SEO Writing: Tips for Your Website & Blog

SEO-Writing

Ranking your website on google requires regular SEO writing and editing. 

Search engine optimization is an enormous industry with multiple specialties. Writing is just one of them.

In this article, I’ll go over what SEO writing means for your content and how to apply copywriting formulas that’ll create more meaningful interactions for users. I’ll also talk about some other things you should consider for a high Google ranking. 

SEO Writing Dates Quickly

Oh, did you see that flash? That’s all the technology of yesterday outpacing your sleep-wake cycle. 

Things evolve fast these days, especially in digital marketing. SEO writing is built around specific keywords and search behaviors that change more often than a teenager’s mood. 

Anything you wrote last year or before is probably outdated.

Updating your website and blog’s SEO writing is essential to improving your content’s performance. 

If you’re struggling to stay on track with marketing content, try creating a calendar in Google or Outlook, and use Excel to plan topics and keywords. 

Dos-and-donts-seo-writing

The Do’s and Don’ts of SEO Writing

What Not to Do with Your Content

SEO is divided into creative and technical sections. Creative includes things like SEO writing, image optimization, and developing multiple content types for the different parts of your sales funnel.

Technical SEO includes maximizing page load speed and ensuring the entire site is mobile friendly. There’s more to it than this, but speed and screen size adaptation are the most critical pieces.  

With commerce shifting to digital platforms, SEO is vital to your marketing plan. Search engines are brilliant, though, so here’s what not to do with your content in SEO writing:

I like focusing on what I should be doing, so let’s cover a few ways to optimize your SEO writing and maximize your content’s performance in Google.

What TO Do to Start SEO Writing

Whether you’re starting from scratch or overhauling an existing website, follow these steps to start ranking higher in Google.

Keywords should be well-researched and strategically placed. A few free keyword research tools include:

  • Your website’s Google Search Console
  • Google My Business Insights

Start with a one- or two-word primary keyword. Find medium-level competitive keywords in Google’s planner tool, and explore those further in search engines, on social media, and throughout your competitors’ websites.  

Use one primary keyword per page and post.  Create a long-tail keyword for every 500 words. Aim for a natural writing style while aiming for 0.5-1% keyword density for your primary and long-tail keywords.

Once you have a list of keywords and phrases you want to work with, it’s time to write!

Copywriting formulas for marketing content writing

Apply Copywriting Formulas to Your Website & Blog

Every company sells something. It makes sense to ensure your website’s pages and posts – even the strictly informational ones – have some copywriting to maximize online business performance.

Copywriting is the art of writing sales copy. It’s a skill set that requires a thorough review of the audience and a formulaic writing approach.

If you intend to sell something – a product, service, idea, promotion, or even yourself – copywriting convinces strangers to become customers and customers to become advocates. 

A couple of dozen copywriting formulas are available to help you enhance the visitor’s online experience and make you more memorable. I’ll show you my favorites below.

My Top 3 Favorite Copywriting Formulas

I start with one of these three copy formulas for web pages. Sometimes, they morph together on a single page, and other times I end up using an entirely different recipe.

Formulas help organize thoughts. Don’t be afraid to use them creatively. I encourage you to edit everything you write at least three times over two days before making it public!

Formula #1: FAB (Features, Advantages, and Benefits)

State the most prominent features that would interest your visitors.  Describe all the best advantages of those features.  Paint them a picture of how they’ll benefit from using your product or service.

Remember to include a call to action. Always ask the visitor to do something at the end of every page and post!

Formula #2: AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action)

This time-proven formula is everywhere. Use it a few times, and you’ll start recognizing it on your favorite websites and brands. 

  • Grab attention at the beginning.
  • Build on their interest
  • Create a desire
  • Inspire an action

Here’s an example from Moz:

Moz-AIDA-example SEO Writing

Formula #3: PAS (Problem, Agitate & Solve)

This one is quite popular and one of the easiest copywriting formulas to follow.    

  • Identify a problem or pain
  • Agitate the hell out of it!
  • Solve the problem.

As always, remember to ask them to do something at the end. “Call Today,” “Schedule Now,” “Add to Cart,” etc. 

Copywriting Formulas for Informational Pages and Posts

You may not think you need sales copy for informational pages posts. You’d be mostly right. You don’t need to sell anything on those pages, but you do need the flow of storytelling. That’s where the below formulas are useful.

If you get stuck on your informational pages and posts, start with one of these famous formulas to spark the creative fuse.

Formula 1: PASTOR

I start with PASTOR for blog posts, which include these six elements:

  1. Identify the person, problem, or pain point and capture attention.
  2. Amplify the problem or the consequences of not solving the problem and eliminating the pain. Do it dramatically.
  3. Create the story, solution, or system to solve the problem. Guide them to understanding.
  4. Offer testimonials or describe the transformation of the solution.
  5. Build an offer (spend most of your time in this section talking about the transformation above).
  6. Ask for a response or get them to act.

Formula #2: The 4 Ps

There are two versions:

  1. Picture, Promise, Prove and Push
  2. Problem, Promise, Proof, and Proposal

Both work well, depending on your topic. Experiment! See which one suits you best, or mix them up!

Formula #3: The 4 Cs

The 4 Cs help create a good topic flow by asking a few simple questions. 

  1. Is it clear?
  2. Is it concise?
  3. Is it compelling?
  4. Is it credible?

More Tips for Writing SEO Content

You’ve got your formulas, keywords, and I’m betting a few good ideas. Here are a few more tips for SEO writing:

Other Elements for a High Google Ranking

When optimizing your website for Google, there are a few other things to keep in mind:

  • Your website page load speed needs to be fast. If your pages take too long to load, they’ll go elsewhere. Test it on Google or Pingdom
  • Backlinks and a robust internal link profile can help you build authority.
  • Your website should have a responsive format so visitors can see it on multiple devices.
  • Offer visitors a safe and secure website with an active SSL certificate.
  • Verify your business information on directory listings to ensure there are no NAP issues. These issues arise when you have inconsistent contact and location information on different directors.
  • Social shares and signals indicate to Google your content is valuable.

SEO is a big project. Take one step at a time. Start with improving your content and checking your website’s health.

Marketing-Content-Brand-Consistency

Stay Ahead of Your SEO Writing

It’s kind of like when you make a resolution to go to the gym more often. You know you’ll need some help, so you enlist a friend or family member for support.

Receiving my monthly newsletter will help you learn new ways of communicating with your audience. Every month, I send out an email chock-full of helpful tips, learning materials, resources, and news about industry changes. Each issue includes topics like:

  • What’s New in Google – The Simple Version
  • Tips for Copywriting or Content Writing
  • New Ideas for Content Creation
  • Write This
  • Funny Day-in-the-Life Comic Series

My newsletters focus on providing you with useful information and tools that’ll make your marketing content writing tasks a bit easier.

Why Sign Up for ANOTHER Email?

It’s hard to justify adding your name to another email list when you hardly know me. My suggestion is the same as the advice I give myself: give it a shot! If you don’t like it, unsubscribe.

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3 Marketing Content Writing Tips You Shouldn’t Ignore

Marketing-Content-Writing-Tips

Crafting a well-worded email or business plan isn’t the same as writing marketing content for the web, social media, blogs, and ad copy. Here are two reasons why.

Reason #1:  People Internalize

We all see the world through a personal lens.  We find connections and relationships between new sensory data and what we know, or what we think we know. Then, we catalog it in one of those boxes we organize in our memories.

For example, Cool Water cologne brings fond memories of my childhood and hanging out with old friends. Sweet tea in a mason jar anywhere west of the Mississippi makes me nostalgic. 

The data I receive in each experience is new, but it’s categorized with things I already know, think, and feel.

Your customers are the same way. That’s why it’s important to write for them rather than for yourself and your business.

Reason #2:  We All Have Personal Bias, Especially with Money

We tend to be more biased about our products and services than others. For instance, as the seller, we want the highest price for our product or service. The buyer wants the lowest price for their desired quality. The middle ground is usually the fair market price/value. 

Most of us walk around thinking about our lives and what we need next to make it better or easier.

That gives you common ground for marketing content writing. You can better engage and attract a distracted audience if you remember that simple fact: they are looking for what’s in it for them. Focusing on them in communications will help your content performance in significant ways. 

But how can you do that? It’s not easy. It’ll take a lot of practice and research. If you’re DIY’ing your marketing content writing, here are three pieces of advice you shouldn’t ignore.

Copywriting formulas for marketing content writing

Tip #1:  Spend Some Time on Keyword Research, Headlines & Titles

Even if you’re not creating something for a search engine, you still want the company’s marketing content writing to reflect your customers’ interests and desires.

You can determine keywords by performing thorough research on platforms and websites like Google’s Keyword Planner, Google Trends, Answer the Public, Ubersuggest, and many others. 

I also like to use Google search autocomplete to see the most popular terms for common questions.

Marketing-Content-Google-Search

Check Google Search Console or Insights in your Google My Business profile to see what words people are using to find your website.  If you don’t have this yet, you’ll need to make some guesses until you have data to analyze.

When it comes to creating titles and headlines for pages or posts, follow simple copywriting formula rules. There are dozens. Some of my favorites are reviewed in Buffer’s article, 27 copywriting formulas.

Tip #2:  Grammar, Spelling, and Word Count Matter… A Lot

spellcheck-1292780Don’t bother writing pages or posts under 300 words these days. Google prefers at least 500 words of original content that’s formatted in a reader-friendly way. The longer the topic, the more relevant and helpful, the better.

Use a reliable spellchecker and grammar check. Don’t skip this part. Seriously. Nobody’s that good. However, a grammar checker isn’t going to do the editing for you. Edit your content at least three times over at least two days. You want to edit with fresh eyes. 

Grammarly is one of my favorite and most used tools. It helps catch those pesky typos and assists with rewording when necessary. They offer a free version, but if you’re doing a lot of marketing content writing, I’d recommend going for the pro version. 

My advice is to take a good look at your writing. Is it hard to follow? Full of errors? Is it made of one big paragraph? Ask friends and family for candid opinions.

If you’re not getting results or aren’t a great content writer, it’s time to consider hiring a reliable, long-term marketing content writing specialist.   

Marketing content writing is a specialty in the complex industry of communications. If this doesn’t convince you of the importance of good writing, here are some stats:

  • Three-quarters (74%) of online consumers look at your grammar, sentence structure, and spelling.
  • More than half (59%) will not do business with a company with many spelling and grammar mistakes in their copy.
  • Visitors will only read about 20% of your content, so make sure it’s a good story with plenty of arrows pointing to a call to action.
  • Most visitors read in an F-shaped pattern, which means they won’t even see a lot of your copy unless it’s engaging.
Marketing-Content-Brand-Consistency

Tip #3: Build Brand Awareness with Professional Marketing Content Writing

Writing website copy, ad materials, social media posts, and blogs should never be taken lightly. These are your brand’s personality and character. They’re the things people talk about when they think you’re not paying attention. 

Brand messaging is the key to consistency in your communications. It’s the part of marketing content writing that’s highly specialized and performed by creative artists who closely watch search behaviors.

Brand consistency includes things like:

  • Appropriate use of brand elements, such as logo, colors, and fonts
  • Predictable tone of voice
  • A regular point of view
  • Company values and social responsibility
  • Imagery that defines the business, tells a story, and is easily identifiable
  • Relevant, timely, and motivational calls to action
    • Stick with one direct call to action, like “shop now,” “schedule appointment,” or “buy today.”
    • All other calls to action, like “sign up for our newsletter” and “download this guide,” are transitional calls to action and just as important to your sales funnel.

Those are the obvious branding elements.  Some of the not-so-obvious ones include:

  • Image positioning and angles
  • Line spacing
  • Page formats
  • Shapes and icons
  • Quote/call-out fonts and layout

Everything matters when it comes to writing marketing content. I’ve seen small startups tank their business’ reputation because of poor writing and shabby digital communications. I’ve watched medium-sized companies over a decade old lose loyal customers because of disjointed messaging. 

In a world full of other people who offer the same thing as you, marketing content writing and branding is where you stand out. Don’t take that lightly.  

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3 Easy Ways to Improve Content Performance

Improve Content Performance

So, you have a website somewhere on the internet, but it’s not really doing a lot for you, and you know you need to improve content performance on the beast.  You’re not getting any leads, and traffic isn’t growing either.

If your website is a big ‘ol nuisance on your radar, and you’re not sure what to do about it, you’ve come to the right place.

Here’s the thing. If you have an active business, you need a website. Google and social media are where most consumers begin and end their buying journey. 

From initial research to online ordering and product reviews, digital commerce isn’t just about transacting with money online. It’s about connection, communication, and building virtual relationships.

Rather than scrapping the idea of doing some real digital marketing, try these three things to improve content performance on your website. There are many ways to improve this part of your digital storefront; however, I’m all about small steps, so the buck doesn’t stop here.

Check out the bottom of this article for more references and tools!

The Basics of Google’s Updates

Oh, Google.  The ubiquitous “they” in day-to-day conversation.  So big and mighty is Google that their algorithms can sniff out a lousy website like a veteran canine officer. 

The most recent Core update (Dec. 2020) is a tricky one and seems to have caused many losses at first, with many industries starting to see gains toward standard traffic momentum. 

Here’s what you need to know and do to keep up with the last year’s updates on Google:

For more information about content requirements for optimal rankings in Google, check out this article.

Here are three things you can do to improve content performance and boost rankings on your website. 

#1:  Re-evaluate Your Website Keywords to Improve Content Performance

Keywords change as often as the algorithms that index your searches like a digital library.  Search behaviors change like a teenager’s mood, so the keyword you used a few months ago may no longer be relevant. 

Take a deep dive into your top keywords. Don’t worry about using tools other than Google for this just yet. Use tools like Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends to help you figure out which keywords are better suited for your industry and topic. 

You can also check your Google Search Console performance area for common queries over the last 3-6 months. It’ll give you a good idea of what people are typing or saying into Google to find you. 

You may also find this information in your Google My Business Insights.

KEYWORD TIP

Aim for medium competitive words with more than 100 average searches per month. Don’t try to rank for the most competitive keywords! Choose one focus keyword (1-2 words) and a couple of long-tail keywords (4-6 words).

PAGE TIP

Use a different keyword for every page and post. Don’t cannibalize (overuse) the keywords, or Google will ding you for it.

#2:  Refresh, Reformat, and Reimagine Your Content

To improve content performance, you’re probably going to need to reimagine things a bit.  If it’s not performing well, then it’s likely not written in a way that attracts visitors or encourages them to continue scrolling. 

Make sure you’re focused on the customer, not your business, product, service, or yourself.  Remember, it’s not about you. It’s about them and what you can do for them.  Everyone is walking around this planet with the same thought: “what’s in it for me?”

Address the main problem you solve.  Explain, briefly, why what you can do is better than what your competitor can do. 

Start with one page, such as home or contact, to test different ways to improve content performance on that page. What do you want it to do?  Should it inform? Entertain? Lead into a form? Sell a product?

Trust me; you’re going to want a great writer for this project.  Repurposing content sounds easy, but it’s a difficult job that requires a unique skill set, especially when you want to rank in Google. 

Difference Between Copywriting and Content Writing

How do you know if you need a content writer or a copywriter?

Click here to discover the difference between the two.

#3:  Use an SEO Plugin to Improve Your Website Content

To help give search engine juice to your content, add a plugin like All-in-One SEO, a multidimensional SEO tool for small businesses. With more than 2,000,000 downloads, the AIOSEO toolkit is both easy to use and incredibly powerful.

An SEO assistant tool will make optimizing pages and posts quick and streamlined.  It’s one of the easiest ways to improve content performance. Some other options include Yoast and Rank Math.

These plugins are mainly built for WordPress because that’s what I use. Here, I mean wordpress.org, not wordpress.com.

WordPress is one of the fastest-growing CMS platforms in the world, and with good reason. It’s magic on SEO, and it’s totally open source, which means nobody is going to own your website but you.

Need some help with WordPress?

Check out my partner’s website to see if he's the kind of talent you need to help.

Additional Resources

3 Must-Haves in Your Content Marketing Plan

Content-marketing-plan

A content marketing plan is one of the most cost-effective ways to help potential customers find your website. But that’s only half the battle. Once you get them there, you need to provide high-quality, relevant information that answers their questions and keeps them engaged.

What is Content Marketing?

It’s the behind-the-scenes script.  A content marketing plan is a strategic approach for providing valuable, reader-friendly information to a targeted audience who’s expecting something from you. Generally, you’ll include at least a general timeline as well, such as “post to blog once a week” or “post 20 times to social per month.”

When you’re building your content marketing plan, make room for brainstorming topics to find fresh, compelling material that keeps people coming back to your website and spending more time on each visit.

Returning Visitors Google Analytics Content Marketing Plan
A content marketing plan and SEO campaign helped boost these results for a local restaurant in the middle of a pandemic. That’s how I roll.

With Google changing their algorithm to be more logical and content centered, this kind of plan is what every marketer and business owner should be focusing on as we adjust to the new requirements from the world’s largest search engine. 

Why Implement a Content Marketing Plan?

Implementing a content marketing plan helps businesses:

It’s Time to Focus on Content.

Content is King. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. However, there’s some fine print to our creative king – it’s not about pumping out content that’s so dense with keywords you could cut it with a knife. It’s not even about posting random content.

It’s about recognizing, honoring, and respecting the Queen of organization and nurturing as well. The two must work together to run a prosperous realm (business).

Remember, people turn to Google for information. Google’s goal is to provide the freshest and most applicable answers to its users’ questions. If you publish relevant, accurate content, then Google will notice and award you with higher organic search engine results.

Also, keep in mind that high-quality and compelling content is more likely to be shared. Google will share your content to their contacts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Instagram, and other popular social networking platforms.

The 3 Things Every Content Marketing Plan Needs

You can’t get onto a stage without a microphone. Websites, blogs, social pages, industry directories, news outlets, and SEO tasks all play significant roles in broadcasting your content marketing plan. These will be your channels and tools of communication. 

Once you have your list of tools and channels, add these next three pieces to your content marketing plan to get started. You don’t have to do everything all at once. Small steps are okay!

#1  Make a Calendar with Different Content Types

Everything is content, so consider the following types to include in your content marketing plan:

I’ll review how to write each one of these using simple formulas and tools in later posts. 

For now, start with what you know.  Pick one or two content types you can do. It’s a good idea to get a feel for the content projects before hiring out for them.

Regardless of the types you choose, the writing and design need to be thoughtful, relevant, free of errors, easy to read, helpful, and entertaining.

For content calendars, I use either Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, or Google Calendar. For some clients, I’ve had to use all three. Keep yours simple. Use Google to your advantage to find free templates that’ll help you get the ball rolling.

#2  Perform Market & Audience Research

You won’t do very well developing targeted content for your customers if you don’t know who they are, what they want, and or they spend their time online.  Identify your target audience by using data you already have, data from your competitors, or general research data. 

Understanding your buyer should be a top priority before attempting to implement a content marketing plan.

In defining your audience, be sure to explain their problem or desire for which you have a solution.  Make your offer clear, followed by the reason why you’re offering this product or service.  

Important Reminder

You are not the customer. Your audience may be different from what you expected, so make no assumptions. Keep an eye on your sales and most profitable leads. Who’s buying from you? Be ready to modify this audience regularly. They change their behaviors and attitudes as often as a teenager.

Clarify who your service is for, and be as specific as possible. For example, my primary audience is entrepreneurs and small businesses. That’s pretty broad, so I break that down further to marketing managers and those looking for some DIY support.

Mostly, the people I talk to have a product or service they can and are willing to sell online. 

How am I doing? 😊

Finally, research your competition. What types of content are they publishing and where? Are they running ads? SpyFu is a great tool that can help you with this part of the research.   

#3  Use an SEO Plugin

I use WordPress, so all my plugin suggestions have been tested only on that platform. WordPress is the #1 CMS in the world and the fastest-growing. Note, I’m referring to wordpress.org not wordpress.com. The difference is between renting and owning your website.

SEO writing is the Golden Snitch of digital marketing. Catch it, and you’ll likely win the game. Search engine optimization is a core element to any successful content marketing plan. A plugin and online platforms can help make this process simpler and more efficient.

A few of my favorite WordPress SEO plugins include:

Getting started is always the hardest part. Your content marketing plan doesn’t need to be an enormous, exhaustive document. Just include the basics:

  • Who’s the audience?
  • What do they want?
  • What do you offer?
  • How will you sell it to them?
  • How will you promote it to them?

Refer back to your plan regularly and adjust it as needed.

As always, if you get stuck, reach out! I have more than a decade of experience writing digital and traditional marketing and sales content.  Together, we’ll find a way to communicate with your audience.

The Difference Between Copywriting and Content Writing

Difference Between Copywriting and Content Writing

If you’ve ever found yourself staring at a menacingly blank screen, you know that writing is tough. It’s not about whipping up a good email to a coworker or posting to social media. Writing for business, especially marketing, requires a few special skills.  First, we need to describe the difference between copywriting and content writing.

Over the last ten years, I’ve seen many people confuse the two terms, especially in the freelance world of small business. Knowing the difference between the two will save you hours of frustration and hundreds of dollars. The goal is to help you avoid paying for writing services that aren’t fit for your goals.  Before you hire a writer of any type, it would be a good idea to make sure they can do the kind of writing you need. 

It’s All About Your Intent

What needs to be written? Websites can be informational, sales-driven, or meant to generate leads.  Further, each page can have its purpose and KPIs.  Blog posts are generally informative, but there should always be a point to them. All your posts should be connected to a campaign built around a goal, such as getting more email signups or free sample requests. 

If you intend to sell, you will want to use copywriting formulas designed, tested, and proven to bring results. 

If you intend to inform, educate, entertain, or delight, you’re looking for content writing.  This skill does not require any unique formulas, except the one your writer uses to stir up those creative juices. 

What Skills Are Required for Copywriting?

When looking to hire a writer, first determine intent. It’s always a good idea to look for a versatile writer – someone who knows the difference between content creation and copywriting (Ah-hem – hello there, friend; that would be someone like me). Most businesses do best with a great copywriter, who is generally well-rounded in all kinds of writing.  These are the talented folks who write your:

  • Advertisements
  • Landing pages
  • Campaign emails and texts
  • Sales materials

Skills needed to do this job well are distinctive, and they include:

  • Empathy to write for people you’ve never met to get them to act
  • An understanding of the formulas that work, and an ability to determine which are best for each project
  • Attention to detail because the wrong phrase can tank your reputation
  • Organization because there are a lot of marketing pieces in any given campaign
  • Excellent research skills
  • An ability to think outside the box

What Skills Are Required for Content Writing?

Content writing is a bit different. There’s a lot of pressure involved with writing sales copy, whereas the strains are less pronounced in materials that aren’t directly related to a return on investment.  For example, we won’t convert anyone from the About page, but we can keep them there for a while and guide them to the funnel’s next page, such as a product landing page.  Content writers usually write materials like:

  • Blog posts
  • Infographics
  • Informational web pages
  • Social posts (not ads!)
  • General newsletters
  • Documents, policies, and articles

In essence, the difference between copywriting and content writing can be summed up in one word: Intent.  If you intend to sell or provoke an action, you need copywriting. If you’re looking to inform or delight, you’ll want content writing. 

Need Writing Help?

Websites, infographics, blogs, social, eBooks, eLearning content, and much more!

20 Things to Know BEFORE You Hire a Copywriter

before you hire a copywriter

How do you know you’ll get quality work when you hire a copywriter from the freelance community? 

One thing I’ve noticed in my 10+ years as a professional writer is there’s a lot of confusion about my industry. I’ve been working as a full-time freelancer since 2014, and it appears copywriters have popped up on every corner. It’s like walking through a crowded market where people scream out, “BUY FROM ME! THIS IS THE BEST PRODUCT AROUND! THE CHEAPEST IN THE WORLD!”

It’s a madhouse in the freelance writing world. Hiring a copywriter shouldn’t make you feel like you need to hire a bodyguard. You shouldn’t feel the need to chain your wallet or doubt yourself. There are good people out there who offer fair prices for this work, so here are 20 things you should know BEFORE you hire a copywriter. It’ll help you find one who’s worth every penny:

1. Know the difference between copywriting, content writing, and blogging.

Copywriters use the science of selling and storytelling frameworks to generate leads and sales. The primary goal of blogging and content writing is to inform, engage, and delight the audience.

hire a copywriter goals

2)  Be specific about your needs.

Do you need to sell or inform? Do you need to get a sale or a lead, more social engagement, or more foot traffic? Do you need to scale or maintain your level of revenue growth? Try creating a SMART goal using the formula below. Once you know this, you can narrow down what you need to hire a copywriter.

Goal Formula: To so that <who/what?> will <increase/decrease this much> by as measured by .

Example Goal: To increase traffic to my e-commerce website so that sales will increase by 30% by Dec. 31, as measured by the number of online purchases from Jan. 1 – Dec. 31.

You’d Need: SEO content writing for social media, website, and blog; copywriting for ads, promotional materials, email campaigns, and landing pages. They are NOT the same skill set, though equally important.

3.  Consider the skill levels of your copywriter.

If you don’t know anything about what you need or how to go about reaching that SMART goal, aim for someone with an advanced, versatile skill set; however, someone who is totally familiar with the topic could hire an entry-level writer.

4.  Create a reasonable budget.

Please stop asking U.S.-based copywriters and content writers to work for pennies. That kind of budget will attract bottom feeders and foreign imposters. That sounds like paranoia, but you’d be surprised. Professional writers don’t just tell stories to sell and entertain; they become a part of the saga. We meet your customer, the hero, where they are in the plot, and guide them through to sale, ease them into loyalty, and offer new scenarios and adventures down the road.

Remember, you get what you pay for, so if you’re looking to spend less than $50/hour, you risk hiring a copywriter who may not be committed to the profession. A bad writer can cost you a lot of money in the long run. Businesses spend more than $3 billion on remedial writing training every year because a third of the workforce are poor writers.

5.  Ask for the best quote.

If you’re shopping around and asking for quotes, expect the numbers to be all over the board. Instead, try asking for their best quote on your project. Provide them with a budget range of what you think it would cost. If you allow the pro to gauge and guide the project in this way, you’ll not only get a fair price, but you’ll also see the copywriter’s project management skills and industry knowledge.

6.  Consider offering the potential for partnership.

Freelance copywriters are always looking for long-term clients. Not only is the work more profitable, but it also helps your sales. Customers want to engage with a consistent message and style from a brand or company they can trust.

7.  Ask for examples or a portfolio to review.

This one is a given but see No. 8.

8.  Don’t focus too much on your copywriter having experience in your niche.

A predominant trait of a pro writer is someone who can write about anything that can be personally experienced, observed, or researched. What matters is their passion for your product or service and their desire to succeed.

Versatile copywriter on social media

9.  Look for versatile writers with experience in several industries and styles.

Someone who calls themselves a copywriter but only writes blog posts will be of little use to you if you need copy that sells.

10.  Copywriting is a science.

If the copywriter you want to hire can’t explain this concept to you in 3-5 sentences, they’re not someone you want to hire. Here’s my explanation in one sentence: Copywriting uses data and people analytics, buying behaviors, and market research to target keywords and messaging that inspires a specific action.

11.  Look for avid and passionate readers and storytellers.

We know how to structure a message so that it tells a relatable story. Think of a copywriter as the person who writes the synopsis for a book. By using unique storytelling frameworks developed by some of the greatest experts in history, copywriters can place your customer as the hero and help them see the value in buying from you.

12.  Do a discovery project before you hire a copywriter for a long-term partnership.

Choose 2-3 small projects or one big project to determine if this writer is what you need. Most freelancers are (or should be) happy to oblige.

13.  Make sure you have a realistic timeline.

If you need a 25-page sales letter, then you’ll need to expect a few days and a round or two of edits. If you need something shorter, like a digital ad campaign and landing page, then the copywriter will need just a few hours. Ask them to provide approximate turnaround time when you request their best quote!

14.  Consider the medium when creating your writing projects.

Social posts shouldn’t be written like a social ad, and website pages shouldn’t be written like a blog.

15.  Some people like to ask for references.

I don’t usually get this request, but I’m always happy to give them; however, I believe reference checks are a colossal waste of time. The real tells are in the discovery project.

16.  Don’t work on a handshake.

Get your project, deliverables, cost, and agreement in writing. Make sure you have a contract that says the materials belong to you to do with as you please.

17.  Provide a reasonable amount of info for them to do their job.

Don’t overload the copywriter or content writer with dozens of documents. Unless the project is large and you’ve agreed to compensate the writer for those hours of research, don’t bog them down with all your research data. Give them an abstract of your findings.

Hiring a freelance copywriter

18.  Writing isn’t easy.

Expect a round or two of edits and be kind to your writer. We’re proud creatures who love the art of using words to sell, engage and entertain. We’re good at it, too. We wouldn’t presume to walk into your business and tell you what you were doing wrong, so we would all appreciate that kindness in return.

19.  Be sure to do your due diligence.

Research the platform and copywriter. Google his or her name and search for what other people are paying for similar services. Google is a vast resource; use it to your advantage.

20.  Give your writer what they need and get out of their way.

Copywriters and content specialists thrive on autonomy and are incredibly self-sufficient. Don’t make them spend too much time on calls and emails, and don’t make them hunt you down to answer questions. Time is money. Be precise and let them get to work.

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when you go to hire a copywriter. If you like the way I wrote that and want to see more of my work, please click around. Otherwise, would you like to talk about your project?  Get in touch!

3 Tips to Enhance Your Content

Enhance your content marketing

Trying to stand out online is like standing in a crowd at a concert and screaming your friend’s name, and she’s 100 yards away, watching the main noisemakers on the stage. She can’t hear you. She’s not even looking in your direction.  And if she were, she’d probably see the bigger people around you first.

My point is that standing out is hard.  The internet is a saturated marketplace with a whole lot of noise, a lot more chaos, and a heavy-handed dash of capitalist ambition. It’s noisy, and most businesses are only adding to the noise rather than creating a bit of quiet.

No, I don’t mean going dark and ghosting your digital audience. I mean creating a moment of quiet from your audience. Getting them to stop in their scrolling, clicking, flipping, and tossing to engage with your video, post, blog, website, email or advertisement is the goal. That’s the pivotal moment. Will they or won’t they become a paying customer? What will make them click?

It’s in the way you connect, which is to say, your story. Not the “who we are” kind of story, but the “we’ve got your back, and here’s why” kind of story.

In this post, I’ll outline three ways you can spruce up your content to create that moment of quiet for your customer so they can make a split-second decision to trust you.

Tip 1: Determine the Problems You Solve

Make a list of 1-5 main problems you solve for your customers, and then make a point of talking about them to everyone, think about them regularly, and constantly work toward solving these problems. Go to bat for your customers against an obvious villain! They’ll thank you for it with their business.

Here are the problems we help our customers solve:

  1. Being left behind by the growth of digital marketing and the overwhelming noise online.
  2. Struggling to keep up with the competition online.
  3. Unable to commit the time to content.
  4. Not enough staff to help with content.
  5. No marketing budget.

That last one is actually a misnomer; every business has a marketing budget, or they wouldn’t be a business at all.

Tip 2:  Write Out How IT Happens

“It” being your customer’s purchasing journey. What steps do they need to take to buy from you? Creating these steps is a practical exercise, and not so much a creative one. Your purchasing process should be no fewer than three steps, and no more than six. Here’s an example:

The Your Imprint Customer Journey:

  1. Visit my site, blog and social pages
  2. Schedule a 15-minute consult.
  3. Get a custom quote with a scope of work.
  4. Sign the Services Agreement and other needed paperwork like a BA or NDA.
  5. Have a discovery meeting with us (jokingly called “The Data Dump”).
  6. Pay invoice after work is completed.

Yours may be much simpler, like:

  1. Visit store
  2. Purchase items
  3. Refer a friend for a free gift

Once you have the steps they can take, you’ll want to make sure those steps are easy to follow through your website. For example, if your main call to action is “Buy Now,” that needs to be a huge, bright button in the top right corner of your site. It should also be a button all over the website to make it easier for customers to buy no matter where they are on your website.

Tip 3: Create a Funnel

It’s much easier than most people make it sound.  I really like this picture from Bias Digital because it lays out the kind of content used in each part of the funnel.

3 Tips to Improve your Content Marketing
Image by Bias Digital.

Here’s how ours is set up to help you on your way to creating an airtight funnel: 

Visitors comes into the funnel by organic search, referrals, social media, or they go directly to our website. They get here with content to look at more content. That’s a good sign. At the top of the funnel, we build trust. We prove ourselves by:

  • Having a fast, user-friendly website that looks good
  • Writing content that is relatable to the audience
  • Making it clear what we want them to do (schedule a consult!)
  • Make it easy and convenient for them to buy (pay after we perform!)

In the middle part of the funnel, people aren’t usually ready to buy just yet. They’re thinking about us, though. They come back to the website a few more times, follow us on social, or sign up for our newsletter. In this part of the funnel, we create content for:

  • Email deals at the end of the newsletter
  • Social media giveaways
  • Polls and surveys to engage them with our services
  • Special printing deals

The bottom of the funnel is for sales. These are paying customers who deserve and expect to be honored by their favorite brands. Content here is focused on:

  • Delighting them with extra special offers and sneak peeks
  • Loyalty program/subscription
  • Regular gifting
  • Upsells

So, now you know what the customer needs from you because you solve a specific problem they’re having. You’ve created a clearly defined process to communicate with your audience on how they can buy from you, and you’ve made a funnel that will help you create content and keep up with the fast pace of digital marketing.

My article today is a broad brushstroke of how to boost your content to stand out. Stay tuned for more tips and helpful tools on distributing your content and broadcasting your message. Keep Learning by signing up for my company’s Content Marketing Newsletter (Your Imprint)!

Content Marketing and Your Budget: Here’s What to Expect

content marketing budget

We all want to know: how much does it cost? 

That’s usually the first question I have whenever I’m shopping around for a service or product.  Most of us are thrifty buyers, and we’re looking for someone or something who can help us solve a problem we’re having.

Because of that, I don’t give two hoots about you and your story.  I’m a buyer, and I need something.  Lead, follow, or get out of my way.  Stop throwing how great you are down my throat! 

Businesses are adding too much extra noise to our digital world, and I’ve made it a goal to find more ways to help more businesses make better content marketing choices and stop contributing to the noise. 

That goal usually starts with the right price.  Most agencies and freelancers will NOT put their price on their website or anywhere in public.  We don’t have what would be considered “standard pricing” either.  There are a few reasons for this:

1.      There’s no telling what you need or want in a content marketing plan.  Once we have an idea of what you’re trying to do and the timeline for your goals, we’ll be able to tell you how much time and effort it’ll take us to help you. 

2.      There’s a bit of a price tag because of the time and materials required to perform the work.  Further, the industry is highly competitive, and certain competitors will do a half-assed job for you at half the price.  We’re not going to help them prey on you.  It’ll end up costing you more in the long run.

3.      Would you hire an employee without meeting them first?  Probably not.  And you shouldn’t hire a marketing consultant without meeting them first.  I act as an extension to your team, and I want to meet you before we do anything.  I don’t do hard sales – that defeats the purpose of my goal to minimize irrelevant noise and build B2B partnerships. 

What should you expect in terms of content marketing costs?

If someone is offering content marketing for under $1,000/mo, you should be wary.  Here’s why:

  • Unless they’re working for minimum wage, it’ll be difficult to create and implement a content strategy on that budget. 
  • The best people in the industry who can use content marketing to grow your business start in around $80/hour and can go up to $250/hour.
  • Expect a good content marketer to need a minimum of 20 hours per month to do this work. 

I’ve been in the content marketing niche for more than a decade, and I’m still surprised by the drastic differences in prices from freelancers and agencies.  It’s important to know what to expect.  Never hesitate to ask questions of someone trying to sell you marketing services.  Here are a few questions to consider:

  1. How will you track my return on investment? 
  2. Who will be responsible for what? 
  3. Who owns all the assets?
  4. Are there long-term or short-term contracts?

Helpful Tips

When looking for content marketing support, keep the following in mind: 

  • Small and medium businesses can benefit from a small, yet powerful content marketing team with a diverse skill set.  Don’t overspend at bigger agencies where you’re paying for skills you may not need, and don’t under-spend by hiring a single freelancer without the appropriate skill set.
  • Outsourcing is usually better than bringing someone in-house because you don’t have to worry about management, spacing, or overhead. 
  • Don’t try to put the tasks on a current employee.  Content marketing is a skilled trade, and one of the biggest, glaring holes in small and medium business marketing plans is a lack of qualified talent. 
    • For example, your secretary or cashier may know how to use social media, but she is not a social media expert who sells online. 

Reality Check

Respect your brand, respect your customers, and respect the industry.  Don’t insult your customers with cheap marketing ploys and ugly branding efforts.  They notice.  Marketing should be all about giving customers what they want and need in a way that benefits your business.

If you don’t know what that means, I’ll put it another way – if you have someone who has never been formally trained in the marketing industry in some way, you are cutting corners, your audience can see that, and they respond by giving their business to someone else and forgetting all about you. 

Let’s talk more.