Trending February 2024 # Effective Web Copywriting – From Copywriting 101 To The Latest Research # Suggested March 2024 # Top 7 Popular

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Anne Caborn is co-founder and director of Content Delivery & Analysis , a strategic digital consultancy.

Q1. 1. What are the main differences in successfully writing for web compared with print

[Answer: Anne Caborn, Co-Founder Content Delivery & Analysis]

There are a number of key differences but there are two critical ones when you”€™re talking about web (as opposed to email). The first is you are having a conversation online. It”€™s auditory both in terms of delivery speed and interactivity. It”€™s not inert text on a printed page.

And this interactive experience involves highly motivated users who are searching out what you have to say on a given subject: such as do you stock the widget I”€™m looking for, or do these red spots mean I have measles? This isn”€™t idle chit chat.

Therefore the currency of the conversation must be useful: yes, we stock widgets in these colours at a cost of £x; here”€™s a quick symptom checklist for measles along with useful phone numbers for all night chemists and out of hours doctors”€™ surgeries.

Our recently published research on Online language pathways illustrates what searchers expect as they transition from searching to scanning as they arrive on a landing page.

The answers contain more than the minimum requirement posed by the question. Online you can only create the website-side of the conversation but you have to anticipate the totality of your users”€™ needs. Good conversation is all about listening.

The second critical difference is the point of origin for the conversation. You don”€™t start it, the user does. Online is a very active environment and people go online to get things done: book holidays, buy goods and services, get information.

So online content is a reply-focused medium. Anyone involved in visualising content for web should start by posing this question: Do we “€˜sound”€™ as if we”€™re responding to user needs or simply pushing out what we want to say? Save the push for your brochures.

While still conversational, there are exceptions in the case of email, for example, when it comes to the initiation point. You may well have a clearer idea of where you are in the conversation, ie you”€™re sending an email confirmation in response to an online purchase. You may also initiate a conversation by sending someone their regular copy of an email newsletter they signed up for. (But don”€™t forget they asked you to send it in the first place.)

Q2. What are the secrets of keeping your web copy customer-centric rather than copy-centric?

[Answer: Anne Caborn, Co-Founder Content Delivery & Analysis]

If you constantly have user-usefulness and reply-focused communication front-of-mind you”€™re a long way there.

If you”€™re a content creator it can be very useful to read your content out loud, particularly if you”€™re still establishing the style and Tone of Voice for a new website. Do you sound warm, friendly, engaging – human?

It”€™s also worth looking at the processes needed to set up to control content creation, commissioning and assessment. I recently put together a SMART benchmarking tool to assess how well this process works.

It”€™s also important to think about customers as real, flesh and blood people, with all the inconsistencies and foibles that come with that. We”€™ve been developing a persona-scenario approach for clients. This involves defining a series of personas engaged in real-life activities as they touch on a website or email programme, it”€™s about the context of what we do as well.

Q3. How should you deal with writing for multiple audiences on the same page, e.g. male/female, different company sizes, different levels of seniority in a business.

[Answer: Anne Caborn, Co-Founder Content Delivery & Analysis]

This is tricky but not impossible. Technically you can distinguish returners and registered users from new and unknown users. You may want to serve up elements of conditional content based on what you know.

But even without technology”€™s helping hand you should be able to address this. After all, if you invite people to a dinner party you don”€™t expect them all to be landscape gardeners called Rodney. Conversation thrives on multiplicity.

But you do need to know who all your dinner guests are. This helps with positioning and those all important conversational gambits necessary to get the communication flowing.

Then look at how you use the page real estate “€“ all of it. Most content creators focus on the juicy paragraphs in the centre of the page. Be aware of the ambient texts, such as driver text links to other pages, supporting right hand panels and even your labelling.

Your core vocabulary should reflect your largest possible audience, so should be warm, friendly, engaging, but slightly vanilla in approach. Use driver texts, ambient texts, labels and navigations to show the breadth of your offering and to “€˜talk with”€™ small segments individually. And don”€™t forget images. These can be powerful creators of user empathy (they can also put people off… big time, if used thoughtlessly).

Q4. Could you point to a couple of outstanding examples of web copywriting (links please) with a short critique.

[Answer: Anne Caborn, Co-Founder Content Delivery & Analysis]

This is a trick question right? My first impulse is to send you towards a couple of sites we”€™ve been working on recently and where we”€™ve overseen content training or commissioning. Then your readers can crawl all over them and say why the hate them. I”€™m a vulnerable soul and might never recover.

The site we have been heavily involved in that I would like to point you to hasn”€™t gone live yet. But the project was great from our perspective because the orgnisation got CDA in right at the outset. We helped them visualise the content, the shape of the site itself and its functionality, the organisation”€™s relationship to digital content per se (and what needed to change about that) and the processes needed to sustain the content going forward.

A site I love is Innocent Drinks. It”€™s visually creative and the Tone of Voice is spot on for the audience. They deliver a slightly-wacky-but-wholesome approach without losing any clarity or usefulness.

Q5. What would you see are the trends in copywriting for the web?

[Answer: Anne Caborn, Co-Founder Content Delivery & Analysis]

The most important thing right now? It has to be auditing what people previously thought was unauditable. Online we can measure so many things: who visits what page, where they go next, now many people opened our last newsletter and what links they used…

But it”€™s always been assumed that “€˜experience”€™, “€˜delight”€™, “€˜satisfaction”€™… were soft, subjugated qualities of online content, that could only be teased out using focus groups and surveys and were difficult, if not impossible, to benchmark across multiple sites.

But CDA are taking a broad, unfettered approach to Web 3.0. There are some interesting conversations going on and we”€™re currently working on a project which will begin to pull content and the experience of content into a measurable framework.

The other really important trend is that organisations are taking back copywriting as an activity. What they”€™re more interested in is using companies like ours to help them visualise why they are talking with website users and how to best configure that experience.

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Generative Ai In Copywriting: A Complete Guide In 2023

97% of marketers believe that content writing is an essential marketing approach, and 60% of marketers report bringing in new consumers as a result of their content marketing efforts. Copywriting has become essential to digital marketing as businesses strive to increase their online presence and attract more customers. Effective copywriting can assist a company in

Attracting potential customers

Increasing brand awareness

Driving sales.

However, creating high-quality and engaging content can be time-consuming and challenging. This is where generative AI comes into play. We prepared this guide to inform businesses about the benefits of generative AI in copywriting, its use cases, best practices, and limitations, and to provide insights for incorporating the technology into their content creation strategies.

What is Generative AI?

Generative AI falls under the artificial intelligence (AI) umbrella and can generate new content, such as text, images, or videos. After being trained on large amounts of data, these models can learn to generate output indistinguishable from human-created content. ChatGPT, for instance, is a cutting-edge generative AI model capable of producing natural language text in response to a prompt or input. It keeps 570 GB of data, which is made up of numerous written content like books, articles, websites, etc., in addition to 176 billion attributes.

Figure 1. Visualization of how generative AI tools can be used in different types of content creation

Generative AI models require a large amount of training data and computing resources to function appropriately. Once trained, the model can generate new content by taking a set of input parameters and producing an output.

For example, if you enter the prompt “Once upon a time,” a generative AI model may generate a new story beginning with that phrase. Here’s an example of what the model could produce:

Figure 2. Example of a content creation using ChatGPT-3 with the prompt “Once upon a time”

4 benefits of AI content generators in copywriting 1- Speed up the writing process 2- Overcome writer’s block

Writer’s block happens when a content writer feels trapped and unable to generate fresh concepts or strategies. Copywriters can overcome writer’s block and discover new directions by employing AI to generate a list of probable ideas or prompts.

Copywriters can concentrate on other areas of writing, like editing and fine-tuning the content, by employing AI to generate headlines, taglines, and other copy elements. This can lighten the writer’s cognitive burden and simplify generating fresh concepts and strategies.

3- Reduce costs

External contractors or agencies may be eliminated with the help of generative AI. Businesses can avoid the high costs associated with hiring external copywriters or agencies by using AI to generate copy, which can be especially costly for small businesses or startups.

4- Create a consistent brand image

By learning a company’s language patterns and style, generative AI can ensure constant messaging, leading to more coherent marketing activities and a stronger brand image. AI-generated copy components can also guarantee messaging coherence across various campaigns and media, strengthening the brand’s message and values for boosted engagement and loyalty.

Top 6 use cases of generative AI in copywriting 1- Website content & blog posts

AI can generate a first draft of the article or blog post, which can serve as a starting point for human writers to refine and customize the content as needed. Additionally, AI can assist in the research process by identifying relevant sources and citations to support the article’s claims and arguments.

2- Social media posts

AI models can find topics, keywords, and content formats that resonate with the target audience by examining consumer data and social media trends. They can then generate posts that align with these customer insights. Each social media platform’s character limits, hashtags, and multimedia formats can also be modified to match the needs for AI-generated posts.

By employing AI to generate social media posts, businesses can give managers more time to work on other parts of social media strategy, such as engagement, analytics, and community management.

3- Product descriptions 4- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization (SEO) is accomplished through a combination of technical and creative strategies, such as:

optimizing content for keywords

constructing high-quality backlinks

increasing site speed and mobile-friendliness

providing a clear and easy-to-navigate site structure.

Generative AI tools can identify the most relevant keywords and phrases for the target audience and incorporate them into the content to improve its ranking on search engines, which is crucial for SEO. Besides, by analyzing the content and linking structure of the website, generative AI can suggest new opportunities for linking, improving the overall flow of the content, and increasing its search engine ranking.

5- Content for mobile apps

By generating content that is optimized for the mobile experience, generative AI can aid in the creation of content for mobile apps. AI models can identify the types of content and formats that are most effective in engaging users on mobile devices, such as short-form videos or personalized notifications, by analyzing user behavior and app usage data. Furthermore, AI-generated content can be tailored to meet the unique needs of each mobile platform, such as:

Screen size (e.g., 320px — 480px for mobile devices)

Device type (e.g., smartphones, tables)

User interface.

This can help to improve the user experience and increase app engagement.

6- Personalized e-mails

AI models can identify customer preferences, behaviors, and purchase history by analyzing customer data and generating content tailored to their needs and interests. This can include personalized subject lines, product recommendations, and offers tailored to each customer’s unique journey.

So, we asked one of the generative AI tools, ChatGPT, to write e-mails for different companies in the healthcare industry to introduce a new product. Here is the prompt:

“A company wants to introduce their new product developed using VR technology that helps to understand Parkinson’s disease better; however, they don’t want to be generic in introducing their product to other businesses in the healthcare market, rather they want to send personalized e-mail to the companies. What would be some e-mail examples?”

5 best practices for implementing generative AI in copywriting 1- Fine-tune the model

To improve the precision and relevance of the generated content, fine-tune the generative AI model using a modest amount of brand-specific training data.

2- Generate ideas

Instead of depending solely on AI to generate the full piece of content, use the technology to provide ideas and inspiration for content development, such as brainstorming topics or angles.

3- Incorporate human oversight

Think of generative AI tools as a complement to human content writers rather than a replacement. Thus, include human editors to ensure the AI-generated content is correct, appropriate, and consistent with the brand’s messaging and style.

4- Track the performance of the model

To ensure that the generative AI tool is accurate and useful over time, it should be improved constantly by incorporating suggestions from human writers, tracking its performance, and upgrading its training data.

5- Avoid overreliance on the model

To guarantee that the material is relevant and effective, avoid relying too heavily on the generative AI tool. Instead, combine it with other tools and techniques, such as keyword research, market analysis, and customer feedback.

3 limitations of generative AI in copywriting

While generative AI has many benefits in copywriting, it has some limitations that may have a significant impact on the content produced.

1- Inadequate fact-checking process

Since AI models are only as good as the data they are trained on, written content generated by AI could not always be accurate or based on dependable sources. Due to inaccuracies or inaccurate information, a brand’s reputation or trust may suffer as a result.

2- Limited linguistic capabilities 3- Narrow understanding of the context

The ability of generative AI models to produce high-quality content does not imply that they fully comprehend the context in which the material is being created. This could lead to creating content that is off-topic or irrelevant to the audience.

If you have any questions on generative AI, don’t hesitate to contact us:

Begüm Yılmaz

Begüm is an Industry Analyst at AIMultiple. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Bogazici University and specializes in sentiment analysis, survey research, and content writing services.

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What Is Direct Response Copywriting? (7 Best Practices + Examples)

Copywriting is just as much an art as it is a science—balancing psychology and data to call readers to action and encourage them to purchase, download, convert, and more.

What you want people to do after they see your marketing message

In this guide, we’ll discover the formula for effective direct response copywriting and unpack:

What direct response copywriting is

How to master direct response copywriting

Real-life examples of direct response copywriting at work

Let’s get started!

What is direct response copywriting?

Direct response copywriting aims to elicit an immediate response from a reader.

Using a combination of persuasive or educational copy, clear and direct calls-to-action, helpful images, and thoughtful layouts, direct response copy conveys a message that targets your readers’ motives and emotions.

The “response” in direct response copywriting can refer to:

Making a purchase

Signing up for an email list

Calling a phone number

Filling out a form

…or any other goal you may have for your business.

Direct response copywriting encourage action now.

7 best practices for direct response copywriting

While direct response copy can vary between industries and audiences, it often is composed of the same strategic approach.

Below, we cover seven best practices to help you build your direct response copywriting strategy and approach it with confidence.

1. Write for your audience

The first step in effective direct response copywriting is deciding what you’re selling, who you’re selling to, and why they’d want it. Answering these questions will help you create a compelling hook for your copy to lure readers in and convince them to take action.

Related: Unsure who you’re targeting? Take a look at our target market examples for inspiration.

If you’re struggling to develop the hook, consider whether your offering has any unique qualities or features. What sets it apart from similar products or services? What have previous customers said about the product or service that can help potential buyers relate?

For example, if your product solves a problem shared by most of your audience, then this problem (and its solution) is worth highlighting in the copy.

Let’s say you’re writing direct response copy for a new pair of wireless headphones and are targeting athletes. If so, your product will likely appeal more to someone who values mobility and a long-lasting battery.

However, if you’re targeting office workers, it would make more sense to highlight noise-canceling capabilities and comfort over in-ear headphones.

Your copy is the place to call out these features and benefits, especially as they relate to your audience.

Take a look at this value proposition by HubSpot:

HubSpot talks directly to its target audience (something for everyone) and entices them with the free offer (free CRM software). The CTA drives home the point with the clear ask of “Get free CRM.”

Related: Get 50 powerful call-to-action phrases to include in your direct response copywriting.

2. Craft a standout headline

Your headline is the most important part of your direct response copywriting. In fact, eight out of every 10 people will read headline copy, but only two out of 10 will read the rest.

If you don’t open with an attention-getting headline, don’t count on people reading the rest of your direct response copy.

Start writing your headline by listing two or three benefits associated with your product or service. Then, create another list of the pain points addressed by your product or service.

Finally, choose one benefit and one pain point that would appeal most to your target audience and work them into a headline. Your headline might be shorter than the rest of your copy, but it should take almost as much time to create. Don’t rush the process.

Here are some tips on how to write attention-grabbing headlines that make readers crave more:

Open with a question such as “Are you struggling with credit card debt?” or “Are your sales taking a nosedive?” If your reader answers with a resounding “Yes!” they’ll feel understood and want to read the rest

Be specific and clear about what your message is about and why visitors should read on

Promise a benefit. What problem will your product or service solve? Will they save money, get healthier, or feel better? How will they feel after they’ve read the copy?

Use data. Numbers make claims more concrete and believable

Play on emotions, as emotions cause people to act. Anger, sadness, hope, and joy are all good emotions for driving action and developing a sense of urgency in your audience

Use an active voice. Passive voice slows down writing and makes your headline seem dull and flat

Don’t give everything away in your headline. You can answer questions or explain benefits, but don’t go into detail yet

Tell the truth. The quickest way to lose the trust and respect of your audience is to reel them in and fail to deliver—both in your copywriting and products

Take a look at this headline by Bleame:

The team used concrete numbers to quantify benefits. Backing up your claims with facts helps your target audience feel assured that you’ll deliver on your promises.

This headline tells potential customers exactly what they can expect from your product and piques their interest with a big promise.

Related: Want to see more headline examples? WordStream has you covered!

3. Address fears and doubts

When people are uncertain, they’ll shy away from buying. By addressing your audience’s fears and questions in your copy, you build trust with your readers and help them feel more comfortable with making a purchase.

Here are some ways to use direct response copywriting to address your reader’s concerns:

Address potential objections right away

Add testimonials from happy customers. (We’ll address social proof and testimonials later on)

Highlight benefits in your value proposition

Build trust and authority by showing you’re an expert in your field. Consider plugging in data-driven results and accolades

Include a money-back guarantee or free trial offer

In its direct response copywriting, Beardbrand creatively addresses its customers’ concerns about purchasing a more expensive brush. The team openly raised the issue themselves and thoughtfully responded to it. By doing so, not only do they assuage customers’ doubts, but they also make customers feel heard in their concerns.

By being upfront about the potential concerns customers have, Beardbrand creates a sense of trust and convinces customers that their product is worth the price.

Their product descriptions also come with a “Beardbrand Assurance” note to reassure customers that if they don’t like the product quality, Beardbrand will process a return or exchange.

4. Inject humor into your copy

Direct response copywriting is all about creating a trustworthy relationship with your readers—and one of the best ways to build a relationship is through humor. You don’t have to be a comedic genius to do that; it’s mostly about adding a touch of levity and wit.

To quote David Ogilvy, the maestro of copywriting and direct response marketing,

“The best ideas come as jokes. Make your thinking as funny as possible. You cannot bore people into buying your product. You can only interest them in buying it.”

Humor can be a tricky thing; if you get it wrong, it can work against you and push away your audience. The key is to use it in a way that makes sense for your audience and product. Ensure any comedic attempts fit your brand’s tone.

Thankfully, humor can take many forms. Add a pun or clever wordplay to your copy. Or go for subtlety by integrating language specific to your brand into the rest of the copy.

5. Tell a memorable story that explains your features and benefits 

According to research by Stanford University, “stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone.”

In other words, being persuasive isn’t just about facts—it’s about emotions as well. Direct response copywriting should make readers feel and act. The best copy elicits both at the same time. Telling a story appeals to a reader’s desires, and weaving in facts and features helps them achieve their goals and fulfill those desires.

When writing a story that engages and sells, include elements that resonate and relate with your audience.

What story should you tell? Write about why you began your business. Feature a real customer and share how your offering helped them solve an issue or face a challenge.

Take one of the oft-repeated copywriting examples, Harry’s brand story, for instance:

Harry’s is an e-commerce brand created by two friends tired of paying too much for razors and getting a mediocre shave. The duo discovered that many men are stressed when they have to spend too much money on overdesigned razors, so they created the budget line to give them a break on their purchases.

This backstory helps Harry’s connect with its consumers on a personal level—and demonstrate the quality of its products.

6. Use testimonials and social proof to let your customers sell for you

When you use social proof strategically, you’re that much more likely to incite action from your audience.

For example, if you’re positioning yourself as an authority or expert in your field, consider using testimonials from other authorities or experts to back up your claims and boost your credibility.

If you have the option, use testimonials that mention specific details such as how much money they made or how much time they saved by using your product.

Here are some tips for using testimonials and social proof:

Use testimonials from people to whom your target audience can relate. Consider including the reviewer’s job title in their testimonial

Offer quantitative evidence to support your claims

Use case studies to provide a full account of your services

Consider this example of social proof by Parley’s PPM Plumbing & HVAC Contractors included on their homepage:

Parley’s social proof appears right after their value proposition. Customers can now trust what they have to say and read evidence of how the service has benefited other companies.

7. Provide a guarantee at the close of your copy

Direct response copywriting should make your readers feel confident in what they’re buying by offering a guarantee at the end.

A guarantee reassures readers that their purchase is safe and isn’t permanent. This leaves a good impression and pushes your readers to take action.

Choose a guarantee that’s relevant to what you’re selling or providing. For example, if you’re selling an online course, offer a refund period if customers decide the course isn’t a good fit. On the other hand, if you’re asking for visitors’ emails in exchange for a downloadable guide, provide an email privacy disclaimer so visitors feel safe sharing their information. Other guarantees include free trial periods, price matching, and satisfaction guarantees.

Take a look at Wildcat Movers. This business promises a satisfaction guarantee to make people feel secure about their purchase decision.

Not all products and services need a guarantee, but including one is an excellent way to increase confidence and conversions for your direct response copywriting.

Get started with direct response copywriting

Direct response copywriting is about building a trustworthy relationship with your audience. Without your audience at the center, your copywriting will fall short in relating, converting, and retaining your customers. While certain elements of direct response copywriting are universal, include the above best practices to uniquely appeal to your readers and customers.

Allie Decker

Allie Decker is a Senior Content Marketing Manager at Shopify and Head of Content at Omniscient Digital. When she’s not writing, you can find her reading, traveling, playing the piano, or rewatching Schitt’s Creek.

Other posts by Allie Decker

10 Recommended Ai Copywriting Tools For Creating Marketing Content In 2023

What are the most popular free and paid marketing writing asisstant tools using generative AI for creating content?

2023 has been a rare year in marketing, where the latest martech innovations we discuss have crossed over into the mainstream. Of course, this has been prompted by the huge interest in ChatGPT, not only for marketing, but in many other applications.

In previous posts, I have reviewed how to use the free version of ChatGPT for marketing  and covered the latest updates to ChatGPT relevant for marketers.

What functionality is available in these Generative AI tools

All these AI-based copywriting tools offer the capability to create content based on prompts in a similar way to ChatGPT – see my article giving tips on prompting for ChatGPT copy for marketing. The most popular applications available in the tools are:

Copywriting for organic search, e.g. creating a blog post or suggesting the structure of an article

Generating keywords lists to target through paid and natural search

Creating ad copy for Google Ads (GPT understands the size limits for headlines and description) which can then be AB tested

Creating copy for social media updates

Creating paid social ad copy, e.g. for Facebook or Instagram

Our 10 recommended Generative AI content tools

If you’re looking to make more use of AI copywriting to increase the amount and hopefully quality of your content, your options really fall into two categories. First, the free tools from Open AI, the creators of ChatGPT and the GPT Large Language models and second paid services from other providers that also use LLMs, some of which are from Open AI.

Free and paid options from Open AI

4. ChatGPT for iOS – released in Spring 2023. An Android version isn’t available yet, but Bing featuring GPT-4 is available from the Google Play Store.

5. Chat GPT Bing integration – GPT-4 is now available from the Bing integration – choose the Chat option at the top of the page.

 6. ChatGPT Plus – The paid option offers better availability and performance including access to the latest GPT-4 model. The current fee is $20 / month. You can upgrade to the paid plan from within ChatGPT preview (option 1, above)

Paid tools for automatically creating and generating copy

The attention on ChatGPT has also prompted marketers in larger organisations with budget to invest in paid services as alternatives to ChatGPT as part of their response to the opportunities of Generative AI.

Some of the best established tools that have been recommended to me via colleagues on LinkedIn are:

7. chúng tôi – Offers to write long content such as blog posts, reports email and stories in 25 languages.

8. Writesonic – Offers AI article ideas or posts, landing pages, SEO articles, Facebook and Google Ads

9. Hyper Writer – Includes a Blog creator, Facebook and LinkedIn Post Creator and Email responder

10. Byword AI – has an interesting case study on how it was used to grow a B2B financial modelling service from 0 to 750K/mo SEO traffic with GPT–4 AI (but with the content and SEO strategy based experience no doubt).

Alternative sources giving reviews of AI copywriting tools

Platforms comparing martech are another option to review the AI tools available. The best sources of reviews are:

G2Crowd AI writing Assistants – The most reviews are for Jasper and Writesonic listed above, both scoring 4.7 out of 5 at the time of writing which is relatively high for a martech tool! Anyword is another tool that rates well.

Capterra AI writing assistant software – this features similar recommended tools to G2Crowd. There are some in both that are less well known such as Grammarly which is the most popular tool for checking copy

Please connect with me on LinkedIn if you’re able to share your experiences with using these AI marketing tools and then I can share with other marketers reading this post. If you have developed a tool for creating content and have examples or case studies of its effectiveness I’d be interested to share these too.

The New Rules Of Competitive Research

Are you still performing competitor research like you did three, four, even five years ago? Are you crafting your (or your client’s) SEO plan the same way based on what you find? If so, then it’s time to update your strategy. The world of SEO has changed dramatically, and your competitive research should reflect that change. Here’s what you should be looking for when researching competitors, and how to use that information to create a penalty-proof SEO plan.

Links

Just because the competitor is ranking well with tons of spammy, irrelevant links doesn’t mean you should follow suit.  If they haven’t been penalized yet, they might get it in the future. Instead, find out the following.

What is Your Competitor’s Overall Strategy? What Are the Best Links They Have Obtained?

If you or your client has a strong website, aim to get the best links your competitor has obtained as soon as possible. Start with gathering their best links, and then go for even better ones. If Google continues to penalize websites with lots of low quality links, then the ones with fewer but higher quality links (like yours) will be able to shine through.

One easy way to spot your competitors best backlinks is by using tools like CognitiveSEO. Their visual backlink explorer displays high quality links with larger dots.

You can also use the Domain Trustworthiness graph to see the highest authority domains linking to your competitors.

If you prefer an exportable chart, you can filter the backlinks of your competitors by authority and only view the high authority links.

Depending on your industry, you’ll likely find the highest authority links are from .gov or .edu sites, the top blogs in the industry, media networks, and other well-respected sites.

In order to gain these links for yourself, you will need to:

Build relationships with the top industry blogs that will publish your content as a guest or regular contributor.

Build strong profiles on local sites and properly encourage customers to write reviews.

Sign up for HARO and similar networks that connect you to journalists so you can contribute your knowledge in exchange for a mention and a link.

Content

Gone are the days when 300 words of keyword-optimized text were all you needed to get a page ready for your target keywords. Google is not going to reward you for having thousands upon thousands of over-optimized articles on your website. They are going to reward you for having hundreds of high-quality, reader-focused blog posts. Not only that, but they are also going to reward you for having authoritative authors creating that content. When you’re researching the competitor’s content, here are the questions you need to ask.

Who are the authors?

If author rank isn’t playing a role in rankings now, it certainly will be in the future (according to Matt Cutts at least). A part of your competitor research should be focused on who the authors of the competitor’s content are, and how strong are they as authors. Find their Google+ profiles and look at the other sites they’ve written for, how often they are creating content, how many followers they have on Google+, and how much engagement they receive on their Google+ posts.

One tool that can help with this process is the SEOchat Author Links Crawler (free, but currently in beta). You can use it to see what authors are linking to specific sites in order to connect with influential people in your industry. Reach out to them and see if you can get them to create content for you.

What is the length of the average piece of content?

While length isn’t everything, it can certainly help you determine how in-depth competitors go with their content. If their content ranks well in search, and it is generally 1,000 – 2,000 words per piece, but your content or your client’s is only 500 – 600 words per piece, you might want to look into creating more extensive pieces of content.

How much engagement do they receive?

One tool that can help you see the content that receives the most engagement on social media – Twitter in particular – is Topsy. Use the following URL and replace chúng tôi with your competitor’s domain.

You will then see their content links along with the number of tweets each link has received.

Social Media

Having a strong social media presence can be a great asset, especially since you don’t want to put all of your eggs in an organic search basket. If social media isn’t a part of your competitor research, then make sure it does! Ask the following questions.

What networks do the competitors use?

Not what networks do competitors have a profile on, but what networks do they actively use. You’ll generally find that most are active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and Pinterest (usually in that order). Also be on the lookout for any niche-specialized social networks and forums that the competitors are using on a regular basis. To find this out, you can simply use Google to search for the competitor’s name – their top social profiles will generally come up in the first couple of pages.

How many followers / fans do they have?

Do you need 1,000 fans, 10,000 fans, or a million fans? Find out by seeing how many people the competitors have in their social networks. If you’re looking for a selling point of why a business should be on social media, this number could play an important role as it shows the number of potential customers that can be found on social media.

Aside from visiting each of the competitor’s social profiles and noting their audience size, one great tool to use to quickly see a group of competitor’s followers and fans is Rival IQ. It allows you to compare the size of your competitor’s audience on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.

You can also use tools like TwitterCounter to see the growth of your competitor’s Twitter following over the time span of up to three months for free, or up to six months with a preview of their premium service by paying with a tweet.

One of the things this will quickly reveal is if your competitor has had any major growth spikes, which is sometimes indicative of a purchase of followers.

Of course, don’t stop there…

How much quality engagement do they receive?

Anyone can buy fans and followers. They can even buy engagement. But they can’t buy true interactions. If you are looking to craft your social media strategy based off of how competitors are using social media, be sure that you are modeling yours and your client’s on a competitor that is receiving true engagement from their audience.

How often do they update each of their networks?

This revolves back to content, except in this case, it’s social media content. How many times do competitors update each of their social networks, and how do they do it? Do they ask questions, post links, and/or share photos and videos? And most importantly, what types of updates get the most engagement from their audiences?

You may not be able to tell their ROI, but there’s a good chance that the more exposure they get on a status update, the more likely that update is to convert compared to one with little to no response.

What do you include as part of your competitive research strategy?

The 5 Essential Steps To Effective Content Marketing

It’s probably not possible to teach you everything you need to know about content marketing in a single post, but our goal is to get as close as possible without boring you to tears. Content marketing is the strategy for stomping your competition online this year, and we’re going to do everything we can to arm you to the teeth with the skills to make it work.

There is no room for holding back if you want to win, so join us and let’s do this.

1. It All Starts With a Question

This part is so basic it can be easy to forget. Most of us learned in grade school to start any paper by asking who, what, when, where, why, and how, and most of us have also filed that crucial knowledge away, burying it somewhere in the depths of our minds.

No matter how boring your niche is, it becomes interesting when you ask the write questions. We wrote a detailed guide on the subject for CopyBlogger, and we highly suggest reading it to get a firm grasp on how to make this work.

For the quick and dirty on this:

Ask the six basic questions mentioned above

Mix and match your subject with other subjects you find interesting

If you find yourself getting tunnel vision on your topic, use a random word generator to see if you can find novel connections and analogies between subjects

You aren’t brainstorming questions correctly unless some of your ideas are absurd (and keep in mind that absurdity can be good for viral content anyway)

Find the questions your audience is asking by checking out Quora, Yahoo! Answers, and perhaps AskReddit (fewer topics but more viral).

2. Research Your Topic, Your Audience, and Your Network

These are activities you should be doing all the time, on some level, but this is probably where they should be emphasized the most. The most intense research comes in between your question and your content production. And it involves not just your topic, but your audience and your network of influence, in order to get it right.

Researching Your Audience

After digging through Q&A sites, forums, and social networks, you should already have a good understanding of what your audience cares about and what they’re likely to be interested in. But it can be helpful to take things a step further by:

–        Checking the AdWords keyword tool – This will let you know about how often a keyword is searched for, which will give you some idea of the level of interest in that subject. Use this as a relative tool, rather than trying to estimate the absolute number of visitors you can expect. We would also urge against using this tool as a source of ideas. It’s better as a way of narrowing down your existing ideas.

–        Check social networks for interest – Try searching Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Reddit, and similar sites for groups about your subject and pay attention to what seems to grab the most interest. Ask yourself if your question is the kind of thing that would be interesting to these communities. This is a bit of a “soft” research tool, but in some ways it can be more effective than keyword tools.

–        “Test ask” your questions – Use Quora, Yahoo Answers, forums, and Ask Reddit to ask your questions, and find out which questions seem to attract the most attention. This is very powerful, because it helps you research your topic as well as decide which questions are most promising. Pay more attention to the number of people who want an answer to the question than the number of people who provide an answer. Also, if the answers you get are links to comprehensive answers that already exist, your content idea is probably too redundant.

Researching Your Network of Influence

As part of your content marketing strategy, you should be reaching out to online influencers on a regular basis. Email bloggers, tweet and retweet prominent personalities, and get in touch through Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, and other networks that are relevant to your niche.

When you reach out to influencers, it should typically be with an opportunity for them. Your communications should generally be fairly casual, and it can be helpful to go to real world events to meet up with bloggers and other online influencers in order to build these relationships.

–        Find out what the influencers think of the idea: if it’s the kind of question they would want to know the answer to.

–        See if you can get them involved in the project in one way or another. Whether it’s with a quick quote or an all out collaboration, if they are willing to help with the project they will also be more likely to promote it later on down the road, especially if you mention them in the content. Their contributions will also give your post an air of authority, and you will also benefit from the perspectives of others.

–        Try to get your influencers to take a look at your work after it’s finished, or during the drafting stage, to see if they have any recommendations for you.

–        Find out if any of the influencers would be interested in posting content like this on their site, since this is a great way to gain exposure.

Remember: relationships are give and take. You will almost certainly need to offer value to them of equal value in order for them to feel like it makes sense to help with this.

Research Your Topic

There’s a good chance you’ll have done some light research on the subject even before you started brainstorming questions, and this is generally a good idea. But this is the stage where you separate yourself from the pack by finding information that’s not easily accessible. For example:

Google Scholar

Libraries and books

Original sources, as opposed to the content based on them

Your client’s proprietary data

Surveys

Original research

Interviews with experts

Topics outside your niche (good for analogies and insight)

The goal of all this should be to get your hands on information that’s hard to find. Approach this part of the process like a journalist. The first person to say something in an accessible way is typically the one that attracts the most links.

3. Answer Your Question With Lists, Guides, and Stories

These are the three kinds of content that succeed more often than any other.

–        Lists – A list is appealing because you know it’s easy to skim through. You know it’s comprehensive. You know it’s going to be easier to remember. And there’s just something psychologically satisfying about ticking ideas off of a list.

–        Guides – Guides are appealing because they’re actionable. A reader can take the information from a guide and put it into action in their own life. You can make a direct impact on your visitor’s life with a guide. That makes your content memorable and more engaging.

–        Stories – Humans are hard wired for storytelling. We love stories because they depict people facing obstacles, struggling with them, and overcoming them (or failing). Stories teach us lessons in ways that other formats can’t, because we are drawn toward them.

The Ideal List:

Covers its subject comprehensively

Is organized logically

Cites its sources if the list elements are facts

Presents list elements that are roughly the same length

Has a brief intro and conclusion

Is entertaining

Does not resemble previous lists on the subject

The Ideal Guide:

Addresses the reader as “you.”

Walks the reader through from beginning to end (if it is a step by step process).

Is organized with subheadings and, sometimes, bulleted lists or numbered steps

Uses examples or stories when emphasis is necessary (particularly for guides where some persuasion is also involved)

Is entertaining

Does not resemble previous guides on the subject

The Ideal Story:

Follows this basic 7-point structure:

A person

In a place

Has a problem

They try to solve the problem intelligently

And fail

They try to solve the problem again

And succeed (or fail tragically)

Sometimes real-world stories don’t quite fit into this structure, but the point is to emphasize the problems that your characters (whether they’re a person, an organization, or even a thing) face, how they struggle with them, and how and why they succeed or fail.

It takes some experience and tinkering to decide whether your question is best answered with a list, a guide, or a story, and often the best content will use some combination of all three.

4. Copy-Editing Tricks

There’s no real order to the editing process. The main idea is to give your content some space for a day or so, come back to it, and pump it up to create a more engaging experience. Use tricks like these:

Make sure the first sentence captures the reader’s attention

Use the active voice. This means your sentence starts with the noun that’s responsible for the verb. “The cat jumped over the moon,” is more engaging than “The moon was jumped over by the cat.” Avoid using “is,” “was,” and “are” too often.

When you speak directly to the reader, start with the verb right away most of the time. For example, in a guide: “Pick up your tools,” sounds better than “You will next pick up your tools.”

Read your sentences out loud and fix them if they sound awkward.

Change sentences that use uncommon words, run for too long, or sound too formal (depending on your niche).

Break apart large paragraphs.

Delete sentences that don’t add value.

Read the whole thing once from beginning to end without focusing on grammar or phrasing. Focus on flow, tone, atmosphere, and how things fit together instead.

Clarify complicated subjects that could be confusing to your target audience.

On a related note, you should also make the post easier to read by including some images (with credit to the artist).

5. Promote Your Content

Virality and promotion is another subject that deserves a guide of its own, and it’s closely related to the relationship building process, but these tricks can help you reach a wide audience:

Write a title posing an intriguing question that users have to fight to ignore, or a statement that’s so surprising readers just have to read it to learn more.

Post your content, or a link to your content, on a hub where your target audience hangs out. It could be an internet forum, a popular site that accepts guest posts, or a social networking group (preferably all three). Get your content visible in as many high profile places as possible.

Contact your network of influencers and let them know about the content. Ask what they think and, if they like it, could they pass it along?

As we’ve mentioned previously, involve as many influencers in the content production process as possible, and they’re more likely to pass it along. Mention influencers in the content, even if they weren’t directly involved, and they will also be more likely to share it.

Consider posting a link in Reddit, but only if you use it frequently to post material other than your own, and only if it would be relevant to a popular subreddit.

Use StumbleUpon Paid Discovery to drive traffic. The engagement level is lower than other channels, but at $50 for 1,000 visits, no other platform sends more visits at a lower price. If enough people thumb up your post, StumbleUpon’s algorithm will take over and send organic visits. Be sure to target the right topics.

In Review

To recap:

Ask interesting questions

Research your topic, your audience, and your network of influence

Answer your questions with interesting lists, guides, and stories

Edit your content to make it pop

Promote your content on your industry’s most popular platforms and through your network of influencers

Use these five elements to dominate your competitors with content marketing: the leanest way to win the web.

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