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? Discover the ‘Words by Cornelia’ writing service →

This article was originally published by me, Cornelia Luethi, on my copywriting website: http://wordsbycornelia.com/what-is-duplicate-content

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 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!

How to write a Contact Us page (that actually makes it enticing for prospects to contact you!)

It's vital that your website's Contact Us page makes it easy and enticing for prospects to contact you.

It’s vital that your website’s Contact Us page makes it easy and enticing for prospects to contact you.

What action would you like your readers to take when they look at your website?

Do you want prospects to contact you? Perhaps to make an appointment, or to request a quote?

Some kind of “Contact Us” message is the main call-to-action on most brochure-style websites. So hopefully you’ve got calls-to-action sprinkled throughout your site. (And ideally in a way that’ll appeal to both Decisive Dan and also Tentative Tom readers.)

But what happens when people visit your Contact Us page?

Is your Contact Us page carefully crafted to sound friendly and inviting?

Or is it a page that you quickly threw together to get it off your To Do list as fast as possible? (After all, how hard can it be to write a good Contact Us page?!)

It’s kind of ironic that the most important page on a website is usually written without much thought…

It doesn’t make sense when you stop to think about it, does it? If “Contact Us” is the primary call-to-action on your website, then you need to put a bit of effort in when you write a Contact Us page.

Here’s a checklist of things you should include when you write a Contact Us page:

1. Friendly introductory blurb

Don’t just go straight to the nitty-gritty contact details, as that can come across as being rather abrupt.

Instead, add a sentence or two right at the beginning of your Contact Us page that makes your company sound friendly and approachable.

2. Email address

Even if your website has an enquiry form, you should always always include an email address as well. Read my article to find out why you should include an email address.

3. Contact form

You should be aware that lots of people (a) hate filling out forms, and (b) have filled out forms, only to never hear from the company they’ve contacted. So treat contact forms with caution.

To make contact forms more user friendly:

  • ALWAYS specify how quickly you’ll respond to enquiries. Will it be within 24 hours? Or 1 to 2 business days? Tell the reader! Also tell them what to do if they don’t hear back within that time frame.This is really important. Contact Forms aren’t perfect. By adding this blurb, the keenest prospects will get back in touch with you. (This happened to me just last week!)
  • NEVER use CAPTCHA – you know, those awful codes you have to input to prove that you’re not a robot or a spammer. Most of them are totally illegible and incredibly frustrating. Read my rant about CAPTCHA – which includes a far better (and totally unobtrusive, human-friendly) solution.

4. Physical and postal addresses

Putting an address on your website is vital for building trust, as it shows that you are a real, actual business.

Now, here in New Zealand things are a bit quirky in that many businesses get their mail delivered to a PO (Post Office) Box rather than to their physical address. That’s the norm here. I have no idea why.

But having  PO Box address is good for work-at-home businesses, like myself. A friend of mine, who also works from home, initially put her physical address on her website and business card, and then had an unexpected visit from a client – whilst she was in her pyjamas! Oops! In this scenario, by using a PO Box address you can still build trust, but without having to worry about strangers seeing your PJs.

Extra tips for businesses whose premises are visited by clients…

If clients routinely visit your business, there are some extra things you should do:

  • Opening hours: You would be amazed at the number of physical retailers that don’t put their opening hours on their website. Craziness!
  • By appointment only: Don’t have set opening hours? Then tell readers that they are welcome to visit, but must make an appointment first. That way they know where they stand, and what to do.
  • Car parking information: Visiting a business can be stressful for people, especially if they’re not familiar with the area. It can also be incredibly frustrating to get somewhere and find out that there’s no parking available, or that they need change for the parking meter.
    • Visitor Parking: make it clear if you have Visitor Parking, and what the procedure is for parking there (for example, does the space need to be pre-booked?).
    • Other parking: If you don’t provide parking, tell readers where they can park, and if they need to pay for the parking, tell them what the payment methods are (e.g. cash, credit card, TXT-a-park, etc.). This is hugely valuable for people like me who never carry cash!
    • Time limits: Also, if there’s a time limit on the parking (e.g. 30 minutes, an hour, two hours), let people know. You’d be making a very big negative deposit into your customers’ emotional bank balances if they were to get a parking ticket, clamp or towed as a result of visiting your business!
  • Photograph of your building’s exterior: Makes it easy for prospects to find your business.
  • Map: Ditto! My preferred tool is Google Maps… not only is it free, but their maps are also interactive and let users get directions… very handy!
  • Directions: If your premises are difficult to find, include written directions as well.
  • Public transport links: If your customers take public transport to travel to you, include this information. E.g.: bus route(s), location of nearest bus stop or train station, etc.

5. Phone numbers

Yes, list all of your relevant phone numbers:

  • Land line
  • Cell phone
  • Fax
  • Skype username.

If there’s a specific number you’d prefer people to call you on (e.g. your cell phone, if you’re always out and about), then:

(a)  Put your preferred phone number at the top of the list.

(b)  Make your preferred phone number bold and stand out.

(c)  Make it clear that that’s your preferred number, e.g. by saying “this is the best number to call us on” next to it.

Also, if you prefer being contacted by phone than email, then put your phone number(s) nearer the top of the web page, and the email details below it.

(And likewise, if you prefer email contact, put your email address near the top of the page, and the phone numbers further down the page.)

6. Links to social media profiles

The Contact Us page is a good place to include links to your social media profiles:

  • Facebook Page
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube Channel
  • Pinterest
  • Anything else that you use!

Tip: set up these links to your social media profiles so that they open in a new web browser window (the HTML code for this is: target=_blank). This means that visitors won’t be taken away from your company website.

You could include your Facebook Feed or Twitter stream here, but that’s not essential.

7. Photographs of key contact people

Remember, the goal of the Contact Us page is to encourage prospects to contact you. And making your company look friendly and approachable will really help with that.

So be sure to include some staff photos on your Contact Us page. Photos help with trust building – and also help with building rapport.

If you have a Receptionist or Customer Services team, or other people who field most of the calls and enquiries, use their photos. A good caption to go with this kind of photo is:

“Mary Smith, our Receptionist, is the friendly voice you’ll first speak to when you call us.”

(The caption explains who the person is; and what their role is in the business.)

Or if you’re a one-person business, use your own photo and write a suitable caption.

8. Signature

Finally, end the page with your signature, name and credentials.

This helps with building trust – you can read all about using signatures for trust building here.

9. PS message with a final call-to-action

Is there a really important message you’d like to remind people of before they leave your site? Then include it in a “PS” message at the end.

PS messages do get read, and if people have scrolled to the bottom of your Contact Us page (and haven’t made contact), then point them towards some other useful content on your website. The person reading this message is likely to be a “Tentative Tom“, so your job is to give them all the information they need to spur them into contacting you.

Here are examples of the final call-to-action you could include in your PS message:

  • Testimonials page: Want to see what our customers are saying about us? Find out here
  • Newsletter sign-up: Get all the latest tips for free! 
  • Free quote: Contact us today for your free quote: call
  • Resources: Get the inside tips…

Pick just one message in your PS… if there’s more than one option, the reader will probably feel overwhelmed!

Summary

  • “Contact us” is the main call-to-action on many small business websites, yet many businesses throw these pages together quickly without much thought.
  • A good contact us page helps with conversions – and also helps to build rapport with your prospects.
  • Include the following when you write a Contact Us page for your website:
    1. Friendly introductory blurb
    2. Email address
    3. Contact form
    4. Physical and postal addresses
    5. Phone numbers
    6. Links to social media profiles
    7. Photographs of key contact people
    8. Signature
    9. PS message with a final call-to-action
  • If you have business premises that you want your customers and prospects to visit, also include:
    • Opening hours – or by appointment only
    • Car parking information: visitor parking, other parking, and any time limits
    • Photograph of your building’s exterior
    • Map
    • Directions
    • Public transport links

 

 

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 long should an article be?

Have you noticed how some movies have you glancing at your watch after just 45 minutes?

Yet other movies have you on the edge of your seat for nearly 2.5 hours.

So what’s the ideal length of a movie? I’d say that it needs long enough to do the job. When a movie is considered “too long” it’s usually because the plot wasn’t very strong, or the pace of the movie was too slow.

The same thing applies in article writing

In article writing, the article needs to be long enough to do its job

After all, there’s no point rambling on for the sake of it, to meet some imaginary word limit. Likewise, if you make an article too short so it can fit into a teeny-tiny little space, you might confuse your readers if you don’t give them enough information.

The articles on this blog vary dramatically: some are just 400 words long; others are nearly 3,000. I write my articles not to suit a word limit, but to do the topic justice. And for most of the time, following that approach that will be fine: there are only a couple of instances where word count matters.

The only times when word count matters are:

(a) Search-engine optimised website content

The search engines like information-rich websites with unique, quality content. So if search engine rankings matter to you, it’s worth sticking to their guidelines. And for good rankings you need a minimum of 250 words of optimised copy per web page. That’s the absolute minimum; if you can get the word count to over 500 words, that’s even better.

(b) Magazines and other print publications

If you’re submitting an article to a magazine or other print publication, you’ll usually have to write to a strict word count. That’s so that your piece will fill the space available (but without overflowing).

Those are the most common places where there’s a word limit… the rest of the time, just make sure that your article is long enough to do its job well. And a good article has much in common with a good movie.

What are the components of a good article?

A good article has the following elements:

1. Structure

An article needs to be well-structured, which means that the topic needs to flow. You can’t jump around all over the place and expect readers to follow… otherwise it’ll be like one of those confusing ‘flashback’ style movies. And that’s not a good thing in marketing!

How do you make sure that your article has a good structure? A bit of time spent outlining it (before you start writing it) will help your information flow. I outline all my articles first, and it stops me from writing myself into corners and dead-ends. 😉

2. Pace

Your article needs to stride along at an appropriate pace. On one hand, you don’t want to ramble on about something too much, but you don’t want to be so brief that no-one knows what you’re talking about. Again, if you spend some time outlining your article, it’ll help with the pace.

3. “Scenes”

Movies don’t (usually) have the same camera angle and same set for the entire duration. There’ll be indoor scenes. Outdoor scenes. The story’s broken up into segments to keep you interested.

The same applies in article writing, and the technique you use to achieve this is sub-headings. Notice how this article has sub-headings throughout to pull you through it, and to hold your attention. This is much more engaging than writing one long, endless article without an intermission!

4. You-appeal

I don’t like horror movies. Or sci-fi movies. And I’m not big on Westerns either.

You probably have your movie likes and dislikes too.

And when it comes to reading, we all have different topics that interest us. Thus it makes sense that when we’re writing, we’re totally focused on writing about topics that our audience (customers and prospects) will enjoy.

Even more importantly, we need to write using the kind of words and kind of language they’ll enjoy reading. All too often, business owners make the mistake of using industry jargon and buzzwords in their articles, and this is a big turn-off to most readers. The business owner thinks that using long words will make them look good… but actually it makes it very hard to understand what they’re actually saying. Talking in layman’s terms is vital… after all, have you ever heard anyone complain that something is too easy to understand? Neither have I! 😉

5. Editing

Movies that go on and on and on are boring. So are articles that ramble. And the mistake that many novice writers make is to stuff their article full of irrelevant words.

My tip: after you’ve written the article, leave it for a day. Look at it with fresh eyes the next day, and get busy with the ‘delete’ button. Edit out any words or sentences that aren’t needed.

Think of it like the cutting room: in the movies they don’t show every minute of film footage. Nope, most of it’s left on the cutting room floor, so that the cinema-goer can see just the best bits. That’s what makes a movie compelling – and also an article.

Summary

There’s usually no ‘ideal’ length for an article – it simply needs to be long enough to do its job well.

To achieve that, begin by outlining your article: that will help you structure it well, and keep the writing moving along at a nice pace.

Break up the article with sub-headings, and make sure that you’re using language that your audience will understand.

Finally, edit the article so that any weak or irrelevant parts are deleted. That way your audience will be so enraptured with what they’re reading, they won’t even get a chance to finish their popcorn. 😉

 


PS. Yes, I can help you with article writing!

Don't enjoy article writing? You can still use article marketing as a tactic, for example by engaging a copywriter to help you.

Don’t enjoy article writing? You can still use article marketing as a tactic, for example by engaging a copywriter to help you.

Read more about  copywriting services from Cornelia Luethi at The Leaky Bathtub.

“Cornelia writes the text for our newsletters and some website updates. She did a great job of taking our rambling thoughts and turning them into professional, easy to read copy. We’ve had a good reaction and it has had the desired effect of prompting some existing clients into starting new projects with us.”   – Nigel Smith, Transformer Design

 

Why article writing is the reluctant marketer’s best friend

Ugh. There it is. Scrawled at the bottom of your To Do list: “Marketing”.

Just the sight of it makes your heart sink.

Ah well, you tell yourself, you’ll get round to that once you’ve done everything else on your list.

Of course, that dreaded marketing task never gets completed!

This is a familiar scenario for many small business owners: even though they realise that marketing is important, they don’t enjoy it and find it time-consuming and frustrating.

The good news is that there’s a highly effective marketing tactic that’s quick and time-saving

Time-saving marketing? Is it possible? Yes – if you use articles as part of your marketing tactics.

Articles? Why use articles?

Articles are a wonderful marketing technique, because one article can be used in many different ways:

Article writing is a smart marketing tool, because you can use the one article in so many different ways.

Article writing is a smart marketing tool, because you can use the one article in so many different ways.

1. Newsletter content

Include the article in your newsletter as it’ll remind existing clients of your expertise. Good quality articles add value to the relationship with your clients, and put you ahead of your competitors.

If you regularly send your clients quality articles, in time it will help to increase both your customer retention and word-of-mouth referral rates.

2. Website and blog articles

Having an informational article on your website or blog will be appreciated by both your readers. These readers could be existing clients, or they might be prospects who are umming and ahhing about contacting you. A meaningful article might just prompt them into taking action.

Customers and prospects aren’t the only ones who’ll appreciate your articles: so will the search engines. They rate websites that are rich with unique, high quality information, and if you regularly add well-written articles, you should see your website rankings increase over time.

3. Social media updates

Once the article is on your website or blog, it’s a doddle to link to it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ or any other social media network. It can be a good way of driving more traffic to your website.

Seeing your article on social media sites not only reminds existing clients of your expertise (and help your customer retention rate), but it may even introduce new prospects to your business

4. Free reports and eBooks

What do you call a collection of articles? It’s a book! You could put your content into an eBook format, and either sell it online, or give it away to clients and prospects.

5. Information sheets

Put your articles into an Information Sheet format with your logo on the front, and all your contact details in the footer of each page. You can then give these Information Sheets to prospects at sales meetings, or send a PDF copy after the sales meeting.

By adding value in this way, and proving your expertise, this inexpensive method can boost your sales conversion rates.

6. Guest blogging

Other websites and blogs are always hungry for content, and if you can get your article in front of a targeted, quality audience, it can (a) drive more traffic to your own website, and (b) introduce new prospects to your business.

There are various ways to make this work, but the most important thing is that you edit the article (and its headline) before you post it elsewhere. Remember how I said in point 2 that search engines like unique content? The search engines actually downgrade sites that have ‘duplicate content’. So if you get the opportunity to post your work elsewhere, make sure that you edit it – and that the article or byline includes a link to your own website!

But what if you don’t like writing – let alone article writing?

Many people who don’t enjoy writing are great at talking. If that sounds like you, dictate your article: you can either use speech recognition software, or else get a secretarial service (such as a Virtual Assistant) to type up your dictated article.

Your other option is to get a copywriter to write your articles for you. Professional article writing is worth the investment, as the articles bring so many different benefits to your business over an extended period of time.

Summary

Article writing is a powerful marketing tactic because one article can be used in so many different ways:

  • Newsletters
  • Website and blog articles
  • Social media updates
  • Free reports and ebooks
  • Guest blogging

A marketing tactic that helps with customer retention, referral rates and introduces new customers to your business – what’s not to love?! Article writing is an investment that can yield you returns for a long time to come.

 


PS. Yes, I can help you with article writing!

Don't enjoy article writing? You can still use article marketing as a tactic, for example by engaging a copywriter to help you.

Don’t enjoy article writing? You can still use article marketing as a tactic, for example by engaging a copywriter to help you.

Read more about  copywriting services from Cornelia Luethi at The Leaky Bathtub.

“Cornelia writes the text for our newsletters and some website updates. She did a great job of taking our rambling thoughts and turning them into professional, easy to read copy. We’ve had a good reaction and it has had the desired effect of prompting some existing clients into starting new projects with us.”   – Nigel Smith, Transformer Design

 

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.

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

Eh? That sounds crazy, right? Surely you’d want prospects to subscribe to your newsletter?

After all, my last article was all about how to get more email newsletter sign ups from your website.

Let me clarify: yes, you do want to grow your email list

While you want to grow your email opt-in list, you need to be very careful about how you ask people to do that.

Your choice of words has a big influence on how your readers will react to what you’re offering… and the word ‘subscribe’ is a big turn-off.

Why the word ‘subscribe’ is off-putting

As Derek Halpern points out in his article on Copyblogger, ‘subscribe’ has negative connotations for people.

You subscribe to magazines and newspapers: i.e. you pay money to receive these items.

You also subscribe to services such as internet plans, telecommunications, and so on.

Let’s look at how the Cambridge Dictionary defines the word subscribe:

  • to pay money to an organization in order to receive a product, use a service regularly or support the organization
    She subscribes to several women’s magazines.
    I subscribe £10 a month to the charity.
  • specialized to offer to buy something or pay an amount for something as part of your business activities
    Existing shareholders subscribed to only 49% of the new share issue.
(Definition of subscribe verb from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

Thus people to tend to equate the word ‘subscribe’ with expense, commitment, hassle… stuff they don’t want.

So how do you get people to sign up?

It’s simple: instead of using the word ‘subscribe’, you use the word ‘get’.

‘Get’ is a lot more casual. For example, people get a bottle of milk from the shop. They get a haircut. They get a present. Or get a hug.

We use the word ‘get’ freely, and it doesn’t imply commitment or hassle. (Even if it does sometimes cost money to ‘get’ something.)

Here’s are two of the definitions of ‘get’ in the Cambridge Dictionary:

  • to obtain, buy or earn something
    He’s gone down to the corner shop to get some milk.
    We stopped off on the motorway to get some breakfast.
    Where did you get your radio from?
  • to receive or be given something
    I got quite a surprise when I saw her with short hair.
    I got a (telephone) call from Phil last night.
    What did you get for your birthday?
(Definition of get verb (OBTAIN) from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

Does using the word ‘get’ really make a difference to newsletter sign up rates?

Apparently, yes, it does. Here’s an article on how one person improved their sign up rate by 254%.

Sure, that’s just one person, but I can see how that might work. People react very differently to certain words. So if I were you, I’d recommend that you tweak your website to use the word ‘get’ instead of ‘subscribe’. It’s a quick job, and one that could make a very big difference to your business!

Summary

Instead of asking people to ‘subscribe’ to your newsletter, ask them to ‘get’ your newsletter. Then test and measure to see what effect that has on your sign-up rates.

 

Understanding Features and Benefits and how to use them in photo captions

Do your photo captions address what your customers really want?

It’s important that you realise which Benefits and Features matter most to your customers.

In the last post on writing photo captions we touched on incorporating a feature and benefit of your product and service in your photo captions.

But what’s the difference between a feature and a benefit?

Knowing the difference between a feature and a benefit is Marketing 101, but I’ve many small business owners struggle to differentiate between features and benefits when it comes to their own business. So if you’re not clear what the difference is, you’re not alone… and by the end of this article you should have a better idea of how this works for your own business.

Once you’ve got that sussed, it’ll help you with many aspects of your marketing – not just photo captions!

Features

Features are fact-based, but by themselves, they’re pretty boring. Here are some examples of features:

  • Car: does 50 miles per gallon.
  • Dog food: contains 20% vegetables.
  • Fountain pen: has a flexible tip.
  • Accountant: provides clients with monthly reporting.
  • Window cleaning service: uses chemical-free products.

Viewed in isolation, most of these statements promote a “so what” response… so what if a dog food contains 20% vegetables? So what if a pen has a flexible tip? Features by themselves don’t make for exciting, compelling or memorable marketing. You need to put the feature into some kind of context.

Benefits put features into context

And that’s where the benefits come in: they put the feature into context, usually by drawing on some kind of emotion. For example:

  • Car: Because it does 50 miles per gallon, you can spend your money on more fun stuff.
  • Dog food: nutritionally-balanced to keep your pet fit and healthy for longer.
  • Fountain pen: the flexible tip enhances your hand writing.
  • Accountant: monthly reports come with easy-to-understand commentary so you know if your business is healthy – or in the danger zone.
  • Window cleaning service: not only will your windows be clean, but the products we use are allergy-free for your family and pets.

Do you notice something about these emotions?

Sometimes the benefit draws on happy emotions (doing fun stuff; having a fit and healthy dog), but other times the benefit draws into a more negative emotion. For example, this fountain pen might appeal to those who are ashamed of their handwriting. And the accountant’s service taps into the fear that entrepreneurs may have of business failure. And so on.

So should you tap into a positive or a negative emotion? There’s no hard and fast rule here, it depends on your product or service, and it depends on your industry. But most if all, it depends on your target customer’s needs and desires. (And to do that, you need to really get to know what motivates your customers. How? Asking them is the only sure-fire way to find out.)

Customers have a mix of emotions going on inside them

Often people will have a mixture of emotional drivers, but at the time of purchase one is often stronger than the others, which is why they’re taking the plunge to buy from you.

How does this tie into marketing – and into photo caption writing?

To market your product or service successfully, you need to hook into those emotionally-based buying decisions. And to do that, you need to recognise that your product or service has two levels:

  1. The basic need, which is where the logical stuff comes into it.
  2. The augmented need, which is where your heart and emotions start getting involved.

20% of buying decisions are based on logic [brain: basic need]... 80% of buying decisions are based on emotions [heart: augmented need]

 

In short: there’s a difference between the things we need, and the things we want. We may not need that new dress we’ve just splurged on, but we want to feel good about ourselves.

Let’s just look at these emotionally-based augmented needs in a little more details, so you can understand just how far you can go with stating the benefits of your product or service.

The classic example of the drill manufacturer…

Have you heard the saying that people don’t want to buy a drill, they want a hole?

Actually, that’s wrong. They don’t want the hole: they want to hang a painting, or put up some shelves. And there are emotions around that seemingly straightforward desire to have a hole. The customer might be feeling:

  • One-upmanship: they want to show off their new art to friends and family.
  • Nesting: they want to create a cosy, comfortable home.
  • Frustration: they’re fed up with the house looking a mess, and they doing something about it by putting up shelves. (Or maybe they’re frustrated with the lady of the house, who keeps asking for shelves to be installed!)
  • Procrastination: they don’t like home maintenance.
  • Fear: they don’t like using power tools… but know they have to.

Let’s look at some photo caption examples to give you an idea of what works and what doesn’t work, so you can see how to tie in emotional benefits into the features:

This caption makes me think, “so what”? Just stating a feature does nothing for me. Is a 1.5Ahr battery good or bad? I have no idea!

This is better! Notice how this caption incorporates a feature (the 1.5Ahr battery) as well as a benefit. It makes it clear to the reader that a 1.5Ahr battery is a good thing to have.

Let’s look at a service-based example too: a real estate agent

The basic, logical need that a real estate agent fulfils is that to sell a house.

The augmented needs (emotional drivers) around the desire to engage a real estate agent might include:

  • Wealth-driven: wanting to get the highest possible price for your house.
  • Fear: some people hate negotiating and want someone to do that for them.
  • Convenience and time-saving: having someone else take care of viewings.

Let’s look at a poor example of a photo caption, so you can see what to avoid writing:

This caption attempts to state a benefit: but without a feature to back it up, it’s wishy-washy and provokes a “so what” response. Essentially it’s just a bland statement.

A better example is as follows:

Again, the good example includes a feature as well as a benefit. By including a specific statistic, the statement comes across as being more credible. It packs punch. (You can read more tips on using numbers in your copy here.)

You need to include the logic as well as the emotion

Just because buying decision are 80% emotionally-based, it doesn’t mean that you can forget about the 20% logical (feature-based) element. Consumers will need some logic when justifying the purchase either in their own minds, or to their spouse or friends.

Example: justifying a purchase in your own mind

“I can justify buying the top-of-the-range drill with the extra powerful battery, because I can get those chores done more quickly.”

Example: justifying a purchase to others

“Yeah, I know the car looks quite flashy, but it actually does 50 miles per gallon, so it’ll pay for itself in no time.”

…or the more common line of: “I needed to buy this dress, honey. It’s so versatile I can wear it for work and your business dinner. And it was 50% off in the sale, you know!”

In short: your marketing need to address the features AND the benefits of your product or service. One without the other will not work!

Summary

  • Features by themselves are boring and provoke a “so what” response.
  • Benefits by themselves can be wishy-washy and may also provoke a “so what” response.
  • Benefits put features into context.
  • Benefits should draw on emotions: either positive or negative.
  • You need to draw on the strongest emotion that your customer is likely to be feeling when purchasing your product or service.
  • It’s important to still state the feature in your marketing, because consumers will need this to justify their purchase (in their own minds, or to other people).
  • Combining a feature and benefit in photo captions gives it maximum impact.

 

 


How to choose and use eye-catching photographs for your marketing

This eBook is packed with tips to make your marketing materials more effective!

Are you looking for more ways to make your marketing photography more effective?

Discover more tips on making your marketing photography more persuasive in my eBook ‘How to Choose and Use Eye-Catching Photographs for your Marketing’.

 

 

 

How to write photo captions that’ll get remembered

A good caption does more than just tell the reader what's in the photograph.

… And in this article, you’ll discover the techniques to write great photo captions for your marketing.

Have you ever played a memory game with a group of friends?

You know, the kind where everyone adds an item to the list, and you have to remember what everyone else has said, as well as adding your own item to the list. It gets quite hard, very quickly!

Imagine if you only had to remember one item… it would be a very dull game, for sure, because it’s too easy. Anyone can remember just one item.

With photo captions, it’s good that people are able to remember one item

When you’re writing photo captions, you want people to remember just one thing. Yes, just one thing.

You don’t want readers to try and remember more than one thing, or they’ll get confused and forget. (Remember, you’re trying to get your message across, not play memory games!)

And there’s more to writing a good image caption than simply stating what’s in the photograph. While you do need to put the photo into context, just saying what’s in the photo will generally leave readers confused and thinking, “so what?”

Here’s an example of a photo caption that creates a “so what” response:

Photo caption example: Premium quality dog food.

Simply stating what’s in the photograph is a missed opportunity: you can do better than that!

To write a better caption, you need to incorporate a benefit

To write a more powerful photo caption, you need to incorporate a benefit of your product or service.

So for the dog food photo caption example, what benefits do you think the premium quality dog food may have?

Begin by brainstorming the different benefits of the dog food. (And we’re talking benefits here, not features… we’ll look at the difference between features and benefits in the next blog article.)

The benefits of the premium dog food might be:

  • Nutritionally-balanced for maximum energy
  • Gives the dog healthy skin and coat
  • Quality ingredients promote longevity
  • Keeps teeth clean and freshens breath
  • Supports joint health
  • No flatulence guarantee

… you get the idea!

Now you need to pick one benefit

Yes, pick just one benefit – and it needs to be the one thing that is most likely to motivate customers to buy. This benefit needs to address the biggest worry or concern your target market might have.

While things like glossy fur and clean teeth are nice things for a dog to have, the biggest concern a dog owner will usually have is longevity. Dog owners get very attached to their pooch, yet the dog may live for just 10 to 15 years… not nearly long enough, for something you love so much! So a product that (realistically) promises a long and healthy life is something that’ll tug at the heartstrings of dog owners, motivating them to buy your product rather than your competitors’ offerings.

But before you write the caption, there’s one more thing to address. And that is, to make the caption believable.

Making the caption believable

Notice how I’ve alluded to the fact that a caption must be believable? You can’t just go making wild promises without backing them up. For example, the following caption is totally unbelievable:

Photo caption example: This premium dog food will help your dog live for longer.

This caption would most likely be met with a skeptical, “yeah, right”, and you need to avoid that. You need to make your caption believable.

How to make your caption believable

To make the caption believable, you need to tie in the feature that corresponds with the benefit you’ve chosen.

In the dog food example, it would be the nutritional aspects of the food that help to justify that claim.

But again, pick just one feature, not a bunch of features, or it’ll get confusing.

With your one benefit and corresponding feature selected, you can now write your photo caption. Example:

Example of a good photo caption: The premium dog food is nutritionally-balanced to give your best friend a long and healthy life.

Ta-da! There’s your ideal photo caption.

Of course, you could tweak the caption further, such as:

  • Your best friend can enjoy a long and healthy life, thanks to this nutritionally-balanced dog food. Or:
  • Your dog will get all the nutrients he needs in this premium dog food, so he can enjoy a long and healthy life. Or:
  • Because this premium dog food is nutritionally-balanced, your dog can enjoy a long and healthy life.

There are a number of ways in which the message in the caption can be phrased, there’s no one single right answer. But notice how all these caption ideas incorporate just one benefit, and the one corresponding feature.

Sidenote: A photo that would be more appealing than one of dog food would be a picture of either (a) a cute, healthy-looking dog enjoying eating the dog food, or (b) a cute, healthy-looking dog running through a flowery meadow – the perfect picture of good health.

But the reality is that we don’t always have the perfect photo to work with, and when you’re a small business owner, it’s often about making the most of what you’ve got. So for now, focus on writing great captions for the photos you’ve already got… but do make it part of your plan to obtain better photos if you need to.

How to give your caption the breath test

Before you finalise your choice of caption, give it a quick breath test.

What’s the breath test? This is about making sure you can say your caption in one breath. If you can’t say it in one breath, it’s also too long for people to remember it. (After all, this is meant to be an easy memory game for your reader, not a complex memory test!)

Here’s an example of a caption that’s too long:

Example of a photo caption that's too long: The premium dog food is nutritionally-balanced and packed with natural fish oils to give your best friend a long and healthy life by protecting his cardiovascular system and improving joint health.

Phew, that’s far too long and cluttered! Do not use captions this long: you’ll be out of breath, and your readers will be confused.

But what about writing captions for a service?

The example so far has been product-related, i.e. to dog food. But what if you’re selling a service? Exactly the same rules apply. Let’s look at a quick example to see photo captions for a service in action.

The service we’ll look at is also canine related: we’ll use a dog walking service as an example. This caption is too short and gives us the “so what” factor: Dog walking service.

Using a caption that just talks about a feature gives a “so what” reaction too: Our dog walkers have been police checked.

Instead we need to talk about a benefit; specifically, one which addresses the prospect’s primary concern. And if you were looking at a dog walking service, your primary concern may be that the dog walker treats your pet responsibly and with good care. In short, you want them to take the same good care of your dog as you do. Someone that’ll be kind to them and keep them safe.

So a good caption might be: You can be sure that your dog’s getting good care when you’re at work.

And to make the caption even more believable, you could add in a feature to justify the benefit, e.g.: You can be sure that your dog’s getting good care from our police checked dog walkers.

(Sometimes this adding of a feature is necessary, other times it isn’t… it depends on how believable your benefit is by itself.)

And let’s look at an example that’s far too long and confusing, and fails the breath test (so you know what not to do): Our dog walking service is convenient if you work long hours, plus our dog walkers are police checked and have pet first aid skills for your peace of mind.

To help you visualise the ideal caption for the dog walking service example, here’s a visual:

Caption example: You can be sure that your dog's getting good care from our police checked dog walkers.

With this particular photo, it would be even better to put the text next to the image, so that the dog’s looking at the words. This would create a nice, compelling Non-Mona Lisa effect. (Not sure what the ‘Non-Mona Lisa effect’ is? Then you need to grab the Free eGuide, ‘How to Choose Eye-Catching Photographs for your Marketing’, which explains this.)

Summary checklist for caption writing

A good caption includes the following elements:

  • The caption makes it obvious what’s in the picture, or puts the picture into context.
  • It tells the reader something extra in addition to the obvious, i.e. you avoid the “so what” syndrome.
  • You state just one benefit: ideally this benefit will be your prospect’s biggest motivator.
  • You use one feature to back up the benefit (if it’s needed).
  • The caption passes the breath test; you can easily say it in one breath.

If you work through this process when you’re writing captions for your own photos, you’ll be able to create something compelling that’s also easy for readers to remember… no memory games required!

 

 


How to choose and use eye-catching photographs for your marketing

This eBook is packed with tips to make your marketing materials more effective!

PS. Imagine how dull this article would be without the graphics!

That’s why photos and captions are so important: they help to lock in the learning.

If you want your clients to remember what you’re telling them, be sure you’re using all the tips in my eBook, ‘How to Choose and Use Eye-Catching Photographs for your Marketing’.

The eBook has a whole chapter on writing memorable photo captions, plus other little-known tips on making your marketing materials more effective. For example:

  • Where you can find quality photographs – on any budget.
  • The importance of where the model is looking in a photograph.
  • How to choose a photo that won’t date too quickly.
  • Why photographs with white backgrounds are ultra versatile
  • How to combine words with images (captions are just one of the techniques you can use).
  • How you can create drama with photographs through size, positioning, angles and borders.

See details of this eBook and buy online →

How one measly sentence could double your readership

Photo captions are twice as likely to be read as the body copy... so you can double your readership with just one sentence!

Photo captions are twice as likely to be read as the body copy… so you can double your readership with just one sentence!

A dentist I know uses the catchline ‘only floss the teeth you want to keep’. Yes, dental humour is quite, um, unique, but I guess the dentist was fed up with his clients complaining that flossing is a tedious chore that they forget to do.

Flossing is one of those chores that we know we should do, but it’s just not very appealing.

These non-appealing chores aren’t limited to dentistry; they exist in business life too.

A complaint that I often hear from my clients is that it’s tedious to write captions for photos in marketing materials… but the same kind of logic applies as the dentist uses:

“Only write captions for the photographs you want readers to remember”

Eh? What have photo captions got to do with memory? A lot, actually.

It’s been proven that readers are twice as likely to read a photo caption as they are the body copy of your marketing piece.

What’s more, the combination of photo plus caption gives your marketing piece really strong visual branding. The photo and caption combo help to lock your message into the reader’s brain. It captures people’s imagination far more than words alone do.

Photograph + Caption = Visual Branding Extraordinaire!

This visual branding is something I’ve been testing myself

The eagle-eyed readers amongst you will have spotted that not every article on my blog has an image (gasp!). It’s a work-in-progress: I’m gradually adding images (usually cartoons) for each article.

Naturally, I want to promote the articles that I’ve written. (Even the ones without images.) So I’ve got a neat gadget on my website that automatically posts links to my blog articles on Twitter every couple of days. And I’ve noticed that it’s the blog posts with images that are getting more “re-tweets”, more mentions, and more web traffic.

A coincidence? No, I don’t think so. The articles without cartoons are just as well-written and insightful as those without cartoons… but the visual imagery of the cartoons creates a far stronger visual impression than words alone. And yes, the cartoons have captions.

But I don’t have time to write captions…

You don’t have time to write one little sentence? Really? That’s all that a photo caption is: one sentence! And remember, this little sentence is twice as likely to get read as the whole page of blurb you’ve just written. So I strongly suggest you take the time to write that one measly sentence!

But photo captions look ugly; they ruin the design…

Admittedly, sometimes photo captions don’t look so hot. If that’s the case, you need to have a wee word with your graphic designer. Or if you’re DIYing, get a graphic designer to help you, or else look at materials that do make good use of captions, to get you inspired.

Remember, your marketing piece is there to sell, not just to look pretty. Insist that captions are used; it will be worth it!

Like the idea of captions but don’t know how to write them?

Stuck on how to write photo captions? That’s something we’ll look at in the next blog post. We’ll look at what should be included in a photo caption, so that you can write photo captions with confidence.

After that, you’ll be able to confidently write photograph captions for every photograph you want your visitors to remember. So be sure to keep an eye out for the next installment of this blog! (Or get Marketing Tips like this emailed to you directly… here’s where you can add yourself to the list.)

Summary:

  • Photo captions are twice as likely to get read as the body copy of your marketing materials.
  • Photograph + Caption = Visual Branding Extraordinaire.
  • The visual branding helps to lock in the message you’re communicating.

 

 


How to choose and use eye-catching photographs for your marketing

This eBook is packed with tips to make your marketing materials more effective!

Want more tips on how to use photographs to help increase sales?

Then check out my eBook, ‘How to Choose and Use Eye-Catching Photographs for your Marketing’.

The eBook has a whole chapter on writing memorable photo captions, plus other little-known tips on making your marketing materials more effective.