Good writing is enjoyable and attractive. But "copy" sells. So how do you make the leap? What's the magic formula?
A lot of people have the "gift for gab." They're able to sit down and write engaging words that spark the imagination, uplift the spirit, and make listeners feel great. Sometimes, in a store, that warm, fuzzy feeling will seduce a customer into making a purchase. But that's accidental. Language like that isn't copy. It's delightful, but isn't targeted to sell. What makes the difference?
It's All About the Customer
Copywriting isn't a case of sounding generally appealing and exuding a lovely personality. That will win friends but won't necessarily build a customer base. To sell, and to continue growing on the foundation of earlier sales, you need to genuinely connect with your customers' particular style, way of life, product needs, buying habits and personal characteristics. As we discussed in another post about marketing strategies that fit your business, there isn't a one-size-fits-all writing style that works for all businesses.
Many business owners who aren't also writers find it very difficult to write ordinary descriptions, much less create focused copy that is intelligently and effectively designed to sell. So how can you manage to write a good product listing or bio without either taking classes or hiring a professional? In some cases, those options will work for you and would be good alternatives. But if you're trying to go it alone, here are few tips that might help:
Avoiding the Hard Sell
Of course there are many "hard sell" tactics that work purely on the basis of manipulating consumers' emotions, and can successfully sell with having to remain authentic. Note that even in those cases, a business needs to understand its high-potential customers in order to drive them toward making a purchase. But overall, I can't recommend those methodologies—even in cases where they might work. In my opinion, not everything that works is worthwhile doing. I prefer to respect the customer and to rely on honest, direct engagement rather than subtle or overt manipulation.
What's your biggest challenge when trying to produce effective sales or marketing copy? Feel free to comment or ask a question. And browse the blog for more tips on copywriting, SEO, marketing and social media.
Need immediate help? Visit Services here to find out about coaching and consulting options currently available. You can also get help in The Copywriting Coach on Facebook. A recent 2-month Office Hours coaching class (closed at this time) provided extra direction and insight to enthusiastic micropreneurs.
Google's secret algorithm strikes a balance between keyword relevance and content quality. What's the best approach for success?
As we've seen in previous posts, being seen in Google search results involves a lot more than just keywords. Google's ranking formula incorporates over 200 diverse factors, including popularity measures and content quality assessments. Not only that, but, order to provide the best experience for Google searchers, the algorithm changes almost daily! How can a small business like yours get a better handle on how search works, in order to decide where to focus your limited time and resources?
The first step is becoming more comfortable with the difference between keyword relevance (how closely your content matches up with customer searches) and content quality (how highly Google values your content based on its ranking factors). If you focus solely on one aspect of Google's complex algorithm, you could miss significant opportunities for optimization.
Although Google provides hundreds of pages of information and recommendations regarding how to use keywords and how to optimize content quality, it maintains secrecy over the exact relationship between the two areas of SEO in its algorithm. In my opinion, this is perfectly natural, since Google is a business and there's no reason for it to release all of its in-house, proprietary knowledge. Other search engines have their own secret recipes, and it makes sense for Google to keep its constantly evolving approach under wraps.
Nevertheless, recent statements from Google indicate that the algorithm uses both keyword relevance and quality as prime considerations, and both are strongly involved in determining where a page ends up in search results.
A lot of SEO discussions focus on keywords only, and those discussions have become widespread enough that even small businesses have begun to incorporate keyword research into their daily routine. But what about the quality side? It's important to focus just as strongly on areas that include (but aren't limited to):
Clearly, this is an ongoing conversation, with lots more to talk about. Stay tuned for upcoming posts that will focus on specific ways to strengthen the quality of your site, outside activities that will help your ranking, and insider details about how search works. In the meantime, feel free to browse the blog for more tips on SEO, copywriting, social media and marketing.
Need immediate help? Visit Services to learn about consults and coaching options.
Unfollowing is common practice on IG, so how do you know which accounts to follow back and which to avoid? Watch the screencast for today's tip!
A professional "follow for follow" gesture is often a good move if an account is relevant to you or if you just happen to like it, but what about all those accounts that immediately unfollow? It's easy to become depressed as your "Following" numbers continue to rise and your "Followers" keep dropping. In principle, there's nothing wrong with following someone who doesn't follow you back, but there's no point in completing a "follow for follow" with people who don't genuinely want to maintain a relationship.
Watch the screencast to learn one easy way to spot likely unfollowers and cut back at least somewhat on those followed accounts that you don't want or need on your "Following" list. Since Instagram doesn't provide an easy way to keep track of unfollows, it's safer to spot them ahead of time.
After viewing, feel free to comment or ask a question. And browse the blog for more tips on social media, copywriting, marketing and SEO.
Make those first few sentences count! View this Etsy listing critique to find out how to connect with customers in the first few seconds!
In a previous blog post, I talked in general about making sure to say the most important things first on any e-commerce web page. This is especially true for product listings. Customers who loved your photo enough to click on the listing are poised to buy. So don't lose their attention now!
Here's a specific example of this principle in action. View the screencast to see how a good listing can get even better by focusing on value, and engaging customers when they first lay eyes on your listing copy.
Feel free to comment or ask a question. And browse the blog for more on copywriting, SEO, marketing, and social media. For immediately help, visit Services to learn more about consults and coaching options.
What makes "sales" different from "marketing"? And how does knowing the difference help you to optimize your business strategies?
A lot of new and smaller sellers tend to confuse the terms sales and marketing, either lumping them together or ignoring the terms altogether. But a failure to grasp the difference could cost you opportunities to gain a larger audience and grow your business.
In the long process of acquiring customers, marketing comes first. This is the stage when you make yourself visible to the marketplace. Marketing plans help you:
Sales comes next. This is the stage when customers are already at a point of sale where they can easily buy your items. They've found your store, have demonstrated some initial interest in what you do, and are looking for additional reasons to purchase.
Note that when customers find you through online searches, they've skipped the marketing stage. They're jumped right to your store and directly into the sales process.
What's Your Goal?
Understanding what stage you're at with customers helps you decide what to say and how to say it. It also helps you pinpoint the best strategies to use for each location where you make contact with buyers.
For example, if you have a product post on Instagram, but the customer can't purchase there, that's a marketing post. Which means your goal is either:
In the first case, you need to provide a way for customers to get to the point of sale and also need to state your goal clearly. "Buy Now."
In the second case, you need to provide a way for customers to remain in touch and need to state that goal in a way that helps customers take action. "Click on the link to learn more." You can also keep them engaged by starting a conversation. "This month's birthstone is the opal. Do you have a favorite piece of jewelry with your birthstone in it?" There are lots of options.
In large companies the distinction between sales and marketing is very clear, since they maintain separate departments for each. The marketing team develops the programs that get the message out into the marketplace, motivating potential customers to learn more and ask questions. Once a customer starts showing an interest in the company's products or services, the sales team takes over.
Does this brief overview give you any ideas for ways you can shift your social media or onsite activities to optimize the selling process? Feel free to comment or ask a question. And check the blog for more tips on marketing, social media, copywriting and SEO.
Need immediate help? Visit Services to learn more about consulting and coaching options. You can also visit The Copywriting Coach on Facebook. Our recent 2-month Office Hours class (now closed) provided direction, insight and inspiration to many creatives and entrepreneurs.
Your best keywords aren't always at the top of each website page? No problem. View the screencast to learn more!
It turns out that Google doesn't care where your content is on a website page—including the landing page—as long as it's consistent and reflects the overall purpose of the website itself. This is especially true as Google moves toward "Mobile First" ranking, which focuses on mobile optimization versus the desktop. View the screencast to learn more, and to find out about a couple important exceptions.
If you're wondering about pop-up ads and sign-ups, read No Pop-Ups! here on the blog.
After you've seen the screencast, feel free to comment or ask a question. And check the blog for other posts on SEO, copywriting, social media and marketing.
Have you optimized your Facebook business page? View the video critique for a quick overview of goals, content and organization.
Although it isn't entirely clear whether or not a Facebook business page provides much value these days, it's still an essential part of your social media presence. Among other things, it offers:
Here's a critique of a small business Facebook page that promotes vintage decor and fashion. After viewing the screencast, feel free to ask a question or leave a comment. And browse the blog for more on social media, copywriting, SEO, and marketing.
Lots of views but few sales? Something's missing. Improve your stats with better photos, copywriting and customer service.
It's an old story. You spend ages improving your SEO and promoting like crazy on social media—and your views are starting to spike. But no one's buying. What's the problem?
There's so much emphasis on working the system these days that a lot of people forget the basics: know your customers, engage them effectively once they've arrived at your store, and make sure they receive top-notch service from start to finish. Here are a few typical reasons why a visit doesn't turn into a sale.
Pricing is Wrong
Often, ads and social media posts display your items without prices. Customers click through with certain expectations, which might not be met in the store. Are your ads giving the wrong impression? Experiment with showing and not showing prices in your promotional activities to see if you notice a pattern. Check the market to make sure you're in line with other similar stores. If your prices are high, make sure you consistently present an upscale image. And so on.
Promotions are Misleading
If you aren't careful while promoting, you might accidentally mislead customers, which leads to disappointment when they actually visit your store. For example, suppose you post on social media about a "genuine silver necklace with ruby beads." But when customers visit, they find a silver toned necklace (not sterling) with ruby red glass beads. You've draw the wrong kind of customers and missed the right ones. Plus, you've opened the door to a possible customer service nightmare after the sale if someone purchases without paying careful attention.
Copywriting Doesn't Engage
This could turn into a book right here, but very briefly, here are a few common copywriting errors that can prevent customers from clicking "Add to Cart."
Photos are Mediocre
It's almost impossible to sell consistently without beautiful images. Most social media platforms are highly visual, and browsing occurs at high speed. Which means that you need to grab your customer's attention at first glance. Only powerful graphics can do that. The same with search traffic. Once customers are in your store, their first connection with each item will be visual, so your photos really count.
Process is Confusing
If you haven't made it easy for buyers to communicate with you and finalize their purchases, you'll miss out on sales. Areas to watch out for include personalization, variations, custom orders, unusual shipping issues, clarifications about item details, and so on. Make sure each step is clear and simple.
What aspect of your store do you think needs the most work? Feel free to comment or ask a question. Also browse the blog for related tips on copywriting, social media, marketing, and SEO.
Need immediate help? Visit Services to learn about consults and coaching options. You might also be interested in The Copywriting Coach on Facebook.
Keywords in your web address don't help with SEO, so focus instead on a brand that customers will remember.
If you've been around for a while, you might know that Google search used give a slight edge to domains (primary web addresses) containing relevant keywords. If a user searched on a specific keyword, and your domain name contained that keyword, you got a little bump in the results.
Not anymore. Today, Google recommends choosing a domain name based on long-term marketing goals, not on potential SEO value. Select a name that reflects your brand, communicates your style, and can be easily remembered by the customers you're attempting to attract.
URL keywords aren't ignored, but their impact on relevance is minimal, and they don't affect ranking at all. "Keywords in the URL might mean something, but they carry incredibly little weight." [Google Webmasters Forum, November, 2016]
Google points out that some of the largest, most well-known companies in the world have chosen business names and domains that don't incorporate relevant keywords. One obvious example is, well, Google. A few others you might recognize are Amazon, Ikea, Apple, Canon, Lego, and so on. Google suggests that you "worry more about the effect on the humans than about the possible effect on the [SEO] machine." [Google Webmasters Forum, May, 2014]
As with everything nowadays, Google continues to recommend sites that connect with customers in a natural way, with straightforward, quality content, and branding that makes logical and emotional sense to visitors.
"The failure road is paved with people with good intentions who put emphasis on what they thought was a slight SEO lift over solid brand building." [Google Webmasters Forum, September, 2016]
For marketing purposes, you might want to use a descriptive word in your business name or domain to give customers a clear idea of what your business is all about. But for keywords, focus on the title field of your main site page as the correct place for your top searchable site terms. Website hosting platforms provide a place where you can customize this information. On Etsy, it's the first part of your Etsy title, which is the line that appears under your shop name.
Also keep in mind that Google search tends to be less important for small or new businesses, because it's hard to rank without a strong, visible following. Consider spending more time on marketing, less time on worrying about exact SEO details. It isn't just about keywords.
How do you feel about your own business name and domain? Feel free to comment or ask a question. And look through the blog for more tips on SEO, marketing, social media and copywriting.
Free group coaching available now! SEO, marketing, copywriting, social media. Tips daily, plus one-on-one advice for your e-commerce website or Etsy shop. For members of The Copywriting Coach group on Facebook.
Optimize your presence on Pinterest group boards using these easy-to-follow tips. Refresh, track, interact and experiment to achieve success!
Pinterest group boards offer a fast, efficient way to get seen on Pinterest while you’re waiting for your own account to accumulate followers and generate traffic. In another blog post, I’ve talked about finding Pinterest group boards. Once you’ve selected a few, here are some tips on how to use them.
Get into a regular routine of pinning to your group boards. Followers who like your items will start looking for each day’s new additions.
Different Boards, Different Pins
Pin different items to different boards. Watch for notifications about which pins are being repinned and “tried” so you can start identifying the boards that are getting the most attention for your items. Adjust your activity accordingly.
Not getting much action? Look around for other boards to try. Think outside the box for types of boards that might accept your items but aren’t an exact match. For example, there are hundreds of jewelry group boards that work very well for jewelry. But there are also some general fashion boards that accept jewelry. Those fashion boards can help jewelry sellers, too.
In your store, use whatever analytics are available to determine how effective your Pinterest group boards have been. Do you get more sales on days when there’s more traffic from Pinterest? Did you notice that Jane Doe, who repinned one of your pins yesterday, just purchased an item from your store today? Which board did she repin from?
Maintain Your Own Account
You still want to build up the visibility and strength of your own Pinterest account. For one thing, you want to be able to direct potential customers there to view your items. You also want to have an excellent display to show anyone who decides to click through to your account after spotting something of yours on a group board. Ultimately, you would like your brand’s account to have a life of its own, apart from the group boards.
Interact With Others
Spend a little time each week showing some love for other people on the group boards that you use. “Try” their items, comment thoughtfully on their pins, and repin to appropriate boards in your own account. This is a social networking activity, not a sales activity, but it can lead to more repinning of your items. If it isn’t working on a particular board, you can stop and try elsewhere.
Improve Your Photos
Pinterest is all about beautiful, compelling images. Medium-quality photos rarely get attention. If you plan to use Pinterest as a primary social media outlet, invest in superb photography. Otherwise your time might be wasted.
Start Your Own Group Board?
Having a group board of your own is a great way to drive visibility. But it takes a lot of work. If you’re willing to put in the time, it might be worth it. Don’t expect a lot of followers without a lot of effort.
Have Pinterest group boards worked for you in the past? Any tips you would like to pass on? Feel free to comment. And check the blog for more tips on social media, copywriting, marketing and SEO.
Barbara Clavan provides copywriting, coaching and consulting services to high-growth businesses, high-profile individuals and creative entrepreneurs.
Visit Services to learn more.