. You can literally know your customer’s names and build meaningful relationships. The second you scale, you’ve outgrown that. But you shouldn’t outgrow the ethos of it.

More Leads v. Better Leads

Customer-centricity transforms messaging because it removes the funnel catch-all and promotes individual recognition and care. In this system, more is not better. For many kinds of businesses, this is immensely important. Depending on how much a customer is worth to you (customer value, lifecycle, all of that), it may be extremely worthwhile to spend time nurturing qualified leads. Whether you need a few or a lot, all of these lead nurturing sequence ideas can be scaled to fit your business.

Here’s how you implement great copy to thoughtfully invite prospects to a journey that ends in a sale.

Lead Nurturing Sequences: DMs

DMs are gold. Hear this: if you are religiously posting on Instagram or other social platforms and wonder why your engagement is low, it’s because you aren’t using direct messages. There is a goldmine of potential here. If untapped, you are definitely missing out on paying customers.

Direct messages are valuable because they always get seen. Always. Get. Seen. Worried about email open rates? Not a problem here. These are red-dotted, auto-alerted, center stage messages. Use them wisely.

What you CANNOT do on a DM is be obnoxious or salesy. This is where you reflect back to the touchpoint of who this conversation is about: not your business, your customer.

You can create auto reply DMs or regularly go in and DM whole lists (depending on your size). A good DM lead nurturing sequence should be:

  • A series of 3 messages
  • 100% personalized, calling the prospect by name, mentioning something from their profile or feed
  • A conversation starter

There will be no completely plug and play scenario for these. As people engage you, of course you’ll have to respond correctly. Otherwise, you sound like an idiot. Here’s a framework I use for clients:

  1. A welcome, thanks and introduction PLUS compliment
  2. A follow up and conversation-starting question
  3. An OFFER (not an ASK)

It’s important that you don’t start asking for favors, even for feedback, through lead nurturing DMs. These people have not yet bought from you (or haven’t bought from you in a while). They are, by nature, cold leads. Don’t bug them. The second you do, they will shut down. If done right, this well-spaced, well-crafted DM lead sequence can get them into your living room, where you can close a deal.

Lead Nurturing Sequences: Texts

Marketing texts have the same advantage as DMs: they get seen. Most people have a panic attack if their phone is ever out of arm’s reach. You get a rapt audience. 90% of text messages get read in three minutes or less. However, where you may think DMs are short, texts are even shorter. People may be glued to their phones but their attention span for marketing content is very low. That means the pressure is on: in text marketing, every single word counts.

Here is an example of a lead nurturing text sequence:

  1. Thanks for [downloading], hope you enjoy it!

SURPRISE: no ask. I’m not even kidding with this. Some businesses get really precious about their communication and think every single piece of copy has to be a closer. But, remember, you’re dating this lead, not forcing it to marry you at gunpoint. Chill out. Just be nice. There is a huge surprise element on this for a lead, too. Typically, the first text I get from a business is asking me to fill out a review. WRONG. I don’t want to give you anything else yet. I don’t even know you, man. Just be sweet, nice, winsome and NOT NEEDY. This is a partnership, not a totalitarian regime. Ok, I’ll stop before I exhaust your capacity to read metaphors.

2. Hey, wanted to let you know about a [price cut, special offer, limited time]. Tap here to check it out!

Now, you offer something. You. do. not. ask. for. anything. Don’t ask them to do something for you. You have not earned the right for a favor yet. You’re still relationship-building. Offer something free, useful, or a limited time price cut. You can drive scarcity and exclusivity a little – after all, you want them to feel special. Because they are.

3. Would you mind taking a second to [let us know about, test this product, give feedback].

You’re in last-ditch mode now, so you can ask for something. SOMETIMES, companies have huge success by asking for a trade at this point: free sample to review? Beta test something? Sign up to be notified when…? There is an opportunity to get something valuable here. But remember, it’s still not about you. You’re not wringing them out for any value before discarding them. Leads can exist in your system for weeks or months before they buy. Don’t let any messaging you send, even a last-ditch effort, turn them off.

BONUS: texts have another cool feature. Especially if you are offering a deal or incentive, you can ask recipients to forward the message to a friend for “extra credit” or an upgrade. That’s called advocacy and if we were still in the funnel, it would be the final stage.

Lead Nurturing Sequences: Emails

Email sequences are probably the most familiar form of lead nurturing. Here’s the one huge mistake businesses make: these automated emails are considered a completely autonomous process that requires no oversight, editing or input. STOP THE PHONE. Or, pick it up, actually, because these leads need to hear from you.

Email sequences don’t work if they are not updated AND if they feel like a robo message. I don’t care what a robot says. I don’t believe what a robot says. Even your most cleverly segmented email campaigns aren’t going to appeal to me, because I can spot an unedited template from a mile away.

Yes, if you are a big business, there is no way your digital marketing team is typing out 10,000 emails a week. I get that. That’s real. But there are ways that you can craft copy that feels way more personal than it is. And this will literally spell your success or demise with nurturing leads through emails.

Lead nurturing email sequences are usually between 3-5 messages, launched by a form fill and spaced to deliver ever few days for a couple of weeks. Just because it’s boiler plate doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Here is some insight on the adjustments you can make to improve open rates and have these email sequences actually work:

  • Be conversational

Emails tend to monologue. You get the feeling they are distinctly one-sided and, if I walked away, would this person even notice? Ask questions. Prompt and probe. Address pain points. Don’t be afraid to be more casual. Your tone in this will make all of the difference.

  • Be personal

You may be using Keap by InfusionSoft, Constant Contact, Mail Chimp or one of the other 79,000 CRM systems… all of them can be customized. These coded fields will automatically insert information like name, etc. Your ability to do this goes back to the quality of your data. It may be essential to circle back to web forms and other sources of info. The BEST, most robust info will allow you to personalize templated emails so they feel warm.

  • Be creative

Some marketers have the idea that all of your efforts exist in these discrete areas: video, audio, podcasts, downloads, text. Emails should offer a kaleidoscope for consumption. Break up block of texts that no one is reading. Add imagery, soundbites, video links and even downloads with every email. Let these be value-packed, highly engaging, media-filled pieces of content that capture new leads.

  • Be precise

What do you want people to do? Don’t clutter emails with 12 CTAs. Drill down into a single action item. This will serve two purposes: clarify the customer path and clear up your data.

Honorable Mention: Lead Nurturing Through Chatbots

This may be a bottom of the barrel exercise, IMHO (I have MANY colleagues who disagree with me here), but chatbots have potential. I’ll admit it. There are plenty of ways that carefully crafted copy can work to nurture leads. They’re immensely helpful to answer common questions and direct prospects around your site or products. I do not think they should be the bread and butter of your lead magnet/nurture/conversion strategy. But they aren’t off the table.

Learn to Write Lead Nurturing Sequences

Lead nurturing and relationship building are an entirely different way of communicating. They aren’t the flashy “BUY NOW” “ON SALE” “LAST CHANCE” kind of work, although that has a time and a place in marketing copywriting. This kind of writing is more elegant, restrained and deeply intentional. You can learn how to do this. Anyone can.

If you’re ready to up your game and learn to write better copy, here are some ways I offer support:

You got this!

How to Write a Sales Letter

GO HERE FOR THE FREE TEMPLATE.

Writing a sales letter may feel old school but am 10,000% sure it can work for your business. A classic pitch has some sound components. When combined correctly and written well, they can seal deals. I would especially urge businesses who offer goods or services at high-end price points to refine this tool. People may shell out $50 on Etsy but they’re giving you $5,000 unless you’ve made a compelling argument.

The way to do that is in a carefully crafted, beautifully structured, expertly designed sales letter. Here is how you do it.

Sales Letter Subject (A/B Test)

SUBJECT A:

SUBJECT B:

[Name],

  1. Introduce yourself and your qualifications.

Use this short section to say who you are, your title, what you do. If you’re writing as a “team” or on behalf of the business, introduce the business. Keep it short and punchy.

Sales Letter Intro: Pain Points & Problems

  1. Challenges/problems.

Pose the question: have you ever felt/have you seen how/does it make sense that? Lead with pain, challenge or the introduction of a problem (which you will solve).

EXAMPLE:

With your IT staff always being busy with projects and the day to day calls, have you ever had another set of eyes that can take a look at your plans for these types of issues? One of the many ways in which IT Assistants can help is working with our clients to see if there are any “pin holes” in their DR and/or Backup plans. Many times companies believe that they are 1,000% solid, only to find out that what they think will happen and what really does happen are two different things. This is just one of the many ways that IT Assistants can help.

  • Evaluate existing DR/RTO plans. Fully vet existing plans and test them to make sure they are in alignment of your objective.  
  • Have a weekly onsite visit for an extra pair of hands to help with things like PC Rollouts, cleaning up backlog or helping with other projects
  • Help with documentation and systematizing your IT infrastructure, making it easier for your staff to work 
  1. Explain WHY this problem exists.

Use relevant illustrations that will be very familiar to your audience. How does this problem play out? And, ultimately, what are the results of not getting resolution to these issues? IF POSSIBLE HERE is where you add in a personal anecdote of how you have been personally impacted by issues like these.

EXAMPLE:

An IT Department can feel like a remote branch of the company that, while essentially vital, never really moves the needle on initiating change or innovating. This is often because department heads and directors are buried in work. From documentation systems to updates and software, it’s almost impossible for them to accomplish regular maintenance, much less push your company forward. I know this because before being a business owner myself, I worked in IT at several large companies. Through no fault of their own, IT Managers and Directors just can’t do it all.

Hiring an additional, permanent employee is expensive and is a risk. When you hire a new tech, you may get 10-15 years of experience and are locked in to onboarding as well as a significant financial commitment. Working with us, you get a team backing you. As well, if you don’t like the technician we send onsite, just ask and we can send another one more to your liking. See if you can do that with a new Full Time Employee!

Sales Letter: Establish/Vet/Credential Your Business

  1. Outline your/your team’s qualifications and credentials.

Why are you completely capable of solving this problem? Use specific numbers (years, organizations, certifications, etc.).

EXAMPLE:

An IT Assistant will come in one day a week and simply assist. My team has over 75 years of combined experience and I am not going to lock you into a contract. This means, for virtually no risk, you can hire a set of skilled hands to regularly assist your IT Department in projects and operations.

Sales Letter Tip: List the Benefits

  1. What are the BENEFITS of buying.

Lay it on thick. List them out.

EXAMPLE:

This is a value add that could literally transform your IT Department.

  • You are not just hiring a freelance contractor, because they are my employees who have been trained and vetted..
  • You will get a technician that is fully versed in the Desktop and Server arena. For higher level projects, we have engineers available to help with those pesky complex projects. 
  • You are not hiring someone whose resume may or may not be accurate. My team is capable and can assist in basic and complex IT functions with minimal guidance and oversight.
  • You have our entire team behind you for project or complex issues that may need multiple people to come up with the right solution or fix. 

List Features & Distinctives (Value Prop)

  1. Now, the logistics of what you provide.

List all of the standout features of the specific product or service you’re providing. You’ll be tempted to go into detail here. Don’t. Just list them. Feel free to *externally link* to more detail or add a CTA here as an off-ramp.

EXAMPLE:

Give us the grunt work! An IT Assistant can help with numerous tasks, including:

  • Rollouts: Move, Adds, Changes
  • Desktop refreshes and rollouts
  • Desk and office moves
  • Server replacements and rollouts
  • Network expansion
  • Software deployments
  • Inventory management
  • Ticket backlogs and support
  • Security/phishing training and tracking
  1. Add MORE benefits and features.

Depending on what you are selling, this is the FREE add-on or amazing extra that the buyer will get.

EXAMPLE:

But, that’s not all. Because we have engineers available, they are able to address far more complex IT work, freeing up even your best employees to work on new initiatives that provide the highest value to your company. My team can help with projects like:

  • Sonicwalls, Cisco 
  • Virtual Servers
  • Clustering & Replication
  • Group Policy
  • Desktop Lockdowns
  • Compliance Assessments
  • Automated Deployments
  • And much more!

We can deep dive into servers, desktop work, backups, email and security as well. Go to https://itassistants.com/geek-stuff for more of the Geek Stuff.

Your best employees, the head of your IT Department and their most skilled team members should devote some bandwidth to growth and future projects. They can’t do this if they are bogged down with the weekly maintenance. That’s where IT Assistants can literally open the door for improving your systems and operations.

Sales Letter Tip: Always Offer Something FREE

  1. Offer something FREE.

You’ve created a connection, highlighted all of the benefits – now it’s time for some incentivizing. Sweeten the deal with a free offer of some kind. Trial, free consultation, whatever you’ve got.

EXAMPLE:

Because I believe in this, I’m offering a trial to you for free.

HIRE AN IT ASSISTANT FOR FREE

Contact me and we will arrange a date for you to test it out. Your IT Assistant will come to the office for half a day and assist with projects or any other work you wish to put on their plate. After that, you decide if you would like to work with us. 

Sales Pitch: Emphasize Risk-Free

  1. Highlight that this is RISK FREE.

This is the time to address concerns. Whether you have a high price point or it’s an intricate system… anticipate and deal with all of the typical detractors/downsides to what you’re selling (they exist; don’t ignore that).

EXAMPLE:

We won’t lock you into a contract, we believe that if we don’t do a GREAT job, you should be able to fire us! I am also offering a risk-free, money-back guarantee on our platform for 30 days. You won’t need it, but it’s there so that you know I am serious about providing the best quality team member to make your department thrive.

Round Out the Pitch: Second Freebie

  1. Another FREEBIE. 

No, I’m not kidding. This is the one-two punch. Something free up there… but, wait, for all of you super awesome super loyal people: something even MORE for you. If you have to, break up your freebie into two spots. Sticking it between your “risk-free” section gives the reader a mental breather before they dive into this next offer.

EXAMPLE:

You may wonder: does my department need this? Look at your department: what resources will be needed to make that project happen? What current to-dos stand in the way of succeeding? If you have an empty to-do list, this isn’t for you. If there are regular maintenance, movement or projected projects that will require extra bandwidth, reach out. We can help.

Because I am in this to provide you with a needed service, I am offering your IT Department access to two additional products that are an exclusive part of my MSP company. 

IT Documentation System

We will collect and deliver all system information. This is a modern documentation system that everyone on your team will love! This system can coordinate and organize all information, including IP addresses, passwords, all devices and even alert you if something is nearing its end of warranty! The process of content delivery is negotiable based on your system needs and ongoing monitoring requirements.  

Command and Protect Platform

Our security platform includes managed and monitored:

  • Anti-Virus
  • Anti-Malware
  • Windows Security Patches
  • Server Monitoring
  • Device Monitoring
  • Logmein Remote control
  • Access to information about all of your servers, desktops and critical devices. 
  • Alerting for Servers or Devices down
  • Real time inventory for all desktops and servers, including CPU, Memory, Hard Disk space, Service Tags and more

All of these are combined under a single pane of glass for easy management. We’ve managed thousands of endpoints with our platform, so we know it’s rock solid.

Add Customer Reviews in Your Sales Emails

  1. Reviews or testimonials.

Now it’s time for some social proof. These should be real, sweet and to the point. Use them to highlight this product specifically (generic reviews aren’t ideal).

EXAMPLE:

We are proud of our excellent reputation and have been in business for almost 20 years. Our IT work is the best and our team is trained and ready to assist you.

“Being in the business of video surveillance and access control we work a lot with our customers’ IT departments and their IT vendors. These guys have been an amazing partner and made the deployment of a large integrated video surveillance system a breeze.”

Client

Company

“In our industry, we have to stay on top of security and compliance. This group takes a disciplined approach that caters to our industry. Since using them, we’ve never had any major issues with our systems. We trust our IT business needs to this business, and we’re happy we made that choice years ago.”

Client

Company

Crystal Clear Ask: Close the Sale

  1. The final ask.

This needs to be to the point with at least one actionable CTA button.

EXAMPLE:

Ready to try it out? 

Schedule a risk-free trial and see what an IT Assistant could do for you. Go to [website] to sign up for your free half a day of onsite support. 

Drive Urgency to Close More Sales

  1. Drive urgency.

Use this last ditch effort to make your product seem a little scarce and super desirable.

EXAMPLE:

PS: If you do want to have a dedicated technician coming onsite weekly, please act now. We only have 2 available openings and it’s a first come, first serve basis. These openings only happen every 4 to 6 months, so act now!

Want a usable version of this template? Go here to download it.

Sales Training and Business Ideas

Want more of this? Read more of my articles, listed below.

If you prefer the live-and-in-color version, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

What is Your Marketing Personality?

Popular brands are made and broken by whether they can find the right marketing voice to stand out from the crowd. A marketing personality is separate from any individual person, although it’s often driven by the collective vibe of a company’s culture. This is very key. Authenticity is a huge priority for consumers, especially millennials. Let’s face it, not ever pest control company is going to pull off “apocalyptic” and not every legal firm is going to be “funny.”

Mimicry will get you nowhere. Instead, start with what you’ve got. Your brand has value in the marketplace. If it’s going to have an identifiable voice, you need to commit to the right personality. This consistency will contribute (in a huge way) to how recognizable you become. So, how do you decide who you are?

A Brand’s Existential Journey

I realize that header has no SEO value and I don’t care. I think this is a real thing. Unbeknownst to many people (and to the great boredom of my family and friends), I studied philosophy. And because corporations are comprised of people, the way each individual perceives life and makes decisions will be part of the sum total of that brand’s identity. This obviously increases in intensity the higher you go. So, what is the C-suite wearing, saying and doing that is represented in the brand? And, should it be?

For the brand identity to not default to the loudest voice, it’s essential that this conversation be had. A brand’s voice should be crafted with intention. And, while informed by the personalities in charge, it can be a completely different personality than the primary players. If they all agree.

So, yes, have the conversation. And this is the conversation to have.

Types of Brand Personalities

Brand personalities aren’t going to be quite as identifiable as an Enneagram or Myers-Briggs. First, because you’re not mapping something that exists: you’re creating it from scratch. So, you have this naked little baby and you get to choose what it says, what it does, what it wears, where it goes. (Note, this is in deep discord from actual parenting where you have no control at all whatsoever.)

Here are some common types of brand personalities and the popular brands who leverage each style.

Brand Personality: Rugged

Jeep, Clif bars, Swiss Army and even cologne brands often embody this “pensively crouched atop a mountain” vibe. Think slinging mud and cracking beers and wide open sky. While historically, this brand personality has been leveraged by companies who want male buyers, it isn’t quite so pigeonholed anymore. While there is a lot of testosterone still in play here, there are a variety of brands who use outdoorsy, sporty imagery and language in their branding.

Examples of Rugged Brands:

  • Budweiser
  • Columbia
  • Ford
  • Harley-Davidson
  • Home Depot
  • Jeep
  • Keen
  • Nalgene
  • Nature’s Valley
  • REI
  • Trader Joe’s

Vocabulary List for Rugged Brands:

  • Adventure
  • Athletic
  • Bold
  • Cool
  • Confident
  • Daring
  • Durable
  • Exciting
  • Experience
  • Go
  • Loud
  • Outdoorsy
  • Strong
  • Rebellious
  • Resilient

Customer Persona Examples for Rugged Brands:

  • Athletes
  • Bikers
  • Capable
  • DIY-ers
  • Independent
  • Male
  • No-nonsense
  • Proud
  • Risk-takers
  • Strong
  • Tough
  • Travelers

Brand Personality: Serious

Trying to sell a medical advice, marketing a law firm or running a funeral home, serious is the sweet spot. That probably sounded trite. There are two prongs to this: some brands, by nature, need to be sober and somber (funeral homes). Other brands are doing this strategically. Eliciting an emotional reaction through scare tactics, dystopia, apocalyptic language and caution/warnings are also a component of serious marketers. This works well for cybersecurity companies, for example. There is a little bit of fear, a little bit of darkness and a little bit of nerve in play. It works well.

Examples of Serious Brands

  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Legal firms
  • Food companies: Stonyfield, Dannon and Clover Sonoma (“Peel Back the Label” GMO warnings, etc.)
  • McAfee (Anti-Malware/Antivirus Software)
  • Medical practices/hospitals

There are a lot of specific examples within these areas, but they aren’t as commercially familiar so I’m keeping it general.

Vocabulary List for Serious Brands

  • Afraid
  • Avoid
  • Careful
  • Caution
  • Committed
  • Concern
  • Consequence
  • Don’t
  • Major
  • Notice
  • Protect
  • Rigorous
  • Solution
  • Suspicious
  • Urgent
  • Warning
  • Watch

Customer Persona Examples for Serious Brands

  • Families
  • Frightened
  • Low-income
  • Needy
  • Scared
  • Sensitive
  • Unprotected
  • Unsure
  • Vulnerable

I get that this list may come off stereotypical but, the reality is, there is a huge moral gray area to using marketing like this. It’s a fine line between helpful and exploiting. Not all brands walk that line with integrity.

Brand Personality: Sophisticated

Innovative tech, monopolistic brands, thoughtful design: sophisticated is the tone high-end businesses use to get consumers to crave and pay for “the best.” It’s important to note that this tone doesn’t just go after the top 1% with bulky buying power. This is a voice often used to depict #lifegoals: this is for anyone with discriminating taste. Sophisticated, sleek, refined is very much both a voice and the imagined goal of the target customer.

Black men in a cafe. Guys drinking a coffee. Businessman in a black suit.

Examples of Sophisticated Brands

  • Apple
  • The Atlantic
  • Bosch
  • Bose
  • Estee Lauder
  • Jaguar
  • The New York Times
  • Prada
  • Puma
  • Rolex
  • Sony
  • TEDx
  • Tiffany & Co
  • Tumi

Vocabulary List for Sophisticated Brands

  • Advanced
  • Cosmopolitan
  • Civilized
  • Culture
  • Elegant
  • Enlightened
  • In the know
  • Modern
  • Polished
  • Revolutionary
  • Smooth
  • State of the art
  • Stylish
  • Suave
  • Urbane
  • Worldly

Customer Persona Examples for Sophisticated Brands

  • Articulate
  • Careerist
  • Collegiate
  • Digital native
  • Educated
  • Executive
  • Mature
  • Refined
  • Smart
  • Tech savvy
  • Traveled
  • Upper class
  • Wealthy

Brand Personality: Aspirational

This voice appeals to go-getters: the dreamers and the doers. Aspirational marketing copy is essentially presenting an ideal. Sometimes this has to do with high-end but more commonly it’s simply setting a good or service in the context of a desired life. For younger audiences, this desirable life may be living in an camper traveling the world. For older audiences, it may be getting the ultimate, dream retirement villa. It works on many levels and for many audiences.

Examples of Aspirational Brands

  • Airstream
  • Barbie
  • BP
  • Cartier
  • Google
  • J.P. Morgan
  • Mercedes-Benz
  • Nike
  • Orange Theory
  • Volkswagon
  • Veuve Cliquot

Vocabulary List for Aspirational Brands

  • All
  • Different
  • Dream big
  • Freedom
  • Fresh
  • Identity
  • More
  • New
  • One of a kind
  • Perfect
  • Powerful
  • Unique
  • Who
  • Stand out
  • Success

Customer Persona Examples for Aspirational Brands

  • Ambitious
  • Calculated
  • Competitive
  • Creative
  • Disposable income
  • Dreamer
  • Entrepreneur
  • Individualistic
  • Inventive
  • Investor
  • Out-of-the-box
  • Planner
  • Risk-taker
  • Traveler
  • Visionary

Random note: I actually am really loving how this girl (Michaela Mendes) describes aspirational brands – go here to read her blog on Pixlee.

Brand Personality: Intellectual

Smarty-pants. College educated. Woke. The intellectual appeal is meant for the masses but should feel personal: your target customer feels like they know a little more and should get a behind-the-scenes glimpse or inside scoop. Intellectual copy often invites the reader in as a participant into the strategy or structure behind an innovative good or service. This is, unabashedly, an ego appeal. It also gives brands the leeway to use a little higher than the painful eighth-grade-web-copy standard. Better vocabulary, sharp wit, personalized asks: this is the trifecta of a good intellectual marketing voice.

Examples of Intellectual Brands

(I am resisting every urge to say Tootsie Pop here… because of that smarty pants owl)

  • British Airways
  • Comcast
  • Harry’s
  • IBM
  • Intel
  • Lego
  • Mastercard
  • Nikon
  • Panasonic
  • Ralph Lauren
  • Samsung
  • Virgin (yes… think about it)
  • Wall Street Journal

Vocabulary List for Intellectual Brands

  • Agile
  • Apt
  • Astute
  • Bright
  • Brilliant
  • Clever
  • Fundamental
  • Intuitive
  • Logical
  • Neat
  • Responsive
  • Sense
  • Top
  • Wise

Customer Persona Examples for Intellectual Brands

  • Cultured
  • Educated
  • Egotistical
  • High vocabulary
  • Middle class
  • Musical
  • Readers
  • Respond to scarcity/exclusivity
  • Snobs (sorry, true)
  • Tech-savvy

Brand Personality: Funny

Now, for a breath of fresh air. Pop, fizz. I love a funny brand. It’s the ultimate reprieve from everything uppercrust and stodgy and scary and bleh. It’s a mental break. It’s a joy. Can you tell this is my favorite kind of marketing? There are some killer brands out there rocking the puns, spins, sarcasm and jokes. And I love every second of it, I admit. Here are some ways that humor is one of the most endearing qualities a brand can use.

Examples of Funny Brands

  • Bissell
  • Charmin
  • DiGiorno
  • Innocent
  • JetBlue Airways
  • Moe’s
  • Netflix
  • Old Spice
  • Skittles
  • Wendy’s
  • Uber
  • Whole Foods
  • Zappos
  • Zendesk

Vocabulary List for Funny Brands

  • Care
  • Crazy
  • Damndest
  • How
  • Riot
  • Uncanny
  • Weird
  • Wit

More importantly than vocabulary for funny brands is really the tone and linguistic tricks you can get away with (maybe this is really why I like it so much). For instance, with this approach, you can:

  • Anthropomorphize animals or objects
  • Be sarcastic
  • Use personification
  • Pose scenarios
Friends do sports in a park in Munich

Customer Persona Examples for Funny Brands

  • Active online
  • Artistic
  • Business owners
  • Community oriented
  • Culturally savvy
  • Engaged
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Faddish
  • Irreverent
  • Marketers
  • Money
  • News readers
  • Stylish
  • Young families

Find Your Brand Voice

Your brand voice should show up in everything that you do. Knowing who you are and how you will communicate paves the way for a much easier journey. Content creation gets way easier if you’re not trying to be everything to everyone. Having a solid brand voice dictates everything from PR efforts to how you respond to negative reviews. Many questions will simply be answered for you. Plus, when a brand voice is separate from, for example, the CMOs, everyone can speak the same language and learn to “be the brand” online. Powerful stuff. Worth doing.

Go here to read more about how to find your brand voice.

Go here to download my FREE brand voice guide, which is full of exercises that help you make important vocabulary and tone decisions.

Optimize CTAs On Your Webpage

YOU get a CTA and YOU get a CTA and YOU get a CTA .

Oprah, probably.

Call to action. I already talked to you about how to write these (go here to get a refresher). The basics of writing CTAs are:

  • Don’t be shy (seriously, TELL PEOPLE WHAT TO DO)
  • Be clear
  • Be compelling

But once you have this sweet little treasure chest full of action phrases and invitations, what do you do with them?

I’ve been writing a lot of webpages lately. There are so many missteps you can make with CTAs, especially if you get knee-deep in pillars or other long-form content. Heck, even the average webpage probably goes too long without giving you an opt-on (not opt-out) opportunity.

Bottom line: people need off-ramps and direction or they will leave your page. The average web user is not willing to put effort into finding information on your site. If you don’t deliver them an opportunity within a couple of seconds, they’re going to leave.

So, I wanted to revisit this. As we craft compelling marketing copy and optimize it for SEO, we can’t forget the all-important goal: interaction. There’s a paradigm you need to get into and some action steps you need to take. I’ll tell you what they are if you keep reading.

Not sure you’re committed to the read? Watch the video below instead. (See what I did there? That was an off-ramp. You’re welcome.)

How Do You Know You Need CTAs?

First, assessment. Always a good place to start. If a bit boring.

You know your website doesn’t have enough call to actions if your BOUNCE RATE is super HIGH. In other words, people land on your site, have a look around and then bounce. Outta here. Bye.

This could mean they didn’t SEE right away what they were supposed to DO. It could also mean your website has subpar information and layout. It’s kind of like creating a landing page without a form. Hubbawhat? No one would do that.

So, figure out what your bounce rate is and then revisit your copy: do people have frequent opportunities to move on from text into a point of interaction or conversion?

How Often Should You Have a CTA?

This is a bit of a subjective point, but one on which I (unsurprisingly) have an opinion. Most webpages are organized into blocks. You have text blocks, image blocks and the super-creative text + image blocks (so fancy). This may sound excessive, but for the average website, I strongly suggest having a CTA with pretty much every block. Now, OBVIOUSLY this doesn’t apply to blogs, which are meant to be read. But, honestly, even blogs do this sometimes (I’m looking at you, Hubspot).

The general layout should pretty much look like this:

That’s because the goal of someone coming to your website (and the only way you have of tracking what they did there) is for them to go further. Otherwise, they’re ringing the doorbell and think no one’s home. Open the door and don’t stand in the foyer. Invite them further in. This engagement is the only way to really nurture leads and ultimately convert.

What Should CTAs Lead to?

There are two primary types of CTAs on your website:

  1. CTAs that lead to a form
  2. CTAs that lead to other pages

Both of these have value and should be a part of your website.

Form-Driving CTAs

The first type is created to procure email addresses, which are super valuable. Most often, this kind of CTA will be a trade: get a FREE download, MORE info, FREE tip sheet, etc. The trade may be necessary because people are hesitant to be subject to spam or get on an email list (I know I am). To get them to commit, you need a carrot. You’ll decide what is a valuable enough trade to push this transaction.

Traffic-Driving CTAs

Internal linking is a part of your website’s SEO strategy. This is when you have prompts, or CTAs, throughout your site that lead to other pages. Note, this is not anchoring. For this, you want clicks between individual pages. To drive this, you create a lead-in for related content or additional information:

Click here to learn more about SEO linking strategies. (That was both a CTA for you and an example).

How Many Different CTAs Should Your Site Have?

This is an important question. I’ve worked with brands before that simply have too many streams. As visitors scroll through your site, they have the option to CLICK NOW, CONTACT US, GO HERE, GET A FREE DEMO, SCHEDULE A CALL… it can lead to decision paralysis. This overload creates unnecessary complexity.

In most web design programs, you’ll configure a batch of CTAs to use throughout your site. These will usually be linked to a form of some kind.

I suggest no more than three different CTAs for your entire website.

I’m not kidding. NO. MORE. THAN. THREE. Simply put, your tracking will be diluted and your interaction reduced if you have an overwhelming number of options. Keep it simple.

Last Step: Tracking CTAs

Lastly, and this really does feel a bit oversimplistic, you must track your CTAs.

First, you need to test the copy. Hopefully, you’ve done demographic research and know the kind of language your ideal client responds to. If not, please bookmark this and do that at some point. Figure out which CTAs work. Test them on different pages.

Second, test them in different deliveries. Change the button color and shape and placement. Play with where these fall between copy or image blocks. Maybe it works on top of an image, maybe not. Be willing to change it and monitor the results.

Third, don’t forget to be on top of response. If you get an email, that is a precious commodity. Cherish it, take care of it (RESPOND TO IT). Don’t miss connections and the lead cultivation you need to do to create a community of customers. Lots of Cs in that sentence.

The Power of Your CTAs

At the end of the day, your website is about engagement. You want people to come (traffic) and you want people to stay (health). Your site success depends on your ability to thoughtfully guide people as they navigate your website. CTAs provide the off-ramps people need. Once they’ve got their fill of info, it needs to be crystal clear where they should go and what they should do next. CTAs are the guideposts for that.

Be sure to SUBSCRIBE to this blog and my YouTube Channel to get regular infusions of good ideas and reminders like these. 🙂

Also, I’m on IG. Needs must.

Why Doesn’t Your Website Work? (Here’s Why)

There are two common misconceptions about the internet. In my experience, people pendulum swing between these polarities:

  1. The internet is out to get you and make you pay and dog-eat-dog and you’ll never rank or win and who needs a website anyway.
  2. The internet is a magical place where all your dreams come true and anyone can be anything (like Zootopia!).

The reality is… YES.

The problem is, these misconceptions result in a lot of missteps. From the moment you GoDaddy that domain to the moment you press Publish, you craft a website based on what you believe it should do for you. That standard by which you intend to measure all future success could be faulty. And every step along the way, you could be unintentionally diminishing your website’s potential.

As I work with businesses and brands to develop copy for their web presence, I’ve found there are 10 common reasons why your website doesn’t work. The good news is that, even if you have to strip it to the studs, it’s all fixable. Yes, your mistakes are indexed somewhere out there. But the barren wasteland of your naked-school-presentation-embarrassment isn’t going to show up for your customers. So, your secret mistakes are safe. But they can’t be buried or fixed until you know what they are. So, here they are. (Yes, I realize the last four sentences matched).

Why Doesn’t My Website Work?

This is a similar question to: why can’t I get leads on my website? Or, why doesn’t my website get visitors? Most of the “reasons” are traceable. Fundamental mistakes you’ve made along the way. Here they are, in no particular order or degree of offense.

#1: No SEO Keywords On Your Site

This is especially relevant if you wrote your site a while ago or before you knew SEO was a thing. Having no SEO keywords on your site means that your site will not get organic traffic. Reminder, organic traffic just means UNPAID. So, if you aren’t running PPC ads and you have no SEO content that can deliver your website to people on a search engine results page, then you’re fresh outta luck.

HOW do you know if you have SEO keywords on your site? Well, did you put them there? If not, probably not. However, sometimes you have them there by accident. You can find out what SEO keywords or SEO phrases are on your website by using Spyfu or Google itself.

#2: Poor UX (User Experience) On Your Website

When I do content consulting, one of the first things I do is go through a website and click every button, follow every rabbit hole (at the end sometimes I feel very inclined to “Drink Me!”… as it has been a wild ride). You may have not set up your website with user experience in mind, but that is the primary function of your site. See, the website isn’t really about you. It’s not a commercial. It’s an invitation. If it’s clunky to get around, hard to understand and complicated to find answers, people won’t stick around for long. Don’t believe me? Check your bounce rate. Additional mistakes in this realm include:

  • Using a lot of brand-specific language (the average person does NOT understand what you’re talking about).
  • Using too many, or too few, words. You may be saying way too much or not nearly enough. Third parties should be reading and validating any copy you post on your site.
  • Having inconsistency in style.
  • Too many animations (not everything needs to jump, wiggle and shift. If I try to tap on something and it moves, I’m out).

#3: Style Over Substance On Your Site

At the end of the day, your website is supposed to convey information and convert leads. That’s the point of it. There are so many cool things it can do and neat design options. It’s easy to get caught up in that. I’ve worked with brands like this: agonizing over every single spacer and the orientation of images and the addition of video and animations (I hate breaking it to them that it all shifts on mobile anyway).

Hear me loud and clear: the best way to disabuse yourself of the notion that people see your site as art is to audit the view time. Unless you are an online encyclopedia or have a huge blog with tons of useful info, people are bippity-boppity-bouncing on and off your site within seconds. Sometimes less.

Yes, your site should make an impression. It should clearly represent your brand, not just in words but also in style. But you are having yourself a money fire if you obsess and spend hours creating the style of your site instead of focusing on what it is intended to do. If someone doesn’t find what they’re looking for (namely, who you are and how what you offer helps them) then they are out, goodbye.

#4: Bad Navigation On Your Website

Nav is a big pet peeve of mind. I have a colleague who actually says nav shouldn’t have more than three items in it. Whether you have a philosophical opinion about maxing out at three or five, most of us in this field recommend no more than five. Here are some other common mistakes you may be making that decrease people’s ability to navigate your site:

  • Weird page titles – if you get too cutesy, people have no idea how to find “services” or “contact,” which is what they’re conditioned to look for.
  • Clutter – like I said above, too many items are a problem. It’s also a problem if you have hover functions and drop downs. First and foremost, these are tricky on mobile, which is how well over half of the people in the world will find you.
  • Font/spacing/readability issues – keep in mind, users are coming at you in a blur. There need to be very sleek, easy to read directions. This means that you can’t choose fonts based on sentimentality or style: be real and choose something blocky, bold and quickly readable.

#5: Slow Load Time/Site Errors

This one has to do with site health. There are numerous factors that can adversely impact your site’s load time. For my part, if I try to go to a site and it takes more than… let’s say three seconds to load, I’m out. Sounds harsh? I’m not alone. 40% of site visitors will bail if your site takes more than those three ticking secs. Don’t you do that, too, though? Try your site on multiple devices at multiple times a day. Encounter issues? You may need to contact your web developer and get to the root of the issue. This will be a HUGE deterrent to people and will cost you traffic.

#6: Brand-Centric (Rather Than Customer-Centric) Site

I get it. Your website is a HUGE task and it’s a significant part of your brand identity, especially at the start. It’s an opportunity to show off. Plus, you probably paid a developer and designer and maybe copywriter money to make it awesome. I get that you’re proud of it. But it really isn’t about you. You don’t go on a date and talk about yourself the whole time, right? (Please don’t.) If your website isn’t customer-oriented, then customers don’t care. Just like you, they’re egomaniacs. You’ve gotta cater.

#7: No CTA On Your Site

A huge issue I see in a lot of modern, minimalist sites is a painful lack of CTAs.

Call to action. Call them to action. Scream at them in plain letters:

  • CLICK HERE
  • TRY NOW
  • FREE TRIAL
  • GO HERE
  • LEARN MORE
  • SIGN UP

It is an absurd and romantic notion to overestimate your website visitor. People are distracted. They’re on their phones for a million reasons. By the time they get to your site, they may not remember what they’re there for. Tell them. They’re at your door: INVITE. THEM. IN. Remember your manners. Invitational, persuasive and crystal clear. That’s the goal of CTAs.

Go here to learn more about how to write a good CTA.

#8: Too Many Conversion Paths On Your Site

In addition to the CTAs themselves being super clear is the issue of conversion paths. Especially if you have a broad offering or a variety of goods, it’s easy to get confused about the ultimate interaction your site is offering. You can pull this off even if you are an Ecomm site. There are a few resolutions for this, one of which is the home page menu look where you ask visitors what they’re coming for. For example, presenting two options from the get-go:

  • For teachers
  • For students

If you have resources for both, it might be most useful to funnel it that way. The issues arise when you have a million things a visitor can do: sign this form for a free newsletter, follow the blog, visit me on social, etc. etc. etc. ad nauseum. What’s the point of this site? What is really the most valuable transaction a customer can make?

Keep in mind that the average email address is worth about $10. Getting your hands on that may be the most valuable thing a visitor can give (or trade) you. Whatever your ultimate goal is, create a conversion path that is clearly marked and has an ultimate destination. Too many options disseminate the impact and dissolve your ROI.

#9: No Value Proposition

Your website shouldn’t just be optimized for SEO and conversion, it needs to have value. Value is a bit subjective. At the heart, this is about your UVP (Unique Value Proposition). In what way is your brand, your offering, something totally new and different? How are you unmissable? This is part of developing your marketing but is also something that should be thematically woven throughout your site. In other words, if people are leaving your site quickly, they’re not finding anything compelling to keep them there. If you had a successful UVP, they might. Let your website very clearly and concisely answer the question: “This will bring value to your life because…”

#10: Your Site Has Bad Site Health

There are a ton of ways that your site has developed bad health. There are chronic illnesses and acute illnesses that could seriously impair someone’s ability to find or use your website. These include things like:

  • Bad links
  • Broken links
  • 404 Errors
  • Unmatched descriptions
  • No meta-descriptions
  • Bad code/code errors

If your site gets hit with some no-nos, Google is going to bankrupt your rank. Not to mention, your site could become infested. Get a check-up. Update plug-ins. Throw some Vitamin C in the pipeline. Not really.

How to Improve Your Website

Through some of these points, I’ve added recommendations for improving your website. At the end of the day, though, it will depend on which of these fatal flaws you have. You may need coding fixes, copy fixes or design fixes. I suggest you do a full-scale audit of your site. Have multiple people go through and read every word, follow every link, tap every CTA. Fill out the forms and make sure they go where you think they’re going. Use software like SEMRush to audit and find out more details. Hire a writer or a content specialist if you need one. You can improve. If you want to grow, you’ll have to.

What Written Copy Does Your Business Need?

So, there’s no Bible for start-ups. Like, here are the six steps everyone takes and here is the gospel truth for how to begin, continue and succeed. Bummer. As someone who bobs and weaves my way in and out of start-ups on the reg, I can readily admit that one of the hardest parts of my job is *getting my bearings.*

I step into a start-up, get access to their Basecamp or Google Drive and am deluged by all of the things that they and thought were important. The variance in this has resulted in this blog.

Why are all of you so different? The things you think are important are so different it’s mind. blowing. If I take the temp at the six month mark of most small brands, here’s a sampling of what I see:

  • Some brands have a complete brand guide, A-Z, of exactly who they are and what they want to say. And social profiles with no posts.
  • Some brands have a painstakingly crafted mission and vision statement (I’m talking crafted outside a dehydration tent in AZ on their small business retreat kind of stuff). And no website.
  • Some brands have bought followers and started posting frenetically (multiple times a day) on Instagram. And have no templated emails.

Get the drift? It’s a mess out there, you guys. And, while I in no way claim divine authority, there is some structure I might suggest to you. In other words, let’s set a baseline for the pieces of written text that you are going to need. Some of these you won’t have thought of yet. But, I can tell you, writing reactively isn’t the best option. Therein lie typos and grammatical nightmares which may not bother you but will give me hives when I login. If you get ahead of this and consider it part of your pre-launch strategy (or really get it done at any time), you’ll be ready to roll.

In my world, we call assembling this copy a CONTENT SPRINT. It’s the concentrated 3-5 weeks you spend focusing on all of this content. Then you try not to change it.

Go here to learn more about hiring a content consultant and why that could save your life.

Write a Website

I am not patronizing you (keep telling yourself that). For real, you have to write a website guys. I’ve come into companies after they have been operating for YEARS (with an S) and they don’t have a coherent website. These are the businesses who have customers. And what they think (in error) is that because they have customers, they don’t need new ones. WRONG-O. That’s like saying because you’re fully staffed you will never need to hire again. If you don’t stay proactive about hiring, someone will quit and you’ll be screwed. If you don’t stay proactive about getting new business, your business will die.

Histrionics aside, your business should have a website. You should have a few things on it:

  • Company information (who you are, what you do)
  • A way to procure email addresses (a form that is SET UP and goes to an email that somebody will check)
  • SEO keywords and phrases (in headers, meta-descriptions and copy)
  • Links to your other profiles online (probably social but maybe eComm sites)

Here’s the thing you must remember, in case you keep putting this off: a website will start working and *keep working* for you. SEO is like planting a seed. You don’t have to do much and it will keep growing. You may think no one will ever find or read your site but what if they do? Depending on your industry, each client could be a significant revenue stream for you. Don’t underestimate the power of being found.

Write a website.

Write Templated Emails

I can’t tell you how many clients write to me at 1am and are like, “the sales team is starting tomorrow – do we need a templated response and can you write one?” The answer is YES and YES. Here’s the thing: if writing were so easy, anyone could do it. Sales skills and writing sales copy are two very different skills. They’re the people people. We’re the words people. It’s risky to expect your sales team to be able to dialogue with clients (cold or warm) in a solid way. I would also suggest arming them with tons of other content, like an elevator pitch, but for now, make sure they at least have everything typed out. This includes:

  • Welcome to the company emails for generic form-fills
  • Cold sales emails
  • Warm sales email follow-ups
  • Freebie/offer emails

These are four absolutely vital emails to have ready to quickly customize and shoot off. While cold email leads are a long-shot, you’re still going to try. If you —or your sales team— is going to try to create these from scratch every time, you are wasting a TON of time.

Write emails.

Write Company Information

Your business has basic components to it that include who you are and what you do. These should be written out in a coherent way. You will be SHOCKED at how often you need this information. To have it readily available, you need to craft a paragraph (3-4 sentences) that include who you are, why you’re credentialed, what you offer and your desired outcome. An example would be:

I’m Joy Youell from Hire a Writer. I have helped hundreds of small businesses create a comprehensive content strategy that converts new leads. I get that growing a new brand is hard. I’m here to make it easier by expert tips and a helping hand that result in a powerful presence and profit for your company.

Me. On LinkedIn.

That could be edited to third person, lengthened, shortened and posted in a variety of places. For instance, my LinkedIn profile (yes, it’s there). Here’s the thing: every new hire you make has a labyrinth of social profiles and opportunities to represent your brand (whether you ask them to or not). You need brand info readily available for them to cut and paste. Unless you want every new employee to speak on your behalf, it’s best to have templated materials that put you in the best light.

This kind of content will have a million different uses, though. As you grow, you’ll use it for:

  • PR outreach
  • Blog descriptions
  • Company snippets
  • Collaborations
  • Podcast visits
  • Webinar appearances

The more you have your act together here, the better you’ll look.

Write company information.

Write Social Copy

This is a giant subject that requires better treatment than a paragraph in this blog. Suffice it to say, you need to write social copy. It’s SO easy to think that you’re going to grow your brand on social by logging in every day and saying something that’s on your mind. But it just doesn’t work that way. Social platforms require a price for giving you, as a business, access to all of their invasive user analytics.

If you’re going to benefit by knowing that the thirty year old moms in your area all work out at Burn Boot Camp, drink whey smoothies and buy organic cotton, Facebook and Instagram will make you werk (W-E-R-K). You get that insight by engaging on these platforms regularly and according to best practices. This includes using (shudder) emojis and hashtag banks. You have to plan this stuff out. Posting spontaneously will get you nowhere. You need creative, engaging social post copy.

This may sound a little suspect coming from me, but *even in Instagram,* the game isn’t all about the image. The caption matters. Matters mightily. And you need to write it in advance. It will take more time than you think.

Write social posts.

Write Business Copy

So, those are the four main areas of business copy you need to get on with. Schedule it. Plan for it. Ignore your kids for a weekend and do it. It will make all of the difference when you get into the run and realize you’re not playing catch-up. You’re welcome.

Write an SEO Blog: Live Demo

I’ve written thousands of SEO blogs and SEO web pages. I went ahead and captured this not-quite-as-thrilling-as-X-men-but-still-not-awful process on camera for you. You can watch it on my YouTube channel:

I’ll put a short synopsis here, so you can simply scroll and check out the steps I use to write an SEO blog. They are:

Create an SEO Blog Template

Configure a template. This is what mine looks like. I’ve found that SEO blog templates are something that are as unique as a writer themselves. Anyone who’s been an SEO copywriter for any length of time probably has one that they use. Mine is very simple and includes the key metrics I need to fill it up and stay on track during writing. It’s important not to miss anything, especially if you’re moving quickly through multiple pieces of copy.

Do SEO Keyword Research For Your SEO Blog

It should go without saying that the only way a “blog” earns the delineation “SEO” is if it is populated with the right keywords. In the video, I’ll show you how to run competitor sites through two tools:

You can click the links there to check them out. Even the free versions of both of those software systems are highly valuable for an SEO blogger. They’ll give you insight into the key metrics you need to choose keywords, namely,

  • Keyword difficulty (KD)
  • Search volume

To make a very long story short, you basically want to choose keywords that have a similar monthly traffic pattern to your own website. In other words, if you only get 2,000 hits a month, don’t try to rank for a keyword that gets 300k. I often have to explain this to clients. In this example, if I tried to rank for “apple pie,” I’d be pushed out of the game. Instead, be savvy. Go for the realistic keywords that you have a prayer of ranking for.

I also illustrate how I use competitor sites (the ones that are ranking for the keyword I want) to populate the related keywords (that I’ll use in H2s and throughout the body).

Start your H1s and H2s in your SEO Blog

Next, you begin the copywriting part by outlining the H1s and H2s you want to use. You already know your H1: it’s whatever the title of your SEO blog is. Your H2s should be from the keyword list you created during your research. Then, you’ll scatter the rest of the keywords throughout the body copy. Like little seeds. You never know.

I show you in the video how I use a little sticky note on my desktop to keep track of keyword use throughout copy development. Also, I highlight as I go, mostly for the sake of the client but sometimes to remind myself what I’m doing.

Write Your SEO Blog

I mostly skip this part in the video because, well, paint drying. Basically, you’ll just Google the heck out of whatever you’re writing. Don’t worry, you’ll test for plagiarism at the end so you don’t get caught. But, honestly, as an SEO copywriter, you’ll get hired to write about crazy things. I literally wrote a series about earwax removal last week… I’ve written about carpet cleaning, business litigation, how to take the LSAT… there is no way to be an expert in all of these things. And you don’t need to be. An SEO blog isn’t going to be a deep dive into any topic (reserve that for pillars). Your actual research on a topic can be minimal, because you’re giving it a cursory treatment. You’re not hired to know about what kind of man jewelry is in this season: you’re being hired to get organic traffic to this website. So, just write it.

Score Your SEO Blog for Three Metrics

Once your copy is drafted, you need to score it. You’ll score it for three metrics:

  1. Readability: for typical SEO copy, you want to try between an 8-10 grade level. I always score for grade level and Flesch.
  2. Plagiarism: double-check you’re not ripping anyone off, even unintentionally.
  3. Word count: SEO blogs are anywhere from 500-1000 words.

Write a Meta-Description for Your SEO Blog

The meta-description should have your exact H1s, plus a couple of tier 2 keywords thrown in for love. Once your meta-description is written, you’re free to re-read your work and polish it up. I always include things like CTAs at the end and then make sure I list out my interlinks and external links. That latter is the only thing I didn’t do in the example video, because this isn’t for a real client. 😉

Hope this was helpful! Subscribe to my YouTube channel for new videos like this all of the time.

A Linking Strategy for Your Website

What is link building? Why is link building important? Link building is an essential part of your SEO strategy. When you think of it, don’t think about a chain, think about a chain link fence. In other words, you are creating these connections that build up and out and all about. These connections add value and organic traffic to your site.

Let’s talk about:

  1. Kinds of links
  2. Links and search engines
  3. Link building and PR

Kinds of Links for SEO

There are a few kinds of links, some of which are more important than others for SEO. All of which you should know about and use strategically. There are:

  • <a> links – these are the majority of internal and external domain links. They show search engines the value and relevance of the destination.
  • Img links – alt and title tags are a way to leverage images as a link strategy.
  • <script> links are “meh.” JavaScript links aren’t always indexable, so use HTML if you can.
  • Rel links are canonical tags that may be part of an HTTP header. Only time you really use this is if you want to pick a URL to index/not index.

NOTE: I am purposely not talking about nofollow links here because it’s too deep for this discussion. Another time.

Links and Search Engines

Links are valued by search engines. As the Google bots crawl, index and rank, they use links to discover new pages and measure existing pages. High quality pages will improve in rank. Highly connected pages will do even better. This means that linking is an SEO ranking factor. It is inherent in the Google algorithm. Links are about your authority and confidence.

Now, there is a warning here: every time Google updates it refines its measurement of links. This is partly because people over-optimize their pages and use no-no techniques (like web directory listings in exchange for links). Practices like this get you penalized. But if you’re a novice, you probably don’t know enough to worry about that. No shade.

Link Building and PR

As much as responding to every comment on your Facebook thread is a vital tactic to growing your brand, link building is another aspect of PR you can’t ignore. It’s a less icky version of “like for like!” “follow for follow!”. Wink. Shudder. Link building helps you build relationships. It forces you to get extroverted and reach out to other blog writers and entrepreneurs. You can promote the content you create and build long-term relationships with people who can help you grow your brand.

Link building also gets you referral traffic. It’s earned, not paid. And the traffic you get from links out there is organic, which is the best kind of food to eat, I mean traffic to get.

Link Building Bonus Tip

Before you go scattering your blogs like seed in the wind, let me remind you: a good linking strategy begins with having something worth linking to. Don’t disappoint the Google Bots by having garbage to drive people back to. Everything you write should accurately reflect your brand, provide value to the reader and be well crafted and thought out and I didn’t really consider how to end this sentence.

IRONY.

SEO Content: Website, Blog, Pillar

There are three ingredients you need to create a robust SEO presence. These are:

  1. SEO foundation: website pages
  2. SEO consumable content: blogs
  3. SEO long-form content: pillars

The first you pretty much invest in once. The second and third you need to invest in regularly. Let’s get into it. What are these, seriously do I have to do them, and yes, you have to do them. Why? Because I’m your mother and I said so.

SEO Website Pages

First, your core website pages should not be the dirty dozen: it should be the fearless five. For almost any business, it is sufficient to have:

  1. Home
  2. About
  3. Team
  4. Services
  5. Contact

Ecomm sites will obviously diverge from that formula. But you do have to be mindful that a cluttered nav or tons of subsections are going to deteriorate UX. There are a few things you will do as you create the copy on these pages. These are the golden rules of SEO websites and I don’t care if you break them. But Google does.

  • Use your SEO keyword list (go here for info on how to make one)
  • Write at least 500 words per page (this is controversial and not a magic number but use logic: if you want to fit keywords onto the page, you have to have copy to add them into)
  • Organize your copy so that you have at least one H1 and a couple of H2s
  • Write a meta-description that matches your H1
  • Have at least two external links
  • Have at least two internal links

There are some dev things you can do to refine this strategy. But that’s for the nerd you hire. For our purposes here, this is the copy structure you need on every page (yes, even your contact page) to have a solid SEO website.

SEO Blogs

SEO blogs are probably one of the most common forms of digital collateral. They’re often outsourced to freelancers, which is fine. Here’s the SEO value of a blog:

  • It’s an ongoing source of content that gives fresh life to your website
  • You can use blogs to incorporate new and trending keywords into your website
  • You can use newsjacking blogs to ride the coattails of traffic and trending concepts/news stories
  • Blogs can provide a powerful network of linking throughout your site
  • Blogs drive organic traffic by being a platform for expertise, how-to articles, comparisons and listicles.

Reminder: you can’t just write a big block of copy. You still have to employ best practices. This means:

  1. 500-1,200 words (average length is about 1,000, believe it or not)
  2. A core keyword used in the title/H1 and meta-description
  3. Secondary keywords used in H2s and throughout the copy
  4. Third-tier keywords used in H3s and throughout the copy
  5. External and internal links

I just did a series on How to Write Better Blogs – you can check it out here on the blog or as moving pictures on my YouTube channel.

There is someone else I like enough to share traffic with: the Narrative SEO crew is pretty baller and has a great checklist for SEO blogs. Tap here to see it.

SEO Pillars

Pillars are a hot topic in a lot of SEO/SEM circles. These are pieces of long-form copy that usually answer a question. “What is the best blog style?” “How to rank for SEO?” Pillars are special enough to require their very own keyword research process. You create, prioritize and write with this special set of keywords in mind. Done right, pillars can do wondrous things to expand your digital footprint. A pillar is:

  • Topically driven by a single thought or process: may answer a question or address a single idea
  • 5,000-10,000 words (I wasn’t joking about the long-form thing)
  • Highly strategized and curated, often includes a table of contents

Pillars use topic clusters. They are highly conversational. This topical strategy provides immense value for your organic ranking. People may find you through pillars alone. Valuable. Worth it.

Because I Said So

Need more? I provide SEO consulting for businesses like yours. I mean, maybe. Unless you’re a very strange business that makes me uncomfortable. Go here to contact me.

How to Build an SEO Keyword List

There are five things that should be part of your SEO strategy. Any business with any number of employees can pull off maintaining these five things. If you don’t, your search engine rank will not improve. They are:

  1. An SEO keyword list
  2. SEO website pages
  3. Consumable content, like a blog
  4. Long-form content, like a pillar
  5. A linking strategy

None of this is too difficult or complex for anyone to learn. And, learn it you must. Unless you are a cybercriminal who intends to trick the Google Bots, this is the game. In this five-part series, I’ll lay out what the rules are and show you how to play.

Here’s my disclaimer: you won’t always win and you can’t cheat. There are things like PPC ads that drive traffic: that’s not what we’re talking about here. Comparing SEO to any other lead gen strategy is like comparing a sequoia to a dandelion. Different species, different growth rate. You don’t play SEO to win: you play it to grow. And, if you play it right, this investment will last a lifetime.

What Are SEO Keywords?

Let’s dive in. We have to start at the beginning. A common misunderstanding of the entire SEO world can be found in ideas like “where does your website rank?” If a client comes and asks me that question, I launch into what I’m sure is a very annoying rant about that not being the right question.

(What’s that movie? Based on Isaac Asimov? I, Robot. “That is the right question.” Asimov called everything in modern robotics, in my very uneducated opinion, and I love his books.)

Ok, rant over. SEO is about content. That’s the point. The aspects of your website that rank in relation to content are not set globally. In other words, what you rank for is not the site itself… but the content on it. And that content is what you can control.

So, let’s say you have created a medical wait time app. This IT healthcare device lets people know how long their wait will be at any doctor’s office or hospital. Cool. (It’s called DocClocker and it’s awesome).

Anyway, it’s not worthwhile for you to go to Google and see “how your website ranks.” First off, because you’re literally competing with websites like Google that gets millions of hits a day. Frankly, no start-up needs to see that they’re 600,000th in line for traffic.

Here’s what you do need to see – and what is helpful. You need to know what keywords you are organically ranking for. In other words, what is your ideal customer typing in that search engine box to find that gets them to you? This is where a keyword list comes in.

Create a Keyword Strategy

A keyword list is the foundation of your strategy. It is how you will measure success in terms of SEO. You will decide which keywords you want to rank for and then create content that includes those keywords. Here’s a basic outline of the actionable steps to take to create a keyword strategy:

ONE: Define your customer persona

Seem unrelated? Here’s why it isn’t: as you define your customer persona, you drill down into things like education level and race. There are 15 million new searches on Google a day. This means that you need to get CRYSTAL CLEAR about the kind of searches your target customer is going to make. This gets down into nuances like *vocabulary,* which is directly impacted by education level. Are they going to search for: “find an app for medical office wait times” OR “how long ER near me”? Big difference. Big deal. Who’s searching affects what they search for.

TWO: Study your competitors

No need to reinvent the wheel here. Other people doing similar business are setting a standard in the marketplace for website copy. In other words, if you want to beat out a similar app, you need to compete for the same search criteria. Run audits on all of your competitor websites. This will give you massive insight into what kind of keywords and phrases you need to use on your own site.

Go here for more in-depth info on how to do this.

THREE: Prioritize the list

If you do these first two steps, you will probably end up with a list of thousands of keywords and variations. You need to keep in mind that keywords and phrases are distinct. That means that “medical app” and “medical apps” are two different key phrases. You can see how this gets overwhelming.

That’s where SERP comes in: Search Engine Results Page. You can run SERP analyses that provide some insight into keywords and phrases you’re interested in using. This analysis will tell you:

  • How difficult a keyword is to rank for
  • The volume of a specific keyword or phrase
  • The authority score

SEO Keyword Tools

There are a bunch of free tools you can use to analyze keywords. You may want to hire a freelancer to do this for you because it’s annoyingly time-consuming. At the very least, check these out and get an idea of what you’re looking for/at:

Want screenshots and a step-by-step instruction on how to do this research? Click here for a nerdtastic take on the process.

FOUR: Make the content

You may already have a website or be starting out fresh. Either way, you need to incorporate these keywords into your content. In the next blog, I’ll talk more about writing the actual copy. There are strategies to where you place these all-important keywords, how often you can use them and where (besides the body of text) they should show up.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel to get video versions of blogs like these and be sure to subscribe here, too, so you’re notified when the “next one” comes out. Later gator.

SEO: An Introduction

E.v.e.r.y.b.o.d.y throws the phrase around: oh yeah, you have to invest in SEO. Yeah, we work really hard on SEO. Our website is optimized for SEO. SEO is a super high priority for us. It’s so easy for people who live in the SEO world to start thinking that all of our little acronyms, catch phrases, buzzwords and slang make sense. But, if we stop and meet real people every so often (like, IRL), it’s a wake up call.

Even if people use this phrase, they may not know what it means. If they don’t know what it means, chances are they aren’t doing it well. And, if they don’t know what it means and they hired someone to do it for them, that person may not be accountable for doing it well.

All that to say, let’s get to basics. In case you’ve been too scared to ask or have totally bought into outsourcing this, let me say (SHOUT): you can grasp the basics! And, if you do, you’ll be able to truly measure success. Without it, you’re just paying someone to make spreadsheets for you that may or may not make sense.

(Go here to read more about what an SEO specialist *should* be doing.)

What is SEO?

So, I got a fire in my belly about doing this series because I onboarded some new clients who were HUNGRY to know more and I LOVED it… and I also realized that my bombardment of the minutae was literally gibberish to them. To me, talking about backlinks and authority scores and meta descriptions is a daily activity (whether or not anyone is listening). But for most normal people, this isn’t a core part of their job. I’ll go so far as to say, especially if you’re a start-up or entrepreneur, the SEO game has a learning curve.

Much like thinking your 15 year old niece can successfully run your social media account (I’m resisting the urge to climb on a soapbox), the idea that SEO is just throwing a few clever keywords together and seeing immediate results is not correct. SEO is complex. And it’s origins go all the way back to the dawn of the internet (cue Dr. Who music and wobbly dream sequence transition).

Origins of SEO and Indexing

The internet started as a way to catalog and share information. If you’ve ever logged into a company’s Google Drive account, you know right away that cataloging and organizing shared information is a task most of us don’t take time to do. Which definitely breaks systems down and bottlenecks things. And the elders of the internet (IT Crowd fans?) realized they needed to institute some sophisticated processes to manage the vast quantity of information that was quickly accumulating.

These processes eventually became the algorithms that are used today. Algorithms are just equations. These equations are executed/applied by bots through a process called indexing.

At one point, I went into the three steps of how Google bots crawl, index and rank. That’s a technical process that gets a surface-level treatment on this blog.

What is the Point of SEO?

Here’s the point: you don’t have to do SEO because Google hates you and wants you to pay someone to write long, keyword-rich blogs each week. You have to do SEO because the fundamental way that internet searches function prioritizes content that best relates to search queries. And those queries grow everyday.

15% of searches of DAILY SEARCHES on Google are COMPLETELY NEW.

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it. So, obviously, there is no way that you can account for every possible variation of someone’s searches. There are, however, numerous ways that you can improve a website, a landing page, a blog or what have you so that you show up higher and higher on a search results page. And that, my friends, is the point.

Is it Worth it to Invest in SEO?

I will get more into the metrics Google uses to rank pages later in this series. Suffice it to say, for this discussion:

  • Google organizes content so that the most relevant results are delivered to people who search for them
  • How Google ranks your page will dictate whether or not customers can find you
  • If you don’t optimize your online content, you will not show up for internet searches
  • This is a game. If you want to win, you have to play.

Next week: all of the ingredients you need to make SEO work.

Subscribe to my YouTube channel to get alerted when I put up new videos and subscribe to this blog every time I post something new.

Write a Blog That Tells a Story

Every time my daughter starts a story she says, “once upon a time” and usually follows that with “becaaaaaaaause.” She’s three. I’m hooked. But that’s mostly because she has an adorable lisp and everything she does is magic.

There are entire forms of marketing consulting that center around storytelling. This is fine. But I’m not talking about micro-stories in an ad or fake testimonials (which companies use under the guise of storytelling… no shade… just saying). What I want to talk about is how to write a blog that tells a story. A story has inherent elements in order to be entertaining. And, I may get a little haughty here, but not everything counts as a good story. We’ve all watched a movie, gotten to the end, and thought, “um… what?” Stories can start out well and crap out at the end (I’m not talking about Lost but also I am).

Here’s what a story needs and how to write one in 1,000 words or less to promote your company blog.

CLICK HERE To subscribe to my channel on YouTube – get the live-and-in-color versions of these blogs.

Elements of a Blog Story

A story MUST have a few basic elements to be remotely interesting. These include:

  • A protagonist (hero) and antagonist (villain) – something good, something bad. Doesn’t have to be people. But without it, you can’t accomplish much.
  • A coherent story line. This includes a beginning, middle (in which something happens or changes) and an end (outcome). I love a good Indie film as much as anyone but if nothing happens, well, you shouldn’t write about it.
  • Conflict. Something must be forged in the crucible, so to speak. This is typically the top of the arc in a narrative. If that’s gibberish, please read some novels. I’m not being snarky – it really will help you immensely. Go here for some I would highly recommend.

So, as long as you have characters, actions/events and some kind of conflict, you can create a story. This doesn’t have to be epic. A story can be sweet, funny, simple, ridiculous, awe-inspiring, etc. It probably shouldn’t be tragic. You still are trying to sell something, after all. And on the internet.

Now, how do you pick the right story for a blog?

The Right Story for a Blog

It probably goes without saying that if you are using a blog to market your business, you should do this in accordance to your brand voice and sales strategy. The goal is to leverage what you know about your customer’s behavior and give them a story that will inspire them.

A blog story should:

  • Relate to your reader, both in the characters themselves and the problems they have.
  • Illustrate your brand’s strengths to solve problems.
  • End on a high note.

Blog Storytelling Resources

Illustrations are more powerful than me going on and on, so here are some examples of places around the internet where people have done great stories on their blogs:

Some more resources to hit up to hone this skill are:

On a roll and want to learn more? Learn how to tell your story… FAST! Read my blog on How to Write an Elevator Pitch.

Brands With Strong Twitter Personalities (During COVID-19)

COVID-19 has brought out the best and worst in people… and brands. As companies’ brand voices become evermore casual and niche, some are really standing out as witty, hilarious, snarky, sarcastic and more on social media. There have been some truly LOL Twitter threads from brands like Wendy’s and Costco. And, at this point it’s practically a public service. We all do really need to laugh!

Businesses on Twitter During COVID-19

Here’s the thing, there was no playbook for how brands should communicate during COVID-19. For most, it has been fairly morose. This isn’t awful. It makes sense. You have to be somber because it is a serious situation.

Others took a different approach. Some brands use social media to anthropomorphise mascots and use a unique voice on different platforms. In other words, you can say something on Twitter or in an IG story that you wouldn’t say on a national commercial. You can be more personal, more flippant, more irreverent, more accessible. This is one of the great ways to leverage the many platforms of social media, presuming you have the manpower to pull it off.

Have you ever thought about this for your brand? Customizing your social media strategy so that you present a different (but related) side of yourself to viewers on that platform?

It’s kind of like that meme that was going around where people put four different pics of themselves to represent how they come across on IG v. Tinder v. Facebook v. LinkedIn.

The reality is, the people who run brands are multidimensional. As you’ve honed in on your brand voice, there are still different moods and voices you can use to appeal to a broader audience. It’s worth considering this smart and adaptive strategy.

“You have to inject more personality or more humanization into how people are perceiving your total messaging.”

Nathan Allebach, Social Media Manager at Allebach Communications and the person who writes Steak-umm’s tweets

As quarantine/social distancing/self-isolating/stay-at-home/shelter-in-place continue for many communities, here’s some funny stuff.

Wendy’s Twitter Burns

In addition to being funny and sarcastic, Wendy’s takes a totally off-book approach by streaming on Twitch. You can watch Wendy’s stream Animal Crossing. It was purposefully off-beat and a weird choice for a fast food restaurant… but it’s working. They’ve got the numbers to prove it. Here’s what went down around COVID-19 when Wendy’s decided to go after McDonald’s in a savage way:


The point? Nobody’s crying for McDonald’s, they’re fine. Wendy’s just took this opportunity to showcase their personality. And, based on consumer reports, data, polls and other *GEEK STUFF* that matters, this kind of thing works to endear customers to brands. After all, who doesn’t love The Office?

Denny’s Downloadable Meeting Backgrounds

Denny’s diner has a pretty cool Twitter account. They keep it real and are very conversational and have an engaged following. Social media pros found a way to be cute and playful on Twitter during the coronavirus pandemic. They pulled this off by making downloadable meeting backgrounds for people’s Zoom/Skype/GTM calls.

But that’s not all. They have a few other amusing Tweets that have been generally amusing throughout all of this.

Costco’s Twitter Real Talk

Costco’s approach to Twitter should remind each and every one of us to reply to everyone. Reply to every single person who engages with you on social media. Especially for smaller brands, there is no excuse not to do this. It has huge potential. And you don’t always have to be nebulous and non-controversial. Sometimes the internet loves nothing more than a side eye or straight up shade.

Steak-umm’s Misinformation Thread

This last one isn’t really “ha-ha!” as much as it is a reality check that even companies who have no political affiliation and have formerly been all about randomness and sarcasm can get on a soapbox and go viral. In other words, you don’t have to do what you’ve always done.

Need another laugh? Go here to check out a list of marketing fails I compiled… just because they made me laugh.

Write a Comparison Blog

Adidas versus Nike? Heinz versus Hunts? Who wore it better? People love this stuff. Read this to learn how to write a comparison blog.

Comparison blogs can be a great type of blog for your business. This is some classic sales strategy. In case your background isn’t sales, it’s this idea:

You want to sell a tablet. It’s $899. In order to sell this, you set it up by placing it in the middle of two other items: one costs $299 and one costs $1299. Based on perception alone, a customer sees the middle option as the one that offers the most value at the best price. Boom.

That’s what comparisons can do for what you sell. They provide a foil, to get Shakespearean: a backdrop against which to compare your product. This is especially vital if what you sell is NEW. If you have very little market differentiation, that might actually hurt you, because no one knows how much your product is supposed to cost. And people always want to feel like they’re getting a good deal.

So, that’s the psychology of it. Now, the technique. Here are the decisions you need to make and how you need to structure a good comparison blog.

Want to watch this? Check it out on my YouTube channel.

Comparison Blog: What to Include

So, you have your product or service. This is the dazzling diamond that you need to cleverly conceal in a helpful comparison blog. In order to set it just right, so that it sparkles, you need to include items/systems that compare to your product in the following ways:

  • Lower in cost and higher in cost
  • Have fewer features and have more features
  • Are older and newer
  • Have worse reviews and have better reviews
  • Have a lower social following and a higher social following

Let’s go here for a second. It may seem counter intuitive to set your start-up against a nobody OR a behemoth brand, but both of these have huge value and have a place in a good comparison blog.

Compare Your Brand Against Smaller Brands

Now, “better” and “worse” are subjective terms, of course. More aptly, I’m talking about the observable attributes and even measurable metrics. In other words, who’s doing better than you and who’s doing worse? The point of a comparison article is to jump into a customer’s sales decision process. By joining them in their analysis of marketplace options, you can sway their opinion.

Even if you have 3 people on your team, you don’t want to be the lowest-priced, smallest option out there. People are immensely skeptical. In addition to doing things like building social proof and establishing authority, you need to have some comparison point for someone who is smaller/cheaper/leaner than you. Even if it’s a stretch and a start-up in some remote country, find them. And compare yourself to them.

  • Unlike [competitor brand] who solve a single problem, we solve for all of your problems!
  • Our specialty is to…
  • While you could buy [platform/product] for $, our tested system is worth the investment.

If you’re small, this is a stretch. If not, you need to focus on price and value. Most commonly, people don’t actually choose the cheapest option for something they’re going to the trouble to find online reviews about.

Compare Your Brand Against Bigger Brands

First, remember that all customers are not your customers. If no one has told you: you won’t beat Amazon. But hopefully you didn’t need to be told that.

If you have a niche, if you are a start-up, if you are small, all of those things can work for you, if you cast them in the right light. Much like a realtor describes a 700 square foot dive as “quaint,” you can use the right terms to shed light on what makes your brand the best. Comparison blogs give you a good chance to authentically present your brand for what it is… and get the customers who are looking for just that. They’re out there.

When you compare your brand to bigger brands, you need to be smart. Because this is YOUR blog, it’s YOUR platform, and you can say it however you want. So, say it well:

  • You aren’t “smaller,” you’re a lean, powerful team.
  • You don’t have 15 people, you have former Google employees (IOW, highlight professional accomplishments, not how many people are on your payroll)
  • Price works in your favor here, because it should be easy to price a margin below a premiere product.

Write a Blog That Compares Brands

Now, the assembly. This isn’t essentially a product review blog or a “15 best” blog. This is a comparison blog. So, you want to compare a limited number of items. Here are some extra tips:

  • Make sure you’re comparing them for the exact same features or functions
  • Be sure that you aren’t blasting or criticizing anybody
  • Be realistic and not contrived with what you do and don’t offer, compared to these competitors
  • Don’t link directly to competitor sites (no free traffic for them!) – link to external sites or other 3rd party reviews

Examples of Comparison Blogs

Here are some examples (unaffiliated) of blogs that do this pretty well:

Ready to learn even more? Go here to read my blog on How to Create a Sales Funnel, with even more valuable insight on how to get those customers to convert!

Write a How To Blog

In this little blog/video series, I started by talking about APP: Agree, Promise, Preview. This little method can do wonders for revitalizing your blog strategy. Why? Because structure helps. When you are creating content that competes, you need to leverage all of the available tools and resources. I’m going to help you write better blogs.

The second tool I want to talk about is the good ole’ “How To” Blog. I’ve written a few of these myself. Okay, a lot. Why? Because questions are a big part of a long-tail SEO keyword strategy. But more than search rank and traffic boost, “How To” blogs can be a way of framing or reframing content. In any industry, you have a finite number of concepts that are suitable for B2B or B2C web copy.

Creating “How To” blogs is a great way to repurpose valuable content. Here are some blog styles you can use for “How To” articles, some examples of what to include, and how to craft CTAs that keep your reader clicking. I promise this will improve your read-throughs and increase the value of your website in terms of SEO and UX.

How To Blog Styles

There are a few different styles and formats you can use in “How To” blogs. I’ll review those here. Here are different kinds of “How To” blogs:

How to Find

If your customer is looking for a specific good or service, a great blog is a “How to Find” blog. There are a few SEO benefits, including the fact that you can include hard-to-incorporate keywords like, “How to find an SEO writer” or “Find a writer near me.” These are great search terms that can be a bear to include organically. Hence, the How to Find blog. Here is an example.

How to [Skill]

When your business offers some kind of training or skill development, this kind of blog is a home run. But even without that on-the-nose iteration, you can leverage blogs that teach people how to do something. This doesn’t have to be “how to yo yo,” it can be a more abstract skill: “how to use adjectives,” “how to cut your own hair” (COVID-19 quarantine, anyone?), “how to like jazz music.” These blogs are a no-brainer to write if it’s your business, because what you know best isn’t natural to a beginner… and people can benefit immensely from your guidance!

How to Work [Platform]

There are a lot of start-ups out there that are offering unique platforms, project management systems, software integrations, etc. For you, “How to Work X” is a great idea. This would be more of a technical, operations-oriented piece. You will want lots of screen shots and very practical, actionable information. More than a generic skill, this could have a lot of brand-specific info for how someone uses your platform or software. Blogs like this will rank well against message boards or Reddit threads and have a lot of backlinking potential.

How to Learn [Subject]

Have a language learning site? Have a tutoring business? Online teaching platform? Test prep company? All of these may benefit from a “How to Learn X” blog. This is about a knowledge-based skill, not a practical skill (like the how to [skill] above). A blog written in this style won’t have instructions for how to Tik-Tok, it’s more about a complex body of study or learning journey. Blogs like this can sell curriculum or a training video series.

What’s in a “How To” Blog

First, this should go without saying, you need to have actual instructions and actionable steps for a “How To” blog. This isn’t theory, it’s application. If you put a “How To” blog that doesn’t teach someone how to do something, you’ll lose credibility pretty fast. Plus, it’s super annoying. Don’t do the whole “story of my summer childhoods before the pasta recipe” thing that “recipe influencers” try. Just get to the point. Number your steps. Use verbs. Simplify difficult concepts. You’re genuinely trying to help someone learn how to do something. Do that.

End Your Blog With a CTA

When you’re ready to sum it up, I recommend you deploy a laser-sharp call to action, or CTA. A CTA is what invites the reader to do something. Call them to take the action you want. Ready to learn how? Go here to read my blog on 5 Ways to Write a Good CTA.

APP: Agree, Promise, Preview

It is hard to come up with new blog ideas. It’s also hard to continuously structure copy in a way that attracts readers and keeps them interested. APP is one way to write interesting, high-quality SEO blogs. If you learn how to use this strategy, it will improve the blogs you write. In this short overview, I will explain what APP is and how you can use this method to write great SEO blogs.

SEO Blog Strategy Using APP

There are plenty of methods to writing good copy. Most are inherently equal in value but superior in how they specifically inspire as writer. If you churn out significant quantities of content each week, it can get easy to start generating words like a machine. Ironically, one of the best ways I’ve found to not being formulaic is to find new processes.

One process I use to write blogs is APP: Agree, Promise, Preview. This is just a way of framing content to draw readers in. We all have little tricks of the trade.

For instance, I have this little method where I grab my list of SEO keywords (usually 20 or so) that need to be incorporated into the copy and stick them on a digital sticky note. Then, I minimize the screen where I’m typing copy and set that sticky note next to it. As I write, I delete the keywords from the note and highlight them in the body. This way, I’m totally sure that I’ve included every keyword. I can eliminate that from my editing step and, voila, save myself time.

Much like that, writers have some go-to methods that include templates like APP. Here is a little detail of how best to use this process to improve your web copywriting skills.

How to Write an APP Blog

Here are the basics:

  1. Agree with the reader
  2. Promise results
  3. Preview the content

Let’s dive deeper.

Start a Blog By Agreeing

It is hard to come up with new blog ideas.”

True. We agree. Much like starting with a customer pain point in marketing copy, you should begin with a level set: we are alike in this way. I agree with you that. Better yet, YOU agree with ME that x-y-z. This begins your copy on a relational note, which is always best for the web. This isn’t a white paper, nor is it primarily about information relay. Blogs are about readership. Readership works when you make a connection. You can connect by agreeing about something.

The concept of beginning with an agreement is also helpful for SEO. This is because you rank better when your content is full of relevant keywords and phrases. By starting out with the point, you should be addressing the search that landed someone on your page.

Continue a Blog With a Promise

If you learn how to use this strategy, it will improve the blogs you write.”

The rate of information overturn on the internet means that you have milliseconds to convince someone to keep reading. They have to feel assured that something worthwhile will result from the enormously important seconds they spend on your site. Make a promise. A real one. If you, then. I promise that. You will x-y-z.

State in clear terms the benefits and outcomes someone will get after this three-minute read. It will convince them to keep going.

Final Intro: Preview Your Blog

“In this short overview, I will explain what APP is and how you can use this method to write great SEO blogs.”

I used to always shirk this part. It felt too on the nose and I like twists and irony and cleverness. But, the reality is, if you beat around the bush people feel like they’re missing page two from the IKEA manual. How is this supposed to work anyway? What am I supposed to end up with?

If you want to give them a shelf and not a bench, you better be sure they understand what they’re about to dive into. Lay a tiny little table of contents or a roadmap of your content. This may help you in your outline process, too, because it will keep you on track so that you don’t rabbit trail into unrelated copy about home goods.

Copywriting Resources to Learn APP Process

APP isn’t something I made up. You can find it in a few places. For more info or a different perspective, check out:

Marketing Fails

We all need a little levity right now. I love marketing fails. They kill me. Here are some hilarious marketing mistakes and ad mistakes… old and new. Because it’s COVID-19 and life is hard and this is funny. Scroll for:

  • Vintage marketing ads
  • Funny marketing ads
  • Funny marketing fails
  • Ad fails
  • Ridiculous ads
  • Funny ads
  • Ad jokes
  • Bad advertisements

Etc.

Below are ones I had posted on my Instagram, which you can see here. Sometimes I try to care about IG. You can also find me on FB here.

I also like ridiculous and even uncomfortable ads, because – let’s face it – those work sometimes too.

Find Your Website Competition

Tip: there is a list of resources for competitor research at the end of this article – jump there if you just want the quick & dirty.

Finding your marketplace competition and your digital competition require two different strategies and, frequently, have two different sets of results. Who you compete with on a shelf or even an ecomm page is different than who you compete with for web traffic. This is important because, as a businessperson, you want to keep an eye on your competitors at all times. There are a few reasons for this.

If you put effort into building SEO for your website, you are hoping to obtain organic traffic. Organic traffic is traffic that you don’t have to pay for (as opposed to pay per click or paid ads). You may make a sizable investment in SEO, which could include hiring a specialist or DIYing it with keyword research and copywriting.

Who Your Website Competition IS:

Part of any good keyword research process is mining competitor data. It’s important that you define your website competitors. To get you started, here are the basic criteria for someone who directly competes with your website:

  • They rank for the same keywords as you do
  • They attract the same customer demographic as you do
  • They have a similar level of traffic

Who Your Website Competition is NOT:

That’s all fairly straightforward. The more difficult concept is understanding who your website competition is not. In SEO consultations, I frequently have to wrestle outdated ideas about competition to the ground. This is because, ideologically, we are conditioned to identify competitors solely within our own industry. The internet has changed that.

Now, competitors can literally be people whose industries don’t overlap your own at all. Your competitors are, as detailed above, the people who rank for the same things as you do. Let me illustrate.

If you are trying to rank for the term, “contact management,” you could be in competition with a variety of businesses. You may compete with:

  • Digital personal assistants
  • Software startups/CRMs
  • Marketing companies with email services
  • Etsy sites where people hand paint planners

Do you see the challenge? Keyword analysis and implementation is ultimately about perception. What is the average intention of someone typing in that search phrase?

What You Can Learn From Competitor Research

The first report from an SEO analysis is usually annoying and a bit fear-inducing for my clients. This is because they:

  1. Are ranking for random things they didn’t plan on
  2. Don’t understand that organic traffic happens whether you influence it or not (ie, if you haven’t put in any time to SEO, you will rank for random phrases from a randomly well-performing blog post you wrote seven years ago)
  3. Don’t understand their competitors

So let’s revisit in the example above to consider some ways you can learn from competitor research.

Scenario One: Choosing the Right Keywords

Say this company is actually about lifecycle device management. In other words, they buy tablets in bulk, program them in a customized way and distribute them to a business for a profit. Then, they monitor and manage those devices. One of the activities they perform is retrieving contact management system information if a device dies. So, if that device has been logged into the company’s CRM, any info saved on the device itself can be recovered.

In actual assessment, it would be evident that the company isn’t really about contact management at all. If you are going for the term “contact management,” but that is a third-tier activity to the core of your company, you need to consider your time spend and focus on that keyword. This is when you start making hard but good decisions about what you actually want to rank for. Remember, Google will reward you for accuracy.

Scenario Two: Ranking for the Right Industry

Diving deep into online competitors can illustrate issues with your brand voice. We all want to be Zappos and Google and Amazon. But we don’t all do everything. And to present your company in a way that is more modern, more global, more broad than it actually is will hurt you in search.

In other words, if you make barrier cable but are a second generation owner and want to modernize, you may be tempted to write things on your website about “thought-leadership” and “change agents” and “revolutionary.” But these words are worthless to your actual business. When you do keyword research and competitor research, you will see who ranks for similar words or phrases. This will help you understand if you’re even in the right industry.

While it’s good to update and be inspirational, even aspirational, filling your website with unrelated copy so that you compete with unrelated businesses isn’t making you any money. No matter how much vision you have, you have to keep the literal lights on.

Scenario Three: Pay Attention to Changes

Last scenario. You want to rank for “contact management” because you are, in fact, a start-up providing CRMs to a niche in the marketplace. You write a website, chock it full of meaningful and relevant keywords, and watch your organic traffic grow. However, six months in, a company with a multi-million dollar budget comes into the marketplace. They are literally called “Contact Management.” They trademark (it’s a pretend scenario). They invest five million dollars the first year in creating a massive digital footprint that eclipses your website (and thousands of others).

What does this mean? In addition to being a bummer for your company, you would need to change your strategy. Digital competition is not a one-and-done exercise. This is not looking to either lane beside you and then running a competitive race. You have to be agile, observant and adaptive. If you take your eye off of the ever-changing dynamics of the marketplace and competitor websites, you’ll lag behind.

You have to tag and track your competition because it could change daily. It. could. change. daily. Every one of your (good) competitors are paying copywriters and investing in SEO. This consumable content will be filled with good keywords that aim to outrank you. You have to do the same.

Website Competitors

Long story short: there is no easy answer or final word on website competitors. This is a malleable, ever-changing industry. You have to be adaptable, willing to learn and willing to take on the new challenges of staying current and competitive. Your website will need constant updates, whether from blogs or pillar content. Consumable copy is essential to creating a competitive edge.

Some companies will have to claw their way to the top, methodically taking out competitors one by one. I’m not hyperbolizing. I do this. I go into a brand, identify their top 10 competitors, and write copy specifically targeted to outrank them for keywords they feature. Not evil. Just the nature of the game. And you have to learn to play well if you want to (sometimes) win.

Competitor Research Tools

Bonus, here are some tools to research competitors:

How to Write an SEO Blog

I often encounter the idea floating out in the digital world that blogs are about brands. Let me just say, with the quantity of content on the internet, this isn’t accurate. For the most part, a blog is the only consumable form of copy on your website. As such, it is the richest and most straightforward way to improve your SEO ranking.

If you want to know how to write an SEO blog, read on.

There are a few different tools you can use to write an SEO blog. Things like Yoast pro and a myriad of other plugins that you can add to your website will offer on-page SEO analysis. This will alert you to things like keyword stuffing or a lack of proper keyword use. For the most part, SEO blogs are comprised of:

  • Headers
  • Text
  • Meta description/snippet
  • Links
  • Optimized photos

You can read more and see the basic flow of an SEO blog by going here.

Pretty straightforward. I find, though, that people fall into a few pitfalls, especially when the treadmill of creating regular content ramps up. What feels super doable at first (let’s write three blogs a week!) becomes excruciating after two months. Many people drop off and don’t sustain blog content. This happens because the results aren’t immediate (SEO is a long term play) and it doesn’t feel like high priority. This is why people hire writers.

Tools to Write an SEO Blog

Part of my strategy is to regularly create tools that make it as easy on a client to tell me what they want. One of these tools is an SEO blog survey. I use this to drive the first conversations around what a blog is intended to do and what it needs to include. This helps refine the strategy. After all, without a strategy, your best efforts are just a shot in the dark. So, here’s how I find the format for blogs that drive SEO traffic.

Format a Blog to Drive SEO Traffic

If a blog is going to actually drive traffic to your site, it has to be formatted correctly. The intent behind the blog has to be crystal clear and then you have to regularly populate it with great content. Here are the basic questions I ask every new client who wants me to write an SEO blog.

Want to see this as a Google form? That’s how I deliver these questions to my clients, giving me immediate and easy access to their answers. Click here to see a preview of a pre-filled version of the survey I send.

What do you want an SEO blog to do for you?

I always start with this question because I need to be clear about expectations. If a client is expecting an SEO blog to quadruple their website traffic in three weeks, well, we need to have a conversation. I’ve also found that there’s a wide variety of ideas about what an SEO blog is meant to contain. In other words, some people see it as news about their industry, other people see it as largely editorial, some people just want infographics. Clarity on that helps us all get on the same page about what copy is going to be created. I ask, do you want your SEO blog to:

  • Establish you as an industry authority
  • Inform/Support your brand identity
  • Create traffic on your website
  • Generate and convert leads

How long do you want your blogs to be?

This is an important area to clear up. There are so many different styles of blogs. Even experts have varying opinions. For instance, Yoast recommends at least 300 words but strongly suggests that you go for 1,000 words or more. In my experience, anything over 1,500 is veering toward pillar content territory. Some clients have no idea what they want or what word count is. Others have heard things from other people or Googled it and have an idea of what they want.

This is also important because of the concern of keyword stuffing. If a client has really strong ideas about their keyword list, they may want you to use 25 keywords per blog. For that to work without too much keyword saturation, the keywords will have to be spread out over more content. It’s pretty simple math but an important point to get clear about.

Word counts for a blog

  • 500-800 words is a Newsjacking or editorial blog (AP style)
  • 700-900 words is a regular, article-style or how-to blog
  • 1000+ words is a research article or technical work

Tone for writing an SEO blog

I always ask clients about this because everyone has varied opinions. I do think there’s a general “web voice.” Most typically, every business wants to be a little bit casual, a little bit authoritative and a little bit funny. However, every company and brand has a different voice. This should be taken into consideration when you’re writing on behalf of a brand, even if you are the brand or work for the brand. The blog should be a little bit removed from your natural voice and speak directly to a target customer.

Click here for an exercise on how to establish your brand voice.

I ask clients if they want the tone for their SEO blog to be:

  • Funny
  • Casual
  • Serious
  • Professional
  • Authoritative
  • Lighthearted
  • Friendly
  • Intense
  • Academic
  • Sarcastic
  • Opinionated
  • Conversational

I’ve changed that list a few times and refined it down to these categories, which usually cover everything someone could be looking for. It may feel like something like “intense” is out of place, but I use that a lot for cybersecurity companies.

Who is going to read your SEO blog?

Getting clear about target readers is important. This is because you need to have a general understanding of where they are in the sales funnel before you can speak correctly to them. In other words, are these people cold, stumbling onto a “how to clean your air filters” blog? Or do you have a large blog following of people who are going deeper with your subject-matter and content? This will drastically change how you speak to them. I ask clients to select everything that applies to their target customer:

  • Educated
  • Have a family
  • Male
  • Female
  • 18-25 years old
  • 26-35 years old
  • 36-45 years old
  • 46 years old +
  • Professional
  • Blue-collar
  • Non-educated
  • Don’t have children
  • Are shopping for a product from me
  • Are not shopping for a product from me
  • Are looking in my industry
  • Are looking casually and may find me online
  • Read the news
  • Don’t read the news

These demographic questions, as they relate to a blog, are slightly different and more nuanced than general customer demographic questions.

What kind of content do you want in an SEO blog?

This last question is all about the copy itself. It’s important to know what a client is looking for. If they have examples of other blogs they like, I always ask for that. It’s helpful to determine how graphic or interactive they want to be. How open are they to CTAs and how often do they expect them to be incorporated? Do they want a lot of variance in text size? Most clients don’t realize this is a coding thing and so they’ll ask for it without realizing it’s not a copy question. It’s helpful to get clear about these expectations as it reduces editing time and ensures a good delivery each time.

I ask if clients want:

  • Checklists
  • Puns
  • Light sarcasm or humor
  • Statistics
  • Trends
  • Data
  • Research links
  • Bulleted lists
  • Colloquialisms (sayings)
  • Pop culture references
  • News references
  • Cultural references (if your client base is 100% U.S.)
  • Tips
  • How tos

Write a Great SEO Blog

There isn’t one magic formula for writing an SEO blog that drives traffic. Every industry is different and every website has a different history. Many factors go into your success. However, getting clear about what you want is the essential first step in the right direction. Reach out to us if you have any questions. Good luck!

Create an SEO Keyword List

Creating the right SEO keyword list is one of the first steps to defining an SEO strategy that will work. This happens during a site audit and is a strategy that informs every piece of copy you ever write. This is because keywords are the backbone of your SERP analysis and all of your SEO improvements.

Keyword lists that work need to be:

  • Well-sourced: the information you get about keywords should come from three places: what you are ranking for, what you want to rank for and what your competitors are using.
  • Organized: keyword research for a midsize company, for me, means at least 10,000 cells in a spreadsheet. The sheer volume requires exact organization, otherwise you have a lot of words and not a lot of useful information. I’ll show you below how I color code and sort in a way that gives me the most meaningful information.
  • Tiered: not all keywords have the same level of importance. I typically sort them into five tiers, one-five, one being most important. That way, you know how to organize the highest-level keywords on each page (with your H1, H2 and meta description, etc.).
  • Targeted: it’s easy to get caught up into using very brand-specific language or the words that a client wants to describe their ethos or values. That has a place. But that isn’t the point of SEO copy. SEO copy is meant to generate traffic and, so, the keywords you pick and place have to be done so with that end in mind.
  • Comprehensive: there is a balance between including every variation (plurals, alternate spellings, misspellings) like you would in a PPC negative keyword list. With the addition of long-tail keywords, it can seem like the possibilities are infinite. And they are. That’s why your three sources of info (listed above) need to be the primary keywords you use. Comprehensive but realistic. Save the everything-but-the-kitchen sink approach for your long-form or pillar content, not for your standard website pages.

How to Find SEO Keywords

Sourcing starts with the right information streams. Any good SEO software can audit your site and tell you what it’s performing for in terms of organic search keywords. These may or may not be the keywords you want to perform for. It’s kind of like targeting a competitor in your PPC campaign. It’s a way to do it. But if you have any kind of budget, it’s not your smartest marketing spend.

Instead, let your SEO keyword search be heavily informed by a few key aspects of your industry and brand:

  1. What do you know about your customer? Do you know how they find your company? When they search, what do they search for? These are valuable clues that will guide your use of SEO keywords.
  2. What are the terms and categories unique to your industry? You may sell something highly-specific or target a very unique customer. This creates an opportunity for highly targeted, low-competition keywords.
  3. What is the difference between your marketplace and keyword competitors? Like I said, these are often two different groups. When they are, there is either a gap in your strategy or theirs. Someone’s ranking for the wrong thing. Don’t let it be you.

SEO Keyword Audit

Your starting point for building an SEO keyword list is auditing what you’ve already got.

  • What keywords are already present in your copy?
  • Are your present keywords prioritized (into H1, H2)?
  • Are the keywords in your URL slugs?
  • Are the keywords in your meta-descriptions?

You can run your website through an organic search audit and find out what Google is ranking you for. Exported into an Excel spreadsheet, that keyword report will look something like this:

Once you know what you’re ranking for, you’ll want to look at your competitors. When I do this, I run them through the same report. Here’s how I perform the next steps that result in an excellent SEO keyword list.

Creating an SEO Keyword List

  1. Collect all of your organically ranking keywords.
  2. Collect all of your competitor’s organically ranking keywords.
  3. Put them all on a single spreadsheet.

When you copy and paste them one at a time, create a color key for each competitor and then highlight their keywords with that color on the spreadsheet. You will probably end up with several thousand cells. But, don’t despair. The color-coding is your saving grace.

It will look something like this (covered up for client confidentiality):

Next, SORT the keywords (expand selection) 1-however many. In other words, get those highest-ranking keywords up to the top of the list. Now, you can see at a glance what keywords you and your competitors are organically ranking for. You’ll see who has the #1 slot, #2, etc.

Tracking with me?

FROM HERE, you have all you need to start the SEO keyword list that you will actually use to write copy on your website.

This is where the process does become a bit manual. Combining all of the research from above on BOTH the brand and keywords, you will want to begin getting very specific about which keywords you want to use and rank them accordingly. Here are the data points I look for with each individual keyword or long-tail keyword (yes, I said individual, I told you this was excruciating):

  • Keyword monthly volume
  • Keyword difficulty
  • Organic CTR
  • Priority

Incidentally, I usually do this on Moz, which I open side-by-side with my spreadsheet. I analyze maybe the top 50 keywords in terms of all of these metrics. You can get 10 queries a month with a free Moz trial. I’ll use that kind of account in the example. You can see what that research would look like here:

With this analysis, you can easily see what competitors or authority sites are using the same keyword and get keyword suggestions, in case a different form or version may perform better for your site.

Final SEO Keyword List

Because it is a secret sauce kind of thing, I won’t share any actual final keyword lists. But this is what mine look like:

Basically, I take all of the research and info from above and hand-pick the absolute best and most perfect keywords for the site. I rank these based on the SERP metrics, picking the ones that fit the brand’s current and projected traffic trends (IOW, don’t pick a 6k word for a 20-visit site).

This list will then be used as the blueprint for all SEO copy. The only caveat is to let you know that it changes. As search trends change and consumer behavior changes, this strategy requires agility and adjustment. That’s why SEO specialists are on retainer or at least check-in with a brand on a regular basis. It is a fluid process. However, with the right foundation, all of your moves will be in a winning direction.

Hire Someone for SEO

SEO specialists or SEO consultants can be hired to help you through this kind of process. Their expertise means that they can do it faster and with greater accuracy. Hire a Writer offers SEO specialist services. You can contact us for more info on that. In addition to doing the technical dive, we specialize in SEO copy that performs. That takes this research and applies it in a useful way that maximizes your ROI by improving your website’s organic search rank. Worth it.

%d bloggers like this: