Update on SEO copywriting strategy – from Matt Cutts at Google

Here's the latest update on SEO copywriting strategy from Google.

Here’s the latest update on SEO copywriting strategy from Google.

In my geeky world, updates on SEO copywriting strategy are big news.

After all, Google is constantly tweaking its algorithms… Yet at the same time, my goal is to write website copy that’ll give my clients good results not just now, but in years to come.

I don’t believe in looking for Google’s loopholes (known as using ‘black hat’ SEO copywriting strategies), I’d rather focus on techniques that’ll give enduring results.

For that reason, I’ve always focused on writing content that’s good for human readers first and foremast, rather than doing weird and wonderful things with keywords.

And the good news is that writing reader-friendly content is officially the right thing to do!

In her excellent article Matt Cutts Reveals Google’s Updated SEO Copywriting Strategy, Karon Thackston shares some excellent tips on SEO copywriting strategy that she learned from an email conversation with Matt Cutts.

Who is Matt Cutts?

Matt Cutts is a Google employee, who works with the Search Quality team on search engine optimization issues. He is currently the head of Google’s Webspam team, and he’s the one who kinda lets the world at large know what Google is up to with algorithm updates.

So any SEO copywriting strategies and tactics from Matt Cutts is like hearing it all directly from the proverbial horse’s mouth. 🙂

What does Matt Cutts say about SEO copywriting strategy?

The key takeaway for me from Karon Thackston’s article is that you don’t need to use all the words in a keyphrase together. This is good news if you’ve been struggling to write website copy with ‘unnatural’ keywords.

Let me explain with an example…

Say that you’ve identified “widget repair Auckland” as a keyword that you want to target.

Till now, many of us have struggled to write website copy that sounds natural with a keyword like that: “widget repair Auckland” just isn’t something we’d say or write!

Well, what Matt Cutts has said is that we don’t need to cram the words in they keyphrase together: the words can be sprinkled around your web page.

Yep, you can use “widget” and “repair” and “Auckland” separately… or put it in a natural-sounding phrase, like “widget repair in Auckland”, or something like that.

(I’ve had a hunch for a while that Google is smart enough to figure this out, but it’s great to hear it confirmed from The Guy That Knows.)

And there’s more good news…

Google now has synonym technology. (A synonym being a word with the same, or similar, meaning.) This means that search results can bring up web pages that use related search terms, whereas previously only exact matches were revealed.

(Using the example above for a web page optimised with “widget repair Auckland”, your page could also get found for searches with “widget repair service” or “Auckland widget repairs”, etc.)

Caution: Matt Cutts said to Karon Thackston:

“Keyphrases don’t have to be in their original form. We do a lot of synonym work so that we can find good pages that don’t happen to use the same words as the user typed.

In general, though, if the words are on the web page (not in a spammy way, of course), that makes our job easier because we don’t have to rely on synonym matches to find good documents.”

In other words: don’t rely too much on the synonym technology!

Optimise for more than one keyword per page

What you can do is optimise for more than one keyword per page. (I’ve always incorporated secondary keywords into client copy, which is why my copywriting customers get enduring results.)

Again, I’d advise some caution here: if you use too many keywords, Google could penalise you for “keyword stuffing”… after all, cramming too many keywords onto a page reads unnaturally and looks spammy. So focus on writing high-quality, reader-friendly content first and foremost.

Summary

Focus on writing website content that’s appealing to human readers (and don’t worry too much about the latest SEO fads).

 

How long should a sales page be?

“How long should a sales page be?” … That’s a very good question!

My answer: long enough to give your prospects all the information they need to make an informed purchasing decision.

Here's what you need to include on your sales page to make it a winner.

Here’s what you need to include on your sales page to make it a winner.

But that’s such a vague answer…

Well, yes and no.

It might seem vague to you, but I’m about to share with you what should go on your sales page, so here’s a bit of a checklist for you…

What should be included on a sales page?

If you’re wondering what to include on a sales page, you need to put yourself into your prospects’ shoes and consider their needs and concerns.

So you’d start off with:

1. An attention-grabbing headline: this must address the prospects’ primary problem or concern

If you’re not sure what the primary problem is that your prospects face, you need to ask them. Or your sales message risks falling flat.

Once you’ve got a really good headline:

2. Demonstrate that you understand your prospects’ primary problem

Show a bit of empathy… and dig a little bit deeper into the pain. The prospect then realises that you ‘get’ them… and that you may just have the answer they’re looking for.

3. Present your solution

This is where you talk about the features and benefits of your product or service.

4. Testimonials

Yes, testimonials really work. (Though there are interviewing techniques that will help you get a good, believable testimonial that’s more credible than the average sickly-sweet testimonial.) Photographs of the testimonial people add extra credibility to your message.

It’s a good idea to sprinkle a number of testimonials throughout the sales page. Testimonials should be carefully selected to cover key objections your prospects may have.

5. Bullet points

Cover every single benefit of your product or service with bullet points.

Yes, really – people can buy your product or service based on one single, tiny, feature.

What’s more, by listing all the benefits it shows that your product or service has depth. Readers will begin to imagine themselves benefitting from what’s there – and they can do that because your message is so specific.

Here’s an example to show why detailed bullet points work best:

This example is from my own sales page, for my eBook the ‘Website Owner’s Manual‘.

Imagine that you’re a small business owner, and you’ve got a website that isn’t converting.

Which of the following is more enticing sales copy:

(a) Tips on how to get your website converting better;

or:

(b)

bullet-point-benefits

… There’s a good chance that one of these specific bullet points will hit a nerve, and compel a prospect to buy.

A vague bullet point won’t do that.

What’s more, notice how I’ve added page numbers next to each bullet point. This does a number of things:

  • It creates the “I want that factor”. If you’re struggling with one of those topics, having the solution waved in front of you creates desire.
  • It creates credibility. My promises aren’t vauge; they’re real.
  • Once a customer has bought from you, they can access the information really quickly if they need to.

So yeah, detailed bullet points are your friend. 🙂

6. Screenshots and graphics

Adding graphics and screenshots of what’s inside your product is a good idea. (Not just the packaging shots, but nitty-gritty detail shots.)

Not only do graphics perk up your sales page (to balance out all the words), but it’s another way of boosting credibility, too.

7. Risk reversal and the buying process

It’s a good idea to outline what happens next in the buying process, so that the customer doesn’t hit any potholes they’re not expecting. (If they know what’s likely to happen during the checkout process, they’re less likely to abandon it.)

A guarantee of some sort is really powerful here too. If you’re an internet marketer, a money-back guarantee is the norm.

If you’re in the professional services industry, that may not be such a relevant guarantee, so you’ll need to come up with another risk reversal mechanism. This could be a Promise, or a Pledge, for example.

8. Bonuses

If you’re offering bonuses, explain why they’re fabulous and such must-have items!

9. Product offer

Yep, this is where you name your price.

You may want to remind readers of your Guarantee (or other risk-reversal mechanism) at this point.

10. Customer service information

Technology isn’t perfect, so someone’s bound to encounter problems buying online. So be sure to include key contact details (which is great for trust-building, and therefore conversions, too).

11. Personal sign-off

Add your signature and profile photograph at the end of the sales page… this personal touch provides credibility and helps with conversions.

(No-one likes buying from ‘anonymous’ websites… it’s like the business owner has something to hide, and will raise a red flag to many of your prospects.)

12. “PS” message

Repeat your main message as a “PS” at the bottom. It’s surprising how many people will skim-read (or scroll through) the bulk of the sales copy, but will read the PS. So make it good – and make it stand out.

Can any other copywriters verify this approach to long sales copy?

Yes… and I’ll refer to two copywriters and internet marketers whose work I respect.

First of all, Sean D’Souza at Psychotactics.com has tested long versus short sales copy over many years. He’s discovered that long sales copy (when it’s well written and constructed) can increase sales – and result in fewer refund requests.

I really respect Sean’s work, as he walks the walk when it comes to marketing. He is very open about what’s been successful for him. (And if you haven’t read his book The Brain Audit, you should, it provides a good insight into why customers buy – and why they don’t. Plus you’ll see his own sales page when you click on the link.)

What’s more, Sean’s copywriting approach his classy. Personally I’m not big on sales pages that use lots of highlighter pens and pop-ups and look like get-rich-quick schemes… ugh! So I’m happy learning from Sean’s approach (I’ve taken a number of his courses) because (a) his techniques work, and (b) it’s a classy, high-quality approach.

Secondly, copywriter Bob Bly is an interesting character to watch. He reportedly makes a massive income from selling eBooks online (as well as from his freelance copywriting), so he’s got some interesting techniques to observe. All of his sales pages are long… the structure may be a little bit different to what I’ve outlined above, but most of the elements are covered. Here’s a example of a Bob Bly sales page, for his product on Building A Large and Profitable Email List.

You’ll notice that Bob Bly has “Order Now” buttons scattered throughout the page, whereas Sean D’Souza has the “Buy Now” buttons at the very end… this is because Sean wants you to read his sales copy right to the very end. (Fewer refunds that way!)

In short: successful internet marketers and copywriters whom I respect use long sales pages, so that’s the approach I’d recommend.

But I hate long sales copy…

If you hate long sales copy, you need to remember that the sales page isn’t for you – it’s for your prospects.

Besides, doesn’t the idea of more sales and fewer refunds appeal to you? C’mon!

But I really REALLY hate long sales pages…

OK, if you really REALLY hate long sales pages there is one more approach. But I’m writing about it with a Disclaimer, because I haven’t tested for myself how successful this approach is or not.

Here’s what you do:

1. Create a really enticing (short) sales page

This includes two links: a Buy Now link, and a link to More Information.

This makes the page appealing to both Decisive Dan and Tentatitve Tom readers.

2. The More Information page gives all the product details

… So essentially, you still have to write long sales copy… it’s just that not everyone is forced to read it.

Here are the problems I foresee with this approach:

  • (a) You have two website pages to maintain instead of one.
  • (b) You have an additional metric to measure, i.e. how many people are clicking through to the second page.
  • (c) You’ll most likely have more refund requests, because some people haven’t bothered to find out what they’re buying.

It’s your choice, but I think it may just be easier to have one long page…! 😉

Summary

  • How long should a sales page be? Long enough to give your prospects the information they need to make an informed decision.
  • A good sales page should include the following:
    • 1. An attention-grabbing headline: this must address the prospects’ primary problem or concern
    • 2. Demonstrate that you understand your prospects’ primary problem
    • 3. Present your solution
    • 4. Testimonials
    • 5. Bullet points
    • 6. Screenshots and graphic
    • 7. Risk reversal and the buying process
    • 8. Bonuses
    • 9. Product offer
    • 10. Customer service information
    • 11. Personal sign-off
    • 12. “PS” message
  • Successful internet marketers and copywriters whom I respect use long sales pages because these pages increase sales and decrease refund requests.

 

Copywriting tip: How to get your prospects to take action

Here’s a copywriting tip on why you need to treat your prospects like dogs…

(Hint: Avoid using negative language, and tell people what you DO want them to do!)

 
 
 
(Yes, this is me, Cornelia Luethi in the video, and here’s the link to the FREE Marketing Tips: http://theleakybathtub.com/marketing-tips/)

Do you use negative phrases in your marketing copy?

Copywriting tip: how to get your prospects to take action!Here’s a better way:

… Instead of writing: “Don’t hesitate to contact us”, write, “Please get in touch”.

Instead of: “Don’t forget to sign up”, write, “Remember to sign up”.

And instead of: “It’s not a problem”, write, “It’s a pleasure”.

Little copywriting tricks like these make a world of difference to your marketing materials and website… and writing in this positive, easy-to-understand way doesn’t cost you a cent!

Why I love the Yoast SEO plugin for SEO website copywriting

If you have a WordPress website, the Yoast SEO plugin can help boost your Google rankings. Here's how to use it...

If you have a WordPress website, the Yoast SEO plugin can help boost your Google rankings. Here’s how to use it…

One of the benefits of WordPress websites is that you can add so much functionality, by using plugins.

A WordPress plugin that’s on my “must have” list is the Yoast SEO plugin. (This article relates to version 1.4.x of the plugin.)

Now, I know that the Yoast SEO plugin does a heap of cool stuff, and the features I use are just the beginning. So there’s a lot more to it than this article covers. What I’m going to be talking about is specific to SEO website copywriting.

How to use the Yoast SEO plugin to help you with your SEO website copywriting

Using the Yoast SEO plugin for SEO website copywriting has two main stages:

  1. Inputting the focus keyword and meta data
  2. Analysing the content and making tweaks.

Let’s look at each of these in turn…

1. Input the focus keyword and meta data

First of all, you need a focus keyword (derived from your keyword research and keyword strategy). You need just one focus keyword for each web page or post.

As an example, let’s use screenshots from this actual blog post, where I’ve chosen “Yoast SEO plugin” as my focus keyword… That makes sense, yes? Seeing as this is an article primarily about the Yoast SEO plugin. (Oh, look at me dropping the keyword in yet again!)

(Note: “Yoast SEO plugin review” would probably be an even better keyword, but it’s kinda hard to write that naturally in the copy. The golden rule of website copywriting – even SEO website copywriting – is to write for human readers first of all. If something sounds stilted and awkward, don’t write it that way.)

You input your focus keyword in the “General” tab of the plugin window… which is on the same page of your WordPress admin as the page or post you’re writing, so all you need to do is scroll down.

The orange “1”, below, indicates where you put your focus keyword (and it even comes up with some suggestions… though personally I always ignore these!):

yoast-seo-plugin-1

As you can see, the plugin automatically generates a Meta Title and Meta Description (see the orange “2”), but you should re-write these… you can do oh so much better!

(a) The Meta Title (called the “SEO Title” in Yoast)

The Meta Title will show up in the search engine results, so you need to make this an enticing headline that grabs readers’ attention.

AND it needs to include your focus keyword… and you get extra Brownie Points if it’s at the very beginning.

AND you should stay within the 70 character word limit. (Something that’s a little too short is better than it being too long.)

AND every page on your website needs a unique Meta Title, or Google will penalise your site’s rankings.

You can see the Meta Title I’ve written for this article in the image below, next to the orange “3”:

yoast-seo-plugin-2

(b) The Meta Description

The Meta Description may show up in the search results… or else Google may just use a random bit of text from your web page. Assume that it will show up.

Also, apparently according to Google, it doesn’t matter if you use your focus keyword in the Meta Description or not… but let’s face it, it’s not going to hurt. So I’d always suggest using it (as does the Yoast SEO plugin).

So here you can write a short (156 character max.) blurb. Make it a bit of a teaser; make it enticing so that people want to click through.

Do make the description accurate and relevant to your web page, too. And every page on your website needs a unique Meta Description.

You can see the Meta Description I’ve written for this article in the image above, next to the orange “4”.

Stick to the character count!

What’s super handy about this plugin is that a character count is included… there’s nothing worse than having your copy cut short in the Google search results. (That looks very unprofessional.)

And the character count saves you so much time, rather than using the word count in Word, and copying and pasting and all those shenanigans.

2. Analyse the content and make tweaks

OK, now that you’ve loaded your content and entered the focus keyword, Meta Title and Meta Description you can see how your content stacks up.

As soon as you hit “Save Draft” you’ll see some information come up in the “General” tab of the Yoast SEO plugin (highlighted in yellow, below):

yoast-seo-plugin-6

… But it can do much, much more than that.

Click on the “Page Analysis” tab and you’ll see something like this:

yoast-seo-plugin-3

As you can see, it uses a traffic light system to show you what you’ve done well (indicated by a green circle); important things that need attention (indicated by a red circle); and not-so-important things to consider (indicated by an orange circle).

And if you look at the “Publish” pane, it gives an overall “traffic light” for the page:

yoast-seo-plugin-4

… as you can see, I get a nice, big fat green light for this page. Woohoo!

Important: A green light isn’t a guarantee of success, it’s simply an indicator that you’ve done your job well. After all, the actual Google rankings have so many other variables, like degree of competition for your chosen keywords; your site’s overall Page Rank; number of quality inbound links to your site; etc. etc. But by getting a green light, you’re well on your way.

I’d also suggest that you set up your All Posts and All Pages admin areas to resemble this:

yoast-seo-plugin-5

That way, you can see at a glance the traffic light ranking for each page; the focus keyword; and the Meta Data. Then you can quickly see which pages you’ve optimised well, and which pages need attention.

Do all pages and posts need a green light?

In my view, you shouldn’t worry about getting the green light for all your pages and posts… It just isn’t possible all the time.

Using the focus keyword should read naturally, and if you can’t possibly use the keyword naturally, then leave it be.

At the end of the day it is always better to write quality content for human readers than ticking all the SEO boxes.

What if you’re already using an SEO plugin, such as All In One SEO Pack?

At the time of writing this article (July 2013), the All In One SEO Pack plugin doesn’t come close to the Yoast SEO plugin.

One client paid his web developer to migrate the data from the All In One SEO Pack to the Yoast SEO plugin. Then I carried out an Analysis of all the web pages and blog posts, and made some small tweaks here and there to get that “green light” on as many pages as possible.

This resulted in increased website visibility for the client, and just a year after launching his brand new website (on a new URL), he is ranking naturally on Page 1 of Google for all of his chosen keywords. The Yoast SEO plugin definitely helped with that.

Other cool stuff that the Yoast SEO plugin can help you with

There’s a bunch of other stuff that the Yoast SEO plugin can do for your WordPress site, such as XML sitemaps, and a whole lot more… things that are far too technical for me, and that I get my web designer to look after. You’ll need to read the Yoast website to check out the rest of the features. 🙂

PS. A thank you…

A big thank you to my awesome web designer, Trisha Cupra at Blue Owl Web Design Makeovers for telling me about this plugin in the first place. This lady is the WordPress Queen, she seriously knows her stuff when it comes to effective websites.

 

Why you need both a 2D and 3D cover for your book or eBook

One copywriting task I often help my clients with is eBook, book or white paper writing, as I’ve built up some good experience with my own eBooks.

An important consideration for this kind of document is its cover: after all, books are very much judged by their covers. And just because the book may be electronic (either a PDF, Kindle, ePub or another format), a great cover design is a must. Even if the eBook is free! (You still have to convince people that it’s worth their while downloading and reading.)

What you may not realise is that you need both a 2D and a 3D book cover design.

Let’s take a look at what they are, how they’re different, and how each is used…

Introducing the 2D (or “flat”) book cover

Here are a couple of examples of a 2D (flat) book cover design:

Above: The 2D cover for one of my own eBooks, published in PDF format.Above: The 2D cover for a cartoon book I've published in paperback and Kindle formats.

… as you can see, the name is exactly what it says… the design is square and flat and two-dimensional.

How and where you use the 2D book covers

Not only will you need the 2D cover to create the 3D cover (more on that later), but you’ll also need it as follows:

  • For PDF eBooks: This should be inserted on the first page of your book document.
  • For Kindle and ePub eBooks: This is also inserted on the first page of your book document. And additionally this is the image used on your online bookstore (e.g. Amazon.com) listings.

Introducing the 3D cover

The 3D cover is created with the 2D cover as a starting point… here are some examples:

Above: the 3D cover for my Website Owner's Manual book.Above: the 3D cover for my Website Owner's Manual book.

How do you create the 3D cover?

3D cover designs take a lot of skill to do well. (Good design is harder than it looks!) If you have good design skills in PhotoShop software, then you can use PhotoShop actions such as Cover Action Pro.

Personally, I prefer to stick to my strengths (i.e. writing!) and let an expert design my book covers. Trisha Cupra at Blue Owl Web Design has designed all of my covers for me.

Note: there are plenty of other options available for 3D cover creation, but that’s what works for me.

Some tips on 3D cover design

There are so many whizzy 3D book designs out there it can be hard to choose the right design sometimes! Here are some tricks I’ve learned from my cover designer:

Keep the design plain

Too much text and detailed images won’t be legible once your design is reduced in size. Stick to:

  • The title of the book (in a font that’s easy to read)
  • Your name (also in a legible font)
  • One clear image that can be seen even at a small size.

Choose an appropriate book thickness

If your book is short, then pick a design that also looks slim. And if your book is blockbuster length, than choose a design that represents that. It gives your audience an idea of what to expect, and they may feel cheated or misled if what they receive doesn’t match with their expectations.

For example, the 3D images above demonstrates roughly how long the books are. Compare that to another eBook of mine, which is longer:

Above: This 3D design makes it obvious that this eBook I've written is relatively long and comprehensive.

Above: This 3D design makes it obvious that this eBook I’ve written is relatively long and comprehensive.

 

Avoid whacky angles

Some eBook designs use crazy angles where the text runs almost diagonally, making it very hard to read. It’s far better to stick with a design where the angle is more normal, and the text runs horizontally.

Where to use the 3D book covers

OK, so now that you know what 3D book covers look like, and how they’re created – how do you actually use them?

The place where you use the 3D book covers is on your own website. The 3D design is purely to promote your book and make it look attractive.

3D book covers get more sales (or sign ups, if it’s a free white paper), simply because they look more enticing… and a whole lot more professional, too. Packaging sells, so this a good cover design is definitely worth investing in.

After all, you want your book to get read, so you’re doing yourself a big favour if you package it nicely!

Summary

  • 2D (“flat”) book covers are used as follows:
    • PDF eBooks: Insert the 2D design on the first page of your book document.
    • For Kindle and ePub eBooks: Inserted the 2D design on the first page of your book document. And additionally this is the image used on your online bookstore listings (e.g. Amazon.com).
    • 3D cover generation: the 2D cover is a starting point in the design process for the 3D cover.
  • 3D covers are used on your website to promote your book. Packaging sells, and books with attractive covers sell better.
  • If you’re not a design whizz yourself, engage someone to do this for you… ideally someone with book cover design experience, as their are some unique design factors for book covers. I’d suggest that you:
    • Keep the design plain.
    • Choose a book thickness that’s relevant to your book
    • Avoid whacky angles where the text is hard to read. Try and keep the text as horizontal as possible.

How to write attention-grabbing headlines

Here’s an easy-peasy headline writing technique you can use right away…

FREE Marketing Tips:  http://theleakybathtub.com/marketing-tips/

(That’s my other website, with DIY marketing resources for small businesses.)

Why use headlines?

Headlines are vital for attracting people’s attention, to compel them to read your marketing messages. You use headlines for:

  • Website content: every page should have a heading… which should be a headline.
  • Email newsletters: the ‘Subject’ line is actually a headline, and has a big influence on your email newsletter open rates.
  • Blog and news articles: these definitely need great headlines to compel readers to read on!
  • Brochures: again, headlines compel people to pick up your brochure and want to read more.
  • Advertisements: a stand-out headline is a must for both print and online advertisements.
Writing attention-grabbing headlines is a vital part of good copywriting. Here's a technique that's easy to use...

Writing attention-grabbing headlines is a vital part of good copywriting. Here’s a technique that’s easy to use…

There are lots of headline writing techniques out there, but this one is probably the easiest to learn… and it works really well.

Step 1: Ask a question
Step 2. Use the word ‘you’ in your question
Step 3: The question should address a problem that your prospect is experiencing

Example: the the intro to this video uses this technique! It is:

Are you struggling to write an attention-grabbing headline?

So next time you need to write a headline, see if you can use this headline writing technique.

Next, review your existing marketing materials (printed and online) and give them a re-vamp by writing a catchy headline.

 

PS. Yes, this is me, Cornelia, in the video!

This is my very first attempt at a video blog – or ‘vlog’ as it’s called.

It’s filmed on my iPhone using techniques learned from iPhone Video Hero… you can get a FREE eBook on iPhone Video Marketing here.

 

Major Google algorithm update in May 2013

Have you noticed a change to your website’s Google rankings (and traffic) recently?

If you've noticed a change to your website rankings and visitor numbers in recent weeks, it could be due to a major update in Google's ranking algorithm.

If you’ve noticed a change to your website rankings and visitor numbers in recent weeks, it could be due to a major update in Google’s ranking algorithm.

If you’ve noticed a change in recent weeks, that could well be due to a major update in Google’s ranking algorithm.

The aim of the update on 22 May 2013 is to penalise low quality, spammy websites… and in turn, reward websites that are rich in unique, high quality content. This goes to show that investing in unique, high quality website content is the best SEO strategy!

(I’ve looked at the website statistics for some of my clients, and for the sites I’ve looked at there’s been a noticeable increase in visitor numbers since 22 May.) 🙂

More info about the Google update…

Matt Cutts is Head of the Webspam Team on Google, so he’s responsible for a lot of Google’s algorithm changes. He’s written a blog post about the changes (nicknamed ‘Penguin 2.0’) here, and it includes a link to a video with more information the update. It’s also interesting that Google now lets users report spam websites.

So how do you get unique, high quality website content?

There are a number of ways in which you can add useful content to your website. (And remember, the best content will be helpful to your human readers too.)

  • Resources: Add a resources section with hints and tips for your customers.
  • FAQs: You could have FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) page(s) addressing the questions your customers and prospects ask you most often.
  • Blog: If you can commit to adding regular content, a blog (or news section) is the way to go. Do make sure you update it regularly though – an out-of-date blog is not a good look! And make sure that your blog is part of your existing website, rather than a stand-alone site. If your website is built using WordPress, that’s easy to do… otherwise, you may need to ask your website developer to set it up for you.

Like the idea of adding content – but don’t enjoy writing?

If you struggle with writing but would like more high quality content on your website, I can help you with your website copywriting.

 

Business thank you cards: How to grow your business with two little words

Business thank you cards are an easy and effective way to show your appreciation.

Business thank you cards are an easy and effective way to show your appreciation.

Discover why sending “thank you” cards will elevate your business from your competitors…

Think that sending a “thank you card” is a bit old fashioned?

Well, that’s exactly why it’s a great marketing tactic – very few businesses bother to do it! Yet this simple, low-cost gesture will help your business stand out from your competitors.

Discover:

  • Why it’s important to say “thank you” in business.
  • How to decide if this is a viable, cost-effective (and time-efficient) marketing tactic for your business.
  • When to send “thank you” cards.
  • Design tips: what should be on the front of your card? And should you handwrite the inside – or get that pre-printed as well?
  • Why your choice of envelope is important. (The wrong envelope could ruin the “wow” factor!)
  • Why it’s a good idea to put some nice goodies inside the envelope.
  • Why consistency is important when sending “thank you” cards in business.

Read the article on Cornelia’s ‘The Leaky Bathtub’ website →

AuthorRank: Google is now ranking you, not just your website

AuthorRank: Google is now ranking you, not just your website.

AuthorRank: Google is now ranking you, not just your website.

Yes, you read correctly… Google is now evaluating you (specifically, the content you write) – and not just your website.

After all, many website owners write content (or have content written for them) for not just one website, but they may have multiple websites. Or maybe you guest post on other blogs. For example, I own more than 4 websites that I write content for, and sometimes I submit articles to other sites as well.

With so much content being developed, Google needs to develop new ways to filter, sort and make sense of it all. So that’s what’s given rise to what’s been nicknamed “AuthorRank”.

What are the benefits of AuthorRank?

For people like me, who write lots of quality content, it’s exciting that Google will join up the dots, so to speak. It will help me grow my personal brand and should increase my exposure on Google. (More exposure and better rankings = more visibility = more click-throughs = more newsletter subscribers = more sales… in theory!)

Also, my photo will start appearing in Google search results. (This can take a while; it can take anywhere from a few days to a few months. It most likely depends on where your sites are in Google’s crawling cycles, and how often you post.)

Here’s an example of how Google search results look with a photo added… notice how it stands out much more than non-photo results?

Notice how the search result with the photograph stands out more than the text-only results? This is one of the benefits of AuthorRank.

Notice how the search result with the photograph stands out more than the text-only results? This is one of the benefits of AuthorRank.

 

Having your photo alongside the search results gives you more visibility, and adds credibility. This should mean higher click-through rates to your website… i.e. more website traffic.

Notice too the “By Brian Clark” link. This links to the author’s Google+ profile and helps readers discover other online articles you’ve written. So it’s a good idea to post to your Google+ profile every so often, with status updates, links to content you like (yours and other people’s), and so on.

NB: To get those perks, (a) you need to be writing good quality, unique content, and (b) posting new content regularly.

Another benefit of AuthorRank helps with some duplicate content issues…

Google loves unique content, and will penalise websites that use duplicate content. (“Duplicate content” refers to both content across different websites, as well as content that’s duplicated across a single website… it’s kinda vague and complex at the same time.)

AuthorRank should help content writers with the “across different websites” content issue, because AuthorRank will identify you as the original creator of a piece of content. This should help to cut down on plagiarism; and also reduce the risk of copied or plagiarised copy ranking higher than the original article.

What about the website content Words By Cornelia writes for clients?

My clients own the copyright of materials I’ve written for them (unless there’s some special agreement), so effectively the client is the author.

I’d encourage all of my clients to take advantage of the benefits of AuthorRank, so they can start building up their own rankings.

How can you take advantage of AuthorRank?

In simple terms:

  1. You need to set up a Google+ profile, if you don’t already have one. Make sure you use a good, recognisable headshot of yourself as your profile picture.
  2. In the code of each web page, you need to include a link to your Google+ profile. This needs to be done in a very specific way (your website developer may need to do this for you).
  3. Go back to your Google+ profile and add the website address under “Contributor to”.
  4. Test that this has been set up correctly using Google’s Rich Snippet Tool.
  5. Do this for every website you write for or post on. So if you’re a contributor or guest blogger on other sites, ask the site administrator to ensure that the “rel=author” tag links to your Google+ profile. (And check that this is done.)

The specifics of how that works will depend on how your website has been built, so you’ll probably have to get your web developer to help with some of this. Generally speaking, once it’s set up, it’s good to go, and shouldn’t need much (if any) tweaking thereafter.

Instead, you can focus on writing lots more quality content!

Summary

  • Google is now ranking website authors (if you have a website, that’s you!)… as well as individual websites.
  • This helps website content writers grow their personal brand and increase their visibility on Google… provided they write unique, good quality content, and do so regularly.
  • Having your photo showing in Google search results draws attention to them. Not only does this draw extra attention to your posts, but the photograph adds credibility. It’s likely that you’ll see an increase in click-throughs once you have your photo showing (though it can take several months till your photo starts appearing).
  • The way that AuthorRank works is that you need a Google+ profile that’s linked to all your content. You may need your web developer to help set this up for you: once it’s done, it’s done.
  • It may be worth updating your Google+ profile with status updates and links from time-to-time.

How to grow your sales with email marketing: 3 must-use tactics

Imagine that you had three co-workers:

  • Simon always wanted to sell you stuff: health supplements, holiday time shares, imitation designer accessories… just about anything! It gets really annoying, and you try to avoid bumping into him after a while.
  • Nigel is really smart and knows all the latest news and info… but he’s just soooo serious, you can’t have a laugh with him. You’re happy to hang out at work, but he isn’t someone you’d necessarily want to have a beer with too often.
  • Rebecca is like a walking reminder system. She always knows which meeting room to go to; what time; when the work’s due… it’s helpful, but again, she’s not really someone you want to spend time with outside of work.

Do you see how these three people are a bit annoying in isolation?

Yet this is how most businesses approach their email marketing

Most businesses will just use one of these approaches in their email marketing: it’s all newsletters. Or it’s all sales offers. Or it’s all follow-up reminders.

Look at the newsletters you get in your own In Box: I’m right, yes?

Being a one-trick email marketing pony will affect your sales

Continually using the one, same tactic for your email marketing holds you back from achieving maximum sales. And that’s because you’re always talking to your prospect or customers in the same way.

Imagine if you mixed things up a little…

The ideal email marketing programme is like a combination of 3 of your co-workers: it's as newsworthy as Nigel; as salesy as Simon; and as reminder-packed as Rebecca.

The ideal email marketing programme is as newsworthy as Nigel; as salesy as Simon; and as reminder-packed as Rebecca.

So imagine that you had a new co-worker: perfect Peter!

Peter’s a smart guy and he knows lots of news and topical information, just like Nigel. But he’s also a guy who likes to go out and have fun. He knows when the fishing gear or golf clubs you want are on sale… but he’s not pushy about it, like Simon is.

And yes, Peter is even a little bit like Rebecca, in that he’ll remind you if a sale is finishing soon, to make sure you don’t miss out on the stuff you like.

Peter really is the perfect, all-round buddy – at work, and outside of work.

Your goal is to make your email marketing well-rounded, like Peter

Imagine how much more engaging your email marketing would be if it communicated with your clients in these different ways. Your business would be seen as being interesting, helpful, relevant, on-the-button, personable and trustworthy

And the benefit for you? Well, you’d be making more sales if you had such a well-balanced email marketing programme!

After all, if you command this level of respect from your readers, they’ll be more likely to open your newsletter. And they’ll also be more likely to click on your sales links.

Best of all, creating a well-balanced email marketing programme is relatively easy, and can greatly maximise the return on your investment.

How do you create a well-balanced email marketing programme?

For your email marketing programme to be well-balanced, you need to use all three email marketing tactics available to you.

Let’s take a look at the three email marketing tactics at your disposal, and their pros and cons:

1. Sales offers

Announcing promotions and special offers are an important way to make sales… but if this is all you’re sending your subscribers, they’ll soon tire of the constant bombardment of sales messages. They’re boring. They don’t add any value to your relationship with the reader. They get old very quickly.

If all you’re doing is sending out sales offers, in time your email open rate will plummet, and your unsubscribe rate will soar. Not good!

2. Newsletters

On the other hand of the email marketing spectrum you have newsletters. Email newsletters inform and educate the reader, and add value to your relationship with them.

Newsletters are great for keeping at front-of-mind with your clients and generating repeat business and referrals – though that can be hard to measure.

The reason why newsletters are hard to measure because the sales message is subtle, so it’s not a case of hitting “send” and your phone starts ringing like crazy. Instead, newsletters build long-term value and relationships in your business.

In fact, I’ve seen some newsletters that are so subtle I didn’t even know for sure what the sender is selling! (So don’t make that mistake either!)

With newsletters, I’d suggest keeping the content 80% value-added and 20% sales messages. The focus needs to be firmly on the value-added component, or it’s not a true newsletter. Do include a bit of a sales message, but keep it subtle, and near the end of your email.

In short: newsletters are important, but they need some back-up to get the sales cranking.

3. Autoresponders

These are a series of automated follow-up emails that are sent out at pre-determined intervals. They’re a common tactic in internet marketing, where you sign up to get a free eBook or something, and then you get autoresponder messages every few days thereafter.

Autoresponders in isolation can work phenomenally well. They’re a very soft follow-up message, which builds bridges with your reader, rather than being too pushy.

However, essentially autoresponders are still sales follow-ups, and if you’re not adding more substance to your communications (e.g. with newsletters), readers will tire of them. In the internet marketing world that may be considered an OK tactic, but if you’re in service business, or sell physical products, you’d be well advised to have a longer-term outlook. That is, to focus on building a long-term value-added relationship with your customers and prospects.

What if your email campaigns don’t fit any of these 3 definitions?

If your email content doesn’t fit these three descriptions, and they’re some kind of hybrid, that’s a problem.

And the reason that it’s a problem is that it can be confusing to readers. Moreover; they’re confusing for you as the email doesn’t have a clearly-defined purpose.

Sure, hybrid emails may work in the short-term, but in the long-term the open rates start dropping, and the unsubscribes increase. Not at the same rate as for purely sales-based emails, but it still happens… and that’s totally avoidable. I’d recommend that you pigeonhole the content into the three categories I’ve outlined.

How do you use all 3 email types together?

The exact mechanics of your email marketing campaign depend on your business, your industry, your resources, and how often you have promotions.

For example, some companies send newsletters weekly; others monthly, or quarterly or whatever suits. So the exact mechanics and timings will differ. But here’s how I’d approach things:

Plan your newsletters first and foremost

Your newsletters are the most important element of your email marketing campaign, so prioritise these first and foremost. The other types of email marketing can then fit around your newsletters.

As to how often you send newsletters, go with what’s achievable. (Quarterly is an absolute minimum… otherwise people won’t remember who you are, and you may as well not bother!) So get the newsletters into your schedule, and stick to that schedule.

Plan your sales emails around your newsletters

When you’re consistently adding value via your email newsletters, it’s perfectly OK to send sales emails to your subscribers.

Again, how often you send these will depend on your business, and what you’re promoting.

Example: You send monthly newsletters already, and now you have a major new product to promote. Send the sales email 1 to 2 weeks after the monthly newsletter, to stagger the messages.

And now for the automatic reminders…

Studies have shown that it takes numerous follow-ups to make a sale. That’s where your autoresponders come in.

Even with the best will in the world, clients who are genuinely interested in your offer will forget to buy it, because they have so many other demands on their time. (I’m sure you’ve forgotten to buy a business widget, because something else came up that was urgent.)

A trickle of autoresponders will gently nudge people back to your sales message. You don’t want to repeat the sales message – that’ll make you look like Simon in the story earlier on.

No, you want to gently nudge your client to buy. And a well-written autoresponder will do that – and without being pushy or offensive. Just drip-feed these emails every 3 days or so for 3 weeks (during which time your reader will receive another value-added newsletter).

Won’t people mind the follow ups? Will they unsubscribe?

Yes, there is a good chance that some people will unsubscribe. But rather than getting too worried about it, you should thank these people for keeping your email list clean.

If you’ve got good email content, you really shouldn’t worry about the people who unsubscribe. They’ve either identified themselves as not being in your target market, or they’re cheapskates who will never ever buy anything from you anyway.

So don’t worry about the cheapskates: you’re not here for them, you’re here for those clients who will (and do) buy from you.

Now your email marketing will be Peter-perfect!

With newsletters, sales messages and autoresponders all working together in perfect unison, your email marketing will be humming!

Sure, you might need to test and measure and make some tweaks and tucks, but a well-rounded email marketing programme will be a good friend to you – and to your clients.

Remember: people like to buy, if the process is enjoyable and what you offer adds value to their lives. And with the approach I’ve outlined in this article, that’s exactly what you’ll be doing. You’ll be as helpful a person to them as your buddy Peter is to you. 🙂

Summary:

The ideal email marketing programme is made up of 3 components:

  1. Newsletters: A long-term tactic that adds-value and builds trust and credibility, and thus your relationship with the reader. Put the newsletters into your marketing programme ahead of any other kind of email marketing.
  2. Sales offers: A short-term tactic to generate revenue, but it’s best used sparingly or it’ll annoy your readers. Fit your sales offers around your newsletter schedule.
  3. Autoresponders: A short-term tactic that’s essentially a soft follow-up to your sales offers. They’re written in a personal way that build trust with the reader, so they’re not as brazen or as annoying as sales offers. Fit your autoresponders around your sales offers.

This balanced approach to email marketing will grow your sales in both the short-term and the long-term.

Is email marketing dead?

Has your email marketing broken down? Chances are it's fixable: here's your recovery plan to help you rev up your email marketing.

Has your email marketing broken down? Chances are it’s fixable: here’s your recovery plan to help you rev up your email marketing.

Is email marketing dead?

Email marketing is far from dead.

If you’re not getting the results you want, you need to address your methods.

 

Your 11-point email marketing recovery plan is to:

  1. Review your costs.
  2. Attract new subscribers continually.
  3. Write amazing email subject lines!
  4. Develop a strategy for your email marketing content.
  5. Create content to fit your strategy.
  6. Ask your readers for feedback.
  7. Include treats in your email newsletters.
  8. Ensure your email newsletter template is appropriate.
  9. Write a sequel (or two).
  10. Re-evaluate the frequency.
  11. Be consistent.

Read all about the email marketing recovery plan on my ‘The Leaky Bathtub’ blog →

 

Why you shouldn’t ask prospects to ‘subscribe’ to your newsletter

If you want your email marketing to zoom along nicely, you shouldn’t ask people to ‘subscribe’. Discover why ‘subscribe’ is a poor choice of word – and what’s a better alternative.

If you want your email marketing to zoom along nicely, you shouldn’t ask people to ‘subscribe’. Discover why ‘subscribe’ is a poor choice of word – and what’s a better alternative.

 

That sounds crazy – surely you’d want prospects to subscribe to your newsletter?

Well, yes, you do want prospects to subscribe… but you shouldn’t use the word ‘subscribe’.

Why? ‘Subscribe’ is an off-putting word.

Find out what words you should use instead on my ‘Leaky Bathtub’ blog →