Monday, January 28, 2008

Just Write Good Copy

"Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead." ~ Gene Fowler, an American journalist and author. (1890-1960)
Part II from the AWAI Copywriting Insider interview in which I discuss SEO, web copy and what one should expect from an online copywriter.
CI: Aside from being dynamic… what do you like to see in a landing page?
The elements are really, really basic. It’s just a benefit-oriented piece of copy. It has to be very concise, and it has to quickly convince the person who lands on that page to give over their email address in exchange for a report or a subscription to an e-letter. It has to present a compelling argument, because many people will not give you an email address as they’re afraid of being spammed.

It has to be a compelling argument that makes them think, “You know what? It’s worth giving my email address to these people I don’t know so I can get that report.”

Or “I really want to get what these people have to say every day, so I’m going to give up my email address.” That’s the kind of argument the copywriter has to put forward.

By focusing on benefits and credibility, the copywriter has to convey the message, in a very concise way:

“You need this… you need this e-letter… you need this special report, and therefore you’re willing to give up your email address for it.”
CI: Early on, you talked a little bit about keywords… about how you don’t want copywriters to write to keywords, but you do want them to keep the keywords in mind as they write. Are there other SEO techniques that the copywriter should be aware of?
Again, I really like it when copywriters know the big picture, when they know what we’re trying to achieve with search engine marketing. They need to understand that a particular article or promotional piece needs to be focused on a singular keyword or phrase. Other than that, I don’t believe the copywriter needs to be involved in the really technical stuff (like the use of meta tags). But they should definitely understand title tags.

What I mean by that is that every online article should have a very good title tag that includes the keyword or keyword phrase. So the copywriter should provide us with a keyword-rich title that can be converted into a title tag.

Copywriters sometimes get too creative with their titles – and those titles have nothing to do with the marketing point of the article. So the SEO marketer has to edit them. It’s much better if the copywriter creates a title with the keywords inserted at the get-go, so it requires little or no editing from the SEO person.

I don’t want to get too technical here, but I think your readers should know that the title is the most important thing that Google looks at when assigning search engine rankings. So if they understand that the title should be not only creative, but also include the keyword… that would be of great benefit to them when writing online copy.
CI: Let me finish by asking you a wide-open question. If you were to sit down with a copywriter (kind of like what we’re doing right now), is there anything else that you would want to make sure they know?
I would want to make sure they understand that, as an industry, we’ve kind of come full circle. The online world started with a lot myths with respect to copy. But a lot of information publishing companies, specifically Agora, have proven that the same rules that apply in direct mail also apply online.

There seems to be this idea that short copy is what drives online marketing – yet Agora has been putting their long-copy direct-mail packages online and making millions of dollars. There are people who scan, and there are people who read, but the numbers are equal both on and off line. The point is, you want to use the best copy you can. As the saying goes, “Bad copy reads long, good copy reads short, regardless of length.”

So we don’t want to get caught up in the myths. And we don’t want to think that the most important thing now, today, with online marketing is the optimizing and the coding and the edits that an SEO consultant would make.

That’s 100% wrong. The most important part of the marketing process is and always has been the copy.

I can take a piece of copy and make it number one on Google by using search engine optimization – and that’s a wonderful thing. But if I have to change the essence of that copy to do it, and if copy is then no longer as strong as it could be, I may be number one on Google … but I’ve got no sales. No conversions to paying customers. I don’t want to ruin the copy.

So, aside from doing some minor optimization, I don’t touch it. Maybe that means I’m number 25 on Google instead of number one … yet, because that copy is so good and so dynamic, I’m converting at a five percent rate.

Well, that’s what I want, and that’s what most marketers want – a good piece of copy that converts … not a piece of copy that will always be number one on Google.

The most important thing is good quality copy that converts. So that’s what copywriters need to focus on.

Don’t worry about SEO … just write good copy. If you’re working together with someone who has some optimization skills, you can be very successful online.


I hope this was helpful. For more on copywriting visit the American Writers & Artists Inc. site

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Writing For The Engines

"The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think." ~ Edwin Schlossber, Designer, author & artist.
I recently did an interview with Copywriting Insider - a twice monthly e-letter from American Writers & Artists Inc. (AWAI) and the editorial team at Inside Direct Mail.

The publication focuses on “inside” information for copywriters on the hottest markets in the direct-mail industry and the techniques that can best improve their skills.

I was asked to participate in a special issue on writing SEO copy. Part 1 of the interview is below, please enjoy…


Andrew Palmer is a recognized SEO expert and renowned Internet marketer. He has worked with industry giants, including Agora Inc., and currently works with Cabot Heritage Corporation, and lectures on such topics as "Direct mail on the Web" and the "Free Content Model" of Internet Marketing. Today, he shares the some of the techniques he has used to help businesses develop a successful online presence, and tells us what he expects from an online copywriter.
CI: Andrew, how did you came to be a search engine optimization consultant?
That’s a difficult question, and I’m afraid the answer is long and involved. First of all, let me say that I consider myself to be much more than that. I see myself in a business-building capacity, and search engine optimization is just one aspect of what I do.

To give you the short answer, I’m actually a licensed attorney. I was working in Washington D.C., and my firm needed someone to build a website. I was assigned the task, and I found that the opportunity to create something from scratch on the Web was a lot more dynamic and fun than being an attorney. So I switched.

I like to say that I left the dark side and entered the good light. I’ve had a wonderful time since then building businesses for people in everything from law to non-profit causes to information publishing.
CI: In this interview, we’re going to focus on search engine optimization and how it affects copywriters. So my next question is: How important do you think it is for a copywriter to understand SEO before writing online material?
I don’t want copywriters to think about search engine optimization while they are writing online copy. I just want them to write well. Nothing is going to do a better job for a website than good copy, and good copy can be written for the direct-mail industry and then posted on the Web and do very well. If copywriters focus too much on keywords or on the optimization, I think it creates poor copy.

I want the copywriter to have the mindset of “What’s going to be the best copy for my client?” – whether it’s going to end up in the mail or online. Good copy works on the Web. Copy that is tailored to be optimized is never as good. Period.

I think the copywriter does need to have a big picture idea of search engine optimization. And if the promotion the copywriter is going to work on will be online, the copywriter needs to know that he or she is going to have to deliver a piece of copy that is keyword-rich... and that they need to think about what the keywords will be before they get started.

But that’s probably as far as I would want them to go. I don’t want them to think that they have to repeat a keyword eight times in a particular piece, because that’s going to end up as really bad copy. I want it to happen organically, and have the copy flow naturally.
CI: What are some of the biggest mistakes copywriters make when writing for the Web?
That goes back to what I just said. The biggest mistake is trying to write copy that they think Google wants, that they think will be optimized high instead of just writing good copy… instead of getting the point across … instead of talking about benefits, using the 4 U’s, using all the copywriting skills they have.

If they throw all of that education and all of that experience out the window and try to do something different because it’s for the Web, that’s the biggest mistake they can make.

Bottom line: They need to fall back on what they know, work as copywriters and not worry about the medium.
CI: SEO writing goes beyond sales copy. Can you comment on other types of writing that an SEO copywriter should be prepared to do?
The most important online copy I work with is not promotional copy per se, but it is marketing copy, also know as web site landing page copy. If I am working with a client to bring in free email names to add to his list of e-letter subscribers, we need to have a page that convinces the random surfer who lands on that page to sign up.

We often do that by offering them a special report as incentive. And I sometimes have a copywriter create the special report.

But I need that landing page to be dynamic. I need that landing page to sell the benefits of the report, to sell the benefits of my client’s e-letter so we can get those free names into the marketing chain and up sell them. Once we have their names, it’s a matter of direct-mail marketing on the Web. We are able to monetize them via good editorial and good promotional copy.

A copywriter should be involved from the idea to the final execution. They should be involved every step of the way. That’s what I tell my clients … especially smaller businesses. One of the most important things they can do is find a professional copywriter who understands the process of how to convince a random surfer to sign up and give up an email address.

Part 2 next week, stay tuned...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

ANLA’s Management Clinic

“Management means, in the last analysis, the substitution of thought for brawn and muscle, of knowledge for folklore and superstition, and of cooperation for force." ~ Peter F. Drucker, American Educator and Writer
I'll be speaking in Louisville, Kentucky Feb 10th at 10am at the ANLA Management Clinic. The ANLA has describe my presentation as follows:
Create Value or Die - What's Your Web Philosophy?

Today's website is no longer a business luxury, it is an essential tool for communicating with your customers. But just like your POS system or that new Bobcat, if you aren’t using it right, you have a very expensive tool that is costing you money.

With most customers today going first to the web before making any major purchase decision, you need to make sure they are finding, and choosing, you! Andrew Palmer can teach you how to create a successful online business by narrowing the field, building a community, and giving away free content from your web site or blog.

In this session you'll discover how to make your online presence stand out from the rest, how to acquire "return visitors" rather than just "surfers" and how to convert visitors into buyers by giving away free content. Learn how creating value for your subscribers can increase your visibility, credibility, sales and revenues!
The ANLA stands for the American Nursery & Landscape Association... it's the national voice of the nursery and landscape industry. Members grow, distribute, and retail plants of all types, and design and install landscapes for residential and commercial customers. ANLA provides education, research, public relations, and representation services to members.

AND what the ANLA needs is a big serving of CVoD. (For more info go to

It's gonna be a good time so if you're looking to creave value for your business and you're in the neighborhood...


Thursday, January 10, 2008

Is Web 2.0 Bad For Business?

"I must confess that I've never trusted the Web. I've always seen it as a coward's tool. Where does it live? How do you hold it personally responsible? Can you put a distributed network of fiber-optic cable "on notice"? And is it male or female? In other words, can I challenge it to a fight?" ~ Stephen Colbert, an American comedian, actor, and writer
"Web 2.0"

Yes it's another buzzword. But this one is not going away anytime soon. In fact, it's being embraced by marketers around the word.

Is Web 2.0 a part of your online strategy?

If you're not sure what I'm talking about let's start by de-bunking the buzz...

Web 2.0 refers to a "so-called" second generation of web-based communities and hosted services — such as social-networking sites, wikis, etc. — which seeks to assist in online creativity, collaboration, and sharing between users.

The term suggests a new version of the Web, not in the sense of technical updates to the Internet itself, but to changes in the way software developers and end-users use and/or experience the web.

For example, a traditional or "web 1.0" site allows users to retrieve information. The site owner has sole control over the content and the user is limited to only reading or converting to a buyer or leaving.

There is nothing wrong with this model. A value oriented site like this is a benefit to its users and a company can make millions selling their products in this fashion.

However, a web 2.0 site allow users to do more. The user can still retrieve information and convert but they can also build on the that info... adding there own information to create a more interactive community.

On sites such as Wikipeadia, Myspace and Facebook users can own the data and exercise full control over that data. Other sites seek user data along side its own, using techniques such as, comments on articles, customer reviews on products, and syndication opportunities in which the users can take site content and republish it on their own sites.

Many call this an "architecture of participation" as it encourages users to add value to the site as they use it. It CVoD to the next level... CVoD 2.0, eh?

This is also described as "social-networking" and "participatory web"'s all under the web 2.0 buzz. Bottom line... by conceptually involving the users more you'll build a better and larger community of more active participants and thus it will result in better traffic and conversion numbers for your business.

That's why every online marketer I know is rushing to do more 2.0 activities. The question is... can it actually be bad for your business?

I say yes.

Adding too many Web 2.0 features to your website may actually decrease your conversions. If you're spending too much time building the interactive experience you may not be spending enough time on your marketing copy and conversion numbers.

Increasing the traffic and not increasing the conversions may send you to the poor house. Or worse... the new increased user experience and high traffic numbers may be of a different demographic, one that you can't monetize.

A business built on selling to 50 year olds that now has an audience of 20 year olds needs to adjust their offers. And not all business are that flexible.

Would you be?

Web usability guru Jakob Nielsen agrees. He states while features like user reviews can benefit consumers, others can make sites overly complicated.

According to Jakob Nielsen:
"While a modest 2.0 infusion can be beneficial, advanced features are rarely the most important contributor to good user experience or profitable websites... if you get caught up in the hype, you divert attention and resources from the simpler things that really matter. This opportunity cost is the real reason to take it easy on Web 2.0."
In other words, when applying these new 2.0 ideas... don't over do it. The last thing you want to do is overwhelm your existing return users. Don't let these loyal users get frustrated by new technologies or trying to force them to participate in interaction that they don't seek.

Don't bite the hand that feeds you, eh?

My advice is to ask your users what new features they would be interested in and test them. Most will appreciate the interaction. But test them over time... one at a time. AND while exploring this new world, don't lose the focus of making money.

I am all about creating value... so if web 2.0 helps you add value to your site then do it for that very reason. Not because it's the new buzzword.

Buzzwords don't feed the bulldog.


Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year 2008

"Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each New Year find you a better man." ~ Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790) U.S. Author, political theorist, politician, inventor, and diplomat.
Welcome to 2008.

I took some time off for the holiday's but I'm now back and ready to continue the journey. We are changing one aspect of the CVoD universe this year... I am only going to post once a week.

It's just too much for me to do any more. But hopefully the posts will be better and more content rich for your business.

So check in every week for the next tip on creating value for your business.