April 16th, 2014 — Content marketing, Content writer
You hear it all the time: if you want to sell you have to engage with your customers; your content must engage your customers; or your blogs must be engaging.
OK, I get it. My writing must be engaging, but what exactly does that mean?
Well there are 2 types of content: that which asks the reader to take an action (sign up, buy now, click on a link); and the type that encourages interaction, comments and social sharing.
That second type of content is the engaging one because it starts a conversation.
How to write engaging content
Before you can learn how to write engaging content for your blog, you must first take some time out to understand what it is your audience wants.
After all, if you don’t give them stuff they’re interested in they’re not going to spend time reading it. And if they’re not reading it they won’t comment on it, share it, like it or anything else.
So, if you’ve set up your blog as a thinly veiled cover for lead and sales generation, you’re in trouble because your readers aren’t stupid and they won’t keep coming back to read your content.
Your writing has to give them what they want – that means ideas, great information, tips and hints, in fact anything that will start a conversation and give them something for nothing.
Types of engaging content
Although you can generate a lot of traffic by writing top tens of this and top tips for that, they don’t tend to be the posts that generate the engagement you want.
Having said that it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them, just don’t use them exclusively. You must mix them up with other types of content.
Try writing opinion pieces, but be genuine. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind. Yes, you might offend some people, but others will be inspired by your honesty and respond to you with their own thoughts. If they do – bingo – a conversation has started.
Believe it or not, people do actually want to know about what you think, especially if you’re seen as an expert in your field. They’ll keep coming back for your opinions and, because you’re being open and honest, they’ll feel your blog is a safe place to air their views too.
The conversations will grow, the sharing will increase and before you know it you’ve got a shed load of engaging content.
So, if you want traffic and just traffic go for top lists and tips. If you want engaging copy that is shared, commented on and keeps bringing people back, write questioning posts and opinion pieces.
Author: Sally Ormond, copywriter at Briar Copywriting, blogger, tweeter and wine lover.
Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos/Graeme Weatherston
April 14th, 2014 — internet marketing, marketing, website copywriter, website design
Sprucing up your website doesn’t have to mean a full redesign every few years. There are some less evasive things that can be done to freshen it up and make sure it is performing well.
Just like spring cleaning your house, an annual dusting of your website will make sure it remains responsive, SEO friendly and continues to give your customers what they want.
Here are 9 things you can do to keep your website in tiptop condition.
If, like me, you have no idea what all those strange letters, numbers and symbols mean behind the scenes, you may want to get someone in to help you with this one.
Cleaner and more organised code means a faster website that loads in a flash and is easier for the search engines to crawl.
2. Title tags and META descriptions
If you have an SEO strategy, you’re probably already tweaking these on a regular basis.
Your title tag lets the search engines know what your web page is about, so make sure you review this regularly. Likewise with your META description, although not a factor in SEO, it must be relevant and appealing to your customers. If you’re not sure what it is, the META description is the short piece of blurb that comes under your URL in the search results. It’s important that it speaks to the reader, highlights the benefits you offer and contains a call to action. The only issue is you have just 160 characters to play with, so you’ll have to get creative.
3. Alt tags
Yes, more tags. The Alt tags are the ones you find behind the images you use on your website. During your review, make sure every image has a tag, but that doesn’t mean you should be stuffing them with keywords. Every tag should be relevant to the image.
Plus, where you have your logo on your website, make sure it’s Alt tag contains your company name or website.
Once you’ve reviewed the coding behind your images it’s time to look at the image itself. Are your photos and graphics still relevant? Are they looking a bit dated? What about the size of them? The file size will have a huge impact on the loading time of your website, so if at all possible compress them to give your users a better, faster experience.
5. Call to action
Take a look at your calls to action.
Are they working?
Are your website visitors being converted into customers? If the answer is no, or you’re looking for a high conversion rate, your call to action is a great place to start.
Did you know that Dell increased sales by $25million just by changing their “Learn more” call to action to “Help me choose”? So if you’re not already doing so, test different calls to action to find the one that works best for you.
The navigation bar on your website is the map your visitors use to find their way round. Check to make sure it is clear and easy to follow. It’s also a good opportunity to make sure it aligns with your SEO strategy.
More and more people are accessing the Internet through their mobile phones, so it’s essential your website is mobile friendly.
While you’re reviewing all these aspects, why not add in something new. How about an explainer video or infographic? Adding fresh content to your website is a must whether it’s a video, graphic, article, report or series of blogs.
9. Does it work?
One of the main reasons websites fall short of the mark is because they are designed and written by people within the business.
Think about it – you’re business is your baby and you’re going to want to shout about it to everyone. But what are your customers looking for? Certainly not your euphoric ramblings about how great you are.
They want to know what you can do for them, which is why it’s a great idea to get someone from outside your company to read your content, follow your navigation and generally ‘play’ with your site to see if it tells them what they need to know.
This exercise is also a good way to check for broken links.
Creating and publishing your website isn’t a one off activity. It’s vital you revisit your site regularly to make sure it’s keeping up with technology and the needs of your customers.
Bookmark this article and diarise regularly to review your website and keep it in tiptop condition.
Author: Sally Ormond, copywriter at Briar Copywriting Ltd, cyclist and Big Bang Theory fan.
April 11th, 2014 — Video marketing, Viral video marketing
What’s an explainer video?
It’s a great tool that quickly gets across the message about the benefits of your product or service to your audience.
Hmm…that sums up this whole post really. But as it’s a bit short, let’s have a think about how to make your explainer video as powerful as possible.
You already know how much Google loves video marketing, so the addition of an explainer video on your website, YouTube channel and social media platforms has to be a good thing.
A couple of examples
Here’s one I produced for my copywriting services business:
In about 90 seconds it shows the viewer the benefits of using a freelance copywriter.
This is one I scripted for a client:
Again, in 90 seconds the viewer knows what the service is what it can do for them.
How long should an explainer video be?
People have short attention spans, so you’re looking at anything between 90 – 120 seconds.
How should the video be shot?
It depends on your business and the product or service you’re talking about.
Both of the above examples have gone down the animated route because it’s a simple and effective way to get the message across.
You can also use a real person presenting, add music or even use slides.
The main thing is to think about your customers and would what appeal to them.
What about the script?
The scripting of your video is one of the most important elements of the whole process.
One mistake many companies make when writing their own, is they go into too much detail creating something that’s way too long and detailed.
The trick it to keep your script short, to the point and simple. Using only a few words, you have to get across the main benefits of your product or service in a fun and memorable way.
It’s important to remember that the images will probably come after the script, so it’s important to keep the visuals in mind when writing your content.
If you landed on a website would you rather see an entertaining and well thought out explainer video, or a screen full of text?
Of course, you can also use explainer videos as ‘how to’ guides to extend your customer service.
They are a valuable addition to your marketing strategy so why not give them a go? They don’t have to cost the earth and can produce some impressive results.
April 9th, 2014 — website design
You might think I’m about to launch into a thinly veiled sales pitch for professional copywriting services well I’m not. In fact this post has nothing to do with copywriting at all.
There’s more to a successful website that it’s content (although that is a very big piece of the puzzle).
In fact, there’s one mistake companies make over and over again.
You see it on a huge scale.
Want to know what it is?
They try too hard to be pretty.
Function over form
Most business websites are designed for beauty rather than achieving the business’s goals.
The business aims always seem to settle at the bottom of the pile of priorities just because it is perceived that a pretty website will win over a functional one.
When was the last time you chose a company because of its beautiful website?
Think about the big players like Google and Amazon. Are their websites stunningly, jaw-droppingly beautiful?
No. They are functional and give the user exactly what they want.
Oh, look at that, I used the word ‘user’.
Because that is who your website should be aimed at.
Sure, you want to be proud of your company’s website, but isn’t it better to be proud of a website that offers its customers exactly what they want quickly and easily rather than one that looks nice?
The only reason you should put looks before functionality is if that’s truly what your customers want (somehow I doubt it).
How will you know if your website is working its hardest for you if you’re not testing it?
The content, images, graphics, sign-up and order forms all need testing. Only once your website is up and running will you find out what works for your customers and what doesn’t.
The big boys are constantly testing their site’s calls to action, headings, colours, images and content to hone it to perfection.
Even the smallest details can have a huge impact on your conversion, after all Dell increased their sales by a massive $25 million simply by swapping their ‘Learn more’ call to action for ‘Help me choose.’
Step by step
Through testing you’ll identify what needs changing, but that doesn’t mean taking your website off line while you make major changes.
Small changes can be made while your website is live. Monitoring your analytics will help you see what’s working and what’s not so you can keep tweaking until you get the results you want.
That way, your website will evolve into a strong site that gives your customers exactly what they want without experiencing any downtime.
So how can you create and run a successful website?
- Design it to fulfil your primary purpose and not to make it look pretty
- Test everything
- Make small changes to keep your website live at all times
Author: Sally Ormond of Briar Copywriting Ltd – the world’s fastest pedal-powered copywriter (probably).
April 7th, 2014 — Content marketing
According to Neilsen, less than 50% of customers trust any form of advertising.
That confirms what I’ve long believed – the best content marketing doesn’t push or overtly promote your products, services or brand.
Yes, you really can produce content that doesn’t shove selling in your customer’s face. You see, great content is all about offering advice, information and tips and here’s how you do it.
Before anyone will buy from you they want to be in full possession of all the facts.
That means providing detailed product information offering them everything they need to know, because if you don’t tell them, they’ll wander off to another company that does.
This information can also include ‘how to’ guides to add extra value by telling them the best way to use your product so they can see for themselves the benefits it will bring.
You have loads of customers and, believe it or not, they probably don’t speak to each other (because they don’t know each other) and so are likely to come up with the same questions time and time again.
That’s why it is important for all your departments (customer service, sales team etc.) to make a note of the questions to provide a comprehensive FAQ section on your website, or create ideas for blog posts and ‘how to’ guides.
This will help improve the service you offer your customers and reduce the number of calls you get.
Your content doesn’t always have to be written.
How about using Instagram and Pinterest to show your products in action, or videos to offer ‘how to’ guides and useful or unusual ways your products can be used?
I’ve already mentioned ‘how to’ guides, but why not think a bit bigger than that? Your customers will love you if you provide ideas around your products. You’re not selling them directly, merely planting a seed as to how they could be used.
You could provide recipes, checklists, and information about styling tips or even research around your area of expertise in reports.
Each of these won’t be a sales tool per se, but they are food for thought about how your product can be used.
Customer reviews and case studies are fantastic below the radar marketing tools. They give your customers real life stories about how a product can be used and the benefits it offered.
There’s no hard sell, just simple facts outlining how someone benefited from what you offer.
How else can you produce content that doesn’t sell?
Well, how about simple things like linking your content back to your product page under the guise of ‘to learn more’ rather than ‘buy now’. It’s also a good idea to enable social sharing and printing of your web page and offering a regular email or newsletter to capture email addresses from potential customers to grow your own marketing list.
It really is possible to produce content that isn’t all about sales. It’s what your customers want, so isn’t it about time you gave it to them?
Author: Sally Ormond, freelance copywriter at Briar Copywriting Ltd and cyclist who is very nervous about attempting her first time trial this week.