How to use blog metrics to measure the success of your posts

Analytics

In 2016, having a successful blog can be one of the most important things for your business’ online presence. It can establish you as a trusted authority in your field, drive extra traffic to your website, and enable you to connect with your customers on another level. But just how do you measure the success of your blog?

The answer can be found in blog metrics.

The whys and whats of blog metrics
Your blog is not a static thing. It is a fluid entity comprised of the many posts that you upload. So to judge its success overall, you must analyse and measure the success of your blog posts. There are a variety of ways of doing so, and in this post we’re going to be taking at those which are most useful and relevant to businesses.

First let’s take a look at some of the key metrics that you can use to measure the success of your blog:

Page views – The number of page views can reveal how attractive your post is as a clickable item, but it doesn’t reveal the full picture…

Time on page – The average time spent on your page shows how compelling and successful it is in holding attention

Bounce rate – Conversely, a high number of bounces, in which people immediately desert your post, should tell you that something’s wrong

Pages per visit – If people are reading your blog but then clicking off-site, how successful is your post really?

External links – If people are linking to your site from elsewhere on the web, that’s a good sign that you’re doing something right, and is certainly successful in regards to providing additional traffic opportunities

Referred visits – When you know that people are actually clicking on those links to access your site, that’s even better

Audience growth – If more people are accessing and reading your blog than before, that’s a pretty good sign

Social shares – People share what they like, and if they like it then that’s an important kind of success. Social shares are also a good indicator of your exposure levels

Comments – A high number of comments on your blog means that it’s engaging people and provoking a response. It’s important to note the nature of that response though, and whether it’s positive and actually beneficial to your business

RSS Subscribers – If the number of people subscribing to your blog increases between blog posts, that’s a good sign

Conversions/ click-throughs – What are people actually doing once they’ve read your blog post? If their clicking through to other relevant areas of your site or actually making a purchase/enquiry that’s a very positive sign of success.

How to decide which metrics you should be tracking?
All businesses are different, and the metrics that are important for one may be of little consequence to others.

When deciding what metrics represent success to you and your business, you should first ask yourself what actually matters to you at this point in time. Is your immediate goal to increase your brand exposure? To achieve a high number of sales? To create a dialogue between you and your customers?

Once you know what’s important, you should be able to easily decide what blog metrics you should be paying attention to. If for example, you’re trying to increase your exposure, then page views, referred visits, audience growth and social shares will be of particular interest to you. If on the other hand you have already grown your audience and wish to increase sales, look to time spent on page, bounce rate, conversions and click-throughs.

What tools can be used to track metrics
Once you’ve decided which metrics you’re going to follow, you of course need to figure out the how. There are quite a few different tools that you can use to track blog metrics, but here we’ll take a look at some of the most effective.

Google Analytics – Google’s tool is one of the most widely-used, and the budget-conscious will be pleased to know that it’s free. While it’s not specifically designed for tracking blog metrics, it has many features which can be used for this purpose, including the ability to investigate individual stats for each of your blog posts, such as visits, conversions and traffic referral sources. It will also tell you where each of the visits to your post is coming from geographically, which can help you to check that you are reaching your core audience.

Hubspot Analytics – Hubspot’s tool is a slightly meatier option, but it will cost you (a free trial is however provided). With it you can track all important blog metrics like how much revenue has been generated by a specific post, click-through conversion rates and which pages have been the most influential.

Kissmetrics – This is another paid tool which will give you greater insight into metrics relating to the people that visit your blog. With its ‘path report’ feature you can find out what people are doing after they’ve visited your blog post, for example checking out your prices or viewing specific product pages. With this information you can adjust your approach accordingly.

Buffer – Not strictly a tool for tracking your blog itself, but Buffer can be used to manage your social media presence and will provide you with valuable data on when people are clicking on or sharing your content. This can be a particularly useful tool for exploring whether you’re blog concepts and titles are compelling enough to bring you greater exposure.

How to analyse your data
To analyse your data you need to ask the right questions. For example:

  • What does this mean?
  • Why is this the case?
  • What can be done to improve this?

Effective blog metric analysis comes down to making informed assumptions based on the data you have to hand, and then taking action based on those assumptions. The guys at Hubspot have given a good example of such an assumption in their post ‘How to Analyse your blog posts: A beginner’s Guide’:

“If you’re not getting a lot of traffic to your blog but your conversion rate is high, it’s a good indication that the traffic you’re getting is high quality. But in order to grow your blog, you’ll need to work on increasing traffic to your blog while still maintaining that high conversion rate.”

The natural follow on from this is that you would then look at ways of increasing your traffic.
Likewise, if you have a high number of page views but your bounce rate is high or people are only staying on your post a short time, you should look at whether the quality or the relevance of your posts are putting people off. If quality is high, then you should consider whether your titles are misleading.

To give another example, if some of your blog posts are gaining a particularly high number of social shares or conversions, you should consider what specifically is making them so successful, and seek to replicate that in future posts. Were your titles particularly compelling/ short/ descriptive? Was the topic timely? Were your popular blog posts of a certain length?

Heed the words of Jeff Sauer over at Moz: “Paying attention to which of your content efforts are working well is the cornerstone to data-driven marketing.”

Applying your findings to future posts
There’s no point in spending hours poring over metrics and agonising over data unless you’re going to actually act upon your findings. Whenever you draw a conclusion from a particular metric or from an overview of the data available, you should ask yourself, ‘What changes can I make to improve this?’

For example, if you find that your posts are suffering from a high bounce rate or that people aren’t reading to the end, you should identify why this may be (too hard to read? Too boring?) and then resolve to rectify it (eg. use simpler language/ pick more interesting topics/ adjust your tone). You might also try making sure that you include at least one intriguing fact or question in your opening paragraph.

To give another example, if you find that your posts are generating plenty of social shares but not many click-throughs then you might want to take a look at your titles. The title of your blog post is the first thing that people will see, and will set the tone for the rest of the piece. If it’s not engaging then it’s unlikely people will opt to read your post, regardless of who shared it with them.

There are many other ways in which you can apply the findings of your metric analysis to the constant improvement of your blog. By doing so, you turn otherwise dull statistics into powerful tools for generating online business success.

As a general rule and ethos when analysing blog metrics, keep in mind the following quote from management consultant and author Peter F. Drucker: “What’s measured improves.”

If you’d like to find out more about how you can optimise your blog for success or are simply seeking top-notch content, feel free to get in touch with us today.

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13 types of marketing communications you should probably be using

types of marketing communicationsThere are many types of marketing communications. Each one is an opportunity to engage your target audience with laser-guided precision. But how does a copywriter tailor their content to make the most of each method?

Here is a beginner’s field guide to different types of marketing communications and how to approach each one to maximise your chance of success.

  1. Advertorials

An advertorial is a piece of editorial that is paid for. Generally it discreetly incorporates relevant sales information within engaging editorial, with the theory being that it will be read by far more people and generate far more reaction than a standard advertisement.

The best advertorials blend promotional content with editorial in a relevant, newsworthy story that is totally aligned with the publication’s house style so the reader barely acknowledges the difference.

  1. Blogs

If a website is a business’ shop window, the blog is an audacious child that has sneaked into the display to have some fun. The best business blogs are unrefined, unpredictable and unmissable with an emphasis on useful insight, engaging opinion and practical advice.

They give readers a reason to return to your site and provide you with the means to build up an enduring relationship with your customers.

Perhaps more than any of the other types of marketing communications mentioned here, blogs are – when used correctly – the hardest working. They can contribute to the success of your SEO, social media, customer retention, sales, customer service and practically every other element of your online marketing.

Moz.com together with BuzzSumo recently analysed the links and shares of over 1m articles and compiled their findings here. We’ve distilled everything down to the following points:

  • If you want more links and shares you should be writing around 1500 to 2000 words per post.
  • List posts perform best – way better than Infographics.
  • Research backed content and opinion forming journalism gets higher shares and more links.
  • You should post at least 2 times a week.
  1. Brochures

Does anyone print brochures any more? Of course. In fact, with the constant information overload presented by working and socialising online, it can feel more “real” to receive a printed brochure.

For a corporate brochure to actually make an impact, rather than gather dust on the reception coffee table or be filed directly in the bin, it must be written for the reader, not the business.

Prospective customers do not want to read about how great a company is, they want to know what the company can do for them.

Brochures are a great showcase for your brand and a way to express your “intrinsics”. Think carefully about your brand story and how you convey that in the most effective way.

  1. Business Cards

The intense power of a business card belies its meagre proportions. It continues to trump other, more modern, methods of saying ‘Hello’ to potential clients. Like a mini flyer that sticks with the recipient long after they receive it, the business card offers a prime space on which to showcase everything a business can do for them.

Want to know how to make an impact with your business card? This guy nails it.

 

  1. Email

Email is still the number 1 online communication tool. According to Radicati Group “there are over 4.1 billion email accounts accounts. This figure is predicted to reach 5.2 billion by 2018 which is a growth of more than 26%.”

And yet email marketing can be difficult to get right, largely due to the high volume of spam emails that seem to be a horrible and annoying part of everyday life in 2015.

So how do you do it right?

First off, get people to opt-in to your list. Offer something of value to your email prospect. This is called your “lead magnet”. It could be an offer, a giveaway, a free report. Make it super-specific and super-targeted. You need to make a fair exchange as an email address is an incredible asset and most people understand that.

When people are on your list then they are at your mercy – so make sure you continue to honour that principle of fair exchange. Sure, you want to sell your goods or services but do so in a way that shows you clearly understand the recipient’s needs.

Even when someone is not actively buying, you need to offer value that respects the relationship you’ve built with them. Your emails should continually offer something worthwhile in an honest and spam-free way.

  1. Facebook

With nearly 1.2 billion active users, Facebook is one of the most important platforms – perhaps even the most important platform – to be engaged with as a business. That’s any business – B2B or B2C.

Sure, it is a public playground in which to make friends and share amusing gifs. But if you provide creative, stimulating content people will engage with your brand, explore and have fun – and they’ll invite their friends along too.

With over 2 million advertisers now using Facebook regularly it’s not just a place to share cat videos. There are now a number of ways to engage with the planet’s biggest social media platform including business pages, paid advertising, promoted posts and remarketing. 

Facebook’s personal nature means that corporate-style formality is generally out of place. Instead, most businesses favour a more informal tone of voice and content that strikes a chord with users’ personal interests, hobbies or aspirations.

  1. Flyers

Unlike the familiar kind of flyer that says little more than ‘we exist’ or ‘come here’, a flyer that makes a single, clearly defined offer to a tightly focused target audience can pack a real promotional punch.

  1. LinkedIn

LinkedIn may be a social media platform, but it is strictly for business. Attracting new clients involves propelling attractive, relevant content outwards and demonstrating your expertise and how you can help their business.

As with many elements of content marketing, the best approach is to avoid direct sales messages and concentrate instead on providing useful content (see the section on blogs above) for a highly targeted customer. You can also share this content in relevant LinkedIn groups.

Like Facebook, LinkedIn has its own paid options, including sponsored updates and text ads.

  1. Press Releases

Online PR is becoming increasingly important – not just in the traditional sense of promoting your brand in the media but also as a powerful strategy for securing external links to your site from authority domains and in turn improving your search results.

The principle is simple: take a newsworthy story (without a good meaty story, a press release has all the appeal of a sausage roll without the sausage) and present it using the time-honoured press release format.

Straying from the confines of this time-honoured structure is a way to guarantee failure. So, just this once, keep your bohemian urges in check and play by the rules.

Once you’ve written your press release what do you do with it? There are a number of online news distribution platforms including PRWeb and Sourcewire. However, if you’re serious about PR then start building your own list of publications (online and offline) relevant to your sector and start hammering the phones. 

Good PR is all about building long-term mutually beneficial relationships with other human beings that happen to work in the media – don’t sell that principle short by overselling a story, being too pushy or exploiting trust. Don’t be too focused on the immediate story – think of your long-term objectives and the bigger picture for your brand.

  1. Product Descriptions

You may have the right product and the right consumer, but unless there is the right chemistry between the two, they will pass each other by like ships in the night. The product description is the bond that brings them together, and you need to be well acquainted with both parties before you can begin to engineer a successful union.

If you want more information on writing successful product descriptions, why not sign up to our free eBook?

  1. Sales Letters

Direct mail – the actual envelope and paper kind – is still alive and well. Modern day catalogue companies like Boden are particularly good examples of successful direct mail but it can also work for B2B organisations.

There are two types of sales letter: appealing ones, that make a genuine personal connection to the reader; and appalling ones, that make an unprovoked assault on the reader. To craft correspondence that catches the eye and compels readers to react it has to address the needs of the customer, not the prowess of the business.

When writing a sales letter always put yourself in the mind of the customer and think “what’s in it for me?”. More than any of the other types of marketing communications here, good sales letters look to elicit an emotional response in the reader. Spend time understanding what drives your customer and make a direct appeal to that.

  1. Twitter

With 320 million active users every month, Twitter is impossible to ignore and most businesses now have some presence on the micro-blogging behemoth. Whether they actually make any money out of Twitter is a different story – as is whether you should even be thinking of Twitter as a way of making direct sales.

Keeping Twitter followers interested involves sending out a steady supply of fresh, engaging tweets that they will want to retweet across the Twittersphere and beyond. The key to success with Twitter marketing is to attract influential followers whose retweets will hit your target audience in large volumes and with added authority.

  1. Websites

Many companies’ websites shout out corporate hype, branding buzzwords, product features and benefits at the top of their voice like they are trying to attract the attention of oblivious passers by.

The truth is, visitors want solutions, not sales. Arguably, by the time they visit your website, they are already fairly sure it has got what they want: they’ve seen your blog, engaged with you on social media, seen your reviews or received a recommendation from another online user. The job of the site is to make the necessary information instantly and effortlessly available.

The topic of websites is too big to discuss in a segment of a single post but here are two nuggets to consider when thinking about your website:

First, earlier this year Google announced that there are now more searches on mobile than on desktop. The mobile tipping point has been reached (and surpassed). Around 60% of all web use now takes place on mobile devices – a percentage that will continue to increase. The current thinking in UX is: design your site for mobile first.

Second, do you even need a website any more? Social media is increasingly powerful and increasingly sophisticated. You can create content and promote that content without having to have your own domain. Just a thought…

In Conclusion

This article provides just a brief introduction to different types of marketing communications that you could be using in your business. Should you be using them? How do you use them successfully? Those are bigger questions that you need to address within your marketing strategy.

And sure… we haven’t even touched on Pinterest, Instagram, eBooks, White Papers, landing pages, brand story, style guidelines, slide shows, presentations…

I'm Here! - Book CoverFor the ultimate guide, check out: I’m Here! How To Write Brilliant Marketing Material That Gets Your Business Noticed (CGW Publishing, 2015).

Or talk to a nice human at Big Star Copywriting now. 

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What Is Thin Content And Is Your Site Suffering From It?

What is thin contentIn 2015, it can be hard to get your website noticed in search, particularly if you’re just starting out. If it hasn’t altogether died, then SEO has certainly changed beyond recognition, although pretty much everyone agrees that the way to Google’s heart is by producing good quality, useful content.

Yet, all the major search engines recognise that there are webmasters out there who will knock together a site as quickly as possible, purely in the name profit, which contains very little value for their users. And as Google’s business model depends on providing value and relevance to their users, it’s something that they take very seriously.

This seriousness translates into practical terms with the current rollout of Panda 4.2 – the latest ‘refresh’ of the algorithm update intended to eliminate thin content.

So, what is thin content?

Thin content is basically content that is of little or no value to the reader. Weeding out this thin content is arguably one of the main ways that Google seeks to provide value to its users.

In a video on Google Search Console Help, Matt Cutts defines thin content as:

  • Doorway pages (identical pages with only slight differences)
  • Thin affiliate pages which don’t add value
  • Thin syndication (content ‘grabbed’ from low-quality article directories or RSS feeds)
  • Short content which adds little value

What is quality content?

Any attempt to answer the question “what is thin content?” is really an exploration of how you define the value or quality of a piece of content. What does high quality content look like? How do you measure value?

We’ll come on to length of content below, but value and quality are trickier areas.

Jayson DeMers defined this in an article on Forbes, entitled ‘The 12 essential elements of high-quality content’. These elements, which drew on Google’s official guidelines and other sources, include:

  • Accurate grammar and spelling
  • Proper web formatting (short paragraphs, bullet points, subheaders)
  • Relevant accompanying images
  • Good internal and external links
  • Good readability (you can check the readability level of a piece using Hemingway App)
  • Expertise of content author

Econsultancy also wrote earlier this year on how Google defines quality content. They cited factors such as:

  • Relevance
  • Readability
  • Focus on user experience
  • Not overly worrying about keywords
  • How backlinks are less important
  • How social signals may also not be important

While these factors are important in the QUALITY of the content, I’m not sure this goes far enough in defining how you create VALUE.

We recently wrote about a report from Moz and Buzzsumo that analysed the links and shares of one million articles. It’s an in-depth report so my summary is perhaps a little crude, but in essence what they discovered was that two types of content received the most links and shares:

  1. Opinion forming journalism
  2. Research-backed content

This suggests that when defining value we are looking for content that does one or all of the following:

  • Focuses on current trends or areas of interest
  • Takes a controversial or engaging viewpoint on current topics
  • Adds something new to current debates or arguments
  • Includes quotable, shareable research

One additional speculation on the success of research-backed content is that it offers something that the reader can practically apply backed up with reasons why they should apply it.

Your content therefore needs to be as useful to users as possible. Each piece of content should have a specific purpose, and it should fulfil that purpose by providing content that:

  • Answers your customers’ questions thoroughly
  • Expresses an expert opinion, with practical action points in easy to follow steps or guidelines
  • Provides accurate information, research and evidence

 

How long should your content be?

The Moz/Buzzsumo report also considers the length of content to be an important factor in shares and links, suggesting that a length of at least 1500 words is required to achieve better results.

While they are talking primarily about articles, blog posts is the same true of your web pages, product or service pages etc?

Panda 4.2 successfully exiles some of the worst spammy websites from the visible face of the Internet. Unfortunately it may also penalise some legitimate websites whose only crime is having short web pages.

But how short is too short, and what length should you being aiming for?

According to Search Marketing Standard, “you need to be firm about nixing pages that are less than 300 words. Google says that it will ignore pages with less than 200 words of body text but it’s important when trying to weed out any thin content that you go over and above minimum expectations and set a higher standard for your content.”

In a recent study by Marketing Experiments, detailed by Copypress, “long copy outperformed short copy throughout a series of three tests… in the first test, long copy beat out short copy by 40.54%, in the second by 50%, and both long and short converted equally in the third.”

According to Neil Patel meanwhile, “the average content length for a web page that ranks in the top 10 results for any keyword on Google has at least 2,000 words… The higher up you go on the search listings page, the more content each web page has.”

He goes on to say that Google prefers ‘content rich’ sites because data shows that users like it (low bounce-rates/ longer duration on page), and because longer more useable content attracts more links.

The fact is though that there is no magic number – content should be above a certain threshold of around 300-350 words, but the exact length depends purely on what will add value for readers.

While 2,000 words on how to complete a specific process or exploring an interesting topic could be highly useful, 2,000 words about how to contact your customer support department is not at all useful.

In short, aim to always produce content over 350 words to err on the safe side, and beyond that decide how long your content needs to be to provide good value to web users.

Duplicate content and originality

While concentrating on our definition of what is thin content, we should also perhaps differentiate it from duplicate content, which is simply using an exact replica of copy that is used on another website or elsewhere within your own website.

It’s a given that any business that is serious about SEM should not have any duplicate content on their website.

Google views duplicate content as having limited or no use for its users, and it uses updates like Panda and Penguin to eliminate such pages from its search results.

Aside from the fact that there’s a high chance that your content won’t turn up in the rankings if it’s simply pulled from somewhere else, you should also avoid it because it reflects poorly on your business and doesn’t provide value to your customers.

In short, be original.

Don’t use manufacturer’s product descriptions and don’t cut and paste other people’s copy.

Not only will it harm your SERPs but it robs you of an opportunity to build your own brand voice, and to share your unique perspective on your sector – two essential factors in building a solid brand.

What can I do if I’m being penalised for thin content?

Though many in the digital world have grown to fear the Panda, the ongoing rollout of 4.2 could in fact be good news for webmasters whose sites were previously hit by Panda 4.1 and have since taken steps to address there thin content issues.

According to Google, the algorithm ‘refresh will affect 2-3% of search queries, and this figure applies to pages that will be re-added to the rankings or that will recover their standing, as well as those that will lose out.

Yet, as with every Google update, if you are affected by the long, slow rollout of Panda 4.2 you might not be aware of what you have done wrong – and you might have to wait a long time until you recover.

As this SEM Post points out “Unfortunately, once Google begins rolling out one of these updates, it is too late to apply changes that will have any effect during the rolling out phase period…That said, it is always a good idea to be continually updating content.”

If you’re committed to SEO as a strategy, then our advice is as ever – make sure you create value in any content you publish to your site. The best way to do this is to clearly identify your customer and their challenges, then use your expertise to inform and educate them.

Need some help with working out a strategy to replace thin content or duplicate content? Talk to a nice human being at Big Star about it now.

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How to use product copywriting to sell more on Google Shopping

How to use product copywriting to sell more on Google
Today, if you’re only promoting and selling your products directly through your website, you’re potentially missing out on a large number of additional sales. One of the fastest growing sources for these additional sales is the Google Shopping platform and associated Product Listing Ads.

According to a recent Forbes article, Google Shopping ads currently constitute around 20% of paid-search clicks for online retail. This is predicted to rise to 30% by the end of the year. Online shoppers are, as ever, hungry for a bargain. Google’s platform gives them the opportunity to find one quickly.

Google Shopping and Product Listing Ads provide online retailers of all sizes with the chance to reach casual online shoppers who are seeking the best deals. Product Listing Ads (or PLAs) can appear both as ads alongside the normal search results, and on the dedicated Google Shopping part of the platform, so they can be a powerful way of accessing new customers.

Here’s our quick guide to using product copywriting to achieve Google Shopping success.

Setting up shop

If you haven’t already got one, the first step towards getting your product listings in front of Google users is to set up a Google AdWords account. We won’t get into the nuts and bolts of that here – you can find a helpful step-by-step guide on the Adwords Help section of Google’s support website. If you’ve already got a presence on Google Shopping skip to the next section.

Once you’ve established your AdWords account, you can follow the below steps to quickly get started with Google Shopping.

  1. Set up a Google Merchant Centre account and upload your product data to get your online inventory onto Google. This first step is crucial, as it’s where Google will be sourcing your product information from.
  2. Link your Merchant Centre account to your Adwords account. Details of how to do this are again included on the AdWords Help website here.
  3. From within your Adwords dashboard, click the ‘+ campaign’ button and then select the ‘shopping’ option.
  4. Give your campaign a name and fill in the relevant details, including your bid and budget for the campaign. Specify the products that will be involved in your ad campaign, what countries you’re targeting, and you’re good to go.

How to create a killer Product Listing Ad campaign

In order for your Product Listing Ads to be a worthwhile investment, they need to be:

  1. Found by the customers that are looking for them or are likely to buy them
  2. Attractive enough for people to click through to your site

The first step to ensuring success then is to ensure that your product listings are optimised and up to date. You can find a comprehensive list of attributes to include here, but we’d like to focus on a few that you can leverage to significant advantage through the power of compelling product copywriting.

Product title [title]

For such a small amount of words, the product title that you provide to Google has a surprising amount of influence over whether your products sell or languish in your warehouse.

When creating a title, you need to be conservative with your words and consider which ones are the most important. What will people most want to know about your product in the first instant that they consider it – the brand? The colour? The size?

Keep your title short but include as much detail as is possible and necessary within this space. You want web users to know at a glance exactly what your product is, and, if appropriate, any special reasons why they should want it more than similar products out there.

Keywords are also important factors within your product title, for both users and Google.

Use words in your title which are descriptive of the product itself, and which you think users will type into the search bar. According to CPC Strategy Google, “identifies terms in the title as more relevant depending on how far to the left they are, ie. the first keywords in the product title are weighted more.” As western users tend to read from left to right, this also makes a lot of sense for capturing their attention as they quickly scan through the product listings in front of them.

Product description [description]

To be effective, your product copywriting needs to be succinct, specific and compelling. You need to think about what users want to know and what they’re less likely to care about.

Aside from including all relevant details about the product you should also include any benefits that it may provide. However as product descriptions are truncated substantially most times they appear in a product listing ad, you should aim to include everything important within the first sentence.

Keywords are once again important here, and these should also give you an idea as to what details are most relevant to include in your descriptions.

Detailed product attributes

For some products, such as clothes, shoes and furniture, you may need to specify a number of additional attributes. These allow Google and its users to quickly identify important information. These attributes include things like colour, size, material, pattern and intended age range.

For detailed product attributes, compelling product copywriting is of course not as important as is accurate, clear and succinct details, but having the keen eye for detail that a copywriter can bring is an advantage.

It should also be noted that it’s important to ensure that your product type and product category attributes are accurate, or you may find that your ads are displayed to the entirely wrong people.

Is creative copywriting the missing ingredient in your Google campaigns?

There are of course a great many factors that will affect how successful your Google Shopping campaigns and Product Listing Ads are, not least the quality and originality of your products, but these copywriting tips should help you to maximise your results.

Find out more about how you can better results with your ecommerce in our free eBook.

 

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Why a copywriter is just like a plumber (sort of)

Plumbing CopywritingMost businesses recognise that to get the best results you need to employ the best people, yet some still won’t employ a copywriter. That’s despite everyone including Google consistently telling us all the time how important great content is.

Instead they rely on their own abilities or ask their staff, usually those already committed to other tasks within the business, to create their copy for them.

In my experience, this is true particularly of small businesses. Most medium to large organisations now recognise how essential content marketing is. They either employ in-house writers or use external resources like a copywriting agency or freelancers.

All have their merits.

For some though the rationale is this:

Everyone can write, so why pay a professional copywriter? 

I get it.

You’ve already spent a fortune on a new website and it’s easy to see the value of what you’ve got.

Your developer has done lots of stuff you may not understand to make the site work properly.

Your designer has created a beautiful look and feel that makes the site look lovely.

You can see the expertise and skill that’s gone into it. You appreciate the talent backed up with years of experience that has enabled them to build something beautiful for you.

At this point the under-appreciated designers and developers out there are now banging their heads against the wall shouting: “If only, Derryck. If only that were true.”

But when it comes down to it, most businesses people aren’t able to build websites or design logos and so on. They don’t know how to code, how to customise a WordPress theme or use Photoshop or Illustrator. For all the software services and WYSIWIG editors out there, there are still some big barriers to entry.

Hang on though? What about the words? Everyone can write, can’t they? You don’t have to use fancy software for that, or learn complicated computer stuff.

You could do it yourself. Or maybe the web designer can do it for you. Maybe they’ve got a friend who could do it as part of the cost. Maybe you’ve got a friend that’s done a bit of blogging who could do it.

And what happens once you’ve launched the site?

When budgets are tight, blog posting, long tail web pages or regular emails are the last thing you want to be spending money on. Get the intern to do it. Get your sales person to do it.

Don’t do it at all (Seriously? And how are people going to find your site?)

Unless you know and understand what a copywriter does then you may think that, because everyone can write, you can pretty much get anyone to write your content.

And that could be a terrible mistake.

The plumber analogy

If you think of your copywriter as you would your plumber then it’s easier to recognise the value of using someone with the right skill set.

You wouldn’t pay someone with no experience of plumbing to fix your boiler, even though everyone (pretty much) can hold a wrench or a screwdriver.

The results would almost certainly be disastrous.

Like a plumber, as a copywriter you have to develop the skills that allow you to not only respond to problems that your clients have but also to give advice and carry out work that will save them money and improve their lives (businesses).

Richard Bandler, founder of NLP and patron saint of sales people (and perhaps even plumbers) everywhere has a good analogy in his book, The Structure Of Magic (a must-read for anyone interested in the art of persuasion) which I’ve paraphrased here:

A ship owner was having trouble with the boiler on one of his cruise ships so he called in a specialist ship plumber. This ship owner was incredibly mean and he told one of his managers to watch what the plumber did to make sure he got his money’s worth. The plumber arrived and spent about half an hour looking around the boiler before tapping in a single rivet and presenting a bill for £500. When the ship owner heard the manager’s report of what the boiler repairman had done he was furious and demanded to know why he was paying £500 for a single rivet. The plumber sent back an itemised invoice, which read: Cost of 1 rivet- 50 pence Knowing where to tap- £499.50

OK, I’m laying it on with a trowel… or perhaps a wrench… but you get the idea.

If you want to avoid disasters, you need to employ someone with the right knowledge and skills.

So what skills does a copywriter have that distinguishes them from everyone else who can hold a pen or tap away at a keyboard?

  1. Writing ability.

Obvious? Perhaps. But since Big Star was founded in 2005 I have worked with hundreds of freelance copywriters and I have seen well over 1000 CVs. Most of those writers could place words together to form sentences and communicate things reasonably well. (NB: A surprisingly large percentage could not.)

But only a small number could really write.

What do I mean by that?

Good writing has flow. Good writing is readable. Good writing conveys the essence of an idea simply and confidently. Good writing has style (and the best writing has a style so idiosyncratic that it is immediately identifiable with its author.)

There are lots of tools now that can help writers turn mediocre prose into decent work. We’ve talked about Hemingway and Grammarly when we’ve discussed how to make your writing more readable.

They can get you so far.

However, when I look for a new freelance copywriter to join our team I look for those who are born writers. The ones who have kept a diary since they were five years old, who were voracious readers as kids, who started their first novel at thirteen and wrote embarrassing poetry on the back of till receipts when they were working at the checkout of Marks & Spencer’s.

Education in something like English or journalism is often a good indicator but it’s not a given that someone with the right academic qualifications is a good writer.

It’s difficult to quantify exactly what I look for – I’ve got a good eye for the “naturals”. Some common factors include:

  • word economy
  • “flow”/rhythm
  • logical structure
  • lack of repetition
  • clear and understandable

The best test is to read their work. How does it feel when you read it? Does it make sense? Are you compelled to read more? Does it have life to it?

2. Speed

Speed is important primarily because it affects cost – just as it does with a plumber.

Given a similar level of experience and ability, a writer who can create a compelling product description in fifteen minutes is a far better proposition than one who takes a whole day.

It’s not just about cost though. A writer who understands that work needs to be delivered quickly and accurately, understands the commercial pressures that anyone in business faces.

That makes it more likely that they will understand your business, and the specific commercial pressures you face.

3. Technical understanding – SEO and content marketing

Just like our plumber, any copywriter worth their salt needs to understand the technical skills involved in their trade and the innovations and trends that can lead to better results.

Knowledge of SEO is an essential part of web copywriting. In 2015, all copywriters must understand the technical demands of their craft and grasp that the days of keyword stuffed content, rehashed material or just plain waffle is not going to cut it.

There are tools and research available to assist in developing content that people want to read and to measure the efficacy of the content you produce.

Your copywriter needs to understand what works and what doesn’t. Right now, for example, the most shared content is useful content – content that helps you make a decision or solve a specific problem.

Writers should also understand the context in which their writing is being used – and how it can be shared and reused for maximum value.

4. An understanding of business and the needs of your client 

A good copywriter should be able extract the key benefits from your product or service and present those to your customers in a way that persuades them to part with their hard-earned cash – and feel happy about it.

They should be able to understand your business objectives and advise on how to use written content to support, and even improve, your goals.

Not all writers are able to do this and I’ll let you into a little secret:

Lots of writers don’t know or care much about business.

They would much rather be writing their screenplay, scribbling poetry or finishing their novel.

That’s OK. None of those things are bad in themselves. There are probably plenty of plumbers who aren’t that passionate about plumbing, who get through the day job so they can indulge their hobby of ballroom dancing or wicker basket weaving.

It’s just that those writers who understand and are excited about business and have an entrepreneurial instinct are worth a lot to you.

Not only will they get the wider context of your writing project and the direction you want to take with your brand, they will give you advice on how good writing can make your business better.

If we go back to our plumber example, then he’s the kind of person who will look at your water tank and tell you that you need a replacement as it’s just about to fall through the roof. Or he’ll advise you that if you just go out and buy a 5p washer and replace it yourself, then you won’t have to get a new set of £200 taps. Or he’ll put you in touch with an electrician that can sort out the bathroom light that’s been broken for years.

Ultimately, the type of copywriter who will write enough words to just finish the brief is a cost to your business. Whereas a good copywriter is an investment, and their work will repay that investment many times over.

By now, even if you haven’t got my plumber analogy, you’ll have some understanding of the state of my house. But then I’m not a plumber. I’m a copywriter.

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