Why it’s important that your website uses keywords – and uses them wisely

Why it's important that your website uses keywords - and uses them wisely

Discover why it’s important that your website uses keywords – and uses them wisely

It’s easy to assume that the copy for your website is simply a matter of promoting your business to the world.

And yes – your website does need to promote your business.

But it also needs to do more than that…

Do you want your website to be found by prospects on Google?

These days, Google is the #1 place where customers (businesses and consumers) go to find new suppliers. Therefore it follows that most businesses want to rank reasonably well on Google.

Google rankings don’t just happen by chance. Oh no. Google uses a complex and continually-evolving algorithm to analyse, grade and rank websites.

So if you want your website to rank well on Google, you need some awareness (or a copywriter with awareness) of what Google is looking for. This type of copywriting is often called SEO copywriting – i.e. Search Engine Optimised copywriting.

So what is Google looking for?

Despite the multitude of algorithm changes over the years, what Google is looking for boils down to websites that contain high quality, unique content, and are regularly updated.

That’s the simple version. It gets more complicated than that though. Here are the SEO copywriting methods that I’ve been using with great success for many years now:

1. Use just one topic per web page

In the ideal world, every web page would have just one topic, e.g. one page about your services – or a separate page for each of your sub-services. And another page with your company profile. And another page with your contact details. And so on. This is why most one-page websites, where there are sections rather than pages for all these things, will seldom rank well on Google.

2. Use one focus keyword per web page

What is a “keyword”?

A keyword is simply a search term that people use on Google when looking for a product or service.

For example, if I were looking for a plumber in Auckland, I’d probably type “plumber Auckland” into Google. So “plumber Auckland” is the keyword.

And yes, you can discover keywords and their search volumes on Google’s Keyword Planner.

Therefore the first stage in any website copywriting project I work on is to do in-depth keyword research. After that, comes the keyword strategy work, where I assign one focus keyword (plus a bunch of secondary keywords) to each web page – and no two pages should have the same focus keyword.

Think of it this way: each web page with its unique focus keyword is like a fishing rod with bait. The more baited lines you have out, the bigger the chance of catching your prospect. If you’re in an industry that’s not overrun with competitors, you can get away with less bait (fewer pages). But if you’re in a highly-competitive industry, the more bait (keyworded web pages), the better.

3. Implementing the keywords in a specific way

Once you’ve identified a focus keyword for each page, it needs to be implemented. This is how a website uses keywords:

  • On the visible page copy: This means using the keyword in headings, sub-headings, and the body copy… but not so many times that it sounds stilted. Indeed, Google hates “keyword stuffing” (i.e. using too many keywords, or using them too often), and will actually penalise websites for this. So a good rule of thumb is that if it reads well to human ears, then Google will like it too.
  • In the behind-the-scenes meta data: Specifically the Meta Title and Meta Description. This copy also often displays in Google search results, so the copy needs to be enticing to encourage click-throughs, as well as being keyworded. I write this as standard in my website copywriting projects.
Your website's Meta Title and Meta Description are likely to show in Google search results, so it's vital that your copy is enticing to encourage click-throughs.

Your website’s Meta Title and Meta Description are likely to show in Google search results, so it’s vital that your copy is enticing to encourage click-throughs.

 

  • In the website URL: Example – if the focus keyword for the Industrial Widgets page on Acme Limited’s website is “industrial widgets”, then the address of that page should be /industrial-widgets
  • In photo meta data: It’s important to keyword the image file name, and ALT tag. Again, I write this as standard in my website copywriting projects.

As well as all that, the words on your website also need to be customer friendly; build trust; and compel people to contact you.

If that sounds like it’s complicated and difficult – relax. Cornelia Luethi at Words By Cornelia will guide you through the steps one by one, so you can focus on your business, while she takes care of the geeky website copywriting work.

Other website ranking factors

Without doubt, the use of keywords on your website play a huge role in your site’s Google rankings. There are other factors that are also used:

  • The amount of time website visitors spend on your website – which is why it’s a good idea to use relevant and engaging video content on your website, plus a blog and resources.
  • The quality of inbound links to your website: i.e. authoritative websites linking to your site. (Outbound links from your site do have some value, but it’s the inbound links that really matter.)
  • Website loading speed. This, and a range of factors related to website design and coding, have a significant impact on search engine rankings.
  • People following links from social media to your website.

There are other factors too – and the ranking factors do continually change with Google’s algorithm updates. But if you focus on having a high quality website with useful information that’s updated regularly – you will have the best chance of succeeding.

How much effort you will need to put into this depends on your industry; how many competitors you have; and how much your competitors are spending on search engine optimisation (SEO). If you only have a handful of competitors, and they aren’t doing online marketing, your job will be much easier than if you have dozens or hundreds of competitors that are all clued up and spending big bucks on online marketing. However, you have to be in the race to stand a chance of winning it.

Summary

Getting good results from your website doesn’t come from luck – it comes from using keywords on your website, and using them wisely. That requires good planning and good implementation of your website copy.

And I’m here to help with that, to make the website copywriting process as simple as possible.

The first step is a briefing and consultancy meeting, so we can get to know each other, and I can ask all the questions I need to ask to understand your business, and your website objectives. Read more about my website copy services.

 

 

Contact me to find out more about website copywriting →


 

“We went from zero to hero within a week of going live with the new website”

Perry Mundell, DUSTEX

Perry Mundell, DUSTEX

“When we approached Cornelia, we already had a website that was doing a good job of creating enquiries, but we wanted a better, more up-to-date and modern web presence. I must admit we were anxious that a complete rewrite – and a complete redesign – of the website would affect the level of enquiries in a negative way.

Happily, we needn’t have worried: we went from zero to hero within a week of going live with the new website! We’re now getting more enquiries than we have time to deal with.

I think it made a big difference that Cornelia spent a good amount of time in getting to know us and understand our business. The time she put in at the front end is now paying dividends big time. Not only has she done a great job at communicating what DUSTEX is about, but she’s also done an amazing job on the SEO and keywords to get the traffic to our website.

A big part of the success is also due to the design. Cornelia’s web designer gave our website the wow-factor we were looking for, and Cornelia’s project management of the website made the whole process easy and efficient, so we could concentrate on our core business.

I’d recommend Cornelia’s copywriting and website services to any business that’s serious about getting the best results from their online presence. It’s absolutely worth the investment, and we’re looking forward to continuing working with Cornelia on our case studies and other website updates.” May 2017

Perry Mundell – Director and Senior Design Engineer, DUSTEX https://www.dustex.co.nz

 

Contact me to find out more about website copywriting →

What is duplicate content? A simple guide for website owners who don’t want to lose their Google rankings

What is duplicate content? Here's a simple guide for website owners who don’t want to lose their Google rankings.

What is duplicate content? Here’s a simple guide for website owners who don’t want to lose their Google rankings.

Remember your schooldays?

All that homework – man that was a chore! Let’s face it, it was just so much more fun to spend your afternoons playing with your buddies than slaving over books and numbers and essays. Ugh!

Worst of all was studying for tests.

Perhaps you didn’t want to cram for the test, or you simply forgot about it.

And then, to try and save the humiliation of a Fail, you tried to copy the answers off the brainbox you’d cunningly sat next to in the exam room.

Except, of course, the teacher noticed what you’re up to, and you got a far greater humiliation than the Fail. Perhaps you were made an example of, or made to stand out in the corridor. Or you had to see the scary Headmaster. And, of course, your parents would be notified – horrors!

You soon learned that copying other kids’ work wasn’t in your best interests.

The same lesson about copying relates to your website

When it comes to your website, copying other people’s content is also a bad idea.

While there’s no teacher to punish you, instead there’s Google. (And a punishment from Google, be it a down-graded ranking or total black-listing, is a lot harder and more difficult to recover than even your teacher’s worst punishment.)

Why does Google punish you for copying?

Let’s look at copying content from Google’s point of view.

The bottom line is that Google wants to give its users a good search experience. And a good search experience means that people can quickly and easily find the information they’re looking for. Google also wants the information you find to be helpful and meaningful.

Website content that’s helpful and meaningful is usually unique: it is a bespoke, one-off article that someone has researched and written.

Conversely, low quality content is not so desirable. And over the years, some website owners have tried to “cheat” the Google ranking system by copying other people’s content. And if the internet is full of copies of people’s work, it all gets a bit tedious, spammy and not a very nice or exciting place to be.

Google hates spammy websites. And it hates spammy webmasters who copy content from other people. Google would much rather point to the original source of material – and penalise those who try to copy it. These penalties come in the form of downgrading the rankings of those sites with copied content, or, worse still, removing a website from its search results altogether.

So what is duplicate content, exactly?

You get the general idea that duplicate content is not a good thing, but defining “what is duplicate content” exactly is a little trickier.

If you refer to Google’s official advice, there are some tips there (albeit quite technical), but it’s still not crystal clear. So let me explain some of the more common duplicate content problems in practical terms.

Before I cover common duplicate content problems, one thing you need to be aware of is that duplicate content doesn’t just apply from one website to another, but it also applies to pages on your own website.

The reason for this is that some spammy webmasters create dozens of pages on the same topic, to try and artificially increase their Google rankings. That doesn’t work any more, because of Google’s dislike of duplicate content.

Does Google say what percentage they consider duplicate content?

There are a number of online tools, such as Page Similarity Check Tools, where you put in two website addresses (URLs) and it tells you how similar the pages are as a percentage.

The problem is that Google doesn’t give a percentage in their guidelines, so these online tools aren’t a whole lot of use!

Rather than worry about percentages and other technicalities, here are some practical suggestions on how you can avoid common duplicate content problems.

Common duplicate content problems – and how to avoid them

On a practical level you need to be very careful with the following types of duplicate content:

  • Mobile versions of your website that have the same content twice. The solution here is for your webmaster to use the ‘noindex’ meta tag so that the duplicated pages aren’t indexed. (Or better still, build your website so that it’s mobile responsive, and doesn’t need recreating for handheld devices.)
  • Printer-only versions of web pages. The printer pages should have the ‘noindex’ tag applied so that these duplicated pages aren’t indexed.
  • Similar content that appears across a number of pages. The solution here is to make the copy, order of information and other content as different as possible.
  • On e-commerce sites, avoid using the manufacturer’s generic blurb. Chances are that every other re-seller is using the exact same copy, so be unique and write your own product descriptions.
  • Syndicate articles carefully. Some people think they’re doing you a favour by ‘promoting’ you on their website by repeating an article. Wrong! Their site could get penalised for duplicate content – but so could yours, if Google hasn’t indexed you as being the original source. The way round this is for the other site to use the ‘noindex’ tag, and to include a link back to your original article. So you can syndicate articles, but do it carefully… and if the other website owner doesn’t know what a ‘noindex’ tag is, or they’re not willing to apply it, then don’t do it. (Note: A bigger problem is that some spammy webmasters use ‘scrapers’ to steal content without your permission. If that happens, you can ask Google to remove the scraped content from their search results.)
  • Avoid cheap copywriters. Not all copywriters create unique content; and if you’re buying an article for $5 from someone in India, there’s a good chance that they might have copied someone else’s work. Or they’ve taken someone else’s work, and then put it through a ‘spinner’ which is an automatic software tool that rewrites content. And yep, Google hates ‘spun’ content! If you use a quality copywriter, the content will not only be unique, but it will reflect your tone of voice; demonstrate your company’s expertise; and compel readers to buy from you or otherwise take action.

Those are some of the main duplicate content issues I’ve come up against. There are others, too (as listed in the Google article I linked to) but they are there for your web developer to action, rather than a copywriting issue.

Ask your website developer to help you

The best advice I can give you is to focus on creating unique content, and that your website developer does their part in the programming. Go through the list of action points in Google’s article point by point.

Don’t assume that your web developer knows all this stuff, or will automatically do it: I’ve come across numerous web developers who have never heard of 301 redirects, or will only do them for an extra fee.

Remember that it’s YOUR website and your business at stake, so you have every right to ask questions of your suppliers.

If you play nicely, you should be fine

Just like schoolteachers punish only the naughty kids, Google only intends to punish those website owners who deliberately engage in deceptive practices. Google doesn’t like people who try to cheat the system and take shortcuts; they’ll be punished, sooner or later.

So if you focus on creating unique, high quality content for your website (and have a web developer on side who’s clued up in this area), you should be absolutely fine. (And if the worst does happen, and your site gets blacklisted by Google, you can submit your site for reconsideration.)

Summary

Here are some of the steps you can take so that your website doesn’t suffer from problems with duplicate content:

  • If there is a separate mobile version of your website, ensure that the ‘noindex’ tag is used for them.
  • If your website has printer-only pages, use the ‘noindex’ tag for them.
  • Avoid using similar content across a number of pages.
  • On e-commerce sites, avoid using the manufacturer’s generic blurb and write your own.
  • Syndicate articles carefully, and get the other website to use a ‘noindex’ tag, and also link back to your original article.
  • Avoid cheap copywriters who might steal or ‘spin’ content.
  • Ask your web developer which steps they’ve taken to avoid duplicate content issues. Go through the Google article with them as a starting point.
  • Focus on creating unique, high quality content for your website.

Need unique copy for your website? Contact Cornelia today →

Does it keep falling off?

Does copywriting and marketing keep falling of your To Do list? Then let Cornelia take care of it for you.

Does copywriting and marketing keep falling off your To Do list? Then let Cornelia take care of it for you.

Does copywriting and marketing keep “falling” off your To Do list?

Goodness, the first two months of 2014 have gone already and it’s officially Autumn in this part of the world (or “Fall”, as our American friends call it).

Did you have any copywriting and marketing projects planned this year?

But have those tasks “fall”-en off your To Do list already?

Then let me help you!

Stop struggling with your writing and marketing projects, I’ll make it a breeze to create unique messages for your business:

  • Website content: Web pages, news articles and blog posts that the search engines will love.
  • Email content: Newsletters, autoresponders and sales emails to keep your customers and prospects engaged and informed.
  • Ebook writing: Want to give your customers and prospects a Free White Paper or eBook? They’re a great way to add value and demonstrate you’re the best in your industry.
  • Video scripts: Video is the latest and greatest online marketing trend… I can write compelling scripts for intro videos, how-to videos, and sales videos.

How to get started…

Just tell me a bit about what you have in mind and we can take it from there. 🙂

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Cornelia

Cornelia Luethi BSc (Hons), DipM

Contact Cornelia for copywriting help →

Newsflash! Copywriter for the Best Small Business of the Year

My client, Keola Homes, with the Business of the Year Award (plus a trophy for being a Finalist for Excellence in Innovation).

My client, Keola Homes, with the Business of the Year Award (plus a trophy for being a Finalist for Excellence in Innovation).

Last week a copywriting and marketing consulting client of mine won Small Business of the Year in the Westpac Auckland West Business Awards. These Awards are a big deal in this part of the world, and there was strong competition from more than 100 businesses in all industry sectors.

Yours truly was the writer of the winning award entry. 🙂

My award-winning client is Keola Homes, a 4-person small business that specialises in designing and building luxury architectural houses on difficult plots of land.

I am proud to be the copywriter and marketing consultant for the Small Business of the Year!

I’ve been working with Keola Homes on a monthly retainer basis since May 2012. I’ve worked on various projects with Keola Homes during that time:

  • Writing this winning Award entry for Small Business of the Year (plus they were Finalists for Excellence in Innovation).
  • Writing a previous Award entry, where Keola Homes won Bronze for a Commercial Project.
  • SEO website copywriting: the Keola Homes website now generating more website traffic, and more conversions. 42% of sales have come from the website in the past year (compared to next-to-nothing before that).

Here’s what Sanjesh Lal, owner of Keola Homes, says about my award writing work:

Sanjesh Lal, Keola Homes

Sanjesh Lal, Keola Homes Ltd

“Cornelia has been instrumental in preparing applications for 2 prestigious awards this year for us: The NZ Commercial Project Awards and Westpac Small Business of the Year. We are proud to have won both awards!

There was a lot of data for Cornelia to sift through, and she created meaningful applications backed up by firm statistical data.

Cornelia has used her skills in copywriting and good clear graphical representation of data to create award winning entries both times.

She has presented our ‘story’ in such an amazing and credible way, that judges have found us worthy of awards. I could not have done even half as good a job myself.” – Sanjesh Lal, Keola Homes Ltd

Quality results

When it comes to copywriting, I’m not the cheapest person out there (nor the most expensive), but the writing work is high quality and geared to helping you achieve your business goals.

More details about my copywriting services are here:

Availability of copywriting services

So if you have any projects you’d like award-winning copywriting and marketing for, I’d suggest you contact me soon. I take on new clients on a strictly first-come, first-served basis, and there is often a waiting list of a month or two.

Cornelia Luethi has a strong track record in award entry writing.

Cornelia Luethi has a strong track record in award entry writing.

Next step:

Simply tell me a bit about the project you’d like help with. You can use the easy-peasy form here, and that’ll get the conversation started:

http://wordsbycornelia.com/contact

And if you have any questions, just ask!

Cornelia

Cornelia Luethi  BSc (Hons) DipM
Copywriter and marketing consultant, Auckland, NZ

How to copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts – for Mac and PC

Website and copywriting tasks are much quicker if you know how to copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts.

Website and copywriting tasks are much quicker if you know how to copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts.

You can save yourself a huge amount of time if you know how to copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts.

In this blog post you will find step-by-step instructions, as well as a video to show you how to copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts.

Common things you might want to copy and paste include:

  • Sending a website address (URL) in an email, or putting it in a document.
  • Someone’s contact details, such as their website address or phone number, from their email signature.
  • Information from an old document (e.g. a proposal, letter, or fact sheet) into a new document.
  • Keywords you’ve brainstormed into a keyword research tool.

… There are limitless ways in which copying and pasting is useful!

And if you know how to do it quickly and efficiently, it can save you a lot of time.

Note: Giving instructions on how to copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts might seem quite basic to some readers here… If that’s the case, give yourself a pat on the back from being so smart. I know for a fact that there are a lot of people out there who don’t know how to copy and paste at all – let alone with keyboard shortcuts!

We all have to begin somewhere, and this video and article will make it nice and easy for you to learn…

Why use keyboard shortcuts to copy and paste?

You don’t have to use the keyboard shortcuts to copy and paste… you can use your mouse and go to Edit > Copy and then Edit > Paste. But this method is very time-consuming. If you do a lot of copying and pasting in your day (like I do), then using the keyboard is far more efficient, and it will save you time for more important things.

You’ll still need your mouse to highlight the text and position the cursor, but by using keyboard commands for copying and pasting (instead of navigating to the Edit menu), it’ll be quicker for you.

First things first: how to select the text you want to copy

You use your mouse to control the cursor on screen to select the text you want to copy. There are a number of different ways to select the text:

  • Click the left mouse button and drag the mouse to select the text you want to copy.
  • To select a whole word, double-click on it with the left mouse button.
  • If you want to select a whole paragraph or website address (URL), triple-click on it with the left mouse button.

You can tell which text you have selected, as it will be higlighted, as per this example:

highlighted-text

How to copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts: on a PC

To copy and paste using the keyboard on a PC you need to locate the following 3 keys on the keyboard:

  • Control (often labelled as ‘Ctrl’)
  • The letter ‘C’ 
  • The letter ‘V’

Keyboard-PC-circled-500

Step-by-step instructions for PC:

  1. Select the text you want to copy (as per the instructions above).
  2. Press down the ‘Control’ and letter ‘C’ buttons together at the same time: this is the ‘Copy’ command, which puts the data on your computer’s clipboard.
  3. Then navigate to where you want to paste the information: place your cursor with the mouse.
  4. Press down the ‘Control’ and letter ‘V’ buttons together at the same time. This is the ‘Paste’ command, and the text you selected should now be inserted. 

How to copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts: on a Mac

To copy and paste using the keyboard on a Mac you need to locate the following 3 keys on the keyboard:

  • Command key (the one with the squirly pattern on it)
  • The letter ‘C’
  • The letter ‘V’

Keyboard-Mac-circled-500

Step-by-step instructions for Mac:

  1. Select the text you want to copy (as per the instructions above).
  2. Press down the ‘Command’ button and letter ‘C’ buttons together at the same time: this is the ‘Copy’ command, which puts the data on your computer’s clipboard.
  3. Then navigate to where you want to paste the information: place your cursor with the mouse.
  4. Press the ‘Command’ button and letter ‘V’ buttons together at the same time. This is the ‘Paste’ command, and the text you selected should now be inserted.

Video tutorial on how to copy and paste using keyboard shortcuts:

 

Voila! It’s that easy!

There are many more keyboard shortcuts, and many are universal between apps.

But copying and pasting is the one keyboard shortcut I use the most – and it’s likely to be the shortcut you’ll use the most too.

 

Why you’ll get more sales if your marketing materials are easy to skim read (and how to do it)

You'll be doing your readers a big favour if you make it easy for them to skim read your marketing materials... And it helps your sales, too!

You’ll be doing your readers a big favour if you make it easy for them to skim read your marketing materials… And it helps your sales, too!

When was last time you read a company’s marketing blurb (be it a website, brochure or whatever) word for word?

It’s rare to read marketing materials word for word – unless you’re really interested in what they’re saying, right?

Your own prospects and customers are no different.

Skim-reading is a way of life in the fast-paced, high-tech world we live in.

Therefore, for your marketing to be effective, you need to acknowledge that and make it easy for people to skim-read your marketing.

(This is especially true online, where attention spans are particularly short and your competitors’ websites are just a mouse click away.)

What are the benefits of encouraging people to skim-read?

Encouraging your prospects to skim-read is a good idea.

Why? By letting their eyes glance at the information in a way that they can absorb it quickly means that your prospect is more likely to retain the knowledge and information.

In turn, this means that you’re more likely to make the sale!

Not convinced?

If you’re not convinced that letting people skim read will help your sales, imagine the opposite scenario. In this instance, imagine big huge chunks of dense text.

Yep, we’re talking solid walls of words… no paragraphs, no sub-headings, just a big, never-ending mass of words. (Think: like a school essay or some kind of scientific report.)

Unless you’re an academic, the big chunks of text are visually very daunting. You subconsciously think, “yikes, that looks intense and boring” when you see a solid mass of words.

Example: two articles from the same magazine…

In the photo below are two articles from the same magazine.

Here are two articles from the same magazine: the one on the left is easy to skim read, thanks to the sub-headings, bullet points and bold formatting of key points. The article on the right is visually very intimidating to read because of the dense text.

Here are two articles from the same magazine: the one on the left is easy to skim read, thanks to the sub-headings, bullet points and bold formatting of key points. The article on the right is visually very intimidating to read because of the dense text.

The article on the left has sub-headings, bold, bullet points… whilst the article on the right is a solid mass of words, with no “breathing space” around them.

Which would you rather read (if they were both on the same topic)?

I know which I’d prefer to read… and your prospects are no different. They’d rather read information that’s broken down into digestible, consumable chunks than be confronted by intimidating blocks of information.

Here’s how you can make your marketing materials nice and digestible for your readers…

7 tips on how to make your marketing materials easy to skim read

1. Use headlines

An enticing heading is the important first step in making sure that your marketing piece gets read.

After all, if your piece doesn’t grab the reader’s attention, your effort is wasted!

Here are some articles to help you:

Why are headlines important?

What makes a good headline?

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

2. Use sub-headings

Meaningful sub-headings help to break down the information on the page, and let the eye navigate the information.

Notice how this article uses this technique to break down the information into easy, navigable chunks. You can quickly pick up the main messages of this article, even if you don’t read every single word.

Make sure you employ the same technique in your own writing!

The trick is to make the sub-headings meaningful (i.e. longer than just one word), and to put them in bold so they stand out. Sometimes it’s nice to use a larger font size than for your body copy, too.

Bonus tip: Use colours for your headings and sub-headings: this helps them to stand out. Pure black-and-white copy can look very flat and dull. Choose a colour and use it consistently (it should be a colour that matches your corporate colour scheme).

3. Keep sentences and paragraphs short

Marketing and sales copy should be snappy and punchy – and that means using short sentences.

Using long sentences confuses readers… and why make it difficult for people to read your materials?

Short sentences are easy to read, and easy to understand. And “easy to read and easy to understand” are highly-desirable characteristics of sales and marketing copy!

Notice too how I’ve used short paragraphs in this article. In fact, most paragraphs are one to five sentences long.

There are two reasons why short paragraphs are a good idea:

(a) The white space between the paragraphs gives the copy some “breathing space”. This is attractive to people visually, so they are more likely to read your content. So it helps with attracting attention and getting read.

(b) The “breathing space” allows readers to digest the information you’re telling them. The gaps between the paragraphs are like little mini-breaks for the brain, that allow new information to sink in, bit by bit. So this helps with readers absorbing what you have to say, and taking action.

The golden rule is to have just one idea per paragraph. (Yes, even if that means just one sentence per paragraph, that’s absolutely fine! Remember, you’re writing marketing and sales copy, not a school essay!)

4. Emphasise important things in bold

Headings and sub-headings should be in bold, but other important words could be in bold too, so that they really stand out.

A word of warning though: don’t be tempted to over-use this technique, or your marketing piece will look cluttered. Use this sparingly!

5. Use bullet points for lists

Do you have a whole list of things to say?

Then put them in a bulleted list!

Again, this breaks down the information nicely. It’s simply a lot easier to read a bulleted list than a long, rambling line of information.

Bonus tip: Put the most important words at the beginning of the sentence. This will help the reader pick up the important information even if they don’t read the whole sentence. Why? People tend to scan vertically down the left hand side as they read. So if the important words are all on the left, the words will get noticed.

Extra bonus tip: When you’re using bullet points and putting the most important words at the beginning of the sentence, consider making those important words bold. This will help them to stand out even more and your copy will be super-skim-readable!

6. Use photos and graphics – and write captions for them

A picture really does paint a thousand words.

Good graphics help to get attention – and they also help to lock your message into readers’ minds.

How to choose eye-catching photographs for your marketing

Don’t just use a photograph without putting it into context – otherwise it could raise more questions than it answers. Instead, be sure to write a meaningful caption with every photograph that you use.

Here are some articles I’ve written to help you with caption writing:

How one measly sentence could double your readership

How to write photo captions that’ll get remembered

Understanding features and benefits and how to use them in photo captions

7. Two common formatting mistakes to avoid

You have more formatting tools at your disposal than I’ve mentioned here, but there are a couple of things you should avoid:

(i) Avoid underlining

Underlining words for emphasis looks amateurish. Pick up any book, and I bet there will be no underlining. Professional typesetters and publishing companies simply don’t use underlining.

The only time when it’s OK (and preferable) to underline is online, for hyperlinks. This is a good idea for usability because it lets readers know that the text is a hyperlink.

(Conversely, it’s super-annoying online when people underline copy that isn’t a hyperlink!)

(ii) Avoid excessive italics

To demonstrate this point, I am purposely writing a whole paragraph in italics. Perhaps you’re tilting your head to the side a little bit to read it… maybe even squinting your eyes a little… am I right? In other words, large chunks of text in italics are difficult to read – and even more so online than in print. I have no idea why that is, but computer screens and italics do not go well together! This applies to email marketing (newsletters, autoresponders and sales emails) as well as to website copy. 

You may use italics selectively for emphasis, for perhaps a word or a sentence… but no more than that, please!

I often see people putting testimonials on their website in italics, and this is incredibly hard to read. You are better off using your normal type style, and putting the testimonial-giver’s name in italics.

Why make it hard for prospects to read your testimonials?! (Or any of your other copy!)

Summary

  • It’s more enticing to read copy with “breathing space” than words that are crammed tightly together. 
  • If your copy lets prospects easily skim read it, it is therefore more likely to get read. 
  • The “breathing space” also lets readers’ brains absorb the information, so your message is more likely to stick.
  • Here are 7 ways in which you can make your copy easier for people to skim read:
    1. Use headlines
    2. Use sub-headings
    3. Keep sentences and paragraphs short
    4. Emphasise important things in bold
    5. Use bullet points for lists
    6. Use photos and graphics – and write captions for them
    7. Avoid making the common mistakes of underlining for emphasis (except for hyperlinks) and excessive italics (just a word or sentence for emphasis is enough).

 


Do you need help with your copywriting projects?

Cornelia Luethi (founder of The Leaky Bathtub) specialises in writing website copy, email autoresponders and articles for English-speaking clients the world over.

Visit Words By Cornelia for full details on these copywriting services.

Words By Cornelia - putting the sizzle into your marketing messages

 

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://wordsbycornelia.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.

 

How to get your prospects to take action

Do you ever wish that your prospects were a little more… obedient?

That they took the action you want them to take?

The trick is to treat them like dogs… all is explained in this video!

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

Do you ever wish that your prospects and customers were a little more obedient?

Do you wish that more of your customers and prospects took the action you suggest in your emails, website pages, letters and brochures?

The trick to getting your customers to be more obedient is to treat them like dogs…

It's not just dogs that don't understand negative commands - neither do your prospects.

It’s not just dogs that don’t understand negative commands – neither do your prospects.

Let me explain…

Imagine that I’m telling my dog to “not sit”.

What do you think my dog, Minnie, would do?

Why, she sits down, of course!

Minnie, didn’t hear the word “don’t”… she only heard the word “sit”.

Humans are much the same…

Although we may hear negative words, such as “not” or “do not” or “don’t”; our brain picks up on the main word in the sentence. So the negative word affects our ability to communicate clearly.

Let’s have a look at some examples to show what I mean.

Here are some common things that I’ve seen business owners write in their marketing:

Here’s a classic example: “Don’t hesitate to contact us.”

Now let’s look at that again…

The message that sticks in my brain is: “Hesitate to contact us.”

Or what about: “Don’t forget to sign up.”

Ugh, the word that I’m hearing is “forget”! Of course I’ll forget, my To Do list is long enough!

Or: “It’s not a problem.”

Oh dear, all I’m hearing is: “Problem!”

Have you used negative phrases like that in your marketing and business communications?

Here’s a better way… instead of writing: “Don’t hesitate to contact us”, write, “Please get in touch”.

Doesn’t that sound a lot friendlier?

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”.

Do you see how those small changes make your business seem far more friendly, approachable and positive?

It’s such a small thing, but it really makes a difference.

Go on, give it a try next time you write some marketing copy.

Then have a look at your existing marketing materials – printed and online.

Zap those negatives and replace them with the positive actions you want your readers to take.

That way, you’ll get more customers and prospects taking the action you want them to take… and you’ll get to earn more, um, dog biscuits.

Talking of earning dog biscuits, notice how this is a small tweak you can make to your marketing that is absolutely free to make?

My Marketing Tips newsletter is jam-packed with effective marketing tips and articles just like this. Simply use the boxes below and get on the list for free marketing tips updates!

An easy-peasy headline writing technique you can use right away…

Need to write a good headline – but don’t have time to suss out a bunch of different headline writing techniques?

Here’s an easy way to write a decent headline in 3 simple steps:

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

Summary:

Good headlines help attract readers' attention... here's an easy headline writing technique.

Good headlines help attract readers’ attention… here’s an easy headline writing technique.

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 intro to this video uses this technique! It is:

Are you struggling to write an attention-grabbing headline?

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

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

iPhone video hero

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.

How to write attention-grabbing headlines

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

FREE Marketing Tips:  http://wordsbycornelia.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.