It was pitch black back then. But after joining WebiMax and expanding my copywriting skills, I began to see the proverbial light.
I look back at what I wrote then and what I write now and I notice a major difference in the quality and tone of my writing. Before it was good. Now, it’s better than before. And the most exciting part is it will continue to improve as long as I continue to pull from the great resources I’ll be discussing below.
I’m convinced my improvement as a writer resulted mainly from one thing: the wisdom and information in the newsletters I started reading a little over a year ago.
Benefits of Reading these Free Online Newsletters
Taking a few hours out of your week to read them will help you to dramatically improve your writing and business skills. You’ll also become more passionate and confident when the time comes to exercise your opinion. Topics covered in these newsletters include:
• Traditional copywriting and SEO copywriting
• Traditional marketing and Internet marketing
• The business of giving a lot and receiving more in return
• Perseverance, consistency and passion
• Healthy living for a healthy business
I believe that 20% of people are truly passionate about the industry they’re in. The other 80% are either complacent, apathetic, or wishing they were somewhere else. I’m confident that reading these newsletters will make you part of the 20%, if you’re not already part of it.
Whatever percentage you’re part of, find comfort in these newsletters. As you’ll learn, they’re rich with experience, intelligence and a genuine concern.
The Best Online Newsletters Currently Available
Copyblogger is the authority in content marketing. The company that specializes in producing content marketing software and other valuable marketing resources started out as a little blog about 7 years ago. The founder, Brian Clark, wrote two blog posts a day about the importance of content marketing. Eventually, Copyblogger became an empire and defined the true value of having a blog with fresh content.
In the Copyblogger newsletter, you’re going to get the latest on content marketing, social media marketing, SEO and more. In addition to receiving updates every time a new post is published, you’ll also have access to 13 free ebooks that individually dissect topics like landing pages, keyword research, email marketing and SEO copywriting.
Early to Rise
The Early to Rise newsletter is released every weekday morning around 7 a.m. like clockwork. You can always expect it and always expect it to be great. Craig Ballantyne, copywriter and self-made entrepreneur, is the editor of the newsletter. He writes about 1 post per week and brings in professionals in various industries for the other days.
The writing styles these newsletters employ have had a huge impact on my writing. Their content makes me a better businessman while their style makes me a better writer. All newsletters are clear, engaging and concise. I especially love when Bob Burg posts. He writes about the benefit of giving and how it applies to business.
Leo Babauta is an author, minimalist and deliverer of peaceful practices. The ZenHabits newsletter has over one million subscribers.
The truth is, a lot of us lose track of what’s truly important when we start following our dreams. Business and passion can make our minds race and hard to slow down. With the posts on ZenHabits, Babauta makes you stop for a minute and reflect.
He believes in simplicity and contentment and succeeds in helping you find it. Take a break from the biz, relax, and simply enjoy being present. Life is good.
American Writers and Artists Inc. (AWAI)
Mark Ford, the copywriter and entrepreneur who started Early to Rise, also created AWAI. I briefly mention my experience with AWAI in my previous .
Nearly every day, AWAI brings in a professional to write a single post or a series of posts about copywriting, freelance writing, graphic design and other marketing topics. If you’re trying to make your own in the freelance biz, definitely subscribe to AWAI’s The Writer’s Life newsletter. You’ll get amazing deals for awesome courses and news about upcoming conferences and events.
However, if you’re just looking for amazing content, go directly to the AWAI article library. I’ve learned so much from reading these. If you’re an aspiring copywriter, I recommend you read every post by Michael Masterson (Mark Ford’s pen name).
Comment about your favorite places for fresh content in the comments section below and let me know what you think about the newsletters mentioned above.
Recent SEO news has been heavily focused on off-site content, such as the seemingly unending war that’s currently going on between people who think we still need to focus a lot of energy into linkbuilding efforts, their opponents who think it’s time to lay it to rest, and those who are steadfast proponents of the notion that it’s a profoundly mediocre SEO tactic. The recent (but, arguably, pretty mild) Penguin 2.0 update can probably do all the explaining as to why SEO enthusiasts are discussing social media, guest blogging, and, well, everything BUT on-site content in their recent contributions to the community, but we can’t let the importance of having well-optimized on-site content slip through the cracks.
Since Penguin 2.0 did introduce some important changes, that should probably be rule number one: Don’t neglect your on-site content! You should be refreshing this stuff relatively frequently, especially, of course, if any of the information changes. There’s speculation that frequently-updated sites are better kept on Google’s radar, so that never hurts.
More specifically, stay on top of your keyword usage. Something I’ve seen all too often is webmasters who think they need to use their keywords in their exact forms as the anchor text for their links, and this is actually pretty punishable behavior. If your keyword is “lawn care New Jersey,” do yourself a favor and include a few stop-words to make that keyword sound more natural. Doesn’t “lawn care here in New Jersey” just sound easier to fit in a sentence?
In addition to that, make sure you’re varying your anchor text. Don’t target the same exact keywords over and over again on the same page – Google now sees this as spammy. A good way to switch up similar keywords is by branding them (Sprinkler King’s New Jersey lawn care).
During your content refresh, always do some thorough proofreading. You can never have enough proofreading. It might sound like common sense, but in my few years’ experience in SEO writing, I’ve seen a shameful number of pages that have spelling, grammar, and syntax errors…right on the company page. Not only will that make a visitor question your company’s authenticity, it’ll be a red flag to Google, too, since spam content is usually similarly low-quality. This is why the person writing your on-site content should never be just a writer or just an SEO expert – it should be someone who is well-trained in both, or two experts working side-by-side.
A lot of webmasters also have a hard time resisting the urge to ignore their e-commerce pages. It makes little sense – product descriptions are easy to optimize, but if they go neglected, they can easily account for duplicate content. Take advantage of your ability to optimize your e-commerce; it’s like free SEO real-estate on your website!
And, finally, don’t get too link or strong-tag happy. When a site visitor is just trying to get some basic info, it’s distracting when every other word is bolded or linked. Let the keywords come naturally and don’t put a crazy emphasis on them for a better experience.
So, your homework for today is to go home and refresh your content to make it Penguin 2.0-friendly!
During the first class of the first creative writing course I ever took, my teacher posited the question to us of what is the minimum word length a writer could write a story. I remembered that the “Cask of Amontillado” was really short, so I offered a guess of 500 words. Other classmates gave guesses of 300, 450, and 200. One courageous student said 20, but when he was asked to say a story in 20 words or less, he sunk into his seat and offered only a meager excuse of how he didn’t have his coffee yet. Admitting defeat, we deferred back to the teacher who wrote this on the board:
For sale: baby shoes, never worn.
Although it’s been disputed whether or not Hemingway actually wrote this short story, you have to admit that the single line is rather compelling. Immediately, you ask questions of whether or not there was a baby, if the baby died in childbirth, or if the baby just had too chubby of feet to fit into the shoes. Because of the ambiguity and structure of this sentence, a linguist would have a field day with this story.
For example, in linguistics, syntax usually refers to the order of the words in a sentence and how this affects the meaning. Notice that the writer chose to end with the phrase, never worn. By doing this, it intimates that there is shame on the part of person who says it because there is a slight pause with the comma, indicating hesitation.
Let’s say you wrote the sentence like this instead: Never worn baby shoes for sale! Here, never worn is right in the forefront, suggesting that the writer is proud of the fact that the shoes have never been worn and is using this as a selling point. Although both sentences feature the same six words, there are stark differences between the two. Yet each is a story on its own – just a very different one at that.
I described my first day in Creative Writing 101 not to illustrate why I got a C in the course, but rather to show the wondrous ability writers have to create meaning out of words, even if there are many restrictions put on them.
In SEO, this is no different; in fact, some content writers might argue that SEO puts so many restrictions on them, with character limits, tone and keywords, that it creates a sink or swim situation: Either you can choose to sink amidst the limitations put on you and write the same old story, or you can choose to swim with the current and deliver the best content that you can within those parameters (such as being asked to write a story in six words or less).
If you do choose to swim, here are two things to consider that deal with linguistics:
• Don’t try to write a new story – it’ll never happen. The key in creating good content is saying the same story in a new and interesting way. In SEO, you’re writing content that is geared towards specific keywords and themes, but is there a way to write that content that will spark readers’ interests? Can you play around with word choice to derive more meaning out of those keywords, rather than just writing the same old boring content that will never get picked up by anyone? Given the fact that we use a computer screen to read pages and are, therefore, conditioned to scroll up and down and glance, can you layout and edit down your content in a way that will spark meaning within seconds in order to get the message across? It’s cliché, but how you write the story is what matters.
• Computers don’t exactly understand context. In linguistics, the ability to use context, place, intent and other factors is called pragmatics. Computers can infer meaning through latent semantic indexing, but this is no guarantee. Think of the movie, Terminator 2 when John Connor teaches the Terminator how to speak like a human. The Terminator doesn’t understand slang or sarcasm. However, by becoming more human as he stays with John and Sara, he infers the meaning of what is being said and uses phrases like “Hasta La Vista, Baby” correctly. By understanding the targeted reader of your content, you can use phrases and terms that coincide with their contextual understanding of things to connect with them and create engaging content.
By considering linguistics and rising to the occasion of working within limitations that SEO demands, you can certainly create interesting and shareable content that others will actually find compelling.
This is my first blog post for WebiMax and I’d hate to start things off on the wrong foot. So, first and foremost, I’d like to apologize for misleading any Gene Simmons fans. As much as I’d love to tie The Demon and Starchild to SEO, I think I’ll save that for a later date.
I do want to talk about KISS, though: Keep it simple, stupid!
This is probably the best advice I can give to content creators. It’s the key to good, attractive web content. And as we know in SEO and business, in general, good web copy can be your biggest asset.
So what do I mean by writing clear copy and keeping it simple?
We’ve all been there. We’ve all started to read something only to feel completely lost after the first sentence. So what do we do? We go back and read it again. Once we think we’ve got it, we move onto the next sentence. Then, sure enough we come across another sentence that causes us to pause and re-read it. It’s exhausting.
In order to have good web copy it needs to be engaging. One sentence should flow into the next. Your readers should be able to get through the entire page without feeling they had to labor. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice quality, though. Sometimes the wisest words are found in the shortest sentences.
Brevity is Best
This should apply to all forms of writing but it is particularly true with the web. Simply put, people don’t read–they scan. This means you need to be strategic with your writing. Big, long chunks of text intimidate users. Common language, short sentences, short paragraphs, headings, and bullet points are your allies.
By doing so, you drastically increase the number of users who will actually read your content. After all, isn’t that the goal?
This is Nothing New
Clarity has always been instrumental in good writing. If you pick up any writing book, most harp on simplicity. Whether you prefer to read Strunk and White or Stephen King’s memoir, they all talk about being clear in your writing. When people label a piece as “a good read” it’s usually because it connects with them; it doesn’t soar over their heads. And that’s because the author kept things simple–they engaged and conversed with the reader.
In the words of W.B. Yeats: “Think like a wise man but express yourself like the common people.”
As a senior copywriter at WebiMax, I look forward to sharing more blog posts on content and how it can help your business. For more information, please feel free reach out to me at dheinkel(at)webimax.com
How many articles have you seen cruise past your Twitter stream? I see hundreds of suggestions per day. Where does all that digital content go? Surely, the lifeline of posts is not long; there’s an incipient flood coming by the hour. However, from a curation perspective, there’s no reason for content to rest in peace.
Jacob Klein wrote a post yesterday on building links with video content. I thought the suggestions were great; it got me thinking of bounce rates and conversions. In the comments, I inquired about such. Jacob ensured me he had experienced longer on-page times due to inserting video into posts. It makes sense; people skim through written copy, but usually watch video from beginning to end.
In many cases, video galvanizes otherwise ‘boring’ or ‘dry’ content. Think about some product or service-related suggestions. Would you rather read about the proper way to paint your home’s interior, ‘seeing’ professionals at work, or read inanimate words on a page? What better serves the consumer, the readers’ needs?
Do you have older content? Has it experienced any visitors or grievers lately? Why not do some video experimentation, Dr. Frankenstein? Raise the old sentiments from the dead, recharging and reinventing insight with video implementation.
You’ve written a post. Now we know what you think. What about the opinions of others? Have you ever considered beseeching a running tally of opinions? Passionate professionals love sharing and expressing opinions. In many cases, more views make for a better piece of content. Two minds are better than one; what about a community of minds? Have you done any fiddling with Survey Monkey? The service is free and you can insert a customized survey at the bottom of your post.
Did you write a successful post? Did you write a not-so-successful post? Would you like to reintroduce the conversation? Pin a survey at the end and send it out to the community, asking for input. If you get enough responses, your brand can orchestrate a modern-day part II.
Graphic Design/Comic Strip
I wrote a guest post for Michael King a little while ago on sweet tweeting. When I sent him the rough copy, Mike told me to take a look at this post by Cyrus Shephard. Take a look. Cyrus makes some good points, yes? Have you released prior copy void of eye stimuli? Perhaps it’s time to loop back around and implement some pictures, infographs, or even comic strips. Take a look at Mike King’s comics; he’s known for them because he does a good job of illustrating points using visual stimulants. Could you pull rank, rising interest in old copy by emulating his artistic sympathies? I think so.
What other suggestions do you suggest, readers? Surely there are other ways to raise awareness about old content. Have you taken notice of our free white paper? Do you have more questions about SEO or online marketing? Direct your attention to the WebiMax contact page.
How would you rate the importance of copywriting on a scale to one to ten? If you didn’t admit to eleven or above, keep reading. It’s the core of communication. Content adopts a variety of online forms these days (video, infographics, sound bytes, etc) but to date, written content is a need for all online real estate.
So, your brand is new to the game. Nothing to be ashamed about, we all start from somewhere. You’ll find a wealth of knowledge online regarding copywriting. Some is great, while some is not worth your time. I’ve come across a considerable portion of advice from both sides of the fence.
Here are a few points I’ve consistently observed being employed and suggested by those with experience.
Yes! I Got Them!
What does marketing mean to you? Is marketing a way to lure the innocent or inform your consumers? I understand your business exists to make money; but, you’ll pay both figuratively and literally if your brand is not genuine. Are you writing for attention or to inform your public?
I’ll ask again because it’s that important; are you writing for attention or to inform your readers? I see a difference in advertising and marketing; the former is the ‘commercial’ side of getting attention (and needed); the latter is important in building a brand. Marketing involves proving you warrant the desired attention. There’s no better way to do it than adding to your community, giving rather than expecting. Respect and attention is earned online; go ahead, disagree and give me a tweet in a short while; let me know how that’s working for you.
Does your brand have the most unique name and product/service on the market? If so, keywords may not be a huge problem for you (unless your meaning of the word contrasts from that of others – read about negative keywords); however, for the other 99.9 percent, keywords are needed to communicate to users and search engines.
There was a time when intense focus of particular words and percentages of on-page insertion were the obsessions of newcomers; those who greedily leveraged the tactic like it would never go out of style. Guess what? It did. These days, brands attract traffic in a number of ways; ‘gaming’ the SEs and keyword stuffing offers you nothing.
For one, even if you (temporarily) got away with ‘gaming,’ what happens when browsers come to a site (with great SE rankings) with little value to offer? They bounce (figuratively and literally). Secondly, a good-rankings-low-value dynamic screams, “ALERT!” to any consumer with a little bit of online knowledge.
Read up on LSI (latent semantic indexing). Search engines are getting smarter; new trends allow for a better read and a much more natural writing experience.
By now, you’ve read the first sub-heading and pledge to always consider your user when copywriting. “Content is king” was a long-standing SEO mantra, and some in the industry still like to use it; however, if you traced new SEO trends, I think you’ll agree with me; the contented user is king. What makes your target market content? Would added amenities augment the message contained in the copywriting? Consider producing infographs and short video clips as well as inserting tables, graphs, and high-quality pictures in your real estate. This benefits your market, compelling them to return.
Thanks for reading.
- Copywriting Tutorials for Crafting Effective Copy (if you want to keep on the pulse of copywriting, the copyblogger site should be in your toolbar)
Being New and a Blogger