SEO Copywriting Guidelines 2017

seo guidelines in 2017

Today I want to take some time to talk about something that’s important, geeky, and occasionally quite an esoteric subject:

How to make sure your blog or website is getting some lovin' from Google, that monolithic digital god that no one seems to quite fully understand.

SEO is not something I’d ever bring up at a party, but if you’re a blogger looking for SEO tips to get on Google’s radar, this post is for you. It should hopefully answer some pertinent questions, and help you write content that improves all of your conversion goals, and hopefully the lives of your readers, too. Not to mention, help see your Google rankings slowly yet steadily climb.

 

Once upon a time, I used to work as a content writer for a big company. As big companies outsource a lot of their marketing efforts, they hired an external SEO company to take care of their rankings.

But there are good SEO companies, and not so great SEO companies. We had the pleasure of working with the latter, who hired sub-par ESL writers to create our content.

And it was my job to edit it, and to try to make keyword search terms compatible with basic grammar.

You see, I understood that this company wanted to rank #1 for certain keyword terms, but what I didn’t understand was why we needed to forego the basic rules of English in order to do so. Which is exactly what we were doing! Producing very unfriendly content that wasn’t likely to get click-throughs.

The reason? Keyword targeting. The SEO company wanted to scatter keywords throughout the copy, without caring if a person was actually reading it. So there we were, under the guidance of a so-called SEO expert, who was shepharding the way into black hat SEO territory.

It sounds fairly ludicrous, right? And it was. But…it worked. For a time, anyway.

Today in 2017, it’s unlikely such tactics would deliver those kinds of results.

 

Which begs the question – do you need to focus so hard on SEO keyword research and keyword density when writing for your blog? Can you just wax on poetically about beautiful things and leave the geeky stuff to the geeks?

 

Let’s say you have a blog about how to make money writing ebooks. How do you begin to see some actual traffic come through Google? Do you keep writing ‘make money writing ebooks’ everywhere on your website, or actually focus on topics like the pros and cons of InDesign, or how to find a great graphic designer? Do you just upload content and then hit publish, share a bit on social media, and then expect armies of customers to hurl their wallets at you?

If you’re reading this post, I’m going to take a stab in the dark and assume you know what SEO keyword research is. You’ve used Google’s Keyword Planner Tool before, and maybe Uber Suggest as well. You also have Google Analytics set up, and you have tabs on your monthly traffic and acquisition. But you’re not seeing much traction on your blog. What are your next steps?

 

SEO content writing guidelines 2017: it starts with value

Create shareable content

This sounds like a tired, old, cliche. After all, what is shareable content?

Beyond cute animals and Instagram bikini bodies, there is much more to the internet of interesting things.

Scientists from the University of Pennsylvania published the results of hundreds of studies which examined what makes content go viral. They came up with 6 attributes:

Utility - useful and practical how-to posts.

Length - longer articles elicit a feeling awe and make people want to share.

Memorable - most content online is forgettable. Interesting concepts, creating proprietary techniques and custom visuals are far more memorable that stock-standard listicles and stock photography.

Social currency - in 1986, psychologists Hazel Markus and Paula Nurius recognised that there's conflict between our “now self” and our “possible self.” We're more likely to want to share a positive article which portrays the ideal version of ourselves. If we share a funny article, we're demonstrating our humour as an extension of the share. 

As the authors themselves so eloquently note:

Possible selves contribute to the fluidity or malleability of the self because they are differentially activated by the social situation and determine the nature of the working self-concept. At the same time, the individual’s hopes and fears, goals and threats, and the cognitive structures that carry the are defining features of the self-concept: these features provide some of the most compelling evidence of continuity of identity across time.

Positive emotions - Matthew Lieberman, a UCLA professor of psychology and of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences and author of the book Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect, noted:

Our study suggests that people are regularly attuned to how the things they’re seeing will be useful and interesting, not just to themselves, but also to other people. We always seem to be on the lookout for who else will find this helpful, amusing or interesting, and our brain data are showing evidence of that.

Storytelling - Named by Forbes as the 'Biggest Business Skills of the Next 5 Years' storytelling is an art form that serves as memory glue. By telling a story, we create emotional resonance with our audience. This emotional resonance makes ideas and concepts far easier to understand, remember and engage with.

 

By using a combination or just one of these attributes, you're more likely to create content that gets shared online. And more shares = more authority = more Google love.

Once upon a time, you might have persuaded Google to rank your blog posts highly using a smattering of keywords in your SEO title, your meta description and your actual copy. But Google is smarter these days, and with recent changes to its algorithm – which goes by the insanely cute name ‘Panda’ – Google knows if you don’t give a crap about your audience.

Here’s a fun fact: Google is beginning to teach itself how to learn. And without getting too into the technical side of things, Google knows exactly how people are using your website.

From the SEO gurus at Moz:

You no longer need an exact keyword to offer a relevant search result, says Cyrus Shepard, director of audience development at Moz. “In the old days, it was about getting the click. Now search engines are seeing how people are interacting with your website: are they going back and clicking on results, or are they finding the answers they’re looking for when they’re on your site? Today it’s about the post-click activity. Not only do you have to get the clicks, but you have to satisfy user intent.

Show you care about your end user and provide them with value, and write with them in mind, always. Are you answering a hard question your audience has been asking? Are you writing in a way that is engaging and informative? Does your post have utility? Is it memorable? Keep in mind that if you’re not creating quality posts for your audience to enjoy and share, they’ll likely click away and go elsewhere.

 

It’s about SEO-soning with keywords, not keyword stuffing

I once had a client who insisted on inserting his grammatically incorrect keywords into his SEO title, his h1 tags and all throughout his body copy. Nothing read nicely, and his titles –arguably the most important part of his page! – weren’t grabbing anyone’s attention.

Needless to say, I advised against.

He didn’t listen.

No offence to him, but I still can’t see him on Google’s first page for those search terms.

Why? Because Google’s smart enough to understand context and semantics. It knows that if you type ‘best camera for beginners’ that you’re looking for a basic entry-level DSLR, so it’s going to show you those results, even if those pages don’t use the exact terms you searched for. See for yourself:

SEO-EXAMPLE

 

Create for mobile-first

If your blog or website isn't easy to read, you'll increase your bounce rate and decrease the time people spend on your website. When this happens, Google thinks "God, this one's a stinker. Down you go!" and swiftly pushes your website down the ladder.

As champion SEO authority MOZ says: 

Google is steadily moving to a mobile-only world. Mobile-first indexing seems like the inevitable consequence of a year (or more) almost exclusively dedicated to evangelizing and forcing a change of mindset from desktop to mobile.

If you have Google Analytics set up, you should have a good idea of how many people are viewing your blog or website on their mobile. For my website, I only have 27% of my readers viewing it on their mobiles (up from 12% in 2016). But every website is different, and if you have a blog that you promote on social media, it’s going to want to look pretty on anything from an iPhone 5 to a Samsung Galaxy. And, depending on your resources and traffic, it might even be a good idea to create custom mobile content.

Because I don't get a lot of traffic from mobile, I choose not to create custom mobile content (although my website is responsive and will display differently depending what device you're using). But if you're getting more than 30% of your traffic from mobile, I would create a custom mobile website, particularly if you have an e-commerce website.

Why? Because the way people read and consume media on mobile is different to desktop. Granted, there are a select few who still enjoy reading long-form journalism, and I can include myself in that group. But generally speaking, people have absolutely no time for navigating a sea of poor design. They want things to be simple, and they don't want to get RSI from scrolling. So in short, your blog or website needs to cleaner, sharper, shorter and easier for them to click on things. 

I personally use Squarespace, which has this responsiveness built in, and I recommend Instapage for landing pages.

In the example below, I've used a landing page I created for my ebook using Instapage.

As you can see, the mobile version only asks for an email, while the desktop asks for a name and an email.

landing-page-example

 

For Le Rose, an online boutique that makes bridal robes, I focused on a mobile-first approach by using bold statements as headings, and keeping sentences and paragraphs brief.

seo copywriting guidelines for 2017 - mobile first!

How to optimise for people glued to their phones:

  • Front load content by placing the most important information above the fold.
  • Keep sentences short and succinct. Two lines per sentence is best, and get to the point quickly.
  • Make everything scannable with headings and short paragraphs. 
  • Use bullet points. 
  • Choose your Calls-to-Action carefully. Mobile use has sky-rocketed over the past few years, but there’s still a large number of users who take a cross platform approach. This means that they might visit your website on a lunch break, get the information they want, and then make up their mind when they're back at their desktop computer. You might want to take it easy on the hard sell with your mobile website, but check your Google Analytics first to see how your mobile conversions fare.

 

Give your old-school blog posts a makeover

Do you ever look back at posts you wrote a few years ago and immediately want to drown your embarrassment in a bottle of Pinot? I know I do. There are a few things I could do with scrapping completely, but for the rest, a revamp is in order! And more Pinot, obviously.

Go through your old blog posts and pick what could do with a style session.  Some of that content might still be performing well, but all it needs is a bit of an update to bring it into 2017.

Ask yourself:  Is it relevant? Does it conform to 2017 web standards? Are there a bunch of dead links in here? Can I refresh it without butchering it?

You likely won’t need to create new URLs, but if you do, make sure you do a 301 redirect. You should look into what new queries people might be using. It’s also worth creating new calls-to-action to promote new offers you might have, and of course, re-promoting across social media.

Personally, I’m pretty happy that there’s less of a focus on keyword research and keyword density these days. Because that’s not really what writing is about for me, and never has been. Words – as I say on my About page – are about illucidation, and creating meaning. They’re about colouring your message, and demonstrating your individual flair. If you can climb through the ranks on Google, then gold star for you. But if no one is actually staying on your page and liking what you have to say, you likely won’t be at the top for long.

 

Want to learn how I got to #1 on Google?

I used a combination of the tactics described in this blog post + so much more.

And on May 27, I’m hosting The SEO Copywriting Workshop in Melbourne.

It's for business owners like you who want to create GREAT content that both customers + Google love. The results speak for themselves – more traffic and more customers.

AND, when you’re a member of Communique, you get a HUGE discount on ticket prices.

Pssst: If you're already a member, I'll send you the discount code too ;)

 

Conversion Rate Optimisation for Guiding Customers Through The Sales Funnel

conversion rate optimisation for product pages

You’ve probably heard the expression ‘Content is king’ originally coined by Bill Gates. In his 1996 article, he wrote in an almost McLuhan-esque fashion ‘Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet, just as it was in broadcasting.

And in 2017, we’re confident in saying that that prophecy has definitely been fulfilled.

 

But what exactly is content?

Content” means many different things to many people. But the most common type of ‘content’ that is present on almost every website since the birth of internet is what you’re consuming wright now – words. As the internet has evolved from information archive to haven of cat videos, images and videos – also known as ‘rich media’ - have become increasingly popular amongst consumers, and effective tools for marketing.

So how can an online business harness the power of content to attract more satisfied customers? When it comes to directing website visitors through your online sales funnel (whether that be for e-commerce or lead generation), it’s critical that they are persuaded and they have a pleasant experience. Do this, and you’ll ensure they both purchase from you with confidence, and then come back for more.

 

The key to powerfully persuasive content

One of the most powerful and yet most underutilised tools for persuasion is the language you use: that is to say, your copy.

What many digital marketers may not fully realise is that with the intelligent use of sales copywriting (which has been around pre-internet), you have a higher chance of getting website visitors through to your most important conversion goals, and ultimately buying more.

This guide will give you a number of tips based upon our experience of having successfully optimised conversion rate for some of Australia’s most successful ecommerce websites.

 

Writing for profit: How content and copywriting fits into your conversion rate optimisation strategy for online retailers

1. Exceptionally persuasive product descriptions

Often when we audit an ecommerce website, we notice that a large number of online retailers tend to or copy and paste their product descriptions from the product manufacturer. These are too short and painfully unpersuasive, listing facts like the product reference number, data-sheets or product IDs.

An example of a product description

We’ve often seen one or two-line product descriptions that are clearly sourced from a manufacturer website and do almost nothing to persuade the customer or answer their most important questions

So why exactly is this poor practice? Product descriptions are the most fundamental component of any ecommerce product detail page.

The reason is obvious: people are more likely to buy from you if they know what they’re buying.

By creating high-quality, persuasive product descriptions – as time consuming and resource intensive as it can be­– you’ll have a strong potential advantage over your competitors who may be selling the same product.

To write high-quality persuasive product descriptions, here are 9 tips you must consider:

 

  • Benefits first. Write about the benefits of the product, not the features. Think: how does this improve their life? If you’re not sure, read your copy out aloud and ask yourself “what’s in it for me?”.

Benefits-driven copy: ‘This large premium leather tote is large enough to fit your laptop and a spare pair of flats’.

Features-driven copy: ‘This leather tote is 50cm x 50 cm.’

 

  • Pick an appropriate length (but don’t go crazy). Product descriptions that are one or two sentences long are almost definitely too short. As a general rule of thumb, we’d shoot for 200 – 500 words, depending on your vertival.

Longer product descriptions (beyond 500 words), can be very effective, but you need to know your market to gauge what length is effective. It also gives you some potential advantages over your competitors, SEO-wise (for some of the best advice on organic search for ecommerce retailers, check out Searchmetrics’ eCommerce Ranking Factors research). Remember that website visitors tend to skim text and not read every word.

 

  • Use bullet points to make the content easy to read. Create bullet points of the feature specifications under the main description. Website visitors scan content, so the structure of the words and layout of the page is as important as the words themselves.

 

  • Avoid irrelevant information and “facts”. We’ve often seen online retailers include ‘data-sheets’ or obscure facts that potential buyers don’t care about. Avoid the usage of information like ‘Product ID’ in the main product description, and consider another tab on the product page for facts/specifications. Imagine you went into a bricks and mortar retail store and spoke to a retail assistant and they started reciting you the product IDs to you. You’d probably leave the store.

 

  • Use emotive words and phrases. The success of a product often doesn’t come down to the best design or the best manufacturing. Customers care about how you make them feel, so it’s important to use evocative, positive language to create an experience around your product.

 

Daniel Glass, a bottle manufacturer from the US, does an excellent job of ascribing an otherwise dry product with a funny personality that their consumer can easily connect with.

product description copywriting for daniel glass

 

  •  Inject on-brand personality into your copy  Most copy on the web is frankly boring to read and uninspiring. Speak in your customer’s language. Write to them like you would speak to them if you were standing in front of them explaining the product. Don’t be afraid to step away from the standard professional bland style of copy, as long as it’s consistent with your business’ branding guidelines. If you’re unsure how customers will respond, A/B test it on your top products and see how your customers respond.

 

  • Get into the mind of your customers. The job of a masterful copywriter is to learn to empathise with the prospect. If you can do that, you are almost certain to excel beyond your competition in terms of conversion rate optimisation and marketing in general. One easy way to do this is by mining review sites like Amazon.com, or niche websites like MakeUpAlley.com. 

 

  • Spellcheck or lose credibility. Mistakes in your product descriptions make your business appear unprofessional and untrustworthy. “If I can’t trust them to spell correctly, can I trust them to get the product to me on time?”

 

  • Don’t get pinged for duplicate content or plagiarism. Make sure the content you write is unique and not copied from other websites. Copied content can hurt your SEO performance and it can even cause nightmares for your legal team for plagiarism/copyright infringement. Use copyscape.com to check for duplicate content, and also hire a professional copywriter. With sales copywriting, you get what you pay for.

 

By following these tips, you can easily create product descriptions that stand out and are persuasive enough for your website visitors to become website buyers.

 

American online retailer of indie and vintage-inspired women’s clothing, with 350+ employees, ModCloth, injects a tonne of personality and their brand into their copy to a point where it's actually enjoyable to read.

example of product description copywriting

 

2.     Testimonials and reviews

A 2015 study by Nielsen shows that a whopping 70% of individuals shopping online trust online consumer opinions posted online and use that as part of their decision making process. A case study by VWO showed that one ecommerce site increased their sales by 58.29% by adding customer reviews to their product pages.

The research overwhelmingly shows that consumers today rely heavily on reviews to help them decide whether to buy a product or buy from a business.

It’s important to showcase your reviews so that your visitors can see that they’re buying from a respectable business. When considering whether to showcase your reviews, keep these few things in mind:

 

  • Don’t be afraid to show the good and the bad. If the good reviews outweigh the bad reviews, don’t be afraid to showcase both. No one company has only good reviews, so it’s more believable if you have a few bad reviews in there as well.

 

  • Show the ‘stars’ prominently on the product description page. We noticed that one of our clients had small product reviews on their product pages that were difficult to read. We improved this by making them bigger and easier to read:
     
  • Hide the stars if you have 0 reviews. If you have a product that has no reviews at all, showing the reviews is simply wasted screen real estate.

 

  • Use product review software and allow users to leave reviews on the product page without leaving the site. This will increase your sales greatly because people don’t have to leave your site to find the reviews. When a person leaves your website, you run the risk of them not coming back. Common vendors and tools for this include BazaarVoice, Yotpo and Trustpilot.

 

  • Prove to visitors that they’re real. Some product review software allows anyone with an email address and a fake name (whether they’ve purchased in the past or not) to leave a review. Many solutions also don’t encourage a reviewer to leave a photo or authenticate with any of their social networks. For example, compare the apparent legitimacy and authenticity of these two reviews:
     
Reviews are the key to conversions
Positive customer reviews with images can increase your conversions

  
The second is more trustworthy, because it includes a picture, appears to be linked to Facebook and includes a full name. The first uses a handle “Melby1970” and has no name, location or picture associated with it.

 

  • Keep track of customer feedback. If you find there are bad reviews coming in, check to see if there’s a problem with your product that may need addressing. Even the best marketing in the world can’t help if your product is terrible.

 

  • Respond to reviews quickly and professionally. When responding to reviews, make sure you stay calm and polite no matter how annoyed you are. You need to remember other people are seeing your interaction with customers. If you have a positive interaction, new customers will be more inclined to trust that you’re going to look after their needs.

 

Prospective online shoppers care about reviews and testimonials. Small changes to the way you collect and show reviews can make a massive difference in your bottom line - so make the most of them.

 

3.     Product images

Why we believe that what you say is just as important as what you sell, product images are critical to the success of any ecommerce website. With platforms like Instagram taking over, high quality images do more than half of the selling for your business.

When reviewing usability studies and live user recordings, it’s not uncommon for more than 20% of website visitors to engage with a product image’s enlarge or zoom functionality. According to heatmap and eye movement studies, almost everyone looks closely at the product image.

The reason is obvious: online shoppers want to see what they’re buying. Online shoppers generally won’t buy from a site if there’s no images or the images are poor.

When thinking about product images, here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

 

  • Use high-quality photography and product images. Investing in high-quality product photography makes a big difference and is typically a sound investment in your competitive advantage against online retailers. Low quality, low resolution or lossy product photos tend to perform badly. Hire a pro, and definitely don’t DIY!

If you’re an online fashion retailer, consider hiring models. When testing clothing on a mannequin or on a rack versus worn by a model, it’s not surprising that the professional model tends to convert better.

 

  • Make sure the images load quickly. There are many studies which show that website visitors will bounce away from a page that’s too slow to load. Not to mention, a slow-loading website is very bad for your SEO! Images should be compressed, but not so compressed that they’re grainy or blurred.

 

  • Make sure they’re appropriately sized. Many ecommerce retailers make their product images too small, giving them less visual hierarchy than other components of the page. Don’t be afraid to dedicate a significant amount of screen real estate to your product photos. They are, after all, one of the most important parts of your online shopper’s evaluation criteria.

 

  • Make appropriate use of ‘click to enlarge’ rather than ‘magnifying lens’ style. Many ecommerce retailers use magnifying lens style hovers on product images. We’ve found from our usability tests that these can get in the way of what the shopper is trying to do. We’d recommend using a click to enlarge functionality with a pop-up box.

  • Consider usage of 3D zoom and/or product video. 3D Zoom and product videos are two ways of further levelling up your product images. Ecommerce giant ASOS makes extensive usage of product video as a way of complimenting their product images, just like this:
     
Product videos can greatly increase ecommerce conversions

 

4.     Communicate and clarify your value proposition – make a ‘Why Shop With Us?’ page

Your value proposition is the fundamental tenet of your marketing and conversion rate optimisation. According to Dr Flint McGlaughlin, the founder and managing director of MECLABS (the largest independent research institution on scientific online marketing performance):

“Value proposition is the answer to the question. If I am your ideal customer, why should I buy X from you rather than from your [your competitor]?

Review your website’s content and ask yourself the question: “Where do we answer this question directly and how effectively do we do so?”.

By creating a page dedicated to answering this question, and littering the answer to this question throughout your site in the form of copy and supporting imagery, you’ll be driving your value home and convince more customers to buy from you. For your business, it might be free shipping, a 60-day return policy, or a discount offer for first-time buyers.

The most common buying criteria for ecommerce often comes down to:

 

  • Price. Are your prices lower than your competitors? If so, can you back this up with evidence? Can you check this? Do you offer any guarantees such as ‘price matching’? Do you handle enough transaction volume that you’re able to buy in bulk from your wholesalers cheaper than your competitors? Do you import direct from China and pass those savings directly onto the consumer by operating on lower margins? If so, SAY IT! Prove it to your website visitors with proof points and evidence, and keep this in prominent places above the fold.

 

  • Shipping costs. Free shipping are two magical words to many Australian customers orderings from overseas. After all, who wants to pay double the product price just for living in a separate country?

 

Do you offer free shipping across the board? Do you offer free shipping for all orders over $100? Well, that’s part of your value proposition and part of the reason why online shoppers should buy from you rather than a competitor. It’s worth noting that nothing in the world is truly free. Insider secret: free shipping actually means the product price is slightly higher to offset the cost  of shipping to the retailer. But try offering free shipping across the board for a short period of time, and watch what happens to your conversion rate. If you can find a way to offer free shipping across the board without sabotaging your gross profit and net profit, you should strongly consider it as a tool for competitive advantage online.

 

  • Shipping time. One online retailer client of ours successfully increased their revenue by 17.6% by telling website visitors that they “ship all orders within 1-2 business days”. This goes to show how important shipping time (i.e.: time between placing an order and it leaving the warehouse or arriving) is for online shoppers. If you ship quickly or have ways of ensuring it arrives at your customer’s location within X number of days, say so – especially if this is comparatively faster than your competitors.

 

  • Returns policy. Do you allow for returns? Do you have a money-back guarantee for unsatisfied customers? If so, have a page dedicated to outlining these details on your website.

 

  • Retail stores. Are you an omni-channel retailer that also has a large number of bricks and mortar retail stores? You know what we’re going to say...SAY SO! While pure online retailers sometimes have additional flexibility, speed and agility over omnichannel retailers, those with many bricks and mortar retail stores generally have much greater brand awareness and trust to leverage. Use this trust to your advantage and remind your website visitors why being both online and offline is a good thing.

 

  • Service and/or expertise. Are you heavily focused on one or two niche categories of products? If so, you quite likely have a wealth of knowledge about your products and the manufacturing process. Make sure you describe your craft, your experience, your passion, and how this translates into premium quality products and services. 

 

Communicating (and refining/developing) your value proposition is one of the most important tenets of conversion optimisation and marketing in general. By improving your value proposition and ensuring your customers understand it, your website conversion rate can improve drastically.

 

Conclusion

When it comes to converting more website visitors, copy is often left until the last minute.  Don’t make that mistake!

Don’t forget: What you say is just as important as what you sell. Go and make Don Draper proud.

James Spittal is the founder of Conversion Rate Optimisation and A/B testing obsessed digital marketing agency, Web Marketing ROI. They help brands with high-traffic websites optimise their conversion rate using A/B testing, conversion optimisation and personalisation.

 

How to brief a copywriter

So you've been working away at your big business idea for some months now, and your new business baby is just about ready to pop. It's an exciting time, and you're so overwhelmed by the excitement of it all that you're speechless. Literally. People are asking you where you've been hiding the past couple of months, and a smile begins to form on your face. "Well, I've been starting a new project/expanding my product mix/launching a new website, and gobbledegook fap fap meow purple monkey dishwasher".

Before you know it, you're left there holding the chip bowl as the other person slowly retreats and edges towards slightly more coherent company. It's not your fault - building buzz about who you are and what you do is hard. The words make sense inside your head, but when you sit down to write that press release, or that landing page, or that blog post, your prose sounds more like a recap of LOST. It's mega confusing, with waaaay too many ideas snaking their way through.

This is where a copywriter comes in. It's our job to flesh out your story and tell it to the masses. It's our job to make you sound so fan-freakin-tastic, we actually convince ourselves to use your services or buy from you.

Copy is more than just words on a screen or a page. They're carefully crafted sentences that combine all of your ideas, your purpose and your very own brand of sizzling panache. So before you hire a copywriter, there's a few key things you should think about before you even make that first phone call, and write a copywriting brief for your chosen one.

 

How to brief a copywriter

1.  Decide who your target market is

Who is your ideal customer or client? Are they single, female, time-starved with little financial knowledge? Or are they male, 35-50-years-old, with a high amount of disposable income and little pop culture knowledge? It's really important to think about who your people are and how you serve them, because a copywriter will be able to use an appropriate tone of voice that will appeal to them. Also, it's a real shame when Beyonce references go over peoples' heads.

2. Define the purpose of the copywriting - to educate, or to increase sales

To put it simply - what do you want and what are your goals? I know you're probably sitting at your computer thinking, "I'm a business owner, and I want some copy for my press release and I would like for it to sound good so people will read it. Duh.". But copywriting goes deeper than the simple act of typing. It serves a purpose, and part of its success lies in its foundational strategy. Is it for a landing page that people are sent to from an email and then used to capture leads for your personal training services? Is it instructional information that will help people perform a task better? Is it a spell-binding 'About Us' page that tells the world exactly why your business is the best in its industry? Knowing exactly what you want this copy to do is vital to giving your copywriter direction.

Seth Godin quote about brand marketing and copywriting

3. Be clear on your Ultimate Selling Point (USP)?

Seth Godin calls this your Purple Cow: "Today, the one sure way to fail is to be boring. Your one chance for success is to be remarkable." Now, you might not even know what exactly it is that makes your business so unique. Or, you might have a vague idea, but you're not quite sure how to articulate it. In my honest opinion, if you're not yet sure of your USP, it's part of a copywriter's job to help you find this out with you. If your writer of choice doesn't get you on a Skype call and probe you for the 411 about your business, they're not doing their job right. But before you begin your business discovery call with your copywriter, it's useful for both parties if you can summarise your wow-factor in a few, short sentences. Are you a solopreneur who's entirely responsible for all of your services? It's rare not to outsource, and that is very purple of you. High-five! Are you a fourth-generation yogi overflowing with almost a century of knowledge? That's insanely special (can I please steal your productivity secrets?). Maybe you're a close-knit family business who just want to share your wares with the world? That's a very warm and fuzzy story right there.

4. Pick a deadline

A copywriter will work with you to organise a time frame that benefits both parties, but having an absolute no-excuses deadline is also very useful. Before you even ask for a quote, work out a due-by date and let your copywriter of choice known in the first communication. That way, no one wastes time anticipating goal-kicking only to have to part ways to due conflicting schedules. As a rule of thumb, if you need a super-speedy turn-around, you're looking at an extra surcharge.

I'm Camilla Peffer, and I'm a Melbourne copywriter who creates engaging, results-driven content for fashion and lifestyle brands. From website copywriting, to fashion copywriting, content strategies and SEO audits, I've created clicks and conversions for the likes of Sportsgirl, Seed Heritage and Politix. Want to work together? Reach out! I'd love to hear about your next project.

How to hire a copywriter

how to hire a copywriter

Ever worked with a freelancer?

I have. Some good, and some not so good. Some overly precious, and some highly receptive to feedback. All freelancers are different, which makes finding the right one for you a Super Important Task. I even capitalised there, just to show you that I’m Very Serious.

So why would you hire a freelance copywriter, rather than doing it yourself?

Perhaps you’re already a good writer. Maybe you’re even learning to write your own website copy. And if so, then kudos to you! More wine up in here!

Copywriting is a skill that can be transferred to any industry, and it certainly comes in handy if you’re a start-up begging your friends for favours and staring at your bank balance as you weep upon your keyboard. I’ve been there! And I’ve done favours for weepy friends too. I have the free stuff to prove this.

But perhaps you’ve banged out a page of website content or two, and you’re not sure how to optimise your website content for search engines (SEO copywriting).

Or maybe you’ve made Google’s Keyword Planner your slave, and you’ve checked all the SEO boxes…but your page isn’t converting like you want it to.

There’s much to be said for learning to write your own website content. And there are a tonne of courses which can teach you the science behind transforming your hum-drum bursts of randomness into copy that hooks onto people’s hearts and their wallets.

But do you have the time to write it yourself?

Wouldn’t you rather spend time working in your business, rather than on it? Do you even like writing?

 

I’ll tell you what: hiring a professional copywriter saves you time and MAKES YOU MONEY.

I was like you once: DIY or die. I designed my own logo, I edited a simple Squarespace template, and I even got my business cards printed at my local university to save on cash. Yeeeeesh.

While my branding did ok – I got enough work, I guess – I wasn’t working with the fashion brands I wanted to. Which isn’t to say all of the clients I was already writing for weren’t great learning experiences, and pleasant to work with too. I’ve helped a lot of small businesses tell their stories online, but I wanted to niche down. It was only when I hired my graphic designer Dylan that I really started to feel a whole lot more confident, and began to work with big name fashion brands that I know and love.

And it’s the same for hiring a copywriter. You get what you pay for. And when you pay for a professional copywriter, you’ll get a professional copywriting job done.

 

How to hire a copywriter: my guide to getting your message SEEN, HEARD and FELT by the right people

Here’s the thing about copywriters – a lot of us don’t have degrees in copywriting. I come from a background in journalism, so I have a diploma in journalism and a bachelor degree in mass communications. I also studied English literature, so my grammar is top notch, unless I’m intentionally being a smart ass – which I often am.

So how did I learn how to write a sales page that converts browsers into buyers? It wasn’t by reading Jane Austen – it was by writing sales pages myself.

Forget looking for a tertiary qualified copywriter or English major. If your brand is in need of punchy headlines, email campaigns that actually get opened and clicked on, and sales pages that have people throwing their sweet cash at you, you need to think about more than a degree.

 

So what do you need to do to hire a copywriter?

There are thousands of copywriters who’d jump at the chance to write for you. You could easily just email one, and hey presto – there’s a copywriter for you. But why settle for a so-so word-wrangler for a great price, when you can find the best one for you?

 

Here’s my 5-step process for screening copywriters. Pay attention to them, and you’ll be far more likely to enter a creative partnership that boosts your brand and gets your message seen, heard and acted on.

 

1. Find out what you need, and know your business goals

Not all copywriters are alike. Some have better experience writing press releases, some are boss at writing website content, some excel at writing business proposals.

If you can, decide what kind of copy you need before you ask for a quote, and what goals this will fulfill. Why? Because it saves you time going back and forth to your copywriter. It’s quite common for copywriters to get a lot of requests from business owners asking for “a couple of lines” about their business, or a “one-pager” to hand out to potential customers.

If you’re unsure what you need, get your copywriter to help you decide! Start with the goal. Need to tell the world about your new fashion line? Hire a copywriter to write you a press release. Got a great product and need to see some sales? You could do with a sales page or a Facebook ad.

Once you know your goals, it’ll be a lot easier to brief your copywriter. And if your copywriter is briefed properly, they’ll do a much better job of boosting your profits with their prose.

Bonus points for the copywriter who’ll help with the briefing process!

 

2. Find the best match for your business, not the best copywriter on Google

I’m going to potentially shoot myself in the foot here, but just because I’m #1 for ‘melbourne copywriter’ on Google, doesn’t mean that I’m the best fit for every Melbourne business. Every business is different, and I work best with a very particular type of client. That’s why when I get a quote request from a business, I ask a few questions first to see how well we’d work together.

melbourne-copywriter

Do you want to work with someone young who can speak to a young audience? Or do you need a copywriter with automotive knowledge? Do your research first: get referrals, search Google, and find the right copywriter for YOU.


3. Find out their process

If you want your copy delivered to you on time and on brief, you’ll need a hyper-organised copywriter. When screening your copywriter, ask them how they work. Do they bill for 50% of the project up front before they even start looking at your business? How long will they give you to provide feedback? How do they try to get to know you and your business? How quickly can they work? Ask these questions, and you’ll avoid a lot of confusion in the long run.


4. Have a price in mind…but don’t focus on it

There’s a common misconception amongst those unfamiliar with hiring freelancers: copywriters are interchangeable. And for that reason, people often end up focusing on price. Why hire a copywriter for $75 an hour when you can hire one for $10 on Elance? Because you get what you pay for, dummy!

If you pay nothing, you will get next to nothing. Actually, you’ll likely end up losing money. Ouch. A good copywriter charges their worth. So while you should keep your marketing budget in mind, don’t put price first. Put value first.


5. Make sure they write for humans, not the machine

Does your copywriter keep on top of SEO news? They better, or your copy’s in grave danger, Robinson! But seriously, can the keyword stuffers and go for a copywriter who knows how to use emotive language that spurs action. Of course, keywords are vital for knowing what your prospects are searching for. I like to call it SEO-soning. Har har har. But if someone lands on your page and it’s written like a robot is talking with keywords stuffed in all willy-nilly, no one’s going to buy what you’re selling. Get a copywriter who reads voraciously and writes like Nabokov on crack. Or can at least spin a good yarn that makes people feel things.


Hiring a copywriter is a task that will take you a good two weeks. Whether you meet in person or it’s all done online, take your time in finding the right one for your brand. Do this, and you’ll turn your website, press release or Facebook ads into gold. Gold!

Because what you say is just as important as what you sell. And good copy written by a professional copywriter proves it.

I'm Camilla Peffer, and I'm a Melbourne copywriter who creates engaging, results-driven content for fashion and lifestyle brands. From website copywriting, to fashion copywriting, content strategies and SEO audits, I've created clicks and conversions for the likes of Sportsgirl, Seed Heritage and Politix. Want to work together? Reach out! I'd love to hear about your next project.

How does Google work?

how does google's algorithm work

You’ve heard that Google is the most popular search engine, much like the wizard of Oz, operating behind a curtain of mystery.

But how does Google work?

Why is Google so powerful?

And how on earth does Google rank your website?

If you’re new to SEO and want to get to the bottom of this marketing riddle, this post is for you.

Note: Google is a machine that’s forever changing. At the time of writing, all the information provided is up-to-date and relevant, as to the best of my knowledge.

 

Why is Google so powerful?

Google is the #1 search engine worldwide, and a BBC report from 2016 names it the most valuable company in world, worth nearly US$520bn. There are other search engines you can use, such as Bing and Yahoo, but Google is the only one that’s captured our cultural devotion, and gone on to become an official verb within the dictionary.

So what makes Google so popular? For starters, the Google homepage is incredibly user-friendly, and it loads quickly. Also, Google displays far less ads on its homepage compared to competitors, making it appear more like a tool than a business.

But that doesn’t account for its alleged reputation as the smartest search engine.

The question is, what makes a search engine valuable?

Compared to other search engines, Google is top of their game for the way they deliver relevant search results. As Ben Gomes, Google’s Vice-President of Engineering, said, “our goal is to get you the exact answer you’re searching for faster.”

 

 

Essentially, Google was created to crawl the web, and other search engines weren’t. Yahoo was created as a directory, and businesses paid to be listed. It's this industry-leading, world-first algorithm that sets them apart from the rest.

 

So how does Google do it?

You may have heard a few animal names bandied around when industry pros refer to Google’s search algorithm. Before we get into those names, let’s go through what an algorithm is.

The word “algorithm” refers to the logic-based, step-by-step procedure for problem solving. When we’re talking about Google, the problem is how to find the most relevant webpages for this particular set of keywords (or search terms) that a users types into the search field.

But here’s the thing: it changes every day, and Google’s algorithm today is a lot different from 2014.

 

A brief history of Google’s search algorithm

Google has always strived to deliver relevant search results, but it wasn’t always the best at managing those search results.

Before Google Panda and Google Penguin updates were introduced, a website could easily rank for a specific key word or search term phrase by ‘keyword stuffing’. That’s the black hat SEO practice (read: totally dodgy SEO practice), of placing keywords a bunch of times within a page to rig the search results. It’s totally un-useful, right?

Correct.

Eventually, Google's engineers decided things needed to change.

For the purposes of this article, I’m going to focus on four key changes that continue to impact how the search engine works today.

 

·       The Panda update - 2011

·       The Penguin update - 2012

·       The Hummingbird update - 2013

·       The Pigeon – 2014

 

Let’s get one thing straight before we power on ahead: there is just ONE algorithm, and all of these animal names describe specific updates to this ONE algorithm. Each update assists with a particular part of the search engine that Google is trying to improve.

 

  • Panda – An update designed to stop sites with poor quality content ranking in the SERPs (search engine ranking pages).
  • Penguin – Prevents spammy websites ranking through buying links, or using poor quality back linking tactics.
  • Pigeon – Assists with delivering relevant local search results.
  • Hummingbird – An update that was designed to help the algorithm focus on the meaning behind the words and the entire search term, rather than treat each individual word as distinctively separate from the overall sentence structure.

All of these algorithm changes and updates were intended to ensure that Google delivered the best possible content for users.

 

How does Google rank your website?

Google has one goal, and that’s to help each person find the most relevant, up-to-date information they’re looking for, as quickly as possible.

With Google changing its algorithm all the time, the most recent articles with the most factually correct information should be listed on the first page.

That said, Google is a machine that uses an incomplete science. And although Google’s engineers are developing a sophisticated machine that mimics the human brain, Google doesn’t get it right 100% of the time. It’s quite common to find very old SEO articles floating to the top of the search results, which contain information that’s no longer relevant.

However, for most search queries, the odds are in your favour. You’ll likely receive the most relevant and factual articles for your search query on the first page of the search results.

 

How do I work with Google’s algorithm?

There are many, many factors which Google uses to assess your website. In fact, there are over 200.

Now, I’m not going to list ALL of these here for you.

But, there are a few key ways you ensure that your content is deemed worthy by Google, and high quality by your website visitors.

When you your content is both optimised for search engines and for your customers, that’s when you’ll see an increase in traffic, happy customers, and your bottom line.

 

How to boost your Google ranking

Keep it fresh

Google loves fresh content.

Cyrus Shepard notes that “the freshness score can boost a piece of content for certain search queries,” even though it then degrades over time.

How to optimise:

  • Keep your pages up-to-date with new information. This could be updating blog posts with more relevant information, or changing your about page, or adding to your portfolio page.
  • Perform a content audit at least once a year to assess whether your copywriting needs a refresh, and prioritise pages with less traffic. They’re the ones that need a boost.

 

Consider content length

It’s a common myth that your articles have to be looooong in order to rank. Additionally, Google’s Panda update took aim at “thin” content. But length is relative. For example, if competitors within your industry features articles over 1500 words, you should use that word count as a bench mark. It’s all a matter of what you audience is receptive to. Copyhackers wrote a great article on blog length over here.

How to optimise:

  • Use content marketing tools like Buzz Sumo to search for industry-relevant topics. Buzz Sumo allows you to see the most popular articles first, and from there you’ll be able to manually explore these blogs to assess the right word length for your content.

 

Backlinks

Backlinks (that’s a link from another website that points to your website) remain an important ranking factor. But over the years, Google’s wised up and learned that not all links are created equal. If you have more backlinks, you can boost your Google ranking. Yet these links have to be more a diverse number of sources, and from authoritative websites.

Once upon a time, you were able to comment on blogs with your website URL, creating a backlink from high quality websites. This isn’t the case any more, and your SEO efforts require a more strategic approach.

How to optimise:

  • The first place to start is by guest posting on websites that have a similar authority to yours. Offer a blog post guest swap, or interview each other on related topics.
  • Reach out to high-quality partners for backlinks. Buzz Sumo is a great tool for this. I also have a resources page that lists a few select businesses that I feel confident enough in to recommend to my clients.
  • You can also join high quality directories: I’m a member of the Dream Big collective, Business Chicks, Women in Business and the League of Extraordinary Women. Join earns you membership to a community, and a high quality link back to your website.
  • Have an SEO audit performed to take stock of your current bank links, and to reveal any potential back linking opportunities.

 

Mobile-first UX

One of the biggest changes we saw in 2016 was Google’s shift towards mobile-first indexing. This means that Google prioritises your mobile website experience over the desktop version.

In 2017, your website’s SEO relies upon how responsive it is across all mobile platforms. Mobile-first is now the norm, and with 85% of all websites now meeting Google’s criteria for being mobile-friendly, it’s time to ensure your website is easy-to-use on the fly.

Page speed is another important ranking factor that ties heavily into a good user experience. Desktop websites should load in 3 seconds or less, while mobile websites should load in 2 seconds or less (according to SearchMetrics, the top-ranked mobile websites are approximately one second quicker than their desktop equivalents).

How to optimise:

  • Use Google Search Console to assess the mobile version of your website.
  • Use the Structured Data Testing Tool to ensure that the same structured markup exists on both your desktop and your mobile site.
  • Ensure that your mobile site is accessible to Googlebot using the txt testing tool.
  • Test your page speed using PageSpeed Insights. If your page is slow.
  • Have an SEO audit performed to assess what aspects of your website can be altered to improve the page speed.

 

In conclusion

SEO is an ever-evolving science, with the aim to provide a useful tool to solve searcher queries. Google isn’t out to ‘get you’ or your website, but is rather trying to master the art of problem-solving. Learn to play by Google’s rules, and your business will come out on top.

 

Want to learn how I got to #1 on Google? I’m hosting an SEO Workshop in Melbourne. AND, when you’re a member of Communique, you get a HUGE discount on ticket prices.

 

 

 

I'm Camilla Peffer, and I'm a Melbourne copywriter who creates engaging, results-driven content for fashion and lifestyle brands. From website copywriting, to fashion copywriting, content strategies and SEO audits, I've created clicks and conversions for the likes of Sportsgirl, Seed Heritage and Politix. Want to work together? Reach out! I'd love to hear about your next project.

You should run your business like a publisher

why is content marketing important?

Amongst the buzzwords of entrepreneurship, content marketing is one that consistently rises to the top of the online business totem pole. And with a variety of pioneers spearheading the way for content marketers everywhere – from Dan Norris, to Pro Blogger, to the Content Marketing Institute – it’s near impossible to drown out the prophecy:

Content marketing is the machine you need to take your audience from connected to converted.

But in a world where businesses existed and thrived long before the word ‘blog’ entered the dictionary, why on earth is it that we need to be running our businesses like magazines? Do we all need to be publishing blogs? Isn’t the point of owning a business to provide that service or product we excel at, and focus on serving our customers’ and clients’ needs?

Au contraire, dear reader.

A great piece of content is a service, and your most valuable one at that.

 

Why do we need content marketing?

According to Neil Patel, co-founder of leading analytics apps KissMetrics and Crazy Egg:

"Content marketing is a way for a business owner to educate your customers and potential customers about your products and services. The goal is to offer tips, help, and education about anything that can be helpful to a customer. This kind of information can be shared in the form of blog, white paper, webinar, video or social post. The opportunities are endless." - Neil Patel

All of this might sound like dry marketing drivel to the artisan, product maker or values-based business. But the core of what Patel says can be translated thus:

Creating content is a way to bridge that emotional and educational divide between your service and your customers’ needs. The goal is to give away your secrets, knowledge and industry expertise in a way that provides value to their lives, but should also meet a core business goal of yours too.

Only when you create content of value, with volume and variety, will people be able to buy what you’re saying.

 

Content marketing is the bridge between their computer and your bottom line

You want to connect with your audience, because they’re the ones who keep your business alive. You want them to want more of what you have on offer, but you’re not sure how to tell them about your value. You want to provide all of this information for them, but advertising isn’t an option. You don’t have time for in-person workshops, the resources to sponsor events, or the resources to manage door-to-door sales. Maybe you’re hugely introverted, and would prefer to create an automated sales system that doesn’t feel so…computery.

This is where high value content comes in to play in your marketing game.

 

A great piece of content can:

  • Earn you new and long-term customers and clients (more value for everyone).
  • Cement your space within your industry as a leader.
  • Find its way into new markets (I unintentionally have become a go-to for adult products! Who knew?).
  • Help you align your ideas with a purpose, helping you to ‘write through’ problems. Like this post I wrote years ago on insomnia.
  • Cultivate connections between you and a large-scale group of potential customers and clients.
  • Spark more advocacy between you and clients, customers and collaborators as they share your work online.
  • Help you collaborate with others, like this guest post swap I did with Angela Ford.
  • Help your audience on a deeper, emotional level, allowing them to feel understood and supported. Like this post I wrote on why I quit Instagram a few years ago (I'm back on it now!)

 

But let’s be realistic here: content marketing is not just a fuzzy feel-good. It’s true that you want your content to align with your audience’s values, wants and needs, sparking an ‘a-ha!’ moment and maybe even a really nice email. But your content is a resource-heavy output, and it needs to have a concrete ROI in order to be worth your time.

It’s interesting to see how many likes and comments you get on a piece of content, but the real value lies within the metrics.

 

Content marketing ROI statistics you should know in 2017

  • Content marketing leaders experience 7.8 times more site traffic than non-leaders (CMI, 2016)
  • Content produces brand recall, which increases engagement (CMI, 2016) 
  • Per dollar spent, content marketing generates more than three times the number of leads than paid search does. (Kapost/Eloqua, 2012)
  • 61% of consumers say they feel better about, and are more likely to buy from, a company that delivers custom content. (Custom Content Council, 2011)
  • 60% of people are inspired to seek a product after reading content about it. (Demand Metric, 2014)
  • Website conversion rate is nearly six times higher for content marketing adopters than non-adopters (2.9% vs. 0.5%). (Aberdeen Group, 2014)

Here’s the beautiful thing about content marketing: it’s not an all or nothing game. While making a start might be the hard part, along with paralysing comparisonitis, it’s also the most important part.

As a business owner, your goal is not to make the “best” content per se, but to create relevant content that resonates and builds authority and trust. Sure, your efforts at first may deliver small returns, if any at all. But the only failures are the business owners who don’t take that first step to enter the ring at all.

I'm Camilla Peffer, and I'm a Melbourne copywriter who creates engaging, results-driven content for fashion and lifestyle brands. From website copywriting, to fashion copywriting, content strategies and SEO audits, I've created clicks and conversions for the likes of Sportsgirl, Seed Heritage and Politix. Want to work together? Reach out! I'd love to hear about your next project.