Apr 202016
 

These blog writing tips will help you publish high-impact articles that find a relevant audience. You need more than clever content; you need good presentation that pays attention to structure, format and SEO.

1. Pick a central keyword or phrase. Think about what terms a potential reader might use to find your content. (research what people are using in searches with Google’s keyword planner). Know your main keyword and three to five variations BEFORE you start writing.

2. Structure your article; an outline helps tremendously:
• Core thesis
• Supporting point and evidence
• Supporting point and evidence
• Summary/so what/what to do next

3. Article length matters—aim for between 301 and 500 words. If your article is shorter it hurts your SEO. If it is longer, you most likely don’t have a tight, focused, high-impact idea. Consider breaking a long article into a multi-part series. That actually helps SEO and encourages reader engagement.

4. Revise with keywords. Go over your first draft and sprinkle keywords throughout. A rough rule of thumb is to use the keyword once every 100 words, and then use:
• In the headline
• In the first sentence
• In at least one subheading
• Use variations throughout as needed

5. Add a visual and make sure you have clear copyright ownership. Visuals can be photos, illustrations, graphs, icons, logos. Name the image file name isonmg the central keyword. If “naming products” is my keyword, I change my image name from IMG_20150805.jpg to Naming_Products.jpg. Make sure the alt-text also contains the keyword.

6. Add at least one outbound link to some other source or resource—with the anchor text containing the central keyword.
Example: More on naming products here>>

7. Provide metadata  that includes a title and description for Google that uses your keyword: Title of 55 characters and description of 115 characters. Be sure to use the keyword in your post URL and on all alt-tags on the page.

8. Include social media posts for Linked In, Facebook and Twitter. It makes sense to write this important content at the same time you are writing your blog. Use an active statement that invites a click.
Good example: Get advice for naming products from brand naming expert Lisa Merriam with important do’s and don’ts to avoid product naming problems.
Not so good example: Lisa Merriam offers good advice about how to name products in this month’s blog entry.

Apr 142016
 

AMA-Web-Content-Marketing-SEO-ExpertiseCopy writers MUST be search-algorithm savvy for effective content marketing. It is no long enough to be a gifted writer; you must know how Google and other search engines evaluate and serve up your copy to potential readers. If your material is not seen, no matter how good it is, it is worthless. True SEO expertise is a career in itself, but you don’t need to be a search engine optimization genius to do a good enough job with content marketing. You do need to know some of the basics.

Content Marketing Basics

The American Marketing Association has published a helpful post that explains the basics in: Web Content Checklist: 21 Ways to Publish Better Content. Author Andy Crestodina this list of easy must-dos that will generate more page views and more engagement with just a little extra knowledge and just a little extra effort.

Apr 012016
 

Brand SEO mistakes are surprisingly common. A shocking number of companies miss a critical opportunity to communicate in search engine results–and thus with customers. If they can’t find your brand, it may as well not exist. What you say in Google, Bing and Yahoo! impacts traffic to your site and your brand image.  Yet, too many companies let programmers write this marketing copy. Here are the five most common search engine results copy writing mistakes:

1) Providing no information at all. No title. No description. No reason to visit. No idea of what the company does.
Humanscale_SERP_1

2) Leaving the placeholder text from the software used to build the Web site in place. Surely the government of Massachusetts has more to say than promote Joomla! Web content management software.

MassGov-Brand-SEO-Mistake

3) Allowing random content to populate search engine results. Here is one “huh?” example from Elan Corporation, a pharmaceutical company:

Elan-Brand-SEO-Mistakes

Here is another example of random content from Healthnet:

Healthnet-Brand-SEO-Mistakes

Instead of offering directions for finding a subscriber number, Healthnet could have used the search results to talk about the “Healthnet: A better decision” brand positioning or they could have offered their company description: “Health Net, Inc. is among the nation’s largest publicly traded managed health care companies. Its mission is to help people be healthy, secure and comfortable.”

4) Just listing what you sell, packing in as many search terms as possible, runs afoul of Google search algorithms (your site gets penalized), but offers potential visitors no real compelling reason to visit the site. You lose twice.

Datacard-Brand-SEO-Mistakes

5) Allowing your description to exceed the allotted space or simply not using the space you have efficiently. In general, you have 55 characters to use for your title and 115 for your page description. Take this example from Corning:

Corning-Brand-SEO-Mistake

The title is short and generic. Instead of being just “Corning Incorporated | Home”, the title could have included branding: “Corning: The world leader in specialty glass and ceramics”. That would have left plenty of room for a succinct and compelling description: “Corning has 150 years of materials science expertise and process engineering knowledge. We turn possibilities into breakthrough realities.”

Getting traffic to your site requires that you effectively communicate who you are and why someone should visit. Brand communicators need to get actively involved in how their company appears in search engine results pages. Don’t make simple to prevent brand SEO mistakes. Make sure meta copy is “on brand”, rich in keywords, and invites people to click and visit. This communication is too important to be left by default to Web page programmers.

May 292015
 

Web copy writing for SEO takes more than mastering in the basics of writing—avoid the passive tense, not burdening text with too many extra, superfluous, and unnecessary adjectives just to name a few—but that isn’t good enough for effective web copy writing. All writing today will end up online one way or another so you need to understand and master the new fundamentals of copy writing for the web.

Web Copy Writing Requires Knowing and Using Keywords

Keywords are words and phrases people enter into search engines. Proper use of keywords will put your site will be at the top of search engine results pages (SERP). You need to know your key search terms and use them in your writing, particularly in headlines and meta tags. Resist keyword stuffing, that is using your keywords so much that the natural flow of your copy suffers. Search engine algorithms will figure you out fast and will penalize you for it. And most importantly, the human readers you’ve tried so hard to attract to your copy will be turned off and will click away.

Web Copy Writing Is More than the Words on The Page: Tag Everything

Be sure to write descriptions and put tags on everything. Use keywords in page titles and descriptions. Tag charts, links. images and video–and put in a quick sentence for a description for every object. Be sure to work your keywords into all of your tags and descriptions.

Formatting is Key to Web Copy Writing

Use formatting to appeal to search engines. Search engines give more weight to copy that appears in headlines than it does in the body of a piece. Also, use keywords early in the paragraph and early in the sentence. In addition to helping your search engine optimization (SEO), formatting helps engage human readers. Web readers don’t slog through thick copy; they scan content to see if it is relevant and they focus on those parts that are most relevant. Headlines facilitate scanning.

Write with Simplicity and Clarity

Short, simple sentences with a very clear purpose are the soul of good web copy writing. Don’t bury the lead. Make your main point first, then support it with details. Some readers will remember Monty Hall and the “Let’s Make a Deal” game show. Contestants got to choose curtain #1, #2, and #3. There never, ever was a curtain #4. Your copy should be similarly simple. Make a few key points. Make they clearly. And know exactly what one two or three things you want the reader to think or do. Too many concepts, too many words and clauses, and too many choices are bad copy writing.

Link. Link. Link.

Link your copy to other copy within the site, from outside in and from inside out. Links help your readers take a deep dive in subjects that interest them by following links. Links from other sites to yours bring you direct qualified traffic. Links are also highly valued by search engines, particularly inbound links—site that point people to your content. The search engines believe content that has more links is valued and valuable and will give your content a higher rank. Linking within your site helps the reader and search engines. Link to relevant content on your site and to older posts that add context and depth.

Write to engage people

Web readers are goal oriented. They want something and seek something. Cut out the fluff and focus. Use the active voice. Be accessible, real, conversational; use language your customers use, not internal terms. Avoid jargon, an alphabet soup of arcane initials, and impersonal brochure-speak. Speak to the reader and have some personality. Don’t say, “Our quality is believed to be highly reliable by our clients.” Say, “You can rely on our quality.” Be a little provocative and avoid generalizations and generic corporate speak.

May 252015
 

copy-writing-catalogShort form copy writing for catalogs must accomplish hard work of selling with few words. Item descriptions in catalogs are sometimes limited to just one sentence—often under a dozen words. Here are key points to help copy writers get the “Wow! I want to buy that” response.

1) Write with a structure in mind.

Even the shortest catalog entries have to grab the reader’s attention, pique their interest, whet their desire, then spur action. Lead with an attention getting sentence or phrase first. The features and spec come at the end, after you get reader attention, interest and desire.

2) Don’t just recite the product features when copy writing for catalogs.

Give the reader some idea what it will be like to own or use the product. Experienced copywriters walk through the five senses to discover concepts that create desire. They also look beyond features to the benefits. For example, the sheet set doesn’t just have a 500 thread count per inch, but “wraps you in absolute luxury that grows softer with each washing—and resists wrinkles”. Put your reader right there with the product, touching it, hearing it, smelling it.

3) Brevity counts.

Today more than ever, readers scan copy before they read it. If you write complex sentences larded with adjectives, readers may not take the effort to read what you have to say. Get to you message, hit the high points and then get out. When you think you have finished, go back and cut words and simplify sentences. It can always be shorter and more hard hitting.

4) Talk to your reader.

Don’t put barriers between you and your audience. Don’t talk about “our customers”, say “you”. And if you have personality, let it shine through. The less you sound like a stilted corporation, the better.

5) Get the details right.

Just because they come at the end doesn’t mean they aren’t important. Check and double check that every measurement and specification is right. Dealing with a returned item is expensive. Dealing with a disappointment customer could be fatal to your business.

May 252015
 

SEO copy writing is a foreign concept for too many writers. A shocking number of companies invest in great copy for their Web sites, but miss the last and most basic element: writing great meta-data. Neglecting meta-data–the words and phrases used by search engines to present your content in search results pages–is perhaps the biggest SEO copy writing blunder companies make.

While Google and other search engines use more than meta-data to rank your site, it still plays a key role when it matches the content of your site and if it appeals to humans scanning the results pages. If no one can find your site, no one will read your site copy, no matter how good it is. You can write great copy, rich in keywords and formatted to rank highly in search engines, but if you overlook SEO copy writing with good meta-data, and you are trying to run a marathon with your feet tied together.

Meta-data Triple Crown for Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Meta-data is the content that search engines use to present your site in search engine results pages (SERP). You can find the meta-data of any site or any Web page by using the “view” command and “page source” or “source” selection in your browser. You’ll then see the source code for the Web page. Within that code you’ll find the three most important meta-data elements of every page of your site:

  1. Title: <title>whatever your title is</title>
  2. Description: <meta name=”description” content=”whatever copy you use to describe your site—only 160 characters will show up on most search engines”>
  3. Keywords: <meta name=”keywords” content=”list words and phrases, separated by commas, that people type into search engines to find your site”>

How Meta-Data Works in Search Engine Optimization

Experts debate how metadata is used in search engine algorithms–and Google changes things regularly. Whatever the value this data is to the algorithm, it is invaluable to getting a human being to click on your content. Here is what the source code for the Central Park Conservancy looks like:

SEO-Copywriting-Metadata

And here is how the site appears in Google search engine results:

SEO-Copywriting-SERPYou will be amazed, once you start looking, how few Web sites get these three basic steps right. Do it right, and a person scanning search engine results pages will click to your site. Do it wrong and you may actually drive potential visitors away. Consider the AVR Enterprises Web site, which has almost no meta-data at all. Here’s their source code:

SEO-Copywriting-Bad-No-Metadata

 

And here is what AVR Enterprises looks like as a result of a search query on Google. You have no idea who they are, what they do or why you would click on their site.
SEO-Copywriting-Bad-SERP

Write Meta-data Copy Customized for Every Page

Every page of your Web site needs meta-data. Lazy Web designers simply copy the same title, description and keywords from the home page and use them for every page of the site. You waste a huge opportunity to build visitor traffic if you don’t take the time to use create a title, description and keywords for every page.

Search engine optimization is a complex and constantly changing art and science. Top-notch search optimization takes time, expertise and money, but don’t let complexity and cost keep you from getting the basics right. With just a little effort, good copy writing, and hardly any technical expertise, you can up the qualified traffic to your site with these three easy fixes.

Apr 282015
 

Web copy writing that sells requires you to have an out-of-body experience. You have to get out of your own world and put yourself in the place of your customer. Many companies are so concerned with what they want to say about their products that they never consider what their customers want to hear. Here are some tips for web copy writing with the customer’s perspective, needs, and experience in mind:

Take the point of view of your customer

If your customer is going to buy your product, they have a particular need to address or problem to solve. This is your starting perspective point. Start with describing a problem first, and then talk about how your product addresses it. End with your credentials. Don’t make the mistake of reversing the order. Don’t start saying you are the most effective exterminator in town and that your service features organic compounds—and only at the end talking about eliminating termites.

Use words your customers use

Many companies communicate internally with jargon that can confuse and alienate customers. Take the time to listen to how customers talk about their problems and how they describe their ideal solutions. You might think your business is “managed services” while your customer says “someone to help me keep my software current”.

Rich copy replaces long copy in selling effectiveness

It was once the axiom of the direct response business that “long copy sells”. What works in print doesn’t work online. Readers engage with your content in successive dives. First they’ll do a quick scan to see if what you have to say is worth their time. Make sure your copy scans well and engages readers. Then they’ll come back and read in more detail. If they are really interested, they will want to do a deep dive. Accommodate interest by making access to rich copy easy. Provide white papers, definitions, detailed specs, demos, videos, maps and charts—whatever is relevant to slacking the thirst of a truly interested prospect.

Be findable: Write to optimize search

You can’t sell if no one can find you. We are constantly shocked that many companies don’t do the basics for optimizing their Web sites and web copy writing for search. Do you know what your company looks like on a search engine results page? Does each and every page, image, download and link on your site have its own relevant title, description and keywords? Are you using formatting to boost the effectiveness of your copy? Search engine optimization is a complex and constantly changing art and science—but don’t let complexity keep you from getting the basics right. (see this post on writing the most basic elements for search engine optimization)

Have a call to action

Writing to sell is writing to convince the reader to want to do something. No piece of sales writing is complete without giving the reader at least one specific action to take and a reason for taking it. Your call to action can be as simple and direct as asking for an order, as in “Buy It Now”. It could be more complex, like “Call for a free consultation and get a copy of our ‘Guide to Air Condition Options’, a $30 dollar value”. Just make sure your call to action is clear, specific, prominent and compelling.

Check out this Marketing Sherpa interview on how good web copy writing and basic SEO increased  traffic 308%

 

Feb 222015
 

Script copy writing for video is not like writing for print. No one sees your words; they are heard, not read. That has important implications for script structure, style, word choice and more. Here are key tips for script copy writing for more effective Web videos.

Write for the Ear

Use simple language. That means short, simple words (“use” is much better than “utilize”), short sentences (no dependent clauses and multi-word phrases where a single word will do), and common vernacular (no jargon and formal business, technical or legal language). Avoid tongue-twisters—read your copy aloud because some phrases don’t look hard to read, but turn out to be a bit hard to say. You don’t even have to use full, grammatically correct sentences. Often a phrase will do.

Write to for Eye

Think about what people will see on the screen when the words are being spoken. If you can’t think of what is on the screen during a particular sentence, re-think your writing. A long still visual over a long, complex sentence will create a boring video. If your scripted words do not match with scripted visuals, you have a problem.

Write Before You Shoot

Write the best possible script you can before shooting your video. That will give you a h2 basis for gathering visuals. For instance your script might say “Joe’s company turned the corner in 2009…” and then plan to shoot Joe in his car turning into the driveway of his corporate headquarters. Carefully read through each line of your script and think about what to show on the screen to compile a shot list.

Rewrite After You Shoot

No matter how carefully you plan, your actual shoot will most likely leave you with both less and more than you planned. You might not be able to get a shot you thought you needed. You may find you had the opportunity to get a shot you hadn’t considered. Look through your raw footage and compare it with your script. You may need to make adjustments to account for missing shots and to take advantage of great shots you had not considered.

Write Engagingly

A dry corporate report may earn at least a passing glance, but people will click away from a dull video in less than a second. Write in sound bites. Use wit. Be surprising and provocative, creative and quotable in your video copy writing.

Write One Idea Per Video

Aspiring advertisers quickly learn that a brand can only stand for one thing and that an ad can only convey one idea. Web videographers are advised to heed that same advice. Web videos must be short and focused (see the other articles in this video series for more video tips). If you have three ideas, don’t make one long video, make three pithy one. You can’t easily skim through a long video to find the 35 seconds you really want to hear. A series of focused videos lets your audience identify the content that best fits their interest and go directly to it.

And one last step before you are done–go back and shorten the script more!

Sep 262014
 

Creating branded content is an increasingly important part of brand building. The demand for more and more branded content makes it tempting to hire cheap writers. How hard can it be to write a tweet? Does the daily blog really need Mark Twain quality? ABSOLUTELY:

I offer some insight in this well-written branded content article by Debra Donston-Miller
“Why Underpaying Writers Can Kill Your Content Marketing”

contently-branded-content

May 122013
 

Association_Non-Profit_Consultants_LogoCongratulations to my client, the Association of Consultants to Nonprofits on their new Web site. It’s always a pleasure to work with Chicagoans, especially those who appreciate good web site writing, visitor experience and good SEO. Visit the site here.

© 2014 Lisa Merriam