What Is UX Copywriting?

UX copywriting, or user-experience copywriting, is the act of writing and structuring copy that moves digital users, like visitors and customers, toward accomplishing a goal in an intuitive way. 

Let’s start by viciously ripping that term – UX copywriting – apart.

What is user experience (UX)?

UX describes how, when and why people interact with a product or service – and how they feel about their experience. If you wear clothes, eat food and have a roof over your head, you’re having multiple user experiences every single second. 

Let’s use an article of clothing as an example. Socks! 

If you wear socks, you’re a user of that product, and your experience starts long before your toes get warm ‘n’ cozy. 

First, you realize you need socks. Maybe, like me, you’ve got somewhat of a holey sock epidemic and almost every time you put on a pair, a circle of skin stares right back at ya. So you start shopping for new socks. You compare your options. You find some you want. You buy them. You unpackage them. And finally, you put them on. 

Almost anything can contribute to a good or bad user experience. Like, if I ordered ankle socks online and received thigh highs instead.

Bad experience. 

All user experiences are affected by things like:

  • The reason you decide to use or purchase something in the first place
  • The time of year and time of day you use the product
  • Any friction or pleasant surprises you encounter
  • How you feel throughout the whole journey

UX applies to both physical and digital products but for the rest of this post, I’ll be talking about digital. In digital marketing, we can optimize UX by understanding our audience and creating brand and product interactions that are:

  1. Intuitive
  2. Relevant to people’s needs

And we can use copy to guide them toward a user experience that satisfies both their goals – and ours.

Copywriting is all about purpose and persuasion

When copywriting, we write with a goal in mind.

Always. 

And to achieve that goal, we take the desires people already have and show them how to fulfill them with a product or service. (I’m paraphrasing the legendary Eugene Schwartz and his concept of mass desire here.) 

Ultimately, copy should compel people to take an action. Without a word wasted.

How to make your copy more UX-friendly

UX copywriting is the act of writing and structuring copy that moves people toward accomplishing a goal in an intuitive way. 

You’ve seen this in lots of headlines, microcopy and button copy. I’ll show you an example of each.

UX-friendly headlines

I’m new to conversion copywriting, so I’m eager to learn everything I can. This means I’m on an endless hunt for books, courses and training to better my skills. 

And even though I’m actively looking for guidance, I probably won’t buy a conversion copywriting kit from some guy in an alley.

Or blindly follow advice I find online.

I want to make sure I’m getting copywriting resources from someone I trust. 

Like Copyhackers.

Example of UX copywriting in a heading

When I’m greeted with the Copyhackers headline above, I’m snagged.

The headline acknowledges where I’m at in my journey as a fresh-to-the-biz conversion copywriter and offers something I need – the essentials. 

This headline contributes to a positive user experience by:

  • Keeping the copy succinct
  • Using bold formatting to emphasize the benefit of this page
  • Directly relating to me and what I do by using the term conversion copywriting – so I’m keen to continue reading and eventually sign up to receive the Conversion Copywriting 101 course.

UX-friendly microcopy

I write Facebook ads, so I have a vested interest in how social media advertising engages people. 

Example of UX copywriting in microcopy

When I see this post, I’m instantly intrigued by the title. Below that, I notice the name of the author – Sarah Sal – as well as the microcopy: “19 Min Read.” 

The estimated reading time answers an important question: 

  • How much time will I need to set aside to read this?

Once I know how long it will take, I can decide if there’s enough cushion in my schedule at this exact moment or if I should save it for later. 

So even though I may not read the post right away, the microcopy gives me the details I need to plan to read it another day, which still brings me one step closer to accomplishing the main goal of reading the article. 

UX-friendly button copy

The copy on any button should persuade people to click it because they believe it will make their life better. 

Example of UX copywriting in button copy

The button text above makes that click extra enticing by offering me front-of-the-line-access to Copyhackers’ guest blogging course. 

In addition to that, the button copy creates a good user experience by:

  • Centring the text so my eyes are focused right where the button should be clicked
  • Using a different colour from the rest of the text, so I understand it has a different purpose
  • Formatting the word ‘all’ in upper case which disrupts the sentence case pattern and stops me from skimming

Steve Krug said it best…

Don’t make me think.

Whether clicking a button or scrolling down a page, people want clarity. And they want to make decisions they feel good about. 

How to make reader journeys easier with UX copywriting (so we can all accomplish our goals)

Our job as copywriters and digital marketers is first to listen to what people want and need, then illustrate the easiest ways to accomplish their goals – without any distractions or wasted words. 

We couldn’t do this without:

  1. Listening to our audience. Understanding their hopes. Fears. Desires. Frustrations. These insights are essential for good copy and good user experience. 
  2. Adopting web conventions. On landing pages, sales pages and emails, people expect buttons to look like buttons. They expect hyperlinks to be underlined. Headlines to be bolded. Messages to be matched. If we don’t follow best practices, we risk confusing (and losing) our audience. 

Both clients and customers have important goals. Copywriters find where those align so they can show people how to achieve their desires. Good UX copy makes the journey effortless. 

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What Is a Swipe File? And Why Does Every Copywriter Need One?

A swipe file is a collection of memorable content you can use for copywriting ideas. Save emails, pages, ads, etc. in your “swipe file.” And refer to your swipes for inspiration (and in place of templates) when you start writing.

Do you look at the blank screen and feel unprepared to write copy?

Then you should add an organized swipe file to your copywriting toolbox.

I depend on my swipe file for the many copywriting projects I work on as a conversion copywriter at Copyhackers Agency.

This is how I set up my swipe file

  • I save screenshots of pages and ads in swipe folders within Google Drive, which I share with our team
  • I star emails in Gmail, which sends them to Airstory as cards I can reference later, when I’m writing in Airstory
  • I also have a bunch of swipe-file folders set up in Gmail, and I move different emails to those folders

If you’re starting out with an email swipe file, consider using these folder names in Gmail, to organize the emails you’ll be saving:

  • Email Swipes: Welcome emails
  • Email Swipes: Nurturing emails
  • Email Swipes: Sales emails
  • Email Swipes: Cart abandonment emails
  • Email Swipes: Upsells and cross-sells
  • Email Swipes: SDR / 1-to-1
  • Email Swipes: Other
  • Email Swipes: DIFFERENT
  • Email Swipes: BEST

What goes under “Different” and “Best”?

That’s where you’ll save emails that are, respectively, different from the norm or expectations – which may or may not be good – and extremely, extremely awesome.

Keep in mind: A swipe file is a collection of ads and content you like. You probably have no idea if it’s performing well. So use your swipe file as inspiration – not as a Bible.

Here is an example of a swipe file

Let’s say you need to write a homepage for a client in the fitness industry. Even with research in hand, you could use a little inspiration to get started.

A collection of fitness-specific landing pages, like this, would help you:

Example of a swipe file of fitness home pages

This is not the time to start looking for pages to swipe because I guarantee you will not find what you’re looking for.

You will, in fact, end up spending the next few hours sliding deeper and deeper into your search only to find yourself holding a serious opinion about the merits of a didgeridoo performance on Australia’s Got Talent.

How to start swiping 

Get yourself in the habit of collecting swipes regularly.

For example, start with websites and swipe the following pages (by taking screenshots of them):

  • Home 
  • Pricing 
  • Features 
  • Demo 
  • About
  • Blog
  • Resources
  • Customer success

Then you can further categorize your swipe files by industry.

You don’t have to start with websites, of course. You can start with landing pages, or thank you pages or opt-in pop-ups. It doesn’t matter. What matters is getting in the habit of taking screenshots and adding them to your swipe file.

Let me repeat that it’s the habit part that’s important here. Make it a part of your routine. Set reminders for yourself. The more you remember to do it, the easier it will become.

Swipe files are filled with work that may outperform the control or may not (you have no idea, usually)

When you consult your swipes, you likely won’t know whether or not it converted well – unless you’re adding swipes like this home page copy that beat the control or thiS SaaS onboarding sequence that beat the control.

The point is not to copy the swipe word for word, obviously. The purpose is guidance and learning:

  • How an argument is presented
  • How pricing levels are compared
  • How offers are positioned
  • What the tone and voice were
  • Etc.

It’s meant to help you find a starting point or give you ideas about what else you may want to include that bolsters the case you’re making with your copy.

Even if you know an email performed well – and you use it for inspiration – it doesn’t guarantee the email you write will perform well. 

Using swipes should be just one part of your overall copywriting process. A process that should also include research into the product or service, the audience and competitors. 

What details should you record in your swipe file?

So what should you be looking for in your swipes? – beyond types of pages, industries and categories?

If you want to dig a little deeper into what’s going on behind the copy (and I hope you do), then you could look for any of the following:

  • A big idea: Is there one? How is it threaded through the page or email campaign?
  • Messaging hierarchy: Can you follow a conversation? Or is it muddled?
  • Formula or frameworks: Is there one? Is it used well?
  • Voice of customer: Does it sound like something a customer would say? Or the way a marketer would talk?
  • Emotion: What emotion or outcome is being sold? Where is the emotion used?
  • Elements of persuasion: Is there social proof provided? Are testimonials supporting the conversion?

This is not a comprehensive list. If you’re a veteran copywriter, then you know there’s a long list of copywriting formulas and techniques you can look for and categorize. 

And if you’re new to copywriting, I’d suggest you supplement your swipe file by reading books about copywriting, or blogs about copywriting like Copyhackers (here’s a good place for newbies to start). Many resources will include samples of well-performing ads and sales pages you can learn from.

By collecting swipes, you’re filling your copywriting toolbox with inspiration and ideas that help you get started on a project. Because there’s not much that’s worse than staring at a blank screen and not knowing what to do first.

With a swipe file you can try out a few ideas and see what works best – it may take a few tries, but it’s still better than paralysis and anxiety.

Once you see how much a swipe file can help with your writing process, you’ll never want to write without one.

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3 Customer Interview Techniques to Get Rich Customer Data

When customer interviews go badly, with one-word answers or poor engagement, try these three things: vocalize pauses, repeat back responses and “name their claim.”

One question into your interview, the worst is clear:

Your customer is not a talker. 

Managing the customer interview and drawing out valuable customer data is, of course, your job. But landing a one-word answer when you’re anticipating a meaty response is an unpleasant surprise – no matter how good an interviewer you are. 

And if you’re not braced to handle such unpleasantries, you’ll be thrown off-kilter and off-script.

Don't let an awkward customer interview throw you off-kilter!

So before you hop on your next customer interview call, prep yourself with these three psychology-backed strategies to move beyond the awkward silence and glean rich nuggets of insight, even when your customer dishes out the tiniest of sentence fragments.

Technique 1: Bring the customer interview to a momentary halt with a vocal pause 

Yes, it’s your job to keep the conversation going. But more important than continuity is keeping the conversation on track. 

The right track. 

The track where you end that Zoom recording with a deep and intimate understanding of who your customer truly is – and with voice-of-customer data you can actually swipe

Here’s how: 

When your customer answers short, you go long – and take what I call a “vocal pause” 

A vocal pause is when you intentionally hesitate a second to regroup after being caught off guard, but you say something over the silence to mask it.

Examples of a vocal pause include:

“Hmm, that’s interesting, okay.”

“I see, I see.”

“Okay, okay, that makes sense.”

“Ah, okay. Hmm, so let me see….”

These are filler words. They mean little, but they accomplish a lot: they help you take pause without actually pausing. 

This👏 is👏key 👏, folks.

If you don’t pause and instead panic and hop over to the next question, you’re wasting a golden opportunity to dig deeper. 

It’s okay to be caught off guard. It happens.

And with the vocal pause, you can still save face and stay in the driver’s seat of your customer interview – before you reroute to a sharper question.

Technique 2: Double-check your customer’s response 

This step’s a tad cheeky, but it works.

When you’ve had a sec to recalibrate (a la Technique 1), the easiest and smartest way to dive back into the interview is to double-check where your customer is at.

How?

Say what you heard them say right back at ’em. In their words. Then, cheekily check you’ve got it right. 

I’ll show you what that sounds like in a minute, but here’s why it works. It’s called active listening, and done right, it achieves two monumental goals:

  1. It tells your customer you’re actually listening! Which is huge. And ridiculously uncommon. When people feel that heard, they can’t help but feel THIIIIIIIIIIS AMOUNT of safe. And feeling safe is directly tied to how willing they are to open up to you… a stranger.  
  2. When you reflect back what you heard your customer say, you’re kickstarting a sentence – their sentence – for them to finish. Which they will. And nine times out of 10, they’ll add a little extra. 

This is how you start to dig deep – by turning your customer interview into a conversation. 

Here’s an example of a customer interview, which I like to use when I lead customer research workshops: 

The interviewer below was trying to unpack why the customer chose a particular brand of cat food, but the customer kept coming back with an unhelpful response: “Well, I just go to the shop and buy it.” 

In a role play, I used the double-check technique to dig deeper. Take a look at what happened.

👨Customer: “I just go into the store and get it. It’s what’s on the shelf.”

💂‍♀️Interviewer: “I see. Okay. So you buy that cat food because it’s just what’s in the store, what’s on the shelf. Did I get that right, or… ?”

👨Customer: “Yeah, it’s just there. It’s convenient and it’s the one I know.”

Bingo! Now we’re onto something. 

Thanks to a super simple double-check, we now know that the customer is deeply loyal to his brand. So loyal he doesn’t think twice about it. To know it’s not just a matter of convenience and apathy like we thought at first, is actually a pretty big deal (see why). 

Let’s break down how we got to that insight using this customer interviewing technique:

  1. First, the customer offered up a two-dimensional answer. Nothing rich or emotional. 
  2. I paused, repeated it back to him IN HIS WORDS, and…
  3. Checked if I’d gotten it right. How did I double-check? Here’s the clincher. By adding a two-letter word at the end of my question: “or?”. This mighty word flipped my double-check from a closed to an open-ended question.
  4. And that’s exactly what helped the customer, all on his own, to take a step further and share more detail.

See, most people don’t have well-thought out reasons for why they buy the things they do. They need your help to tease it out.

When you repeat back what they are telling you, they get a chance to a) hear it and b) correct it. 

This helps you both unpack their true, unconscious rationale – together. 

Technique 3: “Name their claim

What if you do a vocal pause, double-check what you heard and your customer still dishes out a plain old “Yes, that’s right” when you reflect back? 

Are you doomed? Is my three-step technique a farce?

No and no.

Here’s the game plan.

If your customer still isn’t giving you much and you want to go even deeper, here’s how: 

Give what your customer just shared a name.

Call it something.

Is it convenience? Is it ease? Is it a no-brainer? Is it being cost effective? 

See, even though people have lived their own experience and know it by heart, most haven’t had to talk about it. Which means they don’t know how to describe or articulate it. To do that, your customer needs your help. 

And this is really good news for you. 

When you strap words to your customer’s personal experience, it’s like adding color to a black and white image. It’s a welcome attention to detail. 

That, and naming their claim also gives them something to react to. 

They can yay or nay the label you’ve offered, and help you finetune and flesh it out. 

Let’s see it in action. We’ll use the same interview as above so you get a fuller picture. 

👨Customer: “I just go into the store and get it. It’s what’s on the shelf.”

💂‍♀️Interviewer: “I see. Okay. [VOCAL PAUSE] So you buy that cat food because it’s just what’s in the store, what’s on the shelf. Did I get that right, or… ?” [DOUBLE-CHECK] 

👨Customer: “Yeah, it’s just there. It’s convenient and it’s the one I know.”

💂‍♀️Interviewer: “Ah, okay. So you pick it because you know… that it’s good? [NAMING] That it’s worked before so it’ll work again?” [NAMING] 

👨Customer: “Yeah, yeah.”

💂‍♀️Interviewer: “Okay, makes sense. [VOCAL PAUSE] Is that a convenience thing?” [NAMING]

👨Customer: “Yeah, yeah.”

At this point, I have enough of the story to start unpacking it, which is exactly what I proceed to do…

💂‍♀️Interviewer: “Okay, so, let me ask you this. Are there other cat food options at the store?”

👨Customer: “Don’t know, I just picked that one.” 

💂‍♀️Interviewer: “So you don’t really pay attention to what other ones there are?”

👨Customer: “No, I just get the same one every time.”

💂‍♀️Interviewer: “It sounds like getting the same one is maybe easier. Like you don’t have to think about it. You just trust that brand? Is that right?”

👨Customer: “Yeah, yeah. I like that brand, it works for me, why change what’s working.” 

Do you see the pattern here?

The job of the interviewer isn’t just to administer a reel of pre-determined customer interview questions. It’s to dive right in with the customer and unpack their story with them. 

When you’re with a tight-lipped customer, they’re not skirting you out of spite or because they’re consciously holding out. 

They genuinely don’t have more to say, and often, it’s because they haven’t thought it through. They haven’t looked into why they bought this brand at that store. 

Understanding that mastering your job as customer interviewer means helping your customer realize what you want to know – that’s the difference between a dud of an interview packed with one-word dead ends and an interview so insightful, you can’t take notes fast enough.

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The ‘Complete-Nobody’ Guide to Guest Posting Fame and Fortune (By the Guy Who Built a Career Out of It)

Once upon a time, I was a nobody…

A little over five years ago, I found myself unemployed and unemployable.

That’s not hyperbole.

Before launching into guest posting and content marketing, my first dream – if you can believe it – was to be a pastor. I earned my undergraduate degree in English and went on to graduate school for a Masters in Divinity.

Then, my life imploded. 

It started with a wrecking-ball event out of my control and culminated in a bomb I assembled with my own two hands – made of resentment, anger and entitlement. 

I won’t belabor the details. Suffice to say, there I was: 31 years young, standing amidst the burnt rubble of a life torn down.

The one thing I had going for me was that my previous life had taught me all communication is sales: getting what’s inside my heart and mind into someone else’s in a way that makes them say, “Yes.”

The only other thing I had going? Desperation.

“Aaron,” I thought, “you’ve got to do something to eat. You can communicate pretty well. Maybe there are people out there selling things to other people who can’t communicate well. Maybe they would pay you to help.”

And thus, a marketer was born.

I hit the ground running with the speed and tenacity only one part desperation and two parts ignorance can provide. (Thank God for the latter!)

As I began devouring the likes of Copyblogger, Neil Patel, MarketingProfs and – yes, not to suck up – Copyhackers, I noticed a unifying ingredient on their sites: logos.

Logos depicting where they’d published and clients they’d worked for. Logos that screamed social proof: “These companies and people trust me. They gave me money. You should too.”

Logo envy, the desire to look like somebody even though I was nobody, took over my heart.

After grinding out the first few months as a newbie online writer, I began researching a select handful of sites. It started with niche marketing publications – like MarketingProfs, Copyblogger, Content Marketing Institute and Unbounce. 

When the approach I’ll detail below worked, I then sent off a completed article to multiple mainstream sites. Low and behold, Entrepreneur picked it up.

Entrepreneur even told me I could continue to submit to them. 

The lights came on. That was the a-ha, holy shit moment!

If all I did was study what publications already loved, layer on something trending (either from search or social) and craft an entire article just for them… the doors would open.

And open they did – even for a nobody like me:

Just a few of the over 40 publishers I’ve guest blogged for over the last five years

Guest blogging was the primary sales funnel that grew my freelance writing business from nothing to six figures in a year and a half. 

It gave me authority and social proof (when – to put it bluntly – I didn’t deserve either).

Eventually, guest blogging landed me a job as editor in chief of Shopify Plus – the enterprise arm of the world’s fastest-growing and most-valuable non-Amazon ecommerce brand.

The key to my success was guest posting – an all-out blitz across mainstream and niche publications despite starting out with zero credibility and zero connections.

Over the last four months, I’ve damn near killed myself putting together Master of Guest Blogging – the inaugural course in Copyhackers Content School. It contains everything I learned on both sides of the divide: as a guest blogger and as an editor in chief.

The more time I spent working on the course, the more thankful I became for my original two parts ignorance.

Why?

Because had I known and adhered to what gets passed off as guest-blogging guidance, I never would have made it.

If you’re a would-be guest blogger, three myths stand in your way. Three lies that will condemn you before you even begin.

So, let’s name the demons and demolish them!


Pst… in the third myth I’m going to introduce you to a few people who aren’t writers but have used guest blogging to grow their businesses by leaps and bounds.

Within the course, there are actually 35 original contributions from leaders across a host of professions: SaaS developers, founders, growth strategists, ad buyers, ecommerce owners and (yes) content creators as well as lowly writers.

I asked Joanna real nice and she said we could give away that entire BONUS PDF. Discover how guest blogging helped fuel their businesses along with the one thing they wish they knew before they started…

Download the BONUS: Authority & the Benefits of Guest Blogging (PDF)


Guest posting myth 1: You have to be special, creative and talented

Confession: I’m probably the least original dude you’ll ever meet. The fact that I wear the title “creator” is nonsense.

However, in the world of guest blogging, my lack of originality is far from a detriment. It’s probably the leading characteristic of my success.

What do I mean?

No matter how journalistic a site or publication may appear, editors care about one thing: popular content

Popular content equals traffic. And traffic equals ad revenue, subscribers or (in some cases) customers.

Editors want articles that align with what’s currently working for their site, without overlapping or cannibalizing existing content.

While popular content looks different publication to publication, within a publication – and even within a publication niche – it changes very little. 

The secret is…

Popular content isn’t invented. It’s discovered.

Unfortunately, most writers don’t put in the work upfront to figure out exactly what already works. 

Good news: if you do put in that work, you’ll be lightyears ahead of the competition. Not to mention, more than halfway toward the goal of seeing your words come to life.

I do tons of research before I ever write a word. (What’s more, when I was editor in chief at Shopify Plus, I salivated over submissions that showed that same level of preparation.)

For example, in addition to that first post on Entrepreneur when Mindy Kaling was trending, my research process landed me on Success Magazine when Jimmy Fallon was hot and again when Stephen Colbert took over the Late Show.

Aaron Orendorff's guest posts in Success Magazine

It served me at Unbounce when Straight Outta Compton dropped and made me an official top-performing blogger at Content Marketing Institute multiple times over.

Aaron Orendorff's guest posts for Unbounce and the Content Marketing Institute

It even got me into places like Mashable and The Next Web, which – because I don’t have any technical expertise – I have no real business writing for.

Aaron Orendorff's guest posts for Mashable and The Next Web

Maybe you’ve already noticed a pattern. But ‘celebrities-plus-pop-culture-equal-editorial-hallelujahs’ is just the tip of the iceberg.

What began as (1) collecting 10 of a publisher’s most-popular articles via Buzzsumo, (2) noting their topics and headline patterns and merging that with (3) whatever celebrity was currently ranking on Google Trends

…eventually became a 10-step template; a (dare I say it) scientific process for the pitch-perfect guest post.

Let me break it down for you…

Start by creating a Google Sheet. 

First, enter 1-20 in Column A and then use the 10 steps above to label the rest of the columns:

Preview of the Reverse Engineering “Yes” Template within Master of Guest Blogging

1. Popular

Collect 10 to 20 of your target publisher’s most popular existing articles using (1) onsite lists – normally on their homepages or within specific sections – (2) “best of” round-up articles or (3) social media counters (e.g. Buzzsumo).

Drop those URLs into column B.

2. Headlines

Copy and paste all the headlines from those articles (one by one or by exporting them from Buzzsumo) into column C.

3. Headline characters

Enter the formula =len(C2) into the next column – where C is the column and 2 is the row. That will automatically calculate the number of characters in the selected cell. Drag that cell down to the end of your list and run the AVERAGE formula at the bottom.

Behold, the power of math – the perfect length for your headline.

4. Headline patterns

Examine each headline like a popularity bloodhound.

Do they use numbers, names, scientific words, questions, trends, “how-to” phrases, contrarian perspectives, the promise of intrigue and surprise or any other dominant patterns?

A sampling of additional headline questions from inside Master of Guest Blogging - plus, there’s WAY more!
A sampling of additional headline questions from inside Master of Guest Blogging – plus, there’s WAY more!

5. Word count

Use Bulk Web Page Word Count Checker to drop in batches of 10 URLs at a time, download the Excel file, paste the corrected word count into your Google Doc and then… AVERAGE.

6. Formality Score

Skim each article – paying special attention to the introduction (lede) and conclusion. Then, give each one a formality score of 1 to 3:

  1. Weekend Cookout (Hella informal)
  2. Casual Friday (Formal)
  3. Gala (Most formal)

7. Subheadings

Roll through the articles again, this time noting their subheadings:

  • How many?
  • Use of numbers?
  • Title case or sentence case?
  • One or multiple lines?
  • Punctuation?

8. Links

Hover over each of the links in the articles and note whether they’re onsite or offsite. Also, count the total number of links. (Links are SEO currency. Editors know this and treat them accordingly.)

9. Data Points

Tabulate the total number of data points contained within each article. Data is how a pub shows proof. This will immediately tell you how much evidence you’ll need for your guest post.

10. Media

Media is a catchall term that identifies five elements… 

  • Images: Number and kinds
  • Gifs: Number and yes or no
  • Videos: Number and sources
  • Custom visualizations: Yes or no
  • Copyrighted media: Yes or no

In the end, what you’ll come away with is a comprehensive checklist to guide you into the perfect article.

Your comprehensive checklist to guide you into the perfect guest post
Your comprehensive checklist to guide you into the perfect guest post
Even better, by following this process you’ll be in the trenches over and over with your target publication’s most-popular pieces!

Time spent marinating inside those articles is invaluable.

Of course, the question is: Why spend all that time researching a single pitch?

Guest posting myth 2: Pitch first, ask questions send articles later

Pitch is a terrible word. Why? Because pitch implies sending an idea or a listicle of ideas.

The problem with that is…

Online publications feed the beast; they’re hungry for content. Ravenous.

As a result, editors are busy AF.

Editors don’t have time to look at a portfolio of previous articles or to cook up a topic and angle. Nor do they want to wade through a 10- or 20-point list of “article ideas and headlines.”

That’s homework. Never give an editor homework. Instead, make it as easy as possible for an editor to say, “Yes.”

A pitch doesn’t do that (except for top-tier print magazines). Most only add effort to an editor’s already crowded plate.

Having lived on both sides of the divide – as a guest blogger and as Shopify Plus’ editor in chief – I know this all too well.

What I longed for at Shopify was a guest post I could hit “Publish” on as quickly as possible with as little back-and-forth as possible.

As a guest blogger, instead of sending pitches, I sent completed articles customized for each publication. All but one of my breakthrough guest posts came from sending a fully researched, custom-tailored, completed article with a short email that basically said:

“Here’s a finished article. I wrote it just for you.” 

Followed by a link to a Google Doc or an attached Word document.

Inside the full Master of Guest Blogging course, I walk through a host of real emails I have sent to editors – some successful, some not.

Those hard-won lessons culminated in three short email templates and two journalistic templates. Here’s one of the three short versions:

Short email template for guest posting pitch to editors

Seriously. That’s it!

I used that template as a cold email to kick down the doors at pretty much all the mainstream sites shown below:

Huffington Post was the outlet that truly taught me the value of less is more when it comes to pitching…

I literally tried to crack Huffington Post for years. Here’s a mere sampling of the emails I sent to various editors:

Various guest posting pitch emails sent to the editors at the Huffington Post

Each time I would load the emails with more and more places I’d written for or stats on my articles’ performances – all evidence designed to make someone say, “Ah, Aaron Orendorff is somebody. We should publish his article on our site.”

Guest posting pitch email sent to an editor at the Huffington Post

Alas, each and every one of those pitches were either rejected or (by and large) ignored.

Ironically, the email that finally worked was one line sent straight to Arianna Huffington herself…
Successful guest posting pitch email sent to Arianna Huffington

Finally, success:

Response from Arianna Huffington to Aaron Orendorff's guest posting pitch email

Not only is that the most successful template I’ve ever used, but the illustrious Andy Crestodina also immortalized its ethos in his book, Content Chemistry, as well as blowing up my social accounts every few months by including it in a number of his conference presentations:

Image via Kelvin Claveria (Twitter)

But, what if you’re not a writer?

Guest posting myth 3: Guest posts only work for ‘content creators’

There are plenty of objections to adopting guest posting as a growth strategy for your business. Most of them – to be honest – are excuses to shield us from the risk of rejection.

The most-plausible sounding protest goes like this:

“Sure, guest blogging worked for you, Aaron. But you’re a writer. I’m not. It won’t work for me.”

Lies! But don’t take my word for it.

Rather than try to convince you that guest posting can add fuel to any career path or service… instead, I asked 35 influencer-status leaders in a variety of industries three questions:

  1. Has guest blogging helped you grow your business?
  2. How has guest blogging helped grow your business?
  3. What’s the one thing you wish you knew when you started?

Here’s the best part…

20 of the 35 were not writers or content creators!

Using an incredibly scientific scale, here’s how their answers to the first question about “has” guest blogging helped shook out…

  • Hell yeah! 63%
  • Yes: 26%
  • Sorta: 11%
  • No: 0%

You can grab all 35 answers to the second two questions, so – for now – I simply want to highlight three of my favorite responses from two non-writers and one content creator.

First up: Savannah Sanchez, a paid media manager at the Facebook agency Common Thread Collective. Earlier this year, Savannah published her first guest post. The result?

Savannah Sanchez on guest blogging
Savannah Sanchez, Common Thread Collective

“After guest blogging on Sumo, I was able to generate a significant increase in leads and traffic to my website, social following and Common Thread Collective.

“It was a huge win all around – and it never hurts to have your boss see business come in from your offsite efforts.

“From there, I’ve often referenced my guest blogging when submitting to speaking opportunities. Plus, it’s been a great bonus to include the article on my personal website to add more validation of my expertise.

“Last, my guest blog is also ranking highly for the “Facebook Metrics” keyword, which is an awesome spot to be in (especially heading into the holiday’s peak campaign season).”

Her advice to would-be (and soon-to-be!) guest bloggers is equally illuminating:

“Keep engaged with the comments! It’s easy to forget to comment moderate when the blog doesn’t live on your own website.

“However, there could be valuable potential clients that are asking questions in the comments of your guest blog.”

Second, Ross Simmonds – CEO of Foundation Marketing. You may know Ross from his top-rated conference appearances, his prolific Twitter output or his writing.

But, Ross is not a writer by trade. Instead, he’s essentially a CMO (chief marketing officer) for hire who majors on strategy, ecommerce operations and video marketing:

Ross Simmonds, Foundation Marketing, on guest posting
Ross Simmonds, Foundation Marketing

“Guest blogging was the fastest way for me early on in my career to build relationships with some of the best in the industry, build an audience, establish authority and drive more traffic to my site.

“As I began writing for bigger publications, more opportunities unlocked and with every opportunity came the chance to connect with a new audience. It’s one of the most effective ways to reach an already engaged and targeted audience.”

His tip on how to “drive additional eyeballs to existing content that you have developed” stopped me in my tracks:

“One of the key drivers of our agency’s early success on Slideshare was the act of embedding our decks into guest posts.

“This resulted in generating more than 1M views on Slideshare and generating thousands of emails.”

Third, Josh Steimle – our token writer. 😉

Josh is the author of The 7 Systems of Influence and Founder of MWI International Digital Agency. Pay special attention to his careful selection of sites to publish on and how that correlates with results:

Josh Steimle, MWI International Digital Agency, on guest posting
Josh Steimle, MWI International Digital Agency

“I’ve written 300+ articles for more than two dozen top-tier publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur and Mashable. But – when it comes to building a personal brand – guest blogging for smaller, niche sites has been a necessary ingredient to give me ‘street cred.’

“That enhanced credibility has led to more revenue for my companies, speaking gigs and a book deal.

“For example, when I went to launch my masterclass on how to become a contributor, guest blogging on ProBlogger allowed me to get in front of my ideal audience where they were hanging out and in a more credible way than if the same post had been in Time or Inc.”

What did he wish he knew before he got started?

“Don’t use impersonal templates for your pitches with a cluttered list of ideas! Any website worth guest blogging on gets hundreds if not thousands of pitches per month and they can spot a template pitch a mile away.

“The worst offender I see starts with: ‘I see you post about [topic]. I really liked your post [post title]. I would like to contribute a guest post on this topic at no cost to you, just include a link to our website.’

“Instead of doing what everyone else is doing, playing the guest blog lottery and hoping you win by sending out a lot of emails, send fewer emails but increase the quality.”

“First, verify that they accept guest blog posts… Second, if they do accept guest posts, write a paragraph or two that don’t merely prove you know what they’ve already published but show you know where they’re going and what they want to publish in the future.

“Think of a blog owner as a collector of rare animals and find what’s missing from their collection. 

“If someone came to me and said, ‘I see you’re focusing a lot these days on your 7 Systems, but you haven’t published a lot about System #3 and I have some ideas for guest posts that could give you more content focused on that,’ then that would be pretty compelling.

“It would prove to me they’ve gone further than a temple and they really know the content on my site. Who knows, perhaps someone could even convince me to start accepting guest posts with a pitch like that.”


Want even more guidance and inspiration? Then grab all 35 of the original contributions here…

PDF download from Aaron Orendorrf 'Authority & the Benefits of Guest Blogging'.

Authority & the Benefits of Guest Blogging (PDF)


One last (BONUS!) guest posting myth: The truth is #LetsGetRejected

Finally, the last and perhaps most dangerous myth about guest posting is: “No means it’s over.”

Let me assure you of two things.

Number one: rejection is coming. Number two: rejection is just the beginning.

I’d wager 75% of all my published articles were rejected by at least one outlet (often more than one).

The keyword in that last sentence? Published.

Within the course, I pull back the curtain on the reality of rejection and share how those same articles – with slight tweaks – got almost immediately approved by a different site.

In fact, to show I’m serious, this is what the true behind-the-scenes history of my first mainstream article – the one about Mindy Kaling – looked like:

Email history of guest post pitches by Aaron Orendorff

I’d sent that exact same email not only to seven different addresses at Entrepreneur… but a week prior I’d also sent it to multiple addresses at:

  • Huffington Post
  • Mashable
  • Forbes
  • Inc.
Each of those pubs either rejected it or didn’t respond to the same f****** article. Seventeen nos. But, it only takes one yes.

With every article I wrote, every pitch I sent, every pitch I resent… and resent – as my finger hovered over the trackpad… my cursor atop the scariest button you’ll ever see in your life – “Send” – every time, I told myself:

“Let’s get rejected.”

Why?

Because I knew that fear was going to be the thing that stopped me. Fear of hearing no. Fear of hearing nothing. Fear of being told, “This isn’t good enough. You’re not good enough.”

And so, I embraced the fear. I rigged my heart and mind – I steeled myself against the terror – in the only way I knew how.

I made rejection the goal.

I wanted to be the kind of person who does shit. Fear was and is the only thing that stops me – that stops any of us – from doing really, really, really great shit.

Embracing the oncoming failure inverts it. It turns fear on itself.

If you’d like to join me on the journey, you can sign up for the course here. Just remember: #LetsGetRejected.

Please, tell me when you do.

And… when you don’t.

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Breakthrough-or-bust emails

Best practices create mediocrity.

That’s my take, at least.

It’s also Dilbert’s take, I’ve just discovered:

Dilbert comic about mediocrity and best practices. Used with valid license for artwork. All rights reserved.

Something performs well a thousand years ago or twelve days ago, and it becomes a better practice. The repeated use of it turns it into a best practice – folks start to see it everywhere and think, Well, that’s gotta be THE way to do X. And then they start spreading that best practice in some part of their world, whether that’s within a five-person marketing department or across a 2000-person audience at an event or in an evergreen blog post that could see hundreds of thousands of visitors over the years… and voila.

Mediocrity is born.

Unintentionally.

The intent was to do better.

The effect was to shortcut thinking and normalize unchallenged marketing. To give us all something to say when we see copy, design, interfaces, etc that make us feel something:

“But isn’t a best practice X?”

(read: “This work challenges what I believe keeps me safe.”)

The designer or copywriter goes back to the drawing board.

And mediocrity gets reinforced.

Mostly, we want to feel nothing when it comes to marketing we’re going to approve, where we’ll be held responsible for it.

Sure, we respond best to other people’s marketing that moves us, like:

and

and

and

But when it comes to the marketing – and copy – we’re signing off on… well, when’s the last time you published something that made you feel something and, in doing so, made you uncomfortable that it would make others feel something and they might not like that you made them feel something? How often do you instead publish work that makes you feel safe, safe and only safe?

This past spring, we wrote a SaaS onboarding sequence that ticked all the boxes when it comes to email best practices. It made us all feel safe.

The email sequence in question was for Prezi, the leading presentation platform for non-linear storytelling.

The sequence we wrote was filled to ye olde brim with best practices in email marketing and SaaS user onboarding. Here’s an example of one of the emails we wrote, in its designed form – see if you can’t spot the best practices at play:

Image of design-heavy email, as example for case study.

Did you identify the email best practices?

It’s got everything all the “best practices” blogs, including in many cases our blog, say:

And ^^ that email ^^ also adheres to essential copywriting rules. That is, it follows one idea. It’s written for one reader (who, admittedly, could be clearer). It’s got one offer (which, admittedly, could be more irresistible). And it’s got one promise.

These were emails that were based on email best practices.

Internally, our team was like, “Cool beans. Let’s test it.”

When we presented this email copy to the Prezi team, everyone was like, “Cool beans. Let’s test it.”

We were on board. They were on board. All stakeholders were on board. Everyone was perfectly fine with these emails going out the door.

Nobody was sure these emails would lose.

That said, no one was sure they would win, either.

And of course…

When the Prezi team tested our new email sequence against the control, our results were

>>drumroll<<

flat.

Like the emails had never happened.

Like Prezi had invested no time or resources in them.

Like Copyhackers had invested no time or resources in them.

Like they had never happened.

Except they HAD happened.

There were 1000s of Prezi trial users who’d been exposed to them. Thousands of Prezi users who’d taken very little action after reading them. Not NO action. But very little action.

Prezi users were saying this about our copy: “Meh.”

Worst thing is…

A part of me thinks all of us – my team and the Prezi team – were thinking the same thing.

We just didn’t say it.

Hindsight 20/20, sure – but here’s what I’ve started noticing about copy that doesn’t a) beat the control or b) lose to the control.

As soon as the world starts adopting a fashion trend, it’s already dead. Someone said that once. But you’ll have to trust me on that point because Google thinks I’m making it up. Evidently Dilbert doesn’t have a comic for that yet.

As soon as marketing recognizes a trend, it’s already dead.

Consider this now-famous Unbounce post about the trend in illustrations on SaaS sites, which appears to have been first sparked by this tweet by @jimmy_daly:

Sweet from Jimmy Daly featuring illustrations in SaaS design.

There’s never been a good idea that marketing hasn’t killed.

And I say that as a marketer. Who likes good ideas. Who’s had a few. And who’s killed many.

As soon as we get wise to something, it’s already too late. As soon as you hear about it, it may already be time to consider it “inspiration” and use it to spark a better, fresher idea. Customers are already tuning it out.

So with that in mind…

I started looking around at the emails I was paying attention to.

Because my thought was this:

There’s gotta be something out there that’s not an email best practice yet but could inspire great emails.

(Yeah, I’m a swiper. You should swipe, too.)

The first company that always springs to mind for me these days, when it comes to email, is Sticker Mule. Because their emails are all like this:

Sticker Mule email.

Basically, Sticker Mule emails break best practices in email copywriting.

When I first started getting Sticker Mule emails, they annoyed me.

They were so far from the vicinity of trying.

A couple lines of text. No voice. Nothing about the customer. Such focus on discounts. Even the from name was doing things wrong! Best practices hold that your from name should be the name of a person – but Sticker Mule keeps sending me emails from Sticker Mule.

Annoying disregard for writing great emails.

But then I noticed something:

I kept opening their emails.

I kept clicking their text links.

And I kept ordering from them.

Screenshot of the money I spent with Sticker Mule in 2019, totalling nearly $1500.

Over the last 12 months, in fact, I’ve placed eight orders with Sticker Mule and spent nearly $1500. On stickers. And packaging to ship the stickers in. But mostly on stickers. Oh and buttons! Buttons were my new thing for about two months, thanks to emails like this:

Another Sticker Mule email.

Truth be told, I rarely even buy the thing they’re promoting in the email.

I just click through, think about what I could do with whatever the promo is and then go shopping on Sticker Mule for something else that matches what I want to do now.

But it’s not just Sticker Mule that’s doing cool – aka different – aka rule-breaking – stuff with email.

Perhaps you’re familiar with CB Insights.

CB Insights is a reporting company for investors / stakeholders in all things up-and-coming tech, like what’s trending in investing. They send a newsletter to report out what they’re seeing, finding, wondering, etc. It’s a great newsletter filled with data and dollars and charts and graphs.

Very serious stuff.

Money-making stuff.

Machine learning is involved.

Very serious stuff.

But check this out.

THIS is how the CEO of CB Insights signs off each of his newsletters:

Anand Sanwal's signature: "I love you."

And it’s always been this way.

At least, for as long as I’ve been subscribing. When I first started getting emails from CB Insights, it was Jan 5, 2016 – and this is how Anand signed that newsletter:

Another example of love in the signature.

WTF?

It’s amazing.

“I love you.” “I still love you.”

Quoi?

That signature in what is essentially a finance newsletter?

So while CEO Anand Sanwal is signing newsletters with the phrase most 1950s father figures couldn’t easily utter, if what TV taught me is true, which it definitely is…

and while Sticker Mule throws a friendly eff u at all of us crazies with our email best practices…

we’ve got this one other tricky style of email that was brought to my attention in 2019:

The 9-word email by Dean Jackson.

The 9-word email is an email framework that one of my team members told me about after I sent this two-sentence email, promoting a new blog post, to the Copyhackers list.

An example of a short email Jo wrote.

My team member was like, “You used the nine-word email.”

And I was like, “What’s the nine-word email?”

And she sent me to this article. (There are other articles out there. And videos. Worth a Bing. <– my husband keeps trying to make Bing happen, so that’s for him)

Technically, the email I sent was not THE nine-word email; it was just a short email. Whatever the case, I found myself introduced to the nine-word email framework, which exists to revive dead leads. It does so using this formula:

Subject line:
{recipient name}?

Body:
“Are you still looking for {the thing you’re selling}?”

Which turns into something like this, for example:

Subject line:
Elon?

Body:
“Are you still looking for smash-proof windshields?”

That’s the whole thing.

And the results people share when they use the 9-word email are pretty incredible. I haven’t seen actual support for any of this, but if you’re cool with anecdotal evidence, people have used that formula to sell bigger-ticket items with longer sales cycles, like:

  • Real estate
  • Vacations
  • Consulting services

The creator of the 9-word email, Dean Jackson lists these results for people who’ve used his formula:

A yacht broker sent “Are you still looking for a yacht?” and uncovered a $100 million dollar buyer. A Motorcycle jeans designer sold over $9000 in one week with a 9-word email.

Which brings us to this point:

There are more interesting things working in marketing than “best practices” expose us to.

Using the above proceeds of my email swipe file review, I went back to the drawing board to work on a new round of Prezi onboarding emails.

I tossed out everything we’d done in the “flat” round of onboarding emails except for:

  1. the subject lines (which had good open rates) and
  2. the basic flow of the emails – that is, which feature / benefit / outcome to talk about in the first email, then the second, then the third, etc.

In my writing, I swiped boldly from Sticker Mule… swiped lightly from CB Insights… and let the 9-word email keep me focused on a single point of relevance for the reader. In 45 minutes in my Macbook’s TextEdit program, I dashed out a brand new email sequence for Prezi, with this basic research question guiding the emails:

What if every single thing we know about emails needs to be challenged?

Y’know, just a small question. Challenging the work I’ve done for the last 15 years. No big deal. No big whoop.

With that and a new set of emails in hand, I reached out to Rita, Prezi’s lifecycle and growth marketing manager (who oversees email), to run my new copy by her. Thank God for Rita – she’s always open to experiments.

After some convincing – not a lot but some – Rita and the Prezi team were on board with testing our new round of emails, which we called “The Bare Emails Experiment.” Here’s a representative email from the sequence:

Prezi email - bare.

These emails are:

  • Intentionally stripped down visually – only a logo (to help with trust)
  • Short
  • Formatted simply, with one sentence per line and text links instead of buttons
  • Light in tone
  • Focused on instructing the trial user to do one thing

My favorite part? The sign off:

You’re wonderful.

It might be the kind of sign-off to make Anand Sanwal proud.

And best of all: some folks at Prezi and at Copyhackers did NOT like the sign-off.

Which is great.

As I’ve started noticing, the copy that’s worth putting into the world – copy that’s worth putting in front of people who’d rather you send them cat gifs but who would, at the same time, rather you not send them cat gifs – is copy that does not get boardroom consensus.

Copy that’s worth publishing is copy that some of your team will like and others on your team will dislike. This “group discontent” is what we hypothesize to be the foundation of breakthrough or bust copy.

Prezi tested our second round of emails.

And they beat the control with:

  • An 18% lift in trial-to-subscribe rate, at 95% significance
  • A 71% lift in number of presentations created in 7 days after send, at 100% significance
  • A 93% lift in the number of presentations per user, at 100% significance

However, that was only for one of their segments. For two of their segments, we saw the same thing as the previous time: flat results. So we’re now working on two new sequences for those segments, with a new hypothesis about how to achieve a breakthrough – this one swiping from the winning segment while doubling-down on relevance for the segments. (More soon!)

Of course, what we’re learning is NOT that emails should be a mash-up of Sticker Mule emails, CB Insights sign-offs and the 9-word email in order to convert.

Rather, emails have to be different from the norm or from best practices to stand a chance of converting. The flipside is that differing from the norm or best practices also puts you at higher risk of negatively impacting conversions. Safe copy keeps results flat. Everything else introduces the risk of winning big or losing big.

Internally, we’ve started using the old direct-response term “breakthrough or bust” to describe the outcome of deviating from best practices, where the idea is that copy that stands a chance of converting may be a total breakthrough or a total bust… and you can’t tell before you launch it. You just have to be cool with the risk.

We once again tested what was developing into a recurring “breakthrough or bust hypothesis.”

This time, the test was the trial-to-pro onboarding sequence for Doodle, an easy platform for scheduling meetings.

Here’s what a typical email from their Control sequence looked like. Have a read as if you’re a Doodle trial user:

A Doodle email.

If you stripped away the design in the above Control email, you might end up with an email that was very much like the Prezi “bare emails” experiment. Just add an unexpectedly emotional sign-off, and you’d be set.

We could have proposed Doodle test a bare version of the exact same copy they already had.

But if we did that… could we say we were following our higher-level “breakthrough or bust” hypothesis? Would we have actual reason to believe the new version would convert?

My opinion: nope.

We’re trying to increase conversions. So going with a “sure thing” seems to be the safest way to get there.

But that word “safe” is the first hint that you’re going down the wrong path. It takes you away from breakthrough or bust. It keeps you closer to flat results. Or so we’re learning.

Losing test after winning test after losing test, I have little reason to believe that the best next test to run is one based on copy that won elsewhere. Rather the best next copy test to run may be copy that’s the exact opposite of the copy that won elsewhere. If you repeat a winning test, are you running the risk of seeking a new best practice and, in turn, bringing the client / company closer to the point of mediocrity? I dunno. But it’s a question we’re always asking these days.

So what if we took the bare emails approach we’d used for Prezi… and swung the pendulum in the opposite direction for Doodle?

One of our philosophies at Copyhackers is that you should write for people who read. If you don’t want to write for people who read, you shouldn’t hire a copywriter and you certainly shouldn’t hire us.

Doodle’s control emails were written not for people who read but for people who scan. Their emails were, we identified during our audit, too safe. Too timid. Some might say… a little scared.

Most emails are.

Hell, most copy is.

So we decided, in the interest of writing breakthrough-or-bust copy – which by this time we were starting to affectionally call “BOB copy” – Bob is turning into a mascot around here BTW – that we should write emails that are quite definitely not safe. Certainly not timid. And 100% courageous – the opposite of scared. That might lead us to a breakthrough. Or a bust. But NOT flat results.

Our email conversion copywriter Nikki is one of the most courageous copywriters you’ll ever meet.

Here’s what an email Nikki wrote… and we proposed… and Doodle tested (Variation B) looked like. Give it a read like you’re a Doodle trial user:

A Doodle email.

The first half of the Doodle onboarding sequence we wrote followed a similar style and format as the above email.

It wasn’t until the second half, when we recommend Doodle start sending more sales emails, that our emails shortened up a bit and started to look more like this one, which is Sales Email #5:

A Doodle email.

But it wasn’t just the style of the emails we recommended that challenged both email best practices and the Doodle control sequence.

It was also the number of emails.

(This is where things get particularly interesting for this study.)

Doodle’s control sequence was 4 emails long.

Ours was 16.

Yup, we recommended 4x the emails to Doodle.

To summarize the changes we recommended that we believed to be BOB:

  1. Four times the emails
  2. Five times the sales emails
  3. A near-daily send frequency, compared to intermittent sending with the control
  4. Unexpected subject lines
  5. Subject lines that mimicked those used when scheduling meetings, which some could argue is a dark UX practice even though it was an important part of the message and not dark in intent
  6. Longer left-aligned copy with a narrative style
  7. A signature from someone at Doodle

We also wrote an email from Time itself. Not from Doodle. From Time, the thing Doodle helps you save:

A Doodle email.

And then there was this classic subject line, which helped this email earn the highest unsubscribe rate Doodle had ever seen: “My coworkers hate me.” See it here:

A Doodle email.

So that’s four times the emails sent.

Way more sales-focused emails.

Some tone “problems.”

Some long-ass copy.

And the results:

  • 63.9% lift in purchases of the Pro product
  • 18.3% lift in purchases of the Starter product
  • Double to triple the unsubscribes

But those lifts were largely for US-based trial users. The Brits and the Aussies responded better to the control sequence. As did non-English speakers.

A note from Val Geisler, our peer reviewer for this article and an email expert: Too many marketers think unsubs are a bad thing. Unsubs are GOOD in this case (and pretty much every case) because people who don’t want to hear from you shouldn’t hear from you.

Ready for something that’s quite a bit more interesting?

Because we’ve all seen stories of conversion lifts… and because this whole post is about how you can’t just repeat what someone did, hoping it’s a best practice, and expect to see the same results…

If you’re starting to think about how to write BOB emails or BOB copy for your organization, you’re going to need to get ready for… reactions.

Allow me to illustrate:

Exactly zero trial users replied to a single email in the Doodle control sequence.

Can you guess how many replied to the emails in Variation B / the BOB sequence we wrote?

Try 107 replies from Doodle Pro trial users… and 204 replies from Doodle Starter trial users.

Imagine explaining that to your success team.

Imagine getting the reluctant okay from your marketing team and the boardroom to move forward with a BOB email sequence… only to have CS call an emergency meeting when BOB launches to deal with 300+ emails from customers that include content like:

Please stop.

Your emails are hilarious.

and

Doodle is great. Trying to shame people into buying your product? Poor.

Even a paid conversion lift of >60% couldn’t keep your team from demanding you take the emails down. Which almost happened in this case. But instead we removed the particularly problematic email – which is the one with the subject line “My coworkers hate me” you saw above – and made some other technical modifications to deal with people getting more emails than they should have. Conversion rate stayed high. And angry emails went away.

Does it make you nervous, the idea of getting 300x the email replies you used to get?

It should make us all just as nervous to get ZERO replies.

But it doesn’t.

That part doesn’t make most marketers nervous. We try to keep our opens around 20%. And we use that as our primary measure of engagement. “People are still opening. We must be doing fine.”

You are doing fine.

Just fine.

Y’know that feeling when you have no feeling about something?

I don’t think I’m overly ornery when I say that most copy out there is meh at best.

Great copy lives on the edge of the blade.

And that’s why so few people write or publish it.

Great copy is uncomfortable. A few people around the boardroom table will love it, but the vast majority will shoot it down fast. Some think it will be the breakthrough a company needs. Others think it will tank conversions. If you were to ask the room to vote on whether they think it would beat the control, no one would say yes. Even the copywriter who wrote it.

THAT’S potentially great copy.

It’s also potentially shit copy.

There’s a name for it now. It’s called BOB copy.

It’s not “fake news” headlines or clickbait. It’s also not copy that’s filled with swearwords. Or takes a hard right when the market goes left. Or is about sex when it shouldn’t be about sex. Or is anything Cambridge Analytica would have signed off on – gross manipulation disguised as “persuasion.”

BOB copy makes you react. Makes you feel something. And for those huge marketing sins, it’s hated by the vast majority of the boardroom. A boardroom has never turned out great copy. Good copy, yes. The kind of copy your designer whips up while sketching out your new home page, yes. But not great copy.

You have the theory behind BOB copy.

Now add this checklist to the mix to help you identify if your copy is likely to be a total breakthrough or a total bust (and importantly: you can’t be sure which one of those it’ll be).

This is our current but growing checklist for writing breakthrough-or-bust copy.

[ ] It boldly breaks best practices for the medium or channel.
[ ] It boldly breaks best practices for copywriting for that medium or channel.
[ ] It boldly breaks best practices in design / design conventions for that medium or channel.
[ ] It leverages insights from data without said data choking or stifling potentially fruitful ideas.
[ ] It boldly runs counter to the Control.
[ ] It is still technically on-brand for the company.
[ ] You are scared to present it. But you know it ticks the above boxes.
[ ] You are certain many people will hate it. But you know it ticks the above boxes.
[ ] You know there is a WHY for every practice challenged.

If best practices breed mediocre results, Joanna, should I even learn how to write copy… or just throw wild guesses at the page?

There’s a rule in writing: you don’t get to break the rules of grammar until you know the rules of grammar.

My take is it’s the same in the copywriting world: you don’t get to break copywriting best practices until or unless you know those best practices. How would you know which best practices to challenge if you don’t know the best practices to begin?

Oh, and keep a swipe file.

~jo

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How to spot bad headlines before they make your visitors bounce – an intro to easy copy validation

User testing tools aren’t just for user testing experts.

In fact, five-second tests offer a quick, easy and (relatively) cheap way for copywriters and digital marketers to run quick checks on their copy (“copy validation”).

Most of us know we need to use data to help us know what to write. But you should also use data to help you spot if you hit or missed the mark.

That’s where copy validation comes in. When you validate your copy, you boost confidence in your work knowing that it’s making a great first impression – long before your client ever reacts to it.

Time (as well as this study) says we have as little as one-tenth of a second to make a good impression.

Psychology Today and Business Insider say we have about 7 seconds.

We see a face. We form a first impression. It’s human instinct.

Unsurprisingly, that first impression is largely emotional. And a recent study by neuroscientists regarding how our brain forms a first impression confirmed through neuroimaging that the amygdala and the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) are key regions of the brain involved in that process. And if you’re not someone who throws “amygdala” or “PCC” around in conversation, let me nutshell this for you: both do a lot of heavy lifting in processing emotions.

brain regions

(Source: Kurniasanti, Kristiana Siste, et al. “Brain Regions,” licensed under CC BY-NC 4.0Medical Journal of Indonesia, 2019.)

robina weermeijer 3KGF9R 0oHs unsplash

(Source: Photo by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash)

And the amygdala? Well it’s hailed as the integrative center for emotions, emotional behavior and motivation.

But breaking down the emotions behind a first impression is a little more complex:

A recent study at Princeton University by Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov involved a series of experiments focusing on judgments formed during a first impression drawn from a face. Those judgments were:

  1. Attractiveness
  2. Likeability
  3. Competence
  4. Trustworthiness
  5. Aggressiveness

So participants looked at a picture like this:

the new york public library 8Swf0oaXUrk unsplash

And then judged it on those five criteria above.

Interestingly, only 1 of those 5 judgments actually has anything to do with facial appearance: attractiveness.

Willis and Todorov’s methodology was as follows:

  1. Participants were told that this was a study about first impressions and that they should make their decisions as quickly as possible
  2. The instructions explained that photographs would be shown for short periods of time and that the experimenters were interested in participants’ gut reactions
  3. Participants were asked a yes/no judgment question – for example “Is this person trustworthy?”
  4. Following this yes/no judgment, the next screen asked participants to rate their confidence level in their judgment

They found that increasing exposure time from 100 to 500 ms increased confidence in the participants’ judgments. But that increase in exposure did not change their initial judgment. In fact, they found that the judgments formed after just 100 ms of exposure corresponded with judgments made in the absence of any time limits.

Or put simply:

First impressions are sticky.

Lizard brain strikes again.

2 lizard brain

Of course, your first impression could be wrong.

As social psychologist Dr. Leslie Zebrowitz states:

“We seem unable to inhibit this tendency [to make quick judgments] even though it can lead to inaccurate impressions […] and has significant social consequences.”

We’re talking about consequences like:

Judicial decisions.

Financial success.

And even election outcomes

Similarly, a study conducted by Todorov and Jenny M. Porter found that even minor, random variations in images of the same person resulted in different inferred personality impressions from their participants.

So they saw faces like this:

Similar expressions but different impressions

And for each face, they identified if the person looked like a mayor, a consultant, a villain, etc.

(You can find actual photos, etc from the study here: Todorov, A., & Porter, J. (2014). Misleading First Impressions. Psychological Science, 25(7), 1404-1417.)

In his book, Todorov shares his insights:

“What appearance-influenced voters are doing is substituting a hard decision with an easy one. Finding out whether a politician is truly competent takes effort and time. Deciding whether a politician looks competent is an extremely easy task. Appearance-influenced voters are looking for the right information in the wrong place, because it is easy to do so.”

What’s happening here is simple:

We’re looking for the easy button.

And just like that wrong snap judgment you made about that guy with the  resting bitch face (who now happens to be your best friend), you can just as easily form a wrong first impression of a website.

But unlike that friend, you probably won’t give that website a second chance.

Because in the case of your copy on a website’s home page, “wrong” usually means a visitor bouncing or (worse) a missed lead or sale.

Is our first impression of a website really that similar to our first impression of a person? 

In short, yes.

A recent study researching the speed at which we form opinions about a web page’s visual appeal concluded that we will assess this within 50 ms.

And this study confirms that the judgments made during our first impression of a website do in fact influence our perceptions of credibility and trust.

Much like our ability to draw inferences from facial appearances, our first impression of a website is also comprised of a complex process that quickly accesses a variety of components. Many of them are design, but your copy also plays a part.

If we consider that most users leave a web page in the first 10 to 20 seconds, the implications become quite clear. As Jakob Nielsen puts it:

“To gain several minutes of user attention, you must clearly communicate your value proposition within 10 seconds.”

The necessity for a clear value prop in your hero section isn’t news.

How to ensure your copy is making the right first impression: copy validation

Usability analyst Craig Tomlin suggests that there are three pieces of critical information a new visitor should be able to answer:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What product/service do you provide?
  3. What’s in it for me?

Likewise, Peep Laja of ConversionXL suggests that your first impression should communicate:

  • Where the visitor is
  • What they can do there
  • Why they should do it

As well as:

  • Your brand personality (chic, silly, sexy, savvy, smart, classic, etc.), and
  • Your differentiating factor (what makes you different from the competition)

So, where does the five second test fit into all of this?

In his book The UX Five-Second Rules, Paul Doncaster says the advantages of the five-second testing method include:

  • Speed
  • Efficiency
  • Portability
  • Flexibility
  • Simplicity
  • Convenience

(Those advantages were music to my ears the first time I read them.)

And while Doncaster notes that the original reason for this test was to simply confirm that the purpose of a content page was obvious, this testing form can also be used for bigger, more critical website components.

Like the hero shot of your homepage.

And he notes that, because we’re testing an “in the moment” response, you don’t need to have access to a bunch of existing customers with prior knowledge of the product or service you’re selling. It’s all about visual perception and short-term memory.

So, given what we know about the seemingly uncontrollable snap judgments our brain makes on our behalf that influence our behaviors and decisions, the five second test simply provides an opportunity to receive feedback on the information a viewer is gathering during those first critical moments.

And I repeat: you don’t need to be a user testing expert to start running these tests.

In a nutshell, the five second test is a type of survey methodology – you’re going to be asking questions and gathering responses.

That’s not so hard, right?

It’s basically like a really teeny tiny version of a customer interview. But with anonymous strangers. And copy that’s in development.

But here’s the thing:

Just because you’re sending your copy out into the wild for validation does not mean it has to be “ready” or “perfect.”

(Heck. It doesn’t even have to be done.)

This is about innovation. And it’s about trying to solve problems (hopefully without creating new ones).

So pull out that long list of value prop options, and choose a few standouts to test. Because we’re going to use an iterative design process to quickly gather feedback and continue writing.

The goal here is to improve through iteration… not just document all of its flaws.

So don’t get hung up on perfection.

(And, yes. I realize that is so much easier said than done. This is why you’re going to see some of my less-than-perfect tests below. Hi, my name is Carolyn and I’m getting comfortable being vulnerable.)

image5

(If Kate Winslet can admit it, I can too.)

But, as with other testing methods, this test has limitations.

“When all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.”

Five second tests aren’t always the perfect solution.

Similar to the way we form a first impression when we see a human face, in a five second span we are able to take in a lot of information… but may not necessarily be able to make sense of it. As Doncaster writes:

“A participant may take in a lot of information perceptually, but likely does not have time to make much sense of it as a whole entity, resulting in feedback that is limited in scope.”

In understanding the limits of a five-second test, you’ll be able to set up a test that effectively supports your learning goals.

A five second test can’t tell you everything.

And though this is perhaps obvious, it’s not the right tool to choose when the question you’re trying to answer requires more than five seconds of thought or consideration.

Hint: This means that body copy is not a good fit for this method of testing.

Where the five second test fits in your R&D tool belt

Conversion copywriters, this is where it gets particular important for you.

Five second tests are a great tool to add to your research-and-discovery tool belt for the simple fact that they allow you to focus on the first touchpoints between your copy and your audience.

And, as data analyst Tomi Mester notes in the article linked above, it’s worth mentioning that you’re not looking for statistically significant results here. You’re looking for insights that can help you form an educated guess. And steer you away from bad ideas dressed in sheep’s clothing.

And while Doncaster notes that homepages were originally “off limits” for this testing method, I would argue that because we’re testing an “in the moment” response, homepage hero shots and value props are ideally suited to this type of testing. Because this portion of your website is so critical to a visitor’s first impression of a website – and by extension of the company. Not to mention the success of the overall website as a whole.

So the five second test becomes an opportunity to:

  • Settle an internal bar where you have a team or internal stakeholders that have strong opinions about which approach they think is best
  • Gather intel about how clearly your copy is communicating an aspect of your desired message
  • Check the memorability of said message
  • Check the clarity of said message
  • And help guide your selection between value prop versions to begin validating before your copy goes live (or even graces your client’s desk)

Sure. You could wait to run A/B tests on your live copy (if traffic and conversion rate allow).

But why start with an experiment, with all its costs and risks, when you can first validate? Once you’ve validated a message, THEN split-test it.

The five second test offers immediate feedback and a chance to ditch poor performers – and test variations that may tank – before they cost you leads or sales.

How To Set Up Your Five Second Test So You Know Your Copy Is More Likely to Work

Here’s the step-by-step approach that I, a conversion copywriter who relies heavily on data and has run dozens of these tests, use when running 5-second tests:

  1. Select copy for testing
  2. Define testing goals
  3. Select the right 5 second test format
  4. Write the test
  5. Run the test
  6. Process the results
  7. Determine next steps
  8. Rinse and repeat (as necessary)

Now assuming you’re interested in running tests like these, here’s a breakdown of what to do at each step.

1. Select your copy for testing

For the purposes of ensuring a good first impression, you’ll want to choose copy placed at first touchpoints between you and your reader.

Me? I use this method primarily for testing homepage value prop copy.

While first impressions come from more than just headline copy, it’s already been noted here on Copyhackers that your value proposition is second only in importance to the visitor’s motivation for landing on your site in the first place.

With this in mind, it makes sense to test the clarity of your value prop’s first impression within the context of the hero shot.

As Joanna says:

“Visitors to your site need to be told what’s unique or different about you that they’d really like.”

With our gauge on likeability beginning to form during those first few milliseconds, ensuring the clarity of your homepage copy messaging (which is likely to be a version of your value prop) becomes all the more critical.

Because here’s the thing:

Ensuring that your value prop is making a good first impression will improve your chances for success (i.e., reducing bounce).

Running a series of five second tests helped me write this homepage hero copy: 7 Consulting by Hart live

The results? A 63.51% drop in page bounces.

Remember: good first impression = improved chances for success.

Other “First Impression” Copy Elements You Could Try Testing

  • Landing page headlines
  • Sales page headlines
  • Any other headline you might be working on
  • Facebook ads
  • Instagram ads
  • Adwords ads
  • Email subject lines

2. Define your testing goals

In the wise words of Lewis Carroll:

“If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

Similarly, if you don’t clearly define why you’re testing and what you’re hoping to learn, it’s unlikely that you’ll gather the results you’re looking for.

(More importantly, you risk wasting time and money.)

In the context of making a good first impression, you’ll most likely be defining your testing goals as one of the following:

  1. Is my value prop memorable?
  2. Is my value prop clear?

Tip: If you’re stuck on defining a testing goal, look to the 5 critical points of a USP and headline scorecard. Your low-scoring criteria becomes low-hanging fruit for testing.

3. Select the right five second test format

Based on your defined testing goal, you’ll select a test type.

Doncaster outlines the following four test formats:

  1. Memory dump test (i.e., what is most remembered overall)
  2. Target identification test (i.e., what is most remembered about a specific visual target)
  3. Attitudinal test (i.e., perceived appeal, quality and/or usefulness)
  4. “Mixed” test (i.e., combining aspects of the previously mentioned types of tests)

Four five second tests Copyhackers

Could your five second test succeed without defining a test type? Maybe.

But in doing so, you largely leave the results of your test up to chance.

Defining your test format not only helps you more clearly align your learning goals with your results, but it also helps you write a better test.

You don’t need to overthink this. Here are some guidelines to help you choose your test format:

  • Want to gain insights about the memorability of your value prop? Choose memory dump.
  • Want to gain insights about the clarity of your value prop? Choose memory dump or target ID.
  • Want to gain insights about the emotional response you’re eliciting? Choose attitudinal.

You’ll notice I didn’t mention the “mixed” test. Here’s why:

As Doncaster notes, it’s simply more difficult to create a solid “mixed” test and, by default, more difficult to gather useful insights.

Not impossible. But more difficult.

So in the interest of saving budget and working to eliminate non-responses, your best bet is always to stay within one test format. With that in mind, your rule of thumb should be:

One goal = one test format

4. Write your test

Just so you know, this is where most five second tests fail.

There are two critical written components to your test (aside from the copy you’ll be testing):

  1. Your welcome screen
  2. Your test questions

Doncaster’s book sets forth his testing rules based on the analysis of over 300 public online five second tests. Of the eight “violations” listed, five of them were concerned with the writing of the test.

Here are some best practices to keep in mind as you write:

1. Your welcome screen: keep it simple

This is the screen that your test participant will see immediately before viewing your test image. It’s at this point that you’re setting the stage for what’s to follow.

While this is certainly an important moment in your participant’s journey through your test, you can (and should) keep this simple.

Just like your value prop, your instructions should be clear, concise and specific. Here are some examples pulled from Doncaster’s rules, organized by test format:

Sample Memory Dump Test Welcome Screen:

“You will have 5 s to view the [image]. After, you’ll be asked a few short questions.”

“You’ll see a screen for 5 s. Try to remember as much as you can about what you see.”

Or, the basic UsabilityHub.com welcome screen message:

“Look at the interface for 5 seconds and remember as much as you can.”

image6

Important: At the time of writing, UsabilityHub.com (my chosen five second test tool) limits custom welcome screens to researchers with a paid monthly membership. 

Sample Attitudinal Test Welcome Screen:

“You will have 5 s to view the [image]. After, you’ll be asked a few short questions about your reaction to the [image/design/message].”

“You’ll see a screen for 5 s. Pay attention to the general appeal of the [image/design/message].”

“After viewing the [image/design/message] for 5 s, you’ll be asked about your opinions on its look and feel.”

Sample Target Identification Test Welcome Screen:

If you are planning to only ask questions about one element among an image with many elements:

“You will have 5 s to view the [image]. After, you’ll be asked a few short questions about the [specific target being assessed].”

That said, if you’re hoping to understand whether the specific target is easily identifiable within the full design:

“You’ll see a screen for 5 s. Pay close attention to the [image/design/message].”

“After viewing the [image/design/message] for 5 s, you’ll be asked about your opinions on its look and feel.”

A word of warning:

Be careful that the information provided on the welcome screen doesn’t prime your users’ responses.

For example, if your welcome screen reads:

“Imagine you’re assessing companies that provide house cleaning services. You’ll see a screen for 5 s. Try to remember as much as you can about what you see.”

And then your first question reads:

Q1. What service does this company provide?

Well, you’ve primed the users response by tipping them off about what they’re about to see in the instructions. In turn, this will bias your results and waste the moment when your user’s memory is most clear. So don’t do that.

And on the topic of writing questions:

2. When it comes to your test questions, less is more

First things first: there’s no magic number for how many questions you ask.

That said, in the case of five-second tests, less is more.

The trace decay theory helps to explain the memory fade taking place in your participant’s short-term memory bank. Simply put, unless the information being transmitted is rehearsed, the short-term memory can only hold that information for 15 to 30 seconds before it begins to decay and fade away.

With this in mind. it’s best to ask the least number of questions possible to answer your research question and satisfy your learning goal. The original test questions used by Perfetti included only two questions:

  1. Recall as much as you can remember about the design.
  2. What is the purpose of the page?

In his book, Doncaster notes that of the 300+ tests he analyzed, 80% asked three or more questions. While most five second test tools cap out at five questions, know that you don’t need to max out your question capacity.

Doncaster makes a strong case for the “less is more” approach:

“In five-second tests, the acts of reading, understanding, and responding to questions place additional burden on the cognitive process in play, which contribute further to memory fade.”

Only ask what needs to be asked to satisfy your learning goals.

Lesson Learned: It’s not just about the number of questions, it’s also about their order

The final questions on your five second tests are like the (questionable) leftovers in the back of your fridge: A little fuzzy and likely to elicit an “I dunno” response. 🤷🏻‍♀️

image7

We’re going to look at one of my very early five second tests.

My goal was to improve the clarity of communicating Consulting by Hart‘s services.

One of the issues with the existing copy that we identified during the initial project scope was that visitors couldn’t clearly identify the intended audience. As in, when it came to answering the question “Am I in the right place?” visitors may not confidently answer “yes.” The five second test run on the control hero shot helped us confirm this.

Here’s the control hero shot:

Screen Shot 2019 11 26 at 11.50.30 AM

We started by asking them this question: “What do you remember about the site?”

And here’s a look at the results to Q1:

image8

My goal was to shine a spotlight on the services provided.

My original question order for this series of tests was:

Q1. What do you remember about the site?

Q2. What can you do on this site?

Q3. Who is this site for?

Q4. What is the name of their business? 

Notice any issues here?

For starters, Q4 doesn’t tie to the testing goal.

I also learned, through the gathered responses, that Q3 was open to misinterpretation. Some of the respondents interpreted this particular question as meaning “Who is this site representing?” or “Who is the company that this site is for?”

But the biggest issue?

Some of the most specific questions were asked at the end of the test. While the end results gathered were still promising (60% of the participants identified the name of their business correctly), this did leave my test with an increased vulnerability to participant non-responses.

Your solution: Ask the questions requiring the most specific memory recall first.

Your participants’ memories will be most clear immediately after your testing image disappears. From there, your participants’ short-term memories will begin to fade.

Doncaster dubbed this the “reverse-Polaroid effect” and noted that writing with this effect in mind helps you combat the “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember” responses.

If I were to do-over this test today I would rewrite those questions to look something like this:

Q1. What is the service or product this company provides?

Q2. What else do you remember about the image?

Here’s why:

Because the goal was to improve the clarity of the offer, I’ve removed all of the questions that do not specifically tie back to that goal.

And because the test is structured in a memory dump format, you’ll notice that I’ve now re-ordered the remaining questions according to specificity. This allows me to capitalize on the test taker’s memory when it’s strongest.

Finally, I’ve tweaked the wording of these questions to make my ask a little clearer. And adding the “else” in Q2 allows the participant to dump anything else they felt was memorable.

TL;DR: Think carefully about the questions you ask and the order in which you ask them. Order questions from most specific to least specific.

5. Run the test

You’re done the pre-work. Now it’s time to unleash your test on the public!

Here’s the step-by-step method to follow:

1. Load-in your test

If you haven’t already done so, you’ll need to choose your five second testing tool.

I like UsabilityHub.com because it allows you to pay a small fee for platform-recruited test-takers. Meaning you don’t have to bug your friends, family, mom or colleagues to take your test.

(It’s free to bring your own participants to your UsabilityHub test, but it still doesn’t open up the option to write your own instruction screen.)

If you’re bringing your own participants, you may want to consider UserBob. It allows you to set up a test with a custom instruction screen and then pushes your test taker toward your chosen survey tool (like Typeform).

Lesson Learned: Choose your visual context carefully

You have a couple of choices when it comes to presenting your copy to your test takers:

  1. Test copy on a blank screen
  2. Test copy in a wireframe
  3. Test copy by editing copy on the existing site using an editor extension

(We’re going back to one of my first wireframed tests. I’m sweating.)

As previously mentioned, my goal on this project was to improve the clarity of the services my client provided.

Here’s that wireframed copy:

image9

And here are some of the lacklustre answers I received to the first question:

image10

Highlights include:

“The first thing was the big giant “X” going through the page.”

“It’s shaped like an envelope.”

Not exactly the great-first-impression-confirming insights I was hoping for. Womp, womp.

It wasn’t that the answers as a whole were completely unusable, but it became immediately apparent that my very lo-fi wireframe spoiled the results.

The solution: Test your copy in a visual context that isn’t going to distract your participants.

Here’s the thing:

Those spoiled results were entirely my fault. And I knew it as soon as they landed in my inbox. So I went back to the drawing board to try again. This time I tested my copy in a wireframe that actually resembled a website:

image11

And the resulting answers were decidedly more focused:

image12

Unsurprisingly, improving the visual context for the copy improved the overall quality of the answers I received from participants.

TL;DR: Choose your visual context with care. I like running tests on my copy in context because that’s how a new visitor will actually experience it. If you decide to run your wireframes, make sure they look as much like a website as possible.

2. Set your audience demographics

This step is only required if your testing tool will recruit participants on your behalf.

Your gut will tell you to narrow down the participant demographics as much as possible. The common thinking here is that you’ll receive more qualified feedback if you set your demographic filters to match your target audience.

Stop. Do not pass go. Do not collect $100.

image13

Yes, validating your copy with your market is important.

But this isn’t the time for that.

This is about first impressions. Is the message clear? Is the message memorable?

That’s it.

You don’t need your testing participants to be carbon copies of your one reader. You just need them living in the same (figurative) neighborhood. Why? Because most demographic data doesn’t help you understand your typical visitor’s behavior.

Within your testing dashboard you’re likely to see at least some of the following options to filter your audience:

  • Language
  • Viewing device
  • Country
  • Gender
  • Age range
  • Education level
  • Employment status
  • Annual household income
  • Technical proficiency
  • Daily hours online

Of these options, I focus first on behavioral indicators, like education level, employment status, technical proficiency and daily hours online.

I also set the viewing device filter. This helps ensure that the participant is viewing my image in the correct visual context – i.e. I don’t get participants viewing a desktop hero shot image on a mobile device.

Depending on the project, I might also set the language settings to English. I’ve found that this can help protect my test results from increased “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember” responses from participants that might have English as a second (or third) language.

Bottom line: Skip the granular “female, aged 25-34” details and focus on big-picture behavior-driving demographics instead.

3. Set your audience size

This was one of the biggest questions I had when I first started using this testing method in my writing process.

The jury is out on the “perfect” audience size for testing:

  • Virzi says 3-5
  • Perfetti says 20
  • Faulkner says 10
  • Turner et al. says 7
  • And Nielsen says 5

After reviewing the research, I think that Nielsen’s suggestion of five is the sweet spot for our purposes.

Here’s why:

Nielsen suggests that your first five test participants will discover over 80% of all problems.

I won’t get into the specifics of Nielsen and Landauer’s formula (you can find that formula as well as the their graph demonstrating diminishing returns as new participants are added here), but usability experts do seem to agree that simple tests require fewer test takers.

Sticking with five test takers also helps you make the most of your testing budget. As Nielsen states:

“Doesn’t matter whether you test websites, intranets, PC applications, or mobile apps. With 5 users, you almost always get close to user testing’s maximum benefit-cost ratio.”

Granted, this decision is based on usability studies, not studies specifically relating to copy. But the fact remains that our use of the five-second test qualifies as “simple,” so using Nielsen’s rule of thumb works.

And, as Nielsen also suggests, from a cost-benefit perspective, you’re better to run plenty of small iterative tests than one large test.

I’ve experimented with larger audience sizes, but keep coming back to five participants.

Here’s why five is the magic number:

During my work with Portica, a project management tool built specifically for architects and designers, its founder mentioned how he felt they were missing the mark in effectively communicating how they differed from more widely adopted document storage solutions. They weren’t really a document storage solution, but their existing messaging didn’t clearly articulate the full scope of what it is they actually offered.

I decided to double my typical testing audience size on this particular project because we were limited to only a small handful of customer interviews. That meant that my VoC data was drawn largely from raw mining research and founder interviews. I felt that a slightly larger audience pool might help confirm whether or not I was on the right track with their new messaging.

Here’s round one, version one:

image14

And here’s round one, version two:

image15

What I found as I toggled in and out of the audience filters on my completed results surprised me.

The filtered responses of smaller response pools remained consistent with the full audience results.

4. Preview your test

This little step can save you from wasting time and money on a faulty test.

Here’s a quick checklist to help you run quality assurance (QA) on your test:

  • Welcome Screen
    • Are your welcome screen instructions clear, concise and specific?
    • Have you unintentionally primed your test taker with leading instructions that you should revise / remove to minimize bias?
  • Testing Image
    • Is your testing image fully visible without scrolling?
    • Does your testing image display your copy in a visual context that accurately represents the way in which a reader would experience it? For example, if you’re testing homepage hero copy, does your testing image resemble a hero shot??
    • Is there anything in your testing image that has the potential to distract your test taker?
  • Test Questions
    • Are your questions clear, concise and specific?
    • Are your questions in the right order for your learning goals?
    • Have you unintentionally primed your test taker with leading questions?
    • Are there any questions that are unnecessary in helping you satisfy your learning goal? (If so, remove them.)

This step takes about a minute total to complete:

image16

But that minute can save you from wasting budget on a problematic test. Don’t skip it.

5. Let your test run

Arguably the easiest part of the process: hit submit and wait.

If you’ve opted to have your testing tool recruit participants on your behalf, you can typically expect your complete results in the next 5 to 45 minutes.

Go grab a coffee, your work here is done (for now).

image17

6. Process your five-second test results

Your results are in! It’s time to get back to work.

There are a couple of different ways you can go about processing the results.

While the easiest and quickest way is to review your results inside your test dashboard, I prefer to process results in a Google sheet (you can find that template here) in order to have a full picture of my control and USP iterations as I work through my projects.

image18

Inside that worksheet I note down my pre-work decisions, test conditions and any demographic filters placed. Once I receive my results, I begin making my notes and tallying repetitions in language used by the test users (similar to Ashley Greene’s method demonstrated during this Tutorial Tuesday).

If you’re anything like me, I’m sure you’re wondering:

How will I know if my results are “useful”?

I’m a firm believer that you can learn from all of your results.

Receiving non-responses like “I don’t know” or “I can’t remember” is a signal to head back to the drawing board and try again.

Likewise, if you receive a set of responses that indicate you’ve achieved your goal, that also becomes useful (and handy to report back to your client).

For example, watershed protection and preservation organization Friends of the Muskoka Watershed came to me asking for snappy copy that articulated their rather complex mission and methodology in a way that is easy to understand.

I first confirmed their hunch about general audience confusion during the homepage hero control five-second test (as well as audience interviews and reviewing traffic flow through Google Analytics).

I then found, through various research activities, that their “science to action” methodology was particularly attractive to their target audience and was also a key differentiator between them and their competitors.

From there I worked up a variety of customer-facing options and began testing.

Here were the wireframe images I started with:

First the “snappy” version:

image19

Followed by the longer version:

image20

What I found?

Only 20% of the “snappy” version test takers understood their core mission – protecting the Muskoka watershed.

Compare that to 60% of the longer version test takers.

These results supported my recommendation for longer copy. And I continue to develop and test this copy as we move toward a finalized project.

7. Determine your next steps

Did your shift in messaging help you achieve your learning goals?

  • Yes? Great. Move forward feeling more confident in knowing that your copy is communicating what it needs to communicate in those first five seconds of a visitor landing on the site.
  • No? Also great! Head back to the drawing board with that intel to continue working on your value prop.

Use those findings to inform future iterations of your copy.

8. Rinse and repeat those five-second tests often (and when necessary)

In the wise words of Eugene Schwartz:

“Copy is not written. Copy is assembled.”

An engineer wouldn’t release a new product without testing it, right? You are an engineer of words. Testing should be built into the process of assembling.

As Nielsen says:

“After creating the new design, you need to test again. Even though I said that the redesign should “fix” the problems found in the first study, the truth is that you think that the new design overcomes the problems. But since nobody can design the perfect user interface, there is no guarantee that the new design does in fact fix the problems. 

A second test will discover whether the fixes worked or whether they didn’t. Also, in introducing a new design, there is always the risk of introducing a new usability problem, even if the old one did get fixed.”

Everywhere he says “design,” replace it with copy.

I’m feeling a little like a broken record at this point, but here goes:

Your five-second tests are experiments.

Test early. Test often. And don’t let that perfection monster rear his ugly head!

image21

Test your copy before you think it’s perfect.

And maybe even before you think it’s “ready.”

I typically start testing two or three customer-facing value prop options during my initial research and discovery work (before I present my messaging recommendations report), simply because it allows me to present some initial results to help guide my client in understanding why my recommendations suggest that one direction might be better than the other.

And it allows me to validate what I might think of a good idea as unclear and improves my work along the way to finalized copy.

The end result?

Copy that is communicating key information clearly within those first critical moments of a visitor landing on a website.

The critical deciding factors in whether or not you should test should be:

  1. Do you know what you want to learn?
  2. Will displaying an image, with copy, for 5 seconds help you learn this?

If you answered yes to both of those questions, then you should start testing.

This all sounds great. But how do I get budget approval?

Easy. I build my five-second test budget into the fee for my project.

This is now a non-negotiable in my writing process. So I don’t ask for permission.

Of course, exact numbers depend entirely on the project in question, but with each test costing about $10 USD, I usually build a $50 to $70 internal “Five Second Test Fund” into each project.

But if you want to dig in and get started right now, remember this:

“The best results come from testing no more than 5 users and running as many small tests as you can afford.” – Jacob Nielsen

User testing tools aren’t just for user testing experts. To get started with improving your copy’s first impression, you just need to be ready to learn and have some copy to test.

It’s all part of the iterative process on your way to making that great first impression.

Author: Carolyn Beaudoin, conversion copywriter

Editor: Joanna Wiebe, founder of Copyhackers

Peer reviewer: Talia Wolf, founder of GetUplift

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How to discover and curate content with Scoop.it

If you’ve been around here for a while, you know we’re always talking about ways content curation can help businesses thrive.

Any industry and company size can benefit from strategic content curation.

It can help turn your employees into your biggest advocates and your sales representatives into top sellers.

Content curation can grow the impact of your email newsletters, your social media, blog, content hubs, and even get your eCommerce store to attract more customers.

That’s why in this guide, we’re sharing exactly how Scoop.it can help you see success with content curation across your entire company. 

We’re taking you on a Scoop.it tour. Let’s dive in!

Add the content URL to your Scoop.it topic page of choice

If you regularly spend time catching up on industry news, reports, and expert thought pieces, you may be looking for an easy way to curate them across your networks.

Scoop.it topics make that super easy.

First, you’ll create one or more topic pages on topics you want to curate content on. These will be topics relevant to your products and services, as well as those your potential and existing customers and employees care about.

Then, inside of a relevant topic, you’ll simply paste a link from the piece of content you were just reading or watching.

After pasting the link and hitting the green arrow button, you’ll get a chance to:

  • Add your own insight
  • Add and select social channels to share this piece of content on
  • Enter edit mode to change description or image and add tags
  • Select whether to post now or at a later time and date

You can do this any time you come across a curated piece of content worth sharing, wherever you find it.

Available to: All Scoop.it users, including those on the free plan

Add new content with Scoop.it Bookmarklet

The above process is quite simple. But what if you could add the blog posts, videos, and other pieces of content to your Scoop.it topics even more easily?

Scoop.it Bookmarklet helps you do exactly that on the fly. You won’t even have to leave the piece of content you’re consuming!

To add the Bookmarklet to your browser, open the Scoop.it Bookmarklet page. Add it to your browser bookmarks. Then, copy the text in the textbox by clicking the button below:

Then, head to the new bookmark you just made. Select to edit it and replace the URL in it with the text you just copied:

Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to bookmark anywhere on the internet!

When you’re on a page you’d like to add to one of your Scoop.it topics, simply click that bookmark.

The below box will pop up. Under Destination, you’ll choose the Scoop.it topic you’re adding this piece to.

Then, you’ll see all the standard options to edit the piece you’re scooping: adding insights, social sharing, editing description and tags, and choosing when to publish.

Time = saved!

Available to: All Scoop.it users, including those on the free plan

Use the content suggestions engine from your Scoop.it topic page

Curating content you’re already consuming anyway is easy.

But what if you’re having an extremely busy week and you…

  • Don’t have time to catch up on industry news?
  • Don’t want to curate just any content you find because you don’t have time to make sure it’s good and on topic?
  • Don’t want to go without showing up on your main channels?

That’s when some help would come in handy.

In Scoop.it, this help lives at the top right corner of your topic pages.

Once you click Suggestions, you’ll see a search engine you can use to get as many recommendations as you need and refine the criteria to find the best ones.

As you can see, you can choose:

  • If the content needs to match your exact search term
  • How old can the content be
  • Sorting by relevance or freshness
  • Filtering by format types including articles, documents, pictures, videos, and social networks

You can then publish the pieces you like (or schedule for later), bookmark for later, and even flag as irrelevant or discard altogether.

Available to: All Scoop.it users, including those on the free plan

Automatically curate from trusted sites with RSS feeds and sitemaps

Do you follow blogs and publications that always publish content that’s relevant and valuable to your audience?

If so, you can skip manual content curation altogether.

Instead of curating by adding URLs to your Scoop.it topics or using the Scoop.it Bookmarklet, you can add an RSS feed or a sitemap to your topic.

Then, Scoop.it will keep an eye on these sources and automatically add them to your Scoop.it topic when they go live.

It’s also easy to set up! In your Scoop.it topic of choice, click Settings, then Automatic Content Import:

Click a button to add an RSS feed, then enter the feed URL:

If you’re unsure of the RSS feed URL, here are two things you can do:

  1. Type in the publication URL, including the https://, and add /feed to the end. This works for websites run on WordPress.
  2. In case this doesn’t work, right click on the website’s page and choose Page Source. Then, use the search feature (Ctrl+F on a PC or Command+F on a Mac) and type in RSS. The feed’s URL is between the quotes after href=.

Once you’ve added all the sources you want to automatically add to your Scoop.it topic, you can manage them from the same page in your topic’s settings.

And just like that, your Scoop.it topic is already packed with content you already love and trust, even during the busiest of times. Magic!

Available to: Scoop.it users on Plus and Enterprise plans

Upload content that isn’t tied to a URL

Want to share an infographic, a graph, or even a research study in a PDF file, but you have them as a file rather than on a URL?

It’s easy and quick to do. Simply select Scoop without link or Upload your own document from your preferred Scoop.it topic page.

Then, add all the elements you want to share alongside this file or document. 

Title and description are mandatory fields. These are great places to add attention-grabbing copy and make it clear what the content you’re scooping is about. It’s the same approach you’d use with a blog post you’re writing.

You can also add your own insight in a separate field, tag this scoop so you can easily find it later, and directly share it on social channels on the date and time you choose.

These options let you share images, free text, Microsoft Office files, and PDFs.

Available to: Scoop without link to Scoop.it Plus and Enterprise users, Upload your own document to Enterprise users

Use Scoop.it’s advanced suggestions engine

Do you want to get recommendations for content to curate, but in a more refined way?

Do you need them straight in your inbox instead of running a search every time?

Are you looking for content on the same topics, week after week?

You can automate all of this (and more) with the advanced suggestions engine on Scoop.it Enterprise.

All of your searches are available from this clean dashboard. You can use it to scoop these pieces of content to your Scoop.it topics and toggle between your saved searches from the menu on the left:

Adding new saved searches is easy. Simply click the New search on the left and enter your keywords:

One of the best advantages of the advanced suggestions engine is the specificity you can go into with your searches.

Inside any of your saved searches, you can click Edit and get extra specific on the conditions for the content suggestions you want to get.

Here are the elements you can use:

  • Searching inside just the title, title and content, or domain
  • Containing or not containing some or all of the words you’ve entered
  • Modifiers for Boolean search: you can include or exclude results with AND and OR search parameters
  • Email alerts to automatically receive content that matches your search, and decide on the email frequency, content recency, language, and criteria
  • Filters for content format, such as articles, videos, and images

The best part? Once you set these searches and filters up, you don’t have to think about them again. Scoop.it does the work for you—all you need to do is view these searches, or your emails, regularly.

Available to: Scoop.it Enterprise users

Monitor content (your own or competitor’s) to never miss a thing

If you want to…

  • Track all the content sources you trust so you can curate fast
  • Monitor your competitor’s content, including their blog and social media
  • Keep an eye on all your content feeds, including your RSS feeds, social accounts, and YouTube channel

…you can do so from a single screen, in Scoop.it’s Content Monitoring.

When you click Manage Sources inside your Content Monitoring dashboard, you can add as many sources as you want.

Scoop.it will give you the space to add special links such as Twitter lists and Facebook pages. You can even upload an OPML file with a list of sources if you have it.

Finally, once you’ve added all the sources you wanted to, you can organize them on the right-hand side by dragging and dropping them to the position you want. This way, they’ll be structured and easy to find when you’re working from your Content Monitoring dashboard.

Available to: Scoop.it Enterprise users

Get others in your company to suggest content for your Scoop.it topics

Once you’ve set up your Scoop.it account for success through suggestions, automated curation, and monitoring, there’s one thing left to do: getting your employees to contribute to your content curation.

In the past, you and your team may have used email or Slack messages to pass great content around.

Now, you can use Scoop.it to remove friction of emails and messages. Instead, all content goes directly into your designated Scoop.it topics.

This is what it looks like:

As you can see, instead of letting you scoop a post (with or without a link), this setup asks you to suggest it. When you’re setting up the roles in your Scoop.it Enterprise account, you can define who can scoop directly or add a suggestion.

This way, you can turn your team members and employees into your strongest content curation engine without adding more hurdles to the process.

All they need to do is add the piece of content to the relevant topic, and you’re good to go!

Available to: Scoop.it Enterprise users

Start curating content with Scoop.it now

You already knew content curation is a powerful strategy for your business, but you may have thought it’s time-consuming or hard to prioritize.

Now you know it doesn’t have to be that way. With the right tool, you can automate a huge part of the process, so you can focus on areas where you make the most impact.

Scoop.it will help you do just that. If this tour revealed a chance for you to succeed with curated content, make sure to get a free trial of Scoop.it or talk to us if you want a demo of Scoop.it Enterprise!

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Scoop.it new feature: level up your email newsletter campaigns in Scoop.it

The way we feel about newsletters here at Scoop.it was never a secret.

Some platforms diminish your reach so much it can destroy your business if you rely on them (looking at you, Facebook), and others get entirely wiped off the face of the planet (looking at you, Google+).

This dynamic will never end—platforms will always keep emerging and disappearing.

But the one thing you will always have control over—instead of being at its mercy—are emails.

Our inboxes are a private, protected space and unlike with hundreds of accounts we’re happy to follow on social media, we only let the selected people and companies into our email inbox.

This is why we’re thrilled to introduce you to our updated Newsletter feature in Scoop.it Enterprise. In this post, we’ll show you around and cover some essential ways you can make the most out of it.

Curate and manage your newsletters with ease

Maintaining a regular newsletter often becomes difficult because you run out of things to say and content to share. Content curation can help you bypass that challenge for good.

Think about this: members of your audience want to excel in their jobs, but they already have too much to do and catch up with. A curated newsletter brings them the best content there is in your industry, enriched by your expertise and insights.

In other words, you can maximize the impact of your email newsletters with curated content by becoming an irreplaceable source of valuable knowledge.

Here’s how the updated Scoop.it Enterprise helps you do exactly that.

In the Newsletter section of your Scoop.it dashboard, you’ll see all newsletters you’ve already sent. You’ll have several options from here:

  • Use one of the existing newsletters to create a new one
  • Create a newsletter from a template we’ve created for you
  • Create a template yourself

When you select a newsletter to edit or a template to work from, you can start adding the content you’ve curated across your topics.

To make sure you never send the same piece of content twice, make sure to tick the ‘Show only posts that have never been published in a newsletter’ option.

Then, you can add your scoops from across all topics or a specific one, as well as enter a search query to further filter by keywords in titles.

To view and manage all of your sent and scheduled campaigns, you can now simply head over to the Send my newsletters tab. You’ll see the campaign title, recipient list, send date, and status:

The green New campaign button will take you through the newsletter creation process from scratch and allow you to set all your email campaign parameters you just saw above.

This includes campaign name, recipients, and send date, as well as your sender name and the email address your recipients will be able to reply to:

Run account-based marketing (ABM) campaigns

The most exciting upgrade you get to enjoy: creating your own recipients list.

You can engage any audience you have with curated newsletters, and this applies to your internal audiences just as much as your external ones.

In the Recipients section of your newsletters in Scoop.it, you can create recipient lists. You can name them based on their common denominator so you can always easily add them to your email campaigns.

You can also edit your recipient lists if needed:

There’s an obvious benefit to this feature when you think about your internal audiences, such as board of directors, various teams, or all employees. You can easily create lists that will help you drive employee advocacy with curated content, as well as encourage knowledge sharing for market intelligence inside your company.

The benefit with external audiences comes from running account-based marketing campaigns, or ABM for short. In ABM, you identify companies you want to specifically market to (as opposed to marketing to an entire segment and narrowing from there).

Once you’ve identified these companies (i.e. target accounts), you can create personalized campaigns that are designed to engage these accounts and specific people in these companies.

This new Scoop.it Enterprise feature can help you reap the benefits of ABM campaigns by enabling you to build lists of recipients to send your campaign to.

Your recipient list can be limited to one company, or to the same role you’re targeting across several companies (e.g. sales managers).

Then, create your customized email campaign in Scoop.it and send it to your dedicated recipient list!

Track crucial newsletter metrics

Finally, you can track the most important metrics of your curated newsletter campaigns: views, clicks, and clicks on your scoops.

Tracking these metrics will help you understand which email subject lines, topics, and specific scoops resonated with your audience the most.

For example, if a certain email campaign had a low open rate, but most of those who opened it clicked through to your scoops, you can tweak your subject line in the next campaign to see if it will get a better open rate.

And if your open rate was high, but clicks on scoops were low, there may be a lack of alignment between your subject line and the scoops you included in your email.

Always make sure to preview your email newsletters before sending to ensure your newsletter design renders correctly. Your email campaigns will perform best if they’re responsive across devices, clean, organized, and visually appealing to your target audience.

Which Scoop.it Enterprise update are you most excited about? If you’re ready to take your email newsletter campaigns to the next level, get a demo of Scoop.it Enterprise and create high-performing emails in seconds.

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How to distribute your content with Scoop.it

“If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

When we talk about content marketing, this thought experiment makes a lot of sense. If we create a piece of content, but it wasn’t seen by many people—or any at all—can it make any impact at all?

When it comes to original content, one survey revealed bloggers spend about half the time promoting an article as they do writing it. After several hours of hard work to put an article out into the world, this feels like a wasted opportunity.

So when we talk about curated content, it’s even more likely to completely skip out on content promotion efforts. After all, it’s not your content, so why would you turn your audience’s attention to it instead of your own content?

The truth is: you can only see the benefits of content curation if you make a conscious effort to get it in front of your ideal audience.

So far, we’ve shown you how to use Scoop.it to discover and curate content, as well as how to organize it. In this guide, we’ll take you through ways you can promote your curated content so you can consistently get it in front of the right people.

Scoop.it topic: your online magazine

Just like you can use your blog or your YouTube channel to host your own, original content, Scoop.it helps you host all the content you want to curate.

Scoop.it topics are the main building blocks of content curation—each of them represents your curated content hub.

You can see them as your online magazine, a controlled way in which you can put together your thoughts and insights on topics that matter to your audience.

By doing this, you become seen as an expert. Each of your topic pages comes with its own URL you can share on any public or private channel that helps you reach relevant people.

Scoop.it users on Pro and Plus plans also have an option to customize their Scoop.it topic pages through elements such as:

  • Background image and color
  • Header logo and text color
  • Header background image and color
  • Colors, font family and sizes, backgrounds, and more for individual scoops

These plans also give you an option to pick from a library of templates with various layouts.

Enterprise customers can also fully customize their Scoop.it topics with advanced design and privacy options, as well as avail of our white label design service.

Built-in social media sharing and social features

Once you start building out your topics and content hubs on Scoop.it, there are several ways you can spark meaningful interactions and engagement around your curated pieces of content.

One way to drive conversations around a piece of content in a Scoop.it topic page is to react to it directly on the platform. You’ll find this by hovering over a scoop—a Reaction section will pop up below that scoop, allowing you to leave a comment inside Scoop.it.

Another way you can share is found in the same place, just under a different button. The share arrow at the far right of the scoop lets you share this scoop:

  • On Pinterest, Mix (formerly StumbleUpon), Hootsuite, GaggleAMP, and in an email
  • Through your connected social accounts (more on that below)
  • Using a direct link you can copy and paste anywhere you want
  • By embedding an HTML code snippet

The above methods are excellent for pieces of content you’ve already scooped to your topics.

For those you’re just about to add to your Scoop.it topics, you can connect your social channels and share on them automatically from this modal window:

Pro accounts lets you add up to 5, Plus plan up to 10, and Enterprise more than 10 accounts. You can also choose to share right away or schedule for later on the Plus plan or higher.

Accounts you can connect to include:

  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn profiles and company pages
  • Facebook pages
  • Buffer
  • Pinterest
  • Tumblr
  • Yammer and Yammer groups

Turn your curated content into regular email newsletter

One of the best ways to build deeper relationships with your audience is to show up in a place they have the most control over: their email inbox.

Unlike on social media and other public channels, our email inboxes are extremely personal, guarded communication channels. So if someone grants you access to it (i.e. they subscribe to your newsletter), you better show up and meet their expectations.

Scoop.it’s Plus plan lets you turn your topic pages into an email newsletter.

Inside your topic of choice, simply click the Newsletter tab at the top menu.

From here, you can customize your newsletter in many ways:

  • Choose from a library of templates
  • Choose posts to include
  • Define the number of posts included
  • Show or hide header and share buttons
  • Upload a custom image as your header
  • Toggle click tracking on or off

You can also download your newsletter to upload to a different email platform, as well as connect your Mailchimp account.

Scoop.it Enterprise users can take this to the next level. They can have our team create a fully custom-made email newsletter layout based on their requirements.

Enterprise users can also create their own email layout from scratch using HTML and predefined widgets, select posts they want to include, and customize any other detail.

Integrate your Scoop.it content with your website and other assets

Your curated content doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t!) live in a vacuum, separate from your original content.

That’s why Scoop.it Plus gives our users the chance to integrate their Scoop.it topic pages to their website.

All of the integration options are easy to access from your topic page, by clicking the Integration tab at the top menu.

From here, you can:

  • Generate an embed code to copy and paste to any of your site’s pages or your blog
  • Integrate your Scoop.it topic with WordPress in a few clicks
  • Host your Scoop.it topic on your own domain to enrich your SEO and grow your own website traffic with curated content

Scoop.it Enterprise users can fully white label and brand their embedded Scoop.it content, as well as use our powerful API, integrate with multiple websites, and more.

Provide an excellent experience for your readers

Scoop.it allows you to provide a great reading experience for your employees, customers, and anyone else you’re distributing your content to.

First, they can define their own reading journey by searching for any topic they’re interested in by using the search bar:

More importantly, they can engage with your content and interact not only with you, but with each other. Thanks to Scoop.it’s Reaction section we mentioned earlier, your Scoop.it users can tag each other, making their comments even more impactful:

Finally, your readers can also receive your curated content straight to their inbox. This is useful if they want to stay in the loop with everything that’s happening, but maybe don’t have the time right now to visit your topic pages and keep up with everything you’re adding to them.

This way, they’ll get alerted and be sure they’re up to speed on industry news and developments. Scoop.it users can also pick the frequency of these updates and pick what works best for their schedule.

Get your content in front of the right people with Scoop.it

With these Scoop.it features, you’ll grow a loyal audience that will get used to seeing high-quality content from you, both original and curated.

As a result, your reach, online engagement, lead generation, and sales will grow as well. You will build a sustainable, long-term content marketing strategy that will help you reach and exceed your business goals.

Sounds like what you need? Make sure to get a free trial of Scoop.it or talk to us if you want a demo of Scoop.it Enterprise.

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How can you edit and organize your content with Scoop.it

You already know that content curation can empower not just your content marketing, but all of your marketing efforts across the board.

Some of the biggest challenges that come with content curation include questions like:

  • How can I find the right content to curate?
  • What should be my content curation strategy?
  • Can I curate content without spending too much of my time?

We’ve put together a guide on discovering and curating content with Scoop.it—make sure to check it out if you already haven’t.

Now that you have the right tools to find and curate content, your next challenge may be this one: how can I edit and organize my content to make it easy to find, read, and share?

In this guide, we’re showing you how to keep track of all you best content with Scoop.it. Let’s go!

Scoop.it topics: the core of content curation

The easiest way to organize all of your curated content is centered on topics.

Simply put, topics are the most important areas of your industry that you want to curate (and create) content around. With topics, you can easily structure and group the common questions and challenges your target audience has.

Your content and your products/services are the ones solving these challenges, so focusing on the right ones is essential.

In Scoop.it, each topic is a central page that showcases a stream of your curated content that belongs to that topic:

Each Scoop.it topic can also act as your content hub and house your most relevant, high-quality content on a topic.

So how can you choose your topic titles? Start by focusing on the categories you would sort your products or services into. Then, expand with closely related topics of your target customer.

Here are some examples of possible topics:

  • Marketing agency: SEO, email marketing, video marketing, social media marketing, analytics
  • Homeware store: decoration inspiration, home DIY tips, colors and patterns, garden ideas
  • Communication solutions: customer experience, small business tips, employee experience

 As you can see, you can come up with great, relevant ideas regardless of your industry. Brainstorm three or four to begin with—you can always create more later.

In Scoop.it, creating a topic is easy. You can click on the Publish button at the top bar, then on the Create a Topic button:

You can also go to your dashboard and click on the large plus sign to add a topic:

From here, you simply type in your topic name. As you type, you’ll see your topic URL generates automatically:

If you want to change it, you can click on the prompt below the topic name to do so.

And that’s it!

With your topics ready to go, you can follow any of our tips on discovering and curating content with Scoop.it—and make content curation an easy part of your everyday workflow.

Available to: All Scoop.it users, including those on the free plan

Scoop.it content curation window: full control over your curated content

When you find new content inside Scoop.it that you’re adding to one of your topics, you’ll see this modal window that will give you the ability to customize your curated content:

Here’s everything you can do here:

Select the topic you’re curating to. The three-line menu icon below Destination lets you select the topic this piece of content belongs to.

Turn direct linking on or off. If you toggle Direct Link on, you can share content to your social channels without directing the links to your blog or Scoop.it page.

Enrich your curated content with insights. Have something to say about what you’re sharing? Do you agree, disagree, or have additional information that will make it more valuable? Use this field to do so.

Share on your social channels. Click on Add more+ to connect any social channels you want: Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook Page, LinkedIn Company Page, Buffer, Pinterest, Yammer, or Tumblr. Each time you scoop a piece of content, you can tick the ones you want to share on.

Edit the title and description of this piece of content. When you click Edit mode, you can rewrite the title and the description, as well as reformat the description, add links, bullet points, emphasize certain points, and more.

Tag your content. As you’ll see in the next sections, tagging will allow you to make your content searchable and easy to navigate.

Schedule for later. If your curating a lot of content all at once, you may want to stagger it throughout the week. The clock icon at the bottom of the window signifies the option to schedule your content for a later date and time.

Available to: All Scoop.it users, including those on the free plan (some features, like social sharing and scheduling, are limited to paid plans)

Tag management: the power of going extra specific

Even if your topics are very specific and narrow, tags are super useful for further marking the focus of each piece of content you curate.

For example, if you’re a marketing agency with a topic on video marketing, your tags within that topic may be: filming equipment, YouTube, video research, and social video.

These tag names aren’t broad enough to warrant for their own topic pages, but once you have hundreds or even thousands of curated pieces of content in the future, they’ll help you find exactly what you’re looking for.

Here’s where you’ll see tags on your existing curated content in Scoop.it:

When you click on this tag icon, you can add or remove tags. If you want to add more than one, you can simply separate them with a comma:

As you build more and more tags into your Scoop.it topics, you’ll develop the habit of looking for the right piece of content in your topics by going straight to the filter icon at the top right corner of your Scoop.it topics.

When you click on it, you’ll see your list of tags straight away, along with a number of assigned tags in this topic. By clicking on a tag, you jump straight to those pieces of content, without having to type anything into the search bar:

You can also click on the Add tag list as first Scoop. By doing this, you can make searching through tags even easier because they’ll be prominently displayed at the top of your topic page.

All you need to do is add a title and pick a number of tags you want to display:

This is how it will be displayed based on what you selected:

This way, both you and your topic page visitors (employees and external audiences) can go straight to the specific subtopics they’re interested in right now.

Available to: All Scoop.it users, including those on the free plan

Topic groups: take topic navigation to the next level

So far, we’ve talked about tags as a way to get specific in organizing and sorting your curated content.

Scoop.it Enterprise users have an additional option to do that on a bigger scale: topic groups.

Here’s how topic groups look like as you visit your company’s Scoop.it dashboard and click on the three-line menu icon in the bar at the top:

As you can see, all of the already created topic groups are listed here in alphabetical order. In other words, getting to any of your topic groups is as easy as two clicks.

Clicking on a topic group opens this group-specific page. You can choose to view scoops, topics, or users that belong to this topic group, and even create a new topic from here:

To add, remove, or edit your topic groups, open the dropdown menu from the top right corner and select your company’s settings.

Then, click on the Topic Groups option on the left-hand side. You’ll see the list of existing topic groups where you can edit or delete them, or click Add Group to create a new topic group from scratch.

Finally, as you expand the topics of your content curation, you can decide for each one on the topic group it belongs to.

As you work on a specific topic, simply click the Topic settings button at the top bar, and select Topic Group on the left-hand side. You’ll then have the chance to add or remove a topic group for that topic:

You can add each topic to more than just one topic group, so you have all the flexibility you may need!

Available to: Scoop.it Enterprise users

Find the best content and your content gaps with tag search

The longer you curate content and the better you get with tagging it correctly right away, the faster you’ll search and find exactly what you’re looking for.

In earlier sections, you’ve already seen how tags and topic groups work. Here’s how you can make the most out of the search feature.

Simply type in your query at the search bar at the top of your company’s Scoop.it dashboard. You’ll see several suggestions, like public topics on your query from other users—great for inspiration.

At the bottom part of these suggestions, you’ll see a section called Tags within my company. If any tags match your query, this is where you’ll find them:

As you click on a tag, you’re taken to a ‘Search inside your company’ page. Here, you can view scoops tagged with the tag you searched for, as well as other relevant scoops, topics, and Scoop.it users.

From here, you can choose to scoop a piece of content just like you usually would, as well as share it on social media.

And if you notice that there’s a gap in your curated content and you haven’t found what you were looking for, it’s a sign that there is more quality content you can add to your topics—or create a new topic altogether.

Available to: Scoop.it Enterprise users

Make your personal Scoop.it home page easy to navigate

Finally, to make sure all of the content you’ve sorted is always easy to access and navigate, add a tag cloud to your private space home page.

To enable this, open the dropdown menu at the top right corner and select your company Scoop.it settings.

Then click Tag cloud in the menu on the left, tick the box to enable it, and enter the title and number of tags you want to view. When you’re done, save your settings.

Sort, edit, and organize your content with Scoop.it

No piece of content will ever get lost or forgotten again.

With the Scoop.it features we went over in this guide, you can organize a database of original and curated content in a way that works for all of your teams, regardless of the company size.

The option to go as specific or as broad as you want to with topics, topic groups, and tags lets you optimize your content workflow to your heart’s desire.

If this sounds like something that would make a positive impact on your work, make sure to get a free trial of Scoop.it or talk to us if you want a demo of Scoop.it Enterprise!

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