March 24th, 2014 — search engine optimisation, seo, website copywriter
My office faces one of the busiest roads in Suffolk. Traffic constantly roars back and forth as people make their way between Suffolk and Norfolk.
Drinking my coffee this morning, wracking my brain for an idea to write about, it suddenly struck me. Traffic.
You, and every other online business, is obsessed by traffic.
Religiously, day in day out, you’re checking your analytics to see how many visitors your website is getting and where they are coming from.
You smile smugly as you see your visitor numbers increase; you are invincible because you are brining in 10 times the traffic of your competitors.
If you’re that amazing, why are your competitors making more money than you?
What’s happening to your traffic?
Running a business is tough. There’s so much to think about and only a finite amount of money to reinvest.
You probably started out with an ‘OK’ website that you got cheap and filled with content yourself. With a bit of help from your SEO guy (or girl) you’ve got traffic heading your way in droves, but something strange is happening.
When you look at your sales (i.e. conversions), they aren’t reflective of the number of visitors you’re getting.
Because your website and its content isn’t up to scratch.
Look at it this way, if you have a High Street store with a stunning window display, potential customers will flock through your doors. When they get inside, if your products are haphazardly strewn here and there and your sales team are loitering in corners discussing what they’re going to be doing at the weekend, ignoring them, the chances are they’ll turn round and find a different shop that’s more welcoming.
Well, that’s what’s going on with your website.
Your SEO guy/girl has done an amazing job luring people to your website, but because you’ve got a dreary site with awful content, they’re leaving straightaway.
Yes, SEO is important to get people to your website, but it’s the design and, more importantly, the content that will get them to stay and buy.
Convincing people to stay and buy
Your website copywriting must:
- Address the reader directly
- Sell the benefits of your products and services
- Convince them to buy
One of the most common mistakes is to write about your company. This comes across as very inward facing and ignores the needs of your customers.
When they reach your website they want to instantly see what it is you offer, how it will help them and why they should buy it.
If you write in the second person (i.e. using ‘you’ instead of ‘we’ – just like this blog post) you are instantly creating a relationship with the reader. It’s as if you are talking to them – it’s the written equivalent of eye contact.
Using this technique, show them the benefits of your product. That doesn’t mean the colour, size, technical spec etc., all that comes later in the product description. They will want to know how it will make their life easier.
SEO and content go hand in hand
If you want to succeed online, you must invest in good search engine optimisation and great web content.
Find a copywriter who really understands the concept of search marketing and who can create content that fulfils the needs of both Google and your customers. It’s a fine line to tread, but one that will bring incredible results when done well.
A good SEO and copywriter is a dream team – when you find yours hold on to them and don’t let them go.
Author: Sally Ormond – Briar Copywriting Ltd
March 21st, 2014 — copywriter, copywriting tips
How do you write?
That’s not a trick question.
The way you write will have a big effect on how well your marketing is received by your audience.
Some people find writing with personality a breeze, others find it more of a challenge, but that’s not really surprising. All through school, college and university you are taught to write in a bland, academic way. This forces out any trace of your personality as everyone strives to churn out the same old stuff.
Writing great marketing means you have to forget everything you have been taught up to now and start writing in a way that naturally reflects your personality.
The problem is when something is so engrained within you, it’s very difficult to break free from it and just be yourself.
Hopefully, the following 5 tips will help you find your inner voice and allow your personality to run free.
1. What do you like?
Reading around the subject is something you spend most of your school and college life doing. Well it doesn’t stop there. If you are creating marketing copywriting you must read lots and lots of stuff for inspiration.
It will also help you develop your own distinctive voice.
Read stuff that you enjoy. It can be anything from fiction to magazines, just so long as you like it and it makes you want to read it. When reading your favourite blogs take note of how they start their articles, the language they use and what it is about it that keeps you hooked. Although you shouldn’t try to emulate their exact style, it will give you some clues as to how you can improve your own writing.
2. Forget business
One of the best ways to develop your own voice and style is by freewriting. All you have to do is open a Word document and start writing about a favourite topic that’s unrelated to work. Let your imagination and creativity run and write as if you were talking to someone. Allowing this free, conversational style to develop will help you create a distinctive voice for your marketing.
3. Stay focused
If you lose the focus of your message your writing will start to ramble and lose it’s impact.
Concentrate on one key message and make sure everything you write is focused on that. If necessary, write it on a post it note and stick it to your monitor so it’s constantly in your eye line.
Using a thesaurus will help you come up with new and interesting ways of saying things, but use it with caution. Most people have the tendency to believe that marketing copy must contain complex words; it doesn’t. In fact the best writing uses a simple vocabulary.
5. Out loud
How often do you read your content out loud?
Probably not very often, but you should.
Reading out loud will give you a much better feel for what you’ve written (as well as highlighting mistakes). It will show whether it’s easy to follow, if you’ve repeated yourself (or words) and whether the rhythm flows.
It’s well worth practising these techniques and developing your own unique style. If you want people to read your marketing, articles and blogs you’ve got to somehow connect with them and the best way to that is by letting your personality shine through.
It may take time so persevere; it’ll be worth it in the end.
Author: Sally Ormond, Copywriter at Briar Copywriting Ltd and avid reader.
March 19th, 2014 — copywriting tips, online marketing, Testimonials
You can’t sell without it.
Customers only buy from companies they trust and like and one of the best ways to promote trust is by including testimonials on your website or landing page.
But sometimes, that can do more harm than good.
Why? Surely testimonials are the best form of social proof there is.
Normally I would agree with that, but there are some companies out there using testimonials that harm their business.
How many times have you come across a website or landing page that lists testimonials but doesn’t attribute them to a person, or just show “Mrs B from Scotland”?
Would you trust their authenticity?
How to make the most of your testimonials
If you’re going to put testimonials on your website they must, as a minimum, be attributed to a real person showing their full name, position and if possible a photo.
It’s also a good idea to have them address specific concerns, for example, ease of use, great customer service etc. After all, if that was something that stood out for them, the chances are it’s a concern for others too.
Getting testimonials and endorsements from celebrities or prominent people in your industry would be great, but not everyone is in a position to do that. So the other option is to use testimonials your customers can relate to. An example would be that if you sold waterproof cameras, a testimonial from a scuba diver would carry more weight than a wedding photographer.
Another thing you can do is to include video testimonials.
Don’t always concentrate on the positive
I know, an odd thing to say, but if your testimonials and reviews give a balanced picture, potential customers are more likely to believe them.
I don’t know about you, but if I’m considering buying a product and all the testimonials are glowing, I will head off to do a bit of independent research. The danger with that is (apart from finding someone who slates your product) I may come across a better deal elsewhere. So give your potential customers a balanced view and prevent them from leaving your website.
All in all, testimonials are a valuable tool for online marketers. They give a real life view of your products and service that should allay many of the fears potential customers may have.
But if you’re going to use them, make sure you follow the tips above and build that all important trust.
Author: Sally Ormond, copywriter at Briar Copywriting Ltd who cycled 300 miles in 24 hours last year.
March 17th, 2014 — Freelance advice
Working for yourself is something many people aspire to, but being self-employed or running your own business is not without its challenges. Unlike a regular job where your salary pops into your bank account every month, being self-employed means your income may sometimes be variable. It’s great when you have more work than you can physically do, but when work dries up for whatever reason, it doesn’t take long for the cash flow to dry up, too. But although this scenario can easily snowball into a nightmare of Stephen King proportions, with a bit of careful planning and some damage limitation strategies in place, you can survive the drought.
Where Has All the Work Gone?
When work dries up, it is a good idea to assess the situation fast. Ask around to see if everyone else in your niche is in the same boat. If they are, you can take a bit of comfort from that. It isn’t ideal, but at least you know others are sharing your pain. If you are the only one struggling, however, think about why that might be the case. Did you put all your eggs in one basket and when a major client bailed you lost a significant portion of your income? If so, learn from this mistake and next time make sure you think about taking on lots of smaller clients instead of one large client, thus spreading the risk.
Saving for a Rainy Day
One lesson I have learned the hard way during my years as a freelancer is that saving for a rainy day is essential—unless you enjoy eating baked beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Since it is inevitable that work availability is sometimes affected by wider economy, the best way to ride out the lean times is to have some savings put away.
When the money is rolling in and you have potential clients beating a path to your door, it is undeniably tempting to think the good times are going to keep on rolling. But as a small business owner, sole trader or freelancer you can’t afford to take such a short-term view. Always, always have savings in reserve to help tide you over when work dries up. This rainy day fund may just keep your business ticking over when everyone around you is going to the wall.
Become a Marketing Whiz
If business has been good for a long time, you have probably gotten out of the habit of marketing your services. After all, why would you need to go looking for work when clients have been calling you? But if work has dried up, it is time to brush up on your marketing skills. Make a point of setting aside a specific amount of time per day to spend on marketing your products or services. Make a list of different methods to try and explore every possible avenue in your efforts to find work.
Tighten Your Belt
Unless you fancy going out with a bang, cutting back on your expenditure is sensible when work is thin on the ground. Look at where you can cut costs. Even finding a cheaper electricity supplier could make a difference—every little helps!
As I have already mentioned, placing all your eggs in one basket is a risky proposition. Should that client refuse to pay or simply disappear one day, it could leave you massively in the lurch. Diversifying your income stream is a sensible plan for lean times. Get creative and consider branching out into different areas or offering new services. Look at your competitors and see how they are coping—and if they are doing something different, give it a go.
No man or woman is an island, and irrespective of what business niche you are in, networking is never a waste of time. Keeping in touch with your peers and potential clients, both in the real world and online, is a useful way of keeping up to speed with what is happening in your niche. At best it could land you a new client, but even if it doesn’t, at least you will benefit from the support of people in the same predicament as you.
Have a Back-Up Plan
Have a backup plan for when times are tough. Hopefully it’s only a temporary situation, but in case the work drought lasts for a while make sure you have a Plan B before you end up in a dire financial predicament. This could involve taking a part-time job to help pay the bills, or even putting your business on hold for a few weeks or months until things pick up again. But either way, do not be tempted to stick your head in the sand in the hope that your problems will go away. They won’t!
As long as you have savings in place and a few creative marketing strategies in mind, there is no reason why you can’t survive the lean times. However, do make sure you learn from your experiences so you can use them to your advantage the next time it all goes pear-shaped.
This post was written by Laura Ginn, owner of Ink Elves, a freelance writing company based in the UK.
March 14th, 2014 — Content marketing, marketing, website copywriting
High street retailers have a major advantage over their online competitors; their customers can see, feel and touch their products and talk to someone about them there and then.
In the world of Internet retail, there are no roaming sales people to have a chat with and no product displays that you can interact with to get a feel for what you’re buying.
That’s why it’s important you get the right balance of content on your website to give your potential customers all the information they need to buy.
4 basic types of content
Some people react better to text, others to images, some videos and then there’s those that love to read reviews. That’s why your website’s content must be a mixture of all of them.
Your product information copywriting is going to be the main information source for your customers.
It must primarily focus on the benefits the product offers, but also provide everything they need to know about it: size, colours, functionality etc.
A great way to do this is using a mixture of detailed information, high quality photos and customer reviews.
The humble frequently asked questions page is a gold mine of information for your customer. List every question your customer service team is asked to make sure you provide a comprehensive range of questions and answers – even the really tough questions.
How to guides
A bit of educational content will add extra depth to your website. The best way to create ‘how to’ guides is by using video. Short explainer videos can get lots of information across in a very short space of time. You could also opt for a series of images showing step-by-step instructions.
Ratings and reviews
I’m sure you’re fed up with hearing this rather hackneyed phrase, but people really do buy from people.
Customer ratings and reviews give your customers an unbiased view of the product, helping them decide whether it is right for them.
If you have all these elements and wrap them up in a way that is entertaining, informative and shareable, your business will go far.
Well, if your content is useful and people share it with their friends, they are doing your marketing for you, or friendvertising.
Take a look at your website and see what content you’re offering. Are you ticking all the boxes or are you missing some?
Perhaps there’s another form of content I’ve not thought of that you use to great effect? If so, leave a comment below and tell me what it is. I’d love to hear from you.
Author: Sally Ormond, copywriter at Briar Copywriting Ltd, cyclist, Pinot Grigio fan and very partial to Rowntree’s Pick’n Mix