SEO Copywriting Tips: How to write customer focused web copy

Written by Katie Daggett

SEO Web Copywriting Tips

Elementary dear Watson!

What made Sherlock Homes one of the greatest detectives in literature?

His ability to solve the crimes that no one else could.

Sherlock Holmes wasn’t successful because he was better trained or educated than the detectives in Scotland Yard.

His success lied in his ability to get into the mind of the criminals he was trying to catch. He understood what they wanted, what motivated them, and therefore, what their next move would be – sometimes before they even knew it themselves.

And that is exactly where you need to start if you want to succeed with your content marketing.

1) Know what they’re looking for

The first step in writing customer-focused copy is to address what your customer is looking for when they come to your website. Are they there for information? What type of information are they most interested in? (Do your research.) What format do they prefer? (Videos, webinars, blog posts, case studies?) Make sure your website offers the information your customers are looking for and that it delivers the information in a way that is easy to follow.

2) Address their needs

What is your customer’s biggest pain? What is the problem that drove them to your site in the first place? Do your research; don’t just assume you know what your customer is really struggling with. Then offer them a simple solution that will provide relief for their pain. This is the place where you provide your customers with the WIFM information about your product. Don’t focus on all of your product or service’s great features – give them the benefits. Tell your customer in simple terms – “What’s In It For Me?”

3) Show them how you can help

When you offer your customers a solution, don’t just claim to be the best, most robust solution to their problems – show them. Give them examples of how your product has helped others just like them with the same problem they are facing. Use testimonials and customer case studies. Provide details that back up every claim you make.

4) Tell them what to do

Don’t assume your customer will know to pick up the phone and call you, place an order on your catalog page, download your free e-book, or whatever action it is that you want them to take next. Make your call to action clear and direct, and easy to find throughout your website (on whichever pages it makes sense). Tell them to “Call Now”, “Request your free e-book”, or “Order Now” and then include a link to the appropriate web page to take the next step.

How to Become the Sherlock Holmes of Your Industry

In the end, writing effective web copy and content depends on how well you know your customer. There is no way to do this well without research. Talk to your sales people and find out what prospects are asking them. Follow your customers on social media. Read the magazines and blogs they are reading. Interview past and current customers. Create a customer persona for each of your target customers. Make them a real, living, and breathing person and write each page of your website and each piece of content with them in mind. Make it conversational as if you were sitting down to coffee with a friend.

Getting into the mind of your customer isn’t easy, but it is the only way to write copy that speaks to them. If you want to be the Sherlock Homes of your industry – making sales where your competitors aren’t – this is your key to success.

You don’t have to go it alone

If developing a content strategy, conducting keyword research, and writing seo web copy sound overwhelming, you can hire a copywriter to craft content for you. Just as a web designer is a good partner to have when making design updates to your site, a copywriter can help you create ongoing content updates like blog posts, case studies, white papers, Slideshare presentations and webinars.

If that sounds good, get in touch. I’ll walk you through the entire process, from defining your target audience, to mapping out your website pages and even working together with you web designer/developer to setup your site.

Katie Daggett - Freelance CopywriterPost by Katie Daggett

Katie Daggett is an expert copywriter and the owner of KD Copy & Content, helping companies get found online, and convert prospects into customers, with great website content. She loves coffee, labradoodles, hanging out with her family, and exploring her new home state of Colorado (but not necessarily in that order).

Stop! Before you hire a web designer, do this.

Written by Katie Daggett

Stop and consider content strategy

Here’s the problem. You know your business needs a website. Or, you need to replace an existing website that isn’t working for you.

So, the first thing you need to do is hire a web designer, right?

Not so fast.

I’m not telling you not to hire a web designer. If you want a custom site and don’t have design or programming skills, you definitely need one.

What I am saying is, before you start focusing on how your site looks, what color scheme you’re going to use and whether or not you want video, you’ll be better off having a strong  web content strategy already in place.

Sure it looks great, but …

I’m tired of seeing businesses struggle online because they focused more on how their website looks than on what it says. They hired a web designer to create a site without having given much thought to who their target audience is and what they might be looking for on their website. Then they wonder why they aren’t getting traffic, or why prospective customers are leaving their site so quickly, without engaging.

Creating a web site without a content strategy is not only a huge waste of time, it’s a waste of money. That’s why I’d rather have you think about content development now, in the beginning, than after you’ve already spent thousands on web design.

How do you do this content strategy thing?

1)    Start by defining your website goals. Think about what you want your website to do for your business in terms of driving traffic, generating leads and converting those leads into sales. Is the goal of your website to provide information, establish your brand, sell a product – or a combination of the three?

2)    Know your target audience. A good web content strategy also requires you to have clear picture of your customer. Who are they? What do they want? What problems do they face? And why they are coming to your website?

3)    Think about what your customers are looking for. Once you’ve defined your target audience, think about the questions they’ll have when they arrive at your website and how you will provide them with the answers they seek. Are they looking for information about your product or service? Details about your company? Or to learn more about issues facing their business or industry?

4)    Plan your content. After you’ve answered those questions, you can start to map out a web content outline. This includes the pages your site will have, how they will connect, and what the contents of each page will say. A good place to start in developing a web content outline is with keyword research. This will help you find the topics your target audience is looking for and help you write search engine optimized (seo) web copy that will help your business get found on line.

5)    How will you say it? At this stage, you’ll want to think about style and tone. I usually recommend keeping website content friendly and conversational, unless you are developing a white paper that is highly technical in nature. That being said, depending on your company, product and service, your content can vary widely between professional and irreverent in tone.

6)    Start writing your website content. You can also start thinking about inviting a web designer into the process.  If possible, I recommend having final website copy written before the actual design process begins. The more website copy you have completed upfront, the easier it will be for your web designer to give you exactly what you want, and avoid redesigning pages later on.

You don’t have to go it alone

If developing a website content strategy, conducting keyword research, and writing seo web copy sound overwhelming, you can hire a copywriter to craft content for you. Just as a web designer is a good partner to have when making design updates to your site, a copywriter can help you create ongoing content updates like blog posts, case studies, white papers, Slideshare presentations and webinars.

If that sounds good, get in touch. I’ll walk you through the entire process, from defining your target audience, to mapping out your website pages and even working together with you web designer/developer to setup your site.

Post by Katie Daggett

Katie Daggett - Freelance Copywriter Katie Daggett is an expert copywriter and the owner of KD Copy & Content, helping companies get found online, and convert prospects into customers, with great website content. She loves coffee, labradoodles, hanging out with her family, and exploring her new home state of Colorado (but not necessarily in that order). To learn more about the Web Content services we offer, click here.

 

The “No-Brainer” Guide to Choosing Your White Paper Style

Written by Katie Daggett
Planning your white paper is a no-brainer

Writing a white paper can be daunting. Depending on your subject matter and industry, it can require a great deal of planning and research and an in-depth knowledge of the topic (or access to experts who possess this knowledge). Sometimes it’s hard to know where to start, especially when the format and topic of your next white paper is unclear. Fortunately, this part of the process doesn’t have to be complicated.  Just follow the steps below to help narrow things down.

  1. First of all, decide what you want your white paper to accomplish. Do you want to:
    • Generate leads?
    • Get noticed or stand out from competitors?
    • Explain the benefits of a product or service?
  2. Once you’ve determined the goal of your white paper, your next step is to consider the preferences of your target audience. Are they conservative members of the C-Suite? Or, are you trying to reach twenty-something entrepreneurs? Will your audience expect a list of points they can easily skim, or more in-depth data and research? All of these questions will help you determine the appropriate content, length and tone for your white paper
  3. And finally, conduct a thorough investigation of your target sector, industry, or vertical market. Research your competitors and industry trade journals to see what is common in the industry. Then, decide whether you want to fit in, by choosing a style your audience is used to seeing, or stand out by taking a new approach.

After you’ve completed these three steps, it will be much easier to determine the type of white paper that will work best. The following is a brief description of the three most common white paper styles and the most appropriate uses for each.

1)  The Backgrounder

What it is: A factual description of the technical or business benefits of a product or service.

Best uses for this white paper:

    • Supporting the launch of a new product by explaining it to the vendor’s sales force and channel partners, plus any journalists, analysts, or bloggers who cover that space.
    • Near the bottom of the sales funnel, to help a technical evaluator size up your company’s offering against the competition.
2)  The List

What it is: Quick and easy to scan, this white paper is a gathered list of points about an issue important to your target audience (and one your product or service addresses). It is often written with a fun, witty tone.

Best uses for this white paper:

    • Getting attention with a provocative approach to some issue
    • To cast fear, uncertainty and doubt on competitors
    • To nurture prospects through the middle of the sales funnel by keeping them engaged and entertained
3)  The Problem/Solution

What it is: Useful information that educates your target audience about a problem facing the industry and positions your company as a trusted adviser. It usually begins by introducing the problem, pointing out the draw backs of existing solutions, and then offering a new, improved solution to the problem.

Best uses for this white paper:

    • Generating leads at the top of the sales funnel
    • Educating your target audience
    • Increasing your company’s visibility

If your topic doesn’t fit…

Once you’ve picked a white paper style, you’re ready to pick a topic. The first step is to test potential topics to see if it is too broad or too narrow to be a good white paper subject.

White papers are typically five to twelve pages in length, with backgrounders falling on the shorter side of the spectrum, and problem/solutions going longer.

For example, the question: “How to solve the current economic crisis” is obviously too broad of a subject for a white paper, and possibly even a book may not be long enough to do it justice. On the flip side, “5 tips for writing a better email subject line” is probably more suited to a 500 word blog article than a white paper.

Has your topic been “done to death”?

You’ll also want to eliminate any topic that has already been covered extensively by your competitors, trade journals and the like. You want your information to be fresh and relevant to your target audience and not something that has already been thoroughly covered by everyone else. Do a quick Internet search on any topic you are considering to find out what has already been written on the subject. But don’t give up if the subject you had your heart set on has been heavily covered. If you can find a new angle or approach on a subject, or offer a unique solution to the problem, then it may still be valid subject for your white paper.

When in doubt…ask your customer

The best way I’ve found to choose a white paper topic is to go directly to your customers or talk to your sales people to find out what their prospects biggest problems or concerns are.  You can also conduct your own research by listening to what your customers and prospects are saying on social media. What questions do they have? What information are they looking for? What solutions have they already tried and are they happy with the results? Listen to your customers, and you will have your topic.

Keep it simple

Of course, choosing a style and topic for your white paper is only the beginning. There’s a lot of research and planning, not to mention writing, to do from here. If you are new to writing white papers, or could use a hand in expanding your company’s content library, I’d be happy to help. Give me a call to discuss your project at 970.556.1294 or email katie@kdcopyandcontent.com.

 P.S.  A lot of what I know about writing white papers (including the information in this article) I learned from white paper expert, Gordon Graham. If you produce (or plan to produce) a lot of white papers, I highly recommend you check out his book, White Papers for Dummies. Not only does it have a lot of great tips for writing white papers, but also explains how to manage the entire process – from planning to distribution (including working with outside writers and graphic designers).

Do You Make These 5 Case Study Mistakes?

Written by Katie DaggettAre You Making These 5 Case Study Mistakes?

 

Case studies can be an excellent marketing tool; in fact, they are one of the most credible, effective weapons in any marketer’s arsenal. However, too many case studies are either so dry and boring that they don’t get read, or they are devoid of the measurable results that can influence your prospects to buy. Watch for the following five mistakes if you want to create a winning case study that compels and sells.

1)     You don’t tell a story. The function of storytelling is what separates the case study from all other marketing materials. The difference is that while most marketing materials center on you telling customers how great your product or service is, a case study adds third-party credibility, because it is essentially a customer testimonial in story form.

To add interest and engage your customers, your case study should follow the standard story structure:

a.  Challenge: Set the scene with a description of your customer and the problem(s) they faced before discovering your solution.

b.  Solution: Explain why the customer chose your solution and describe how it was implemented. Include any challenges that arose during the implementation process and how they were addressed.

c.  Results: Describe the results the customer achieved after implementing your solution. Include as many concrete details as possible, rather than using vague statements about how things improved. The results section is also an excellent place to feature a customer quote about the benefits they received.

When a prospect hears the story of how your solution helped a similar company overcome the same challenges they are now facing, it carries more weight than a brochure touting your product’s features and benefits.

2)     You don’t provide details. Details not only make case studies more compelling, they help to answer specific questions your reader may have. If you talk in generalizations, like: “The solution cut costs dramatically”, or “Reduced production times significantly”, your case study will carry less weight than if you offer measurable results.

Try to include statements such as: “After implementing the solution, Company A cut its annual costs by 40 percent”, or “After implementing the new solution, Company B was able to reduce turnaround times from 3 to 4 days to less than 24 hours.”

A well-written case study can help counter generalizations used in other marketing materials by giving specifics and providing examples of your solution in action. Providing detailed, measurable results serves as credible proof and lets your prospect visualize how your solution could provide them with similar results.

3)     You aren’t speaking to your audience. Your company may have a solution that appeals to different types of companies and industries, giving you multiple audiences to address. It is important when writing a case study to select just one of these audiences to speak to. Once you have chosen your target audience, sketch out a persona or bio and write your case study for them. Things to include in the bio are job title, gender, goals, needs, and challenges. When writing your case study, focus only on the details that this person would care about, and speak to their specific needs and problems. Again, if your product has the ability to solve many different problems, chose just one to focus on to give your case study clarity.

4)     You don’t have a compelling focus. Before writing a case study, choose a compelling angle to focus on. Ideally, the angle you choose will match your goals in writing the case study, with the needs and goals of your prospect. If your product offers several benefits to prospects, select one benefit to focus on for each case study. This will keep your case studies from all sounding the same. Plus, it will provide a case study that speaks to the benefit a particular prospect finds most important.

Possible angles you might choose include:

  • Cost savings
  • Time savings
  • Energy savings
  • Faster deployment
  • Easier maintenance
  • Being innovative

5)     You don’t have customer quotes. Case studies without quotes from the customer are lifeless and don’t entice prospects to read on. Telling the story in the customer’s voice and from the customer’s perspective lends valuable credibility – and interest – to your story.

To generate compelling quotes, it is vital that you interview real customers – don’t just make them up – even if your customer is going to approve them. Quotes generated by a marketing team will sound flat and artificial compared to what your customer will say in his or her own words.

Try to include specific details in your quotes – dollar amounts, the amount of time or energy saved, etc. You’ll also want to create quotes that can stand alone, so that you can use them in other marketing materials or as testimonials on your website.

Ideally, quotes will tell a mini-story, following the “challenge, solution, results” structure. As for which quotes to include, you can strengthen your case study by including the following three types of quotes:

  1. A quote that describes the customer’s challenge or pain
  2. A quote that explains why the customer chose your company’s solution
  3. A quote that describes the number one benefit the customer experienced as a result of implementing your solution.

6)     You don’t have story signposts. Signposts help to guide readers through your case study and reinforce your message. Start with an active, descriptive headline that draws the prospect in and compels them to read more. If possible, include measurable results in your headline, such as: “How Company X increased its profits by 45 percent in just 6 months”.

Strong subheads serve as guides throughout the case study and help to reinforce your message.  If you don’t have to follow a standard template (such as Challenge, Solution, Results), or even if you do, try to write subheads that highlight important points throughout your story. As with headlines, it helps to call out compelling details where you can.

Finally, sidebars are a critical element to include in every case study. They can serve as a summary, outlining the challenge, solution and results, and give your readers an at-a-glance look at your story.

Avoid these mistakes and you should be able to create a strong case study that engages your target audience and ultimately helps you to close the sale. If you are new to writing case studies, or need some help adding life to your existing ones, I’d be happy to help. Give me a call to discuss your project at 970.556.1294 or email katie@kdcopyandcontent.com.

P.S. – I’m planning a series covering the various aspects of writing content for the web. Visit my home page and sign up for my email newsletter so that you don’t miss a single installment. As a bonus, you’ll also receive a free copy of my content marketing white paper.