If people don't get what you do, how you do it better than everyone else and how you can solve their most pressing problems, they'll click on. It's only a matter of seconds. If they have to squint to read your content, there are long, bulky, time-consuming paragraphs, or there are copious grammatical errors: CLICK! Your copy must be succinct, easy to read and engaging if you want to avoid losing your prospects forever. Here is what you can do to keep them sticking around and coming back for more.
Get Clear on Your Keywords
Contrary to what you may have been told, having a healthy dose of keywords in your content still has bearing on your SEO results. However, keyword stuffing and writing just for search engines is not to your advantage - never was, really.
You don't want your website content to sound awkward when you read it aloud because you're forcing an excess of keywords into the copy, but you do want to be cognizant of your keywords, using them where it's appropriate to do so. Besides helping you with SEO, doing the research and developing a good keyword list can really help give you a sense of direction when you go to write your web content.
Make Your Home Page A Priority
Your home page is the most important page on your website. I've seen way too many websites that have little to no copy on the home page. This is the page that Google looks at the most.
If your readers don't understand what you do or what your value is, they will click away from your website. Many companies put all the juicy stuff about their company on the about us page, but most people will never go to that page, especially if they haven't been given a good reason to do so on the home page.
Include Calls to Action
If you ultimately want visitors to your site to contact you for a free consultation, sign up for your newsletter or shop your online store, make sure you've stated it in your copy and made it easy for them to do so my linking to where you want them to go. If you want them to sign up for your newsletter, offer an enticing freebie in exchange for their contact information.
Note that people see offers for free consultations all the time, so it may be more compelling if you call it something different, something that describes what they can expect to get out of their free session.
Focus on Benefits
Listing features can help to sell your product or service, but making people understand the benefits is what really gets the sale. You may think the benefits are obvious, but assume they're not. The best way to show benefits is to solve a problem - or five - for your prospective client. Set up the problem by creating a story that evokes their stressor, then quickly explain how you alleviate it. If your prospect breathes a sigh of relief after reading your website content, new business is likely to come easily.
It's Not About You
It's about your current or prospective client. Use "you," rather than "we," or "I." I see a lot of websites that focus solely on talking about how wonderful the company is. Your website is not about your company, it's about what your company can do to make your prospect's life easier or better.
Define Your Unique Value
If you're a web designer or hairstylist, it's likely you have a lot of competition. You need to be able to clearly define what it is that sets you apart. Answer the question your prospective client is milling over: Why would they want to go to you versus someone else?
If you're going to make a claim, make sure you can back it up. So many companies say they offer quality products and leave it at that. If you have a testimonial from a client explaining how your product lasted longer and was easier to use than all the other products out there, that speaks volumes. Show, don't tell. Just saying you have quality products means nothing if you can't explain why or how it's quality. Don't be afraid to use the word "because." And again, don't assume anything is obvious.
You don't want to talk to visitors to your website like they're stupid, but you do want to talk to them like they're busy. They're more than likely scanning your site, so you want to make sure things are quick and easy to understand. Sometimes that means listing a benefit in a couple places, or explaining a little bit more than you're used to.
More Helpful Tips On How To Write Effective Website Content
Any questions on how to write effective website content? Please comment below.
Photo via iStock.com.
Recently, an aspiring freelance copywriter emailed me to see if he could ask me some questions about starting out. I told him I'd be happy to. I haven't received his list yet, but I already know what I'm going to tell him. I'm going to give him a very honest take on how to make a go at being a freelance copywriter: you must have complete and utter nerve.
Being a freelance copywriter means releasing any apprehension and getting completely out of your comfort zone. It means being yourself, putting it out there, letting go of whether or not your writing is good enough, or whether your portfolio has enough samples. It means acting like you're a competent, confident copywriter even if you don't feel like one. It's half the battle.
The truth is there are people who've hired me without ever looking at my portfolio, or after barely glancing at it, and there are a lot of copywriters out there who don't write that well making a living, which means that if you write remotely well, you're probably good to go.
A client looking for long-term work once asked me in our initial consultation to tell him about a time where I took a risk. I told him I'd have to think about it and get back to him. Fortunately, he didn't bring up the question again, and I got the gig despite the fact that I didn't answer one of his questions. The truth is, I didn't have to think about it.
If the word moxie and copywriter could alliterate, the title of my copywriting business would be different. I take risks all day, everyday. Being a copywriter in itself is a huge risk, especially one that freelances.
Once I finish a project, I may not have another one waiting for me. Sometimes I get three people in one day that fill out my contact form, and then weeks may go by without a bite. I never have any guarantees that I'm going to have enough work to pay the bills. I'm out there without a safety net.
Half the people I meet have no idea what a copywriter even is. Despite this, I've developed a backbone. I've figured out how to go to networking events and explain what I do in a way people understand. I hate standing up in front of people, but I still strive to make them care. And if they don't, I let it go and move on. There are plenty of people out there who do know what a copywriter is and are looking for a good one.
I email people who I find to be intimidating and have never met in person and introduce myself. I ask them if they'd like to chat about finding a way to help each other, or if they ever work with freelance copywriters. I include clips of my writing and hope it's what they need. It's uncomfortable every time. And I still haven't mustered up enough nerve to make a cold call.
I emailed a company the other day because I liked their shoes, and when I went to their site I saw it said "Coming Soon." I told them I realized it was likely they already had a fashion copywriter in place, but just in case, I thought I'd offer my services. A couple years ago, I would have been too apprehensive to do this. If I thought there was a chance that something wasn't an option I wouldn't ask. But if you don't ask you don't get, so you have to keep asking as much as possible - even if the answer is likely to be no - if you want to be successful. Having cold feet is not an option.
Photo via iStock.com
Stick To Your Guns
If you want to triumph as a freelance copywriter, you must have the valor to do things on your terms. You have to be able to say no when a writing job doesn't suit you or the pay is peanuts - even if you're feeling desperate.
I turned down a prospect recently because they wanted in-depth blog posts about computer software, and even though I'm a strong writer and researcher, and I can make anything sound good, I'm far from being a techy. Beyond resembling a deer caught in headlights when it comes to technical speak, I find it boring. When I'm bored, I get frustrated, and I don't write well.
I turned down another job because even though I've written for real estate agents, and tend to enjoy writing their bios and lifestyle blog posts, the idea of writing about changes in the local real estate market everyday just doesn't get me fired up. It was a fairly large, on-going gig, but I had to tell the client it wasn't the right fit. They needed a real estate expert, someone who understood their audience. I'm just not that gal.
The old adage is true, "Honesty is the best policy." The client was happy I respected our relationship enough to be honest, and is highly likely to hire me for other stuff better suited to my talents going forward.
You can't be everything to everyone. If you want to be successful, you have to stay with your strengths. You want to be able to give the right prospects exactly what they're looking for.
When I'm truly excited about a client's business, it comes out in the copy. They get amped up and write me a killer testimonial about how I brought tears to their eyes on LinkedIn, and my portfolio looks stellar. It happens when I'm not truly in love with the topic, but less often.
If it feels light and easy to write, do it. If it doesn't, you may want to think carefully about whether or not the project is to your benefit. I'm not saying you should be quick to turn down work, or make snap judgements. There are certain topics I didn't think I would enjoy writing about on first glance, but when I delved deeper I found some common ground.
Cut Out The Crap
Although delivering good service is key, you can't be afraid to be firm with clients on what you will and will not do. Don't let prospects chew your ear off about their company during a free consultation and go past your allotted time. Don't be afraid to keep them on track and let them know that they will be invoiced for any time that goes over.
I once had a prospective client collectively take up four hours of time with a series of phone calls because I was afraid to say that we had gone over my free consultation time. Once I realized I stiffed myself out of a lot of money, I was quick to politely tell the next prospect I dealt with that rambled on about things that weren't helping me develop an accurate quote, that her free time was up.
Make sure you have a contract you use every time. And stick to the terms on your contract no matter what. If your contract says you charge for edits after a certain point, stick to it. Don't let anyone make you feel uncomfortable for being a smart business person. If your client is a smart business person they will understand and respect your terms.
You can't be hesitant to charge what you're worth, even if it means losing out on a gig. If you make it OK to work for schillings, you'll get stuck. There are plenty of businesses out there that understand the value of good copy and have the money to pay you. You just have to have the tenacity to find them and sell them on why you're worth it. It's taken me a bit, but I've committed to raising my rates regularly. And when I tell people my rates I no longer clench anything or shut my eyes.
Breathe, Hit Send, Hope For The Best
Every time I write and submit copy I'm taking a gamble. My work could be very well be rejected. It may not please everybody. It doesn't happen often, but there have been times where I've had to make major adjustments to copy I wrote. I've learned not to take it personally. There have been way more times where clients were happy with my copy. Ultimately, you have to just do your best and have confidence that your best is more than good enough.
If you want to stand apart and succeed, sometimes you have to write stuff that pushes the envelope, that transcends the status quo. Now, I'm not suggesting you use derogatory terms when writing for clients, unless it matches the tone of the brand and they want you to - and those companies are out there. I'm saying that if you want to be a freelance copywriter, or you're wondering how to succeed at it, you can't be timid about tapping into your own creative voice.
It's taken time, but I'm developing ovaries of steel. I've become way less timid when it comes to looking and asking for work. I attach my work and hit send even though it feels terrifying to do so. I give people that scare me shout outs. I say things I never thought I would have the gumption to say. When I don't hear back from people, I tell myself, "Sucks for them." Everyday I'm audacious, and a tad shameless, both in my copy and my dealings. I spit in the face of fear. It's the only way.
Why Listening Is Important
Social media marketing provides the ability for companies to build strong, lasting relationships with their target markets. The key to developing relationships is engaging in compelling conversations, and one of the fundamentals of being an excellent conversationalist is good listening skills. Twitter and Facebook, the most notable social media marketing outlets, are ideal platforms for listening.
Although Twitter and Facebook provide outlets for touting services and products, there are other valuable opportunities businesses tend to ignore. Businesses often make the mistake of posting on their Facebook and Twitter pages without taking the time to assess who they are talking to. Knowing what your target audience views as important and being familiar with the language they speak is crucial to social media success. It's also helpful to be aware of what your competitors are doing and what's changing in your industry.
A business who has mastered the art of conversation will take the time to anticipate their target market's needs and desires. They also will directly ask their followers what they value and use the information to utilize better business practices and provide relationship building and transaction inducing content. Rather than actively disposing of criticism, they'll utilize what is said about them to improve their customer service.
Improving Your Listening Skills on Twitter
1. Don't Follow Just to Gain Followers
It's Twitter etiquette to follow those who are following you. This is often not helpful for either parties. Many businesses and self-promoters request to follow with no intention of reading in-coming posts. It's a mistake to follow solely for the sake of being followed. You will end up missing out on great information. Following key businesses and prominent people is a great way to listen in on trends and best practices within your industry. Reading the public's posts will gain you access to valuable information about what's popular and how your product or service ranks. You will also find that the likelihood your followers will do business with you will increase when you stop relying on following people just to bring in followers.
2. Listen in on Conversations
Utilizing the hash tag is a great listening tactic. A hashtag denotes a reoccurring topic of conversation. To figure out the popular hashtags, or conversations, in your industry go to hashtags.org and type in your topic to get suggestions. This will help you to not only figure out which conversations to listen to, it will identify the conversations worth joining. Hashtags also help to indicate who is worth paying attention to.
Another great way to listen in on the conversations happening in real-time on Twitter is to go to the advanced search on Twitter and enter in the key terms for your industry. It will show all the conversations that contain those key words. This will give you a bird's eye view of your competition and target market.
3. Pay Attention to Trends in Your Industry
What the Trend tracks the trends, or rather, the hashtags, that are going viral on twitter. You can use their search engine to find trends in your industry. Some of the trends have explanations. For the ones that don't, you have the opportunity to be the first to explain the trend.
4. Watch Successful Tweeters
Another method for success on Twitter is watching the pros. Twitterholic and We Follow allow you to take a look at the most popular users. It's an opportunity to assess what they are tweeting about, their style and tone of voice, the different ways they tweet, and how often. This is great way to get ideas for tweets.
Improving Your Listening Skills on Facebook
5. Listen for Fans
Do a search for other fan pages, groups and profiles related to your industry and read what people are talking about. Carefully assess people's reactions to things. What is successful? What isn't working? Why do you think it isn't working? Once you have spent time listening you can start engaging in meaningful conversations that will lead to quality fans.
6. Show That You're a Good Listener
Show that you're listening by consistently responding to wall posts and comments. This shows you're engaged and allows for better relationship building. The goal is always to create a two-way conversation, which is the foundation of social media. If you actively read your news feed you can respond to negative feedback immediately, either publicly or through direct messaging. A prompt and tactful response to the matter will show your company in a positive light.
What will you do to be a better listener? Do Share! I love receiving comments, questions and feedback.
The key to success with content marketing isn't esoteric or nouveau just because it's on the internet. Regardless of whether you're marketing online, in print or face-to-face, success remains rooted in basic marketing principles. One such principle is that if you want more buzz around your business you need to ask for it.
Have you created highly educational, inspirational content? Want people to "like" or share your photo on Facebook, or retweet your brilliant quip on Twitter? Once you create quality content, all you have to do is ask. Then you have to make the desired action clear and easy for people to implement. Yep, it's that simple. Below are the six best ways to ask for the distribution of your content. You'll see how just asking can catapult your online marketing efforts.
1. Get people to comment on your blog and share that comment with others: At the end of each blog post ask a thought provoking question, or ask if anyone has stories to share relating to your topic. Follow it up with something like, "Love to hear your thoughts. Please comment below."
People love giving their opinions and talking about themselves. I end every blog post this way.
Want those comments that keep rolling in to get shared on Facebook? Use the Facebook Comments Box. You can get the plug-in here: https://developers.facebook.com/docs/reference/plugins/comments/
Another helpful hint: You can also increase your social following by saying something like, “If you enjoyed this post and want more, please follow us on Twitter or become a fan on Facebook.” This makes for more people that are available to share your stuff.
2. Use the Facebook Ask Question feature with poll options to ask a question that people are likely to engage with and share: This Facebook posting feature is often overlooked. If the question is compelling enough people will ask their friends, thus sharing your content for you. Invite people to add poll options in your post.
3. Ask people to "like" your Facebook posts directly and you'll be amazed by how many do: Post a gorgeous or intriguing photo - people love pics - and then say something like, "Click 'like' if you dig this!" I've gotten over 350 likes this way, meaning that all of the friends of the people that "liked" the pic got to see the post. You can also just ask them to share it with their buddies: "Click share to spread the love to your buddies!"
4. Ask to people to retweet at the end of a tweet: Tweet something that gets people pumped and then say something like, "if you agree, retweet!"
5. Get people to tweet compelling quotes from your blog posts: Write something that's quotable - especially for people in your industry - and then use Click to Tweet so your visitors can do just that.
6. Invite people to forward your newsletter to a friend: Saying something such as, "You're more than welcome to share the information in this newsletter with a friend, and if you think they might benefit from future offers, webinars and blog posts make sure they sign up for my email list at _______."
How will you ask people to share your web content? Have you already had successes with asking? Do share. Please comment below.
By Sabrina Gaffney
From blogging to bios, freelance website copywriter Sabrina Gaffney, offers a powerful profusion of copywriting tips that bring in the moola! Connect on LinkedIn.
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